Beaten But Not Defeated     

B24 and wing being shot down over Battery Hill, Koror, 4 May 1945.  Courtesy USAF.After the Peleliu invasion, the Japanese forces remaining in Palau were beaten but not defeated. General Inoue had expected a ground attack on Babeldaob and had so provided for its defense. Without shipping, Japanese food may have been in short supply but Japanese bullets were not. Anti-aircraft units ceased fire only on the last day of the war. Both Army Air Force and Marine veterans of this campaign recalled to me that the AA fire over Koror was the worst they saw in the Pacific, including Japan. In April 1945, the Marines were continuing to lose Corsairs. Although many aviators were rescued, lives were lost, including ace and VMF 114 commander, Major Robert "Cowboy" Stout and VMF 122 commander, Major Quintus Nelson. Others, like Lt. Walter Brown of VMF121, were shot down, escaping only under extreme battle conditions. As a result, the 494th Bombardment Group of the 7th AAF stepped up its campaign over northern Palau and made numerous runs between April and their departure in June, concentrating primarily of anti-aircraft and other critical military installations.

But they also felt the sting of the AA units: on 4 May 1945, a B-24, flown by a crew on what they thought was a milk run, was shot down over Koror. One parachute was seen. The navigator, Lt. Wallace Kaufman, was immediately captured and "to boost Japanese morale," he was beheaded by his captors shortly before the end of the war.

Lt. William Arnett of VMF122 became the last Marine lost on Palau when he and his Corsair disappeared during a bombing run over Babeldaob on 5 August 1945. The next day, a B-29 bomber, piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets, dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. On 2 September 1945, General MacArthur accepted Japan's formal surrender in Tokyo Bay on the USS Missouri.

In most histories of the Pacific war, the conflict between Japanese and American military forces in Palau has been glossed over or totally ignored. Yet thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Japanese died in fierce combat in three major Palauan campaigns. No fewer than 60 Japanese vessels and one American minesweeper was sunk. In excess of 200 Japanese aircraft of multiple types were destroyed. At least 40 U.S. Naval aircraft (multiple types), 50 Marine Corsairs and 8 Army Air Corps B-24's were lost over Palau through combat and operational losses. Shortly after the war, most of the Japanese ships were salvaged for their metals.

But a surprising number of American aircraft have never been found. History has yet to record their crews' fates, other than being added to the KIA list, one year and one day after being listed as MIA.

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