During the initial planning for the War in Afghanistan, Mattis led Task Force 58 in operations in the southern part of the country, becoming the first Marine Corps officer to ever command a Naval Task Force in combat
As a rocket-firing LCI lays down a barrage on the already obscured beach on Peleliu, a wave of Alligators (LVTs, or Landing Vehicle Tracked) churn toward the defenses of the strategic island September 15, 1944.
The amphibious tanks with turret-housed cannons went in in after heavy air and sea bombardment. Army and Marine assault units stormed ashore on Peleliu on September 15, and it was announced that organized resistance was almost entirely ended on September 27.
Operation ‘Stalemate II’
The Peleliu operation was code-named Stalemate II, a name that seems ironic in hindsight, because initially the campaign was viewed with relative optimism. The main task of securing the island was given to the 1st Marine Division, a largely veteran unit that had seen action at Guadalcanal and New Britain. The 1st Marine Division consisted of the 1st, 5th, and 7th Marine Regiments (infantry) and the 11th Marines (artillery support).
I have a question. Let us, just for a moment, ignore the implausibility of this scenario and discuss it purely from a moral standpoint, disregarding the implications it would have for our actual capabilities and possible alternatives.
What if at midnight, August 6, 1945, instead of dropping the atom bomb, the US had deployed the 7th Marine Regiment to conduct a night raid on the city of Hiroshima. During this raid, it was known with 100% certainty that the Marines would not conduct acts of rape or torture. Instead, beginning with the the population of the Shima surgical hospital, they moved in an expanding circle, killing patients, then pedestrians, and then moved house by home by home, building by building, block by block, instantly, mercilessly, and indiscriminately killing every man, woman, and child they encountered, painlessly and effortlessly, at a ratio of at least four civilians for every soldier, and that only because of a military base on the edge of the city. Imagine that these Marines actually killed 20 POWs from their own country because of their unceasing killing spree.
Imagine, that the longer they went on with this task, the more fatigued and sloppy they got, resorting to melee, looted, and improvised weapons as they ran short on ammo, so that while they managed to kill those in the hospital instantly and without detection, by the time they made it 500 meters from their initial location, They left 10% of their victims grievously wounded, but alive. By the time this death squad made it 2 km from their initial drop point, their fatality rate lowered to about 50%, simply maiming these civilians, leaving many with grotesque injury and a variety of devastating infections from their dirty knives and bayonets, sometimes manifesting in the form of painful deformations or even birth defects years later for those “lucky” enough to survive this rampage.
Imagine that they had killed 90% of doctors in the city when they did this, along with cutting all communication lines, and set off timed explosives and incendiary devices so that by the time they reached their extraction point just before sunrise, these Marines had killed around about 100,000 people, maimed countless more, and left the city a ruin.
Now, setting aside that such a feat would be quite difficult even if you had 2000 amoral Captain Americas, and that if we could conduct this raid, our military situation must not be quite so dire as we claim.
Would you consider this to be a moral action? What would you say about the person who ordered this raid? If Japan refused to surrender, so this death squad was deployed to a second city, this time only managing to slaughter half as many people as they did the first time, would that be moral?
And if it was declared after the fact that such an act was justified because had we not ordered the razing of these settlements, we would have had no choice but to send in even more soldiers to conduct an invasion the old fashioned way and killed even more Japanese people, so that really we were doing the Japanese a favor, because killing those children was payback for what the Japanese Navy did to our military base at Pearl Harbor (an attack that also killed civilians and we immediately recognized as morally unjustifiable), would we nod our heads and agree that truly Harry Truman was benevolent beyond measure for all of the lives that he saved when he gave the Japanese a taste of their own murderous medicine?
After all, the media would say, we know that the Japanese military had inflicted countless atrocities and humiliations upon innocent people all over the Pacific Rim, razing settlements to the ground, marching POWs to death, raping women on one hand while tearing out fetuses with bayonets and shooting infants in their mother’s arms. And since such an evil cannot reasonably be allowed to exist in any world that claims to care for justice, it was only fair that we liquidate tens of thousands of innocent Japanese to show the Japanese military the error of their ways, and then doing it again when the first mass murder failed to sway their hearts.
Tell me, in this world, where a gun and a bomb are inanimate objects, no more or less moral than the person that wields it, would it be OK if we wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the brave men and women who serve in our military? Or is it only OK to do it because a President giving an order to a pilot with a bomb is somehow more moral than a group of men with guns, knives, and grenades who accomplish the same task?
Warrior Wednesday: U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Whitehouse, a rifleman with 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, provides security from a rooftop in Sangin, Helmand province, Afghanistan, during Operation Jaws on June 25, 2012.
Pfc. Cristian Mejia, Javelin gunner, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and a native of Raleigh, N.C., shoots a javelin missile during a live-fire exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 26, 2014. Bravo Co. is dedicated to helicopter operations during their upcoming combat deployment to Afghanistan. The Marines were transported to the range by CH-46 sea knight and CH-53E super sea stallion helicopters. After they landed, the Marines maneuvered through a simulated urban environment with unique shock-absorbent walls. This allowed for them to engage in realistic live-fire training.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan / released)
U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, during the Advanced Infantry Course (AIC) aboard Kahuku Training Area, Sept. 21, 2016. AIC is intermediate training designed to enhance and test the Marine’s skills and leadership abilities as squad leaders in a rifle platoon. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command, conducting a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise, Aug. 29, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Trever Statz)
Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, run to security positions after offloading from a CH-53E Super Sea Stallion helicopter during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 28, 2014.
U.S. Marines with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC), conducting a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) exercise at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 28, 2015.
Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, during the company supported, live-fire assault portion of a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Dec. 6, 2015.
Warrior Wednesday: Cpl. Kaden Prickett, machine gunner and team leader with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a .50 caliber Special Applications Scoped Rifle at a target 1,200 meters away, in the Central Command area of operations, Jan. 6, 2015. Marines and sailors of Golf Company spent time on the range getting acquainted with various weapons systems and cross-training one another in their respective areas of expertise.
Security Force Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, conducting a live-fire table five range in Southwest Asia, September, 29, 2015.