Return to EnviroWatch


Since October, 1971, the Island of Farallon de Medinilla, home to frigate birds, boobies, terns, and other species, as well as a remnant population of humpback whales, has been used as a bombardment range by the U.S. Navy and Air Force.


Farallon de Medinilla is located within the Marianas District at 16o 01' north latitude, 146o 04' east longitude, approximately 45 miles north-northeast of Saipan and 154 miles north-northeast of the U.S. Territory of Guam. The island is approximately 1.6 miles long and 0.25 miles wide. The total land mass is .035 square miles, or 224 acres.


During the peak of the Vietnam War bombing operations, the quantity of ordnance delivered on the island was estimated at 22 tons per month. This consisted primarily of air-dropped, 500 and 750-pound bombs. Also included in the total monthly figure were approximately 60 rounds of three-inch ammunition from ship guns.

In its February, 1975, Environmental Impact Study, the Navy stated that "current and future use of the Island calls for a reduced amount of ordnance delivery. It is estimated that some 40 tons of aerial bombs per year will be dropped, consisting of 500-pound and 750-pound bombs. It is further expected that some 60 rounds per month of three-inch ammunition will be fired at the island. The use of the missiles is not expected to exceed four or five firings a year." Keep these figures in mind as you read below about the amount of ordnance used in 1997.


The May 16, 1997, Biological Opinion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Gunnery and Aerial Bombardment Practice at Farallon de Medinilla, Commonwealth of the Northern Marian Islands states:

"The Navy proposes to engage in gunnery practice during May, 1997, and aerial bombardment from July 21 to August 1, 1997, on FDM, CNMI. The purpose of the project is to allow Navy carrier aircraft and ships to participate in aircraft carrier support training including surface gunnery and bombing practice. Ships assigned to the Seventh Fleet will conduct gunnery practice by firing an estimated 200 5/54 live rounds. The most likely ammunition type for the 5/54 will be high explosive with controlled variable time fused rounds that produce fragmentation air burst as well as high explosive point detonations. Navy fighter /attack aircraft assigned to the Carrier Air Group will practice delivery of live ordnance, consisting primarily of MK-80 series iron bombs which are designed to explode on impact. A variety of other ordnance may also be used. An estimated total of 135 MK-82 live 500 pound (#) bombs, 50 MK-83 live 1000# bombs, 36 MK-84 live 2000# bombs, 180 BDU-4S inert bombs, and 984 MK-76 inert bombs will be delivered by aircraft. It is possible that naval gunfire or bombing will occur at night. The Navy will conduct both pre- and post-exercise helicopter overflights to monitor training impacts and assess take of threatened and endangered species for both the May and July/August exercises."


As recently as 1975, the Navy’s Environmental Impact Study stated "The boobies nest as a colony which is fairly evenly distributed over the vegetated top of the island at a rate of about 100 nests to the acre. This would indicate a population of 50,000 + ."

But, in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, dated April, 1996, in which the Navy requested a permit to take birds during their live fire training exercises, they stated that, for all three species of booby, they had counted a total of 1400 birds.

In 1997 a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found 4 Micronesian Megapodes, an endangered species, yet the Navy was given a permit to take a total of 10 megapodes!

Additional bombing operations are planned for the future. Please check with us again for further details. You can also write to President Clinton asking him to stop the destruction of Farallon de Medinilla.

Thank you.


Return to EnviroWatch