Our commitment to the Pacific Island countries is rooted in years of shared historical experience. One experience which affected all Pacific countries, including the United States, was the struggle in the Pacific during World War II. Thousands of Americans and citizens of today's Pacific Island countries lost their lives in this conflict. During this trip through the Pacific, the delegation was able to visit some of the battlefields and pay tribute to our servicemen and other Allied troops who paid the ultimate sacrifice many years ago for the peace, security, and freedom that we enjoy today.
While in Palau, I visited the island of Peleliu, where between September and November of 1944 tens of thousands of Americans fought to secure the island. I attended a wreath laying ceremony at Orange Beach, where the first wave of Marines came ashore to start the battle. Later, I walked through the site of some of the battle's worst fighting, an area the Marines called Bloody Nose Ridge.
Later, in the Solomon Islands, with Admiral Haney, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, I attended a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal was the first major offensive operation conducted by U.S. and other Allied forces. Admiral Haney and I laid a wreath at the American Battle Monument, which commemorates the thousands of Americans who were killed during the campaign. We also paid tribute at the Coast Watchers and Solomon Scouts Memorial, which honors the Solomon Islanders who provided crucial intelligence that helped the Allies prevail, and met with Solomon Scout veterans. When Navy LTJG John F. Kennedy's PT boat was sunk off the Solomons' coast in August, 1942, it was two Solomon Island scouts who rescued the future president, securing the Scouts lasting place in American history. I also had the honor of attending a ceremony to recognize USCG Medal Of Honor recipient Douglas Monroe for his commitment and dedication.
Today, peace and security in the Pacific region is underwritten by the U.S. commitment to the Pacific Island countries. Living standards for Pacific Islanders have improved, and peoples in the Pacific Island countries are free to determine their own futures through their democratic systems. None of this would have been possible without the sacrifices made by our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines all those decades ago.