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Camp Chulu

From Tragedy to Triumph

By Don Farrell, Historian

Abstract

Tinian was captured from Japan by US forces in July 1944. Of the 17,000 Japanese and Koreans who had been living in Tinian in 1943, 11,500 were put in “protective custody.” A Civil Patrol established by the 18th Naval Construction Battalion was responsible for their immediate care during the invasion. The refugees were in shock, half-naked, thirsty, starving and infected with a variety of diseases after surviving six weeks of air and naval bombardment. Camp Chulu was officially established on July 30, 1944, in the prewar farming village of Chulu. The Seabees continued to improve the camp with many of the refugees helping, while Military Government Civil Affairs personnel oversaw all phases of camp development and operations. The civilians were repatriatriated by July 1946 in healthy condition, including the many infants born in the camp. Supported by original documents from Seabee, US Marine Corps, and US Military Government Civil Affairs files, this essay tells the story of the Camp’s evolution from a barbed-wire stockade with Marine Corps guards to a self-sustaining civilian community with an internal economy and an elected government. It is a story of a tragedy of war transformed into a triumph of human resilience, through good will and common sense.