Lat 7° 0' 0N 134° 13' 59E Peleliu Airfield is located in roughly the center of the southern portion of Peleliu Island. To the north are Ngesebus Island and Kongauru Island. To the southwest is Angaur Island.
Built by the Japanese, the airfield had a pair of intersecting runways with taxiways and ravetments. Used until the Marine assault on the island.
Japanese units based at Peleliu (partial list)
263 Kokutai (Zero) Matsuyama February 29, 44 - March 24, 44 Guam
American and Japanese
missions against Peleliu
June 9, 1944 - November 29, 1944
The entire airfield became a battlefield when the Marines landed on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. On the first day of the Marine assault, the southern portion of the airfield was captured. A counter attack was attempted by seventeen Type 95 Ha Go tanks of the 14th Division, supported by infantry across the airfield, but were destroyed by the Marines and supporting fire from M4 Sherman tanks. By D+2 the entire airfield area was liberated.
With The Old Breed by Eugene Sledge:
"At approximately 1650 I looked out across the open airfield toward the southern extremities of the coral ridges - collectively called Bloody Nose Ridge and saw vehicles of some sort moving amid swirling clouds of dust... Shell bursts appeared among the tanks. Some of our Sherman tanks had arrived at the edge of the airfield on our left and opened fire. Because of the clouds of dust and the shellfire, I couldn't see much and didn't see any enemy infantry, but the firing on our left was heavy... Rather than a banzai attack, the Japanese counter thrust turned out to be a well-coordinated tank-infantry attack. Approximately one company of infantry, together with about thirteen tanks, had moved carefully across the airfield until annihilated by the Marines on our left."
After liberation, the airfield was quickly repaired it became
an American airbase. In December 1944, the two runways measured 6,000' x 300' and 3,900' x 260'. A PBY that took off from Peleliu in August 3, 1945 was the first to locate survivors of the USS Indianapolis a week after
it was sunk.
Don Huebner recalls:
remember most vividly one an F-4F Wildcat that bellied in on the
Jap held airfield while we were landing. When I saw it a
day or so later the American pilot was slumped over just
as he died. The pilot had evidently done a dead stick landing
and was shot in the temple as he slid to a stop. In those
years it was vogue to wear aluminum watch bands or bracelets
made from material torn off crashed aircraft...ours or theirs.
Some of the guys, usually Seabees were very talented at
etching pretty patterns into the shiny metal. Near that plane
was a very strange sight also. On one of our stretchers
there was a dead Jap, he was dressed in our Marine uniform
and had a medical tag on a button telling of the frontline
treatment I suppose. Evidently he had gotten on that pad
during the night and hoped to be carried back inside our
lines to "do
his number" on unsuspecting medics. They had a pungent
odor and he was recognized immediately and shot on the spot."
American Units Based at Peleliu (partial list)
7th Air Force
28th PRS (F-5) Kwajalein Sept 24, 44 - April 1, 45 Saipan
VMF(N)-541 (F6F-3N) Sept 24, 1944 - ?
MABS-1 from Munda May 45
VR-13 (R4D) 1945
US Navy NATS (Naval Air Transport Service) operated from the airfield during 1945, with two officers and 23 enlisted men stationed at the airfield to handle two daily R4D flights from Peleliu daily.
Still in use today as Peleliu Airport for light aircraft only.
Reid Joyce, BentProp adds:
"Pulverized, hard-packed coral and weeds down the middle of the single remaining runway, weeds on the sides, and the rest is jungle. Many of the roads that we built after taking over the island are still in existence, bordered by jungle. No structures related to airfield operations still exist except as ruins in the jungle. Belau Air had a twin-engine Islander and a Cessna 182, I think, that they operated into this strip for several years. But now all they have is a Bell 206 Jet Ranger, so except for cars and vans driving up and down the runway, there's not much pressure to prevent the weeds and jungle from taking over the rest of the strip."
95 Ha Go Medium Tank
One of fifteen Japanese tanks that defended the island, abandoned missing the turret
Taki - The History of Battles of IJA Tanks Part I (Peleliu)
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
January 9, 2018