Amphibious Vehicle at Peleliu

Amphibious Vehicle at Peleliu

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Sledge, E B. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1996 (Reprint).

Peleliu’s Forgotten World War II Battlefield

by Toni L. Carrell, Ph.D., Chief Scientist and Principal Investigator, Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research

Figure 1: The two-pronged battle plan to the Japanese home islands went through Palau to the Philippines. Major battles indicated in red. Image courtesy of the National Park Service. Download larger version (1.7 MB).

After the U.S. entered World War II (WWII) in 1941, military planners quickly developed an island-hopping strategy for a westward push across the Pacific to the Japanese home islands. By the fall of 1944, after the successful capture of the Marianas Islands, the next target was the Palauan chain in the Caroline Islands. Operation Stalemate II, the invasion of Palau, was the last major obstacle to the Philippines and Peleliu was the key.

To achieve success against well-fortified islands required an unprecedented level of coordination between the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Army. It also required a completely new way of thinking, new equipment designed specifically for the task (amphibious craft), and a specially trained team of men. The new strategy was predicated on getting the maximum number of men safely on shore as quickly as possible. In the case of Peleliu, it was to get 4,500 Marines ashore in the first 19 minutes of the assault, paving the way for the remaining 24,000 to land within 90 minutes.

American amphibious assault ships bombarding Peleliu, Palau, 1944

Photograph, aerial. Line of LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry) bombarding a coastline with rocket artillery large clouds of smoke cover the coast. Official caption on front: "L.C.I. gunboats deliver rocket barrage to support Marines. US Navy Photo 121-7." Peleliu, Palau. 1944

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What Happened On Peleliu?

The American Major General in charge of the battle, William H. Rupertus Commander of the 1st Marine Division, predicted that the island would be secured within four days during Operation Stalemate 2 he couldn&rsquot be more wrong.

Although Peleliye is only 13sq km so did the Island claimed more than 13 000 lives and 8400 wounded during the 2 months, 1 week and 5 days in battle here in 1944, 15th September to 27th November the battle of Peleliu lasted.

Even to this day, is the battle of Peleliu is considered to be one of the &ldquothe bitterest and bloodiest battle of the war for the USA Marines.

The entire Island of Peleliu has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the USA and the Peleliu Battlefield and has been designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

On the early morning of 15 September in 1944 did the 1st Marine Division landed on the southwest corner of Peleliu, more precisely on Orange Beach but only after U.S navy had bombed the hell out of Peleliu for 10 full days with airstrikes, followed by two days of Naval bombardments.
But then the third day was cancelled as the Navy declared they had already killed all the Japanese forces on the Pelielue.

Orange Beach today, very peach full, but it was not like that 76 years ago.

So the Navy decided it was time to invade Peleliu with the same tactic which had proven to be successful in previous battles against the Japanese forces around the Pacific ocean.
The American troops would arrive on shore in waves, gathering on an island&rsquos beaches until they had sufficient numbers to push inland.
These methods had worked in earlier landings for the US Navy and were expected to work again on Peleliu.

Which was a huge mistake by the U.S Navy since the Japanese Imperial forces had learned from past attacks, however, and they took a new strategy instead of fighting the Americans had the Japanse army honeycombed the hills on Peleliu with hundreds if not thousands of caves, tunnels, sniper nets and hideouts.

And with most of the vegetation burned down all over the Island after the heavy U.S bombardment. There were nowhere to hide and nowhere to take cover for the advancing American troops.

Orange Beach, the landing place for the American troops on Peleliu.

The new strategy allowed the Japanese to hunker down and hide and emerge mostly unscathed from the 13day long American bombardment of Peleliu.
The Japanse forced held out for four days before U.S. forces were even able to secure the southwest area of Peleliu, including the largest Japanese airstrip in the pacific.

But it wasn´t before the U.S forces turned north towards the small Ridge which runs through the middle of Peleliu, locally known as the Umurbrogol Mountain 91m/300feet but the U.S Marines dubbed &ldquoBloody Nose Ridge.&rdquo Over the next eight days, U.S. troops sustained about 50 per cent casualties.

And it wasn´t before the U.S Navy bought in flamethrowers mounted on their Sherman tanks and started to burn out the Japanese from their caves that the Americans got the advantage since normal artillery didn&rsquot do much damage to the caves. In the end, the Japanese fought to the very end. Of the almost 11,000 Japanese troops that fought here, only 202 Survived.

In a stunning twist, a group of 35 Japanese soldiers survived within the caves of Peleliu, hiding out for an incredible 18 months after the war ended before finally surrendering in April 1947.

The Aftermath after the battle of Peleliu.

The Battle of Peleliu resulted in the highest casualty rate of any amphibious assault in American military history: Of the approximately 28,000 Marines and infantry troops involved, an insane 40 per cent of the Marines and soldiers that fought for the Island died or were wounded, for a total of some 9,800 men (1,800 killed in action and 8,000 wounded).

The high cost of the battle was later blamed on several factors, a typical U.S Navy overconfidence in the efficacy of the pre-landing naval bombardment, a poor understanding of Peleliu&rsquos unique terrain, and overconfidence on the part of Marine commanders, who refused to admit their need for support.

Postwar statisticians calculated that it took US forces over 1500 rounds of ammunition to kill each Japanese solider and that during the battle.
The Americans used 13.32 million rounds of 30-calibre, 1.52 million rounds of 45-calibre,
693,657 rounds of 50-calibre bullets, 118,262 hand grenades and approximately 150,000 mortar shells.
This is additional to the 10days pre bombardment with airstrikes and 2 days of Naval Bombardment.

Bloody Nose Ridge Today.

Bloody Nose Ridge was the most of the battle happened, with the Japanese soldiers hiding inside one of the 400 caves they had dug out by hand here., these days there are also a few hiking trails you can do around the Ridge, but be sure to keep on the marked trail, since there can still be unexploded bombs lying around. While there are still a few caves you can still visit, so are the main cave to visit here the command post used by Kunio Nakagawa commander of Japanese forces here on Peleliu. At the end of the battle Nakagawa on the evening of 24 November, after the battle was lost, he performed seppuku (ritual suicide) in the tradition of Japanese samurai warriors.

always walk on the market trail

a sniper nest on Bloody Nose Ridge

Kunio Nakagawa cave people giving offerings

inside Kunio Nakagawa cave

1000 Man Cave.

The most famous cave which is not on Bloody Nose Ridge is the 1000 man cave which is located close to the harbour.
This cave is by far the largest man-made cave on Peleliu.
The 1000 man cave holds an impressive 284meter (933feet) of tunnels, containing 34 rooms, including a small hospital and a Shrine. The cave was home to 1000 Japanese solider that´s the name.

The 1000 Japanese soldiers hiding in this cat refused to surrender. The US Marines &ndash they resorted to blocking up the exits, leaving only two open, and using flame-throwers and explosive charges to force the remaining Japanese out. While walking around the cave can you see that the roof inside the cave is still black after the flame throwers.

Entrance into 1000man cave

old sake bottles inside 1000m cave

the military gear inside 1000m cave

hallway inside 1000m cave

the small shrine inside the cave

the only residents inside the cave these days are spiders

War Relics That You can see around Peleliu.

Japanese Full Storage Building, now the WW2 Museum in Palau the museums holds photographs and war artefacts, including weapons, and uniforms.

Japanse Mitsubishi Zero Fighter Plane.

The remains of a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero Fighter yet, located just of the main road but is easy to miss it if you don&rsquot know where to look.

A Japanese tank that was used to protect the airfield.

Japanese headquarters.

In the middle of the Jungle is a two-storey building which was the Japanese headquarter here during WWII. It was important in their efforts to control Peleliu and was very fiercely defended, but the Americans managed to bomb it in 1944.
With stairs going nowhere, threes growing through ceilings, and exposed wires and girders forming uncanny shadows on the green.

Peleliu Airfield.

American Tanks.

Northwest of the airstrip, are two old rusty American tanks parked up, Both are LVTs &ndash Landing Vehicle Tractors &ndash that were used to carry US Marines from ship to shore when the US invasion forces landed on Pelilue, One of them have a 75mm gun. There are a few grenades laying around here.

Japanse Tank and Anti Aircraft Gun.

In a small man-made cave is the last of 4 Original Japanese 200mm coastal defence gun still bristles from a cave.
Such caves allowed the Japanese to safely pick off Marines exposed on Orange Beach. The 3 other coastal defence guns were dismantled by Americans. There´s an LVT A1 just outside the cave.

Knocked Over American Tank.

Memorials and Shrines on Peleliu.

With so many Soldiers dying here during both Americans and Japanese so are a few memorials and shrines to remember the fallen here.
On the far southern tip of Peleliu is the Peleliu Peace Memorial Park, a park the Japanese government built-in 1985 for those who died here during WW2. It&rsquos from here that you can see across to Angaur island.

The Peleliu Peace Memorial Park on the southern tip on the Island.

At the base of Bloody Nose Ridge is this small shrine commemorating the Japanese soldiers who died in the WWII Battle of Peleliu.

US Marine Corps Monument.

Just across the Japanese shrine on the base of Bloody Nose Ridge is the US Marine Corps Monument dedicated to the US Navy and Marine Corps troops who died here in 1944.
The Monument is an important monument for the American Soldiers who fought here, and during my visit here was one of the last surviving American Soldiers here to pay respect here.

One the highest point on Peleliu is the US Army 323rd Infantry Monument & Lookout. There some 100steps to get to the lookout from where you can see a 360* view of the Island.

Other Things To Do On Peleliu?

Obviously so is the relics from WW2 the main reason foreigners will visit Peleliu, but there are few other things to do on the Island.

But remember everything requires a permit (entrance ticket) similar to on Koror and the Rock Islands.

Scuba Diving:
Some of the best Scuba diving in Palau is just a few minutes boat ride from Peleliu, while the same dive sites take more than an hour to reach from Koror.

Snorkelling is also a great activity to do on Peleliu with snorkelling sites being more accessible here than around Koror.

There are surprisingly few good beaches around the Island, but the good ones are great, but be aware that´s no facility on any of the beaches, so you will have to carry any snack or drinks you will need.
And be aware that´s no shops outside Klouklubed so stock up before heading to the beach.

If you want a beach with history so are Orange and White beach to good beaches, but the best beach on Peleliu is on the way to the Japanese Memorial on the Southern tip of the Island.

This beach is located inside a calm lagoon, and the water is always calm here, making it a great place for swimming, other parts of Peleliu has strong current and big waves.

Palau is becoming a popular destination for birdwatcher from all over the world, and from a study done by the Palau Conservation Society. Is it the Island of Peleliu witch have the highest bird population in Palau.

The waters around Peleliu are popular with tourist wanting to go deep-sea fishing and trolling, or if you want to go spearfishing.

Remember you will have to go with a licensed boat. There´s also popular to go looking and hunting for crabs around the mangroves or for coconut crabs.

Visiting Angaur Island:
Angaur island is another inhabited island in Palau and the only Island in the south pacific Island with Monkeys.

Anguar was also home to a WW2 battle between Japan and the US. But far from as bloody as on Peleliu.
Angaur is located only about 5miles/8Km south of Peleliu. You can see Anguar from the southern tip of Peleliu. But so close but still so far away.

Angaur island seen from the southern tip of Peleliu. So close but so far away.

I tried to get to Angaur for days, but the waters around Angaur is notorious for extremely strong currents and waves, so no boatmen wanted to take me there. I asked all over the Island, and it seemed impossible.
Even the local travel agency which offers day trips there refused.

So the only way to reach Anguar is with a small local flight either on one of the twice a week scheduled flight or on a chartered one.

Accommodation on Peleliu Island.

These days accommodation options on Peleliu are pretty limited, according to online research, so should it be four different accommodations options on the Island, but when I arrived was 2 of them completely shutdown.
And when I asked the locals on Peleliu if there was a temporary shutdown or a permanent one, they had no idea.

So by early 2020 is there two options for accommodation on Peleliu.

High-End Accomamdation Peleliu.

Dolphin Bay Resort & Peleliu Divers, the high-end option on Peleliu and home to the only dive centre, has private bungalows which are equipped with ceiling fan and A/C and private bathroom, fridge and mini-bar and private balcony.

They have 2 type of rooms(queen bedroom and twin bedroom) Both of room charge is U.S$185.00 include10% tax/ per night. And the package rate including meals is U.S $210.00 for single occupancy and U.S $250.00 for double occupancy.

Have a great sundeck and one of only two bars on the Island, even if you are not staying here so is the sundeck a great place to go for a cold beer and to watch the sunset.
The budget accommodation Peleliu
The Adventure Inn, which is the only travel agency on the Peleliu also has a guesthouse and a hostel with shared bathroom and a shared kitchen and common area, but you will get your own room with Aircon, for 40USD night. I stayed here during my stay, and I will recommend it.

Where To Eat on Peleliu.

Like everything, so are everything very limited on Peleliu. There are a few smalls shops which sell everything you will need for daily use along the main street.

The only restaurant recommended in Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor etc., the &ldquoYellow Wall Restaurant&rdquo is permanently closed, and have been for years.

The Yellow Wall restaurant at the harbour, the only restaurant recommended in Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor have been closed for years.

But the old fighter jet propeller is still next to the walls on the restaurant.

If you are staying at the hostel in the Adventure Inn so will you have a common kitchen where you can cook yourself.

There are three restaurants on the Peleliu island, one at Dolphin Bay Resort which is also the most expensive there´s one Chinese restaurant next to the most well-stocked bar next to the largest supermarket on Peleliu.

Adventure Inn also has a small restaurant which a set menu each evening.

The restaurant at Adventure inn

Getting Around Peleliu.

There´s no public transportation around Peleliu. So you are stuck with self-driving, bike cycling around the Island or making a day trip for around 40USD with a guide which I recommend since some of the WW2 relics are almost impossible to find on your own.
You can rent a bike for 20USD from Adventure inn.

While the Island is almost completely flat, except around Bloody Nose Ridge so is there very little shade, and nowhere to buy anything to drink around the relics so be sure to bring enough water.

How to Get To Peleliu Island With Public Ferry.

Welcome to Peleliu sign at the harbour

There are two government ferries between Koror and Peleliu, a fast one the Odesangel Dill and a slow one the Nippon Maru II.

Both ferries are very basic, on the slow ferry are you recommended to bring your own chair! And be sure to bring snacks/drinks for the journey, there´s nothing for sale onboard.

Nippon Maru II the slow ferry to Peleliu from Koror

Odesangel Dill the fast ferry to Peleliu

it can get crowded on the Nippon Maru II it´s recommended to bring your own chair.

But the public ferry schedule changes every month.

The Public ferry takes about takes approximately 2 to and a half hour to 3 and a half hours depending on the weather and wind and which route it has to take around the rock islands.
When it´s windy is it a very uncomfortable and wet trip (waves splashes over the whole boat), I had it back to from Peleliu.
The price is 20USD for the slow boat, and the fast boat takes 1.5hour and coast 40USD. Each boat charges a 1 USD fee for each bag.

How to Get To Peleliu Island With Flight.

The only airline doing scheduled inter-island flights in Palau are Pacific Mission Aviation which also does the scenic flight over the rock islands (which I will highly recommend)
They have scheduled flights on Tuesday and Saturdays from Koror to Angaur and Peleliu. There are only small single propeller flights available for 5 and 9 passengers.

Tuesday: 9 am Departure at Palau International Airport. 945 am Departure from Angaur/Peleliu. Flight time one way is 30min.

Saturday: 9 am Departure at Palau International Airport. 1130 am Departure from Angaur/Peleliu. Flight time one way is 30min.

If this doesn&rsquot fit your schedule so are your only option to charter the flight for 400 USD for up to 5 people.

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Peleliu Island a tiny island that belongs to Palau in the south pacific ocean and home to one of the bloodiest battles in WW2 between Japanese and US forces

Travel guide to Peleliu Island a tiny island that belongs to Palau in the south pacific ocean and home to one of the bloodiest batels in WW2 between Japanase and US forces

Amphibious Vehicle at Peleliu - History

The contract to build LHA 5 was awarded on Nov 6, 1970, Peleliu's keel was laid on Nov. 12, 1976, and the ship was launched Nov. 11, 1978. USS Peleliu was christened Jan. 6, 1979, by Margaret Hayward, wife of former Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Thomas B. Hayward. Commissioning took place in Pascagoula, Miss., at Ingalls Shipyard May 3, 1980.

LHA 5 is the first U.S. Navy ship to carry the name Peleliu, and the second ship named in honor of the World War II battles fought in the Palau Islands. The first ship was USS Palau (CVE 122), a Commencement Bay Class aircraft carrier, which served from 1946 until being decommissioned in 1954. The Peleliu is named in honor of the 3rd Amphibious Force's assault and capture of Peleliu Island in the fall of 1944.

The ship departed Ingalls Shipyard under command of Capt. T.P. Scott. Flight operations were frequently conducted and the ship logged its 500th landing on May 30, 1980.

On May 17th USS Peleliu arrived in Colon, Panama, to begin unrigging for the transit of the Panama Canal. She departed on May 20 and tied up in Balboa, Panama, (Pacific side of the canal) twelve hours later. After five days of rerigging in Balboa, the amphibious assault ship departed and entered her homewaters of the Pacific. She proceeded south from Panama and crossed the equator on the night of May 27th, which is the record for the shortest period between a ship's commissioning and "Crossing the Line."

On May 28 LHA 5 headed northerly enroute Mazatlan, Mexico, departing the Baja port on June 7th enroute San Diego, California. Most of the events the Peleliu and her crew participated in during this initial transit were "firsts" and the underway refueling with USNS Taluga was no exception, occurring on June 8th. She arrived at Naval Air Station, San Diego, on June 10th for a one-day stop prior to proceeding to Long Beach, Calif., her homeport.

In 1981 The amphibious assault ship completed its Post-Shakedown Availability and join the fleet as a fully operational unit of the Navy's Pacific Amphibious Force. The latter part of the year found the ship and her crew well trained having past numerous work up evaluations. The Engineering department passed their Operational Propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE) in 42--hours vice the normal 72 hours required, and REFTRA was successfully accomplished just prior to the holiday season. All efforts were directed toward preparing USS Peleliu for its first western Pacific/Indian Ocean deployment.

1982 marked Peleliu's first year as a fully operational unit of the Navy's Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force. In January, she was the flagship in a no-notice, non-combatant emergency evacuation exercise conducted off San Clemente Island, and on March 28 the ship got underway for its maiden deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Ocean.

USS Peleliu completed its second deployment on October 4, 1984. One month later she ship deployed to the northern Pacific Ocean to participate in an exercise held off the coast of Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands. LHA 5 conducted its 10,000th accident free landing during this northern Pacific exercise.

The first fleet firing of the RIM 116 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) occurred in October 1995 from USS Peleliu.

As of February 1996 the Peleliu ARG, consisted of USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Anchorage (LSD 36) with 15th MEU, was operating in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch enforcing U.N. sanctions against Iraq in conjunction with the USS Nimitz Battle Group.

By mid-1997 USS Nimitz Battle Group, USS Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU had completed Pacific Joint Task Force Exercise 97-2 (JTFEX 97-2) which certified each element as ready to deploy in the fall. USS Nimitz Battle Group and LHA 5 ARG replaced the USS Constellation Battle Group and USS Boxer ARG on a six-month deployment.

The amphibious assault ship deployed with USS Comstock (LSD 45), USS Juneau (LPD 10) and Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Persian Gulf in August 28, 1997 and participated in exercise Eager Mace 98. In Sepember the ARG took part in Fleet Battle Experiment - Bravo's "Silent Fury" phase along with the Constellation Battle Group.

June 21, 1999 USS Peleliu ARG departed San Diego for a six-month deployment, with the 11th MEU, to the western Pacific and Arabian Gulf. During the deployment, the ships visited ports in Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Thailand and the Arabian Gulf. In July 1999 U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midget (WHEC 726) joined the LHA 5 Amphibious Ready Group for operations enroute to the Arabian Gulf. This was the first time since World War II that a Coast Guard cutter had joined a Navy amphibious group for real-world operations. During the deployment which concluded on December 21, COMPHIBRON One, as Commander of the USS Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, participated in Operation Stabilise in East Timor, providing heavy lift and humanitarian assistance to an Australian-led coalition force. COMPHIBRON One also executed exercises Iron Magic '99 and Red Reef 10 in the Arabian Gulf.

USS Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group was deployed to the western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf from August 13, 2001 through March 4, 2002. Following the events of September 11th, LHA 5 ARG was a central support force for Operation Enduring Freedom. The amphibious assault ship was the first ship in the Global War on Terrorism to deploy Marines to the beach, and then fly over 200 miles to the desert country of Afghanistan.

Following its deployment she underwent a comprehensive overhaul at National Steel and Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard in San Diego. Peleliu's first milestone since pulling out of dry dock was successfully passing the light-off assessment (LOA) administered by Afloat Training Group (ATG) Pacific. LOA is an important process for a ship. Before a ship can light off, its engineering plant must be inspected by ATG to ensure that it is in proper condition for light off.

In 2002 it was announced that the Navy intended to deploy LHA 5 as the center of an Expeditionary Strike Group that would consist of cruisers, destroyers, frigates and submarines in addition to the normal number of amphibious vessels. The Peleliu ESG will be commanded by a rear admiral in an experiment to determine which of the two options works out best.

In April 2003 the "Gunbearers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 11 put their newly acquired MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters through their paces while conducting daylight landing qualifications aboard USS Peleliu. This evolution marked the first time the Navy's newest helicopter landed on a Pacific Fleet naval ship.

In May, USS Peleliu took part in a Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise in which members of the crew and the strike group participated in a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO). A NEO is the Navy and Marine Corps way of extracting civilians from a hostile environment.

August 22, USS Peleliu departed Naval Station San Diego for a surge deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

December 1, The Peleliu recently anchored at Bahrain-Bell Sitrah Anchoarge for a port call to Manama.

January 2, 2004 Fifteen individuals were detained and an estimated 2,800 pounds of hashish (approximately $11 million street value) were seized by U.S. and coalition maritime forces following the interception of a dhow Jan. 1 in the North Arabian Sea. Peleliu, Port Royal (CG 73) and Germantown (LSD 42) conducted the interception. Boarding teams discovered the hashish underneath blocks of ice and in hidden compartments. This interception is the third in two weeks by coalition maritime forces.

March 9, USS Peleliu, commanded by Capt. Pamela A. Markiewicz, returned to homeport from a six-and-a-half month deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

April 22, The amphibious assault ship is currently in the Pacific Ocean conducting a series of testing to prepare for an upcoming Inspection Survey (INSURV).

November 23, USS Peleliu is currently underway in the Pacific Ocean conducting a "Friends and Family" day cruise.

January 26, 2005 LHA 5 is currently underway in the Pacific Ocean conducting routine trainings.

February 17, The San Diego-based ship is currently underway off the coast of southern California for training evolutions. Returned to San Diego on March 2.

June 15, The amphibious assault ship is currently off the coast of southern California conducting routine operations.

June 27, USS Peleliu is currently off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, conducting infantry and amphibious trainings at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows.

June 28, LHA 5 conducted amphibious training on the beaches of Pacific Missile Range Facility, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Inport Naval Station Pearl Harbor on June 30.

July 15, USS Peleliu embarked the 3rd Assault Amphibious Battalion, 1st Marine Divisione, to return to their home base after completing amphibious training on and off the coast of Hawaii on July 12.

July 20, LHA 5 is currently underway off the coast of Camp Pendleton for ammo onload with the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).

August 4, The Peleliu is currently underway in the SOCAL Op. Area for deck landing qualifications.

September 8, USS Peleliu returned to Naval Station San Diego after a four-day underway for routine training. Underway again from Sept. 14-18 .

November 18, Four ships and about 3,500 Sailors and Marines of USS Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 successfully completed their ESG Integration Exercise (ESGINT), with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), off the coast of southern California. Completed Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) on Dec. 16.

January 13, 2006 The Peleliu departed homeport for Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), the third of three at-sea training evolutions designed to prepare the strike group for its scheduled western Pacific deployment.

February 15, USS Peleliu ESG departed San Diego for a scheduled deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

March 4, USS Pasadena (SSN 752) participated in an Undersea Warfare Exercise (USWEX) with the USS Peleliu ESG-3 near Hawaii, from Feb. 21-24. During pre-deployment training in January, USS Asheville (SSN 758) joined the ESG 3 ships for 13 days off the coast of southern California.

April 8, LHA 5 ESG entered the Arabian Gulf to relieve USS Nassau (LHA 4) ESG, on station in the 5th Fleet AoR.

April 27, The amphibious assault ship departed Manama, Bahrain, after a four-day port visit.

July 9, USS Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group concluded operations in the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. COMPHIBRON 3's flagship completed more than 5,337 flight deck evolutions while in the region, with more than 585 hours in support of OIF. From Peleliu's deck, AV-8B Harriers assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 166 (Reinforced) also flew 268 missions into Iraq in support of ground units engaged in OIF - oftentimes flying more than 2,400 miles in one day.

August 5, The Peleliu arrived in Naval Station Pearl Harbor for the final port visit before returning to San Diego.

August 16, USS Peleliu, commanded by Capt. Ed Rhoades, returned to homeport after a six-month deployment.

April 3, 2007 The amphibious assault ship is currently underway off the coast of southern California preparing for its upcoming humanitarian deployment in support of Pacific Partnership.

May 23, USS Peleliu departed San Diego to assists in a humanitarian and civic-action mission to several nations in Southeast Asia and Oceania called "Pacific Partnership". The deployment is being coordinated with several nations and, like the recent hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) deployment, will carry out in cooperation with several non-government relief organizations.

May 29, The Peleliu pulled into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a brief port visit. Inport Manila, Philippines, from June 18-2?.

July 21, USS Peleliu is currently in port of Da Nang, Vietnam, for a ten-day port visit to render humanitarian assistance in support of Pacific Partnership 2007.

August 1, LHA 5 recently departed Singapore after a four-day port call.

August 9, The amphibious assault ship is currently anchored off the coast of Madang, Papua New Guinea.

September 6, USS Peleliu departed Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, completing a four-month humanitarian assistance mission to Southeast Asia and Oceania, consisting of a variety of medical, construction and engineering projects. Inport Pearl Harbor from Sept. 12-14.

September 20, USS Peleliu returned to Naval Base San Diego after a four-month underway period in support of Pacific Partnership.

October 30, LHA 5 is currently underway conducting routine operations off the coast of southern California.

February 20, 2008 USS Peleliu departed San Diego for a two-week underway period, after completing a three-month Planned Maintenance Availability (PMA). Sailors and Marines aboard the "Iron Nickel" will conduct ammunition onload, engineering testing, combat systems and damage control training and flight operations. A three-day port visit to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is also scheduled.

March 13, The Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 is currently underway for Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON)/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT), with the 15th MEU. Underway for Marine Air Ground Task Force training exercises from April 9-16

May 4, USS Peleliu ESG departed San Diego for a scheduled deployment in support of the global war on terrorism.

May 30, Six local mariners from the Philippines were rescued from a sinking vessel by U.S. Navy personnel, as ships from the Peleliu ESG transited the Strait of Balabac.

June 25, LHA 5 is currently underway in the Arabian Gulf supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

August 27, The amphibious assault ship is currently underway in the Red Sea conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

October 10, USS Peleliu, along with USS Halsey (DDG 97), arrived in Sydney, Australia, for a scheduled port visit.

October 25, LHA 5 pulled into Naval Station Pearl Harbor for a brief port call to embark friends and family members for a Tiger Cruise.

November 4, USS Peleliu returned to homeport after a six-month deployment in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet Areas of Responsibility.

January 22, 2009 The Peleliu became the first LHA-class amphibious assault ship to receive the new expeditionary fighting vehicle (EFV) in its welldeck during trials off the coast of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

March 24, USS Peleliu entered the dry-dock at NASSCO shipyards as part of her four-month Drydocking Planned Maintenance Availability (DPMA), that commenced on March 4. The three main evolutions that will take place are the MV-22 modification, local area network upgrade to Fiber Optical Gigabit Ethernet LAN and hull preservation.

September 4, Capt. David A. Schnell relieved Capt. Marcus A. Hitchcock as CO of the Peleliu during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the ship.

October 10, LHA 5 returned to San Diego after a four-day sea trials off the coast of southern California.

October 29, USS Peleliu is currently assisting with recovery operations following the collision of a U.S. Marine Corps AH-1 Super Cobra helicopter and a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft, near San Clemente Island, at 0710 p.m. on Oct. 26.

November 6, The amphibious assault ship is currently onloading ammunition off the coast of Camp Pendlton, Calif.

November 19, The Peleliu is underway off the coast of San Diego conducting engineering certifications.

February 15, 2010 USS Peleliu is currently underway in the SOCAL Op. Area conducting AV-8B Harrier Deck Landing Qualifications. LHA 5 successfully completed the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) assessment on Feb. 5.

February 22, The Peleliu ARG is currently participating in initial integration exercise, with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), off the coast of southern California.

March 19, The three ships are currently conducting Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) in preparation for an upcomig deployment.

April 17, USS Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group is currently underway for a Certification Exercise (CERTEX).

May 22, USS Peleliu departed homeport for a scheduled Middle East deployment after two-day delay because of a mechanical problem.

June 5, The amphibious assault ship pulled into Apra Harbor, Guam, for a routine port call.

June 20, USS Peleliu, along with USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), arrived off the coast of Dili, Timor-Leste, to participate in exercise Crocodilo, a series of civil programs and training exercises with the Timor Leste and Australian militaries.

June 27, LHA 5 arrived in Darwin, Australia, for a scheduled port visit.

August 12, The first CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters were launched from the flight deck of the Peleliu, off the coast of Carachi, as part of the continued U.S. humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in support of flood relief from a recent monsoon.

August 15, Capt. David A. Schnell was relieved of command by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, Vice Adm. Mark I. Fox, due to "loss of confidence" in his ability to command. The decision to relieve Schnell comes as a result of an investigation into allegations that he acted in an unprofessional manner toward several crew members that was inappropriate, improper and unduly familiar. Capt. Mark E. Cedrun assumed temporary command of USS Peleliu.

October 8, The Peleliu pulled into Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, for upkeep.

October 31, LHA 5 completed its humanitarian assistance off the coast of Pakistan after the last two CH-46E "Sea Knight" helicopters from HMM-165 (Reinforced) landed to the flight deck. The ship transported over 5 million tonnes of food and relief supplies, and had rescued more than 9,000 people.

November 4, USS Peleliu entered the Indian waters off the Mumbai harbour to secure the coastline ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama&rsquos visit on Saturday.

November 13, The Peleliu anchored off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, for a three-day port call.

November 22, The amphibious assault ship pulled into Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, for a routine port visit.

December 9, LHA 5 ARG arrived in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a brief port port call to refuel, onload supplies and embark family and friends for a "Tiger Cruise".

December 18, USS Peleliu ARG returned to Naval Base San Diego after a seven-month deployment in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet Areas of Responsibility.

March 16, 2011 The Peleliu is currently conducting an ammunition offload and transfer, off the coast of southern California, with the USS Makin Island (LHD 8).

June 8, General Dynamics NASSCO was awarded an $18 million modification to previously awarded contract for the USS Peleliu Phased Maintenance Availability (PMA). The work is expected to be completed by October 2011 and includes the planning and execution of depot-level maintenance, alterations, and modifications that will update and improve the ship&rsquos military and technical capabilities.

December 13, USS Peleliu departed San Diego for sea trials off the coast of southern California.

February 1, 2012 A MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166, for the first time conducted flight operations aboard the LHA 5. The amphibious assault ship is currently underway for flight deck certifications.

February 7, The Peleliu departed homeport to participate in a bilateral annual exercise Iron Fist 2012, off the coast of San Clemente Island, between U.S. military forces and the Japan Self-Defense Force, Feb. 7-13.

April 27, USS Peleliu departed Naval Base San Diego in preparation for engineering certifications.

May 31, USS Peleliu ARG departed San Diego to participate in a three-week Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT), with the 15th MEU, in the SOCAL Op. Area.

June 22, Capt. John D. Deehr relieved Capt. James T. Cox as CO of the Peleliu during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the ship at sea.

June 25, The Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group departed homeport for Group Sail operations.

July 18, USS Peleliu ARG departed Naval Base San Diego for a three-week Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).

August 28, LHA 5 ARG completed a two-week Certification Exercise (CERTEX) off the coast of southern California.

August 29, The amphibious assault ship departed Naval Base San Diego for a Friends and Family Day Cruise.

September 17, USS Peleliu departed San Diego for a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet Areas of Responsibility (AoR).

September 24, The Peleliu pulled into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a brief port call.

October 6, Two AV-8B Harriers, assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 364 Rein, made an unscheduled landing on the island of Palau due to inclement weather.

October 10, USS Peleliu ARG arrived off the coast of Dili, Timor-Leste, to participate in a joint training exercise Crocodilo 2012, from Oct. 10-16.

October 22, The Peleliu anchored off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, for a goodwill port visit. Arrived in Central Command on Oct. 30.

November 8, LHA 5 Amphibious Ready Group recently anchored off the coast of Kuwait Naval Base for a two-week bilateral amphibious exercise Eager Mace 13-1, between the U.S. and Kuwait Armed Forces.

December 20, Capt. Shawn W. Lobree relieved Capt. Capt. Mark T. Sakaguchi as Commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3, during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the Peleliu.

December 27, USS Peleliu recently anchored in the port of Salalah, Oman, for a routine port call to refuel.

February 22, 2013 The Peleliu arrived at Aqaba Naval Base, Jordan, for a routine port call to conduct agricultural counter-measure washdowns of all embarked equipment.

March 25, USS Peleliu pulled into Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, for a four-day visit to Dubai. The ARG returned to the 7th Fleet on April 4.

April 15, The Peleliu moored at Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong for a four-day port visit.

May 3, The amphibious assault ship arrived in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a three-day port call.

May 14, USS Peleliu returned to Naval Base San Diego after an eight-month deployment.

June 14, LHA 5 departed San Diego to participate in a multinational amphibious exercise Dawn Blitz 2013 off the coast of southern California.

From July 15-19, the Peleliu was underway for ammo offload off the coast of Camp Pendleton, Calif., in preparation for a six-month Phased Maintenance Availability (PMA) Commenced availability on Aug. 14.

December 6, Capt. Paul C. Spedero, Jr., relieved Capt. John D. Deehr as CO of the USS Peleliu during a change-of-command ceremony on board the USS Midway Museum.

March 11, 2014 USS Peleliu departed homeport for sea trials in the SOCAL Op. Area. Underway for flight deck certification from March 22-29 Underway for routine training on April 22.

April 28, The Peleliu is currently conducting deck landing qualifications with the U.S. Army CH-47 Chinooks, assigned to 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). Returned to San Diego on May 1 Underway for local operations from May 8-10 and May 12-16.

June 6, Capt. Clinton A. Carroll relieved Capt. Shawn W. Lobree as Commander, Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 3, during a change-of-command ceremony on board the USS Peleliu at Naval Base San Diego.

June 17, USS Peleliu departed San Diego for a scheduled western Pacific deployment to fill in the gap in amphibious presence ahead of the USS Denver (LPD 9) decommissioning.

June 25, The Peleliu anchored off Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, for personnel and equipment transfer before participating in biennial multinational exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).

June 27, LHA 5 moored at Berth K10-K11 in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for the in-port phase of RIMPAC 2014 Underway for at-sea phase on July 8 Inport Pearl Harbor again from July 30- Aug. 4.

August 15, USS Peleliu moored at Sierra Wharf in Apra Harbor, Guam, for a three-day port call.

August 22, The amphibious assault ship moored at Berth 7-8, India Basin in Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan, for a five-day port visit Anchored at Sasebo Harbor for ammo onload from Aug. 27-29.

August 31, USS Peleliu moored at Navy Pier, White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan, for a two-day port call to embark Marines and equipment, from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), before conducting Amphibious Integration Training (AIT) and Certification Exercise (CERTEX) Inport White Beach again from Sept. 11-13 and Sept. 19-22.

September 27, The Peleliu moored at Alava Pier in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, for a three-day port call before participating in a bilateral Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2015, near Palawan and Zambales provinces Inport Subic Bay again from Oct. 4-5.

October 13, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, III, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command ordered the USS Peleliu and USS Germantown (LSD 42) to stay in the Subic Bay after a U.S. Marine, embarked aboard the Peleliu, was named as a suspect in the murder of a transgender Filipino he met in a bar. A police report said the 26-year-old victim was found strangled on Saturday in a toilet of a hotel room in Olongapo City. The two ships recently moored at Alava Pier for backload after completing PHIBLEX on Oct. 10.

October 15, Pfc. Joseph S. Pemberton, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, was charged by Philippino Police in the death of Jennifer Laude.

October 22, USS Peleliu departed Subic Bay after an extended 11-day port call. Inport White Beach, Okinawa, for offload and decommissioning INSURV from Oct. 25-29.

November 3, The Peleliu moored at Changi Naval Base in Singapore for a scheduled port visit.

November 12, LHA 5 recently arrived in Andaman Sea in support of POTUS security operations. Transited the Strait of Malacca eastbound on Nov. 1? Conducted its final replenishment-at-sea, with the USNS Pecos (T-AO 197), while underway in the South China Sea on Nov. 19 Transited the Strait of Luzon on Nov. 21.

November 25, USS Peleliu anchored off Sasebo, Japan, for a four-day liberty port visit Inport Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from Dec. 14-16? Conducted ammunition offload with the USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14) on Dec. 19.

December 24, USS Peleliu moored at Pier 7, Naval Base San Diego after completing its 17th and final deployment.

March 31, 2015 USS Peleliu (LHA 5) was officially decommissioned after a nearly 35 years of service during a ceremony on board the ship at Pier 7.

April 26, The ex-Peleliu departed San Diego under tow for a 15-day transit to Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and placed in an inactive reserve status.

Marines share history aboard USS Peleliu before and after 9/11/2001

Photo By Chief Warrant Officer Joseph DiGirolamo | Sergeant Maj. James Roberts (left) and GySgt. Jason M. Whipkey stand on the flight deck of the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) September 10. The Marines were embarked on the ship 13 years ago when it was diverted from Darwin, Australia to Afghanistan in response to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Roberts is the Sergeant Major of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and is from Dallas. Whipkey is the platoon sergeant for Weapons Co., Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU and is from Carneys Point, New Jersey. The 31st MEU/Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group is currently conducting Amphibious Integration Training in preparation for the regularly schedule Fall Patrol ’14. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the force of choice for the Asia-Pacific region. see less | View Image Page



Story by Staff Sgt. Joseph DiGirolamo

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

USS Peleliu (LHA-5) – It was the first day of liberty port in Darwin, Australia and Staff Sgt. James Roberts was enjoying a cold beverage at a local pub with his buddies. Suddenly, several shore-patrol Marines burst in frantically yelling to the service members inside to “Get out, get out… get back on ship… report to the ship!”

In another part of town, Cpl. Jason M. Whipkey just finished his dinner at the Hog’s Breath Cafe when he overheard rumors about an attack so he headed toward a telephone.

The date: September 11, 2001.

“We did not have the television on so we did not know why they were telling us to go back,” said Roberts. “So we were like ‘yeah right, whatever,’ we are not going back.”

Through the noise and commotion, the pub owners switched on the TVs. That is when they saw a live video feed of an aircraft flying into the second World Trade Center tower.

“I found out (watching) the television just as millions of people back home found out,” said Roberts, a native of Dallas.

Whipkey called his wife back in the states to figure out what was going on. When he finally got through to her, she told him a plane had just struck the Pentagon.

“That was when I heard shore patrol running up and down the streets directing all U.S. personnel back to ship,” said Whipkey, a native of Carneys Point, New Jersey.

Roberts, Whipkey and the others rushed back to their ship, the USS Peleliu (LHA-5). Dubbed the “Iron Nickel”, the Peleliu is a U.S. Navy Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship and was named after the World War II Battle of Peleliu. It was commissioned May 3, 1980.

Once inside the Peleliu’s hanger bay, the Marines and Sailors were told the ship was changing course and heading toward Afghanistan.
They were headed to war.

“My first emotion was anger, then the fear of the unknown,” said Roberts, who was serving as the scout sniper platoon sergeant for Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “Everybody was pretty pumped because we had done our workups and we were a fully capable MEU (at that time).”

It took several weeks for the MEU to make it to Pakistan following a stop for a humanitarian operation in East Timor. Communication aboard the ship was limited for security reasons, so the Marines were unable to tell family and friends what they were doing and where they were going.

“It wasn’t until we got to Pakistan that could we email or call home to tell them we had a change of plans,” said Roberts. “By the time we had a chance to call a couple of weeks later, they already knew what was going on.”

The Peleliu was the first ship to debark Marines in Afghanistan. The 15th MEU fell under Task Force 58 commanded by then U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis. As a side note, this was the same task force that captured John Walker Lindh in November 2001. Lindh is an American citizen turned enemy combatant who took part in the Taliban uprising at Qala-i-Jangi fortress, a Taliban prison. He was later captured and transported to the Peleliu where he confessed to being a member of Al-Qaeda.

Roberts and his sniper platoon initially operated out of a Pakistani airfield and then from Forward Operating Base Camp Rhino, which was the first U.S. base located in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Their mission was to set up observation posts and patrol the area.

Whipkey, a squad leader in the Javelin platoon with Weapons Company BLT 1/1, 15th MEU at the time, was one of the first Marines on the ground in Afghanistan. Whipkey recalls using the Interim Fast Attack Vehicle to quickly get around the area. The vehicle is small and light enough to be transported inside a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter.

“Our mission was to gain the initial foothold in Afghanistan and I was on the first helicopter that landed on November 25, 2001,” said Whipkey.

“We landed, secured the area and set the defense. Once (3rd Battalion, 6th Marines) came through us and pushed to Kandahar, our mission was complete so we went back to the (Peleliu).”

Now fast-forward a couple of years.

Whipkey was on the Peleliu again, but this time with the 13th MEU. The unit had just completed a deployment to Iraq and he recalls a somber port visit back to Darwin.

“Everybody there remembered us, they knew the ship by name,” he said. “It was very emotional the locals were teary-eyed, saying, ‘those poor American…those poor Yanks.’”

Now, a decade later, Roberts and Whipkey are far removed from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan but are aboard the USS Peleliu for another deployment, but this time with the 31st MEU. The USS Peleliu is scheduled to be decommissioned early 2015, making the 31st MEU the last Marine unit to embark on the ship.

“I have some fond memories of the Peleliu. They (the ship’s crew) have treated me well. It is kind of weird when you leave something like this and think you’re never coming back, (yet) 13 years later you end up back here,” said Roberts.

While the two Marines share a history with the Peleliu, their lives and responsibilities on ship are much different. Roberts is now the Sergeant Major for the 31st MEU and Whipkey is a Gunnery Sergeant and the platoon sergeant for Weapons Co., BLT 3/5, 31st MEU. Combined, they have a total of two and a half years on the Peleliu.

“I think it is appropriate for me to round out my career here on the Peleliu as the MEU sergeant major,” said Roberts, who holds the distinction of having served with all seven MEUs. “We are a unique MEU that brings some unique capabilities to the fight and the Peleliu is a unique ship to operate from.”

From Roberts’ and Whipkey’s perspective, the ship has not changed a lot over the years. Both are happy to be able to take part in the chief’s mess this time and walk about the ship more freely.

Their experience on the “Iron Nickel” and deploying in response to the 9/11 attacks has taught them valuable lessons that they share with their Marines to this day.

“From that day on I’ve always told Marines, ‘hey, you never know’ (what could happen),” said Roberts. “Always be prepared because you never know where you are going to end up. What may look like a normal deployment may turn out to be something else. When we were in Darwin, Australia having a drink at a pub, we never imagined that we would end up in the desert in Afghanistan in combat.”

The 31st MEU/Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group is currently conducting Amphibious Integration Training in preparation for the regularly schedule Fall Patrol ’14. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the force of choice for the Asia-Pacific region.

Did People Actually Buy The Amphicar?

Wikimedia Commons President Lydon B. Johnson (pictured) famously enjoyed driving his Amphicar into the water as a pratical joke on unsuspecting guests.

For some reason, the amphibious car enjoyed quite a bit of success in the U.S. Roughly 90 percent of its global sales originated from the American market.

Dealers and industry insiders heralded it as a unique innovation in the commercial automobile sphere. Modern Mechanix declared “It does everything but fly!” while publications like the New Yorker and NewsDay published features describing the reporters’ experiences test-driving the Amphicar on the riverway.

Interest in the Amphicar was high enough to spawn a company, Amphicar America. The company leased office space in Manhattan and a headquarters in New Jersey, as announced in the real estate section of the August 17, 1962, edition of the New York Times.

The most famous Amphicar owner was none other than then-President Lyndon B. Johnson who used his hybrid car to play practical jokes on guests.

As journalist Robert Sempler divulged in a 1965 profile of the president:

“The scenario is familiar now. Unsuspecting guest is lured into Amphicar. President says they’re going for a little spin. President heads for water. Guest cries, ‘Hey, you’re going into the water!’ President flips a lever that locks doors, prevents leakage. Car hits water with a whoosh. Guest gasps, then realizes he isn’t sinking. Color returns to face, and he and President go putt-putting along at about 5 knots.”

McCabe/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

President Johnson’s pranks using his amphibious car were so well known that they were even included in the HBO film All The Way starring Bryan Cranston as the president. But the Amphicar wasn’t just used for presidential pranks.

According to enthusiast website, the amphibious car was also marketed as a specialty vehicle for emergency rescue services. The Red Cross deployed a number of Amphicars to serve flood danger areas. But as the decade came to a close, the novelty of the boat-car hybrid vessel began to wear off.

A World War II History of Palau

In early 1944, during World War 2, American sea power was beginning to make inroads on the southern flank of Japan's Pacific frontier territories. The islands of the Pacific were of key strategic importance since they helped to facilitate the protection of the occupied regions of the Philippines, Indo-China, Malaya, Borneo and the Dutch East Indies. Protecting the islands had become an air battle the Japanese air force could not win against the superior might of the U.S.

Once the Japanese airforce was eliminated and the US established air superiority over the islands of Palau, the large contingent of Japanese warships and merchant ships in the islands were in peril, vulnerable to strikes from above. Operation 'Desecrate One' was the name given to the series of airstrikes on the Japanese fleet who were bombarded with torpedoes, bombs, rockets and strafing attacks. Planes also dropped floating mines into key channels to prevent escape. Subsequent operations named 'Snapshot' and 'Stalemate II' followed, further decimating the fleet, prior to the amphibious landings in Peleliu, southern Palau in September 1944.

The air strikes were responsible for the destruction and sinking of more than 60 Japanese ships in Palau. Many Japanese planes met the same watery fate alongside a few US planes lost in aerial combat.

Discovering Palau's Wreck Dives

Not all of these wrecks remain today. In the years following the war, the Japanese government was given permission to conduct salvage operations as a way to raise money to pay war claims. At least 27 wrecks were partially or completely salvaged, much of the parts being sold for scrap metal. No-one, it seems, considered the alternative of leaving them intact to add to Palau's underwater attractions. Those that remained have become bedecked in hard and soft corals and encrusting sponges, acting as artificial reefs supporting the profusion of life that characterises Palau's rich marine environment.

With the growth of recreational scuba diving in Palau in the 1970s, the potential of Palau's wrecks became more apparent and with it the need to locate and identify as many sunken planes and boats, as possible. Led by the local pioneer dive company Fish 'n' Fins and local brothers Tewid and Tiakl Boisek, who had worked with the salvage teams, several more were located during the 1980s and 90s.

So what does this mean for the recreational diver on a Palau liveaboard? What sites and islands of significance might you visit during your cruise?

Teshio Maru

This army ship was attempting to leave in convoy via Palau's main channel leading to Toagel Mlungui Pass at first light on 30 March when US planes flying the 1st strikes and mining missions of Desecrate One hoved into view above the Teshio Maru. Although no direct hit was observed the boat was later seen beached on the east side of the shipping channel as a result either of torpedo damage or evasive action. Other US aircraft carried out 2 strafing runs on the listing vessel.

The crew managed to move the ship off the reef but after a short while it sank on its starboard side in the shipping channel. The gaping hole and twisted metal on the port side and bottom of the hull, which can clearly be seen when diving it, are consistent with a torpedo strike, most likely from one of the first raids of the day. The propeller and bronze navigational gear have been stripped.

The wreck is easily penetrated with large entry and exits points and sufficient light as to be diveable without artificial illumination. The most photogenic spot is the deck gun at the bow which remains easily distinguishable as such despite coverage by black coral, oysters and other marine growth.

Chuyo Maru

The only confirmed strike on the Chuyo Maru was a 500 lb bomb dropped from a 100 foot altitude glide bombing attack at 09:32 on the morning of 31st March 1944, enough to cause this coastal freighter to sink on the evening of 1 April. Divers rediscovered the wreck in 1989 in the northwestern part of Malakal Harbour. The ship's identity is further supported by the finding of China on board bearing the logo of Toyo Kisen Kaisha, the ship's commercial owner.

This wreck sits upright on the 38m deep lagoon floor. It remains remarkably intact although visibility can sometimes be a challenge. The tall forward mast stands erect, a crow's nest has fallen from the upper part of the mast and now lies at its base net to a winch. There is evidence of extensive fire damage to the entire bridge superstructure. Soft coral, oysters and heavy black coral line the rails and decks.

An intact deck gun stands at the stern which once would have been used for anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defence. Large capacity shells were loaded by hand and fired at a rate of 8 rounds per minute with a maximum range of 5,300 metres. Oh, to muse how this instrument of death now supports life!

Helmet Wreck aka Depth Charge Wreck

This unidentified cargo ship came as a surprise discovery to the scuba divers identifying the wrecks of Palau. Instead of an expected debris field, they found this 57m vessel largely intact and lying on a sandy slope at depths of 15 to 33m.

The dive usually begins at the stern at the circular gun platform which has depth charge launchers located on each side, their lethal charges still inside. A huge explosion ripped through the hull spilling the eponymous depth charges over the sea floor. There is a beautiful hard coral patch behind the stern consisting mostly of staghorn, brain and lettuce corals.

Jake's Seaplane

This is one of the most accessible sea planes to dive in Palau. This 1938 built Aichi Navy float plane which had a 3-man crew now rests among hard corals in 13 to 33m depth meaning it is visible from the surface. It seems to have crashed shortly after take-off. Unbent propellers suggest they were not turning at the time of impact with the water's surface.

Much of the inside of the plane has been stripped of artefacts although some dials and gauges remain. You can inspect the surrounding reef for cuttlefish, octopus and nudibranchs.

The Battle for Peleliu Island

The aerial missions of 1944 were intended to pave the way for amphibious landings. They began in September of that year most notably on the southern island of Peleliu. This strategic island and its airfield had been under Japanese control since WW1 and taking the island was a key priority for the US forces, since General MacArthur declared it crucial for the taking of the Philippines, which was to follow. As the first wave of men from the 1st marines battalion made their amphibious landings on Orange Beach, the battle was anticipated to take about 3 days. What followed was a month of gruelling combat with heavy casualties on both sides.

The Japanese had adapted the terrain on the island to their great advantage. Hills of ancient coral thrust high by violent volcanic activity had been hollowed out into an elaborate network of caves. This allowed for devastating vantage points, and a network for moving troops and storing weapons. There were also pillboxes, bomb shelters and heavily fortified buildings acting as arms stores located around the island.

Peleliu Island Tour

An optional tour of Peleliu is likely to be available on your liveaboard cruise. It takes a couple of hours to visit the main sites on a minibus with a local guide. You will be shown the runways, rusting hulks of amphibious landing vehicles, an old Japanese tank, a museum full of artefacts and emotional stories, and some of the elevated positions in the hills of coral.

There have been several decades for vegetation to reclaim the land that was once cleared by machinery and napalm so it can be difficult to compare images of the 1940s with the lush, peaceful landscape of today. For example, US marines had to cross a large flat expanse of airfield on foot, under fire from on high with little or no cover. For many, the order meant certain death. Now tall lush trees and thick bushes separate the runways so it is hard to picture the sense of exposure felt during that desperate scramble across the flat terrain.

You may visit Orange Beach, where the first experience of Peleliu for many was to land on a beach and immediately come under intense enemy fire from the jungle interior. Heavy casualties were sustained on the beach landings, sometimes in bizarre and tragic circumstances. 1 amphibious vehicle reportedly struck a shallow reef some way from shore, forcing the marines inside to jump over the side and make their way to the beach walking over the shallow reef. 2 soldiers jumped into the water where the reef drops away into the abyss. Laden with heavy WWII uniforms and accessories they sank quickly into the dark depths.

Visiting the museum, there are many artefacts from both sides as well as newspaper stories regarding veterans meeting and exchanging possessions decades after the guns fell silent on Peleliu. Ultimately the battle for Peleliu was won by the U.S. although 6,526 marines lost their lives. The bodies found have been returned to Arlington cemetery. The Japanese who were said to be fearsome fighters who would rather die than be captured suffered losses of over 10,900 men. Only 19 were taken prisoner. MacArthur changed his mind and never used Peleliu as a base for liberating the Philippines.

Diving at Orange Beach

Orange Beach is where many marines first tasted the horror of Peleliu. As the shores of the island were bombed relentlessly from air and sea, amphibious landing craft scrambled over the reefs and reached the beach in a chaotic hail of bullets and shells.

Below the waves, then as now, there was likely a vast pristine field of hard coral, healthy and perfect, unimpacted by the battle raging overhead. You can dive here on what is, even without the historical context, an interesting dive. Mint condition table corals, cabbage corals and boulder corals cover the gently sloping sea floor and are interspersed by occasional sandy channels, rocky swim-throughs and windows. Turtles amble lazily over the reef, shrimp-goby duos pepper the sand, while colourful reef fish such as butterflyfish and squarespot anthias flit this way and that.

Artefacts from 1944 remain strewn around the reef. Bullets, shells, mortars and pieces of sunken landing craft fell through the water column amid the fire and mayhem, coming to rest on the sea bed. Much of it has been colonised by the reef, encrusted with sponges, corals and oysters to the extent where their man-made provenance is barely recognisable. On sandy patches live rounds and shells have fallen and some glisten in the sunlight looking like they fell 7 days, rather than 70 years, ago. One must resist the temptation to remove WWII bullets from the reef as a memento.


The troops who operated the LVTs would often modify their vessels. Almost all Amtracs were modified in some way. These modifications include adding extra metal plates and sandbags in order to provide additional protection for the troops inside. It was also very common for the operators to add additional weapons. These modifications often appeared in the next production version of the LVT for subsequent invasions.

Archaeologists are able to identify and record these modifications in the material remains that are discovered. These discoveries allow researchers the ability to track the modifications completed by specific units as a direct influence on future LVT production. These influences can be observed on amphibious vehicles presently being used by the military.

Image depicting the LVT grouser assembly. Grousers acted as paddles in the water and provided traction on land. Source: Department of the Army, 1951. Download image (jpg, 104 KB).

Crew retires the Peleliu after 35 years' service

/>150331-N-MB306-080 SAN DIEGO (March 31, 2015) Sailors and family members stand to pay their respects to the parading of the colors during the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) decommissioning ceremony. Peleliu will be towed from San Diego to Hawaii to join the reserve fleet. The ship will be placed in an inactive reserve status and moored alongside the class's namesake USS Tarawa (LHA 1) at Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary Bell/Released)

The venerable "Iron Nickel" — the big deck ship that delivered the first Marines into Afghanistan in November 2001 — was decommissioned on March 31 after nearly 35 years of service that included deployments in support of operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom .

Hundreds of current and former crew members, to include 10 previous commanding officers, were on hand to bid the amphibious assault ship Peleliu farewell at the San Diego ceremony. The ship, the last of the Tarawa-class, completed its 17th and final deployment on Dec. 24, ending a legendary career that included deployments in support of operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

"From that first deployment onward, USS Peleliu and her crew demonstrated time and again that she always achieved the mission, to perfection, with style and in ways that had never been seen before," said Rear Adm. Marcus Hitchcock, director of Fleet and Joint Training at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and the ship's 18th commanding officer. He served as guest speaker for the decommissioning ceremony. "Except on rare occasions, USS Peleliu never did it alone. She always had a teammate by her side, the U.S. Marine Corps."

/>Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) depart amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) to participate in the ground phase of Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2015. PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. Marines and Navy to strengthen interoperability across a range of capabilities to include disaster relief and contingency operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight/Released)

Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit depart the Peleliu for the ground phase of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2013 in the Philippines.

Photo Credit: MC3 Dustin Knight/Navy

The ship will be towed from Naval Base San Diego to Middle Loch, Pearl Harbor, where it will be placed in an inactive reserve status.

During the ship's three decade run, it set many firsts and were many firsts along the way for the blue/green team, which conducted 178,051 flight operations, served 57,983 personnel, and steamed approximately 1,011,946 nautical miles and counted 57,983 crewmembers. They include the first:

Watch the video: Peleliu Casualties (July 2022).


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