ULITHI ATOLL, Federated States of Micronesia -- At the invitation of the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia, USCGC Kiska (WPB 1336) attended a remembrance ceremony Sept. 23, for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Ulithi from Japanese Forces during WWII.
Along with the USNS Vadm K. R. Wheeler (T-AG 5001), Kiska’s crew anchored in Ulithi Atoll, part of Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia and conducted community outreach, transported supplies from the Ayudah foundation out of Guam, and participated in the remembrance.
The U.S. group comprised of U.S. Ambassador Robert Riley, his team, Kiska and U.S. Vadm K. R. Wheeler crews toured Ulithi high school, re-constructed with funding from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency after Typhoon Maysak ravaged the island in 2015, and ceremonies proceeded at the USAID-constructed outdoor pavilion, with speeches and local dances, songs, and chants performed by residents.
“The ceremony highlighted the importance of Ulithi Atoll during WWII, which at one point served as a major ship refitting station during the island hopping operations of WWII. The locals have a strong appreciation for their history, as well as a great sense of humor,” said Lt. Brenden Kelley, commanding officer, of Kiska. “They say jokes, being able to laugh at a witty turn of phrase is their poetry, and they live it! What an amazing island to visit.”
Ambassador Riley addressed the historical importance of the Ulithi effort in WWII, and reminded everyone the liberation was the beginning of “our unique and special relationship, forged decades ago.”
Yap Governor Henry Falan lauded the occasion, noting the positive benefits of the U.S. presence in the region resonated then and remain relevant now. Chief Ramon Payel, chairman of the Council of Tamol, spoke movingly of residents’ reminiscences of the kindness of U.S. Navy personnel, and further personalized his connection to the event by pointing out his father in one of the historic photos bequeathed to the island by the U.S. Embassy for the occasion.
U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy personnel joined the festivities and hosted U.S. and Yap officials for lunch on the U.S. Vadm K. R. Wheeler, contributing to the intercultural exchanges throughout the day.
Part of the crew went ashore via small boat to the main island in the atoll, Faralop Island, the day before the ceremony to play basketball with the Ulithi High School team and see the island.
“The kids came running to the small boat when they saw it near the beach,” Petty Officer 3rd Class Ivan Dorsey, a boatswain’s mate on Kiska. “We brought some candy to share, and they [the children] started bringing us shells they found and asking questions about the boat. They stayed over an hour!”
The crew also played basketball with the local team. It began with Lee, an island local retired from the U.S. Navy, who rang their “basketball bell” an empty high-pressure gas canister, letting everyone know of the upcoming basketball game. The Ulithi team beat the Kiska team in overtime.
“They all play very well together,” said Seaman Jacob Forgette. “And barefoot as well.”
The Kiska is a 110-foot Island-class patrol boat homeported out of Apra Harbor, Guam. The Coast Guard conducts regular operations to strengthen relations with allies and partner nations throughout the Blue Pacific. Kiska was in Yap July 3 alongside the U.S. Navy Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 2 for a port call and to deliver supplies.