The United States Marines, including Pfc. Robert Noel Marsden, landed on the island of Peleliu during World War II almost seven decades ago. Sept. 15, 2014 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu.
Marsden’s son, John Marsden of Rancho Penasquitos, along with his friend, Jonathan Rudin of Carmel Valley, will travel to the island in September to commemorate the battle, which had among the highest casualty rates in the Pacific war.
“I would love to have just an hour to talk to him about it and ask questions, but I’m never going to be able to do that,” said Marsden, whose father died at the age of 69 in 1991. “We’re going to be there 70 years after the battle. It’s kind of a cathartic experience for me.”
Codenamed Operation Stalemate II, the Battle of Peleliu was fought between the U.S. and Japan from Sept. 15 to Nov. 27, 1944 on the island of Peleliu in present day Palau. Although it is considered an American victory, military records indicate that 1,252 Marines were killed and 5,274 wounded, and that 542 Army soldiers were killed and 2,736 wounded. Japanese deaths totaled more than 10,600.
So they could learn more about his service, Marsden’s older brother requested their father’s military records after their father died. Using the records, Marsden began to learn more about the Battle of Peleliu and trace his father’s footsteps.
“My dad never talked about the war,” said Marsden, whose father served in K Company of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “I knew he was in the war, but that was about all I knew. I only knew bits and pieces.”
As his research unveiled a part of his father he never knew, Marsden said he has grown closer to his dad.
“I didn’t have a real close relationship with my father. He was older when he had me and he already had four kids before me,” said Marsden, the fifth of six children. “I didn’t spend a lot of time with him, so I spent a lot of time with my mother. She defined who he was. It’s been a redefinition of who he is. In that, I’ve been able to redefine who I am.”
Marsden has considered visiting Peleliu for the past two years. After sharing his idea at a local ManKind Project support group, Rudin volunteered to join him on his journey.
“I’m not too impulsive, but I just said, ‘I’ll go,’” Rudin said. “I want to accompany John and be supportive of his process.”
Marsden and Rudin will leave for their 16-day trip on Sept. 22. They plan to camp on the beach for a couple of days, and go kayaking and scuba diving. Other than that, they are not drawing up an itinerary.
“What I’ve been working on doing is not putting too much expectation into it,” said Marsden, who noted he plans to do something special to honor his father. “It’s more about the experience. What happens will happen.”