UH Hilo researchers embark on quest to uncover the secrets of the Pelelui invasion

Updated: Mar. 30, 2018 at 3:56 PM HST
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HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - A researcher and graduate student from the University of Hawaii at Hilo are traveling to Palau in April to study one World War II's forgotten battlefields.

The project, led by Dr. John Burns, will be the first attempt to conduct a comprehensive study of the island, which was the bloodiest first-day naval landing in the entire Pacific war campaign. Burns, accompanied by UH Hilo graduate Kailey Pascoe, will be heading to the Peleliu battlefield to assess the impact of the historic invasion on nearby coral.

On  September 15, 1944, 73 amphibious tractors approached Peleliu's shores and within hours, over 500 marines were dead. By the day's end, 60 amphibious tractors, 15 tanks and several other vehicles had been damaged, sunken or completely wrecked.

"The amphibious element of the invasion is largely ignored in World War II histories, and its impact on corals has never been investigated," Burns said. "We want to identify if and how the invasion blasting may have affected coral community structure and how it may be altering the ecology of these systems."

For their research, Burns and Pascoe will be using high-resolution 3D technology to map coral reefs, as well as remote sensing tech to search beaches and reefs for material remains.

The project is being funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"We do not know what sites are left or whether there are impacts of the pre-invasion blasting still visible," Burns said. "Because the invasion beaches are a largely undocumented component of this historic battle, we are embarking on a project filled with the potential for discovery."

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