Coast Guard Air Detachment, Guam
In 1946, after World War II, all coast Guard activities in the western Pacific area were consolidated under a command called the Western Pacific Section. In 1947 a Coast Guard air detachment consisting of one PBY-6A and crew was established at the Naval Air Station, Agana, Guam to provide aerial logistics support for LORAN stations in the southern Marianas and Western Caroline Islands. In 1953 the Western Pacific Section became the Marianas Section located at Cabras Island, Guam. The LORAN stations supported by the Marianas Section were Saipan, Cocos Island, Ulithi, and Anguar in the Palauan Islands. The Moratai chain had been discontinued at the end of World War II and the Palau LORAN station was moved from Peliliu to the previous monitor station at Anguar. Anguar was then paired with Ulithi. The LORAN stations at Saipan, Ulithi and Anguar were serviced by the air detachment. Cocos Island at the southern end of Guam was serviced directly by the Marianas Section.
By the mid 50’s the PBY had been replaced by a UF (Grumman Albatross amphibian). The air detachment consisted of several Quonset huts adjacent to the runway used for administration and maintenance support. A section of a large Quonset, open at both ends, was used as a nose hangar for maintenance. It was wide enough for the wings to be under roof but the tail protruded into the open. Spare parts, if not in stock, were not readily available. It was a long way to the supply base in Elizabeth City. In some cases parts could be obtained from the Coast Guard Air Detachment at Barbers Point and some could be borrowed from naval sources at Guam, but quite often parts were rebuilt or repaired by the station’s maintenance personnel. The unit’s maintenance personnel were, or soon became, quite talented.
The primary mission of the air detachment was aerial supply of the Marianas section LORAN stations. The LORAN station at Saipan received support via facilities on the Island and the aerial supply by detachment aircraft was Coast Guard specific in nature. This was transportation of Section personnel, transfers of personnel in and out, and light maintenance equipment and operational repair parts. The sequence of flight would depend upon need. The LORAN stations at Ulithi and Anguar were scheduled weekly. These stations were located in the region known as Micronesia encompassing an area of 3,000,000 square miles of the tropical Western Pacific Ocean. Most of the islands were quite small, the total land area being only 700 square miles.
The Ulithi atoll, location of LORSTA Ulithi, between Guam in the Marianas and the Western Carolines, is 350 miles southwest of Guam with nothing but ocean in between. The atoll is composed of small islets that have a total land area of 1.75 square miles. The huge 209 square mile lagoon is the worlds fourth largest. The Island was isolated and the population was indigenous with their own culture but after World War II a Trust Territory was established providing intensive education and much of the original culture has been eroded over the years. The original LORAN station was built on Pontangeras Island. A 3300 foot paved landing strip had been built on Falalop Island during World War II. The runway extended from ocean edge to ocean edge. The aircraft would arrive from Guam and the LORAN station outboard skiff would make the 12 mile runs across the lagoon and pick up the supplies. The skiff was soon replaced by a DUCK amphibious vehicle which was in turn replaced by a LCM. The LORAN station was moved to Falalop Island in 1953 at a location easily accessible to the air strip.
The Coast Guard personnel got along very well with the Ulithians and twice a year, Christmas and the Fourth of July, people from all the inhabited islands were invited to the Loran station on Falalop to celebrate. Activities were athletic games, native dancing and a feast. Movies were always open and well attended by the people of Falalop. Inhabitants of the other islands would periodically come over for that purpose also. When the Yap LORAN C station went on the air in 1964 the Ulithi Loran A station was
Anguar is an island in the Palauan Chain (Western Carolines) with an area of three square miles and a population that varied around 200. It lies 4000 miles west/southwest of the Coast Guard District Headquarters in Hawaii, 826 miles southwest of Guam and 620 miles east of the Philippine Islands. The population of Palau, primarily Melanesian, had experienced outside influence by both Japanese and German administrations which introduced coconut planting and phosphate mining to the islands. Anguar as well as the adjacent island of Peliliu saw extensive military battles during World War II. When the islands were taken from the Japanese a 7000 foot runway was built on Anguar to accommodate B-24 bombers in the campaign against the Philippine Islands. This runway was maintained and used to supply the LORAN station located a short distance away.
The trip to Anguar usually included an over-night (RON) stay either at the station or at Koror 46 miles to the northwest. Koror was a water operation and had a seaplane ramp which was used to park the aircraft. Trust Territory and Coast Guard personnel were flown in and out as requested. The distance from Guam, size of the cargo loads, and the fact that the route of flight passed through the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone could at times make the round trip “fuel critical.” As a result aviation fuel, in 55 gallon drums, was transported to Anguar quarterly. Fuel would be put into the float tanks and transferred to the mains. Fuel in 55 gallon drums was also stored at the Ulithi station in case it was needed.
The establishment of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) in 1947 affected the Guam operation. The United States was named as the administering authority. The area stretched from the Marshall Islands in the east to the Carolines in the west and included the Marianas (excluding Guam). The headquarters of the Trust Territory was located in Saipan. In the early years transportation was limited and requests for assistance were frequently made of the Coast Guard. A number of islands within the Trust Territory had runways built during WWII but a number did not. The Coast Guard had an amphibian that could utilize the runways and was capable of water operations where runways did not exist. As a result the air detachment would make flights to Majuro, Ponape, Truck, Yap, Koror, and other destinations when requested. The Trust Territory established its own air transportation service and by 1960 had three SA-16 (UF) aircraft that were flown on contract by Pan American World Airways. The Coast Guard continued to supplement the operation but normally in emergent situations. As development continued airport facilities were constructed where needed and jet service was initiated.
The initial priority within the Trust Territory was education followed by economic development. Initial schooling was provided by missionaries and this was followed by the establishment of elementary schools. If a young person wished to go to High School or Junior College they had to go to Guam. In order to facilitate this, personnel on Guam were asked to “sponsor” these young people which meant to take them into ones home not as a servant but rather as part of the family. A number of the people attached to the air detachment sponsored these young people during this period. It is of note that Kuniwo Nakamura, sponsored by Merrill and Mona Wood, Coast Guard air detachment, 1962-1964, went on to the junior college at Guam and from there to the University of Hawaii. Kuniwo became the third President of the Republic of Palau in 1993 and served two four year terms. In 1965 the movement toward autonomy began. In 1975 the Northern Marianas voted to become a commonwealth of the United States. By 1986 all remaining island groups were either Federations or Republics and the Trust Territory agreements were no longer in effect.
SAR activities were limited. They consisted primarily of medical evacuations both Coast Guard and Trust Territory. The loss of aircraft or ships at sea was infrequent. When they did occur, the Coast Guard was called upon to assist. The on-scene search time of the UF was of definite value to the search operation.
In 1962 a Typhoon devastated the Island destroying the facilities and for a two year period operations were conducted out of temporary structures until the new hangar and Marianas Section building was completed at Agana. In 1964 a Loran C station was constructed on Yap Island which is an Island about 106 miles almost due west of Ulithi. An airport was built at the same time. A LORAN A station was co-established, replacing Ulithi, and continued to operate until the LORAN A chain was disestablished in 1978. The UF aircraft was replaced by two C-123 aircraft capable of hauling larger and more bulky loads. In 1966 one of the Guam C-123s, with crew, was deployed to assist in the construction of LORAN stations in Thailand and Vietnam. This was a Top–Secret project requested by the US Air Force. It is detailed in a narrative in the 1957-1975 section of the History Timeline.
The Coast Guard air detachment, by then called an air station, was disestablished in 1972.
Coast Guard Aviation Association Website
Air Station Files, U. S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
Arthur Pearcy. A History of U. S. Coast Guard Aviation. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989