Palau To Reopen Sealed Caves From World War II

One facet of the brutal fighting that took place in the South Pacific theater of World War II will soon see the light once again, thanks in part to an impending state visit.

The Republic of Palau, located next to the Federated States of Micronesia, made the announcement that they have begun the process of re-opening caves that were sealed off in the aftermath of intense conflict between Japanese and American forces during that period of the war that took place in 1944. Those battles resulted in steep casualty rates; Japan lost 10,000 soldiers during the fighting in Palau, and 2,600 of those soldiers’ remains were never recovered. It’s widely believed that the bulk of those remains lies within the network of caves in the Peleliu state of the country, another grim outcome of the war since Japanese forces ensconced themselves in the caves as a mode of defense against the American onslaught. To this day, the jungle growth in Peleliu is still spotted with rusted relics from World War II in the form of artillery pieces.

The news comes just as Palau is making preparations for the first landmark imperial visit of emperor Akihito and empress Michiko to the country. Their visit on April 8th and 9th will include ceremonies to be held to honor those lives lost on Palau during World War II, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the battles taking place there. This move has been in the works since the early part of last month, with Peleliu State governor Temmy Shmull making the pledge to Japan’s Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in talks between the two countries. Families of those lost soldiers also contributed to this taking place through their continued efforts of outreach to the government. The relationship between Palau and Japan has become more stable in past years; Shmull was an invited guest of the emperor and empress in 2000 along with former president of Palau Kuniwo Nakamura. In addition to the caves being re-opened, a monument built in honor of the Japanese war dead will see its repairs finished in time for the imperial visit. The monument had sustained damage as a result of the super typhoon Haiyan in 2012. Japan will have officials flown in to Palau to assist with the cave efforts.