Marine: 'Our relationship with Palau traces back to 1944'

MEMORIAL: Maj. Gen. Robert Castellvi, commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, and Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander of Joint Region Marianas, unveil a new memorial at the southernmost point of Peleliu island in Palau. The memorial was presented in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Palau and the Battle of Peleliu. Civic Action Team Palau 84-06 conducts monthly World War II monument maintenance trips to Angaur and Peleliu and provides community construction support to the host nation. U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Oscar R. Castro

American troops joined the Republic of Palau in September for the island nation's 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Palau and the Battle of Peleliu in World War II.

Also celebrated this year was the 50th anniversary of the U.S. military partnership in Palau through the Civic Action Team. Members of the 84th Engineer Battalion from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, were in Palau for the Civic Action Team engagement.

From the start of the invasion of Peleliu island on Sept. 15, 1944, the Battle of Peleliu was one of the bloodiest military conflicts in the Pacific.

Through a combined effort, more than 28,000 service members from the 1st Marine Division and 81st Infantry Division fought to liberate the island from more than 10,000 Japanese soldiers, and endured a 40% casualty rate.

Every month, the military's Civic Action Team 84-06 travels to Peleliu and Angaur state islands to maintain and conduct repairs at seven World War II monuments. In September, the team conducted a memorial flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony at Bloody Nose Ridge. They were joined by U.S. veterans and Marines, and representatives from Palau.

“It was an honor to conduct this ceremony in the presence of U.S. veterans and gold star families of the Battle of Peleliu,” stated Spc. Cory Lee, lead carpentry mason for Civic Action Team 84-06. “I was fortunate to have lunch with a gentleman named David, whose uncle served in the Marines during World War II. He told me about how this visit to Palau has allowed him to visit the approximate location where his uncle was killed in action, and to pay respects for his ultimate sacrifice.”

Lee and two other members of CAT 84-06 joined the Marines on Peleliu again for the Koa Moana 2019 exercise. Working together, the engineers of CAT 84-06 and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force constructed a new playground at Peleliu Elementary School. In addition to engineering construction projects, the Marines also partnered with local law enforcement agencies.

“Koa Moana is built to enhance our relationship with partner nations in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Ashley Spikes, officer in charge of Koa Moana 2019. “Our relationship with Palau traces back to 1944 during WWII, when the 1st Marine Division as well as 81st Infantry Division were engaged on the island of Peleliu. Understanding the result of those times creates a special bond between nations, allowing us to strengthen our relationship and demonstrate our continued commitment to security and sovereignty of the Republic of Palau.”

At the culmination of Koa Moana 2019, a remembrance ceremony was held on Peleliu to formally commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Palau and the Battle of Peleliu. During the ceremony, delegates from the United States and Palau unveiled a new pillar presented by Maj. Gen. Robert Castellvi, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

For the final event, the Civic Action Team joined the U.S. Embassy of Palau and U.S. military officials to congratulate and celebrate Palau’s 25th Independence Day, Oct 1.

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