Relief map of Hawaii

Hawaii is a chain of some 132 islands, with a total land area of 11,000 square miles, located 2400 miles off the U.S. West Coast. However, only the seven largest islands are inhabited. Hawaii is the prototypical hot spot island chain, thought to have been produced by the motion of the Earth's crust over a hot plume in the mantle. The eruption of magma from this plume produced a line of volcanic islands, and the island of Hawaii proper at the extreme southeast end of the chain is still volcanically active today.

Hawaii was an independent Polynesian kingdom until 1893, when Queen Liliuokalani surrendered control to the United States under pressure from a provisional government organized by American sugar planters. The islands were annexed by the United States in 1898. Statehood would not follow until after the end of the Pacific War. The strategic location of the islands was a major factor in persuading President McKinley to support the act of annexation, and the islands soon became host to military bases.

The population in 1941 was about 420,000 persons, of whom half lived on the island of Oahu. Oahu was also the location of the major military facilities of the islands, including Pearl Harbor and several airfields. The major city and civilian port was Honolulu. The only important military base in Hawaii outside of Oahu was the alternate fleet anchorage at Lahaina and the airfield at Barking Sands on Kauai. However, additional facilities were opened after war broke out, including the Marine Corps' Camp Tarawa on the huge Parker Ranch on Hawaii Island and another Marine divisional camp on Maui.


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