(NARA; RG 127)Peleliu’s vegetation was stripped away during the battle, revealing a blinding landscape of jagged limestone.In the years since the Battle of Peleliu, Palauans have largely avoided the ridges and caves where the worst fighting took place, wary of chancing upon the ubiquitous unexploded ordnance and disturbing the human remains that were left at the end of the war. But these areas were once very much a part of Palauan life. In their surveys of the battlefield, archaeologists led by Rick Knecht of the University of Aberdeen and Neil Price of Uppsala University have found Palauan pottery likely dating back many centuries near every natural cave used by the Japanese during the battle, as well as large prehistoric shell middens in sections of remote jungle. “The battle was fought on a Palauan cultural landscape,” says Knecht.
Peleliu, along with the rest of the Palauan archipelago, was settled at least 3,000 years ago by migrants from islands in Southeast Asia. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Palau was colonized by Spain, then Germany, and, in 1914, by Japan. In preparation for war, two of Peleliu’s five traditional villages were razed to make way for an airfield constructed by the Japanese in the late 1930s. The Japanese used forced Palauan labor to dig...
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