[Graphic Header] National Asian-Pacific Heritage Month

[graphic text] Republic of Marshall Islands

[photo] Joachim de Brum House, Marshall Islands
Photograph courtesy of David Look

Joachim de Brum House (Likiep Island, Republic of Marshall Islands)
Constructed by Joachim de Brum around 1900, this house in the central section of Likiep Island, part of Likiep Atoll (a ringlike string of coral islands and reef that enclose a lagoon), is believed to be Marshall Islands' only intact plantation home retaining many original furnishings reflecting the assimilation by islanders of foreign customs. The house and its remaining contents reflect a bygone era of plantations and trading during German and Japanese occupation, colonization, World Wars I and II, and the early Post War Period. Joachim furnished the house with contemporary and antique imports from China, Germany, the United States, and France. It was passed to his descendants at his death and now remains vacant since many of the family members migrated.

The main house is a single-story frame building consisting of a central parlor with two bedrooms on each side, surrounded by a 10-foot-wide veranda. There are three other standing structures associated with the house: a storage building, a detached dining room-kitchen, and a large concrete cistern. The main house originally stood on small concrete piers and had a thatch roof. Around 1929 the thatch was replaced with metal roofing and the whole house was raised on wooden piers to its present height of about six feet off the ground.

Of at least equal historical significance to the house was its occupant, Joachim de Brum, a true Marshallese renaissance man. A successful business man--copra (coconut) planter, shipbuilder, and merchant--he was also a self taught scientist, engineer, and artist of exceptional ability. He made daily records of temperature, atmospheric pressure, and wind velocity at Likiep. He learned to give expert medical treatment to the people of Likiep and nearby atolls with doctors. He kept notes on Marshall Island customs and photographed Marshallese ceremonies, copra making (drying coconut meat), and other activities. Approximately 2600 of his glass negatives are among the irreplaceable entho-historic documents remaining in the house. After learning nautical architecture through self-study, he trained local men as shipwrights and began a shipbuilding business. Before his death he had designed and built more than 100 wooden sailing ships, all completely hand crafted without power tools.

[graphic text] Republic of Palau

[photo] Bai Ra Irrai (Men's Meeting House)
Photograph courtesy of David Look

Bai Ra Irrai - Men's Meeting House (Babelthuap Island, Republic of Palau)
Built around 1890, this building stands as a very good example of a traditional Palauan men's meeting house, and remains as one of the largest ones standing. It was renovated during the 1970s by the people of the Airai Municipality, Babelthuap Island, as a community project in the Palau District. Every effort was made to conform to the original style. The result being an impressive, traditional building with depictions of Palauan legends on the facade and interior cross beams. This bai, or meeting house, is located in the center of Airai Village on a stone platform that once was the site of two ancient bais.

Of the original bais on this site little remains. Unfortunately deterioration of the original structures is rapid, especially in the humid, tropical climate of Palau. Unaffected, however, are the stones forming the platform--hundreds of basaltic stone boulders which were once carried there by villagers. There are also a number of upright stones used as back supports for the elders and chiefs. Each stone was named for the individual council member, and these names and designations are still known today.

It is no accident that the physical formation of this area--the central location of the bai, with the intersection of the main pathways forming four quadrants--matched the cultural structure for the people of Airai where villagers were assigned housing space according to their caste rank. The bai was the physical and spiritual core of the community. The elders meeting here controlled all matters relating to the people of this area from religion, to the economy, to politics and behavior.

[rotating photos] Rotating images of the Peleliu Battlefield - historic aerial image of the battlefield c.1944; marines evacuating a wounded soldier in the Valley of the Sisters c.1944; current image of American landing craft near the southern base of the Umurbrogal Mountain complex; and present-day Japanese shrine near the site of the former Omaok village north of the airfield
Historic images courtesy of Defense Audiovisual Agency, all images from the National Register collection

Peleliu Battlefield (Peleliu Island, Republic of Palau)
The battle for Peleliu Island, "Gateway to the Philippines," in 1944 was the one of the longest and one of the hardest fought amphibious operations of the entire Central Pacific Theater in World War II. The Japanese used new tactics, establishing their main-line defenses inland. They were able to hold out for 74 days before surrendering instead of the four days Maj. Gen. William H. Rupertus thought it would take.

Japan seized the Palau Islands, along with the rest of Micronesia, from Germany in World War I. Receiving a mandate from the League of Nations after the war, Japan established its administrative headquarters for Micronesia at Koror, the capital of the Republic of Palua today. By World War II the Japanese had constructed an excellent airfield on Peleliu Island, and the Palaus served as a staging area and replacement depot for Japanese forces in the Netherlands' East Indies and New Guinea.

Beginning in August 1944, the U.S. 13th Air Force began bombing the Paluas. On September 6, Adm. William F. Halsey's carriers from the Third Fleet began full scale attacks upon the island. Six days later, a naval gunfire bombardment of Peleliu and Anguar began. D-Day for landing on Peleliu was set for September 15. The 1st, 5th and 7th Marine Divisions fought against 6,500 Japanese combat troops and 4,000 Japanese navel personnel under the veteran 14th Division commanded by Lt. Gen. Sade Inoue from Manchuria. On September 16, the 5th Marines captured the airfield, but 600-700 Japanese reinforcements reached Peleliu, despite the American bombardment and sinking of their barges. By September 23, the 321st Infantry regiment had to be diverted from Angaur to Peleliu to reinforce the Marines. The depleted 1st Marine Regiment was taken off Peleliu on September 30, with 1,672 casualties. American forces captured "Hill 100" on September 24, the northern bastion of the Japanese defenses in the Umurbrogal Mountain area, which divided the Japanese defenses. On the night of November 24, Japanese General Murai and Colonel Nakagawa committed suicide as the Americans began their final drive with the 81st Division. Japanese fighting strength had been reduced at this point to under 350 men. On November 27, all organized resistance on Peleliu ceased.

Much evidence of Japanese defenses and of the battle for Peleliu remains. The invasion beaches are mostly unchanged from their 1944 appearance. Inland there are remains, such as concrete slabs, from the post-battle American installation that covered the more level terrain. The former American military cemetery with two large monuments are still intact. At the site of the airfield, three major Japanese reinforced-concrete structures remain, as well as several concrete and coral pillboxes at the southern end of Peleliu, and a circular blockhouse the Japanese had in their defenses. The limestone ridges and ravines in the last center of Japanese resistance, "the Umurbrogol Pocket," undoubtedly contain much evidence of the battle for Peleliu. U.S. Marines counted over 100 caves that were occupied by Japanese troops in the area.

Peleliu Battlefield, recognized as a National Historic Landmark, includes all of Peleliu Island, which is a state in the Republic of Palau. The battle marked the conclusion of the Central Pacific drive toward the Phillipines. It turned out to be one of the bloodies battles of the Pacific War--and one of the most forgotten.

[graphic text] Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands

[photo] The Old Japanese Hospital, Saipan
Photograph courtesy of David Look

Old Japanese Hospital (Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands)
Designed by architect Yasaburo Yamashita and built in 1926 during the Japanese administration, the hospital was the most up to date medical facility in all of Micronesia. Rooms were assigned for reception, examinations, minor surgery, x-rays, otolaryngology, obstetrics and gynecology, a pharmacy, offices and a cashier. The original compound included several outbuildings: a Japanese ward, a native Saipanese ward, employee residences, nurses quarters, a high school, garage, several water storage tanks, and a kitchen among others. An enclosed courtyard presently surrounds the original southwest entrance to the hospital. Here, a traditional Carolinian canoe house, or utt, shelters the Waherak Mailar--an ocean-going outrigger originally built on Puluwat Atoll in 1958. A new use was recently found for the hospital--now the Northern Mariana Islands Museum of History and Culture, which opened in 1998.


Asian-Pacific Heritage Month Home | Guam | FSM | Mariana Islands | RMI | Palau

Images for top banner from NPS Historic Photograph Collection (Rainbow over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, by Thomas C. Gray, [HPC-001345]) and the Palau Historic Preservation Office.

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