Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko met with two survivors of the battle for Peleliu Island on Sunday ahead of the Imperial Couple’s visit to Palau early next month, the Imperial Household Agency said.
Keiji Nagai, 93, and Kiyokazu Tsuchida, 95, survived the bloody battle with U.S. forces that cost Japan an estimated 10,000 lives.
The Emperor and Empress are scheduled to visit the site to commemorate the dead during a two-day visit to Palau from April 8.
At the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the Emperor, who is suffering from a fever and other cold symptoms, listened to the first five minutes of the men’s recollections, while the Empress listened for 45 minutes, the agency said.
Afterward, Nagai told reporters that the Emperor thanked him for his hard work over a long period of time. After giving an account of the hand-to-hand combat he experienced with arriving U.S. soldiers, he said the Empress quietly said, “You went through a lot.”
He added that he is “extremely thankful” to the Imperial Couple for scheduling the visit to Palau despite both being in their 80s.
Tsuchida, who is planning to welcome the Emperor and Empress at the site of the battle in Palau, said his deceased comrades “would be very moved and pleased.”
Nagai and Tsuchida were among the 34 Japanese troops discovered in 1947 after hiding on the island for two years after the war had ended.