Island in the Pacific is home to countless WWII relics
The small island of Mili in the southeast corner of the Marshall Islands is now populated by only 300 people, and was once under Japanese Imperial Army control during World War II. Time has passed but the artifacts of war remain and make the island a virtual military museum with remains of the past still to be discovered.
(AP/Republic of Marshall Islands Historic Preservation office)
The AP reported on the current state of Mili and found numerous military remnants from that era. The locals have made use of some of the artifacts in their everyday lives. Anet Maun, pounds dried panadanus leaves with an old projectile. Maun uses the leaves for weaving and said, “This works really well and gets the work done much faster. The leaves flatten very nicely.” Rachel Boyce, a volunteer teacher from Utah, said, "One thing I learned here is that you use everything that comes. So if it's an old WWII machine, you can hang things on it," referring to the residents using them to dry laundry.
Location of Mili in the Marshall Islands (Yahoo! Maps)
After WWI, Japanese forces used Mili as a radio and weather station. Then during WWII, it was converted into an active base with an airfield, runways, and hangars, to fight the United States. In 1945, after nearly two years of bombing attacks, Japan surrendered and the United States took over the Marshall Islands. "From our documentation, there is at least 15,000 tons of explosives that were dropped on the Marshalls and that's a conservative estimate,” archaeologist Michael Terlep told the AP. Terlep said that U.S. explosives had a 50% failure rate at that time, so there are potentially many explosives remaining on the islands.
Michael Terlep (AP/Republic of Marshall Islands Historic Preservation office)
The safety of the remaining weapons is still a concern. It’s estimated that in 1969, Peace Corp volunteers assisted the locals in destroying 2,500 items housing explosives to render them safe. Wilbur Heine, Internal Affairs Minister and Mili Senator, explained that some of the war items have been gathered however, “there are still various places with things like this." Boyce recalled that her initial concern was, "Oh my gosh, my students. What if they get blown up?" But she soon realized that they had grown up learning what safety measures were necessary and they were “too smart” to get in harms way.