Caroline Islands

Map of Caroline Islands

The Caroline Islands are a large archipelago located in the Western Pacific just north of the equator and extending some 1700 miles (2740 km) from the Palaus in the west to Kusaie (Kosrae) in the east. To the north are the Marianas; the Gilbert and Marshall Islands are to the east; the Philippines are to the west; and New Guinea is to the south. There are actually 45 distinct groups of islands, including both atolls and high volcanic islands.  The latter include the Palaus and Truk, two important bases for the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1941, as well as Yap, Ponape, and Kusaie. Atolls include Ulithi and Woleai. There are a total of about 549 islands in the chain with a total land area of about 830 square miles (2150 km2). The large islands are heavily vegetated and almost all are surrounded by reefs.

The climate is hot and humid. The wet season occurs during the Northern Hemisphere summer, when the Intertropical Convergence Zone is furthest north of the the equator and rainfall is typically as much as 15" (40 cm) per month. During the drier part of the year, the rainfall averages half as much.

The large islands are heavily populated by Micronesians while the atolls are generally sparsely inhabited.

The Carolines were originally seized from Germany by Japan in the First World War.  Japan received a League of Nations Class C mandate over the islands, and respected the terms of this mandate, which forbade the building of any military installations, until after Japan withdrew from the League in 1933.  Even then the pace of construction of military fortifications was slow.  But Japanese secretiveness about the Mandates promoted suspicions that heavy fortification had taken place.

The Carolines were largely bypassed by the Allied counteroffensive of 1944-1945. Truk was smashed by repeated raids in February-April 1944. Peleliu and Angaur in the Palaus were taken in September-October 1944 after a bloody struggle, and Ulithi was occupied without opposition on 22 September. The central and eastern Carolines were left to wither on the vine.


Miller (1991)

Rottman (2002)

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