Long after the war is over, relics of battle remain a threat in Palau

Task Force Koa Moana 21 removes ordnance from Peleliu

Koror –With its calming waters slowly climbing and descending the warm sands of Peleliu, an island in Palau, could be considered the ideal tropical paradise.

Its white sands, blue waters and dense vegetation cover the remnants of a war long past, but not forgotten with relics of battle covering the island from its highest forested point to its lowest reef.

Yet, among these remnants lie a threat that has posed a risk to the people of Peleliu for more than 75 years– that was until the Marines of Task Force Koa Moana 21 arrived. On Sept. 23, Marines from Task Force Koa Moana 21 safely detonated 11 pieces of unexploded ordnance found across Peleliu in an effort to make the island safer for the approximately 700 people who call Peleliu home. “Unexploded ordnance are weapon systems that are designed to kill,” said U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Tony Delmont, the explosive ordnance officer for Task Force Koa Moana 21. “It’s an unnecessary risk to have.” To eliminate that risk and protect the people, property and environment of Peleliu, the Marines moved the ordnance to a safe location before detonating it. Permanently destroying the ordnance in this manner removes the threat of detonation. Destroying the ordnance in this way also protects the environment as the ordnance can leak chemicals over time that would endanger the unique ecosystem of Peleliu. “Eventually, the metal containers will erode away, and that’s going to expose the high explosive material that are inside the devices,” explained Delmont. “That’s going to leak into the soil, leak into the waterways eventually.” For the people of Peleliu, this poses a double threat to them as many people on Peleliu rely on the environment. “We from Peleliu, our everyday lives, we depend on the environment,” said Shari Nicholas, chief of staff for the Office of the Governor of Peleliu State. “We get our food from the environment. Our local foods from the ocean and the land so leaving the bombs there just exposes our environment and our foods to the threat and the leakage.”

Seeing an opportunity to help, the Marines looked for a location where they could safely dispose of the ordnance while reducing the risk to the people of Peleliu and the environment that they cherish. A unique location was found that reduced the threat of detonation.