National Geographic : 1986 Oct
Geography added to the carnage in the battle for Peleliu,one of the bloodiest in the Pacific in World War II, costing more than 13,000 Japaneseand American lives. From the air, islandheights looked like rolling hills, but, bared of foliage by shelling andflamethrowers, they showed up as a horrorfor attacking Americans-jaggedcoral in bizarre shapes pocked with caves that theJapanesehad fortified (right). Now Peleliu is dotted with memorials (lower right) to men of both sides, and many survivors returnfor visits that give the islanda steady income. A downed Japanese Zero (below), near Koror, lies in waters shallow enoughfor visitors to drop into the cockpit. Another importantsource of Peleliu income is illegal: the growing of marijuana,usually in 50-gallon oil drums. Duringone raidin 1983 police identified 16 fields from the air.On the ground, they counted 216 plants in one plot alone. "They were laid out in perfect rows," recallspolice officer Bill Stinnett, the leader of the raid.Recently it was estimated that authoritieson Peleliu in one raidseized marijuanaworth several times the entire annual budget of the state-$120,000. Government is a third source of island income. When the author visited Peleliu on election day lastyear, she learned that although only 400 Peleliuanslive on the island,five candidateswere runningfor governor, with an undetermined number standingfor lieutenantgovernor and the state legislature a situationsimilar to that in Palau'sother 15 states. "The most overgoverned place on earth," says FredRadewagen, publisher of the Washington Pacific Report and a longtime observer of Micronesia.