Digital relief map of Majuro Atoll

Photograph of Majuro landings

National Archives #80-G-401019

Majuro (171.216E 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.

The largest islet, at two square miles (5 km2), could have accommodated an air strip, but the Japanese 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 land-based aircraft, 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.


Miller (1991)

Morison (1951)

Rottman (2002)

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