KOROR, Palau – Some sixty-seven years after her predecessor’s initial visit to the country of Palau, USS Cowpens returned. The first two times were during a time of war with a mission to support the U.S. presence in the South Pacific. The mission is still the same, except this time Cowpens was armed with goodwill and ambassadorship that continued to build on an already rich relationship with the residents of the island nation.
During World War II, the Light Aircraft Carrier USS Cowpens (CVL – 25) and her aircraft were assigned to provide air and antisubmarine patrol for raids on Palau and surrounding islands from March 30 – April 1, 1944. Later that same year, starting on August 29, Cowpens returned to Palau to provide pre-invasion air strikes in support of the amphibious assault on the Palau island chain. Once taken, these islands opened a vital supply lane that supported the liberation of the Philippines.
Palau, located 2,400 miles southwest of Tokyo, Japan, is home to some 18,000 residents, and is comprised of 16 states. Following Germany's defeat in WWI, the islands were formally passed to the Japanese under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.
In 1922, Koror became the administrative center for all Japanese possessions in the South Pacific. Following Japan's defeat in WWII, the Carolines, Marianas and Marshall Islands became United Nations Trust Territories under U.S. administration, with Palau being named as one of six island districts.
As part of its mandate, the U.S. was to improve Palau's infrastructure and educational system in order for it to become a self-sufficient nation. This finally came about on October 1, 1994, when Palau gained its independence upon the signing of the Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Now in 2011, USS Cowpens (CG-63) and her crew returned as ambassadors to show, and improve upon, the relations between the United States of America and the Republic of Palau. During the port visit, the crew enjoyed the local culture and attractions, such as the beautiful local reefs, diving opportunities, world class beaches and the famous Jellyfish Lake. There was also a community service event working with the U.S. Civic Action Team and local elementary school.
Fifteen sailors, working with a Peace Corps volunteer and three Civic Action Team (CAT) members volunteered over one hundred volunteer man hours at Ngiwal Elementary School, Ngiwal, Palau. The sailors participated in sports such as kickball, volleyball and dodge ball and promoted cultural exchange with the students.
Cowpens is a Ticonderoga Class guided missile cruiser assigned to the George Washington Strike Group and currently deployed for independent steaming and training operations.