A scene from the episode
Battle of Peleliu, Airfield Assault
This episode mostly focuses on Sledge, but it also follows Leckie during some intervals, up to when he leaves Peleliu on a boat.
The battle on Peleliu goes on as the Marines continue towards the airfield. It's only the second day of fighting on the island but drinkable water is in short supply - the Japanese had poisoned the small quantities of water that were available - and the heat is excruciating. They are under constant bombardment from Japanese artillery located in the Peleliu Hills, and the only way to force the Japanese to halt their bombardment is to seize their artillery positions altogether. However, in order to do that, they would have to cross the airfield: a vast, open expanse.
Sledge's StorylineEditSledge proves to be a steady hand in the battle. Despite the suffocating 115-degree heat and a lack of clean drinking water, Sledge and the other Marines of his unit confront the highly-fortified enemy as they attempt to capture the Peleliu airfield. Sledge does not go far before witnessing the death of fellow replacement, Pfc. Robert Oswalt. Sledge briefly mourns his death before moving on amidst enemy gunfire. Eventually, Sledge, Snafu, Burgin, De L'Eau, Leyden, and other marines reach and seize a partially destroyed building containing many Japanese soldiers and machine guns.
That night, Sledge confides in Haldane his fear. Haldane consoles him and tells him that every day, he is trying to find a good cause for what the marines were doing. Later, as the marines in Sledge's unit head toward the hills of Peleliu, Snafu warms up to Sledge and officially gives him the nickname of "Sledgehammer". In the hills, several machine gun emplacements are found, and Haldane receives orders to take them. After assessing the fortification of the emplacements, he refuses, and instead heads back to command to try and change their orders. That night, Hillbilly is commanding the marines temporarily, and they see a random marine having a nightmare and screaming hysterically and loudly. Because they're worried he is going to give away their position, the other marines try to calm him down, but after several unsuccessful attempts, Hillbilly hits him in the head with a utility shovel, killing him.
Haldane returns after unsuccessfully trying to gain a change in their orders. The marines stay put for the night, and prepare for the assault that they're going to have to carry out the next day.
While waiting for the storming of the airfield to start, a dehydrated and frustrated Leckie searches for water, going so far as to search the nearby corpse of a dead marine. He and Runner seem to be the only major characters of their unit in this episode, as Hoosier was wounded and Chuckler went missing in the previous episode. When the assault does start, Runner is hit in the arm and leg, and Leckie helps him keep moving until they find cover in a wreckage. There, they witness the death of a radioman while he was trying to relay his coordinates. Lieutenant Stone instructs Leckie to get a corpsman and radioman while Runner stays behind the wreckage. Unfortunately, after desperately traversing the airfield while searching for a corpsman, Leckie is unable to find aid, and as he continues his search a nearby blast of artillery knocks him into a tree, severely wounding him.
Leckie is later seen in a boat with many other wounded. While waiting for a doctor, he briefly coughs up blood and sobs. Eventually, Leckie is seen in the galley eating lunch - in a wheelchair - as a result of the wounds he sustained. Runner, who was also brought aboard as wounded, finds Leckie in the galley. Leckie apologizes for not being able to find a corpsman, which Runner acknowledges without resentment. Runner then leads Leckie in his wheelchair to the deck, where they both take one last look at Peleliu before the boat leaves.
Back in the US, Sid Phillips drops in on Eugene Sledge's parents. In his visit, he assures them that as a mortarman and as a marine in the the 1st Marine Division, Sledge is unlikely to become a casualty, and that he is practically safe. Sid knows full well this is not true, but he does not tell Dr. and Mrs. Sledge.
- Prior to this episode, Robert Leckie was considered the main character of the series. However, from this episode onward, Eugene Sledge becomes the central character for the remainder of the mini-series.
- Sledge receives the nickname "Sledgehammer" in the series for the first time in this episode. This is inaccurate with the actual story. According to the book With the Old Breed, Eugene Sledge had gain the nickname beforehand, some time after boot camp.
- Robert Leckie would not return until the final episode.
- This was the last episode where Leckie was in a major role.