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Tinian

The Navy maintains a training area on Tinian, the island used to launch the two atom bombs that ended World War II. Training on Tinian occurs within the Military Lease Area, with limited activities in San Jose Harbor. The proposed action also includes construction or installation of facilities at several locations: a small arms range and mortar range on Tinian, breaching or shooting houses on Tinian, and a logistics support base camp and security gates on Tinian.

Tinian is today the second most populated island in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. For a time, while the world was in the throes of war, and the United States was fiercely fighting Japan in the Pacific, the largest airport of World War II could be found on Tinian. Six runways, each 8,500 feet long, saw scores of B-29's departing and landing to and from bombing runs around the clock. Tinian's greatest distinction would come during World War II, in the Pacific theater, when the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki were loaded onto airplanes that carried out one of humankind's most terrible missions.

The capture of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam in the Central Pacific in mid-1944 was one of the key actions in the Pacific. Air bases in the Marianas were essential in order to accommodate the new B-29 Superfortress, a US bomber that was just beginning to be mass-produced in early 1944 and which had a flying range equal to the distance from Saipan, Tinian and Guam to Japan and back -- about 1500 miles. The US invasion of the Marianas provoked the Japanese Fleet into a major and unsuccessful engagement, and the Marianas provided the bases from which the Army Air Forces later immolated the cities of Japan. Saipan was the staging base for the attack on nearby Tinian, a few miles south of Saipan.

On 24 July 1944, Task Force Five One, commanded by Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill, and the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions, under the command of Major General Roy S. Geiger, invaded the island of Tinian. Defending the island were 9,162 Japanese Army and Navy troops. The successful invasion of Tinian hinged on a fake landing staged near "Tinian Town" (presently known as San Jose village). While the 2nd Marine Division pretended to ready an attack on the southern part of the island, even going so far as to lower boats and men into the water, the 4th Marine Division was launching a full-blown invasion on Tinian's north side. The US Marine Landing Force overcame the numerically superior Japanese force on 1 August in what is considered to be the best-executed amphibious operation of the war. Marine casualties were 328 dead and 1,571 wounded. As on Saipan, many Japanese not killed by U.S. military forces opted to commit suicide by jumping off cliffs rather than being caught by the Americans.

Although Tinian will forever be linked to "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" and the infamous U.S.S. Indianapolis, the island holds another, lesser-known distinction in the annals of modern war. As part of the 13-day naval bombardment of Tinian leading up to the invasion at Unai Chulu, U.S. forces utilized napalm bombs against the Japanese. It was the first time napalm bombs were ever used during warfare.

The scruffy island of Tinian, 80 miles north of Guam, became an important operational base for the rest of the Pacific war. A prize catch, Tinian boasted three airfields and a fourth under construction. Even before the island had been secured, aviation engineers and Seabees were hard at work constructing the huge airbases necessary for the B-29 strategic bombers.

By mid-August 1944 Tinian was secure, and American Seabees began rebuilding a captured Japanese air strip at the north end of the island in one of the largest engineering projects of WWII. Less than one year later North Field was the largest airfield in the world, with four vast 2,600 - meter runways and a total of 19,000 combat missions launched against Japan.

Tinian got a face lifting which made it one of the most important bases of the war. On this remote rock, Seabees of the Sixth Brigade built the largest airfield in the world, larger even than Mayor LaGuardia's proposed Idlewild airport at Long Island which FORTUNE magazine (April 1945) had called the "biggest in the world." The total area of Idlewild wasn't even as large as one of the two parts of the B-29 field the Seabees built. The runways at Idlewild measured at 14.5 miles. Tinian North was almost 20 miles long. Tinian West is only a fraction smaller. Width of runways at "world's biggest airport" is only 300 feet. Large enough, but Tinian's measured from 425 to 500 feet.

The Seabees did all the construction on Tinian. No Army Engineers were there, as were on many of the previous jobs which were done jointly. Battalion builders hauled, blasted and packed down enough coral to fill three times the volume of Boulder Dam-nearly 112 million cubic yards of filling. And along with the airfields came the inevitable barracks, hospitals, chowhalls, BOQs, wells, warehouses, and chapels.

Tinian is about the same size and shape as Manhattan, and when U.S. forces occupied it during the war, they laid out a system of roads with the same general plan and orientation as on Manhattan. To carry the huge quantities of bombs up from the port at San Jose, two divided highways were built across Tinian. The GIs gave the roads names like Broadway, 8th Ave., and 86th street. The main north-south road, is Broadway, and it runs parallel to the other main north-south road, 8th Avenue. The fact that Tinian has streets named after streets in New York City has no connection with the Manhattan Project.

As soon as air service groups prepared the bases for occupancy, hundreds of B-29s began arriving in October and November, ready to undertake strategic bombing operations against the Japanese home islands. An airfield was ready for the first B-29 strike on 24 November. Camps on Tinian were constructed to house 50,000 U.S. troops and 1.2 million pounds of crops were produced, all of which were consumed on the island. By August 1945, a year after construction started, Tinian was the largest airbase in the world at the time, and accommodated nearly 1000 B-29s.

During the last two months of 1944, B-29s began operating against Japan from the islands of Saipan, Guam and Tinian. Initial bombing missions were flown during the day at high altitude, concentrating on chemical plants, aircraft factories, harbors and arsenals. Gen. Curtis LeMay studied the poor results and instructed the bombers to begin low-level incendiary raids at night. The raids targeted Tokyo and some of Japan's other major cities, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe.

On 26 July 1945 after a daring, top-secret voyage across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, the Indianapolis anchored 1,000 yards off the shore of Tinian and delivered the radioactive components of one of the newly created atomic bombs. After this momentous delivery, the heavy cruiser set out for the Philippines, but would never make it that far. Four days after departing Tinian, the ship was hit by Japanese submarine torpedoes and sank.

Atomic Bomb Pits, slightly larger than a grave, were prepared for loading the world's first atomic bomb to be detonated in anger. The bomber aircraft would be rolled over the pit, until the bomb bay was directly above the bomb. Then, the bomb would be hoisted into the aircraft weapon bay. At No. 1 Bomb Loading Pit the atomic bomb was loaded aboard an American B-29 dubbed Enola Gay on the afternoon of August 5, 1945, to be dropped on Hiroshima the next day. At nearby No. 2 Bomb Loading Pit a second atomic bomb was loaded on August 9, 1945 and dropped on Nagasaki.

On 06 August 1945 the Enola Gay, a B-29 stationed at Tinian Island, dropped the world's first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. At 0245 on 6 August 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets took the controls of a modified B-29 named "Enola Gay" and lumbered into the air from Tinian Island. Once safely airborne, Navy Captain William Parsons climbed into the cramped bomb bay and armed their special cargo--a 9,000-pound atomic bomb called "Little Boy." After more than six hours of tough overwater navigation, "Special Bombing Mission 13" was lined up with the target--Hiroshima--directly ahead. At 0815 Hiroshima time, only 17 seconds from the scheduled drop time, bombardier Tom Ferebee released the weapon.

On August 9th, with Sweeney at the controls, B-29 Bockscar took off before dawn from the island of Tinian with a second atomic bomb aboard. The primary target was the city of Kokura, but clouds obscured it. With fuel running low due to a fuel transfer problem, Sweeney proceeded to the secondary target, Nagasaki, a leading industrial center. There was enough fuel for only one bombing run, and a last minute break in the clouds allowed the bombardier to bomb visually as specified by the field order. When the bomb detonated at 11:00 A.M. Nagasaki time, it felt as though Bockscar was "being beaten with a telephone pole," said a crew member. With fuel critically low, Sweeney turned toward Okinawa where he landed to refuel before returning to Tinian.

On 10 August 1945 Emperor Hirohito Decided to end the Pacific war without his cabinet's consent.

Located just north of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a three-hundred mile archipelago consisting of 14 islands, with a total land area of 183.5 square miles. The principal inhabited islands are Saipan, Rota and Tinian. The northern, largely uninhabited islands are Farallon de Medinilla, Anatahan, Sariguan, Gudgeon, Alamagan, Pagan, Agrihan, Asuncion, Maug Islands, and Farallon de Pajaro. Saipan is 3,300 miles from Honolulu; 5,625 from San Francisco; 1,272 miles from Tokyo; and 3,090 miles from Sydney.

In 1947, the Northern Mariana Islands became part of the post-World War II United Nations'Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI). The United States became the TTPI's administering authority under the terms of a trusteeship agreement. In 1976, Congress approved the mutually negotiated Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in Political Union with the United States. The CNMI Government adopted its own constitution in 1977, and the constitutional government took office in January 1978. The Covenant was fully implemented on November 3, 1986, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation no. 5564, which conferred United States citizenship on legally qualified CNMI residents.

The 1976 Covenant (Public Law 94-241) creating the CNMI established jurisdiction of U.S. laws, agencies, and programs; provided for a CNMI Constitution, an elected government and defined self-rule; and granted U.S. citizenship to CNMI residents. The Covenant also brought to CNMI substantial and extended financial support from the U.S. A major portion of this financial support came in the form of payments made to CNMI for the leasing of about two-thirds of the island of Tinian. In 1983, a lease agreement covering these lands was signed and DoD assumed control and possession over the northern two-thirds of Tinian. The lease agreement is for 50 years, with a renewal option for an additional 50 years.

According to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT), the "long-term and overriding purpose in acquiring the CNMI lease is to ensure there is a capable forward basing option location in the Pacific..., in the event of major hostilities in the Pacific or loss of access to existing forward basing facilities." Under the terms of the lease agreement, none of leased lands may be privately-owned, nor are any CNMI residents allowed to live or develop there. Essentially, the Navy controls all land uses within the leased area. Any non-military uses within the leased area must by approved by the Navy. Presently, the U.S. military uses major portions of the leased land area for training exercises.

The 16,100-acre leased area is known as the Military Lease Area (MLA) and is divided into two sections. The northern half is the Exclusive Military Use Area (EMUA) and the southern half is referred to as the Leaseback Area (LBA). North Field and the national historic landmark, are located within the EMUA. The EMUA is used for periodic military training exercises. It is open to the public for recreational purposes when not being used for military training. Navy uses of the EMUA include both small and large field exercises. Marine units hold large-scale amphibious assaults and joint training exercises within the EMUA, utilizing its beaches as entry points to inland areas for maneuvers and for landing fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. The Navy uses abandoned buildings, some of which are historically related to World War II and North Field, within the EMUA for urban warfare practice. The roads that connect the training area with Tinian's commercial harbor and airport to the south are used by the Navy during training exercises.

The LBA is a joint use area, where both military and non-military activities may take place. The LBA has been leased back to the CNMI for uses judged by the Navy to be compatible with long-term DoD needs, primarily grazing and agriculture. Under the leaseback agreement, the LBA may be used for training activities that would not be detrimental to ongoing CNMI economic and agricultural activities.

The MLA remains largely undeveloped, with no permanent military installations or staffed facilities. At the present time, there are no major construction projects planned for the MLA. None of the roads are fenced or gated and public access to North Field during non-maneuver times is not restricted.

A visitor to Tinian's North Field today will likely find it barren and quiet. It even seems there is very little to look at. A visitor to the nearly abandoned island 30 years later found the airfields, with a touch of maintenance, could be usable again. Other than the runways, nothing seemed to be left of the old facilities. No buildings were to be seen. The forest had grown right up to the edges of the runways and taxiways.

Though not the smallest, Tinian is the least populated of the three main Mariana Islands that constitute the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas [Federated States of Micronesia]. Like Rota, Tinian's main village of San Jose is small, rustic, sleepy and friendly. Over two thirds of the island is retained by the U.S. military and is loaded with fascinating historic war relics. Once a beehive of military activity, this area is open to visitors and has regrown with lush jungle and huge native and exotic trees. If it's possible to imagine a place even more laid back than Rota, then this is it. The present somnolence is temporary however, as Tinian launches itself into the 21st century with the arrival of huge Las Vegas-type casino resorts.

West Tinian Airport is an FAA-certified facility that currently accommodates single engine aircraft and Shorts 360 aircraft with capacity of up to 36 passengers. The runway is 6,000 feet in length capable of handling 757's or 727's with restricted landing and takeoff load. A new 8,600 foot runway is under construction and will be operational in early 2002. This will enable Tinian to have more direct flights, charter gaming flights to meet the increasing demand for air service for visitors coming to enjoy Tinian's casino gaming.

Tinian Harbor or Sunharon Roads includes both the inner harbor near the town of Tinian, and the large swept area lying up to 1 1/2 n mi off shore between Garguan Point and Carolinas Point. This area has been swept to various depths between 15 and 55 ft (4.6-17 m), the lesser depths being nearer the shore. Many anchorages are available in this outer area. The inner harbor is entered via a channel which has a navigable width of 500 ft and although it is claimed that the channel has been dredged to 30 ft (9 m), the Port Director reports a minimum depth of 25 ft (7.6 m) for the channel and quays.

At Tinian the main quay has recently been repaired. The usable length is 2200 ft with depths varying between 25 and 29 ft (7.6-8.8 m). There are two piers, pier 1 and pier 2 lying to the southwest of the main quay. Each has a usable length of 500 ft at both sides and a depth of 25 ft (7.6 m). Two shorter quays between the main quay and pier 1 and between piers 1 and 2 have 225 ft of berthage space each and a depth of 25 ft (7.6 m), bringing the total berthing space to 4650 ft. There are also some short quays in a shallow lagoon at the northwest end of the inner harbor, but these are used by local craft. United States Navy ships normally occupy the new part of the main quay. There is also an area available for anchorage within the inner harbor, but it is very small with a diameter of only 1000 ft. The bottom here consists of coral and sand providing reasonable holding.

The outer anchorage provides no shelter from westerly winds and there is very little protection from easterly winds except close to the shore. The inner harbor, however, provides some protection from all winds, especially those between north and southeast. For winds between south and west, protection is provided by a breakwater built on the barrier reef that fronts the town, and is therefore minimal. For best protection from all winds, a berth at the northwestern end of the main quay is recommended. Although the breakwater has sustained some damage, it still provides an effective barrier against wave and swell action. It is therefore considered that the inner harbor at Tinian would provide protection against both wind and wave action in all conditions except the close passage of a typhoon.

Tinian Island is the new home to a Voice of America (VOA) radio relay station. The United States Information Agency, which has headquarters in Washington, D.C., chose Tinian as the site to build a new radio relay station to transmit its VOA broadcasts. The VOA currently broadcasts more than 900 hours of programming weekly in 47 languages, including English, to an international audience.



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