PELELIU, Palau -- The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and Japanese Self-Defense Force held a wreath-laying ceremony at the Peleliu Peace Memorial Park to remember the service members who lost their lives at the Battle of Peleliu, April 12.
Considered the bitterest battle of World War II for U.S. Marines, the first U.S. invasion force landed in Peleliu, Sept. 15, 1944. Expected to last only four days, the Battle of Peleliu stretched more than two months with a casualty rate exceeding that of all other amphibious operations during the Pacific War, and resulted in more than 10,800 deaths.
The ceremony included remarks from Gunnery Sgt. Walter Greber, staff noncommissioned officer in charge for security, and Lt. Cmdr. Satoshi Hirokami, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in joint staff, and a joint wreath-laying at the concrete cenotaph erected to memorialize all those who perished on Peleliu in World War II. The ceremony concluded with the playing of "Taps" by two buglers to honor the sacrifice made by those who fought in the battle.
"While the Battle of Peleliu gave us insight into emerging Japanese defense tactics, these lessons could not have been learned without the sacrifice and service of our U.S. troops," said Greber. "The battle underscores our warfighting history, determination and will, as well as the resolve of the Japanese."
U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Division and later Soldiers of the U.S. Army's 81st Infantry Division fought to capture an airstrip, encountering a well-armed Japanese force defending 500 caves that honeycombed the small coral island, a maze the Marines soon nicknamed 'Bloody Nose Ridge.'"
"Today, times have changed and the relationship between Japan and the United States have become stronger than ever as can be seen in this event," said Hirokami. "We together mourn the soldiers who lost their lives here."
Following the ceremony, U.S. and Japanese participants visited the Peleliu Elementary School and played sports and listened to a band performance by the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet Band with more than 50 students, while the medical staff conducted health screenings at the Peleliu clinic providing blood-glucose, vital signs and height-weight measurements as well as prescription eyeglasses.
"We have witnesses today who came from ... the Republic of Palau and the United Kingdom," said Hirokami. "[This] shows the special relationship among us. It is my sincere hope that our visit here contributes to the further development of our cooperative relations."
The U.S. Sailors and Marines and Japanese Self-Defense Force staff members came to the Republic of Palau aboard expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) as part of Pacific Partnership 2018, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission.
"Our history is important to us," said Greber. "It keeps the memory of the sacrifices of our former brothers and sisters made remembered. It also allows us to learn from past mistakes and continue to evolve."