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US Navy aircraft return to historic Peleliu airstrip

A U.S. military cargo plane returned Saturday to a World War II airstrip, a Pacific region site that the Marines had to reclaim.

“The landing of the C-130 on the resurfaced runway after many years will hopefully open a new chapter for a prosperous future of Peleliu Island,” Peleliu Governor Emais Roberts said in a statement United States Indo-Pacific Command press release.

Peleliu Airstrip, also known as Sledge Airstrip, was the scene of the 1944 Battle of Peleliu, in which 8,000 Marines and soldiers were injured and approximately 1,800 military personnel were killed ; Imperial Japanese forces suffered approximately 10,900 casualties.

Since then, Marine Corps Engineer Detachment Palau 24.1 has made efforts to restore the strip. The track is named for Eugene Sledge, a Marine veteran whose memoir of the desperate Battle of Peleliu was the basis for the HBO miniseries “The Pacific.”


United States Marine Corps KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft

U.S. Marines and Sailors from the Palau Marine Corps Engineer Detachment and residents of Peleliu observe a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft with the 1st Marine Air Wing, landing on a runway newly designated landfall on Peleliu Island, Republic of Palau, June 22, 2024.

Lance Cpl. Hannah Hollerud/DVIDS



The plane’s landing at the Peleliu airstrip illustrates the growing footprint of the U.S. military, which recognizes that more bases may be needed to counter China’s military buildup.

Peleliu, an island in Micronesia belonging to the nation of Palau, is among the jurisdictions to which the U.S. military is trying to gain exclusive access. The island in the southern Philippine Sea could take on renewed strategic value in the face of China’s growing missile arsenal.

In March, President Joe Biden renewed the agreements and secured $7.1 billion for Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

This would allow the United States access to resources such as air, land, and maritime territory. Palau citizens would also be allowed to work, study, join the U.S. military and have access to veterans’ health care.


United States Marine Corps KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft

A United States Marine Corps KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft with the 1st Marine Air Wing June 22, 2024.

Lance Cpl. Hannah Hollerud/DVIDS



The United States is scouring the region for other historic airfields that could be reconstructed. Last year, the United States carried out checks on the island of Tinian, part of the American territory belonging to Guam, where another airfield was used extensively during World War II.

In April this year, it was announced that an airfield construction project would be completed in Tinian and is expected to be completed within five years.

U.S. forces are trying to compete with China’s growing military presence, capable of striking U.S. bases using long-range missiles developed in recent years.

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