The Pacific Islands: U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Programs Reduce Threats from World War II-Era Munitions

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 17, 2014

For more than 70 years, communities across the islands of the South Pacific have faced hidden hazards from buried and abandoned bombs, mortars, artillery shells, and unexploded ordnance dating back to World War II. Since 2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has invested more than $5.6 million in support of conventional weapons destruction programs in the Pacific Islands. Old and degrading munitions pose a safety hazard as well as an environmental challenge. U.S. efforts reduce the humanitarian impact of abandoned World War II-era munitions caches across the region by funding survey and clearance operations as well as training missions.

FY 2009 – FY 2014 Accomplishments

Since 2009, PM/WRA-funded conventional weapons destruction programs in the Pacific have:

  • Supported survey and clearance operations on the historic battlefield of Peleliu Island in the Republic of Palau. Removal of UXO makes the island safe for tourism and supports socio-economic development.
  • Funded clearance operations and national capacity building through an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training program at Hell’s Point, Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. This program has safely disposed of hundreds of items of UXO and trained Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF) personnel to respond to EOD call-outs in the island’s highly populated areas.
  • Funded clearance efforts on Mili and Maloelap Atolls in the Marshall Islands, which received heavy aerial assault during World War II. Safe removal of UXO on these islands, where land is at a premium, has allowed for population expansion into formerly inaccessible areas.

U.S.-funded partner initiatives include:

  • Cleared Ground Demining (CGD): CGD has operated on Peleliu Island, Palau since 2009. U.S. funding has supported extensive surface clearance operations across the island in historically significant areas, allowing for increased tourism. PM/WRA has also funded clearance around the island’s critical infrastructure, including a power plant and water pipeline, which has supported socio-economic growth and increased quality of life for the island’s inhabitants.
  • Golden West Humanitarian Foundation: PM/WRA has supported Golden West programs in the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands. In the Solomon Islands, Golden West is increasing the capacity of the RSIPF to conduct UXO clearance operations that promote public safety. The U.S. and Australian Departments of Defense also support this program and allow for regional cooperation through the deployment of Golden West-trained RSIPF members to other island nations to conduct clearance operations. In FY2012 RSIPF members deployed to the Marshall Islands to assist with UXO removal in support of the Australian-funded UXO clearance program Render Safe.
  • Information Management and Mine Action Programs (iMMAP): iMMAP has promoted regional cooperation by conducting an extensive research project that illustrates a comprehensive picture of the extent of Pacific region World War II-era UXO contamination. iMMAP-produced databases support cooperation between donors and Pacific Island nations affected by UXO.

The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance. Since 1993, the United States has contributed more than $2.3 billion to more than 90 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war. For more information on U.S. humanitarian demining and Conventional Weapons Destruction programs, check out the latest online edition of our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety.