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From Tiny Pacific Island Began the End of World War II With PM-Saipan-The Other D-Day

June 14, 1994

TINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands (AP) _ Kevin McQuiston looks away from the cockpit of his Piper Cherokee and draws his finger along a map of the tiny island of Tinian.

″See how everything is named like Manhattan? Here’s Central Park, and Broadway.″ His finger keeps moving north until it stops just behind a long pair of runways.

″And here’s where you want to go,″ he says with a touch of the native’s pride. ″The A-bomb pits.″

After listening to McQuiston’s tales of jungles filled with booby-traps and caves still giving up the dead, it is an eerie drive through the jungles of Tinian to North Field, two long strips of sun-bleached concrete crisscrossed with foliage.

But then again, Tinian is an island of ghosts, an isolated speck on the other side of the world that became the launching point for the final product of the ″Manhattan Project.″

The bumpy, narrow road to the pits passes by dilapidated Japanese shrines and the concrete skeleton that once served as a military headquarters.

Then, after turning to dirt, the road opens up onto a broad runway and a small wooden sign that points the way to Pit No. 1. That’s where, on the afternoon of Aug. 5, 1945, the 4-ton ″Little Boy″ bomb was loaded into the belly of a B-29 named Enola Gay.

Three days later, ″Fat Man″ was loaded onto another B-29, Bock’s Car, from Pit No. 2.

Together, the two bombs flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese, hastened the end of World War II and changed the world forever.

But today, the pits give none of that away.

From each grows a single plumeria tree festooned with fragrant white blossoms that take some of the edge off of the tropical heat. Birds chirp from their branches, lizards rest on the white pebbles in their shade.

″Welcome to Tinian,″ say faded, 3-foot-tall letters painted across the concrete lot surrounding it all. ″Home of the A-Bomb Pits.″

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