NASA picture of Woleai Atoll
LocationNorth Pacific
Coordinates7°22′N 143°54′E / 7.367°N 143.900°E / 7.367; 143.900
Total islands18
Area4.5 km2 (1.7 sq mi)
Highest elevation2 m (7 ft)
Population1081 (2000)
Ethnic groupsMicronesian
Map of Woleai
Map of Woleai

Woleai, also known as Oleai,[1] is a coral atoll of twenty-two islands in the eastern Caroline Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and forms a legislative district in the Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia and is located approximately 57 kilometres (35 mi) west-northwest of Ifalik and 108 kilometres (67 mi) northeast of Eauripik. Woleai is also the name of the largest of the islets constituting the atoll, lying to the northeast.

The population of the atoll was 1,081 in 2000,[2] on an area of 4.5 km2.


The islands constitute a double atoll forming the number eight, with a total length of 11.5 kilometres (7.1 mi) and up to 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) wide; however, most of reef on the southern rim is submerged or poorly developed. The northern and eastern rims have several relatively large islets. The western lagoon is deeper and larger than its eastern counterpart. Both components are part of the same seamount. The total land area for both components combined is only 4.5 square kilometres (1.7 sq mi).[3]

Falalap, Woleai Atoll
Falalap, Woleai Atoll


Woleai is culturally unique because a script was in use among some speakers of the Woleaian language prior to 1913. Initially a Spanish Colony, as with all of the Caroline Islands, sovereignty passed to the Empire of Germany in 1899. The atoll came under the control of the Empire of Japan after World War I, and was subsequently administered under the South Seas Mandate.

In 1944, as the Allied forces closed in on the Mariana Islands, Woleai was heavily fortified by a contingent of 6,426 troops from the Imperial Japanese Army’s IJA 50th Independent Mixed Brigade and Imperial Japanese Navy’s 44th Base Guard Unit and 216th Base Construction Unit. Wolfe Islet was completely leveled, and made into an airfield with a single 3,290-foot (1,003 m) runway and 2,050-foot (625 m) taxiway. A seaplane anchorage was also constructed off the south-west corner of Woleai Islet. The island and its military facilities were bombed on numerous occasions through the end of 1944 until the middle of 1945, driving its defenders underground, and isolating them from supplies or reinforcements. By the surrender of Japan, only 1,650 survivors remained of the initially 6,500-strong garrison, the rest having perished, largely by starvation or disease rather than air raids. The survivors were recovered by USS Sloat (DE-245) on September 17, 1945.[4]

Following World War II, the atoll came under the control of the United States of America. It was administered as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands from 1947, and became part of the Federated States of Micronesia beginning 1979.


Public schools:[5]


Woleai Airfield
Airport typePublic
OperatorCivil Government
Direction Length Surface
ft m
1,200 370 Chipseal

Woleai Airfield is located on Falalap but the facility was closed due to poor conditions of the 1,200 feet (370 m) runway and deterioration was so severe the government has opted not to perform repairs.[6] Before closing it was used by Caroline Islands Air chartered flights. The runway is now covered with vegetation.


  1. ^ "Report of the German South Pacific Expedition 1908-1910" (PDF). Translated by Petrosian-Husa, Carmen C. H. 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 April 2012.
  2. ^ Yap State Census Report, 2000 (PDF)
  3. ^ "Oceandots". Archived from the original on December 23, 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-31.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Kukelhan, Walter. "Japanese Surrender Woleai Atoll Uss Sloat DE 245". Destroyer Escort Sailors Association. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Higher Education in the Federated States of Micronesia." Embassy of the Federated States of Micronesia Washington DC. Retrieved on February 23, 2018.
  6. ^ "WOLEAI CIVIL AIRFIELD". Federated States of Micronesia Division of Civil Aviation. Retrieved 16 April 2021.