Subject: Nauru - Japanese Occupation
I have recently returned from the Pacific Island of Nauru.
What I found there astonished me. There are Japanese
naval guns still intact with the manufacturers stamp, a naturally made
prison camp with barbed wire and old saki bottles embedded on the top of
the walls, original doors and isolation cells where hundreds of
Islanders were killed, a museum that hosts a wide assortment of
historical items relating to the occupied times. What amazes me is that
I can find no information on the Japanese invasion, occupation and
eventual downfall on this island. There were several battles fought on
and over the island with the remains of a US fighter plane on display at
the small museum. Is there any way to get more info, perhaps to find
out how the Japanese invaded, how they moved huge naval guns into dense
hilltop areas and whether the island was liberated by the Americans as
the locals tell us?
If you can shed any light I would be interested.
Interesting Question. You make me want to check the books on this,
which indicate the island was never recovered.
23Aug42. Japanese light cruiser Yubari, accompanied by four destroyers
and supporting ships, shells Nauru Island, Gilberts,
in preparation for landings there.
26Aug42. Japanese occupy Nauru in Gilberts and Goodenough Island
off southeast coast of New Guinea.
-- This was at the end of the Japanese push in the South Pacific.
Their invasions of New Guinea and Solomons as part of the same
advance were resisted and the Japanese had to start to retreat
26Mar43. PBYs and USAAF B-24s bomb Nauru Island, South Pacific.
20Apr43. A raid of 22 Liberators from Funafuti (Ellice Islands) bombed and photographed Nauru.
"The original directive for the Gilbert Islands operation
included the capture of Nauru Island some 380 miles west of Tarawa.
The more that Cincpac's planners learned about Nauru, the less they
liked it; but it was not until Adm King visited Pearl Harbor and
was confronted by a scale model of that island produced from
contour plans brought from Australia that the Joint Chief's Directive
was modified and Makin substituted for Nauru." - Morison
18Nov43. Carrier force TG 50.4 (RAdm Sherman) Saratoga and Princeton attacks Nauru in support of the unfolding operations to capture the Gilberts.
"As Adm Spruance suspected the "Betty's" which had attacked
his forces had landed at Nauru, he decided to give them a pounding
before they could go elsewhere." - Morison
8 Dec43. Task group 50.8 (RAdm Lee) including 2 carriers, 6 battleships, and 12 destroyers. Flagship Washington (BB-56), sisterships North Carolina (BB-55), South Dakota, (BB-57), Indiana (BB-58), Massachusetts (BB-59), and Alabama (BB-60) and the fleet carriers Bunker Hill (CV-17) and Monterey (CVL-26)
bombs and bombards Nauru Island to the west of the Gilberts.
Destroyer Boyd (DD-544) is damaged by shore battery fire.
OS2Us from battleships strafe barracks area and take photograph
upon completion of ships' bombardment.
"Now that Jaluit, Mili, Maloclap, Wotje and Nauru had been
"leapfrogged," the only interest that the Pacific Fleet had in them
was the negative one of neutralization. ... they were a liability
[to the Japanese] ... Nauru became a practice target for land-based
aircraft. There were two big strikes from Tarawa on 23 and 28 December 1943.
... No supply ships called after the fall of Kwajalein [Feb44]."
"Two made the ["daring" reconnaissance] 1000-mile flight from
Truk to Nauru ... between them they sighted most of Fast Carrier
Force's Pacific fleet, together with a large number of transports,
tenders and planes on the Kwajalein airfields." [May44]
31Jan44. U.S. air strike on Nauru, in support of the Marshalls operations.
Most of the occupied islands made surrender to Navy ships
during September 1945. I haven't find any mention of Nauru.
Hint : Some sources spell the island name as Naru.
Subject: Re: Nauru - Japanese Occupation
You have supplied me with far more info than I had previously been able to
find. The island still has the remnants of a purpose built prison camp (using
the natural rock formations to keep them in), There are local stories of how
the Japanese killed hundreds of the natives and enslaved the entire population
to work for them and built bunkers etc. Many of the islanders escaped to the
internal areas of the island and lived in caves whilst the Japanese occupied
their land. According to the locals the Americans bombed the island and then
starved the Japanese into surrendering.
Thanks again for your time and I'm sure there are many other spots like this one.
History to recent.
Nauru, formerly know as Pleasant Island, became a German protectorate in 1888. Australian admin under League of Nations after WWI. Occupied by Japan 25Aug42. Administrated by Australia under UN after the Pacific War. Became an independent republic Jan 31, 1968.
Area : 8 sq miles, 12,000 people. Economy remains phosphate mining.
The other Phosphate Island, Ocean Island, follows a different path.
In 1892 Great Britain established protectorates over various island groups in the South Pacific. In 1915 they began joining them into a British colony including the island groups of Gilbert, Ellice, Phosphate, southern Solomon, Santa Cruz, Fiji, Lau, and Tonga. The Gilberts, Phosphate and Solomons were occupied by the Japanese in 1942 and recovered or isolated in 1943. Great Britain granted self-rule in 1971.
The Ellice Islands broke away in 1975 to become Tuvalu in 1978. The Gilberts become an independent nation July 12, 1979 as Kiribati. Ocean Island became Banaba. The United States contributed the distant island groups of Line Islands (Palmyra) and Phoenix Islands (Canton) at that time.
Area : 46.5 sq miles, pop. 94,000. Capital: Tarawa (25,000). Economy is sale of fishing rights over a vast ocean area (2,400 miles east-west ; 1,275 miles north-south) to Japan.
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