95-year-old Marine Veteran Ernest Ferguson returned to Palau 76 years after the battle of Peleliu in 1944. He arrived to a warm welcome by Palau veterans on Tuesday January 28 and was given a lei by US Embassy of Palau Consular Marjorie Towai. Ferguson felt humbled by the gift and the veterans who came out to see him at the airport.
High Chief Reklai Bao Ngirmang, a former marine, also joined the veterans at the US Embassy meeting with Ferguson.
Island Times had the opportunity to have a sit-down interview with Ernest Ferguson at the US Embassy of Palau on Wednesday January 29th. During the segment, Ferguson recounted memories of the war.
He said he was 16 years old attending high school when the war broke out. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps once he turned 18. Without prior experience in warfare but filled with the desire to protect his loved ones, Ferguson got shipped out at 1943.
Ferguson remembered Peleliu as being a beautiful yet hot place and didn’t really have prior knowledge of the island. However, he mentioned that the duties of the Marine Corps were serious. Fellow comrades were not closely attached to one another to prevent any sadness they would feel if one of them was to pass away from battle and that whatever duties were given to them had to be met.
The battle between Japan and United States was originally supposed to last a couple days, but ended up reaching its conclusion after two months. Ferguson said that the battle that took place was a brutal one.
Many were killed and Ferguson remembered how foul the air was in the island saying that it smelled of death and gunpowder. He went on to say that the battle was hard on him not only physically but mentally with him not being sure if he will make it to see the morning.
After the battle in Peleliu was over, the island was left in shambles with Ferguson remarking that the island wasn’t the same when they left it. Ferguson along with other marines went back to the United States in order to undergo training for a battle that was set to take place in Okinawa in 1945.
The war finally ended with the United States managing to defeat any remaining Japanese resistance present on Okinawa Island. Ferguson felt a sense of relief that no one else had to die in the field of battle.
However, the war took a huge toll on his body. He suffered from a leg injury and had to get 2 surgeries to the hip and his back ended up wearing out on him. Ferguson said that he was hospitalized for 14 months. Heeventually got discharged due to disability.
20 years later, Ferguson got recognition from the public for his contribution to the war. His grandchildren penned him a letter recognizing and thanking him for his efforts. He also said that he still had in his possession a letter from 33rd United States President Harry S. Truman, who also thanked him. He admitted though that after the war it was difficult for him to use any material that was made in Japan. He doesn’t bear a grudge against the Japanese and he believed that they were doing what they were supposed to do.
Being in the Marines gave Ferguson the determination to do what he wanted to do.
Overall, Ernest Ferguson is happy that after the battle in Peleliu took place, Palau has rose above to become an independent nation and wants Palauans to enjoy their freedom and not have it get taken away. While Ferguson is in Palau he plans to visit Peleliu in order to pay respect to his fallen comrades. (Telbakes Yano)