Palauan Island of Peleliu

 

Allow me to introduce Akulka.  Akulka is well known in the Readers Submissions area of Stick’s site and has penned three other features for this column in the past.  All exotic, all enjoyable.  He is well travelled and always has an interesting perspective.  You can contact Akulka at: argonaut942@gmail.comAllow me to introduce Akulka.  Akulka is well known in the Readers Submissions area of Stick’s site and has penned three other features for this column in the past.  All exotic, all enjoyable.  He is well travelled and always has an interesting perspective.  You can contact Akulka at: argonaut942@gmail.com

 

 

On the small and remote Palauan island of Peleliu I meet Tangie, the local historian.  Tangie is a short and overweight Palauan in his 50ies.  He doesn’t look very healthy. In his speech and mannerisms he’s acting very flamboyantly gay.

Having devoted all his adult life to researching and documenting the bloody battle that took place here in 1944 Tangie has become the authority on the island about Peleliu’s grim World War 2 history.  He has collected countless artifacts of the battle and displays them in his very own museum.  He has also frequently organized veteran reunions and offers personalized tours around the island to interested tourists.  For anyone interested in learning about the island of Peleliu, and specifically what happened there between September and November of 1944, there is no better person to talk to than him.

 

On the small and remote Palauan island of Peleliu I meet Tangie, the local historian.  Tangie is a short and overweight Palauan in his 50ies.  He doesn’t look very healthy. In his speech and mannerisms he’s acting very flamboyantly gay.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/125th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

Having devoted all his adult life to researching and documenting the bloody battle that took place here in 1944 Tangie has become the authority on the island about Peleliu’s grim World War 2 history.  He has collected countless artifacts of the battle and displays them in his very own museum.  He has also frequently organized veteran reunions and offers personalized tours around the island to interested tourists.  For anyone interested in learning about the island of Peleliu, and specifically what happened there between September and November of 1944, there is no better person to talk to than him.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/25th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

Tangie and I set off to our first stop of the tour.  It’s just a short drive though the main village in direction of the harbor.  We stop at a Japanese tunnel system carved into the rocks by forced Korean labor.  Having read several accounts about the Battle of Peleliu, as well as two biographies of US Marines who have fought here, Tangie is clearly happy I’m not totally ignorant about what he’s about to show me.

The tunnel system is quite a big complex.  Going in I have to duck in order not to scrape the ceiling with my head or shoulders.  There are hundreds of bottles on the floor.  At first I think they are from local youngsters spontaneously partying in these tunnels during recent years, but Tangie explains they still stem from the time of the war, when the Japanese desperately tried to defend themselves with improvised Molotov cocktails.  Finally the Americans drove everybody out with flame throwers.  According to Tangie more than 70 Japanese soldiers died inside the tunnels.

Getting back to the car the door on Tangie’s side doesn’t close properly.  He struggles to slam it shut from the driver’s seat but has no success.  For the remainder of the day I have to close the door for him from the outside.

“Oh, that’s so cute of you!”  Tangie purrs.

Peleliu today is incredibly green and tropically lush.  It’s amazing how nature has reclaimed the land that was all scorched and barren after the war.

On our way around the island we stop at the erstwhile Japanese power station, and then move on to see some of the wrecks of war planes and amphibious armored vehicles that are randomly scattered around the whole island.

 

Tangie and I set off to our first stop of the tour.  It’s just a short drive though the main village in direction of the harbor.  We stop at a Japanese tunnel system carved into the rocks by forced Korean labor.  Having read several accounts about the Battle of Peleliu, as well as two biographies of US Marines who have fought here, Tangie is clearly happy I’m not totally ignorant about what he’s about to show me.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/80th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

The tunnel system is quite a big complex.  Going in I have to duck in order not to scrape the ceiling with my head or shoulders.  There are hundreds of bottles on the floor.  At first I think they are from local youngsters spontaneously partying in these tunnels during recent years, but Tangie explains they still stem from the time of the war, when the Japanese desperately tried to defend themselves with improvised Molotov cocktails.  Finally the Americans drove everybody out with flame throwers.  According to Tangie more than 70 Japanese soldiers died inside the tunnels.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F5,6, 1/200th, 19mm, ISO 100

 

Peleliu today is incredibly green and tropically lush.  It’s amazing how nature has reclaimed the land that was all scorched and barren after the war.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F4,5, 1/200th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

On our way around the island we stop at the erstwhile Japanese power station, and then move on to see some of the wrecks of war planes and amphibious armored vehicles that are randomly scattered around the whole island.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/100th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

There is also a large Japanese cannon situated in a cave carved into the island’s central ridge.  That ridge was named Bloody Nose Ridge by the attacking US Marines due to the heavy casualties they suffered during their repeated attempts to drive out the Japanese from their fortified positions.  Tangie explains the cannon was installed in the wrong place as the American forces approached from a different direction, and has hence never been used.

 

There is also a large Japanese cannon situated in a cave carved into the island’s central ridge.  That ridge was named Bloody Nose Ridge by the attacking US Marines due to the heavy casualties they suffered during their repeated attempts to drive out the Japanese from their fortified positions.  Tangie explains the cannon was installed in the wrong place as the American forces approached from a different direction, and has hence never been used.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/5th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

We move uphill and get to the largest memorial on the island.  There is an American memorial sitting right next to a Japanese one which takes the form of a Shinto shrine.  The American monument was put in place by the sailors of the USS Peleliu in 2007.

 

We move uphill and get to the largest memorial on the island.  There is an American memorial sitting right next to a Japanese one which takes the form of a Shinto shrine.  The American monument was put in place by the sailors of the USS Peleliu in 2007.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F9, 1/320th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

We move uphill and get to the largest memorial on the island.  There is an American memorial sitting right next to a Japanese one which takes the form of a Shinto shrine.  The American monument was put in place by the sailors of the USS Peleliu in 2007.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F7,1, 1/400th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

From the hilltop we look down to Horseshoe Ridge and the “Death Valley.”  Everything is overgrown today.

 

From the hilltop we look down to Horseshoe Ridge and the “Death Valley.”  Everything is overgrown today.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F6,3, 1/400th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

From the hilltop we look down to Horseshoe Ridge and the “Death Valley.”  Everything is overgrown today.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F7,1, 1/400th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

We drive on and stop at a few more American amtracs and one Japanese tank that rust away in the sun.

 

We drive on and stop at a few more American amtracs and one Japanese tank that rust away in the sun.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F6,3, 1/200th, 23mm, ISO 100

 

We drive on and stop at a few more American amtracs and one Japanese tank that rust away in the sun.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S , @F4,5, 1/200th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

 


Eventually we reach the main runway of the contested airfield the Japanese and the US forces fought over for weeks.  It was still used for small commercial flights between Koror and Peleliu until recently.  The runway is partly overgrown and incredibly bumpy, but still in a good enough shape for small planes to land and take off from.

 

Eventually we reach the main runway of the contested airfield the Japanese and the US forces fought over for weeks.  It was still used for small commercial flights between Koror and Peleliu until recently.  The runway is partly overgrown and incredibly bumpy, but still in a good enough shape for small planes to land and take off from.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F9, 1/400th, 30mm, ISO 100

 

At the end of the runway there is the Japanese HQ building.  For many the erstwhile beautifully decorated and later heavily defended building is most interesting structure on the island.  It’s still possible to recognize some of the old gypsum ornaments on the ceilings, but most of them are now covered with a countless number of wasp nests.

 

At the end of the runway there is the Japanese HQ building.  For many the erstwhile beautifully decorated and later heavily defended building is most interesting structure on the island.  It’s still possible to recognize some of the old gypsum ornaments on the ceilings, but most of them are now covered with a countless number of wasp nests.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/50th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

At the end of the runway there is the Japanese HQ building.  For many the erstwhile beautifully decorated and later heavily defended building is most interesting structure on the island.  It’s still possible to recognize some of the old gypsum ornaments on the ceilings, but most of them are now covered with a countless number of wasp nests.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F5,6, 1/250th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

On “White Beach”, one of the main invasion beaches, there are still old Sherman tank tracks rusting in the surf.  I even find a 37mm tank grenade lying in the sand as if someone dropped it only yesterday.

 

On “White Beach”, one of the main invasion beaches, there are still old Sherman tank tracks rusting in the surf.  I even find a 37mm tank grenade lying in the sand as if someone dropped it only yesterday.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F8, 1/400th, 45mm, ISO 100

 

On “White Beach”, one of the main invasion beaches, there are still old Sherman tank tracks rusting in the surf.  I even find a 37mm tank grenade lying in the sand as if someone dropped it only yesterday.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F10, 1/400th, 28mm, ISO 100

 

Driving back in direction of the main village Tangie suddenly falls asleep behind the wheel and almost veers off the road.

“Whooaah!”  I shout out loud.  Fortunately Tangie reacts quickly and alters course quickly.  We barely miss an electricity pole on the side of the road.

 

“Whooaah!”  I shout out loud.  Fortunately Tangie reacts quickly and alters course quickly.  We barely miss an electricity pole on the side of the road.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F7,1, 1/400th, 14mm, ISO 100

 

For more information about the Battle of Peleliu check out the following link…