The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Kwajalein Atoll is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), 2,100 nautical miles (3900 km) southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii, at . Kwajalein is one the world's largest coral atolls (not by land area, which is comparatively small, but by total area including the lagoon), comprising 97 islets with an aggregate land area of 6.33 kmē, and surrounds one of the largest lagoons in the world, measuring 839.30 kmē in size.

Since 1944, when the U.S. captured the atoll from the Japanese in the Battle of Kwajalein, it has been used for military purposes, while escaping the tragic fate of nearby Bikini Atoll. Eleven of the 97 islands comprising Kwajalein Atoll are now leased by the United States from the RMI government to accommodate the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, or RTS (formerly known as Kwajalein Missile Range, KMR). RTS includes radar installations, optics, telemetry, and communications equipment which are used for ballistic missile and missile interceptor testing and space operations support.

Infantry inspect a hole in the devasted Kwajalein Atoll
Infantry inspect a hole in the devasted Kwajalein Atoll

Kwajalein Island is the southernmost, and the largest, of the islands in the Kwajalein atoll. The northernmost, and second largest, island is Roi-Namur. These are the two main islands used by the U.S. U.S. staff and their families are accommodated in trailers or hard housing. The population of Kwajalein island is approximately 2,500, all of whom are U.S. staff. The neighboring island Ebeye has the largest population in the atoll, with approximately 12,000 native residents living on 80 acres (320,000 m²) of land. Ebeye is one of the most densely populated places in the world.

Roi-Namur used to be 3 separate islands: Roi, Namur and Enidrikdrik. After WWII, while the US had control of the atoll, they mostly paved over Enidrikdrik and renamed the resulting island Roi-Namur.

Since 1961 several tests of anti-ballistic missiles were performed on Kwajalein. Therefore there are launchpads on Illeginni Island ( ), Roi-Namur Island ( 9.4012° N 167.4663° E) and Kwajalein Drop Zone, Pacific Ocean ( 7.6500° N 167.7000° E).

Other islands in the Kwajalein atoll

  • Bigej (Marshllese "Pikeej") is uninhabited and has no buildings on it but many people from Kwajalein island in the south of the atoll come up to visit it. It is covered with lush tropical palm trees and jungle.
  • Legan (Marshallese "Ambo") is uninhabited but does have a few buildings on the southern part of the island. Most of the island is thick jungle like most islands in the Marshall Islands. Unlike most islands though, Legan has a very small lake in the middle.

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Last updated: 05-16-2005 06:35:43