World War II sites uncovered on Yap
Preparations underway to open for visitors
Members of the Made’de and Kabul Hill WWII Task Force show off one of the new informational signs that will be erected at the site above Colonia. Top to bottom, left to right: Jacob Falan, EPA; John Waayan, DLR; Charles Falmeyog, YSPSC; Joey Ungred, YSHPO. Holding the sign are Gidion Moofel, YSPSC and Tom Tamangmow, YVB. (Photo: Joyce McClure)
Colonia-- Although the jungle of the Made’de hills above Colonia is tranquil today, it was alive with activity toward the end of World War II. Buried in the rain forest and a testament to that time, Japanese military guns, bunkers, caves and trenches were recently uncovered when the land was being cleared for Yap’s wind farm project.
A movement to preserve the sites and open them to the public was initiated and a task force formed with representatives from the Yap Visitors Bureau, Yap State Power Service Corp., the Yap State Historic Preservation Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Land Resources and the Weloy community. Their charge was to prepare a plan for the development of the historic sites as a tourism product that will be added to Yap’s other WWII sites that are already visited by tourists with local guides.
The plan includes protecting and maintaining the properties with environmental safeguards while making them accessible to tourists. Visitor fees will be collected to benefit the Weloy community and compensate designated, trained tour guides. Currently, the task force is using a drone to identify access paths that will assist in developing walking trails in the area.
Patrick Ranfranz, whose uncle perished in the air battles that took place on Yap during the final year of the war, has been partnering with YVB since 2005 to develop the island’s WWII history. “We were very excited when Pat found a U.S. military inventory from the end of the war that lists the weapons on Made’de,” said Tom Tamangmow, YVB’s Product Development Manager. “With that information and photographs of the area, he was able to identify the weapons.”
Soon, these sites will be opened up for all to see and will join the other thirteen sites throughout Yap. Five new informational signs have been designed by Mr. Ranfranz to be erected at Made’de. “These locations add a new dimension to the stories of Yap during World War II,” added Don Evans, General Manager of YVB. “We’re now working with several tour companies that specialize in group tours focusing on World War II. And, we’re waiting for the governor to sign off on funds provided by the FSM government to invite the tour providers to Yap. Once they see what we’ve developed, we’re sure they’ll add Yap to their Pacific itineraries. We’re proud that our efforts restoring and maintaining the remnants of the war here on Yap are considered by some to be among the best in the entire region and we hope more people will come here to remember those who fought so valiantly.”