Basilone’s celebrity grows as he travels across the country on the war bonds tour. On Pavuvu, Sledge, assigned to the 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, is briefly reunited with Phillips and Leckie rejoins his company. Sledge then gets his first taste of combat as he, Leckie, and the rest of the 1st Marine Division meet fierce Japanese resistance while landing on the intricately and heavily defended coral island of Peleliu.
Despite the suffocating 115-degree heat and a lack of clean drinking water, Sledge, Leckie and the other Marines confront the highly-fortified enemy as they attempt to capture the Peleliu airfield. After seeing his comrades badly injured, Leckie himself is wounded and evacuated from the island. Sledge witnesses the shocking truth about what is sometimes required to survive and fight another day.
The Marines, including the newly christened "Sledgehammer," continue the battle of Peleliu against an enemy determined to fight to the last man. Devastated by the loss of a revered leader, and witnessing unimaginable barbarity on both sides, Sledge veers to the very edge of moral collapse. Their objective finally secured, the Marines return to Pavuvu fundamentally changed by their experience on Peleliu.
After battling across the island of Okinawa for more than a month, Sledge and the rest of the 1st Marine Division are ordered to relieve an Army division that has been in combat against the most strongly defended Japanese position on the island. The primordial conditions and the moral dilemma posed by the presence of civilians put tremendous strain on the physical and psychological endurance of Sledge and the other Marines.
Increasingly frustrated by his role campaigning for war bonds, Basilone convinces the Marines to allow him to train troops headed for combat. Transferred to Camp Pendleton, he enjoys a whirlwind romance with an initially reluctant female Marine, Lena Riggi. But the couple know they are living on borrowed time, as Basilone is soon to take part in the Marine landing on Iwo Jima.
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