Peleliu’s Forgotten WWII Battlefield

At 0800 on September 15, 1944, the first waves of men headed to the beaches of Peleliu, one of the Palau Islands in the western Pacific. The subsequent battle was the bloodiest first-day landing of the entire Pacific campaign. Despite this, the amphibious element of the invasion is largely ignored in World War II histories.

With funding support from NOAA’s office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) and the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), an interdisciplinary team traveled to Peleliu in the Spring of 2018 to investigate the amphibious assault. The project, the first of its kind to do so, focused on the landing beaches, lagoon, and fringing reef. The objective was to conduct a comprehensive systematic underwater remote sensing search for the scattered material remains of the battle, to photogrametrically record them, and to survey the fringing reef for evidence of the blast zones that allowed the amphibious craft to enter the shallow lagoon and deliver the Marines ashore.

A wave of amphibious vehicles churn toward the shore on September 15, 1944. NARA.

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Read more about what we did, what we found, and meet the research team.