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Bodies of soldiers found in cave 70 years after brutal WWII battle

More than 70 years later, remains have been recovered.

US Marines crouch behind rocks before the entrance to a cave where Japanese soldiers were holed up, during the invasion at Peleliu island in the Palau group on 10 October 1944.
US Marines crouch behind rocks before the entrance to a cave where Japanese soldiers were holed up, during the invasion at Peleliu island in the Palau group on 10 October 1944.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE BODIES OF six soldiers, believed to be Japanese troops who fought in World War II, have been found in a reopened cave in the Pacific nation of Palau.

The tiny outpost was the scene of fierce battles in 1944 between Japanese and American forces which resulted in steep casualties.

Japan is estimated to have lost 10,000 soldiers during the fighting and the remains of 2,600 of them were never recovered, with many thought to be in a network of fortified caves that were used as a mode of defence.

Many of the caves, littered with the explosive remnants of war, were deemed dangerous and sealed after the conflict.

ABC News said one of them was recently opened for the first time in nearly 70 years ahead of a visit this month by Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

“The cave itself is in an area known as the promontory which is the defining point on the west coast of the island of Pelileu,” said Steve Ballinger, operations director with non-government organisation Cleared Ground Demining.

“At that location was an anti-tank gun in a heavily fortified concrete bunker and it took a number of days actually to capture this fortified position.

“It’s my understanding that those (bodies) were the crew, perhaps the officer and his men that were manning that gun… a number of US soldiers died in that vicinity as well.”

PastedImage-54286 Source: Steve Ballinger

Ballinger, whose team has been operating in Palau to clear remnants of WWII ordnance for six years, added to the broadcaster that the bodies would be repatriated.

The cave has since been resealed but more may be opened.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: Amazing insights into what US intelligence knew about Hitler in 1943

More: Secret Nazi jungle hideout discovered by archaeologists

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