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April 21, 2013

Today Bax picked us up at Carp Island “Resort”, and took us by boat to the Island of Peleliu to visit WWII sites and see leftover artifacts. On our way we spotted an ornate eagle ray. Jayden had never seen one and Bax had only seen one in the last five years. They were so excited over it!

We disembarked the boat and loaded into a small minivan, with the windows open to drum up a breeze. Our first stop on Peleliu was 1,000 Man Cave, part of the intricate cave system that the Japanese built and from which they defended the island. I mentioned in a previous post, the Japanese changed their defense tactics. Earlier in the war, they fought to protect the perimeter of the islands and soon as US forces landed on the beaches. In The Battle of Peleliu, they defended the island from its interior. The USA was unaware of this new strategy which resulted in significant casualties, but did educate the US forces for future battles in other areas.

Since the war, the 1,000 Man Cave was cleared of 582 explosive items of USA and Japanese origin including IEDs, mortars, grenades, anti personnel land mines, and projectiles. The cave was also cleared of human remains. We walked through a very small portion of it which is now home to whip spiders!

From 1,000 Man Cave, we moved on to visit a Sherman Tank which was located on private property. We followed a long drive way and short trail through the wooded area to find the tank on its side with the bottom blown out. The tank ran over a land mine after saving two navy airmen as it was returning to fire into the Japanese caves. Four men died…October 18, 1944.

After a short time walking around the tank and newly fallen tree from the typhoon in January, we went to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Headquarters. Once an impressive, well fortified building, the remains of the two-story structure were crumbling. Bullet holes riddled the thick concrete walls and mangled rebar hung from the ceilings while the jungle has begun over taking the exterior.

Our next stop was to see a Japanese A tank, a smaller more maneuverable tank than the Sherman, but clearly not as safe. Then our driver then took us across the abandoned runway that was the biggest reason for fighting for control of Peleliu to see a Japanese Zero plane tucked in the jungle.

We continued on to what became known as Bloody Nose Ridge, where the deadliest part of the battle took place. The ridge, which was part of Umurbrogol Mountain and the highest part of the island, was well protected by Japanese cannons which made it difficult for the US LVT-A1s to penetrate. The Japanese retreated into their cave and tunnel system which included sliding steel doors and multiple entrances that were built on a slant to protect from grenades and flame throwers. One six-day battle in this area, resulted in the 1st Batalion, 1st Marines suffering 71% casualties. Captain Everett Pope and his company of 90 remaining men got trapped in the area, and had to fight with rock, knives, and empty ammunition boxes after they ran out of ammunition. They finally evacuated with 9 men.

The 5th and 7th Marines lost half their men as well over a month of battle. Army troops continued battling another month before the ridge was secured and the Japanese, posthumously declared Lieutenant General, Nakagawa committed suicide. We followed a mark path through the jungle toward the cave where he took his life. The sign by the path, instructed us to stay in the marked area, which was cleared of 4,822 explosive remnants, as the rest of the area had yet to be cleared. That’s one way to keep people from cutting the trail! The path was lined with old war relics…shovels, giant nails, cans and more.

After our walk, we stopped at the museum which was supposed to be open for us, but it was not. There was, however, a memorial outside the museum built by the Japanese. The granite slab used in the memorial was one of the tramway paving stones exposed to the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.

The plaque read: In our earnest hope for a new world order, we have had an image of a woman longing for eternal peace engraved on a total of 188 slabs collected from the streetcar track near Aioi Bridge, which was located 200 meters north of ground zero.

Learning lessons from the calamity we suffered and the sense of guilt we feel toward other nations concerned in World War II, we have pledged in our Constitution never again to conduct aggression toward foreign countries.

Also included in the memorial was a seven color cross which represented peace. Each individual color also had a meaning: Gold-mercy, Silver-peace, yellow-construction, black-solidity, red-love, white-purity, and blue-safety.

For lunch, we stopped at the Dolphin Bay Hotel, which was delightful! We all thought we should have stayed here last night instead of the Carp Island “Resort”, as we would have been treated to air-conditioning! We feasted on an enormous lunch including crab and vegetable tempura which was fantastic before we loaded into our minivan to head back to the dock.

On the way to meet Bax at the dock, we came across “Elvis’s” truck. We loaded onto the boat, and Bax took us on our last trip through the Rock Islands. We stopped at two snorkeling sites, IUS Cove and Belochel Bay to specifically see a Japanese Zero plane and to locate shrimpfish that swim upside down. Aside from those two sightings, there was nothing else to report of interest at these sites which was good since my camera broke!

From the snorkel sites, we toured through the bays of a few islands and stopped once more to see the banded sea snake rookery. This time we found one large female! Bax dropped Jayden and us at our starting point, Palau Pacific Resort, where we cleaned up and relaxed before going to our farewell dinner at the Taj for Indian food.

We enjoyed an awesome trip, in gorgeous country with fun people. Now I’m off to Asia for a few days before I head back to the states! ETB

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