Our Tax Dollars Ended Up Where?

At the end of World War II, American troops stationed on the island of Espiritu Santo didn’t know what to do with millions of tons of leftover food, clothing, housing, vehicles, heavy equipment and weaponry. So, they shoved all of it into the ocean.

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Spring-fed “blue pool” near Million Dollar Point

The Pentagon is the only government agency not required to submit an annual budget to Congress. There is no way to track waste or figure out how many private contractors are on the Pentagon payroll, although estimates put the number at higher than 600,000

Occasionally we get a peek into how money is spent, like the extra $479 million appropriated for F-35 jets, even though the Pentagon didn’t ask for it. The F-35, manufactured in Bernie Sander’s Vermont, has already cost $400 billion and still can’t turn, climb or run. 

Funding for the Air Force’s new B-21 nuclear bomber is completed shrouded, allegedly for security reasons, but probably to avoid sticker shock for a machine that will cost over $100 billion.

More new bombers, missile submarines, nuclear missiles are on the way, which will cost  $1 trillion over the next thirty years.  One submarine program, estimated to cost $139 billion for twelve subs, is not even part of the Navy’s budget, but paid for with a special slush fund. 

Military spending is purposefully hidden behind an exhausting labyrinth of rules, secrecy and bureaucracy, papered over with calls for homeland security and the need to maintain our status as the world’s only superpower.

It’s jaw dropping to stumble on this, the end of the line for mindless spending:

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Low tide at Million Dollar Point

Espiritu Santo is part of an 80 island archipelago in the South Pacific, which in the 1940’s was called New Hebrides and ruled by the British and French. The country has since declared its independence and is now the Republic of Vanuatu.

The Americans intended to use it as a base to attack the Japanese. We landed 100,000 troops (the local population at the time was about 60,000). The Americans were accompanied by a mind-boggling cache of supplies, much of which was stacked up in newly razed jungle. 

At the end of the war, the U.S. forces faced piles of mislabeled and disorganized stuff, much of it already deteriorating. They offered to sell all to the British and French for about six cents on the dollar. No way, said the British and the French. Once the Americans left, they figured they’d get everything for free.

No way to you, the Americans said. We’ll just toss it

“The Seabees built a ramp running into the sea and … Americans drove trucks, jeeps, ambulances, bulldozers, and tractors into the channel, locking the wheels and jumping free at the last second.

 “Engine blocks cracked and hissed. Some Seabees wept. Ni-Vanuatu [the local people] witnessing the destruction of wealth their island would never see again, at least in their lifetimes, thought the Americans had gone mad.”       Travel writer Thurston Clark

There it still sits today.

According to locals, pollution from gas, diesel, rusting metal and decomposing tires made the area unfishable for decades.

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Photo source: War History Online

Gradually coral began to grow on the old gun turrets and corrugated iron and fish started to return. The beach was renamed Million Dollar Point and the tribe that owns the land charges $5 per visit. It’s not a bad source of income in a country where cash is hard to come by. 

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Fishing on Espiritu Santo

We shell out more for military activities than all other military spending in the world combined.

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Source: US Military Spending Dwarfs Rest of World

How much is literally and metaphorically waylaid, mislaid, and dumped? How much is polluting other countries? How does military spending today mirror what happened in Vanuatu? In this election year, couldn’t we do more to find out?

More interpretations of this week’s WordPress Photo challenge:   Mirror

19 comments

  • Hi J.B.; It happened again in the 1950s. This time off of Newfoundland. The army engineers had been building roads in Newfoundland and when the roads were done it was believed to be cheaper (and I am sure easier) to dump the stuff overboard as opposed to inventorying it and shipping it all back. The ‘you know what’ hit the fan when one of the soldiers sent photos to his congressman.
    Thanks for the interesting story and photos.

    Liked by 2 people

  • We Brits are good at that sort of thing, too. We rendered a Scottish island called Gruinard completely uninhabitable for 50 years after commandeering it in 1942 to test anthrax (strain: Vollum 14578) as a possible weapon to be used against German cities, and which would have rendered them similarly uninhabitable for several decades. That is, uninhabitable by those who weren’t to have been killed as a result of the initial drop. As it happened, Churchill decided on balance it would be a less controversial and more acceptable idea to burn the cities and their occupants in firestorms. This being done after the utterances of Air Chief Marshal Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris:

    “. . . the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive . . . should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany . . . The destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.”

    Like

  • Thank you for this. I would rather be informed of this than not, but feel powerless to effect change in the face of such colossal waste and abuse of power. What can I do? Vote? Ha (though of course I will). Protest? I could throw my puny self into the ocean and no one would notice. So I return to the thing I must do and know best how to do: write.

    Liked by 2 people

  • This “dumping into the sea” continues to be the “blind eye” people and countries use…somehow because once you dump it, you don’t see it, it just seems to be the “perfect dumping ground” solution to excess waste. The damage continues across the world, not only on a large scale, but smaller individual one where communities dump their waste into the ocean and rivers without a second thought. The ocean has also been used over and over again for testing of weaponry with disastrous impact.

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

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