PFC Bernard Elissagary, a BAR gunner and consummate collector with Company A, 1/24th Marines, augmented his scrapbooks of souvenirs and personal photographs with these professionally-shot pictures of the Pacific war. Packets of these photographs were available for mass purchase after the war. None have captions, however many are recognizable from popular publications, and a number are quite famous.
If you have any information or official captions corresponding to the photographs shown here, please email the webmaster.
PLEASE NOTE: SOME OF THESE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE EXTREMELY GRAPHIC.
Many of these pictures illustrate the violence, horror, and in some cases the callousness that was adopted by American troops fighting against the Japanese. They are presented exactly as a veteran of that fighting chose to remember it – as an uncensored look at the true nature of combat in the 1940s.
Before almost any invasion, the defenses were softened up by air and sea bombardment. Here, a squadron of Marine PBJ Mitchell bombers is en route to a target.
Bombs explode on a Japanese-held island.
“Jap Fuel Dump Afire. Saipan – Dense black smoke rises thousands of feet in air from Jap fuel dump in blasted Garapan, capital of Saipan, as naval guns lobbed large shells before its capture. Photo by Stanley Troutman, ACME staff photographer for War Picture Pool
A Pacific island, probably an idyllic spot before the war, is marred by smoke and flames.
The results of a Marine bombing strike.
An LST, specially modified to fire rockets, launches a salvo in support of a landing.
A Higgins boat is lowered over the side of its support ship.
A marine’s-eye view of a landing operation.
As a dive bomber passes overhead, LVTs bearing assault troops head for an island that is already shrouded in smoke.
Sailors and support personnel watch from aboard ship as the assault waves are launched.
Waves of marines are landed by LVTs with their objective – an airfield – clearly in view.
Watching an invasion from a Navy ship.
The Marines have landed.
These Marines are pinned down on the beach. One man, at left, has found the courage or necessity to make a run forward.
Additional waves of marines come ashore. The fact that these men are walking in standing up indicates that they are not the first to cross this beach.
Marines get organized on a Pacific beachhead.
Smoke billows from a cave in a small cliff face as American troops search for survivors.
As a stretcher case is brought back (at left) supply personnel and Shore Party men organize the beachhead.
As the battle moved inland, support troops worked to improve the beachhead. Here, a bulldozer grades a path to help supply vehicles get off the beach.
Marines wait for The Word in the safety of a Japanese anti-tank ditch.
The photographer flinched while snapping this photograph – the plume of smoke in the background is an exploding mortar shell. The marine with the carbine was hit by shrapnel; some captions state he was killed by the blast.
A distressing sight on the way to or from the lines – American dead laid out on stretchers.
Close tank-infantry support was crucial. The tanks took care of fortified positions, while the infantry shot any suicide attackers armed with mines.
These Marine tankers are either evaluating one of their own wounded or preparing to evacuate someone else.
The scene of a bitter fight. Two Japanese machine guns have been eliminated, as has a Japanese aircraft in the background. The marine is carrying a Samurai sword, probably a souvenir of this incident.
As a marine with a carbine covers the entrance, a pistol-toting officer moves up to clear out a bunker.
A marine inspects a well-built bunker, whose inhabitants have been dragged out and dumped in the brush.
Light Japanese tanks were vulnerable to American tanks, bazookas, mortars, and in some cases even small-arms fire.
Marines cautiously inspect a destroyed Japanese tank.
A large explosion raises little interest from the American troops in the foreground.
An infantry unit moves up to the front.
Marines on patrol pause as a man with a flamethrower burns a potential obstacle.
The results of a successful patrol – marines on their feet, and the enemy dead in the foreground.
An M4 Sherman tank roars past an abandoned blockhouse.
What little is left of this town is now firmly under Marine control.
Japanese troops – their mangled bodies in the foreground – attempted to overrun a small marine camp during a nighttime infiltration.
These Japanese were killed manning their artillery piece.
A marine overlooks a ditch full of dead Japanese troops.
The effects of a tropical climate on the dead are horribly illustrated in this study of a Japanese soldier.
Dead Japanese troops in a waterlogged fighting hole.
Dead Japanese soldiers in a fighting hole.
This Japanese soldier was killed with a grenade in his hand. Feigning death and detonating grenades when Americans were nearby was a common tactic; marines learned to shoot any bodies they saw.
Japanese dead in a prepared fighting position. The pole at center likely supported a heavy automatic weapon.
This gruesome picture shows a Japanese soldier who emerged from a spider hole directly into the path of a flamethrower.
Even religious shrines became scenes of death.
“This battle-worn Marine weeps from sheer fatigue as he rests briefly on a fallen tree trunk after he and fellow Leathernecks had wrested Hill 200 overlooking Peleliu Airport from the Japs in some of the bitterest fighting encountered by the Yanks in the Pacific. Photo by Stanley Troutman, NEA-ACME Newspictures, war correspondent for the war picture pool.” Photo provided by Stan Troutman’s daughter, Gayle, who adds: “For this shot, I remember Dad telling me he purposefully did not shoot the Marine’s face to give him privacy.”
A rare circumstance – Japanese prisoners escorted along a beach by their American captors.
Marines who have died of their wounds are buried at sea from a hospital ship.
Although burial at sea was considered a formal burial, many men whose remains were committed to the deep were later listed as Missing In Action.
The ferocity of Pacific fighting became evident early in the war, as shown by the shattered bodies of Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal after a failed attack on Edson’s Ridge in November, 1942.
A Marine with a flamethrower destroys a Japanese building on Tarawa.
With the fighting over on Tarawa, the beach can be put back into some semblance of order.
The aftermath of the Tarawa invasion. Bodies and supplies litter the beach, and a triangular steel pillbox at center has been knocked out.
A tattooed Marine poses with a dead Japanese solder whom he has pulled out of the small bunker at left.
Marine dead on the beach at Tarawa. At least one has been marked with a makeshift cross.
The price of Tarawa – one of over a thousand Marines killed taking the tiny island of Betio.
This BAR gunner was hit by a grenade or mortar while fighting on Tarawa.
Marine armorers have a lot of work ahead of them – these .30 caliber M1919 Browning machine guns were damaged or burnt out during the fighting.
A chaplain, using two ammunition carts as an altar, says Mass for those killed on Tarawa.
A more formal ceremony honoring the dead of Tarawa.
Namur, 1944. A marine assault unit has dropped its packs in a pile on the beach before advancing inland. The two men at right might have been assigned to guard their comrades’ belongings.
A signal unit of the 24th Marines in action on Namur, February, 1944. (UNIS markings on a lieutenant not visible in this version of the picture suggest they are from Third Battalion, 24th Marines).
Marines move up to clear a large Japanese structure on Namur.
Marine wounded on Kwajalein get medical attention.
An advance aid station set up in the shelter of a wrecked Japanese bomber on Roi. These wounded men from the 23rd Marines have had their faces blanked out by a wartime censor.
A marine with a flamethrower looks over a destroyed Japanese bunker, Kwajalein.
In this dramatic series, a Japanese soldier surrenders on Roi Island. Note the customized kabar sheath worn by the Marine at left.
The enemy soldier is roughly hauled from his hiding place by marines on Roi.
With the American flag flying proudly from a palm tree, supply and support personnel try to make sense of the mass of crates on a Kwajalein beach.
Marines move down a beach littered with supplies. Date and location unknown.
Marine dead are honorably buried on Roi Island.
A Japanese solider met a grisly end on Ebeye Island, Kwajalein atoll.
A heavy machine gun from Third Battalion, 22nd Marines fires down the beach on Eniewetok, Kwajalein. Army troops with a BAR observe the results of marine fire.
Army tanks support the invasion of one of the tiny islands of Kwajalein atoll.
Army 7th Division troops – identified by the checkered panels on their backs – advance with a tank on Kwajalein.
These Army tanks, mired in soft ground, came under attack by waves of Japanese infantry.
A GI takes cover near a small Japanese artillery piece.
Medical staff move towards the front during the invasion of Kwajalein.
Marine and Army troops rest on an invasion beach. The amphibious tank in the background has been hit by something which has caused its ammunition to explode, destroying the machine from the inside.
GIs take a look at dead Japanese on Kwajalein atoll.
“INP Soundphoto. Some of 8,000 Japs who died on Kwajalein – Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll…. Dramatic picture made after the fighting had ceased on Namur Island, showing hundreds of dead Japs littering the sandy ground near their blasted pillbox, while US Marines move up to the firing line in the background. 2-2-1944.”
Dead Japanese on Kwajalein.
The landings on Saipan as seen from one of the Navy’s ships.
These Marines never made it off the beach. Saipan, June 1944.
Corpsmen evacuate a pair of badly wounded marines by jeep during the battle of Saipan.
As one marine prepares to throw a smoke grenade, his buddy covers the cave opening with his carbine. Saipan, 1944.
A religious marine takes time out from the slaughter.
Marines on tanks ride through the town of Garapan, Saipan in July, 1944.
Marines debark from an LVT as one of their comrades accelerates over a slight rise on Guam.
A marine patrol on Guam watches as a flamethrower attacks a Japanese position.
Japanese dead in Agana, Guam, July 1944.
Peleliu’s airfield comes under aerial attack. The marines landed on the beach in the background.
Marines hustle to get off of Peleliu’s beach.
Mass confusion on the Peleliu beaches. Few marines seem willing to leave the protection of the tideline.
Pinned down by enemy fire, these marines try to find a way inland.
Evacuating the wounded for emergency care.
Despite the best efforts of the corpsmen, it seems that the man on the stretcher has died. Note the looks on the faces of the men, and the fact that no medical personnel are attending to the bandaged marine.
American troops on Peleliu search a body for identification.
Marines crouch in a shellhole. The man standing at center may be a platoon or company commander establishing a CP.
An assault team at center races back from planting a charge in an enemy position.
A marine inspects a Japanese tank destroyed during a counterattack across Peleliu’s airfield in September, 1944.
A wounded marine on Peleliu is given a drink of water. Temperatures of over 100 degrees made the suffering of the wounded even worse.
A platoon of marines gets The Word from their leader in the background at left. Peleliu, 1944.
As one marine keeps watch, his buddy takes a brief break for water and a spell off his feet. Peleliu, 1944.