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7.133N) is a large atoll in the
Marshall Islands, 25 miles (40 km) long and six miles (10 km) wide,
consisting of 64
islets surrounding a lagoon with an area of 114 square miles (295 km2). The central lagoon is enclosed by a reef
with a single large pass, Catlin Pass, on the north. The lagoon is 150'
to 210' (46 to 64 meters) deep except for a few coral heads in the
western part of the lagoon. The islets are covered with salt brush and
the atoll experiences heavy rains.
islet, at two square miles (5 km2), could have accommodated an air strip, but
chose to develop other nearby atolls instead. Many of the indigenous peoples were
conscripted to Jaluit. However, the Japanese did construct a small seaplane base on Darrit Island on the northeast corner of the atoll. This included a 400' timber pier with a narrow-gauge railroad.
At the insistance of Spruance, Majuro was
seized as a fleet anchorage at the
beginning of the Kwajalein
campaign, on 31 January 1944. Spruance had become concerned that the
planned areas for refueling at sea would be subject to attack by
and wished to use the atoll as a secure base for refueling. Its
airfields, once completed, would also protect the supply line to
Kwajalein from the isolated Japanese garrisons to the north and south.
The invasion force was
commanded by Harry Hill and
consisted of a heavy cruiser,
two escort carriers, two minesweepers, a transport and a destroyer-transport.
The assault force was a single battalion
landing team from 106 Regiment.
The defending garrison consisted of Warrant Officer
Nagata, IJN, who was surprised
and taken prisoner.
The new base became operational just two days
later, in part because the Japanese had abandoned considerable
equipment that was put to good use by the garrison force. Airstrips
were construced on Dalap and Darrit islets on the east side of the
atoll. The Dalap strip was 5800' (1770m) long and was operational
by 12 February 1944, by which time there were 5000 men, including 1 Marine Defense Battalion, at the atoll.
Majuro became a major forward base for the fast carrier forces thereafter.
A 4000' (1220 meter) fighter strip was constructed on Uliga, between
Dalap and Darrit, and a 35-mile (56 km) paved roadway was constructed
around the atoll. The atoll also became a refuge for some 4000
Marshalese rescued by submarine from Japanese-controlled atolls.
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