DVIDS – News – A Hero of Bloody Nose Ridge: The Story of Pharmacy Mate Third Class Joe Marquez and the fight for Peleliu


On the morning of September 15, 1944, the 1st Marine Division began its assault on a small coral island in the central Pacific called Peleliu. For third-class pharmacist Eleuterio “Joe” Marquez, it would be a baptism of fire (1).

The 19-year-old Los Angeles native had enlisted a year earlier with his two best friends, each keen to make their contribution to the good fight. After a whirlwind of Boot Camp and Corps School in San Diego followed by field medical training at Camp Elliott, Marquez was now part of that deadly assault on the heavily fortified island.

At only 13 square miles, Peleliu was far from the war’s largest battlefield, but it was viewed by strategists as vital to the execution of the Pacific campaign and to ensuring the success of the Resume mission. the Philippines, some 600 miles to the west. (2).

Peleliu was bitterly fought and bloody. Half the men who landed in this first wave will become casualties – casualties of artillery, mortar shells, shrapnel, explosive coral shards, and cunning snipers. The corpsmen in particular were privileged targets for the latter. During the first month of combat, 59 of the corps members of the 1st Marine Division were killed in action or died of their wounds.

For Marquez, a sense of fear and helplessness greeted him on D-Day. “The mortar and artillery we received were terrible. Later that day we received another heavy bombardment with many. . . wounded and a few killed in action.

Marquez helped establish a battalion aid station where he cleans and heals wounds, administers plasma and evacuates the wounded to hospital ships offshore. Over the next three weeks, he would serve in patrols along the north-south backbone of the island.

A major challenge had been to gain control of Mount Umurbrogol, which the Marines had dubbed the “Bloody Nose Ridge”. On October 11, Marquez and his unit climbed the ridge seeking to quell pockets of fierce resistance operating from honeycomb caves, bunkers, and underground positions.

It was in the early hours of Friday, October 13, as his exhausted unit sought a brief respite on Bloody Nose Ridge that they were attacked. Shrapnel and pieces of coral tore Marquez’s legs apart. Her pain was immediately overwhelmed by cries of “Corpsmen!” »And a desire to take action.

Despite serious injuries, Marquez dragged himself through the rough and difficult terrain to help his comrades. He would later relate: “I started crawling to assess the damage [and] to see who should be dealt with first. One of the men in the body, named Ken [Blewitt], was the most seriously injured and decided to give him a unit of plasma (3). I couldn’t see his veins in the dark and asked the lieutenant if we could send a flare to our area. His response was, “You are responsible, Doc! ”

With the torch light I was able to start the plasma. A Marine volunteered to monitor the plasma so I could take care of the other injured. It was then that I heard a voice say, “I am a man of the body. Can I help?’

I said ‘yes’ and continued to work.

At dawn, other corpses and stretcher bearers arrived on the scene offering some relief. Marquez professed that he and an unknown soldier had taken care of all the victims. In this case, he was greeted with disbelieving looks and a response that made his back shiver: “It’s impossible.” There could not have been another helping soldier. We are the closest unit and have just arrived on the scene.

Marquez never found out who this mysterious Samaritan was or if he had imagined hearing this kind offer of help.

Despite his own injuries, Marquez refused treatment until all of his patients were evacuated.

When the fighting on Peleliu finally ended in November 1944, more than 11,000 Americans and Japanese were killed, including 1,300 US Marines. Ken Blewitt’s own injuries proved fatal and he failed to leave the island alive.

For his actions, Marquez was awarded the Navy Cross in 1945, becoming the first Mexican-American hospital corps to receive this honor.

After the war, Marquez enlisted again. After leaving the Navy, Marquez worked as a medical technologist in Southern California for over 30 years. He married a nurse and father of two sons, one of whom will follow in his footsteps by serving in the Navy.

For his son Richard, his father’s experiences with Peleliu took on a deeper meaning when he accompanied him to a doctor in 2008. “The doctor took an x-ray of his foot,” Marquez recalls. “Soon the doctor enthusiastically returned to the room with the x-ray exposed, asking my father if he knew he had a lot of debris embedded in his foot. I looked at the x-ray and saw chunks of coral dotting the inside of her foot. The explosion of this Japanese hand grenade and my father’s experiences all became very real and real to me at that moment.

Joe Marquez, this selfless hero of Peleliu, died in 2015 at the age of 90. His family celebrated a memorial service with full military honors at Fort Rosencrans National Cemetery in Point Loma, California. In 2018, after the death of his wife, their ashes were interred together at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.

Post Scriptum.

Today Peleliu is a state of the Republic of Palau. And since 1985, the entire island has been designated as a National Historic Landmark of the United States. It is still covered with relics from this famous battle. And for those who visit the island, it is not difficult to still feel the presence of those who lost their lives in battle and sacrificed themselves while saving others on this war-torn island so many years ago. ‘years.

Historical Notes.

(1) Eleuterio Marquez was born in Los Angeles, California on February 21, 1925. He took the name “Joe” early in his life. His parents were Mexican immigrants who fled the revolution in the early 1900s. Joe’s father had served as a silver miner in Nevada before suffering catastrophic injuries in a cave collapse that would leave him paralyzed. After his parents separated, Joe split his childhood between LA and Tonopah, Nevada. In high school, he would be elected class president and become his school’s star basketball player. He will work briefly as a mechanic before enlisting in the Navy in 1943.

(2) Some historians would later question the strategic value of the island and argue that the planner underestimated the challenge the terrain would pose. Navy historian Samuel Eliot Morrison remarked: “There was nothing wrong with American planning for Peleliu except something extremely wrong – woefully inadequate knowledge of the terrain. (Morrison, SE. History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume 12, 1958).

(3) Pharmacist’s Mate Kenneth L. Blewitt, USN (1924-1944). Blewitt was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions on Peleliu. The official casualty register indicates that Blewitt’s date of death is October 12; Marquez would recall treating him early in the morning of October 13.


Boardman, Robert. “Angels in the Underworld Annex: Marine Corps Men Among the Marines”. Unforgettable men in unforgettable times. Stories of honor, courage, commitment and faith from WWII. Seattle, WA: Winepress Publications, 1998.

BUMED. Administrative History of the US Navy Medical Department, 1941-1945. Volume 1, Chapter IX (unpublished), 1946.

The history of the United States Navy Medical Department during World War II. A compilation of killed, injured and decorated personnel. Volume 2. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1953.

Marquez, David. “In memory of Eleutorio Joe Marquez, from February 21, 1921 to August 28, 2015.” Digital Memorial. Retrieved from http://obits.digitalmemory.com

Quote Croix Marine Marquez. Retrieved from: https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/21352

Marquez, Richard (Interview by AB Sobocinski on July 11, 2016). BUMED oral history collection.

McGaugh, Scott. Battlefield Angels: Save lives under enemy fire from Valley Forge to Afghanistan. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2011.

Date taken: 24.09.2021
Date posted: 24.09.2021 14:30
Story ID: 405997
Site: FALLS CHURCH, VA, United States

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