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Dane Hodges above at anothe rSaipan beach

Dane Hodges returns home to Saipan, CNMI



Saipan, Northern Marianas Islands...and our turquoise Saipan lagoon!

Dane Hodges fishing Saipan, CNMI



Saipan is a US commonwealth island in the Northern Marianas chain 4100 km SW of Hawaii, 1300 miles south of Japan, and 1300 miles East of the Philippines. We are known for unequalled tropical weather, averaging a daily high of 81 and overnight low of 74 twelve months a year. The fabulous beaches are playground to a half million tourists yearly and NMI scuba diving must be seen to be believed.

No where has such natural beauty, Saipan

Saipan is a diverse mix of island and Asian cultures making it the true gateway to the orient. The English language is widely spoken and the US dollar is standard currency. The 15 x 4 mile island is home to about 50,000 residents mixed between Chamorro, Carolinian, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Russians, other islanders, and US mainlanders. US citizens receive a 90% refund and rebate from their federal income tax provided you are a resident here for at least half the year. With no real estate taxes and no federal income tax, this makes the CNMI the nations most favorable tax structure!


Dane Hodges set to fly out to Northern Marianas Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), is a commonwealth in political union with the United States, occupying a strategic region of the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of 15 islands about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines. The United States Census Bureau reports the total land area of all islands as 179.01 square miles.

The capital of the Northern Marianas Islands, the Island of Saipan, is an enchanting tranquil tropical paradise island of unimaginable beauty; highlighted by turquoise crystal water, fire red sunsets, panoramic views, and unparalleled weather. Saipan's 10k+ voters have hosted 3/4 million tourists in a single year, entirely from East Asian, making Saipan a playground of seaside golf, scuba diving, sport fishing, snorkeling, para sailing, wind surfing, kayaking, biking, beach volleyball, or barbecuing on the remote pristine beaches. The laid back nature of the inhabitants is as legendary as the tropical breezes.

Windsurfers play in the turquoise sea, Saipan

The Northern Mariana Islands has a population of 53,883. More than 90% of the population lives on the island of Saipan. Of the fourteen other islands, only two — Tinian and Rota — have a significant population. The islands of Agrihan and Alamagan have fewer than ten residents each, and the remaining islands are unpopulated.

Dane plays with WWII relics at the Last Command Post

Saipan, or the Island of Saipan, is the birthplace and home of Dane Hodges, the six year old American traveler and subject of this blog. Born in the Commonwealth hospital in November of 2005, he enjoys the benifits of living in tropical paradise. Welcome to the US Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, where America starts her day!

Another beach, Dane Hodges, Northern Marianas Islands

The Commonwealth's center of government is in the village of Capital Hill on Saipan. As the island is governed as a single municipality, most publications name Saipan as the Commonwealth's capital.


We are about here, Saipan, CNMI

The Northern Mariana Islands, together with Guam to the south, compose the Mariana Islands. The southern islands are limestone, with level terraces and fringing coral reefs. The northern islands are volcanic, with active volcanoes on Anatahan, Pagan and Agrihan. The volcano on Agrihan has the highest elevation at 3,166 feet (965 m). Anatahan Volcano is a small volcanic island 80 miles (130 km) north of Saipan. It is about 6 miles (10 km) long and 2 miles (3 km) wide. Anatahan began erupting suddenly from its east crater on May 10, 2003, at about 6 p.m. (0800 UTC). It has since alternated between eruptive and calm periods. On April 6, 2005, approximately 1,800,000 cubic feet (50,970 m3) of ash and rock were ejected, causing a large, black cloud to drift south over Saipan and Tinian.

Sunset on Saipan lagoon


The islands have a tropical marine climate moderated by seasonal northeast trade winds. There is little seasonal temperature variation. The dry season runs from December to June, and the rainy season from July to November and can include typhoons. The rainy season seems exagerated to residents as most of it falls as night rains between the hours of 3am and 6am, meaning it is another day in paradise after the morning sun peeks over Mt Tapachau. The Guinness Book of World Records has cited Saipan as having the most equable temperature in the world.

Spanish possession...Ferdinand Magellan’s visit

Ferdinand who...and was his boat this nice?

The first European exploration of the area was in 1521 by famed traveller Ferdinand Magellan, who is credited with landing on nearby Guam (historical trivia that Micronesian Traveller Dane Hodges doesn’t find reasonable or believable) and claimed the islands for Spain.

The Spanish ships were met offshore by the native Chamorro, who delivered refreshments and then helped themselves to a small boat belonging to Magellan's fleet. This led to a cultural clash, since in Chamorro tradition there was little private property and taking something one needed, such as a boat for fishing, was not considered stealing. The Spanish did not understand this custom. The Spanish fought against the local Chamorro until the boat was recovered. The Spanish then gave the archipelago the name Islas de los Ladrones ("Islands of the Thieves"). Right is a Saipan beach barbeque circa 1899 

Dane Hodges swims the Marianas Trench National Marine Monument

Letters by two surviving crew members of that memorable journey indicate that Magellan's fleet came through a channel ("high island to the north and low island south") circling south to the west side of the low island (which must be Tinian) and later proceeded south to what may have been Rota or Guam and encountered the inhabitants. No sailor would call the pass between Rota and Guam a channel, and even if they did, they wouldn’t have called Rota the high island to the North.

Dane and Nemo swim the Marianas

You can only see the shores of Guam from the east harbor of Sosanhaya Bay on a clear day; it is not visible from the western shores of Rota at all. There is nothing south of Guam so saying they ventured between Rota and Guam and settled on the western shore of the southern island and later sailed further south isn’t reasonable.

Dane plays in the sand on his 6th birthday, Saipan, CNMI

The logical assumption is that Magellan and his starving crew sailed through the Tinian, or Saipan Channel and turned south to the western shore of Tinian, later moving south to Rota or Guam. And Rota is more probable because a galleon could anchor outside Rota’s western reef (near where the Santa Margarita sank) and go to shore without a dingy as that lagoon is shallow and only 50 meters from the beach.

Dane walks the beach at dusk

Proceeding to Guam would have meant circling Wedding Cake Mt. and bearing south by SE upcurrent, a ridicules strategy for Magellan given the prime objective and the fact they had already taken provisions.

None of the 18 surviving members of Magellan’s crew ever returned to the Marianas to clarify this issue

Whether Guam or Rota, three days after he had been welcomed on his arrival, Magellan fled the archipelago under attack. In 1565 Miguel López de Legazpi arrived in Guam and took possession of the islands in the name of the Spanish Crown. The islands were to be ruled from the Philippines as part of the Spanish East Indies until 1898. A Royal Palace was built in Guam for the Spanish governor of the islands. Its ruins can still be seen.

Jeanne Hodges in Rota, NMI

Guam was an important stop-over for the Manila Galleons, a convoy of ships carrying passengers and cargo such as silver, plants and animals from Acapulco (Mexico) to Manila. On the return trip from the Philippines to Mexico, the galleons did not call at Guam as the eastern winds were farther north, near the coast of Japan.

In 1668 Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores renamed the islands Las Marianas after Queen Mariana of Austria, widow of Spain's Philip IV.

paddlers paradise, Saipan

Most of the islands' native population (90%-95%) died from Spanish diseases or married non-Chamorro settlers, including Mexican, under Spanish rule. New settlers, primarily from the Philippines and the Caroline Islands, were brought to repopulate the islands. The Chamorro population did gradually recover, and Chamorro, Filipino and Carolinian language and ethnic differences remain basically distinct in the Marianas.


Spanish colonists forced the Chamorros to be concentrated on Guam to encourage assimilation and conversion to Christianity. By the time Chamorros were allowed to return to the Northern Marianas, Carolinians (from present-day eastern Yap State and western Chuuk State) had settled in the Marianas. Carolinians and Chamorros now are both considered as indigenous and both languages are official in the commonwealth (though not Guam).

The color of the Marianas

German and Japanese possessionFollowing the Spanish–American War of 1898, Spain ceded Guam to the United States and sold the remainder of the Marianas (along with the Caroline and Marshall Islands) to Imperial Germany.

Early in World War I, Japan took the opportunity to declare war on Germany and invaded the Northern Marianas, hoping to annex them. In 1919, the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations, awarded the islands to Japan by a mandate. During Japan's occupation, sugar cane became the main industry of the islands, and labor was imported from Japan and associated colonies (especially Okinawa and Korea). In the census of December 1939, the total population of the South Pacific Mandate was 129,104, of which 77,257 were Japanese (including ethnic Taiwanese and Koreans).

They look close to Saipan

Hours after the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces from the Marianas launched an invasion of Guam on December 8, 1941. Chamorros from the Northern Marianas, then under Japanese rule for more than two decades, were brought to Guam to assist the Japanese administration. This, combined with the harsh treatment of Guamanian Chamorros during the 31-month occupation, created a rift that would become the main reason Guamanians rejected the reunification referendum approved by the Northern Marianas in the 1960s.

American Invasion

Dane's dad in hobbit House, Rota, NMI

Near the end of World War II, the United States military invaded the Mariana Islands on June 15, 1944, beginning with the Battle of Saipan, which ended on July 9 with the Japanese commander committing seppuku (a traditional Japanese form of ritual suicide). Of the 30,000 Japanese troops that defended Saipan, fewer than 1,000 remained alive at battle's end. U.S. forces then recaptured Guam beginning July 21 and invaded Tinian (see Battle of Tinian) on July 24, which provided the take off point for the Enola Gay, the plane dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima a year later. Rota was left untouched (and isolated) until the Japanese surrender in August 1945, due to its military insignificance.

The war did not end for everyone with the signing of the armistice. The lastgroup of Japanese soldiers surrendered on Saipan on December 1, 1945. On Guam, Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi hid out in the village of Talofofo until 1972.

Tourists play where the Marines swarmed Sugar dock,Saipan

Between the end of the invasion and the Japanese surrender, the Saipan and Tinian populations were kept in concentration camps. Japanese nationals were eventually repatriated, and the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinians returned to the land.


Dane Hodges and friends

After Japan's defeat, the islands were administered by the United States as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; thus, defense and foreign affairs are the responsibility of the United States. The people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence, but instead to forge closer links with the United States

Dane Hodges pulls kayak, Saipan, CNMI

Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972. A covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the U.S. was approved in 1975. A new government and constitution went into effect in 1978. Similar to other U.S. territories, the islands do not have representation in the U.S. Senate, but are represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by a delegate (beginning January 2009 for the CNMI) who may vote in committee but not on the House floor.


Historical populations

Census Pop. %±

1960 6,000 —

1970 9,436 57.3%

Such color, Saipan

1980 16,780 77.8%

Dane Hodges at AMP, Saipan

1990 43,345 158.3%

2000 69,221 59.7%

2010 53,883 −22.2%

Dane Hodges B-day Saipan

The official 2000 census count was 69,221. Asian 56.3%, Pacific Islander 36.3%, Caucasian 1.8%, other 0.8%, mixed 4.8%. The Northern Mariana Islands have the highest female to male ratio in the world with 0.77 males/female (1.30 females/male). The 2010 census was 53,883 and expected to drop with implementation of the federalization law.

Oh, Saipan sunset

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands benefits from substantial subsidies and development assistance from the federal government of the United States. The economy also relies heavily on tourism, especially from Japan, and the rapidly dwindling garment manufacturing sector. The tourism industry has also been dwindling since late 2005. Since late 2006, tourist arrivals fell 15.23% (73,000 potential visitors) from the eleven months prior.

Dane Hodges plays in the surf on Island of Saipan, CNMI

The Northern Mariana Islands had successfully used its position as a free trade area with the U.S., while at the same time not being subject to the same labor laws. For example, the $3.05 per hour minimum wage in the Commonwealth, which lasted from 1997 to 2007, was lower than in the U.S. and some other worker protections are weaker, leading to lower production costs. That allowed garments to be labeled "Made in USA" without having to comply with all U.S. labor laws.

Enter the Grotto, Saipan

However, the U.S. minimum wage law signed by President Bush on May 25, 2007, would result in stepped increases in the Northern Marianas' minimum wage to reach U.S. level by 2015. The first step (to $3.55) became effective July 25, 2007, and a yearly increase of $0.50 will take effect every May thereafter until the CNMI minimum wage equals the nationwide minimum wage. However, a law signed in December 2009 delayed the yearly increase from May to September. As of September 30, 2010, the minimum wage is $5.05 per hour. In the extreme, the island's exemption from U.S. labor laws had led to many alleged exploitations including recent claims of sweatshops, child labor, child prostitution, and even forced abortions.

Tourists, including Slone Hodges, play in Saipan

An immigration system mostly outside of federal U.S. control (which ended on November 28, 2009) resulted in a large number of Chinese migrant workers (about 15,000 during the peak years) employed in the islands' garment trade. However, the lifting of World Trade Organization restrictions on Chinese imports to the U.S. in 2005 had put the Commonwealth-based trade under severe pressure, leading to a number of recent factory closures. Adding to the U.S.-imposed scheduled wage increases, the garment industry became extinct by 2009.

Political status

Saipan's Grotto by Ron Hodges

In 1947, the Northern Mariana Islands became part of the post–World War II United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI). The United States became the TTPI's administering authority under the terms of a trusteeship agreement. In 1976, Congress approved the mutually negotiated Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in Political Union with the United States. The CNMI Government adopted its own constitution in 1977, and the constitutional government took office in January 1978. The Covenant was fully implemented November 3, 1986, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation no. 5564, which conferred United States citizenship on legally qualified CNMI residents.

Swimming Hole, Rota

On December 22, 1990, the United Nations Trusteeship Council terminated the TTPI as it applied to the CNMI and five other of the TTPI's original seven districts (the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap)), this was acknowledged in under United Nations Security Council Resolution 683 passed on the same day.

You must see a Saipan sunset to believe it

Under the Covenant, in general, United States federal law applies to CNMI. However, the CNMI is outside the customs territory of the United States and, although the internal revenue code does apply in the form of a local income tax, the income tax system is largely locally determined. According to the Covenant, the federal minimum wage and federal immigration laws "will not apply to the Northern Mariana Islands except in the manner and to the extent made applicable to them by the Congress by law after termination of the Trusteeship Agreement." The local control of minimum wage was superseded by the United States Congress in 2007.

Sunset from Micro Beach, Saipan

Prior to November 28, 2009, the INA did not apply in the CNMI. Rather, a separate immigration system existed in the CNMI. This system was established under the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America (“Covenant”), which was signed in 1975 and codified as 48 U.S.C. § 1801. The Covenant was unilaterally amended by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (“CNRA”) approved by the U.S. Congress on May 8, 2008, thus altering the CNMI’s immigration system.

Dane Hodges with WWII Japanese canon

Specifically, CNRA § 702(a) amended the Covenant to state that “the provisions of the ‘immigration laws’ (as defined in section 101(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)) shall apply to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”2 Further, under CNRA § 702(a), the “immigration laws,” as well as the amendments to the Covenant, “shall . . . supersede and replace all laws, provisions, or programs of the Commonwealth relating to the admission of aliens and the removal of aliens from the Commonwealth.”

Forbidden Island off Saipan

Transition to U.S. Immigration Law began November 28, 2009 in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). CNMI's immigration laws have been replaced by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and other U.S. immigration laws.

Inside Saipan's Grotto by Ron Hodges

The CNMI has a United States district court which exercises jurisdiction over the District of the Northern Mariana Islands (DNMI), which is coterminous with the CNMI. The United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands was established by act of Congress in 1977 and began operations in January 1978. The court sits on the island of Saipan, but may sit other places within the Commonwealth. The district court has the same jurisdiction as all other United States district courts, including diversity jurisdiction and bankruptcy jurisdiction. Appeals are taken to the Ninth Circuit. The district court's local rules specifically require lawyers to wear shoes to court.

Dane Hodges plays at the St Giles Hotel, Philippines on the way home

The CNMI was founded in January 1978. Following the foundation of the Commonwealth its qualified residents were granted U.S. citizenship in November 1986, after which it was represented in the United States (and especially Washington, D.C.) by a Resident Representative who was elected at-large by CNMI voters and whose office was paid for by the CNMI government. In 2008, Congress enacted Pub. L. No. 110-229, title VII of which established a CNMI delegate's seat. Democrat Gregorio Sablan was elected in November 2008 as the first CNMI delegate and took office in the 111th Congress.(L Jeanne Hodges at Forbidden Island off Saipan)

Battle of Saipan Summary

Navajo Code Talkers, Saipan, June 1944Saipan is an island about 1300 miles (2092 km) on the south side of Japan. It is a small island 5 miles (8 km) wide and 18 miles (29 km) long but it had huge strategic importance and that was in it’s location, it lies between Japan and it’s Central Pacific garrisons but it was also important for Japan because it was a good location for staging their air attacks. Another advantage it would provide to the Americans is that they could launch an attack on Tokyo and the Japanese home islands from there.

The attack on Saipan surprised the Japanese because they expected an attack further south. The Japanese seeing an easy opportunity (R Navajo codetalkers)

to attack the U.S. forces organized a quick attack but the resulting battle was devastating for the Japanese Navy which suffered loses of 3 aircraft carriers and hundreds of planes.

Without getting supplies the battle of Saipan would be a hopeless effort for the Japanese, nonetheless the Japanese were determined to fight to the last man. The Japanese used many of the caves and the mountainous terrain to their advantage but it wasn’t long before the Americans developed an effective counter attack, they used flamethrowers, artillery and machine guns to clear out the caves.

Eventually the Japanese simply didn’t have anywhere to go so orders were given to perform a banzai charge. The Japanese army even convinced the civilian population that it’s better to die than to be captured. At dawn of the 7th of July about 3000 men charged on the American forces, from that attack 650 American soldiers were either killed or wounded.


Battle of Saipan Conclusions

After the banzai charge the American forces finally secured Saipan and the battle of Saipan was officially over on the 9th of July. The battle of Saipan came at a high price, over 30,000 Japanese died in the battle, for the Americans it was the most costly battle in the Pacific war to that date. Just under 3, 000 Americans were killed and more than 10, 000 were wounded.

The battle of Saipan is also tragic for it’s huge civilian losses. Saipan was captured by Japan after the first world war and because of that a large number of Japanese lived on the island, more than 25, 000. The Japanese emperor was worried about a possible defection to the U.S. by the civilians on Saipan so he encouraged the population to rather commit suicide than to allow being captured. In the last days of the battle over 1, 000 civilians committed suicide and over 22, 000 Japanese civilians died in total during the battle of Saipan.

The loss of Saipan was not only a strategic loss for Japan but it also dealt a huge blow to the morale of the Japanese. The loss effectively prompted the Emperor of Japan to distance himself from the day to day operations surrounding the war, so that in case the war was lost he could distance himself from the blame.

After the battle of Saipan ended the island itself would play another pivotal role in ending WWII. Saipan had a strategic importance because it was relatively close to the home islands of Japan. The next year it would be the place of operations for the planes that would eventually carry and drop the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forcing Japan to an unconditional surrender ending the Second World War.

Dane Hodges climbs in Saipan caves

Dane Hodges at home

Agricultural production, primarily of tapioca, cattle, coconuts, breadfruit, tomatoes, and melons, exists, but is relatively unimportant in the economy

Dane Hodges fishing the Northern Marianas Islands

OFFICIAL NAME: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Commonwealth is a 14 island chain. Three islands are inhabited, Saipan, Rota and Tinian.
POPULATION: Approximately 53,000 total as of 2010 census.
CITIZENSHIP: United States
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: English, Chamorro, and Carolinian
RELIGION: No official religion, although the population is predominantly Catholic. Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Ba'hai and non-denominational services can be found throughout the island of Saipan.

Dane Hodges at Last Command Post, Saipan

ELECTRICITY: Single Phase 60 Cycles 115/230 Volts AC
HEALTH SERVICES: Provided by the Commonwealth Health Center. Full service medical care. Private health clinics are availble on Saipan
ZIP CODE: 96950
TELEPHONES: (Area Code:670) The Commonwealth is part of the North American Numbering Plan. Dial -1- followed by the area code and the number from anywhere in the United States.
POSTAL SERVICE: The United States Postal Service provides daily mail service at regular postal rates.
WEATHER: The Marianas enjoys the most consistent climate in the world, averaging 82 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Weather information may be obtained at the National Weather Service.


Saipan is a land of seaside golf courses with five windswept 18 hole tracts that residents can play for 25. to 35. which includes a cart. We have the 36 hole Lau Lau Bay featuring the seaside East (35.) and the long and difficult West course (30.) We have the seaside links Coral Ocean Point on the south end of Saipan (30.) which has hosted Asian Tour (Larry Nelson is a former champion) events and 20-30 MPH winds are common on this brutally long course. Kingfisher is another gorgeous Saipan course that is demanding and breathtaking. Marianas Golf Course is on the North side of Saipan (25.) on the hill looking west with afternoon wind that makes any hole a challenge. Rota Island also has a spectacular course at the Rota Resort (30.).


Dive Rota, CNMI

The NMI has legendary Micronesian diving, which is quite possibly only behind Palau and Yap for visibility, quality, color, marine variety, caves, wrecks (behind Chuuk in wreck diving), tunnels, coral, grottos, and general adventure diving worldwide. Saipan can boast the Blue Grotto, Bonzaii cliff, Forbidden Island, Bird Island, Naftan Point, Lau Lau Bay, Obyan, Icecream, and other exceptional dive sites. Tinian has a Grotto as well and the western walls are superb to drift. Rota has famous 300 ft visibility and a week spent Diving Rota is a photographers dream come true. Rota has too many dive site to mention, but you would certainly not want to miss the Senharnom Cave, Harnom point drift, Pearlman Tunnel, Pona Point (the rollercoaster), Shoun Maru, Coral Gardens, Joannes Reef, and the seldom seen Hobbit House.

Night Life

Saipan's evening scene includes fine dining at AJ's and Aqua Resort to numerous pubs such as Godfathers, Wild Bill's, and Gig for drinking, music, and dance.


Dane Hodges builds in the sand on a Saipan beach, CNMI

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