CHUUK STATE, The Federated States of Micronesia (NNS) -- U.S. Naval Hospital Ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), anchored in Chuuk Lagoon Aug. 22 - Sept. 1, provided humanitarian and civic assistance throughout the states' various islands.
"This mission to me is more than just services in the areas of health and education. It connects real people," said Wesley Simina, governor of Chuuk State.
"It's an embodiment of our two people's opportunity to get to know each other, exchange ideas and to appreciate the nuances of our differences and lifestyles."
Formerly known as Truk, Chuuk State is an island group in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises one of the four states of FSM, along with Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap. Enclosed by a 225-kilometer barrier reef, referred to as the Chuuk Lagoon, the state consists of 11 mangrove-fringed islands and a series of 14 outlying atolls. Chuuk is also the most densely inhabited of FSM's states.
Because of Chuuk Lagoon's strategic location, the Japanese Imperial Navy's 4th Fleet was based there, and it was the headquarters for Japanese operations against Allied Forces in the Central Pacific.
According to the Chuuk Historic Preservation Office, it was in February 1944, when the U.S. launched "Operation Hailstone," a surprise air raid attack on the Japanese fleet. U.S. aircraft carriers and battleships were anchored several miles off the coast of Chuuk Lagoon. From this location, the U.S. deployed several waves of attack planes for nearly three days, bombarding more than 50 enemy naval vessels in the lagoon.
"We lost 26 aircraft in Chuuk; Japan lost 250 planes and 70 vessels. The Chuukese survived this devastation with dignity and resilience," said U.S. Ambassador to FSM, Miriam Hughes. "They protected their families, culture and livelihoods, and they also determined to move forward."
Chuuk Lagoon contains the largest collection of intact wrecks from World War II, where divers and adventure-seekers visit from around the world.
"We want the relics to stay here because of their history and the tourism they bring," said Karsom. "But sometimes they remind us of a very sad time for our people. It's a bittersweet feeling."
After World War II, the United Nations mandated the islands to the United States as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1979, the islands adopted a constitution, founding the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia. FSM is now a self-governing state in free association with the United States, which is wholly responsible for its defense. FSM citizens can also join the U.S. military without obtaining U.S. permanent residency or citizenship.
This free association and friendship continues. Pacific Partnership 2008 is a humanitarian and civic assistance mission aimed at building relationships with partner nations. The U.S. Navy, working together with Military Sealift Command, non-governmental organizations, and other allies, have coordinated medical, dental and engineering assistance to participating nations in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
Mercy will continue to build upon and strengthen friendships with countries such as the Republic of the Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
"Personally, I will feel forever be grateful for being part of this monumental occasion, a mission that the people of Chuuk have been looking forward to for quite some time and will talk about and appreciate for even longer," said Simina.
For more news from Pacific Partnership 2008, visit www.navy.mil/local/PP08/.