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Japanese military interest in the Gilbert Group dated from the earliest days of the war. The primary strategic object of the Japanese expansion at the beginning of the war was the occupation and development of what was called the southern resources area which was considered vital to Japan's economic welfare as it contained most of the essential raw materials. It was also believed necessary to maintain free lines of communication with the Japanese homeland to cripple naval strength in the Pacific, and to establish a strong defensive perimetre to protect the homeland and its new economic adjunct to the south.

The first bombs dropped in the colony were by the Japanese on 8th December 1941 when a four-engine flying-boat dropped six on the Government Headquarters at Banaba (Ocean Island).

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. 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.

Click on the above for details of the USS Argonaut.


Argonaut token and Carlson's Raiders Sheet Music.

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.


Marine Raiders

Click on the above image
for a full size photograph.

Carlson's Raiders exercise on the deck of the submarine.

Crewmen reading their mail, after returning to
Pearl Harbour from the Makin Island Raid, 26 August 1942.

Conversation aboard the USS Nautilus after her
return to Pearl Harbour from Makin Island,26 August 1942.

On 20th November 1943, the American invasion began. The 147th Army Infantry Regiment landed with little opposition from the Japanese guns which killed only two marines, though as they advanced inland the marines were troubled by Japanese snipers hiding among the coconut fronds. At Ukiangang village, the local people rushed into bunkers which they had made to avoid the US naval bombardment, but three drunken Gilbertese were killed.


Makin Atoll looking south to Kiebu Islet.                               Coral outcrops rise slightly above
                                                                                                      the surface of Butaritari lagoon.

The next day many of the Japanese positions were overrun and the remainder who fled to Tabonuea village were pursued by the Americans.

The Japanese forced the people of Tabonuea village to move north but they disobeyed the warning and moved back without the Japanese knowing, and stayed between the Japanese and the American sectors.

As the Americans came nearer to the Japanese positions, one man misunderstood the American warnings and told the villagers to stay inside their houses instead of telling them to hide in foxholes.

In the heavy crossfire between the Americans and the Japanese, one Gilbertese was killed and others were wounded.

On August 17-18,1942, a force of 221 marines from the 2nd Raider Battalion, named "Carlson's Raiders", landed from two submarines on Butaritari Island.

The raid inflicted heavy damage and forced the Japanese to divert troops from reinforcing Guadalcanal.

Navy Photographs of the USMC 2nd Raider Battalion,
returning from a mission in the Gilbert 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.





By Jane Resture
(E-mail: -- Rev. 8th August 2002)


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