Freedom Fighters: Pete Vasil - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Pete Vasil

(KLTV) -

Not only has the battle for the tiny Pacific island of Pelilu been described as "the most difficult battle of World War II," the island itself has been called "The Forgotten Corner of Hell." Pete Vasil of Longview, Texas, was to find there were many reasons for both. 

At the age of eighteen, with little training, Vasil was assigned to an amphibian tank in the invasion, "before the first wave."  After the initial invasion, he became an infantryman in conditions he finds difficult to describe even today.  

Because Pelilu is comprised of coral, digging was impossible. That meant no foxholes, graves or latrines. Bodies and human waste covered the beach, and flies covered everything. Temperatures soared to 115 degrees and there was no water on the island.  Dirt and bacteria, or "jungle rot" took a toll on Vasil and others.  After hospital treatment, Vasil was discharged just in time for the invasion of Okinowa. 

Even though Vasil's amphibian tank went in before the first wave, the Japanese had changed their tactics and held their fire for the foot soldiers, the tanks most effective maneuver was their attack on Japanese  boats trying to come in after the landing. 

"Our tanks all fired at the same time at the boats. I don't think a mosquito could have got through them," Vasil recalls.

Pete Vasil was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1946, and though he still suffers from the effects of jungle rot, he is proud to have served his country.

"I'd do it again in a matter of a minute. I love this country," Vasil said.

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