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NEWS | July 7, 2024

Koa Moana 24: U.S. Marines Deepening their Historic Bond with Peleliu through Civic Center Project

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

The recent touchdown of the first military fixed-wing aircraft on Peleliu's newly recertified airstrip, now named "Sledge" in homage to a Battle of Peleliu veteran, has captured global attention for its historical significance and collaborative spirit. This milestone, hailed by both military and civilian communities, was spotlighted in a comprehensive CNN report on Sunday, June 30, underscoring its profound historical and modern-day importance.

At the heart of this achievement lies the unwavering commitment of U.S. Marines. Leading the charge was Marine Corps Engineer Detachment-Palau 24.1 from the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, attached to 30th Naval Construction Regiment. Over the past six months, these Marines meticulously prepared the airstrip, culminating in its successful landing by a KC-130 Super Hercules aircraft from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR-152) of the 1st Marine Air Wing.

Looking ahead to the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu, the Marine Corps remains steadfast in preserving the island's military heritage. A central effort in this initiative is the restoration and enhancement of the Peleliu Civic Center, aimed at housing and showcasing World War II Japanese artifacts.

Last Monday, Marine Corps engineers from Combat Logistics Battalion 13, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group arrived on Peleliu from Palau's main island to commence critical renovation work at the Civic Center. The day began with meticulous planning, compiling essential materials, and precise measurements for artifact installations. Walls were stripped bare, and air-conditioning units removed, marking the start of what promises to be a transformative summer-long project.

"This project isn't just about demolishing walls; it's about laying the groundwork for a lasting tribute to Peleliu's pivotal role in history," remarked 1st Lt. Myles Fells, a combat engineer officer, and the officer in charge of this significant endeavor. Fells, who forged a deep connection with Palauan culture during his college years in the United States where he was roommates with a Palauan native, holds Palau and its history close to his heart. "Strategically, this center will serve as a beacon, preserving artifacts that tell the story of bravery and sacrifice. On a tactical level, our team's precision today ensures the historical integrity required for future phases, providing the Marines with a sense of deeper purpose."

“On behalf of the Peleliu residents, I convey a message of sincere gratitude to the U.S. Marines’ Koa Moana team for putting together the Peleliu World War II civic center space,” expressed by Peleliu’s governor, Dr. Emais Roberts.

This initiative stands among numerous in support of exercise Koa Moana 24. Additional engineering projects, community engagement activities, subject matter expert exchanges, and key leader engagements are all part of executing Koa Moana 24. The exercise is designed to strengthen partnerships among Palau, as well as the Pacific Island nations of the Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea. The annual rotational exercise, with CLB-13 leading the way, aims to collectively advance the shared goal of advancing regional security.

"We have our Marines and Sailors of CLB-13 strategically positioned throughout the region, ready to fulfill their mission with our allies and partners,” remarks Lt. Col. Brian McCarthy, commanding officer of CLB-13. “We recognize the importance of collaboration — it's the cornerstone of achieving our shared objectives of regional security and deepening the longstanding bond between our nations. This collaboration begins on the ground, engaging with the local communities and exchanging expertise. As we approach the significant 80th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu this summer, our efforts are dedicated to enhancing the Civic Center, ensuring it serves as a fitting tribute to this pivotal event. We eagerly anticipate commemorating this milestone with our Allies and Partners in the region this September."

The Marine Corps' dedication to Peleliu, evident in the refurbishment of the Civic Center and the recertification of the "Sledge" Peleliu Airstrip, reflects their commitment to honoring the past while preparing for future challenges. These efforts embody the spirit of service and respect integral to their mission, ensuring Peleliu's enduring legacy remains a beacon of history and progress.

​“The project reflects the importance of historical preservation and serves as a reminder for generations to come of the Marines’ sacrifices made during the gruesome battle on this remote island,” said Governor Roberts. “Our partnership with the United States and the current activities in Peleliu send a strong message of peace and preparedness.”