Today in the United States we honor our military veterans. But the truth is, I don’t need a special day to commemorate them because I think of them every single day. Whether it’s my brother who fought in the Middle East or my ancestors who fought in Europe, I think of their service every day.
Recently we made a special trip to Palau in honor of the 75th anniversary of the battles of Peleliu and Angaur. We were there in memory of a cherished family member who fought on both islands. The Americans assaulted these islands in the fall of 1944 in order to seize a Japanese airfield and thereby protect General Douglas MacArthur’s flank as he returned to the Philippines.
The battle between the Americans and the Japanese military forces occupying these islands saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific during World War II. After a battle that lasted over two months, the Japanese were defeated and Peleliu was occupied by the American military for a time. Palau ultimately became independent 25 years ago (1994).
For me, it was emotional to be on the island because it is obvious Palauans have not forgotten, nor will they ever forget, the sacrifices of the US military to free Palau.
This is a picture of White Beach, Peleliu where the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division landed on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. The Marines suffered scores of casualties here and the beach is still littered with pieces of the American landing craft that were destroyed during the invasion.
Scattered remnants of the war remain visible throughout Peleliu. This is a picture of the cave that served as the final command post for the Japanese commanders, Colonel Kunio Nakagawa and General Kenjiro Murai. Near the end of the battle, they committed suicide here. Today the Japanese travel here to pay tribute to them and the thousands of other lives lost on both sides during the battle.
This is a Japanese tank destroyed early in the battle and now is part of the landscape.
This is a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry “Wildcat” Division. All remains of American servicemen lost on Peleliu and Angaur have been brought home to the US or interned in US military cemeteries elsewhere (like in the Philippines).
To the right, you’ll see a very special plaque recently placed near Orange Beach (another one of the landing beaches on Peleliu), which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the battle.
For veterans and servicemen and women, from the bottom of my heart I say thank you for your service. Though my thanks could never ever be enough for what you have done (and continue to do) for our country.