THIS WEEK IN WORLD WAR II
U.S. Troops Capture the Marshall Islands
If you enjoy reading about World War 2, may I suggest my companion website, USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story. Just click the link associated with my father’s Navy photograph on the left panel.
On February 3, 1944, American forces invade and take control of the Marshall Islands. These island, under Japanese occupation since the first world war, were used as their base for military operations.
As I mentioned above, the Marshalls, east of the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean, had been in Japanese hands since World War I. In 1914, they were made part of the “Japanese Mandated Islands” as determined by the League of Nations. The Treaty of Versailles (End of WWI):
- certain islands formerly controlled by Germany–including the Marshalls, the Carolines, and the Marianas (except Guam)–had to be ceded to the Japanese
- These islands were to be “overseen” by the League of Nations.
Oversight doesn’t work if the subject withdraws from the League of Nations. That is what Japan did in 1933 and began transforming the Mandated Islands into military bases. If you were not Japanese you were blocked from access to the islands while the bases were being built.
During the Second World War, these islands, as well as others in the vicinity, became targets of Allied attacks. The U.S. Central Pacific Campaign began with the Gilbert Islands, south of the Mandated Islands; U.S. forces conquered the Gilberts in November 1943. Next on the agenda was Operation Flintlock, a plan to capture the Marshall Islands.
Adm. Raymond Spruance led the 5th Fleet from Pearl Harbor on January 22, 1944, to the Marshalls, with the goal of getting 53,000 assault troops ashore two islets: Roi and Namur.
Meanwhile, using the Gilberts as an air base, American planes bombed the Japanese administrative and communications center for the Marshalls, which was located on Kwajalein, an atoll that was part of the Marshall cluster of atolls, islets, and reefs.
By January 31, Kwajalein was devastated. Repeated carrier- and land-based air raids destroyed every Japanese airplane on the Marshalls. By February 3, U.S. infantry overran Roi and Namur atolls. The Marshalls were then effectively in American hands–with the loss of only 400 American lives. In my opinion, there is no only about any loss of lives.