Thursday, February 23, 2012

WW2 relics in a modern airport

A QUICK drive following the side roads leading to the AARF at the Saipan International Airport the other afternoon with buddy Alexie introduced me to another World War 11 relic that I have heard about several times but haven’t been to before—another rusty yet sturdy JapaneseWW11 tank sitting amid tall bushes.
Parking on the rough roadside, Alexie and I fished out our cameras and inspected the tank that still seemed complete despite being exposed to the elements for so many decades.
The tank was just one of the many other WW2 tanks and relics lying around the island as grim reminders of the war but this was the first tank that I had the chance to really go near. This tank was conveniently situated under the shade of a canopy of leaves and surrounded by tall bushes but the area surrounding the tank was clean and well- maintained, making it convenient for visitors to go around.
The sturdy piece of steel did not look like it was going to fall into pieces soon.
The Japanese World War 2 tank was just among the grim reminders of the bloody war among all others, including several buildings and features associated with the American and Japanese use of the area.
Information on the interpretive sign erected near the tank narrates that the construction of As Lito Airfield began in 1934 and it was developed into the principal Japanese air base in the Marianas as the threat of war increased. American aircraft of Task Force 58 attacked As Lito Airfield on June 11 before the June 15 landings on Saipan’s southwest coast beaches to capture it and convert it to an American base that would put land-based bombers within reach of Japan.
The airfield became the home of Bomber Wing 73 and was renamed Isely Field in honor of an officer whose plane was shot down during one of the air raids. Isely Field was deactivated in 1940 and the construction on Saipan International Airport began in October 1973.
The modern airport buildings, concrete parking areas and landscaped grounds cannot hide the grim reminders of war that lay scattered all over the area.
Drive around the airport and you will see remains of the power station building, an oxygen generating building, a hospital, repair shops, the Japanese headquarters building, several Japanese navy design air raid shelters, a bomb storage bunker that lies under an artificial mound, and several bunkers and air raid shelters along the Flame Tree Drive.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bell tower at twilight

IF there is one structure that always catches my attention on the historic island of Tinian, it is this old bell tower or what has remained of it at the back of the San Jose Catholic church.
I’ve been at the island several times and have seen and photographed this old bell tower countless of times before, but a couple of weeks back, it was a different visit because I had the chance to stay around until darkness has fallen.
The ruins of the old bell tower looks out of place in a modern surrounding, with but the contrast added to the major attraction. I would have wanted to go up the bell tower and explore this ruined building up to the topmost area but the tower is closed to the public.
I was told the structure used to be open for the public and despite its sturdy look, it has become too dangerous.
The inscription on the doorway of the bell tower says it is dedicated in memory of Father Marcian Pellet, OFM, and his faithful followers on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee on December 12, 2006. The old church was built by Father Pellet and parishioners in 1936.
Looking at the bell tower in broad daylight with its colorful flowers surrounding the base, seeing the pieces of steel and metal sticking out of the cracked concrete is quite an experience, but seeing the structure with the darkness falling is altogether a different story. One experiences different feelings when you look at the dark silhouette of the bell tower casting eerie shadows. If not for the bright lights from the church windows and the houses and buildings in the immediate vicinity, I would have second thoughts about going near the structure at night.
The bell tower is one of the must-visit historical sites on Tinian and continues to get thousands of tourists from all over the world each year, along with all the other historical sites and World War 2 ruins and relics scattered all over the island.
The next time you visit Tinian, visit the bell tower and wait until the sun sets and you will experience what I mean. To get there, fly via Freedom Air for $69 per person, or board a charter a flight with Star Marianas Air.