Governor Shmull (File Photo)
“I would like it on record that Peleliu State believes the presence of Anti-Personnel (AP) land mines has been eradicated from our State,” issued Governor Temmy Shmull in a statement commemorating the International Mine Awareness Day on April 4th which is also the 75th anniversary of the year of the Battle of Peleliu.
Anti-Personnel mines are forms of mines (bombs) designed for use against people as opposed to anti-tank mines which are designed to be used against vehicles.
Archival research showed no reference to use of AP land mines during WWII. Japanese maps and US 1945 cave fighting manual also indicated no AP land mine being used but an extensive survey activities conducted in Peleliu by Cleared Ground Demining discovered small stores of Japanese Type 93 Anti-Personnel landmines in defensive caves on Bloody Nose Ridge (Omlebelochel Mountains) on Peleliu. Twenty-two (22) land mines were found in the first year, 7 mines were found the next and one or two in the next years.
Some of the mines were still in their packing boxes badly decayed after 75 years and in many instances explosives have been eaten by termites.
Peleliu was the only Palau state to endure prolonged ground battle and only State where AP land mines were found. A 3- year survey by Cleared Ground of other Palau states, found no AP land mines.
Despite Peleliu’s population utilizing the battle field jungles for hunting and farming, no one has been injured or killed by AP landmines. In addition, thousands of tourists that have flocked to Peleliu battle fields since after the WWII as well as researchers, Japanese and US Missing in Action missions, no incidents involving AP landmines have occurred.
Governor Shmull’s declaration statement also was sent to Mine Ban officials in Geneva. During Governor’s Shmull’s term as Minister of State in 2007, Palau became a party to Mine Ban Treaty that currently consists of 164 Member States. That year, Palau invited Cleared Ground Demining to help Palau deal with WWII ERW (explosive remnants of war) contamination with specific emphasis on the verifying the presence of Anti-Personnel landmines.
In May of 2018, Palau met its 10 year Treaty deadline to be free of AP landmines. Last 10 years’ extensive and systematic survey of Peleliuhas finally ensured that Peleliu is free of Anti-Personnel land mines. Funded by many countries including Palau, the work to remove the horrific legacy of WWII can now close one chapter on the eradication of AP land mines. (L.N. Reklai)