Palau: A visit to the Battlefield of Pelileu Island - Vikingess Voyages

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Palau: A visit to the Battlefield of Pelileu Island

Pelileu is a peaceful island southwest of Koror with around 700 inhabitants. It is hard to believe that this green and lush island was the site of one of the most fierce battles between U.S. and Japanese forces during World War II. The Battle of Pelileu took place between September and November 1944. Apparently the American commander of the 1st Marine Division had predicted that the battle would be over within four days, but instead it lasted almost three months (check out this page for more information about the battle).
One entrance to the 1,000 man cave
One reason why the war lasted much longer than anticipated, was that the Japanese forces had created a complex cave system inside a mountain known as Umurbrogol. A network of caves and tunnels enabled Japanese forces to stay hidden and strike back against the U.S. attack. But the Americans had superior technology, and the Japanese were ultimately hopeless against U.S. forces.
The 1,000 man cave
After the war the whole island has become known as the Pelileu Battlefield, and has been designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Because of this, one can still see traces of the war here and there on the island. It is illegal to bring any of the artifacts with you, so even empty bottles left by the Japanese soldiers can still be seen in the caves. Although the bottles are from the Japanese brewery Kirin, our guide told us that the soldiers only used them to carry water.
Kirin bottles left in the cave
Inside one of the caves
This cave is known as the "1,000 Man Cave", apparently because a thousand men were killed inside it. It's quite horrible to think about the terrible events that have taken place here.
Another entrance to the cave

Hidden hideout
I went with a Japanese group, and we also visited some of the memorials on the island made to honor the more than 12,000 soldiers who fell on the island. Luckily my Japanese good enough that I understand most of what was said, but it does happen also that I must ask my boyfriend to explain some details too.
Visiting a memorial stone at the local graveyard
We also visited the Pelileu World War II Memorial Museum, which is situated in a building that was used by the Japanese as a storage bunker during the war. The museum contains many artifacts from the war, both from the American and the Japanese troops.
The Peleliu World War II Memorial Museum
An old Japanese flag in the museum
A missile outside the museum
The Japanese Headquarters has been overtaken by nature
The main hall of the Japanese Headquarters
The building is still relatively intact despite the damages caused by the American attack and the many years that have passed by.
The power of nature
There are also a large number of tanks left on the island. This is the pictures of a Japanese tanks:
A Japanese tanks
Closeup of the tanks

A plane in the middle of the forest

Hidden war machinery
A shrine that was erected by the Japanese some years ago. Apparently there are some controversies surrounding the shrine, as it was founded by some right-winged organizations.
A memorial stone

Another memorial stone for fallen Japanese soldiers
It was pretty surreal to walk through a landscape where thousands of people had to pay with their life during the war. Young men in their prime who never got to return to their families. I hope we have learned enough from the past to avoid another war like this in the future..

Leaving Pelileu

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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