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No Population, No Problem: Poverty in Wake Island

How does a small, remote island with no indigenous population have poverty? Well, it doesn’t. Poverty in Wake Island is nonexistent. It is a small, remote atoll that serves as a U.S. military base and scientific research center. This inaccessible island operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Air Force. Discovered by the Spanish in 1568, the island was eventually named after British Captain William Wake, who visited the island in 1796.

In 1898, the island was annexed by the U.S., who would utilize its strategic position as a commercial air station in route to Asia. Wake Island was later seized by the Japanese in 1941, leading U.S. forces to bomb the island until Japan’s surrender in 1945.

In later years, the island became a refueling site for military and commercial aircraft traveling through the Pacific. Since 1974, the island has been used by the U.S. military and serves fundamentally for emergency landings. The U.S. Air Force has fully renovated the island’s airfield and facilities, thus maintaining its strategic passageway in the Pacific region.

Approximately 150 military personnel and civilian contractors live on the island to maintain and operate the airfield and facilities, serving as the island’s only population. This tropical island extends 6.5 square kilometers, providing a strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean. As an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the U.S., all activities on the island are conducted by the U.S. Air Force.

Wake Island’s economic activity is regulated by the U.S., who provides the necessary services to military personnel and contractors living on the atoll. Importing food and manufactured goods eliminates the possibility of poverty in Wake Island.

Located about 2,000 miles west of Hawaii and 600 miles north of the Marshall Islands, Wake Island has served as an ideal location for this U.S. defensive base. With the financial and economic support from the U.S., it has guaranteed a lack of poverty in Wake Island. These attributes have demonstrated the island’s importance for the U.S. Air Force and Pacific travel for military personnel.

Brandon Johnson

Photo: Flickr