The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
POPE, EVERETT PARKER
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. Place and date: Peleliu Island, Palau group, 19-20 September 1944. Entered service at: Massachusetts. Born: 16 July 1919, Milton, Mass.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as commanding officer of Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau group, on 19-20 September 1944. Subjected to pointblank cannon fire which caused heavy casualties and badly disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Capt. Pope rallied his men and gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machinegun, mortar, and sniper fire. Forced by widespread hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly in order to hold the ground won, and with his machineguns out of order and insufficient water and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with 12 men and 1 wounded officer determined to hold through the night. Attacked continuously with grenades, machineguns, and rifles from 3 sides, he and his valiant men fiercely beat back or destroyed the enemy, resorting to hand-to-hand combat as the supply of ammunition dwindled, and still maintaining his lines with his 8 remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw. His valiant leadership against devastating odds while protecting the units below from heavy Japanese attack reflects the highest credit upon Capt. Pope and the U.S. Naval Service.
Maj. Pope and his wife Eleanor lived on Amelia Island in Florida and on Great Pond in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, before failing health spurred them to return to the midcoast area of Maine to be nearer their sons. The couple entered the Hill House assisted-living facility in Bath in September 2008. His wife died there in January 2009, and Pope himself died six months later, on the morning of his 90th birthday. Everett and Eleanor Pope will be buried together in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Battle of Peleliu, like other bloody World War II island campaigns before it, was a fight to capture an airstrip on a small coral island in the Western Pacific. And, as with previous island battles, the Americans prevailed, but at a higher cost than anticipated, against the determined resistance of the Japanese forces.
By the summer of 1944, victories in the Southwest and Central Pacific had brought the war even closer to Japan, with American bombers able to strike at the Japanese homeland. But there was disagreement by the U.S. Joint Chiefs over two proposed strategies to crush the Japanese Empire. One strategy proposed by General Douglas MacArthur called for the recapture of the Philippines, followed by the capture of Okinawa for an attack at the Japanese mainland. From there, the eventual invasion of Japan would come. Admiral Chester Nimitz, on the other hand, favored a more direct strategy of bypassing the Philippines, but seizing Okinawa and Formosa as staging areas an attack on the Chinese mainland as well as the future invasion of Japan's southernmost islands.
As for Peleliu, both commanders' strategies included the invasion of this island, but for different reasons, and the 1st Marine Division had already been chosen to make the assault. To settle this dispute, President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to Pearl Harbor to personally meet both commanders and hear their respective arguments. After a review of both positions, MacArthur's strategy was chosen. However, before MacArthur could retake the Philippines, the Palau Islands, Peleliu and Anguar specifically, were thought to be necessary for neutralization and building an airfield to protect his right flank. This turned out not to be necessary at all. What followed was a ferocious battle lasting more than two months and costing over 12,000 lives on both sides. Engaging on Peleliu was the 1st Marine Division, and also the U.S. Army 81st Infantry Division that had already overrun the smaller island of Anguar.