The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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Palmyra Island (162.076W
5.884N) is a small atoll in the
Line Islands of the central Pacific, 994 miles (1600 km)
south-southwest of Pearl Harbor.
There are over fifty small islands in the atoll arranged in a horseshoe
6 miles (10 km) long and 2 miles (3 km) wide, with the open end to the
west. This encloses a shallow lagoon. No island is over 7 feet (2
meters) above high water and all are covered with dense scrub and coconut palms. The islands receive
heavy rainful (over 150 inches or 380 cm per year) and temperatures are
in the 80s F (30C) year round. The atoll was privately owned in 1941 and had 32
civilian inhabitants, who were evacuated before war broke out.
Palmyra was ideally located to be part of the air bridge from the U.S. West Coast to Australia and the Philippines and boasted an airstrip by the time war broke out. This was located on Cooper and Menge Islands on the north side of the atoll, which were joined with dredgings from the lagoon. The first runway was 5400 ' (1645 meter) and a 3700 ' (1130 meter) was added later. The island was defended by elements of 1 Marine Defense Battalion (158 men) with four 5" coastal defense guns and 4 3" antiaircraft guns.
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