WOTJE ATOLL - MARSHALL ISLANDS

Geography
Location: North Pacific
Coordinates: 09°26′30″N 170°01′00″E
Archipelago: Ratak
Total islands: 75
Area: 8.18 km2 (3.158 sq mi)
Highest elevation: 3 m (10 ft)
Country: Marshall Islands
Demographics
Population: 1021 (as of 2011)
Ethnic groups: Marshallese

Wotje Atoll (Marshallese: Wōjjā) is a coral atoll of 75 islands in the Pacific Ocean, and forms a legislative district of the Ratak Chain of the Marshall Islands. Wotje's land area of 8.18 square kilometres (3.16 sq mi), is one the largest in the Marshall Islands, and encloses a lagoon of 624 square kilometres (241 sq mi). The atoll is oriented east and west and is 45 kilometres (28 mi) at its longest point, and 18 kilometres (11 mi) at its greatest width. In 1999, the population of the islands in atoll was 900. As of 2007, the population was nearly 1,000, which included about 200 teenagers who live on the island at the public boarding school, Northern Islands High School. The Wotje Atoll includes a number of islets, including Wotje (the largest), Bodao, Enejeltalk, Ukon, Wetwirok, Kaiken, Wormej, Kimajo, Ninum, Kaben. About 125 people live on Wodmej, which is approximately 8 miles from the main island of Wotje. All other islands are uninhabited and are used only for copra production, picnics, and food gathering.

There are four churches on Wotje, Wotje: Catholic (which runs St. Thomas Elementary School), Protestant, Assembly of God, and Full Gospel. There are several stores, but the largest is Mama Store, managed by the Tomeing-Johnny family. This store has a small retail shop, restaurant and coffee window. Wotje Atoll has four schools: Wodmej Elementary School, Wotje Elementary School, St. Thomas Elementary School, and Northern Islands High School. The first three are public schools, funded by the national Ministry of Education. St. Thomas is managed by the Maryknoll Sisters of the Catholic Church.

Wotje, Wotje is serviced by ships several times a year which bring supplies like rice, flour, and sugar. In addition, the local government and senator manage a small ship, Northern Star, which makes more frequent trips. Air services are provided by Air Marshall Islands to Wotje Airport.

Wotje Atoll, Feb 1942
History
Wotje Atoll was claimed by the Empire of Germany along with the rest of the Marshall Islands in 1884, and the Germans established a trading outpost. After World War I, the island came under the South Pacific Mandate of the Empire of Japan. The Japanese established a school on the island, which served the atolls of the Ratak Chain, but otherwise left administration in the hands of local authoriies.

However, from the end of the 1930s, Wotje was developed as into a major seaplane base, and also had an airfield with two runways for land-based aircraft, and several hundred support buildings. During World War II the atoll was occupied by the Japanese. The coasts were heavily fortified with coastal artillery and anti-aircraft batteries. The only bombing of Hawaii after Pearl Harbor was executed by seaplanes from Wotje. The Japanese garrison at Wotje at its peak numbered 2,959 men from the Imperial Japanese Navy, 424 men from the Imperial Japanese Army and some 750 civilian workers, many of whom were conscripted ethnic Koreans. From mid-1943 the island came under attack by United States Navy carrier-based aircraft, and was frequently shelled by warships. The attacks increased in frequency and severity after the fall of Majuro and Kwajalein to American forces, and all supply lines to Wotje were cut. By the surrender of Japan, only 1244 men of the garrison remained alive.

Following the end of World War II, Wotje came under the control of the United States as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands until the independence of the Marshall Islands in 1986. Many WWII artifacts remain on the main island of Wotje, Wotje. A large concrete airstrip, bunkers, big guns and more make this island attractive to war history enthusiasts.