PELELIU, Palau - The Emperor and Empress offered flowers at a monument for the war dead on Palau's Peleliu Island (See below) on Thursday during their commemorative visit to the Pacific island nation 70 years after World War II.
About 18,000 soldiers from Japan and the United States were killed in Palau during the war. Fierce battles took place on Peleliu and the southern Palauan island of Angaur.
Palauan President Tommy Remengesau and his wife observed the floral offering on Thursday, as did the presidents of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands and their wives. Former Japanese soldiers and bereaved families of war victims were also present.
Shortly after 10:40 a.m. on the day, the Imperial couple arrived at the West Pacific Ocean monument to the war dead at the Peace Memorial Park. The park is located on the southern tip of Peleliu, where about 10,000 Japanese troops lost their lives.
The Emperor and Empress bowed before a floral tribute stand and offered white chrysanthemums brought from Japan. They then faced south and bowed toward Angaur Island, where about 1,100 Japanese troops were killed.
Among those observing the Imperial couple's tribute was Kiyokazu Tsuchida, 95, who was one of 34 troops who continued to fight and hide in a cave for nearly two years without knowing that the war had ended. Yoji Kurata, 88, who emigrated to Palau to pray for the souls of the war dead, was also present.
The Japanese government built the monument in March 1985 for those who lost their lives in battles on Palau, regardless of their nationality.
Visit to US monument
The Imperial couple then visited a monument dedicated to the US Army's 81st infantry division near Orange Beach, where many US forces also lost their lives, and offered flowers. They spoke with local people who have prayed for the war dead and helped collect remains of Japanese soldiers.
The Emperor and Empress stayed overnight aboard the Akitsushima vessel of the Japan Coast Guard, anchored off Koror Island. On Thursday morning, they travelled to Peleliu by helicopter from the vessel. They left for Japan on a chartered airplane later the same day.
■ Peleliu Island
Located 3,000 kilometers south of Japan, Peleliu is a small Pacific island stretching about 10 kilometers from south to north and about three kilometers from east to west. The island is one of Palau's states and about 45 kilometers south of Palau's main island.
On Sept. 15, 1944, the US military launched a landing operation on Peleliu. About 10,000 Japanese soldiers were killed after battling more than 40,000 US troops for about two months. Only about 450 Japanese soldiers are said to have survived.