PELELIU, Palau --
Marines with Combat Logistics Detachment 379 participated in the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu Sept. 15 during a ceremony at the Peleliu Elementary School in the Republic of Palau.
The Marines with CLD-379 and the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band attended the ceremony as active duty Marine Corps representatives to pay homage to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division who landed on Peleliu Sept. 15, 1944 during the Pacific theater of World War II, in what was later called “the bitterest battle of the war” by The National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The event also brought together distinguished visitors to include members of the Palau community, World War II veterans who fought in the Battle of Peleliu, elected officials of Palau and representatives of the U.S. military.
“It was a very humbling experience to be here on Peleliu today to celebrate the 70th anniversary,” said Maj. Gen. Charles L. Hudson, the keynote speaker for the ceremony and commanding general of Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “Today we had a veteran from 1st Marine Division who was a private first class on Peleliu during WWII and also a Japanese sailor who was here as well. Just the fact that you are with those kinds of people is amazing in and of itself.”
The highlight of the ceremony was when William Darling, a Marine veteran, and Kiyokazu Tsuchida, a veteran of the Imperial Japanese Navy, both came together to render salutes, shake hands, smile and eventually hug each other; signifying how far the two militaries have come since being bitter rivals over 70 years ago. The crowd responded with smiles and tears at the sight of the unique, historic and heartwarming moment.
“The moment when the two gentlemen met after so many years was interesting to see,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Jay C. Topp, the senior enlisted advisor with CLD-379, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. “Being able to see that was something very special for everyone.”
The loss of life at the Battle of Peleliu was costly for both sides. The allies incurred approximately 1,300 casualties and another 5,450 wounded from the 1st Marine Division. Only a little over 200 of the more than 13,000 Japanese defenders survived the battle.
To the people of Palau, this battle represents a sacrifice by the U.S. military that they will never forget, according to Staff Sgt. Milton Donatus, the training chief with the detachment.
“It means a lot to us because this is the reason that we are free,” said Donatus, a native of Ngaraard, Palau. “Growing up, my grandmother used to tell us that the only reason why we’re here is because of the United States Marine Corps. That is the reason why I wanted to join, and now to getting to be a part of this means a lot to me.”
The Marines with CLD-379 came to the Republic of Palau aboard the USNS Sacagawea as part of T-AKE 14-2, a maritime pre-positioned force, multi-country theater security cooperation event that deploys from Okinawa to conduct training exercises.
The stop in Palau provided the Marines a unique opportunity they will not soon forget, according to Topp, a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts.
“This was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Topp. “The opportunity to get on board and go to Peleliu to see not only the island itself, but also the survivors of the battle is something that only happens once in your career and it was a great honor to be here.”