Tinian Island: Bombs and Bunkers! By Devon Pike

We  took a trip back to Saipan and then on to the nearby island of Tinian from which the US operated the busiest airfield of WWII and launched the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan.

Due to a much smaller population, fewer visitors and a still continuing military utilization, Tinian is even less rebuilt than Saipan.

tinianflightpanPanorama from inside the cabin of the Piper Cheyenne 6 single engine aircraft that is required to access Tinian from Saipan. Ferry service to Tinian was stopped several years ago due to its losing over $1M a year in revenues.

tiniantosaipanA view off the reef on the east coast of Tinian, across the strait to Saipan.

tinianaaUpon landing at the small airport in Tinian, you are immediately greeted by an old Japanese Anti-Aircraft Cannon on display outside the terminal.

tinianwrecksislandFrom San Juan, the city on the south side of Tinian looking towards the uninhabited island of Aguijan. There are a few old wrecks rusting in the harbour.

tinianchurchCOLHDRSMThe ruins of the old church in San Juan destroyed during the invasion. There is a shiny new(er) steel church standing in the shadow of the ruins.

shrinesteps1SMTinian and Saipan were both taken by the Japanese during the early 20th century and so had substantial Japanese populations. This pre-war Shinto Shrine still stands in the jungle and may be one of the most atmospheric and moody places I’ve ever stumbled upon.

shrineguards1LGThe Guardians of the shrine at the top of the stairs, the left is the “Shisa” with its mouth closed, the right is the guardian dog with its mouth open.

littleshrineSMNext to the main shrine are smaller shrines slowly being reclaimed by the jungle.

Next Page: An Abandoned WWII Airplane Engine

Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engine

devproptinianNear the beach in San Juan are the remains of this American WWII engine, which I’ve tentatively identified as a Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp. I wouldn’t know how to identify what kind of aircraft this one came from because it was used on many, including cargo aircraft like the DC-3, fighter aircraft like the P-36 Skyhawk and bombers such as the B-24 Liberator.







Next page: Atomic bomb loading pit and much more!

Atomic Bomb loading pit, Japanese Fuel and Ammo Storage, and UXO

tinianrunwayableA view driving my rental car down the WWII runway Able in the North Field. The runway is gargantuan and in order to support heavy bombers loaded down with bombs and fuel, it nearly bisects the entire island.

devtinianabombpit3Myself and the “Little Boy” atom bomb loading pit.

tinianabombpit2Interior of the “Little Boy” pit.

tinianabombpit1Plaque on the outside of the “Little Boy” pit.

tinianjapaircomplexAbandoned and nearly destroyed Japanese Air Command Complex in the North Field.

devjapammobunkerMyself outside a heavily fortified Japanese Fuel Bunker. The fuel inside was ignited and burned so furiously that the supporting rebar and equipment inside the bunker melted and gave way.

tinianjapfuelbunkerInterior of the fuel bunker. It was as chunks of concrete pelted me on the head from above that I realized I should probably turn around and leave immediately.

glortinianrebarThe nearby ammo bunker was identical to the fuel bunker as seen above, but as it took a direct hit from a bomb and detonated, there’s not much left. Here is my wife standing in the pile of rubble that USED to be this awesome bunker. What appear to be vines in this picture are actually thousands of twisted strands of re-bar from the bunker explosion which peeled the roof back like a sardine can. The whole area is littered with unexploded munitions from inside the bunker, as you will see later.

tinianuxo1Some of the unexploded munitions from the bunker explosion. Exploring these islands I sometimes encounter unexploded munitions, which I have a strict policy of never messing with. Military EOD teams sometimes do sweeps in order to dispose of ordinance they find, but so much remains that it’s a regular occurrence.

tinianuxo3This is an air dropped bomb that failed to detonate, though it’s broken in two. I believe it was dropped, as the area on the back where the fins were mounted shows they were sheared off.

tinianuxo4This is a fuse to a Japanese bomb or mortar. Also you can see some earthstar mushrooms that were growing in the area.

tinianuxo5These are cannon rounds, possibly for the Japanese Zeros and other fighter aircraft that were stationed here before the invasion.


tinianuxo7Here you can see a torn open artillery shell with the undetonated high explosive still exposed on the inside.

Next page a Japanse build then American operated communications complex

Japanese Communications Complex commandeered by US forces










tinianbunker02Parts of the original Japanese structure showing their characteristic blast doors.



Next page (last) the remains of an Amtrac

American AMTRAC amphibious landing craft hulk

tinianAMTRAC3Found this rusting hulk on a concrete slab in the north field near where the initial landing occurred. The vines in the troop carrying area appear to be ready to make an invasion of their own. American forces used these lightly armoured amphibious vehicles during the invasions of Guam, Saipan and Tinian.

Japanese RADAR remains and hidden artillery stash

japradar1I had GPS coordinates to the remains of a Japanese RADAR installation that had been blasted off the cliff above it. My wife and I trekked through the jungle and found the elevation gimbal and remains of the azimuth gear quite easily.

artyshell1While tromping through the jungle in search of the RADAR, I came across this large artillery shell laying in the leaves. My GPS is for scale.

artycave1At the base of the cliff, well off any trail I found this interesting looking cave nearly hidden by the vines. I didn’t have my flashlight with me but I decided to peek inside and what do I find?

artycave2A hidden cache of Japanese artillery shells! They must have hurriedly hidden them here just prior to the invasion.

artycave3Also cobwebs.

artycave4It was a very humid and sweaty hike. I’m so glad the mosquitos were not out.

Written by Devon Pike
Reproduced with permission on War History Online


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