Marines revive a World War II airfield on Peleliu in Pacific pivot

marines revive a world war ii airfield on peleliu in pacific pivot

A 1st Marine Air Wing KC-130J Super Hercules lands on the island of Peleliu on June 22, 2024. (KC-130J Super Hercules/U.S. Marine Corps)

In 1944, the tiny island of Peleliu was the site of the some of the fiercest fighting of World War II, as Marines and Army soldiers fought to seize an airfield carved into its coral rocks. Saturday, that legacy was revisisted as Marines began flying again from Peleliu, this time with an eye towards its value in the modern Pacific theater.

A Marine Corps KC-130J Super Hercules tanker assigned to 1st Marine Air Wing touched down on Peleliu June 22. It was a major milestone for the U.S. Marine Corps’ ongoing efforts to restore and update military installation in the Pacific, many of which have World War II roots. The airstrip was officially recertified earlier this month.

The fighter for Peleliu was one of the bloodiest in U.S. history as almost 50,000 Marines and Army soldiers pried the tiny island away from 10,000 Japanese soldiers. Nearly one of every three Americans that landed at Peleliu was killed or injured, the highest rate of any amphibious landing of the war, according to the Marines.

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

The name ‘Sledge’ is in honor of Eugene Sledge, a Marine who fought in the Battle of Peleliu and wrote about it in his book “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa,” one of the books that would provide material for “The Pacific.”

According to the Department of Defense, the newly recertified airstrip, as well as other military improvements on the island, are “critical to enhancing U.S. military strategic capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.” Peleliu is one of several locations in the Pacific where the U.S military has been upgrading or expanding its presence. That includes building up the military presence on Guam, putting newer aircraft in Japan and refurbishing sites that date back to the early 20th century. At Peleliu, more work is needed before the project is complete, but the recertification of the airstrip is a major milestone in restoring the site.

Subscribe to Task & Purpose Today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.

The decades-old airfield had been essentially reclaimed by nature. Crews had to clear away large amounts of vegetation — and sweep the area for any unexploded ordnance from the war, an ongoing problem in the Pacific — before work on the airstrip proper could be done. The work also included supplemental projects, such as road improvements on the island.

The island, part of the nation of Palau, is notoriously small. A coral reef island, it is barely more than 5 square miles in size. Despite that, its airstrip was deemed a key step in the American island hopping campaign of World War II, pushing closer to the Japanese home islands (some, historians, though, question the value of the small island, and the high price paid for it, noting that the airfield never became a key outpost for airpower). The battle, which began Sept. 15, 1944, ran three months, ending with an American victory on Nov. 27. III Amphibious Corps, made up of Marines from the 1st Marine Division and soldiers from the 81st Infantry Division suffered at least 1,989 dead and more than 8,500 wounded. As part of the wider work on Peleliu today, the Marine Corps is expanding the Peleliu Civic Center Museum and adding pieces left over from the battle.

The latest on Task & Purpose

OTHER NEWS

38 minutes ago

House votes to form task force to investigate shooting at Trump rally, recommend legislative fixes

38 minutes ago

CrowdStrike reveals what went wrong — and it's pretty much what we expected

38 minutes ago

Nestory Irankunda at Bayern Munich updates: Australia football wonderkid scores in friendly match

38 minutes ago

Uzbekistan loses the match but wins over crowd as soccer competition kicks off Paris Olympics

38 minutes ago

Kamala Harris' First Rally Fact-Checked

38 minutes ago

'A Nonsense Question!' James Cleverly Refuses To Say If He Would Vote For Trump

41 minutes ago

Amari Cooper's New Deal Creates Questions About Browns' Long-Term Strategy

41 minutes ago

‘Disappointing’: New report which cast doubt on Australia’s nuclear plan has ‘problems’

41 minutes ago

In a reversal, Georgia now says districts can use state funding to teach AP Black studies classes

44 minutes ago

India and UK launch tech initiative as new British foreign minister makes his first official visit

46 minutes ago

Jennifer Aniston calls out JD Vance with message on her IVF journey

51 minutes ago

Ten Hag gunning for Man Utd to sign Bundesliga winner who can help expensive flop shine

51 minutes ago

The Messi effect: MLS celebrates record All-Star Game attendance, rising engagement

51 minutes ago

Olympics-Canadian coach, analyst kicked out of Games after drone incident

51 minutes ago

Eluned Morgan becomes first woman to lead Welsh Labour

51 minutes ago

Manchester United forward left out of tour squad ahead of League One loan switch

51 minutes ago

Van der Poel sets sights on Olympic glory: "That worked very well last year too"

52 minutes ago

Macquarie share price tumbles on first-quarter update

52 minutes ago

Bellamy answers two key Storm questions

52 minutes ago

WNBA announces landmark 11-year media rights deal with Disney, Amazon Prime and NBC

52 minutes ago

Daylight saving's health impacts highlighted as farmers vote for it to be cut back to four months

52 minutes ago

Govt approves withdrawal of Irish Army from Portlaoise Prison for later this year

52 minutes ago

Wealthy countries lead in new oil and gas expansion, threatening 12bn tonnes of emissions

52 minutes ago

'Nothing can come in way of saving our democracy, including personal ambition' - Biden

52 minutes ago

Watch: Jordan Love still participating with Packers despite contract 'hold-in'

52 minutes ago

Arts Picks: President’s Challenge Art Exhibition, More Than Music gig and Rajesh P. Kargutkar show

52 minutes ago

Viktor Axelsen, the ‘calm competitive dragon’ of Danish badminton

52 minutes ago

My Perfect Weekend with veteran watercolourist Ong Kim Seng

52 minutes ago

Biden flips age issue to boost Harris in Oval Office address

52 minutes ago

Russia takes revenge on Japan with Toyota boss ban

52 minutes ago

Archive: Flyers' 'New Era of Orange' Began In Earnest With Teardown Process

52 minutes ago

Report: Jets offered Haason Reddick extension before trade

52 minutes ago

Trump campaign says it's 'well-positioned to prosecute the case' against Kamala Harris

52 minutes ago

Gutherson’s role locked in for rest of 2024

52 minutes ago

Brush fire sparks along Saanich's Pat Bay Highway

52 minutes ago

Donald Trump Heads to North Carolina Under Pressure

52 minutes ago

Big Lots store closures 2024: Full list of shops shutting amid financial woes

52 minutes ago

Hillary Clinton says Harris can beat Trump despite ‘sexism’ in politics

52 minutes ago

Laziness has become the new British disease

52 minutes ago

Two Russian and two Chinese bombers are intercepted off Alaskan coast