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The Typhoon of War

Micronesian Experiences of the Pacific War

Lin Poyer, Suzanne Falgout, & Laurence Marshall Carucci

Publication Year: 2001

World War II was a watershed event for the people of the former Japanese colonies of Micronesia. The Japanese military build-up, the conflict itself, and the American occupation and control of the conquered islands brought rapid and dramatic changes to Micronesian life. Whether they spent the war in caves and bomb shelters, in sweet potato fields under armed Japanese guard, or in their own homes, Micronesians who survived those years recognize that their peoples underwent a major historical transformation. Like a typhoon, the war swept away a former life. The Typhoon of War combines archival research and oral history culled from more than three hundred Micronesian survivors to offer a comparative history of the war in Micronesia. It is the first book to develop Islander perspectives on a topic still dominated by military histories that all but ignore the effects of wartime operations on indigenous populations. The authors explore the significant cultural meanings of the war for Island peoples, for the events of the war are the foundation on which Micronesians have constructed their modern view of themselves, their societies, and the wider world. Their recollections of those tumultuous years contain a wealth of detail about wartime activities, local conditions, and social change, making this an invaluable reference for anyone interested in twentieth-century Micronesia. Photographs, maps, and a detailed chronology will help readers situate Micronesian experiences within the broader context of the Pacific War.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

PACIFIC ISLAND names exhibit a bewildering variety of spellings. Islanders often prefer a different spelling or form than that recognized as “official” by the national government. This table lists names and spellings that have been applied to individual islands and island groups mentioned in the text. The...

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pp. xi-xiii

OUR GREATEST resource has been the interviews granted to us by the participants in our oral history collection project of 1990 –1991, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (those who wished their names known are listed in Appendix A). It is obvious that this book could not have been written without their help. What is less obvious...

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pp. 1-14

MICRONESIA—the “little islands”— consists of some twenty-five hundred islands with a total land area of only 1,000 square miles tossed across a swath of ocean larger than the continental United States. What was less likely than that these tiny islands should be the scene of a great global conflict? How unexpected...

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Chapter 2 BEFORE THE WAR: Islander Life in the Japanese Mandate

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pp. 15-32

PURSUING a long-standing economic and strategic interest in the South Seas, Japan took possession of Germany’s Micronesian colonies in 1914, formalizing control in a League of Nations mandate at the end of World War I. Aided by entrepreneurs already living in the islands, the Japanese Navy administered the area from 1914 to 1922 with an active program of public works,...

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Chapter 3 THE FIRST PHASE OF WAR PREPARATIONS: Springboards for Japanese Expansion

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pp. 33-72

THE ECONOMIC program of the Nan’yō-chō built up harbor, fuel, air, and communications facilities throughout the region by the mid-1930s. Late in the decade, imminent war spurred further construction—this time of offensive airbases and military infrastructure. Japanese attacks on Dutch, French,...

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Chapter 4 DEFENSIVE PREPARATIONS: The Japanese Military Takes Charge

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pp. 73-116

ISLANDERS had some two years to adjust to the first phase of military operations when the turning tide of war spurred a reevaluation of Micronesia’s strategic role. Early in the war, Japan had had little need to fortify the islands, since their primary role was as bases for offensive air activity and support services for distant fronts. But following the June 1942 defeat at Midway, losses in...

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pp. 117-168

THE WAVE of the Allied front in Micronesia crested on the reefs of Kiribati (the Gilbert Islands) almost two years after Pearl Harbor and six years after Japan began fighting in China. The first Allied offensive of the Central Pacific campaign came in November 1943, with the recapture of Kiribati paving the way for invasion of the Marshalls in early 1944....

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pp. 169-229

BY THE END of 1944 the invasion of the Philippines was underway and the Central Pacific front had moved on toward Iwo Jima and Okinawa, leaving nearly sixty thousand Japanese military on the bypassed islands, along with thousands of Korean, Okinawan, and Japanese workers and civilians, as well as Islanders. Bases in unconquered Micronesia retained a theoretical chain of...

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Chapter 7 THE END OF WAR

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pp. 230-275

UNLIKE their Japanese and German predecessors, the Americans took Micronesia “at the point of a spear.” Not since the first appearance of Europeans had the military might of foreigners been so manifest. Islanders’ experiences of the war’s end were far from uniform.On invaded islands—Enewetak, Kwajalein, Guam, Saipan—the transfer of power was marked by a boundary of...

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pp. 276-314

THE FIRST objectives of U.S. Navy Civil Affairs units, and Military Government in particular, were “to assist the military operations and to fulfill the obligations of armed forces under international law” (Richard 1957a:6 –7). Until Japanese surrender, MilGov policy focused on maintaining public order in occupied islands, protecting American forces from sabotage, and interning...

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pp. 315-356

THE FUTURE of the islands of Micronesia was irrevocably altered by the transformations that swept through them during the wartime years: first, militarization and initial Japanese war preparations; second, the defensive buildup beginning in 1943; and finally American bombing, blockading, and invasion....

APPENDIX A List of Participants in Oral History Interviews, 1990 –1991

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pp. 357-364

APPENDIX B Chronology of World War II in Micronesia (West Longitude Dates)

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pp. 365-391


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pp. 392-432


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pp. 433-464


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pp. 465-491

E-ISBN-13: 9780824865139
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824821685

Publication Year: 2001

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Subject Headings

  • Micronesia (Federated States) -- History.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Micronesia (Federated States).
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, American.
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