Published: Tuesday, 19 March 2019 06:45
Written by Bill Jaynes
FSM Information Services
WENO, Chuuk—On February 18th, 2019, representatives of Chuuk State Government, the National Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Government of the United States of America (USA), gathered at the Blue Lagoon Resort on Weno Island to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Hailstone. Operation Hailstone was a World War II operational campaign launched by the United States against the Japanese Imperial Navy based in the Chuuk Lagoon.
Among those in attendance at the commemoration were the Honorable Lorin S. Robert, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and representing His Excellency, Peter M. Christian, President of the FSM; the Honorable Wesley Simina, Speaker of the Congress of the FSM; the Honorable Innocente Oneisom, Speaker of the Chuuk State House of Representatives; Mr. Nickson Bossy, representing the Office of the Mayor of Weno Municipality; U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Heather Coble; the Honorable Douglas Domenech, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Interior; General Charles Q. Brown, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces; Rear Admiral Kevin E. Lunday, Fourteenth District Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard; Director Nikolao Pula of the U.S. Office of Insular Affairs; and Dr. Dianne Strong, historian and author.
The commemoration began with the reception of guests and an invocation by Father Dennis Baker, S.J. This was followed by the introduction and recognition of dignitaries and officials.
Speaker Oneisom, after welcoming the attendees, said “Operation Hailstone’s aerial attack started at 21:00 [9:00pm] on the 17th of February, and ended after midnight on the 18th of February, 1944…. Chuuk State joins the FSM National Government and the U.S. Government in recognizing...the loving memories of all those whose lives perished.” The FSM, USA, and Japan all experienced significant loss of life during this military campaign. Continuing, Speaker Oneisom said “And it is an opportunity for us to reflect…and hope…that their souls rest in peace and there will never again be war and conflict in our islands.... This commemoration is not only for victory from war, but also for victory achieved in attaining and retaining peace.”
“Today, the FSM, the USA, and Japan are very close allied countries, and this ceremony brings us all together….” Speaker Oneisom spoke in detail about how the unique relationship between the FSM and the USA is realized through partnership and cooperation, though Speaker Oneisom also added “It is our hope that in 2023…the accompanying financial assistance will not significantly change.” FSM National Government officials and the U.S. delegation had an opportunity to meet prior to the commemoration activities. FSM officials included in this meeting were Joses Gallen, Secretary of the Department of Justice, and Andrew Yatilman, Secretary of the Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Emergency Management. During this meeting, officials engaged dialogue in matters of mutual interest concerning economic and security stability throughout the region. This included some discussion surrounding the status of the Amended Compact of Free Association as it relates to the expiring provisions scheduled to take effect in 2023.
U.S. Deputy of Chief Mission (DCM) Coble also spoke: “I am very honored to be here and part of the group…I think the theme that has been presented is something very important…. I think celebrating peace and partnership is something we do not do as much as we should…peace and cooperation...should be celebrated.”
“I hope everyone…understands the significance of not only the people who passed away,” said DCM Coble, “But of the marvelous cooperation we have…as allies with the Japanese and FSM. We work very well with the Japanese, not only here but throughout the [Freely Associated States]…and this is such a great thing to see.”
Dr. Dianne Strong, author of Witness to War: Truk Lagoon’s Master Diver Kimiuo Aisek, spoke next. Dr. Strong shared a detailed account of Operation Hailstone from her research and interviews, with emphasis on the idea that, though World War II was traumatic for all parties, Chuukese innovation and leadership through Kimiuo Aisek resulted in “the world’s greatest underwater museum.”
General Brown provided the keynote speech. “The FSM is a key partner with the USA to keep a free and open Pacific…and this ceremony serves as a reminder…that a small set of allies can have a big impact….The USA is an enduring Pacific power…and our ongoing presence demonstrates our commitment…[to] security and partnership, and collaboration: not domination.” General Brown recounted US assistance in a variety of arenas, including support following recent typhoons and other natural disasters through the broader Pacific region, and discussed Operation Christmas Drop which delivered “62,000 pounds of toys and food” to 56 islands throughout the greater Micronesia region, including the FSM. Operation Christmas Drop is the United States’ longest running humanitarian assistance operation.
Representing President Christian was Secretary Robert of the Department of Foreign Affairs, who provided special remarks. “Today we gather here not so much to dwell on the narratives of the past and the atrocities of wars, but most importantly to commemorate the victory of peace—the victory for the respect and dignity of our common humanity…. I think you will agree with me that the preamble of our national constitution says it all: ‘Having known war, we hope for peace. Having been divided, we wish for unity. Having been ruled, we seek freedom.’ Going forward today, let us promote friendship, partnership, and cooperation in our strength for the future.”
“I think you will agree,” Secretary Robert continued, “That we have enough common enemies to keep us busy. I am referring to climate change, sea level rise, poverty, hunger and famine, illiteracy, genocide, trafficking…these are the challenges of today.”
Closing his remarks, Secretary Robert said “We are indeed humbled and grateful for all the American assistance and support to our Nation building…we are thankful for the programs and grants…and hope for support and cooperation in the years to come.”
Following the speeches, the respective delegations proceeded onto small boats to place wreathes upon the water where, below, lay the reminders that the cost for peace has already been paid. Through these tokens of respect and remembrance, and active recognition that peace, civility, and respect for one another are as much choices people make as they are feelings and beliefs, it is the hope of the Nation that the FSM, the greater Pacific region, and the world at large will know and exemplify peace and partnership.
The FSM is dedicated towards producing positive and peaceful relationships with all countries and peoples throughout the world. The Nation’s relationship with the USA is both special and unique, and it is the hope of the FSM National Government that the FSM and USA will always have such a special partnership.