The United States is not only a vast country but also claims several territories around the world. These territories, while not officially part of any of the 50 states or any other nation, are administered by the United States and rely on it for defense, economic, and social support. In this article, we will provide a detailed overview of the territories claimed by the United States, including their location, history, and unique characteristics.
American Samoa: A Pacific Gem
Location: American Samoa is a collection of five islands and two coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Samoan Islands chain. Total Area: 77 square miles (199 sq km) Population: 55,519 (2010 estimate)
American Samoa has a rich history, marked by battles between the French, English, Germans, and Americans to claim the islands. The U.S. officially occupied its part of Samoa in 1900, and it was later renamed American Samoa. Today, American Samoa is known for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant culture, and close-knit community.
Baker Island: A Remote Atoll
Location: Baker Island is an uninhabited atoll located in the central Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,920 miles southwest of Honolulu. Total Area: 0.63 square miles (1.64 sq km)
Baker Island became an American territory in 1857. Although attempts were made to inhabit the island in the 1930s, they were abandoned during World War II due to Japanese activity in the Pacific. Today, Baker Island is classified as part of the Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Guam: Where East Meets West
Location: Guam is situated in the western Pacific Ocean, in the Mariana Islands. Total Area: 212 square miles (549 sq km) Population: 175,877 (2008 estimate)
Guam has a fascinating history, with the indigenous Chamorro people settling on the island around 4,000 years ago. The island was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and became a U.S. possession in 1898. During World War II, Guam was occupied by the Japanese but was later liberated by American forces. Today, Guam is known for its stunning beaches, rich cultural heritage, and strategic military importance.
Howland Island: A Wildlife Haven
Location: Howland Island is located near Baker Island in the central Pacific Ocean. Total Area: 0.69 square miles (1.8 sq km)
Howland Island is part of the Howland Island National Wildlife Refuge and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The island gained prominence when aviator Amelia Earhart disappeared near its vicinity in 1937. Today, it serves as a protected habitat for various species of wildlife.
Jarvis Island: A Pristine Atoll
Location: Jarvis Island is an uninhabited atoll located in the South Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the Cook Islands. Total Area: 1.74 square miles (4.5 sq km)
Jarvis Island was annexed by the U.S. in 1858 and is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge system. This remote island is known for its untouched natural beauty and serves as an important habitat for various seabirds and marine life.
Kingman Reef: A Maritime Hazard
Location: Kingman Reef is situated in the Pacific Ocean. Total Area: 0.01 square miles (0.03 sq km)
Kingman Reef, although incapable of sustaining plant life, played a strategic role during World War II due to its location. It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
Midway Islands: A Historic Turning Point
Location: Midway Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean, nearly halfway between North America and Asia. Total Area: 2.4 square miles (6.2 sq km)
Midway Islands, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, played a pivotal role in World War II. The Battle of Midway, fought in 1942, marked a turning point in the Pacific theater. Today, Midway Islands serve as a wildlife refuge and a reminder of the historic events that took place there.
Navassa Island: A Caribbean Gem
Location: Navassa Island is located in the Caribbean, 35 miles west of Haiti. Total Area: 2 square miles (5.2 sq km)
Navassa Island, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been a subject of dispute between the United States and Haiti. Although claimed by the U.S. in 1850, the island has no fresh water sources and remains uninhabited.
Northern Mariana Islands: A Tropical Paradise
Location: The Northern Mariana Islands are situated in the Pacific Ocean, between Palau, the Philippines, and Japan. Total Area: 184 square miles (477 sq km) Population: 52,344 (2015 estimate)
The Northern Mariana Islands, officially known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, offer a tropical climate and stunning natural beauty. The largest island, Saipan, boasts a record for having the world's most equable temperature. The islands were under Japanese control until the U.S. invasion in 1944.
Palmyra Atoll: A Unique Territory
Location: Palmyra Atoll is located halfway between Guam and Hawaii. Total Area: 1.56 square miles (4 sq km)
Palmyra Atoll is an incorporated territory of the U.S. and is subject to all provisions of the Constitution. However, it remains an unorganized territory, lacking specific governance legislation. The atoll is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is known for its pristine environment and diverse marine life.
Puerto Rico: A Caribbean Commonwealth
Location: Puerto Rico is the easternmost island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. Total Area: 3,151 square miles (8,959 sq km) Population: 3,474,000 (2015 estimate)
Puerto Rico is a commonwealth and a territory of the U.S. Although Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, they do not pay federal income tax and cannot vote for the U.S. president. Puerto Rico has a rich cultural heritage, beautiful beaches, and a vibrant arts scene.
U.S. Virgin Islands: A Caribbean Paradise
Location: The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean, consisting of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and other minor islands. Total Area: 136 square miles (349 sq km) Population: 106,405 (2010 estimate)
The U.S. Virgin Islands became a U.S. territory in 1917 after a treaty with Denmark. The islands offer stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a unique blend of Caribbean and American cultures. While the U.S. Virgin Islands have their own state legislator, they elect a delegate to Congress who can vote in committees but not participate in floor votes.
Wake Island: A Remote Coral Atoll
Location: Wake Island is situated in the western Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,500 miles east of Guam and 2,300 miles west of Hawaii. Total Area: 2.51 square miles (6.5 sq km) Population: 94 (2015 estimate)
Wake Island is an unorganized, unincorporated territory claimed by both the U.S. and the Marshall Islands. It gained strategic importance during World War II and is currently administered by the U.S. Air Force.
In conclusion, the United States claims several territories around the world, each with its own unique characteristics and history. From the stunning landscapes of American Samoa and Guam to the remote atolls of Baker Island and Jarvis Island, these territories contribute to the rich tapestry of the United States. Whether it's the historical significance of Midway Islands or the tropical paradise of the Northern Mariana Islands, each territory offers its own allure. As we delve into the intricacies of these territories, we gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity and vastness of the United States.