During Task Force Koa Moana’s visit to Palau last month, 14 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) were identified and disposed of by the Littoral Explosive Ordnance Neutralization, a team of Marines specialized in disposing of bombs.
The bombs were all ordnance left over from World War II, according to 1st Lieutenant Oscar Castro of Koa Moana. Six of the bombs were found in the ocean around the islands of Palau, and eight were discovered on land, many on Peleliu.
After being identified by the Koa Moana team, the UXO’s were transferred to the Palau National Safety Office, which is advised by Norwegian People’s Aid in how to safely destroy the explosives.
Lt. Castro predicts that there is an “extensive amount of UXO remaining” in the water and land of Palau, due to the “sheer quantity of munitions expended during the battles of World War II”. He said that, even 76 years after the Battle of Peleliu, these unexploded bombs continue to pose a hazard to the people and environment.
The process of bomb removals from the Palauan islands continues to be a combined effort between the Palau National Safety Office, which conducts bomb-removal efforts on land, and the Japanese Mine Action Service, which conducts bomb-removals from the ocean. Normally, following the discovery of an explosive, the National Safety Office takes the UXO to a safe zone and detonates it there.
Even though the first UXO removal efforts began only days after the Battle of Peleliu and have continued since, Lt. Castro emphasized that the disposing of explosive threats can be “rigorously slow and methodical”. He cited emergency response support provided by the US Navy Mobile Unit 5 based in Guam, in addition to the efforts made by Koa Moana, to highlight that the US military is willing to assist in continual removal of hazardous material in Palau.
“As exemplified by Task Force Koa Moana, US Marine forces are willing and able to assist in UXO clearance efforts when the opportunity exists, and hope to continue to do so more extensively in the future,” he said.