The Republic of the Marshall Islands consists of two chains the "Ratak Chain"(sunrise side) and the "Reilik Chain" (sunset side). There are 29 coral atolls and five low islands within the two chains. These islands stretch several hundred miles from north to south, with Majuro the Capital, at 7 degrees north latitude.
With a total land area of 70 square miles the islands are spread out over the north pacific ocean. The population was estimated to be apx. 50,000 in 1992). The Republic of the Marshall Islands, was formerly a Trust Territory of the United States.
Later under a great deal of pressure from American military and government, they entered into a compact of free association with the United States in October, 1986. The United States Space Tracking Station on Kwajalein, and Roi Namur provide outside funding for the Marshall Island's economy. Their limited sources of internally generated economy is based on the sale of copra (dried coconut meat) and limited sales of fish and marine resources.
The PEOPLE of the Marshalls are the REAL RESOURCE that they have and must protect. When I first went to the Marshall Islands as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1969, the people were as open and kind as the "first contact" Hawaiians. They have always given whatever they have for the visitors - who have repeatedly returned this kindness with unkindness and disease.
The people's of England, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United States have all had a chance to take over the islands, and claim them for themselves. The Japan military was very well ensconced, but the government had allowed inter-racial marriages.
The people of the Marshalls lived for a long time in happy co-operation with the Japanese people until World War II when fighting started in the area. During the war there were many instances of valor when the Americans came to each of the islands which were taken by the Japanese, and liberated the Marshallese people before they bombed the Japanese installations to total distruction.
I have heard of the stories of Marshallese men and women who were beheaded for various acts of treason against the Japanese military, but many Marshallese remember the good times and forgive the acts of war which were made against them. The Americans were also guilty of bombing some left over Marshallese citizens who were unable to be evacuated or who missed the rescue attempts prior to the bombing raids. The survivors of these "friendly fire" casualties have also, for the most part forgiven the Japanese and the Americans for their part in this tragedy.
Not so easy to forgive is the story about the United States going into the Marshall Islands during the cold war. The United States was given the responsibility of insuring the health and well being of the people of the Marshall Islands by mandate of the United Nations Trust Territory agreement. Instead of protecting the health and welfare of the people of the Marshall Islands, the United States used the people of the Marshall Islands as an experimental population while testing the Atom Bomb!
While I was in the Marshall Islands the United States was taken to court to insure that the people of the Marshall Islands were compensated for the damage for generations which was experienced by the atolls of Bikini and Enewetok. After much politics, and a lot of money, the Compact of Free Association (which included a clause to indemnify the US for atomic accidents or wrong doing) was thrust upon the people with truly "Ugly American" style.
I was contracted by the Marshall Islands Atomic Testing Litigation Project, to prepare histories and intake forms for the eventual legal actions against the United States for their part in the contamination of the people and property of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. In order to insure the passage of the above mentioned Compact of Free Association, the people who were helping the US government effort, threatened the outer island people with closure of all schools, medical supplies, and emergency services. In the end they did prevail and the Compact and the indemnification was passed. Later the 7 billion dollars in lawsuits were dismissed because of the indemnification. The people of the Marshall Islands received a small sum of money to be paid out over a very long time, and the rent for the missle range. I think that this should still be catagorized as "Ugly American"!
In the end the radioactive dust and contaminates actually damaged the entire north central pacific, even sending the radiation as far as Guam in only a few days time.
No one alive can actually tell how much damage has been done to the islands themselves. Some of the islands were actually vaporized and the people have never been allowed to go back home. They did try to send some people back to Bikini, but soon afterward deceided to remove them again, having determined that the area was still too hot radioactivly (perhaps this was simply more experimentation). I do not believe that any human beings should ever return to these places permanently, because they are always finding that the lowest safe level of radioactivity is not low enough. Not a place to be and raise a family and live the good life in peace.
As I develop this page, I will turn our focus to the ancient
Marshallese and the culture which has helped them to be some of the kindest
people on this planet. That will be a pleasure for me to provide and will
offer a contrast to the information on this page which I felt had to be