The Battle For The Marshall Islands Essay

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The Battle For The Marshall Islands Essay, Research Paper The Battle for the Marshall Islands byPete Godbey Military History SS-305Professor BraimApril 9, 1999 The Marshall Islands consist of 32 coral atolls, which span 800 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. They are separated into two chains, the Ratak on the east, and Ralik on the west. Each atoll is an enclosed or semi-enclosed reef on which islands and islets of coral, sand and rock have been built naturally. They range in size from pinpoint islets, like Kili, to Kwajalein, the largest atoll in the world. The first know white man to sight the Marshall Islands was a Spaniard, Garcia de Loyassa, in 1526. Spain assumed nominal possession of the islands at the same time she annexed the Carolines and Marianas, in 1686, but

they were virtually forgotten until 1788 when two Englishmen, Captains Marshall and Gilbert, explored the Marshall atolls and those of a neighboring group which were, logically, named the Gilberts (Crown and Heinl 6-8). In 1878, Germany, in a belated quest for an empire, became interested in Spain’s Pacific possessions, and encouraged her energetic traders to establish themselves in the Marshalls. Twenty-one years later, Spain sold the Carolines, Marianas (except for Guam), and Marshalls to Germany for 4 million dollars. German colonization was interrupted in 1914 when Japan, acting as an ally of Great Britain, moved in occupation forces. The League of Nations in 1920 recognized Japan’s control by giving that nation a class C mandate over the Marshalls, a mandate which

specifically forbids military and naval installations. When Japan left the League in 1935 they declared absolute sovereignty over them and forbid visit from foreigners (Crown and Heinl 9-12). The importance of the Marshalls was long recognized by both American and Japanese planners. To Japan these atolls were a geographical shield, unsinkable aircraft carriers to serve as a line of departure for attack, or an outpost line of resistance in defense. America saw them as a menacing extension of Japanese power toward the eastern Pacific and a standing hazard to lines of communication into the South and Southwest Pacific. It was known that any Japanese offensive in the Middle Pacific would be supported from there. The American military prewar plan for a war with Japan, code named

ORANGE, conceded the initial loss of the Philippines. It called for the fleet to drive westward through the Marshalls and Carolines and on to recapture the Philippines (Crowl and Love 4). However, with the beginning of hostilities in 1941, the United States was forced onto a strategically defensive which continued until mid-1943. Victories at Midway, in the South and Southwest Pacific, and a drive on the Aleutians finally put the United States on an offensive footing. On the other hand, the original Japanese plan for defensive, the “Z” plan, called for a lengthy defensive front across the Aleutians, Wake, Marshalls, Gliberts, and Nauru. This front was later pulled in tighter as Japanese experienced troubles in Southeast Asia. However, the Marshalls were not forgotten, the

Japanese chose them to be the first line of defense in the middle Pacific. Their function was to impede, if not stop, any westward attack which might threaten the inner defensives (Crowl and Love 65). The decision to attack the Marshalls formally came in 1943. It was decided that the attack in the Central Pacific was needed. It would serve to secure the lines of communication to the Southwest Pacific, protect the flank of Southwest Pacific forces, and make the Japanese further split their reserves by adding another front (Crowl and Love 210). This would also allow for an advance along the most direct avenue to the Japanese mainland. “Thus,” Admiral Nimiz, who was commander in charge of the Pacific, said “We get on with the war.” Before the Marshalls were to be attacked,