Sunday, January 8, 2012

Palau - Peleliu

Palau was the final country we visited on our holiday to Micronesia.  It is home to the amazing Rock Islands (photos of that beautiful part of the world coming in another post soon) and also the site of a terrible World War TwoPacific battle.  We took a day trip from Koror to Peleliu and were quite humbled by what we saw and heard.

I've spent a number of years in Europe so I have seen a lot of sites connected to war and so much is talked about WW2 from a European perspective that you could almost forget the war in the Pacific.  Australia was directly affected by the Pacific war (with almost Japanese 60 bombing raids on Darwin, and submarine attack on Sydney), but it was really quite minimal compared with many other parts of the Pacific.  It was quite moving to see the incredible impact of WW2 on the Pacific all through our trip in Micronesia, really highlighted by Peleliu. 

Our tour guide told us that in the three month battle on Peleliu over 2,000 USA soldiers died and almost 11,000 Japanese soldiers died.  Some terrible things took place and very few Japanese were taken prisoner.  However, Peleliu was also where, 2.5 years after WW2 finished, 34 Japanese soldiers were found hiding in the jungle - they thought the war was still going.  On a personal, Australian, note - Peleliu was where Damien Parer died while filming the USA marine advance.  Damien Parer was a noted war cameraman and was the cinematographer of Australia's first Academy Award winning film.  There is mention of him at the small museum on Peleliu.

In the lead up to the USA invasion the USA bombed for days.  There was no jungle left and the entire island was bare.  Even now 70 years later, though the jungle has regrown, there are unexploded bombs.  We were told there is an Australian living on Peleliu who is looking for unexploded bombs and every so often there is a controlled explosion in the harbour for all the uncovered bombs - there were two controlled explosions last year.

Keep to the white path and don't stray into the red as that part of the jungle hasn't been cleared yet.

One of the tanks still on the island.

The view from the top of Bloody Nose Ridge.

One of the beaches the USA troops landed on.  When they landed there was no trees and no cover from the sun.  It was around 40oC (104oF) and high humidity.

The ruins of the Japanese High Command.

Japanese gun in the mountain.

Because it was so hot the USA soldiers quickly ran out of water.  As there was no fresh water available to the troops on the island the USA military arranged to have water sent to the island.  Unfortunately the only available containers were old diesel containers.  They weren't cleaned out properly and the troops had to choose between no water or poisoned water.  A choice no one should have to make.

War is a horrible thing and humans can do terrible things to each other.  I hope one day we can learn more from history than we seem to have so far...

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