Digital relief map of Angaur

Photograph of phosphate plant at Angaur

U.S. Army. Via

Angaur (134.14E 6.90N) is a small island in the Palau group. Some 2-1/4 miles (3.6 km) long, it has an area of 2000 acres (810 hectares). It is mostly flat, except for a set of coral ridges reaching to 200' (60 meters) on ther northwest tip of the island, which were made more rugged by phosphate mining. Phosphate production averaged about 110, 000 tons per year. There were also two swampy areas, one a natural swamp in the southeast part of the island, and the second a consequence of phosphate mining near the center of the island.

The Japanese heavily exploited the phosphate on the island, using forced indigenous labor in a rare exception to the generally benign treatment of Micronesians in the Mandates prior to the Pacific War. There was a phosphate processing pland on the west coast of the island with a narrow-gauge rail network to the mining areas. There was no airfield and the island had no anchorage of speak of: Ships were loaded with phosphate using a floating conveyer belt system. The garrison in late 1944 consisted of a single battalion of troops (1600 men).

Elements of 81 Division (Mueller) invaded the island on the 16 September 1944, after Wilkinson and Geiger prematurely concluded that 1 Marine Division could take Peleliu without assistance. The landings were almost unopposed and the island was overrun relatively quickly, the greatest difficulty being the very dense jungle behind the landing beaches. The island was declared secure on 20 September. A regimental combat team from 81 Division was then redeployed to Peleliu, where the Marines had run into considerable difficulty.

The Army troops later discovered that surviving Japanese had holed up in the coral ridges in the northwest corner of the island, from which they were systematically rooted out by 321 Regimental Combat Team. This was completed on 23 October.

Total American casualties were 237 killed and 907 wounded. The Japanese were annihilated, losing 1500 killed and 59 captured.

Construction of an airfield began on 20 September, while the fighting was still taking place, and the airfield received its first transport aircraft on 15 October. Two 6000' (1830m) runways were operational two days later. Liberators began operating from the airfield on 21 October 1944.


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