I ended up on Peleliu more by accident than design; I have family living on Palau, so my partner and I went to visit, and Peleliu seemed like an interesting day trip. I took the photos, wrote up the guide’s stories and did some Googling when I got back. One of the nice things about a blog post getting wider circulation, as mine on the Battle of Peleliu did thanks to Boing Boing, is that you get input from a huge variety of people.
Firstly, from the (very kind) comments here and over at BB, one book recommendation comes through very clearly – With The Old Breed by Eugene Sledge, so I’ve added that to my Amazon wishlist. First published in 1981, Sledge fought on Peleliu and in numerous other battles in the Pacific war. It’s very highly thought of, and it doesn’t flinch from depicting the brutality of the war. Paul Fussell, who himself wrote a brilliant book called ‘The Great War and Modern Memory’, praised it as ‘one of the finest memoirs to emerge from any war,’ which is about as good a recommendation as you can get.
With The Old Breed is, together, with another WW2 memoir, Helmet For My Pillow, being used as the source material for an HBO series about the battles across the Pacific. Called ‘The Pacific,’ it’s being produced by the same team (Spielberg, Tom Hanks etc) as the brilliant Band of Brothers, and will be on TV at some point this year. This site has a few YouTube snippets.
Also recommended was Ken Burns’ The War – I suspect this is fairly famous in the US, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. It’s easy to get on DVD though, so I’ll hopefully get a chance to watch it.
One commenter on Boing Boing wanted to know about the Japanese tank I photographed; another identified it as a Type 95 Ha-Go, and Wikipedia does indeed claim 15 were deployed on Peleliu.
Another added a link to a Flickr user with some shots of cleaning up unexploded WW2 ordinance in the Marshall Islands – this set in particular is well annotated.
A search on Metafilter revealed a post about American photographer James Fee. His father fought on Peleliu, and in 1998 James went back to the island to take photos. The exhibition he created combined his own images with shots is father had taken. You can see 18 of the images here and the book is available on Amazon. The picture of the Zero at the top of the post is his. It’s always interesting to see the approach other photographers take to the same subject matter. I’m definitely jealous of his Zero shot; it’s terrifically moody. I’m surprised by how different his images seem to mine; they’re hazier, more lyrical – he seems more wary of the colours, of the brightness of the sunlight that I was.
Finally, someone asked what I used on Peleliu – it was a Nikon D40 with the 18-55 kit lens, and for some of the shots, an 85mm f1.8 prime. It doesn’t auto-focus on the D40, but it really isn’t a problem when you’ve got such bright sunlight, and such still scenes to shoot. I’ve written about my love for this camera quite a bit; honestly, some of the best money I ever spent. I’m glad people appreciated the pictures.