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Captain Everett P. Pope was born on 16 July 1919 in
Milton, Massachusetts and joined the Marine Corps while living in that state. He currently resides in Fernandina Beach, Florida. He is a living recipient of the Marine Corps Medal of Honor for his valiant leadership against devastating odds during the actions against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau Group from 19 to 20 September, 1944. Captain Pope was the Commanding Officer of Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines (1/1), 1st Marine Division during the battle of Peleliu.
The citation which, was signed by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, reads as follows:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Commanding Officer of Company C, First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, during the action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau Group, on 19-20 September, 1944. Subjected to point- blank cannon fire which caused heavy casualties and badly disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Captain Pope rallied his men and gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machine-gun, mortar, and sniper fire. Forced by wide-spread hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly in order to hold the ground won, and with his machine-guns out of action and insufficient water and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with twelve men and one wounded officer, determined to hold through the night. Attacked continuously with grenades, machine-guns, and rifles from three sides and twice subjected to suicidal charges during the night, he and his valiant men fiercely beat back or destroyed the enemy, resorting to hand- to-hand combat as the supply of ammunition dwindled and still maintaining his lines with his eight remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw. His valiant leadership against devastating odds while protecting the units below from heavy Japanese attack reflects the highest credit upon Captain Pope and the United States Naval Service.”
Some important notes that are not mentioned in depth within the text of the citation, but can be realized through the writings of E.B. Sledge in his book “With the Old Breed” (Sledge was one of the riflemen that survived the action at Peleliu), are the extreme conditions that were encountered during this battle.
Captain Pope was twenty-five at the time of his actions on Peleliu, which is a fairly young age for the leader of an entire company.
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Numerically, the facts will jump out as this story unfolds. The battle started with an amphibious landing on the shores of Peleliu Island and the strength of Company C was 234 Marines. The Marines were receiving heavy fire from the Japanese that were shooting down from above a hilltop, and by the end of the first day, half of those Marines were gone. When Captain Pope received the orders to take control of the steep coral hill, his company was down to only thirty-four Marines, which is less than fifteen percent of his original strength.
The next important note of this event is the texture of the hill. Coral is a hard surfaced rocklike substance (it is not rock, but looks like a rock) with sharp, pointy edges that can cut the skin with the slightest rub. This type of terrain is very hard to travel on, and most often is extremely slick.
By the time the Captain and Company C arrived to the crest of the hill and gained control, he was down to twelve men (and one wounded officer). Once again, the numerical facts speak for themselves; this is only about five percent of the Commander’s original strength.
When Captain Pope and his men had reached the top of the hill, it was realized that the knoll was part of a ridgeline called “Walker Ridge”. The company was extremely low on water and ammunition, but was still under orders to maintain control of the hill. While Company C had control of the hill, the Marines below them were able to maneuver on the island without receiving heavy enemy fire. It was critical for the Marines on the island that the hill remained under U.S. control.
Captain Pope and the men of Company C continued to receive attacks on three sides. The only side that the company was not receiving attacks from was the side from which they had advanced up on steep coral. Continuing on into the night, the men of Company C also received suicidal attacks as the Japanese continued to struggle against the Company C position. While engaging in the non-stopping battle against the Japanese, Captain Pope and his men had to resort to hand-to-hand combat (due to the lack of ammunition), even making use of the coral laying on the ground as weapons of opportunity.
By the next day, the stronghold on the island was enough to ensure victory at Peleliu, and Captain Pope along with the remainder of his company was ordered to withdraw from their position. By the time that Company C left the hilltop on Peleliu, the company strength was down to eight riflemen, which was only about three percent of the original 234 that arrived on the island’s shores just a couple of days before. No enemy broke through Captain Pope’s position.