SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY
PELELIU BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK
PELELIU STATE, REPUBLIC OF PALAU
United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service
This material both updates and expands the 1991 narrative concerning the Compact of Free Association and also attempts to clarify the potential for the joint management and operation of a national historical park on Peleliu by the Government of Palau and the United States. Provisions of the Compact under which the U.S National Park Service could be involved are included in the material.
Historical Background to the Compact. In 1947, in the aftermath of World War II in the Pacific, the newly-formed United Nations gave the United States the responsibility to administer a vast ocean area called the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Formerly the Japanese Mandated Islands, the land area of the Trust Territory included the Northern Mariana Islands, Truk (now Chuuk) Lagoon, the islands of Pohnpei, Kosrae and Yap, Ulithi Lagoon, the Marshall Islands and the Palau Islands. Under the Trusteeship Agreement, the United States was to promote the development of self-government among the people of these islands.
During the 1970s, the United States embarked on two sets of negotiations for self-government. One set of negotiations was with representatives of the Northern Mariana Islands moving toward a "commonwealth" relationship with the U.S.; the second, with representatives for the remainder of the Trust Territory. In this instance, negotiations were moving toward some sort of loose "freely associated state" status with the U.S.
In January of 1986, following lengthy negotiations, the Government of the United States and the Government of Palau concluded a Compact of Free Association under which Palau would become a self-governing sovereign state in free association with the United States. The Compact between the United States and the Government of Palau specified that it would come into effect upon (1) mutual agreement between the Government of the United States, acting in fulfillment of its responsibilities as Administering Authority of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and the Government of Palau; (2) the approval of the Compact by the two governments, in accordance with their constitutional processes; and (3) the approval of the Compact by plebiscite in Palau.
In October 1986, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, under a separate Compact of Free Association, became a self-governing sovereign state in free association with the United States. In November 1986, a Compact of Free Association between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia (comprised of the principal islands of Pohnpei, Kosrae and Yap and the islands within Chuuk Lagoon) became effective and they too became a self-governing sovereign state in free association with the United States.
A decade earlier, in November 1976, negotiations with the Northern Mariana Islands had concluded in a Covenant with the United States coming into force. The Covenant established the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as a self-governing Commonwealth in political union with and under the sovereignty of the United States.
With the changes in the political status of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia becoming effective, the Trustee Agreement ceased to be applicable to these newly established political entities.
For the islands of the Palau archipelago, it wasn't until November 1993 that a Compact of Free Association with the United States was approved in accordance with the Government of Palau's constitutional processes and by a United Nations observed plebicite held in Palau. For the United States, the Compact had already been approved by Public Law 99-658 in November 1986 and by Public Law 101-219 in December 1989. In May 1994, the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations officially terminated the Trusteeship Agreement. In July 1994, the United States and the Government of the Republic of Palau agreed that the effective date of the Compact of Free Association between the two countries would be October 1, 1994.
The Compact of Free Association. In October 1994, a Compact of Free Association with the Government of Palau was implemented and became effective. The Compact, along with subsidiary agreements and the laws through which the U.S. Congress approved the Compact, defines the future relationship between the United States and Palau.
The Preamble to the Compact affirms "the common interests of the United States of America and the people of Palau in creating close and mutually beneficial relationships through a free and voluntary association of their Governments. . . ."
Title One, Article II, Section 124(b) of the Compact gives the Government of Palau "jurisdiction and sovereignty over its territory, including its land and internal waters, territorial seas. . . ."
Title One, Article VI, Section 161 of the Compact states the "Government of the United States and the Government of Palau declare it is their policy to promote efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and to enrich understanding of the natural resources of Palau."
Two, Article II, Section 211 of the Compact states "in recognition of the
special relationship that exists between the United States and Palau, the Government
of the United States shall provide to the Government of Palau on a grant basis
the following amounts:
"(a) $12 million annually for ten years commencing on the effective date of this Compact, and $11 million annually for five years commencing on the tenth anniversary of the effective date of this Compact, for current account operations and maintenance purposes, . . ."
"(f) The sum of $66 million on the effective date of this Compact, and the sum of $4 million concurrently with the grant assistance to be made available during the third year after the effective date of this Compact, to create a fund to be invested by the Government of Palau in issues of bonds, notes or other redeemable instruments of the Government of the United States or other qualified instruments which may be identified by mutual agreement of the Government of the United States and the Government of Palau. . . . The objective of this sum is to produce an average annual distribution of $15 million commencing on the fifteenth anniversary of this Compact for thirty-five years.
Title Two, Article II, Section 222 of the Compact states that the "Government of Palau may request, from time to time, technical assistance from the Federal agencies and institutions of the Government of the United States, which are authorized to grant such technical assistance in accordance with its law. . . ."
Title Two, Article II, Section 224 of the Compact states that the "government of the United States and Government of Palau may agree from time to time to the extension to Palau of additional United States grant assistance and of United States services and programs as provided by the laws of the United States."
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Supplemental provisions to the Compact are listed in Title 48 of the U.S. Code Annotated (2000 Cumulative Annual Pocket Part). Those provisions applicable to this study report include:
Section 1901, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau
Subsection 1933 - Supplemental provisions
(b) - Inventory and study of natural, historic, and other resources states:
The Secretary of the
Interior shall conduct, upon request of Palau. . . , and through the Director
of the National Park Service, a comprehensive inventory and study of the most
unique and significant natural, historical, cultural and recreational resources
of Palau..... Areas or sites exhibiting such qualities shall be described and
evaluated with the objective of the preservation of their values and their careful
use and appreciation by the public, along with a determination of their potential
for attracting tourism.
Alternative methodologies for such preservation and use shall be developed for each area or site (including continued assistance from the National Park Service); current or impending damage or threats to the resources areas or sites shall be identified and evaluated; and authorities needed to properly protect and allow for public use and appreciation shall be identified and discussed. Such inventory and study shall be conducted in full cooperation and consultation with affected governmental officials and the interested public.
This study finds:
(1) The Compact of Free Association, which defines the political relationship between the United States of America and the Republic of Palau, appears to give the United States Government the legal basis to participate in the operation and management of a national historical park established by the Government of Palau on the island of Peleliu.
(2) The President and the Vice President of Palau support the establishment of a national historical park on the island of Peleliu under the operation of the U.S. National Park Service.
(3) Support appears to exist in the Palau National Congress,the Olbiil Era Kelulau, for the establishment of an operational Peleliu Historical Park.
(4) The Palau Office of the Attorney General has advised there is a need for a use agreement between all affected parties covering proposed historical park lands and suggested the Palau legislature pass a law establishing a national historical park.
(5) The Governor of Peleliu, the High Chief (Obak) of Peleliu State, and the Speaker of the Peleliu State Legislature: (a) support the 1991 historical park proposal; (b) understand the need to end all ownership disputes on the affected lands; (c) recognize that disputes over land ownership must be resolved in Palau; and (d) request that the proposed national historical park be scaled down to a smaller size.
(6) Clans on Peleliu who claim ownership of the lands and waters identified by the NPS/Palau as a potential national historical park appear to be unwilling to set aside an area sufficient in size to meet the test of feasibility.
The designation of the Peleliu Battlefield National Historic Landmark in 1985 by the Secretary of the Interior attests to the national significance of this site in the history of the U.S. This significance has been reaffirmed by this study authorized under Public Law 106-113. This study also finds the Peleliu Battlefield site fully meets the test of suitability for inclusion in the national park system.
In response to government and landowner concerns in Palau, NPS (Pacific Islands Support Office) prepared a proposed national historical park boundary map to describe the minimum area for which a determination of feasibility could be made. The area now being proposed by Peleliu landowners for a national historical park is considerably less in size than this minimum area and would not encompass many of the significant historic World War II sites and features identified and documented in 1986 by the NPS/Palau study team. The sustained protection of these nationally significant historic resource values thus could not be ensured. Consequently, this study must conclude that at the present time the establishment of a national historical park on Peleliu in which NPS would be actively involved in management and operation is not feasible.
Since the NPS has concluded that the establishment of a unit of the national park system on Peleliu is not feasible at this time, no federal action is being proposed that has the potential to cause environmental impact, either adverse or beneficial. Therefore, National Environmental Policy Act compliance documentation is not required.
In the future, following resolution
of the following issues under the laws of the Republic of Palau, a determination
of feasibility may be possible:
§ all disputes pertaining to the ownership of those lands and waters shown within the proposed park boundary described on the map titled, Potential Peleliu Battlefield National Historical Park;
§ removal of all land uses from the above described lands and waters judged by the NPS to be incompatible with national historical park designation;
§ obtaining sufficient equity in the above described lands and waters, by covenant or by acquisition, from the legal owners to ensure long-term protection, use and development for national historical park purposes; and
§ the establishment of a Peleliu National Historical Park by the Palau National Congress, the Olbiil Era Kelulau, encompassing the lands and waters shown within the proposed park boundary described on the map titled, Potential Peleliu Battlefield National Historical Park.
In the interim, pending the resolution of the above issues by Palau,
Congress could pass legislation containing language similar to the suggested example
provided below. Language like this has been used by Congress in the past to legislatively
establish other units of the national park system.
An Act to
Provide for the Establishment of the Peleliu (Bliliou) National Historical Park,
in the Republic of Palau, Peleliu State
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, when under the laws of the Republic of Palau,
all disputes pertaining to ownership of those lands and waters on the island of Peleliu described on the map identified as Figure 1 entitled, "Potential Peleliu Battlefield National Historical Park", and found in the National Park Service study report, Special Study, Peleliu National Historic Landmark, are resolved;
a sufficient interest in those lands and waters is acquired from the legal owners to ensure the permanent protection of historical park resources and public access; and
the Palau National Congress, the Olbiil Era Kelulau, establishes the land and waters shown as a Proposed Park Boundary on the above referenced map as a national historical park
there shall be established by the Secretary of the Interior in the exercise of his/her judgement and discretion as necessary for national park purposes the Peleliu (Bliliou) Battlefield National Historical Park for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.
The administration, protection, and development of the aforesaid national historical park shall be exercised under direction of the Secretary of the Interior by the National Park Service, in accordance with this Act and with the provisions of law generally applicable to units of the National Park System, including the Act entitled "An Act to establish a National Park Service and for other purposes", approved August 25, 1916 (39 Stat. 535; 16 U.S.C. 1-4).
This study, to determine the appropriateness of including the site of the World War II battle on the island of Peleliu in the national park system, was authorized by Section 326(b)(3)(N) of Public Law 106-113. The study was also requested by Joint Resolution of the Olbiil Era Kelulau, the Palau National Legislature. The resolution requests the support of the United States to finalize the 1991 Peleliu Historical Park Study prepared by the Government of Palau and the National Park Service (NPS) and to establish an operational Peleliu Historical Park.
The study report has been been prepared in consultation and cooperation with the Palau Historic Preservation Officer and other Palau government officials. During the preparation of the report, at meetings and through correspondence, relevant information has been provided to the National Park Service by the President of Palau and the Vice-President, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, the Senate Floor Leader, the Governor of Peleliu, the High Chief of Peleliu (Obak) and the Speaker of the Peleliu State Legislature. These elected officials and the traditional leader of Peleliu all have expressed support for the establishment of a historical park on Peleliu which the NPS would be involved inoperating.
A determination of national significance for the site of the World War II battle for Peleliu has been reaffirmed by this study. This study also finds the Peleliu site to be the best preserved example of the island-by-island fighting that characterized U.S. naval operations in the Central Pacific, and finds it fully meets suitability criteria for inclusion in the national park system.
To address concerns expressed by some local officials and landowners over historical park size and location and to allow for a determination of feasibility, a boundary map for a potential Peleliu Battlefield national historical park was prepared by the NPS for review in Palau. The resulting park boundary map describes the minimum area for which a determination of feasibility could be made. The proposed boundary was based on the locations of those World War II sites and features evaluated in 1986 by the NPS/Palau Historic Preservation Office study team and the Peleliu historic preservation committee as being of major significance in the World War II battle for Peleliu.
Through information recently furnished to the NPS (Superintendent, Pacific Islands Support Office) by the Chairman of the Peleliu Land Authority and the Chairman of the Peleliu Economic Development Authority, it appears that owners of lands and waters on Peleliu have decided to exclude from any national historical park proposal much of the area where significant World War II sites and features were documented by the NPS/Palau Historic Preservation Office study team in 1986. Instead, these landowners wish to continue and likely to expand land uses here which the NPS judges are incompatible with national historical park designation. The area now being proposed by landowners for a historical park is judged to be of insufficient size to ensure protection of documented World War II resources. Therefore, this study concludes that the establishment of a national historical park on the island of Peleliu as a unit of the national park system is not feasible at this time.
If, in the future, the Government of Palau chooses to resolve those issues related to national historical park size and location, and to determining legal ownership and securing public equity in the affected lands and waters, a determination of feasibility by the NPS may be possible at that time.
In 1991, the National Park Service (NPS) circulated for internal review copies of a preliminary draft feasibility study entitled, Bliliou (Peleliu) Historical Park Study (see APPENDIX for full text of the study). The study was prepared by the NPS (Pacific Area Office) and the Government of Palau (Division of Cultural Affairs, Historic Preservation Office). Authority for the feasibility study was Section 6(h) of Public Law 95-348, directing the Secretary of the Interior, through the NPS Director, to conduct a "study of additional areas and sites associated with the Pacific campaign of World War II."
Earlier, based on the same authority, NPS had carried out World
War II in the Pacific theme studies to identify which "additonal areas and
sites associated with the Pacific campaign of World War II" were of major
significance to the history of the United States. The geographic area surveyed
consisted of the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska;
the U.S. island possessions of Midway and Wake, and islands within the then U.S.
administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Altogether, more than 50
World War II-related sites were documented and evaluated within the survey area.
Several sites were found to be significant to the history of the United States
and subsequently nominated for national historic landmark status.
One of the nominated sites was those portions of the island of Peleliu where the longest and one of the most hard-fought battles of the Central Pacific campaign of World War II took place. Presently, Peleliu is one of the 16 states which comprise the Republic of Palau, one of the four political entities to emerge out of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Palau is a sovereign nation, freely associated with the United States under the provisions of a Compact of Free Association approved by the two countries.
In 1985, the Peleliu Battlefield was designated a national historic landmark by the Secretary of the Interior. Based on this designation, which affirmed the site's national significance, the 1944 battlefield was selected for further study by the NPS under Section 6(h) to determine its suitablility and feasibility as a unit of the U.S. national park system in a partnership arrangement with the Government of Palau.
In September and October 1986, a study team from the NPS Pacific Area Office (now the Pacific Islands Support Office) in Honolulu, Hawaii and the Palau Historic Preservation Office conducted an on-site inspection and evaluation of the World War II sites and features on Peleliu. Accompanied by the Palau Historic Preservation Officer and staff, the NPS identified well over one hundred individual sites or features--all of them related to the 1944 battle for Peleliu or the subsequent U.S. occupation. These sites or features consisted of Japanese defensive fortifications, structures and the remains of large weapons and equipment used in the battle. Structures included a blockhouse, powerhouse, numerous pillboxes, fortified caves, gun positions, air raid shelters, a headquarters building, fuel storage bunkers and a radio station. Japanese weapons and equipment included a light tank, an anti-boat gun and anti-tank guns. American equipment and weapons identified included the remains of a Navy TBM or TBF "Avenger" torpedo bomber; several LVT personnel carriers, one armed with a 37mm gun and another armed with a 75mm howitzer; an LCVT, a Navy "Seabee" bulldozer. American structures consisted entirely of the remains of post-battle structures built by the occupation forces.
In addition, several topographic features--each
given individual names by the U.S. Marines (Walt Ridge, the Five Sisters, Horseshoe
Basin, Death Valley, etc.)--that collectively comprised Bloody Nose Ridge, where
the most intense and prolonged fighting took place, were all identified as having
significance by the study team. The offshore waters and landing beaches where
the U.S. Marines came ashore were also judged to be of significance.
Based on the location and significance of these sites or features, the 1991 Bliliou (Peleliu) Historical Park Study described general areas for a suggested World War II historical park on Peleliu. Park management options were identified for the areas. Management options included establishing a Peleliu National Historical Park, in whose operation and management the U.S. National Park Service would be involved with the Government of Palau.
At meetings held on Peleliu during the site visit, the concept of establishing a national historical park in association with NPS was endorsed by the village councils, the traditional chiefs, by the then Governor of Peleliu State and by the Palau Historic Preservation Officer. However, political uncertainties in Palau present at that time prevented endorsement and formal approval by the Government of Palau. Also, ownership of the lands being suggested for a World War II historical park could not be verified at that time. Consequently, a determination of feasibility was not possible and the 1991 report was never finalized and transmitted to Congress.
When the 1991 report was
circulated as a preliminary draft, Palau was still a part of the Trust Territory.
The voters of Palau had not yet approved the Compact of Free Association, the
treaty that now defines the political relationship between the Republic of Palau
and the United States.
Authority for this updated feasibility study of Peleliu as a World War II national historical park is Section 326(b)(3)(N) of Public Law 106-113, enacted November 29, 1999. That Act directs the Secretary of the Interior to study "World War II Sites, Republic of Palau (upon the request of the Government of the Republic of Palau)...to determine the appropriateness of including such areas or themes in the National Park System." Subsection (c) requires reports "on the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of each study under subsection (b) within three fiscal years following the date on which funds are first made available for each study." In conducting these studies, criteria outlined in section 8 of Public Law 91-383, as amended by section 303 of the National Park Omnibus Management Act, are to be used.
On March 24, 2000, the Director of the
National Park Service received a letter, dated March 14, 2000, from the Olbiil
Era Kelulau, the Palau National Congress, transmitting a certified copy of House
Joint Resolution No. 5-93-22S, adopted by the House of Delegates, Fifth Olbiil
Era Kelulau, with the Senate concurring. This resolution "respectfully requests
the support of the United States for funding and technical assistance to finalize
the Peleliu Historical Park Study, and to establish an operational Peleliu Historical
Park..." The resolution also gives recognition, support and endorsement to
"the efforts of the Office of the Governor and the Government of Peleliu,
the Office of the President and the Division of Cultural Affairs" to finalize
the study (see APPENDIX for the full text of House Joint Resolution No. 5-93-22S).
The World War II resources found on those portions of the island of Peleliu where the 1944 battle took place are described in detail in the 1991 draft study report, Bliliou (Peleliu) Historical Park Study. The full text of the 1991 study report is included in the Appendix and can also be viewed on the Internet at http://www.nps.gov/pwro/piso/peleliu/title.htm.
Population. According to the 1995 Census of Population & Housing, Table 10, Republic of Palau, the total population of Palau at that time was 17,225, with 12,299, or approximately 70%, living on the island of Koror. The median age in 1995 was 28.1 years, with about 44% of the population under the age of 25 years and about 85% of the population under the age of 50 years. The 1995 population of the island of Peleliu was 575. This figure, though not current, indicates that the resident population of Peleliu still seems to be in decline.
Tourism. According to the Palau Visitors Authority, in 1999, the number of visitors coming to Palau totalled 64,901. This figure represents a 250% increase since 1989, when the number of visitors to Palau totalled 26,005. The Visitors Authority categorizes visitors as tourists, business, employment or returning residents. Tourists account for about two-thirds of the total number of visitors. Visitors from Japan still represent the largest group, with 22,074 recorded in 1999. That same year, 10,950 visitors arrived from Taiwan, the second largest place of visitor origin. The U.S. was next with 5,910 visitors, followed by Guam, a U.S. territory, with 5,594, then the Philippines with 2,981 and Western Europe, primarily Germany, with 1,653 visitors.
From January to June 2000, the Palau Visitors Authority recorded an increase of 2% in total arrivals over 1999 for that same time period. Large increases were noted from the U.S. and Western Europe during this period. Visitors from Japan, on the other hand, showed a slight decrease.
There are a total of 1,049 hotel rooms now available in Palau, offering a wide range of overnight accommodations, ranging from the upscale Palau Pacific Resort to homestay facilities. Nearly all of the overnight accommodations are located on the island of Koror. The Palau Pacific Resort and the Outrigger Palasia Hotel are the two largest facilities with a total of 325 rooms.
Over the past decade, there has been a substantial
increase in the amount of overnight acccommodations available on Peleliu. There
are a total of 30 rooms now available on the island, mostly as guest rooms in
the homes of local residents, but with six private bungalows also being available.
Ethnography. Traditionally, and at the time of European contact in the latter part of the 18th Century, Palauans were politically stratified into political entities encompassing either a cluster of smaller islands, a single island or, in the case of the largest island, Babeldaob, several political entities on a single island. Within each of these political entities there were usually several villages. These villages varied in size and importance. Normally, villages contained a strip of shoreline, a part of the lagoon and interior lands. In and around those areas where residents lived and worked, the boundaries separating villages were carefully delineated. In the uninhabited interior lands, boundaries were much less clearly marked. Boundaries between these political entities were constantly changing as new alliances were struck and power shifted.
Within each village, there were a variable number of ranked clans, each clan containing several families. Within each village there were clubs for men and women organized by age. These clubs served to integrate village society.
Traditionally, the island of Peleliu was divided into five villages: Teliu village on the southwest coast bordered on the north by Ngerkeiukl village on the west coast, and Ngesias village in the central portion, Ngerdololok on the east coast and Ngerchol in the northern part of the island (see Bliliou (Peleliu) Historical Park Study, Figure 3, page 14). Most of the surface remains of these villages have been obliterated; however, the locations of the villages and the locations of cultural features within are known and preserved in the oral tradition.
area lands are associated with three villages: Teliu, Ngerkeiukl and Ngesias.
Eleven clans claim lands in the study area: Sewei, Bosaol, Edaruchel, Ucheliou,
Uchelkumer, Dmiu, Uchelkeyukl, Ngetpak, Ngitchob, Ngitecho and Kidel.
Archeology. Since the preparation of the 1991 draft, a computer database of known archeological and historical sites on Peleliu has been compiled by the Division of Cultural Affairs. Included in the database are more than forty sites related to the World War II battle on Peleliu.
A large shell midden containing remains of pottery,
fishbone, human burials and other artifacts has also been identified on Peleliu.
The deposits have been dated to between A.D. 670 and A.D. 1650. The site has been
disturbed by prehistoric traditional activities, by historic phosphate mining,
Japanese defensive fortifications, the World War II battle, the subsequent occupation
by U.S. Marines and modern road construction. In spite of these disturbances,
substanital portions of the site remain intact.
National Government. The Palau National Congress, the Olbiil Era Kelulau,
known as the OEK, consists of two houses whose members sit for four year terms.
The lower house, the House of Delegates, has 16 members, one from each state.
The upper house, the Senate, has 14 members based on district population. The
executive branch consists of the President, Vice President and the Council of
Chiefs composed of one traditional chief from each of Palau's 16 states. Palua's
Constitution vests final judicial power in the Supreme Court.
As noted, the World War II battle for the island of Peleliu and the sites or features connected with that battle have been determined to be of significance to the history of the United States. The National Register Nomination Form describes the 1944 battle for Peleliu as "the longest and one of the most hard-fought battles in the entire Central Pacific amphibious operations of World War II." The 1985 designation of the Peleliu Battlefield as a national historic landmark by the Secretary of the Interior authenticates the site's national significance. The plaque for the Peleliu Battlefield National Historic Landmark, prominently displayed in the village of Kloukubed on Peleliu, reads: "This site possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America."
The World War II battle
on Peleliu and its aftermath were watershed events in Palau's history too. What
happened on Peleliu in 1944 changed the course of history for the people of Palau.
It was World War II and its aftermath that serve to link the Palau with the United
States. That link was formalized by the two countries in 1993 with final approval
of the Compact of Free Association by the people of Palau.
of This Type of Resource (Suitability)
The Peleliu Battlefield National Historic Landmark represents what may be the most intact example of one of the defining events of the U.S. Pacific War. Defining events in the Pacific War include the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, the battle for Guadalcanal, the island hopping campaign of the Central Pacific, the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the strategic bombing of the Japanese home islands, including the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The physical remains of the 1944 battle for Peleliu may be the best preserved example of the island hopping campaign--the brutal island-by-island fighting that characterized the U.S. Navy's operations in the Central Pacific. These amphibious assaults by U.S. Marines began in the Gilberts in 1943 and were followed by successive landings in the Marshalls, the Marianas, the Palau islands, Iwo Jima and finally Okinawa. The capture of the Marianas and Iwo Jima made the strategic bombing of Japan possible.
Following the departure of the U.S. Marines from Peleliu in 1945, Palauans returned to rebuild the villages of Kloulklubed and Imelelchol. However, the villages were not rebuilt in their original locations. Instead, they were rebuilt at the northern end of the island. Residents chose not to rebuild on those parts of the island where the most intense fighting took place--the invasion beaches and the area around and on Bloody Nose Ridge.
It is on and around Bloody Nose Ridge and along
the invasion beaches where today there remains in place the most significant and
greatest number of sites and features related to the fighting on Peleliu from
September through November 1944. In no other place related to World War II in
all of the Pacific where the U.S. retains a political presence is there greater
site integrity. Consequently, this study finds that the Peleliu Battlefield National
Historic Landmark fully meets the test of suitability for inclusion in the National
Feasibility for Protection
Determining the feasibility of including the Peleliu Battlefield National Historic Landmark in the National Park System is complicated by the site's location in another country, even one freely associated with the United States. The Compact of Free Association between the United States and Palau, however, does appear to contain provisions which would allow NPS to participate in the operation and management of a jointly-administered national historical park on Peleliu (see APPENDIX, Compact of Free Association).
Whether or not the Peleliu Battlefield
National Historic Landmark can be determined to be feasible as a unit or affiliated
area of the National Park System rests upon the resolution of four key issues:
(1) the identification of all legal claims of ownership of the lands and waters within the area containing significant World War II sites and features;
(2) the settling of all disputes concerning that ownership;
(3) the obtaining of a sufficient interest in those lands from the legal owners to ensure protection of its World War II resources and public use for historical park purposes in perpetuity; and
(4) passage of a law by the Palau National Congress establishing a national historical park on lands and waters within the Peleliu Battlefield National Historic Landmark.
These key issues need to be resolved entirely by and within the legal framework of the Republic of Palau.
These issues must be resolved in Palau under Palau law because the NPS, as an agency of the U.S. federal government, cannot not come into another country and acquire an interest in land. Obtaining sufficient interest in the land to ensure its use for historical park purposes is a matter which can be resolved only by the Government of Palau. A determination of feasibility, upon which depends the active participation of NPS, rests with the Government of Palau being able to ensure that the affected lands and waters are dedicated in perpetuity for historical park purposes.
Position of the Government of Palau and Peleliu State. In April 2000, the Chief of the Division of Cultural Affairs and Historic Preservation Officer (HPO) for Palau met in Hawaii with management and planning officials of the NPS Pacific Islands Support Office to discuss what needed to be done to finalize the 1991 draft report. At the meeting, the consensus seemed to be that much of the 1991 draft was still valid, but that some sections needed updating. The HPO agreed to furnish NPS with the information needed to update the 1991 report. NPS representatives stressed the importance of resolving the land ownership issue on Peleliu.
The NPS stated that feasibility of the site rested with the Government of Palau and the affected landowners agreeing to the following: (1) that the extent of area to be encompassed by the national historical park include the significant historical sites or features associated with the 1944 battle; and (2) that these lands be dedicated in perpetuity for historical park purposes. These were identified as the conditions necessary for any NPS involvement in park management and operations. With regard to the former, the HPO stated that, due to unresolved land ownership issues, the suggested historical park area should include only what the 1991 draft report had identified as Area 1--Bloody Nose Ridge, the actual invasion beaches, White and Orange, and the adjacent offshore waters--rather than the entire national historic landmark area. NPS responded that Area 1 was probably the minimum area--with anything less the area may not be of sufficient size to ensure resource protection and the historical park proposal could not be determined to be feasible.
In May 2000, the Governor of Peleliu State met in Honolulu with Pacific Islands Support Office officials to give his support and endorsement for the finalization of the Peleliu historical park study report.
In August 2000, the Office of the Attorney General for the Republic of Palau responded in writing to the Division of Cultural Affairs' request to clarify ownership issues concerning the proposed Peleliu historical park and to identify the steps required to resolve these issues. The Attorney General's letter identified the settling of all disputes concerning land ownership as the most difficult issue to resolve. Agreement by all parties--private parties, the State of Peleliu, the Republic of Palau and NPS--about who owns the land where the proposed park is to be located was described as the most important factor. A use agreement--described by the Attorney General's office as a promise that the land will always be used as a historical park--was identified as a needed step. The Attorney General's office offered to draft that use agreement.
The Attorney General's letter also suggested that the Palau legislature pass a law establishing a national historical park and that Palau's national government should be the entity that deals directly with the U.S. National Park Service.
In December 2000, the then Senate Floor Leader of the Palau Legislature wrote to the Superintendent, Pacific Islands Support Office stating great interest in the establishment of a national historical park on Peleliu and her intent to pursue the idea with the new Administration in Palau and with the State of Peleliu.
In March 2001, the newly-elected Governor of Peleliu, along with the High Chief (Obak) of Peleliu State and the Speaker of the Peleliu State Legislature wrote to the NPS Pacific Islands Support Office pledging their support for the historical park proposal. The letter stated "[w]e understand that the major issue that we need to resolve from our end is land disputes." Also, the letter asked NPS if lands within the proposed historical park could be used for subsistence farming and if Area 1 could be scaled down to a smaller size.
In January 2001, May 2001 and June 2001, the Superintendent, Pacific Islands Support Office wrote respectively to the Vice President of Palau, the Speaker of the House of Delegates and the President of Palau stating once again the need to resolve the land ownership issue. The letters emphasized that this particular issue was the key to NPS determining feasibility. The letters stated that further progress on the historical park proposal was possible only if the Government of Palau were to enter into a covenant with the legal owners under which they would permit the perpetual use of their land for park purposes and then legislatively establish a national historical park.
On March 15, 2002, the President of Palau met with the Secretary of the Interior. The Peleliu national historical park proposal was on the meeting agenda as an item to be discussed. At the meeting, the president apparently stated his interest in the establishment of a national historical park in which NPS would be involved in operations and management.
As a follow-up to the March 15 meeting, the president wrote to the secretary to reiterate his "unequivocal support for the establishment of the proposed United States National Park in Palau." In the letter, the president expressed confidence in the Palau National Legislature enacting legislation designating the establishment of such a national park under the operation of the U.S. National Park Service. The president also indicated that his Administration would work closely with the Palau legislature, Peleliu State, local governments and private landowners to expedite the resolution of land [ownership] issues. The letter noted that there there still existed a high level of interest in Palau to include areas of historical and enviromental significance in the proposed National Park (see APPENDIX for text of the letter).
of Landowners. On May 3, 2002, the Palau HPO met on Peleliu with the chairmen
of the Peleliu Land Authority, the Peleliu Economic Development Authority and
landowners. According to the Palau HPO, at the meeting the landowners present
requested NPS reduce the size of the proposed historical park area to include
only Bloody Nose Ridge. These landowners wanted the following areas excluded from
any national historical park proposal:
-the entire landing beach area;
-those areas where rock quarrying operations are now taking place;
-those areas where any private residences are located; and
-those areas where farming or fishing activities are now taking place.
According to the Palau HPO,
the landowners present stated that the size of their holdings was not large enough
to accommodate all uses and that they must be very careful and wise in deciding
what kinds of uses to allow on their lands. Landowners further stated that their
greatest concern was being able to continue to use the beach areas for fishing
and other nearby lands for gardening and farming. The landowners added these lands
provide the means for their living and survival.
On June 28, 2002, the chairs of the Peleliu Public Land Authority and the Economic Development Authority wrote to the Pacific Islands Support Office stating that they had met several times with the Palau HPO to review correspondence between Palau government officials and the NPS, as well as the 1991 draft report. The letter also stated that land records obtained from Lands and Surveys and the Land Court indicated that various clans of Peleliu privately own the area being proposed for an historical park and that this area appears to encompass about three-quarters of the island's economically valuable land. In anticipation of additional meetings with Peleliu landowners, the chairmen asked for NPS responses to specific questions related to the size and location of the proposed historical park. The letter proposed the size of the historical park be substantially reduced to include only Bloody Nose Ridge and that the entire invasion beach area plus the adjacent shoreline be excluded. The letter also asked if other areas on Peleliu could be considered for the historical park in lieu of Bloody Nose Ridge and the invasion beach area (see APPENDIX for full text of the letter).
On July 8, 2002, the Superintendent, Pacific
Islands Support Office responded to the chairmen (see APPENDIX for full text of
that response). From the June 28 letter, it appears that landowners wish to continue
and possibly expand the operation of a government rock quarry, as well as residential
housing and farming/gardening in the area where significant World War II sites
and features have been documented. These land uses appear to have been given precedence
over the establishment of the historical park. As of January 2003, no correspondence
had been received by the NPS from the chairmen stating that additional meetings
had been held with landowners to discuss the responses contained in the letter
of July 8, 2002.
Feasibility for Inclusion in the National Park System. According to NPS Management Policies 2001, feasibility as a unit of the national park system depends upon a proposed area being of sufficient size to ensure both sustainable protection of its resource values and visitor enjoyment. The 1991 draft study suggested three separate areas on Peleliu that appeared to have potential for historical park designation. The three suggested areas were selected based on the significance and the number of the World War II-related sites or features they contained, their relative importance to the 1944 battle, and the absence of any post World War II-related land uses, developments or permanent residences. The three suggested areas corresponded to the boundary recommended for the Peleliu Battlefield National Historic Landmark. The general extent of the three suggested areas is shown on page 71 (Figure 14) of the 1991 report.
A total of 111 individual World War II sites or features were located, documented and evaluated within Area 1 by the NPS/Palau study team in 1986. At that time, all of these sites or features were prioritized for preservation by the study team and most were also prioritized by the Peleliu historic preservation committee.
Area 1 encompasses the offshore coral reefs and beaches, code named White and Orange, where the U.S. Marines of the First Marine Division landed on September 15, 1944. Area 1 also includes the coastal lands next to the invasion beaches. The NPS/Palau study team identified more than 40 sites or features in this one location. Nearly all of these were fortifications constructed by the Japanese defenders--pillboxes or caves--that had been sited directly in front of White Beach. This northern end of the assault beach was where the 1st Marines came ashore and the scene of intense fighting.
Area 1 also takes in all of Bloody Nose Ridge, the place where the most prolonged and bitter fighting for Peleliu occurred. In 1986, the NPS/Palau study team gave six of the ridge's topographic features --Five Sisters, China Wall, Horseshoe Basin, Wildcat Bowl, Five Brothers and Walt Ridge--their highest priorty for protection. The Peleliu historic preservation committee gave the entire Bloody Nose Ridge area their highest priority for protection. It was at the southern end of Bloody Nose Ridge where the 1st Marines, after driving inland and helping to secure the Japanese airfield, were to turn northward and begin to attack the high ground before them. However, it was at the base of Bloody Nose Ridge where the 1st Marines immediately encountered the main defensive system and here the assault bogged down. Bloody Nose Ridge, the name given the central highlands of Peleliu by the marines, is not one ridge, but many. Composed of steep, craggy ridges and narrow valleys and containing numerous interconnected caves, the Umurbrogol, as it is known to Palauans, was ideally suited for defensive combat.
Lastly, Area 1 contains numerous caves, some natural and some man-made, all occupied and fortified by the Japanese defenders. Although most of these caves were not located and documented by the study team, they are judged to be very important historic resources. Numbering an estimated 200, nearly all of the caves have remained untouched since being sealed by the marines in 1944. Many are believed to contain the remains of the Japanese defenders, therefore, these caves have great cultural sensitivity and require careful management and protection.
All of Bloody Nose Ridge was heavily fortified and manned by very determined and skillful defenders. It took the marines and later elements of the U.S. Army's 81st Division until November 27, with the fall of the China Wall, to eliminate the last pocket of organized resistance on Bloody Nose Ridge. Major General Rupertus, commander of the First Marine Division, had predicted that while the battle for Peleliu would be extremely tough, it would be short and last for not more than four days. Instead, it lasted for more than 70 days. Bloody Nose Ridge then is the primary place from which to interpret the battle for Peleliu.
Within Area 1, several pieces of large U.S. equipment were documented in 1986 and were judged to be of major importance to the Peleliu battle. Foremost are the five LVTs and the single LCVT. The LVTs (Landing Vehicle, Tracked) and the LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) were arguably the most important pieces of military equipment used by the U.S. in the assault on Peleliu. Every U.S. Marine in the assault forces came ashore in one of these amphibian tractors. Of the LVTs documented, two are the LVT(A), the armored version. One of these mounts a 37mm cannon and the other a 75mm short-barreled howitzer. Another important piece of equipment documented was the TBM or TBF "Avenger" Navy torpedo bomber. The aircraft may have been from one of the escort carriers assigned to safeguard the approach of the marine assault forces. This well-preserved aircraft has remained at its crash site in a mangrove forest for more than a half century.
The LVTs and the LCVT do not appear to possess site integrity and could be relocated if a national historical park were to be established. Area 1 also contains a Japanese light tank, Type 94, that appears to still possess site integrity. An additional LVT and a M4A6 Sherman tank have been identified on nearby Ngedebus Island. These two pieces of equipment were not field-checked by the study team in 1986.
Area 2 encompasses the southern part of Peleliu, the portion assigned to the 7th Marines for capture. The terrain of Area 2 was not of major importance to the overall battle for Peleliu. By D-Day plus three, the 7th Marines had secured the entire area. Fourteen World War II sites or features were documented within Area 2 by the study team. Most of these were given a lower priority ranking by the study team and the Peleliu historic preservation committee than those documented within Area 1. Seven of these were Japanese defensive fortifications--pillboxes or caves. However, one feature, a large, round, concrete blockhouse, was documented as being distinctive in design and construction and ranked high in priority for protection. Another feature documented within Area 2 was a Japanese wheeled gun. However, it appeared unlikely that the gun still possessed site integrity.
The remaining Japanese feature in Area 2 is a memorial constructed several years after the battle. The other five sites or features documented were identified as U.S. in origin. All of these were constructed after the battle for Peleliu and thus unrelated to the actual fighting. Area 2 also includes Beach Scarlet, one of the alternative sites considered by pre-invasion planners. No actual landings took place here.
Area 3 encompasses that part of the island assigned to the 5th Marines. Like Area 2, the terrain was not of major importance to the battle. By D-Day plus five, it had been secured. Twenty five World War II features were documented within Area 3 by the study team. These were ranked lower in priority than those in Area 1. All but one are Japanese. Of these, six have been identified as pillboxes. Within Area 3, a substantial and well-preserved concrete structure built by the Japanese was identified as a radio direction finder/administration building. The remaining Japanese features documented were not defensive fortifications directly related to the battle. The single U.S. feature documented within Area 3 was concrete pads for Quonset huts. The pads were constructed after the battle. Area 3 also includes Beach Purple, another site considered by pre-invasion planners as a possible assault beach.
Hard fighting also took place on the northern end of Peleliu. It wasn't until D-Day plus 14 that large-scale operations ceased on this part of the island. The study team documented 25 World War II sites or features at the northern end of Peleliu. Several of these were judged to be important to the battle. However, since this area is near where the village of Kloulklubed is now located, the northern part of the island was not considered feasible for inclusion in any suggested historical park area by the study team.
The 1944 battle covered the entire island of Peleliu. The three areas suggested in the 1991 study as potential historical park areas contain nearly all of the known World War II sites or features documented on that island. It is within these three areas that most of the fighting took place. Together, they would encompass an ideal historical park in which to tell the complete story of the 1944 battle. Considered separately, they fall short of that ideal. Taken individually, neither Area 2 nor Area 3 would meet the test of feasibility. Even together, these two areas would not contain significant enough and sufficient World War II resources to make them worthy of national historical park designation.
Area 1, by itself, does not include all of the high priority World War II sites or features on Peleliu. Nor does Area 1 include the ground taken by the 5th Marines in their drive to capture the Japanese airfield, the prime objective of the Peleliu operation. And it does not include the ground taken by the 7th Marines in their push to drive the Japanese defenders from the southern part of island. However, Area 1 has been found to meet the test of feasibility in terms of containing the most important historic resources related to the 1944 battle for Peleliu and is of sufficient size and appropriate configuration to allow for management to protect resource values and public access.
In order to address concerns raised by the Governor of Peleliu, the High Chief of Peleliu, the Chairman of the Peleliu Public Land Authority, the Chairman of the Peleliu Economic Development Authority and landowners regarding the size and location of a potential historical park area, a revised and more detailed boundary map proposal has been prepared by NPS (see Figure 1). NPS boundary refinements consist of eliminating those portions of the potential park containing U.S. features built after the battle during the occupation and those areas containing military equipment, both U.S. and Japanese, which no longer appears to possess site integrity.
These boundary refinements, however, resulted in the exclusion of the distinctive Japanese round blockhouse and the large, well-preserved Japanese radio station/administration building, both judged to be important features. The resulting map shows a proposed boundary for a potential Peleliu Battlefield National Historical Park which NPS has judged to be the minimum area required to meet the test of feasibility. Any further reduction and the historical park area would fail to meet the test of feasibility.
The potential national historical park would encompass approximately
635 acres of land and approximately 325 acres of offshore waters. The offshore
water portion consists of the two invasion beaches (White and Orange) where the
U.S. Marines came ashore, extending out to just beyond the ocean edge of the coral
reef. The land area includes the coastal area adjacent to the
invasion beaches which contains the remains of numerous defensive fortifications built by the Japanese. Included also in the proposed boundary are the coastal lands leading up the base of Bloody Nose Ridge. This is where the 1st Marines encountered very heavy resistance as they turned north.
Bloody Nose Ridge is included in the proposed boundary, but only the southern two-thirds. This portion of Peleliu's central ridge system includes the individual topographic features--Five Sisters, China Wall, Horseshore Basin, Wildcat Bowl and Walt Ridge--given the highest priority for protection by the NPS/Palau study team and the Peleliu historic preservation committee in 1986. Within the proposed boundary is Hill B, Hill 100 and the 321st Infantry trail. The proposed boundary follows along the ocean side the paved road (West Road). On the eastern side of Bloody Nose Ridge, the proposed boundary follows the existing unimproved road (East Road) located at the base of the ridge to the base of Hill B where it wraps around that high point and then drops down to include that portion of the mangrove forest containing the remains of the "Avenger" torpedo bomber.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
OF SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY
Rarity of This Type of Resource (Suitability)
Feasibility for Protection
Position of the Government of Palau and Peleliu State
Position of Landowners
Feasibility for Inclusion in the National Park System
House Joint Resolution No. 5-93-22S
Compact of Free Association
President of Palau Letter of May 21, 2002
Letter from Peleliu Public Land Authority and Economic Development Authority
Response to Peleliu Public Land Authority and Economic Development Authority Letter
Bliliou (Peleliu) Historical Park Study