Ebeye Island

Coordinates: 8°46′49″N 167°44′14″E / 8.78028°N 167.73722°E / 8.78028; 167.73722
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Native name:
Ebeye is located in Marshall Islands
LocationKwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands
Coordinates8°46′49″N 167°44′14″E / 8.78028°N 167.73722°E / 8.78028; 167.73722
Adjacent toNorthern Pacific Ocean
Area0.36 km2 (0.14 sq mi)

Ebeye (/ˈb/ EE-by; Marshallese: Epjā, or Ebeje in older orthography, [ɛbʲ(ɛ)zʲæ];[1] locally, Ibae, [ibˠɑːɛ], after the English pronunciation[2])[3][4][5][6] is the most populous island of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as well as the center for Marshallese culture in the Ralik Chain of the archipelago. Settled on 80 acres (32 hectares) of land, it has a population of more than 15,000.[7] Over 50% of the population is estimated to be under the age of 18.



When Christian missionaries first arrived in the Marshall Islands, they introduced Latin script writing and orthographized the Marshallese language. Originally, Ebeye was written Ebeje by Europeans (Epjā in modern orthography, pronounced [ɛbʲ(ɛ)zʲæ]), which (according to elders of the atoll) means "making something out of nothing." However, the colonial German administration mispronounced the J as if it were German language [j], and foreign observers recorded the resulting pronunciation as Ebeye. During the Japanese period, though, the island's pronunciation in katakana, Ebize (エビゼ) [ebʲize], re-approximated Marshallese. After World War II, the Americans took possession of the regional mandate from Japan and mispronounced the island's name as /ˈb/ EE-by from its spelling. Because most of the modern Marshallese residents of Ebeye don't have family roots on the island, the American pronunciation has stuck, and is the usual name for Ebeye among the island's current population. This pronunciation has even been adapted to Marshallese orthography, so that there are now two synonymous Marshallese names for the island – officially and historically Epjā, and locally Ibae.

World War II[edit]

Ebeye island being shelled on 30 January 1944
Ebeye Island seaplane base in 1945

The Imperial Japanese Navy constructed a seaplane base on Ebeye in the early 1940s. Following the Battle of Kwajalein from 31 January to 3 February 1944, Ebeye was occupied by US forces. On 7 March the 107th Naval Construction Battalion was sent to Ebeye to redevelop the seaplane base. The Seabees repaired the existing 1,600-by-30-foot (487.7 by 9.1 m) pier, adding a 50-by-240-foot (15 by 73 m) ell extension, and also repaired a 250-foot (76 m) Japanese H-shaped pier. The Seabees assembled a pontoon wharf and pontoon barges for transporting damaged carrier aircraft to repair units ashore. Further installations on Ebeye consisted of housing in floored tents and Quonset huts, a 150-bed dispensary, four magazines, 24,000 square feet (2,200 m2) of covered storage, and a 4,000-US-barrel (480,000 L; 130,000 US gal; 100,000 imp gal) aviation-gasoline tank farm.[8]

Emigration from the Mid-Atoll Corridor[edit]

Before the early 1950s, a large number of present-day residents of Ebeye lived on small islands throughout Kwajalein Atoll. When Kwajalein island started to be used as a support base for the nuclear tests conducted at Bikini Atoll and Enewetak Atoll, Marshallese residents of Kwajalein were relocated by U.S. authorities to a small, planned community constructed on Ebeye, which was largely unpopulated and had served as a Japanese seaplane base before the Pacific War.[citation needed]

In 1950, the US Navy constructed a LORAN station on Ebeye. It was disestablished in 1977.[9]

With the advent of the Nike-Zeus anti-ballistic missile testing program of the 1960s, the U.S. military decided for safety and security reasons to evacuate slightly more than 100 residents of the central part of the atoll to create a zone where unarmed guided missiles could be targeted from the continental United States.

Subsequent population growth by migration from outlying rural atolls and islands throughout the Marshalls created a housing shortage and problems with resources throughout the following decades. Some of the original Ebeye inhabitants with land rights did not feel adequately compensated[clarification needed] for the tenants who came to live on their land even though their paramount chief had worked with the Trust Territory to move them there.


Ebeye is the most populous island of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as well as the center for Marshallese culture in the Ralik Chain of the archipelago. It comprises 80 acres (32 ha).

It is the sixth most densely populated island in the world.[10]



Ebeye has a population of more than 15,000.[10] In 2008, the population was 12,000.[11] In 1968, the population was 3,000.[12]

Refuge from nuclear fallout[edit]

Some of the residents of Ebeye are refugees or descendants of refugees from the effects of the 15-megaton Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini Atoll on 1 March 1954. The detonation unexpectedly rained nuclear fallout and two inches (50 mm) of radioactive snow on nearby Rongelap Atoll, which had not been evacuated as had Bikini. The 1954 American authorities then evacuated Rongelap and were returned in 1957 with extensive medical surveillance. In 1985, Greenpeace evacuated the inhabitants of Rongelap to Mejato (island in Kwajalein atoll). Ebeye was the final destination for many of them.[13]


Infant mortality on Ebeye is 3.0% as of 2006.[11] There have been recurrent outbreaks of cholera, dengue fever, and tuberculosis. In 1963 there was a polio outbreak, and in 1978 a measles outbreak. In 2009, the Ebeye Community Health Center was awarded a grant as part of the United States Stimulus for monitoring influenza (e.g. H1N1).[14]


The Marshall Islands subsists primarily upon foreign aid and lease payments from the United States for the military use of Kwajalein Atoll. The United States provides $1.5 billion in aid under the Compact of Free Association, spread out over the 20 years of the agreement, which expires in 2023. Apart from this, handicrafts are produced and there is a small fishery.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Marshallese-English Dictionary - Place Name Index". trussel2.com. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Marshallese-English Dictionary". trussel2.com. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-08. Retrieved 2012-12-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Page Not Found" (PDF). cuny.edu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2016. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  5. ^ Empire's Footprint: Expulsion and the United States Military Base on Diego ... - Google Books. ISBN 9780542851001. Retrieved 26 April 2016. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  6. ^ Vine, David (3 January 2011). Island of Shame. ISBN 978-1400838509. Retrieved 26 April 2016. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  7. ^ Olson, Wyatt. "Under the radar: Life is low-tech at Army missile defense base in the Pacific". Stripes.com. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  8. ^ Building the Navy's Bases in World War II History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946. US Government Printing Office. 1947. p. 324.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ "Loran Station Kwajalein". www.loran-history.info. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Top ten most crowded islands in the world - Gadling". Gadling. 7 July 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Marshall Islands". Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  12. ^ "Where is Kwajalein". Global Associates Welcomes YOU to Kwajalein Marshall Islands. Kwajalein, Marshall Islands. 1968. p. 11.
  13. ^ Woodward, Colin (7 December 1999). "Generations of Fallout From Nuclear Tests". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  14. ^ H8BCS11973, DHHS. "Grants - AWARD SUMMARY". Recovery.gov. Archived from the original on 2012-08-05.

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