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NEWS | June 23, 2024

First Military Fixed-Wing Aircraft Lands on Peleliu Recertified Airstrip

By 1st Lt. John Carter 1st Marine Logistics Group

For the first time since its recertification in June, a military fixed-wing aircraft has touched down on the historic Peleliu airstrip, marking a significant and triumphant return to this iconic World War II site, on June 22, 2024. This landmark event was made possible by the tireless efforts of the Marine Corps Engineer Detachment Palau (MCED-P) 24.1, comprised of engineers from the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.

The MCED-P has been diligently rehabilitating the WWII-era Japanese airfield on Peleliu, a mission critical to enhancing U.S. military strategic capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region. The successful landing marks the culmination of months of dedicated work by the Marine engineers.

The runway was named in honor of Eugene Sledge, a private first class with the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of Peleliu and author of the well-known book "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa," which provides a vivid account of the historic battle and used by many to explain what happened during the historic battle.

“Today is a historic moment as we land a Marine Corps aircraft on the 'Sledge' runway,” remarked Maj. Christopher Romero, MCED-P 24.1 commanding officer. “This remarkable achievement demonstrates the strategic importance of our mission and our dedication to regional stability and security.”

Local leaders and community members, including Peleliu Governor Emais Roberts, attended the event, underscoring its significance for the island. “The landing of the C-130 on the resurfaced runway after many years hopefully begins a new chapter for a prosperous future of Peleliu island,” remarked Governor Roberts. “On behalf of the Peleliu citizens, I thank the U.S. Department of Defense with U.S. Marines for making this long-awaited joint use airfield become a reality. Our small island community has benefitted immensely with the U.S. Marine presence. We value the great partnership, and we feel safe and protected with the support of the greatest country in this world."

“I feel privileged because I was in Peleliu in 2021 and saw the airfield transform into what it is now,” says Sgt. Brandon Gonzalez, a MCED-P 24.1 combat engineer squad leader who led vegetation removal and assisted with unexploded ordinance sweeping. “It truly is an honor to have been a part of this mission and see it come to fruition with a KC-130 landing.”

The restored Peleliu airstrip stands as a testament to the resilience and innovation of Marine Corps engineers. It bridges the past and the future, honoring WWII sacrifices while enhancing regional security and cooperation.

The successful landing is particularly poignant as the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu approaches in September. To commemorate this historic occasion, Combat Logistics Battalion 13, another battalion within 1st MLG, will be enhancing the Peleliu Civic Center Museum. This project aims to provide a new home for historic artifacts, ensuring the legacy of those who fought in the Battle of Peleliu is honored and remembered.

As MCED-P 24.1’s rotation draws to a close, Maj. Romero extended his gratitude to Governor Roberts and the Peleliu community. “Thank you for taking care of the Marines and Sailors of the MCED mission. Your contributions have been key to our success. The 'Stray Dogs' feel right at home here in Peleliu.”

The nickname “Stray Dogs” comes from the numerous stray dogs found in Peleliu, cherished and nourished by the community. This name reflects the locals' hospitality and the bond formed with the Marines and Sailors of MCED-P.

​As the rehabilitation project continues, this successful landing represents a significant step forward in strengthening regional infrastructure. The engineers of MCED-P remain committed to their mission, ready to tackle challenges and contribute to ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.