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Baker Island


Photograph of Baker Island

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Baker Island (176.48W 0.195N) is a tiny island, about one mile (1.6 km) square, south of Hawaii and east of the Gilberts. It is sometimes regarded as part of the Phoenix Islands 400 miles (640 km) to the southwest. The island is round and flat (maximum elevation 26' or 8 meters) with a fringing reef. The maximum elevation occurs on the western rim of the island, which is shaped somewhat like a shallow saucer with a low interior. There is only sparse vegetation. The island had once been exploited for guano but was depleted by 1890.

Baker had room for an airstrip, but in 1941 the only facility was a lighthouse and a small radio repeater station. After the Japanese seized the Gilberts early in 1942, the station was judged to be too exposed and was evacuated .

On 1 September 1943, the island was reoccupied by an engineer battalion and other base forces. The island is surrounded by deep water, with no anchorage to speak of,  and the current runs parallel to the lee shore, making the landing exceptionally difficult. The first of the LSDs, Ashland, was used in this operation, and had a disappointing debut, as the LCMs it was carrying had to be hoisted out by crane. Over half the LCMs were lost in the heavy seas.

The airfield was completed by 11 September 1943. However, by 1 January 1944, the Central Pacific offensive had moved on and the airfield was abandoned.

References

Dunnigan and Nofi (1998)

Morison (1951)

Rottman (2002)



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