August 29, 2004

August 29, 2004 Island of Tinian: location of airfield and bombpits for the Enola Gay

Mark and I finally got the ferry to the island of Tinian. The ferry has not been operating due to the typhoon Chaba that just came through. We waited a long time to see if the ferry would run today but finally we took off. When we got to the docks on Tinian we were not near anything we could walk to. Luckily, the casino picked us, and the rest of the ferry passengers, up in a bus and took us to the Casino, which is huge and fancy and has a hotel and shops and a fancy restaurant and of course gambling. We were told if we played the slots or tables we could get ferry ticket back so we played about 14 dollars between us and then we learned that the only tickets back that we could get were in 10 minutes and we had just got there and the next tickets available would be at 5 we decided we would pay our own way back on the ferry, but a little while later we learned that it wasn't just pay or not pay. There was no ferry coming back until the next day. Hmm, perhaps an overnight stay. Then we learned we could fly back for less than twice the cost of the ferry, so we decided to fly back at 6 pm and in the meantime we would find a way to the bomb pits. The last tour of the day had supposedly left 10 min ago. Earlier we had been told no tour today. I rented a car for 3 hours (minimum rental) for 45 dollars. There was no one at the car rental agency but we made some phone calls and then someone came and rented us a car. Mark and i took off down roads with grass growing up thru the concrete here and there and some roads closed due to typhoon debris and uprooted trees falling on them...but we managed to get to bomb pits one and two and get pictures and to walk on the runway that the Enola Gay took off on headed for Hiroshima and laterNagasaki. At one time during WWII, this airport was the busiest in the world. On this day only Mark and I stood there looking at grass growing up in places through the airstrip built by seabees. We got to relive history in our imaginations by seeing not only the bombpits and airstrip, but also the monuments and suicide cliffs and bunkers and headquarters was a full day and believe it or not, when mark and i were driving up to the bomb pits and around the island and back...about 2 and a half hours, we only saw one other certainly was not one at bomb pits or other places of historic interest, but us. The road paralleled the ocean for most of the trip to the bombpits. We stopped on route to see a blow hole. There was an area next to the blow hole, with signs to keep out as there were unexploded munitions in that area. Of course Mark had to go into that area to explore. I played mom and yelled at him to come back immediately.
We managed to turn the car in at the airport rather than hotel where we had rented it. We had to route the lady out to come to the hotel and rent it to us and had to call several times to get her to the airport to check us out. She wanted us just to leave the key in the glove box...but I am super cautious these days and wanted her to give us the heads up that the car was in as good a shape as when we took it. The flight home to Saipan was first come first serve and we were not first...waited about 90 minutes as two single engine planes carrying 5 passengers each went back and forth from Tinian to Saipan...There were a zillion Japanese tourists going back to Saipan and other people who would have taken the ferry if it was running. They came out of nowhere. I would have sworn there was only a handful of people on the island. I had to take off my flip flops and climb up on the wing to get into the plane. I was told this airlines has a 70 year old woman pilot...but we did not draw her...just a middle aged man for a pilot... our car was not at the Saipan airport but at the Warf or docks. Fortunately I conversed with Perry, a young businessman. in our airplane on way back and he gave us and another man a ride from the airport to the dock area...a full day... Betty

August 07, 2004

Saipan August 2004

The island is not very big …only about 23 miles long and is fairly narrow. The airport is near the southern end of the island. Mark lives currently in Guarapan, which is north east of the airport. He lives in a very nice apartment building, which has only eight apartments. Mark has not been working on the island long and so I got to help him get his apartment leased and in order. He had an unbelievably large number of huge plastic boxes that he had shipped to Saipan that we unpacked and I helped him set up a telephone service and e-mail provider (essentials to us high tech professionals) and get a few rugs and niceties.
Mark has a view of the ocean from his kitchen window and he is within a short walk of the beach. He does not have a car and fortunately one of the nurses loaned him a motorbike. When it rains he wears his bathing suit on the motorbike on the route to the hospital. He carries his scrubs in a plastic baggie and changes to them when he gets to the hospital, which is only five or ten minutes away by car. While I am here, we have a car that I have rented.
Mark took me sightseeing all over the island. At the far north end of the island is Marpi Point…one place where the Japanese jumped off into the ocean. Another location in which they jumped off was Suicide Cliff. As you know already, the battles began in the south and ended in the north.

We visited the last command post of the Japanese, which is in northeast part of island close to sea with cliffs and forests to the west. The cliffs have caves and areas that look like they were hit by mortar fire. The jungle is dense…very dense. There are all kinds of Japanese and Korean monuments at the last command point location and at Marpi Point and Suicide Cliff. The American monuments are in American Monument Park. The biggest monument there is a circular walk with names of all the American soldiers, sailors, and marines killed or missing. In the middle of the monument circular walk are flagpoles with American flag and flags of 4 American branches of service. There is a museum building in the park but it is closed on the weekend so we have yet to go there. The park is fairly large. There is also a monument to the native peoples: the Carolinians and Chamarros, who were marched into caves and then killed by the Japanese soldiers who threw grenades in and killed them. The murdered natives included infants and children as well as men and women. The names and ages of the people are on the monument. There is a bell tower in the park donated by an American Ambassador to Saipan. Behind the park is a marina for sail and motorboats, which connects to the ocean.

While I have been here we have experienced Typhoon Chaba, which included high winds and rain. There was loss of electrical power and some lucky people like us were in buildings with generators. I even managed to e-mail out from a bar down the street, that still had their e-mail up and going and a generator. I was a little worried about the rent car being out in the storm since I did not take the insurance. I couldn't turn it back in as the rental car agency closed before the Typhoon hit.
I think the Eastern side of the island got the most damage although our western side had many damaged trees, some washouts of roadways, some water in houses, periodic water shut offs, and loss of cable TV and radio stations. Businesses shut down with only a few open. One Chinese fellow was taking pictures at a place called the grotto and he was washed away by a sudden unexpected wave…and he has not been found. Mark and I had stood where he was washed away, only two days previously. We also were taking pictures of the large number of divers in the grotto. This is a place where you walk down the side of a cliff on winding steps to large stones in the water and you are surrounded by cliffs with caves. The divers have to carry their tanks up and down this long winding stairway. Amazing to see the Japanese tourist divers doing this. Most of the tourists are Asian. Asian tourists are a big business here. Guarapan even has a big fancy mall with all the big name designer shops. The shoppers? Mostly Japanese. There is a Rotary Club here that meets at the hotel. I did attend a meeting and met some wonderful Rotarians.