The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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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.
Dunnigan and Nofi (1998)
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia © 2008, 2012 by Kent G. Budge. Index
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