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Ulithi atoll

Ulithi is an atoll in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, about 191 km (103 nautical mi) east of Yap. It consists of 40 islets totalling 4.5 km2 (1.7 sq mi), surrounding a lagoon about 36 km (22 mi) long and up to 24 km (15 mi) wide—at 548 km2 (212 sq mi) one of the largest in the world. It is administered by the state of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia. Ulithi's population was 773 in 2000. There are four inhabited islands on Ulithi Atoll. They are Falalop, Asor, Mogmog, and Fedarai. Falalop is the most accessible with an air strip, a small resort hotel, gas dealership, store and one of three public high schools in Yap state. Mogmog is the seat of the high chief of Ulithi Atoll though each island has its own chief.

There are a few sunken World War II ships in Ulithi lagoon. Some leaked oil, but the United States Navy did a clean up operation in February 2003. There continues to be good fishing and diving on the atoll though recent typhoons have eroded some of the reefs.

Census records can be misleading because population can fluctuate during the year both because it is common for Ulithians to leave for work or school abroad and to return. This is particularly true during festive times like the Outer Island High School graduation ceremony, when the population can increase considerably. Additionally, during events like weddings and funerals, Yasor's population may double.

Electricity is now available on some islands and the advent of video players and cell phones have brought a touch of the outside world to this isolated atoll.

History

US Navy carriers at anchor at Ulithi (from front to back): Wasp, Yorktown, Hornet, Hancock and Ticonderoga, December 8 1944
The Randolph undergoing repairs at Ulithi

The first European to find Ulithi was the Portuguese navigator Diego da Rocha, in 1526.

Ulithi was a major base for the U.S. Navy in World War II. The Japanese had established a radio and weather station early in the war, and had used the lagoon as an anchorage occasionally, which resulted in strikes from US aircraft carriers early in 1944. However, Ulithi was perfectly positioned to act as a staging area, being nearly equidistant from the Philippines, Formosa, and Okinawa.

On September 23, 1944, an army regiment landed unopposed (the Japanese having evacuated the atoll some months earlier), followed a few days later by a battalion of Seabees. The survey ship USS Sumner (AGS-5) surveyed the lagoon and reported it capable of holding 700 vessels, and indeed just a few months later, 617 ships had gathered there for the Okinawa operation. The huge anchorage capacity was greater than either Majuro or Pearl Harbor.

In January 1945, the Navy Seabees completed a fleet recreation center at Mogmog island that could accommodate 8,000 men and 1,000 officers daily. A 1,200-seat theatre, including a 25-by-40-foot stage with a quonset hut roof, completed in 20 days was ready for use on December 20, 1944. At the same time, a 500-seat chapel was built.

The Japanese still held Yap and there were occasional attacks. On March 11, 1945 the U.S. carrier Randolph was hit and moderately damaged at Ulithi by a Kamikaze aircraft that had flown all the way from Japan in a mission called Operation Tan No. 2.

The airstrip on Falalop was developed during World War II and used by the Americans as an air base during their time on the island. During World War II, the local islanders were evacuated to Fedarai by the Americans. The remaining islands were converted and used as bases to support naval vessels and facilities within the lagoon.

References

External links

Coordinates: 9°58′N 139°40′E / 9.97°N 139.67°E / 9.97; 139.67

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