Visiting the remote Western Pacific site of one of the fiercest battles of World War II, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan offered flowers and prayers on Thursday to mark the coming 70th anniversary of the end of a conflict that continues to hauntJapan as it seeks a larger role in the world.
The short trip by the imperial couple to Peleliu, a small island that is now a popular diving spot in the Republic of Palau, is part of Japan’s broader efforts to commemorate the approaching anniversary of its defeat by the American-led allies on Aug. 15, 1945. During their three hours here, the emperor and empress braved a harsh tropical sun to pay solemn tribute at the separate memorials erected to the 10,200 Japanese soldiers and 1,600 Americans who died here.
In that battle in 1944, the outnumbered Japanese defenders fought tenaciously in the name of Emperor Akihito’s father, Emperor Hirohito, earning Peleliu the nickname “the Emperor’s island.” Today, residents still find bones of Japanese soldiers in the caves where they battled to the last man.
“We believe that we must never forget that those beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean have such a tragic history,” Emperor Akihito, 81, said on Wednesday as he boarded a plane in Tokyo for a two-day visit to Palau.
Read the full article at The New York Times.