In March 1944, it was clear that the war in the Pacific had turned against the Japanese. President Franklin Roosevelt and his U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had not yet settled on whether to go with the Army's (meaning General Douglas MacArthur's) or Navy's (meaning Admiral Chester Nimitz's) Pacific strategies for the final conquest of Japan. These two massive forces were already converging toward each other and toward Japan, one from the south and one from the east.
The combined American-Australian-New Zealand forces of General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander Southwest Pacific, were moving steadily northward using his "island hopping" strategy of taking only essential Japanese positions and blockading the rest. They had launched from Australia, invaded and captured New Britain and the Admiralty Islands, and had just received approval to attack Hollandia in northern New Guinea. This was all part of MacArthur's plan for the invasion of the Philippines (and his long-awaited return).
At the same time, American forces of Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific, had advanced rapidly westward. His own island hopping campaign took his forces from Pearl Harbor past Midway, Tarawa (Gilbert Islands), and Kwajalein (Marshall Islands). He had decided to bypass already-bombed Truk on the way to the Marianas (Guam, Saipan and Tinian).
The outer perimeter of the Greater Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (the domain of Japanese occupation) had been penetrated by advances on both fronts. The New Absolute Defensive Line, established by Tokyo, was to be held at all costs in the defense of Japan. But the line was about to be breached. Palau, inside that inner circle, suddenly came into the sights of both MacArthur and Nimitz.
Palau is a chain of well over 200 islands. As part of the Western Caroline Islands in the southwest corner of Micronesia, it lies 500 miles north of the equator and 600 miles east of the southernmost tip of the Philippines. Neighboring Yap and Guam lie 300 and 800 miles north and east of Palau. A large portion of Palau is protected by a barrier reef, which imparts to these lush tropical islands some of the clearest waters and most colorful sea life anywhere in the world - most of which is well within the depths of sport SCUBA diving.
Japan had legally occupied Palau since 1914, having seized this German possession as part of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of World War I, and having managed to keep it as part of their post-war reparations.