AROUND PELELIU

A few random shots from our travels around the island.

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This bridge was bombed by the Americans during WWII. The remnants reminded me of a Tori gate. I am sure there is some form of irony there.

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An old concrete machine gun bunker.

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The old Japanese communications building. You are not allowed in, as the back collapsed during a hurricane in 2012.

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The memorial to the US 81st Infantry. It was a cemetery but years ago Congress went around the world and brought their war dead back to the US.

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The old runway that was so precious to McArthur. If you watch The Pacific (HBO) they show how this area was an open field with all vegetation bombed and burned to the ground. Nature has reclaimed the airfield.

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A plaque on a memorial from the Japanese people.

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I would agree and let us all hope and pray for those around the world who are suffering through war today.

PELELIU’s TANKS

Scattered around the island are remnants of the fierce World War II battle. The US LTV(A)-1, LTV(A)-4s, rusting under the hot Pacific sun. A few of my favorite shots (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8)

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Believe it or not, some of the wheels on the tanks still turn.

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The spot where the enemy shells went in.

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It was surprising how much smaller the Japanese tanks were. This Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tank was half the height of the American tanks. I do not know how a full grown man would fit into it – must have been tight. It was sitting on the old airfield.

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Nature is slowly trying to reclaim the vehicles.

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Spot the faded star.

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The Japanese tanks had little effect on the battle and were destroyed almost immediately during a poorly executed counter attack:

The 5th Marines made the most progress on the first day, due to their distance from the heavy gun emplacements guarding the left and right flanks. They pushed toward the airfield, but were met with Nakagawa’s first counterattack. His armored tank company raced across the airfield to push the Marines back, but was soon engaged by tanks, howitzers, naval guns and dive bombers. Nakagawa’s tanks and escorting infantrymen were quickly destroyed.

They had very small guns.

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Fascinating to see.

PALAU ABANDONED JAPANESE WAR MONUMENT

We had rented a car and were driving the roads of Palau in search of a waterfall. Along the side of the road we noticed a concrete pyramid rising out of the jungle. What was that?

We backtracked and found the entrance with a set of tire tracks through the grass, no “official” road in sight and everything overgrown. What was it?

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As we moved closer, we started to notice the writing on the walls – definitely Japanese. But so overgrown … so un-Japanese.

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On the left were names of companies. All of the companies you would easily recognize; JAL, Toshiba, Panasonic and others.

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On the right are the names of people. I assume people who have donated.

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One of the first names is very interesting … Ryoichi Sasakawa who has a very interesting and mixed history.

Ryoichi Sasakawa (笹川 良一 Sasakawa Ryōichi?, May 4, 1899 – July 18, 1995) was a Japanese businessman, politician and fascist[1][2][3] born in Minoh,Osaka. He was imprisoned as a Class A war criminal after World War II but later released without a trial,[4][5][6] kuromaku (political power-broker), and the founder of the Nippon Foundation. While he is widely known throughout Africa and much of the developing world for the wide-ranging philanthropic programs that he established, he is at the same time viewed with hostility by many intellectuals[7][8] for his right wing ideals and ties to Japan’s motorboat racing industry and support for the Unification Movement

I found his quote “I am the world’s richest fascist” particularly interesting when he is also recognized for leading significant charity efforts in poverty stricken nations and a peace organization that bears his name.

The black marble triangle with the dirt darkened inscription and long dead wreaths reads (roughly translated)

As a memory of fighting in this war we built this to take care of the spirits of the soldiers.

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To Japan …

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A place to sit and contemplate.

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You can find the monument at Longitude 7 27 51.71, Latitude 134 31 40.878 (embedded in the metadata). How quickly nature creeps back …

PELELIU, BLOODY NOSE RIDGE

Our first stop on our exploration of the island of Peleliu was bloody nose ridge. Along the road was a small sign about a few Japanese men who held out well after the war.

On 21 April 1947, a small band of Japanese holdouts was discovered on Peleliu. They formally surrendered only after considerable effort to convince them the war was over. Lieutenant Yamaguchi, who had maintained military discipline in the group for the intervening years, led 26 soldiers to a position in front of 80 battle-dressed Marines where he turned over his sword.

You can read more about the account here. (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8)

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Their cave is 50m that way.

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The fighting in Peleliu was inhuman. It was not a strategic battle with cleaver maneuvers and tightly managed strategies. With 22,000 combatants surrounded by hundreds of ships and planes on a 2 mile by 6 mile island, it was a meat grinder – a battle of brute force. While the US Army wanted to execute a conservative strategy to beat the Japanese after extensive bombing/artillery, inching their sandbags forward; the controversial leader of the US Marines Colonel Chesty Puller had one strategy, drive ahead at all costs. That cost was divisions going in with 280 men and walking out with 70 left days later. Many say that Marine Corps. casualties did not need to be so high.

It was fought hand to hand and due to the Japanese Imperial Army’s mentality of too the death for the Emperor, it lead to some of the highest casualty rates in American history and almost no Japanese prisoners. I read With The Old Breed before flying over, and while I found the writing of the book rather simplistic, he describes the rawness of Peleliu very clearly:

to those who entered the meat grinder itself, the war was a nether world of horror [in which] time had no meaning; life had no meaning. The fierce struggle for survival in the abyss of Peleliu eroded the veneer of civilization and made savages of us all. We existed in an environment totally incomprehensible to men behind the lines — service troops and civilians.

In addition to rotting corpses and organic waste, the litter of smashed and worn out equipment of every type became more abundant as the battle dragged on and the size of the Umurbrogol Pocket shrank slowly. The ridges and ravines were littered with the flotsam of fierce combat. Debris of battle was everywhere and became more noticeable as the weeks dragged on.

That debris is everywhere. In fact, it is still quite dangerous in the jungle as they are still clearing it out.

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Along the trail, you see remnants of the war scattered everywhere (including the occasional human bone).

Old mortar rounds were everywhere.

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As were caves. The Japanese adopted a new strategy at Peleliu after their many previous failures and learning that the banzai charge was not a successful strategy. They adopted a defense in depth strategy with extensive tunnels. This meant that they would hide until the American shelling let up and then pop up and surprise the US troops. This approach created the most vicious of battles, with the Americans having to root the soldiers out one by one using some of the most terrible of weapons (such as the flame thrower). According to one source, the US military expended 1,500 rounds of ammunition for every Japanese death (All but 280 of the 12,000 Japanese soldiers were killed).

A cave filled with anti-aircraft cartridges.

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A plaque and memorial to Elmer Lowe, Sgt USMC who died on this ridge. Over 2,000 marines were killed or wounded in this tight battle with the Japanese (8,500 Americans were killed or wounded in Peleliu – a battle that was supposed to be over in 3 days).

Another quote from The Old Breed that seem particularly apt at a place like this:

War is such self-defeating, organized madness the way it destroys a nations best. I wondered also about the hopes and aspirations of a dead

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The infamous water barrels of the Peleliu battle. Soldiers had been assigned to steam clean 55 gallon oil drums, which the military would repurpose for drinking water. The problem is that the job was not well done or inspected. The fresh water that arrived for the troops was full of rust and oil. In the 120F heat, many tried to drink it anyway and became violently ill.

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Shells and guns lay strewn along the walk.

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From The Old Breed:

None of us would ever be the same after what we had endured. To some degree that is true, of course, of all human experience. But something in me died at Peleliu. Perhaps it was a childish innocence that accepted as faith the claim that man is basically good. Possibly I lost faith that politicians in high places who do not have to endure wars savagery will ever stop blundering and sending others to endure it.

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IMPRESSIONS OF PALAU

I have had Palau on my bucket list for a long time for two reasons; Jellyfish Lake in the Rock Islands and Peleliu, the island the US/Japan fought a vicious WWII battle.

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For those of you who do not know Palau;

Palau (Listeni/pəˈl/, sometimes spelled Belau or Pelew), officially the Republic of Palau (Palauan: Beluu er a Belau),[4] is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is geographically part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country’s population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands. The most populous island is Koror. The islands share maritime boundaries with Indonesia, Philippines and theFederated States of Micronesia. The capital Ngerulmud is located in Melekeok State on the nearby island of Babeldaob.

It is a breathtakingly beautiful set of islands, with the friendliest of people and an interesting history. First colonized by the Spanish, then sold to the Germans, occupied by the Japanese in 1914 and now supported by the US as a United Nations protected territory, Palau has seen its share of foreigners.

Like many islands, the buildings are crumbling with the people surviving on a mix of subsistence farming/fishing, tourism and international aid which allows the government to employee roughly half of the population. The US is at the forefront of that aid, providing a $250M package in 2010 and remains in a tight military compact with the island (although the only US forces in Palau are there to support civil projects such as school and road construction).

The reason why so few have heard about it is due to the location and a coastline of mangrove swamps that do not allow the country to compete with the beaches of Hawaii or Tahiti. The airlines don’t help either, our flight from Tokyo was one of the only directs and the return flight left the island at 4:20am (less than ideal). But a bucket list is a bucket list …. and so we went. Glad we did, it is a truly unique place.

When you get there, the island culture starts to seep into you. It is a beautiful island and despite a week of way too much rain, we had a few great adventures .. which will kick off a few posts.

All of that being said, the view from our hotel, the PPR, was fantastic.

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The problem with traveling to Asia in the summer? It is the wet season. It was very wet … all week unfortunately.

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View from the hilltop.

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Beautiful place. Maybe we need to sell everything in a decade and go live near a beach …. there are definitely worse things in life.

TOKYO BREAKDANCING

Tokyo is a big city and there is always something new to find. I decided to head over to Yoyogi Park area for a wander and came across a break dancing competition under the bridge. People were crowded around as this fellow spun the tunes.

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Yes, breakdancing survived the 80’s. It started with 4 groups .. getting warmed up.

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Then they broke into a competition. I stood in the middle and couldn’t help but think that this looked like some kind of dance off … like you have seen in movies (that you turn off). In person it is very entertaining. They were extremely talented and agile. 

A few shots as the two sides (left and right) went at each other.

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A coordinated taunt.

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As each new dancer started they would usually face the crowd and make a taunt or two before they began throwing themselves into it.

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The crew on the right had a few kids in it. And the little batman took his turn.

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If you are wondering about athletic prowess .. check out the height.

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And then it was over, just as this fellow stepped out. He turned to the DJ and they all asked .. one more!

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He has the hat for it and they let him go. Good thing they did, he was the best and what a finish.

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Got to love Yoyogi Park .. even during Obon when half the city is empty.

OPEN AIR MUSEUM, HAKONE, JAPAN

I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at this museum as I have never been to an outdoor museum.

Set in the stunning landscape of Hakone, the Hakone Open-Air Museum opened in 1969 as the first open-air art museum in Japan. Constantly changing with the seasons, our spectacular grounds are the permanent home for approximately 120 works by well-known modern and contemporary sculptors. We also have 5 exhibition halls including the Picasso Pavilion, as well as pieces where children can play, a footbath fed by natural hot springs, and a variety of other facilities where our visitors can relax and enjoy the splendor of art in nature.

It was as one would expect; open, beautiful grounds at the foot of the mountains. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8 with a mix of handheld HDRs.

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“Intersecting Space Construction” …

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Japanese maples are beautiful all year round and plentiful here. They do not grow well in my home country due to the winters.

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I saw this ball’s cousin at the Vatican … Sfera con Sfera (sphere within a sphere).

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The “symphonic sculpture”, a wonder of colored glass. It became a symphony of children’s laughter and screams about 3/4 of the way up as the school kids streamed in (smile).

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The grounds are scattered with sculptures and beautiful flowers.

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A few hours well spent.