Peleliu is a six-mile long island in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Philippines. It’s a tropical paradise, with rich vegetation, beautiful beaches, and exquisite views. But the tiny island is virtually uninhabited.
That’s because one wrong step could explode a landmine buried there 70 years earlier.
Visitors to Peleliu are accustomed to seeing rusted relics of World War II scattered across the scenery of the tiny island. But it’s what they don’t see that makes venturing to this tropical paradise so deadly: unexploded bombs leftover from battles fought nearly one hundred years ago.
The tiny island was part of General MacArthur’s “island-hopping” strategy during WWII, so it was pounded by naval and aerial bombs for several months prior to an invasion in September of 1944. But since the ordnance from that era had a 30% fail rate, there are literally tons of unexploded bombs littering the landscape.
In addition to those unexploded bombs are stockpiles of landmines and ordnance the Japanese soldiers hid in caves beneath the surface of the earth. Relief workers found more than 600 pieces of explosives in just one cave on the island. Those same relief workers discovered that 26% of homes on the island were contaminated with live ordnance of some kind: bombs were in backyards, grenades were in classrooms that taught history, and some of the indigenous people were even found using the unexploded bombs to crack nuts.
Since clearing operations began in 2009, more than 32,000 dangerous items have been removed from Peleliu. But those efforts were too late for many victims; every single one of the island’s 400 residents know someone who’s been killed by weapons of WWII since the conflict ended in 1945.
But that’s the consequences of war; we plant explosions in our future.
Click here for the online report.
Topics Illustrated Include:
World War II
(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)