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Republic of Kiribati

Makin is the northernmost island in the Kiribati Group. It has an area of 6.7 square kilometres and a population of 1,421.


Click on the above map for a detailed map of Makin and Butaritari


Makin's progress followed that of Butaritari. The island often, however, lacked a resident missionary. When the lack of workers was felt in the mission then its priest was taken away and Makin became one of the islands that were simply visited. Father Pouvreau stayed there longest, from 1905 to 1914. This unsettled situation as far as a priest was concerned meant that the two Roman Catholic Sisters who worked there for some years had to be recalled.

From many points of view Makin is one of the real jewels in the Gilberts. A lagoonless island, some dozen kilometres in length, it is placed like an exclamation mark at the top of the archipelago. On Makin you can get huge breadfruit and babai as soft as floury potatoes. The soil isn't really less sandy than anywhere else, but it is better watered

Kiribati map

so everything grows better there. This applies to the people too: they are strong, tall and large-boned with plenty of flesh on them, like Samoans. They are well fed, open-natured and cheerful. The devil wouldn't be bored amongst them. Under the influence of Christianity they have made all sorts of progress, however. In fifty years the population has almost doubled; there are 533 Catholics, 209 Protestants and plenty of children - 117 in the Catholic schools.

The Makin priest doesn't have to make long journeys for the population is gathered in two villages, but he has his time cut out to keep the very aware young people occupied. The locals have paid for a lime and cement church, which is now complete and had been in use for many years.


Most Gilbertese (I-Kiribati) people believe that their ancestors were spirits, some created in Samoa and some in Kiribati, and that it was the movement from Samoa that populated the Kiribati Islands for the first time. Modern researchers would agree that a recent migration did probably occur from Samoa to the Gilberts about 500 to 600 years ago.

According to the legends of Beru and some other islands Te Kaintikuaba, was made from the spine of Na Atibu. It was a tree, in Samoa, which was the home of spirits who, together with Nareau the Wise, made the islands of Tungaru (the Kiribati islands). It is a legend that has many variations.

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Makin Atoll looking south to Kiebu islet

As one legend goes, Nareau the Wise was in Samoa, procreating with the spirits there. One day, he decided to trace the whereabouts of his two children who left Te Kaintikuaba. He left Samoa, heading north, and on his way he created a resting place by trampling the sea and uttering powerful magic. Behold, land was formed with spirits inhabitants on it. This land is now called South Tabiteuea. Feeling satisfied with his marvellous work, he left and went further north. At last, he sighted Tarawa. He stayed on Tarawa and started his work of creating new lands. He used his power to create Makin, Butaritari, Marakei, Abaiang, Maiana, Kuria, Abemama and Aranuka. These are now referred to as the islands of North Kiribati.


The Co-operative Store, Makin - 1957

War In The Pacific

The first islands to be occupied by the Japanese were Makin and Butaritari on 9th December 1941. The force consisted of 200 to 300 troops from the 51st Guard Force based on Jaluit. At Butaritari, the troops landed at Ukiangang. The Commissioner, Mr. H. C. Williams, went to meet them. They held him prisoner and he was sent to Tokyo. The troops advanced north and settled at Butaritari's village.

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USS Argonaut c. 1934


Click on the above for details of the USS Argonaut

They chased the traders away, took all the things from their stores, and turned On Chong's store into their barracks. The people of Butaritari village did not move out of their home. Both the Japanese and islanders however were well aware that sooner or later the island would be attacked. The people were encouraged by the Japanese to leave Butaritari village.

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The cover for the 2nd Raider Bn. and the raid on Makin Island on 17th August 1942
cancelled on the USS Saipan 17th August 1992 the 50th anniversary of the raid.

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Carlson's Raiders Music Sheet

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USS Argonaut token


Click on the above image for a full size photograph.

Navy Photograph of the USMC 2nd Raider Battalion, returning from a mission in the Gilbert Islands. On August 17-18,1942, a force of 221 marines from the 2nd Raider Battalion, named "Carlson's Raiders", landed from two submarines on Makin Atoll. The raid inflicted heavy damage and forced the Japanese to divert troops from reinforcing Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Marine Raiders line the deck of the U.S. Submarine from which they conducted their surprise raid to receive the "well done" accolade from  their commander-in-chief in the Pacific, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN.



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Carlson's Raiders exercise on the deck of the submarine

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NEXT...The Battle for Makin ...>

Click here Carlson's Raiders Picture Gallery  
Click here About Evans Carlson                       
Click here WWII Marines Killed on Makin     
                             Atoll, Kiribati Near End of Journey
click here Marine Raiders On Makin              
 click here Evans Carlson                                    

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