PELELIU, PALAU – The central government has started searching for the remains of Japanese soldiers who died in the fighting during World War II on Peleliu Island, Palau, ahead of a planned visit to the West Pacific island by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko next month.
Officials of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and members of a group of relatives of the fallen soldiers found human bones near one of the caves used during the war by a beach in the southwestern part of the island, where Japanese and U.S. troops fought in 1944, with President Tommy Remengesau observing.
Sachio Kageyama, secretary-general of a group representing families and fellow soldiers of those who fought and died on the island, said “I hope the upcoming visit by the Emperor would pave the way for (further) collection of remains.”
There are some 200 such caves with their entrances blocked on the island, according to Temmy Shmull, the governor of Peleliu State, who said other caves will be allowed to be searched.
An estimated 10,000 Japanese soldiers died in fierce combat with the U.S. military on Peleliu. The Japanese government has collected their remains at various locations on the island since 1953, but those of about 2,600 soldiers have yet to be found.