RAPA NUI TOP SECRET
The older Rapanui can still remember the sign with the solemn name that was given to the American base that was installed in the mid-1960s in the area of Mataveri: Center for Ionospheric Research. Even though the name led one to believe that the presence of the US Air Force on the most isolated island on the plant was purely scientific, on the same sign it said: “Welcome. Military Zone. Controlled Entry”.
Romantic encounters were inevitable. Several airmen became absent fathers of at least 10 Rapanui children, to which another 3 were added on the part of other Americans. Today those children are all around 50 years old and still live on the Island, many of them lamenting that they never knew their father and never received recognition nor protection from the United States government.
Most members of the USAF were unaware of the true objective of the base, as has been confirmed in interviews with some of the non-commissioned officers of the time. Each one did his job and asked no further. The members of the Chilean Air Force were also left in the dark. They handled local control and recorded radiation from the French nuclear tests on Mururoa, always keeping in mind the possibility of an evacuation. The secret of espionage from space was reserved to a limited circle of high ranking military officers, diplomats and intelligence services.
They needed an airport in the Pacific Ocean from where their Hercules planes and their helicopters could rescue the capsule and its crew from the sea if the mission should fail for whatever reason. They had to be sure. The pilot who was captured by the Soviets in 1960 didn’t follow procedures in destroying his plane if caught nor in using the suicide shot inside a silver dollar that was given to all high-risk missions.
In between all the discussions on the convenience of manned missions or unmanned missions, and with the heavy competition between the US Air Force and NASA over command in space, the United States managed to spend some 2.2 billion dollars on the project. There was design and construction, training of astronauts and even an experimental launch. Easter Island was ready with an airstrip which could take landings and take-offs of the Hercules planes needed for rescue. The Island and the country of Chile had become part of the larger scenario of the Cold War.
The Rapanui once were warriors, but from other battles, and they had no idea of the objective of the base. They were content with the American presence: a lot of clothing arrived with many products unknown or unobtainable up to then; there was paid work and there was fun; it was a window into a different world. Except that President Nixon closed the first window in June of 1969 when he canceled the MOL project, ending the last opportunity for the US Air Force to develop its own project for space travel. Vietnam had dragged on much longer than expected and the cost was enormous. NASA advanced with unmanned satellite technology and there was no longer any justification for the planned 7 launches with astronauts nor the deployment of 5 HC-130H planes to Easter Island for each launch. The election of Allende (as President of Chile) sealed the withdrawal of the Americans in 1970. It was easy, because a letter of agreement signed only on July 26, 1968 by the representatives of the US Air Force and their Chilean counterparts was the only support for a unique foreign presence in the history of the country.
Rapa Nui, the land of mystery and living history, where you can experience the natural and cultural wealth in one of the most beautiful and intriguing places on our planet.
The Day of the Language or Mahana or te Re’o was created in 1995 by two teachers of the Rapanui language, Hilaria Tuki and Virginia Haoa, to raise awareness.
HonuiThe Rapanui Families Organize2016 was the 50th anniversary of the government of Chile establishing civil administration on Rapa Nui, after leasing it for 47 years to a British multi-national livestock firm, followed by 13 years under the administration and...