Day 8 Peleliu

At the same time Pearl Harbor was being bombarded by Japanese soldiers so was the Philippines (even though they are past the International Date Line so historically, the Philippine invasion is recorded as being December 8th). When Commander Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines he claimed, “I shall return.” Part of MacArthur ‘s return was to take control of a small Palauan Island, Peleliu. The Marines landed at 08:32 on September 15, 1944; the 1st Marines to the north on “White Beach”, and the 5th and 7th Marines to the center and south on “Orange Beach”. A siege began that was supposed to only last 3 days, but instead lasted close to three months in what has been called one of the bloodiest battles in history. Today we visited Peleliu, an hour’s boat ride away from Korror, hailing a population of under 500 people; Peleliu today is a lush, quite island with whispers of the past.

Peleliu is hot and humid, much more so than the other parts of Palau that we visited. Vegetation is quite thick on Peleliu, so it is hard to imagine the island with 85% of its greenery burned to the ground as it was in 1944, and how unbearably hot that would make things. Many of the people that died in the battle of Peleliu did not die from combat, but heat exhaustion and lack of drinking water. We did a short hike through the interior of the island, high arching trees created a leafy canopy letting small rays of sunshine cross our paths, protecting us from frying in the direct heat of the sun and still it was H-O-T. I can only imagine soldiers in full combat-gear, clothed from head to toe, toting heavy weapons. I drained 4 water bottles in my first 2 hours on the island and it was cooler than last year when we were here.

Today was a very different day then yesterday’s snorkeling tour (geez was that only yesterday). It’s hard to imagine the kind of horror that unfolded underneath our own footprints, only the rusted remains give us eerie clues to what was once there.

At the end of the day we were all hot, tired and for the first time, somewhat somber; however, that all changed when we got a bonus snorkeling stop, Fantasy Reef, on the way home! You know how people have aquariums because they’re calming, well imagine swimming in a king-sized aquarium and that’s kind of what it was like. We practiced being “fish whisperers.” You wiggle your fingers around to summon the fish and then magically they come by the 100’s; it’s pretty awesome!

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