We are now half-way through our trip on Yap. It is hard to believe we have been here 7 days. When preparing for this trip I decided to bring a number of things (a book, cards, an iPod, etc.) to do to keep me busy during down times (like in the evening). Yet I find it funny that I’ve yet to really use any of these items. By the end of the day I’m so exhausted (physically and mentally) that I just hit the pillow and go right to sleep. From working on our projects with the locals to walking around and exploring Colonia to diving our days are pretty full from sunrise to sunset. I have loved every minute of this experience and look forward to the rest of our time on Yap.
Today was a very rewarding and interesting day. Our work changed a bit as we moved from mapping Imperata and roads to mapping historic World War II sites around Yap for the Yap Vistor’s Bureau (YVB). Thomas Tamangmow (Director of YVB) has done an AMAZING job documenting Yap’s role and place in World War II (thus keeping this important part of Yap’s history and culture alive). During WWII Yap was under Japanese control and was for the most part bypassed by the U.S. (this was part of Douglas MacArthur’s island-hopping strategy). Although we did not attempt to capture Yap the U.S. did frequently bomb strategic sites on Yap (such as the airport, lighthouse, etc.). In fact, most of the Imperata we have been mapping has been found around the old runway used by the Japanese in WWII. Thomas identified about 10 sites that he wanted us to map.
Thomas identified 10 sites that he wanted mapped. Some of the sites were easily accessible and others were more difficult. Eventually Thomas hopes to make all of these sites easily accessible for locals and visitors so all can see and remember this important time in Yap history. Here is a brief description (with pictures) of some of the sites we visited and mapped. For more information about these sites PLEASE visit the Missing Air Crew Project website (http://www.missingaircrew.com). This website is AMAZING and has a ton of information about men who lost their lives in Yap fighting for the US in World War II.
Memorial Monument of Ens. Joseph Edward Cox – September 6th, 1944: This plane, US Navy F6F-5 Hellcat from USS Enterprise (US Navy VF-20 Squadron) was found in Colonia near a landfill/dump. The plane crashed upside down (the top is destroyed and the landing gear is intact). We had to hike through some thick vegetation to map the site where the plane was found. We couldn’t believe it when we were told that they had to clear and level the terrain to bring in a back-hoe and flatbed truck to move the wreckage to the current antibiotics site. For more information about Ens. Cox and the excavation of this particular Hellcat check out the following page on the Missing Air Crew Project website (http://www.missingaircrew.com/yvb/cox5/).
Dalap Light House: This light house is the only one known to ever exist on Yap. It was built AND destroyed by the Japanese. Apparently the lighthouse became an easy target for US bombers and planes as the generator building was covered with bullet holes and there were a few bomb craters around the lighthouse. Eventually the Japanese had enough with the constant attacks that they put dynamite around the lighthouse and took it down.
Crash Site of Lt. Harry Brown – Sept. 6th, 1944: This site contained wreckage of another US Navy VF-20 Squadron, F6F-5 Hellcat. Additionally, human remains (believed to be Lt. Harry Brown) have been found on this site. The YVB put a marker where some of the remains were found. Thomas told us that sometime next month U.S. officials are scheduled to arrive to carefully excavate the area and return Lt. Harry Brown’s remains to the U.S. for proper burial.
Memorial Monument and Crash Site of 1st. Lt. Girvis Haltom Jr. – October 24th, 1944: This crash site was just off a main road south of Colonia. All that remains is the engine block from a VFM-2122 FG-1 Corsiar from Peleliu, Palau. Again for more information about 1st. Lt. Haltom, the plane and memorial you really need to check out the Missing Air Crew Project website (http://www.missingaircrew.com) or here is a direct link to the fact sheet about 1st. Lt. Girvis Haltom Jr (http://www.missingaircrew.com/factsheets/haltom.pdf).
Emergency Japanese Runway: In the north-east portion of Yap (in Gagil-Tomil) about 20 feet off a main road is a large flat field (with bright red clayey soil). This field is believed to be an emergency runway the Japanese started to build but never finished. Well, a better way to put it is that the field was never used. The US got wind of the new air field and bombed it frequently. The bomb craters in this area were HUGE. They were all covered with thick vegetation which can catch you by surprise when walking (or driving).
These were just a few of the sites we visited and mapped for the YVB. Again, I have deep respect for Thomas Tamangmow and all of the work he has put into this project. Tomorrow we head out with the Yap Historic Preservation Office (HPO) to map a number of cultural sites (men’s houses, community houses, stone paths and stone money banks). I’m sure tomorrow will be just as interesting and fascinating as today. I can’t wait!