The Remnants of War: A Meditation on Peleliu

A new essay of mine inspired by my first trip to Peleliu was published as an exclusive essay on Longreads this week. Peleliu is one of Palau’s outer islands, about an hour south by boat, and was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in WWII’s Pacific theater. On Peleliu, the remnants of war live on, even 70 years after the war. We followed Cleared Ground Demining around to understand the work they do to safely retrieve and detonate unexploded ordnance, and to educate locals on recognizing potentially dangerous UXOs. You can read more about it in “The Remnants of War: A Meditation on Peleliu.”


Anna Vodicka | Longreads | January 2016 | 12 minutes (3,051 words)

On Peleliu, the roads are paved with coral—a once-living thing, a hardy animal. The coral came from the inland ridges and valleys of thistwo-by-six-mile speck among specks in the island nation of Palau, in western Micronesia, an almost invisible scene in the shadow of bigger acts in the Pacific, where land itself is a kind of debris, cast from the ocean by tectonic clashes and shifts that left things topsy-turvy, bottom-up, fish-out-of-water. Before: an underwater reef, an ecosystem of competitive individuals. After: a coral atoll bleaching into a future island paradise. Something new under the sun.

During World War II’s Pacific theater of operations, the coral was harvested, carted, crushed, and laid at the feet of foreign militaries that took turns stripping Peleliu from the inside out. The Japanese landed first, evacuating locals and engineering a complex subterranean…

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