1990 Micronesia and Marshall Islands Compact of Free Association stamps
US #2506-07 was issued in 1990 to celebrate the 1986 compact of free association with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

On July 18, 1947, the United Nations established the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) to be administered by the United States.  The TTPI was founded to help these small islands recover in the wake of World War II.

Along the southern border of the North Pacific Ocean, Micronesia is a subregion of the Oceania region that consists of thousands of small islands.  Within Micronesia are several separate nations including Palau, Guam, Kiribati, Nauru, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (not to be confused with the overall region of Micronesia), and the Marshall Islands.

1995 Palau Independence stamp
US #2999 was issued in 1995 to celebrate Palau’s independence.

Following the 1898 Spanish-American War, the US acquired several Spanish colonies, while some, such as Micronesia and Palau, were sold to Germany.  During World War I, Japan fought with the Allied Powers and captured several German possessions in the Pacific.  After the war, these islands were officially turned over to Japan.  However, Japan left the League of Nations in 1933 and began building air bases on the islands.  They defended many of their islands during World War II, but most were captured by American and Allied forces.

1996 Micronesia 10th anniversary stamp
Micronesia #253 was issued in 1996 for the 10th anniversary of the compact and features the same design as the 1990 joint issue.

After World War II, many small island groups were left without a government, and did not have the resources to rule themselves.  On July 18, 1947, the United Nations established the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).  Administered by the US government, the territory consisted of the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands (except Guam), the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Palau Islands.

1996 Marshall Islands 10th anniversary stamp
Marshall Islands #615 – Also features the same design of the 1990 joint issue.

The TTPI territory was home to about 100,000 people spread out over three million miles of mostly water.  The territory was split into six districts of people from a variety of cultures that spoke nine different languages.  The large district centers had electricity and modern music, while the smaller islands maintained their traditions.

1990 Micronesia and Marshall Islands joint issue First Day Cover
US #2506-07 – Fleetwood First Day Cover with the 1990 US and Micronesia and Marshall Islands joint issue stamps.

In the 1980s, the US and the Trust Territory developed the Compact of Free Association (COFA).  The goal was “to promote the development of the people of the Trust Territory toward self-government or independence as appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Trust Territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.”

This compact was an agreement in which the US government agreed to help each of the included nations to develop their own self-governments and become independent as they saw fit.  However, the US would provide access to federal emergency management agencies as well as the National Weather Service, USPS, and the Federal Communications Commission, among others.  The compact was approved by Micronesia and the Marshall Islands in 1986.  The Northern Marianas instead chose to become a US commonwealth.

1995 US-Palau Joint Issue First Day Cover
Item #AC32 – US-Palau Joint-Issue First Day Cover.

Palau attempted to become an independent state in free association with the US several times.  After eight separate referendum votes and a change to the Palau constitution, they ratified the Compact of Free Association and became independent in 1994.

Under the compact, the former trust territories received financial assistance for 15 years, with the US receiving full authority and responsibility for defense.  Citizens of these islands are permitted to live and work in the US and serve in the military.  In fact, the Federated States of Micronesia has one of the highest military enlistment rates, more than most states.

1993 Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands stamp
US #2804 was issued in 1993 when the Northern Mariana Islands became a US Territory.

In 2003, the compacts with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia were renewed for 20 years, while financial aid for Palau is given through repeated Congressional resolutions.

Click here for Micronesia stamps, here for Marshall Islands stamps, and here for Palau stamps.

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  1. The language you quote as the goal of the Compacts was actually the stated goal of the Trusteeship Agreement. In 1986 the US notified the UN that the goal had been met. The FSM had adopted its Constitution in 1979 and put into place institutions of self-government. The Compacts served to delegate to the US from the FSM and other former units of the Trusteeship the major governmental responsibility for security and defense of the region, in return for the US’ commitment to the dev elopment assistance you described. Negotiations are currently underway for a third extension of the US development assistance.

  2. @Jim. Impressive addendum to the article. Sounds like you worked in government or a hell of an historian.

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