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Tinian on an area map, southwest of Saipan, showing waters around islands, and deeper Pacific section.
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Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 15°00′N145°38′E / 15.000°N 145.633°E / 15.000; 145.633
Archipelago Marianas
Area101.22 km2 (39.08 sq mi) [1]
Highest elevation171 m (561 ft)
Highest pointMount Lasso
United States
Commonwealth Northern Mariana Islands
Largest settlement San Jose
Population3,136 (2010)

Tinian ( /ˈtɪniən/ or /ˌtniˈɑːn/ ; old Japanese name: 天仁安島, Tenian-shima) is one of the three principal islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Together with uninhabited neighboring Aguiguan, it forms Tinian Municipality, one of the four constituent municipalities of the Northern Marianas. Tinian's largest village is San Jose.



First settlers

The Mariana Islands, of which Tinian is one, were the first islands settled by humans in Remote Oceania. It was also the first and the longest of the ocean-crossing voyages of the Austronesian peoples, and is separate from the later Polynesian settlement of the rest of Remote Oceania. They were first settled around 1500 to 1400 BC by migrants departing from the Philippines. This was followed by a second migration from the Caroline Islands by the first millennium AD, and a third migration from Island Southeast Asia (likely the Philippines or eastern Indonesia) by 900 AD. [2] [3]

Spanish colonial period

Tinian, together with Saipan, was possibly first sighted by Europeans of the Spanish expedition of Ferdinand Magellan, when it made landfall in the southern Marianas on 6 March 1521. [4] It was likely sighted next by Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa in 1522 on board the Spanish ship Trinidad, in an attempt to reach Panama after the death of Magellan. [5] This would have happened after the sighting of the Maug Islands in between the end of August and end of September. Gonzalo de Vigo deserted in the Maugs from the Trinidad and in the next four years, living with the Chamorros, visited thirteen main islands in the Marianas and possibly Tinian among them.

The first clear evidence of European arrival was by the Manila galleon Santa Margarita commanded by Juan Martínez de Guillistegui, that wrecked in the southeast of Saipan in February 1600 and whose survivors stayed for two years till 250 were rescued by the Santo Tomas and the Jesus María. [6] The Spanish formally occupied Tinian in 1669, with the missionary expedition of Diego Luis de San Vitores who named it Buenavista Mariana (Goodsight Mariana). From 1670, it became a port of call for Spanish and occasional English, Dutch and French ships as a supply station for food and water.[ citation needed ]

The native population, estimated at 40,000 at the time of the Spanish arrival, shrank to less than 1400 due to European-introduced diseases and conflicts over land. The survivors were forcibly relocated to Guam in 1720 for better control and assimilation. Under Spanish rule, the island was developed into ranches for raising cattle and pigs, which were used to provision Spanish galleons en route to Mexico.[ citation needed ]

German colonial period

After the Spanish–American War of 1898, Tinian was occupied by the US. It was later sold by Spain to the German Empire in 1899. The island was administered by Germany as part of German New Guinea. During the German period, there was no attempt to develop or settle the island, which remained under the control of its Spanish and mestizo landowners.[ citation needed ]

Japanese colonial period

Tinian Shinto shrine. Tinian Shinto Shrine 1.JPG
Tinian Shinto shrine.

In 1914, during World War I, the island was captured by Japan, which was awarded formal control in 1918 by the League of Nations as part of the South Seas Mandate. The island was settled by ethnic Japanese, Koreans and Okinawans, who developed large-scale sugar plantations. [7] Under Japanese rule, extensive infrastructure development occurred, including the construction of port facilities, waterworks, power stations, paved roads and schools, along with entertainment facilities and Shinto shrines. Initial efforts to settle the island met with difficulties, including an infestation of scale insects, followed by a severe drought in 1919. Efforts were resumed under the aegis of the Nanyo Kohatsu Kabushiki Kaisha in 1926, with new settlers from Okinawa as well as Fukushima and Yamagata Prefectures, and the introduction of coffee and cotton as cash crops in addition to sugar, and the construction of a Katsuobushi processing plant. By June 1944, some 15,700 Japanese civilians resided on Tinian (including 2700 ethnic Koreans and 22 ethnic Chamorro).[ citation needed ]

World War II

U.S. Marines during the Battle of Tinian in 1944. USMC LVT-2 Water Buffalo.JPEG
U.S. Marines during the Battle of Tinian in 1944.
The atom bomb pit "No.1" on Tinian's North Field, where Little Boy was loaded aboard the Enola Gay. Atom Bomb Pit 1 Little Boy a.JPG
The atom bomb pit "No.1" on Tinian's North Field, where Little Boy was loaded aboard the Enola Gay .

Tinian was not garrisoned by the Japanese military until the latter stages of World War II, when the Japanese realized its strategic importance as a possible base for American Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers. The island was seized by the Allies during the Battle of Tinian from 24 July to 1 August 1944. Of the 8,500-man Japanese garrison, 313 survived the battle. At the time, there were an estimated 15,700 Japanese civilians (including 2700 ethnic Koreans) on the island. Many hundreds were also killed in the crossfire, took their own lives, or were executed by the Japanese military to avoid capture by the Americans. [8]

Tinian is located approximately 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometres) from mainland Japan, and was suitable as a staging base for continuous heavy bomber attacks on the Japanese Islands. Immediately after the island's seizure by the US, construction began on the largest airbase of WWII, which covered the entire island (except its three highland areas). The Tinian Naval Base was a 40,000-personnel installation, and the Navy Seabees (110th NCB) laid out the base in a pattern of city streets resembling New York City's Manhattan Island, and named the streets accordingly.

The former Japanese town of Sunharon was nicknamed "The Village" because its location corresponded to that of Greenwich Village. A large square area between West and North Fields, used primarily for the location of the base hospitals and otherwise left undeveloped, was called Central Park. [9]

Two runway complexes, West Field and North Field, having a combined total of six 8,500-foot (2,600-meter) runways, were constructed. Today the four runways at North Field are overgrown and abandoned. One of the two West Field runways remains in use as part of Tinian International Airport. [10]

West Field

West Field, Tinian, 8 July 1945 Westfield-tinian-8jul1945.jpg
West Field, Tinian, 8 July 1945

Airfield construction was originally by the Japanese, built with two parallel runways. It was repaired by the Americans, and then called West Field. [11] From here seven squadrons of the 58th Bombardment Wing flew combat and reconnaissance missions throughout Southeast Asia and finally into the Japanese home islands, as part of the bombing of Japan. [11] [12]

After WWII, West Field was Tinian's airport called Gurguan Point Airfield; [11] and today is Tinian International Airport.

North Field

The Japanese had constructed three small fighter strips [7] on Tinian, but none were suitable for bomber operations. Under the Americans, nearly the entire northern end of the island was occupied by the runways, almost 11 miles (18 km) of taxiways and the airfield area, designed to accommodate the entire 313th Bombardment Wing complement of Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers. [7]

North Field was the departure point of the 509th Composite Group specialized Silverplate nuclear weapons delivery B-29 bombers Enola Gay and Bockscar , which respectively carried the two atomic bombs named Little Boy and Fat Man, that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. [10]

Remains of the US bomber base and Atom Bomb Pits, [10] and the remains of Japanese fortifications, are located at North Field. There is a memorial on the old airfield at the loading pits, which are roofed-over with glazed panels in metal framing for safer viewing. Both pits were reopened in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian. The pits were originally constructed to load the bombs, since they were too large to be loaded in the conventional manner. The B-29s were maneuvered over a pit with their bomb bay doors open to facilitate loading. [13]

Postwar Tinian

NMCB-3, Detail Tinian, pave a road in support of Marpo Heights Road G construction in Tinian. (50718271913).jpg
Tinian Road Construction (50489228911).jpg
US Navy Seabees construct a road on the island in 2020

After the end of World War II, Tinian became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, controlled by the United States. The island continued to be dominated by the United States military, and until 1962 was administered as a sub-district of Saipan. Since 1978, the island has been a municipality of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

During the 1980s, one of the runways on North Field was kept active to allow U.S. Air Force C-130s to take off and land in support of U.S. Marine Corps training exercises in the north end of the island. The two northern airstrips, Alpha and Bravo, were cleared of vegetation and the limestone coral that had been disturbed by roots was excavated and replaced by Marines of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd FSSG, 3rd Marine Division then stationed at Camp Hansen, Okinawa in late 1981. That unit had been transported by sea aboard the USS Cayuga (LST-1186). [14] [ verification needed ] The military presence began to be replaced by tourism in the 1990s, but still plays an important role in the local economy.[ citation needed ]

On October 24, 2018, Typhoon Yutu made landfall on the island of Tinian as a Category 5-equivalent super typhoon, becoming the most powerful storm on record to hit the Northern Mariana Islands, and causing an extensive amount of damage. [15] [16]


Tinian beach Unai Dankulo, Tinian, -2 Jan. 2011 a.jpg
Tinian beach
Map of soil types on the islands of Tinian and Aguijan Tinian soil 1988.jpg
Map of soil types on the islands of Tinian and Aguijan

Tinian is about 5 nautical miles (9.3 km) southwest of Saipan, from which it is separated by the Saipan Channel. It has a land area of 39 square miles (100 km2), with its highest elevation on the Kastiyu plateau at 187 meters (614 ft). It is considerably flatter than Saipan. The island has limestone cliffs and caves. There is a variety of marine life and coral reefs surrounding the island. Its clear, warm waters are ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving and sport fishing.

Important Bird Area

There is a variety of flora and fauna; the Tinian monarch is the island's only endemic bird species and it is threatened by habitat loss. The island has been recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports populations of Micronesian megapodes, white-throated ground doves, Mariana fruit doves, Micronesian myzomelas, rufous fantails, Saipan white-eyes and Micronesian starlings. [17]


Topographic map of the island of Tinian, showing buildings as of 1999. Tinian CNMI 1999 topographic map USGS.jpg
Topographic map of the island of Tinian, showing buildings as of 1999.

The population of Tinian was 3,136 (as of 2010), which corresponds to less than 5% of all residents of the Northern Mariana Islands and a population density of 31 people per km2. Most of the inhabitants are Chamorros (about 75%) and members of various other groups of islands in the Caroline Islands. There are also minorities of Filipino, Bangladeshi, East Asian and European-descended people.


Much of the local economy of Tinian is dependent on tourism, however, tourist infrastructure is relatively poorly developed. The village of San Jose has several smaller hotels, restaurants, and bars. Agriculture is primarily on the subsistence level. The largest employers on the island are the government and the casino, which was legalized in 1989. As of March 2006, the island has plans to put in four new casinos. [ citation needed ] The 2010 census showed a population of 3,136 [18] for the island. [19]



Tinian Airport is small and serviced by Star Marianas Air, which operates daily scheduled flights to Saipan. Freedom Air, who previously served the island filed for bankruptcy in October 2013 and suspended all operations since March 2014.


The ferry boat service that operated twice daily between Tinian and Saipan ran at a loss estimated to be US$1 million a year, and has since ceased.[ citation needed ]


The local government is the Municipality of Tinian and Aguiguan, which also includes the uninhabited island Aguijan. [20] The municipality has a land area of 108.1 km2 (41.738 sq mi). The 2000 census population was 3,540 persons, all living on the island of Tinian (Aguijan is uninhabited). The municipal seat and main village of the island of Tinian is San Jose, situated on the southwest coast. [21] Mayor Edwin P. Aldan was inaugurated in January 2019, [22] succeeding Joey San Nicolas.

Local attractions

House of Taga

House of Taga, Tinian House of Taga 3.JPG
House of Taga, Tinian

The House of Taga is a latte stone site, one of the largest such structures in the Marianas. The stones are quarried limestone, each approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) in length. Of the twelve large Latte structures, only one is still standing. The site is one of seven locations on Tinian on the National Register of Historic Places listings in the Northern Mariana Islands.


Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System operates public schools including Tinian Elementary School, [23] and Tinian Jr./Sr. High School.

State Library of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands operates the Tinian Public Library in San Jose Village. [24]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Northern Mariana Islands</span> Commonwealth of the United States

The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, is an unincorporated territory and commonwealth of the United States consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The CNMI includes the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago; the southernmost island, Guam, is a separate U.S. territory. The Northern Mariana Islands were listed by the United Nations as a non-self governing territory until 1990.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saipan</span> Capital city of the Northern Mariana Islands

Saipan is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. According to 2020 estimates by the United States Census Bureau, the population of Saipan was 43,385, a decline of 10% from its 2010 count of 48,220.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mariana Islands</span> Archipelago in the Pacific Ocean

The Mariana Islands, also simply the Marianas, are a crescent-shaped archipelago comprising the summits of fourteen longitudinally oriented, mostly dormant volcanic mountains in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, between the 12th and 21st parallels north and along the 145th meridian east. They lie south-southeast of Japan, west-southwest of Hawaii, north of New Guinea and east of the Philippines, demarcating the Philippine Sea's eastern limit. They are found in the northern part of the western Oceanic sub-region of Micronesia, and are politically divided into two jurisdictions of the United States: the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and, at the southern end of the chain, the territory of Guam. The islands were named after the influential Spanish queen Mariana of Austria following their colonization in the 17th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Tinian</span> 1944 World War II battle between the United States and Japan

The Battle of Tinian was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island of Tinian in the Mariana Islands from 24 July until 1 August 1944. The 8,000-man Japanese garrison was eliminated, and the island joined Saipan and Guam as a base for the Twentieth Air Force.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rota (island)</span> Political division of the Northern Mariana Islands

Rota, also known as the "Friendly Island", is the southernmost island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the third southernmost of the Marianas Archipelago. In early Spanish records it is called "Zarpana"; the name Rota may have come from the Spaniards possibly naming the island after the municipality of Rota, Spain. It lies approximately 40 nautical miles (74 km) north-northeast of the United States territory of Guam. Sinapalo village is the largest and most populated, followed by Songsong village (Songsong). Rota also functions as one of the four municipalities of the CNMI.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pagan (island)</span> Island of the Northern Mariana Islands

Pagan is a volcanic island in the Marianas archipelago in the northwest Pacific Ocean, under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It lies midway between Alamagan to the south, and Agrihan to the north. The island has been largely uninhabited ever since most of the residents were evacuated due to volcanic eruptions in 1981.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saipan International Airport</span> Airport in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

Saipan International Airport, also known as Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, is a public airport located on Saipan Island in the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The airport is owned by Commonwealth Ports Authority. Its airfield was previously known as Aslito and Isely Field.

Rota International Airport, also known as Benjamin Taisacan Manglona International Airport, is a public airport located on Rota Island in the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), near the village of Sinapalo. The airport is owned by the Commonwealth Ports Authority. During WWII the Japanese constructed a single runway which the U.S. bombed out of commission. After the Marines took control of the island 300 men from the 48th U.S.Naval Construction Battalion made the airfield operational during Sept-Oct 1945 and extended to 5,000 feet (1,500 m). The runway was then used as an emergency landing strip for Tinian and Saipan airfields.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aguiguan</span> Island in the Northern Marianas island chain

Aguiguan is a small bean-shaped coralline island in the Northern Mariana Islands chain in the Pacific Ocean. It is situated 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) south-west of Tinian, from which it is separated by the Tinian Channel. Aguiguan and neighboring Tinian Island together form Tinian Municipality, one of the four main political divisions that comprise the Northern Marianas.

Tinian Municipality is one of the four constituent municipalities of the Northern Mariana Islands. It consists of the islands of Tinian and Aguiguan and their offshore islets. The municipality is the second southernmost in the Northern Marianas and has a land area of 108.1 km2 (41.7 sq mi). The 2000 census population was 3,540 persons, all living on the island of Tinian. The municipal seat and main village of the island of Tinian is San Jose, situated on the southwest coast.

Education in the Northern Mariana Islands is linked to the United States Department of Education as the Northern Mariana Islands form part of the United States Commonwealth. This encompasses the sectors of pre-K, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and college education. The main governing body in the region is the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System whose headquarters are located on Capital Hill, Saipan. Currently, there are 20 schools operating within the CNMI PSS. There are also a number of private and home school systems operating in the region. The educational system follows a similar model to the United States educational system whereby children between the ages of 5-16 are mandated to attend formal school. All educational institutions, systems and budget are governed first by the US Board of Education, followed by the Northern Mariana Islands State Board of Education, which was established in 1988 as a requirement of the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Index of Northern Mariana Islands-related articles</span>

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">XXI Bomber Command</span> Military unit

The XXI Bomber Command was a unit of the Twentieth Air Force in the Mariana Islands for strategic bombing during World War II.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carolinian people</span> Ethnic group

The Refaluwasch people are a Micronesian ethnic group who originated in Oceania, in the Caroline Islands, with a total population of over 8,500 people in northern Mariana. They are also known as Remathau in the Yap's outer islands. The Carolinian word means "People of the Deep Sea." It is thought that their ancestors may have originally immigrated from Asia, Indonesia, Melanesia and to Micronesia around 2,000 years ago. Their primary language is Carolinian, called Refaluwasch by native speakers, which has a total of about 5,700 speakers. The Refaluwasch have a matriarchal society in which respect is a very important factor in their daily lives, especially toward the matriarchs. Most Refaluwasch are of the Roman Catholic faith.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">North Field (Tinian)</span> Former World War II airfield on Tinian in the Mariana Islands

North Field was a World War II airfield on Tinian in the Mariana Islands. Abandoned after the war, today North Field is a tourist attraction. Along with several adjacent beaches on which U.S. Marines landed during the Battle of Tinian, the airfield is the major component of the National Historic Landmark District Tinian Landing Beaches, Ushi Point Field, Tinian Island.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Typhoon Yutu</span> Pacific typhoon in 2018

Typhoon Yutu, known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Rosita, was an extremely powerful tropical cyclone that caused catastrophic destruction on the islands of Tinian and Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, and later impacted the Philippines. It is the strongest typhoon ever recorded to impact the Mariana Islands, and is tied as the second-strongest tropical cyclone to strike the United States and its unincorporated territories by both wind speed and barometric pressure. It also tied Typhoon Kong-rey as the most powerful tropical cyclone worldwide in 2018. The fortieth tropical depression, twenty-sixth named storm, twelfth typhoon, and the seventh super typhoon of the 2018 Pacific typhoon season, Yutu originated from a low-pressure area that formed in the western Pacific Ocean on October 15. The disturbance organized into a tropical depression on the same day, as ocean sea-surface heat content increased. Shortly after becoming a tropical depression, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) assigned the system the identifier 31W. The system continued to strengthen, becoming a tropical storm several hours later, with the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) naming the system Yutu. Increasingly favorable conditions allowed Yutu to explosively intensify, as the system maintained deep convection and subsequently became a severe tropical storm and then a typhoon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2018 Northern Mariana Islands general election</span>

The 2018 Northern Mariana Islands general election was held on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, corresponding with the 2018 United States midterm elections. Originally scheduled to take place on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, the elections were delayed by one week due to the impact and aftermath of Typhoon Yutu. Early voting was held from Tuesday, November 6, until Monday, November 12, 2018. An estimated 18,975 voters were eligible to vote in the 2018 election.

A small independent cinema of Northern Mariana Islands scene, producing mostly documentary films, developed in the 21st century thanks to the efforts of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and of the Northern Marianas College. Films had already been shot in the islands in the 20th century by foreign producers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tinian Naval Base</span> Major World War 2 base

Tinian Naval Base and Naval Air Facility Tinian was a major United States Navy sea and air base on Tinian Island, part of the Northern Mariana Islands on the east side of the Philippine Sea in the Pacific Ocean. The base was built during World War II to support the many bombers and aircraft fighting and patrolling in the South West Pacific theatre of the Pacific War. Numerous naval facilities were built on the entire island of 101.22 km. The main port was built at the city and port of San Jose, also called Tinian Harbor. All construction was done by the Navy's Seabees Sixth Construction Brigade with minor help from the 64th Army Engineers, including the main two airports: West Field and North Field. United States Army Air Forces operated long-range bombers out of the air base built and maintained by the Seabees. The base was decommissioned on 1 June 1947.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">US Naval Base Marianas</span> Base World War II bases in the Mariana Islands

US Naval Base Marianas was number of United States Navy bases in the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean's Micronesia. Most were built by the US Navy Seabees, Naval Construction Battalions, during World War II. Naval Base Guam was lost to the Empire of Japan during the Battle of Guam in December 1941. Gaum was retaken by United States Armed Forces on July 21, 1944, now also known as Liberation Day. Naval Station Guam was founded on August 7, 1899, after Spain lost the Spanish–American War.


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