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The Typhoon of War

The Typhoon of War: Micronesian Experiences of the Pacific War

Lin Poyer
Suzanne Falgout
Laurence Marshall Carucci
Copyright Date: 2001
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  • Book Info
    The Typhoon of War
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6513-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XIV)
    (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 was it that, for those critical months and years, their tides and reefs, their harbors and landscapes, and the circumstances and attitudes of their inhabitants should be studied by the world’s most powerful nations with an attentiveness they have never received before or since?

    The Pacific war brought...

  7. Chapter 2 BEFORE THE WAR Islander Life in the Japanese Mandate
    (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, surveys, education, and hygiene. Even in its early stages, Japanese administration was more intensive than previous Spanish and German regimes. In 1922, the establishment of the civilian South Seas Government (Nan’yō-chō) inaugurated the framework that shaped the lives of Micronesians...

  8. Chapter 3 THE FIRST PHASE OF WAR PREPARATIONS Springboards for Japanese Expansion
    (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, American, and British islands in the Central and Western Pacific at the end of 1941 sortied in part from installations in the Marshalls, Chuuk, Palau, and Saipan (Peattie 1988 : 257).

    This chapter and the next describe Japanese military preparations in the mandate, first using the region as a springboard for expansion and then (in chapter 4) as...

  9. Chapter 4 DEFENSIVE PREPARATIONS The Japanese Military Takes Charge
    (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 the Southwest Pacific, and the effective U.S. war on shipping, Japanese strategy turned from expanding the war to building a protective shield around the home islands (Peattie 1988:262–265). In September 1943, Imperial...

    (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.

    The Kiribati operation held lessons in island warfare for both Japanese and American forces. Tarawa’s Japanese commander gave orders “to defend to the last man all vital areas and destroy the enemy at the water’s edge” (Morison 1951 :...

    (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 command headquartered on Chuuk. But, for these isolated islands, the Pacific command structure was impotent (Peattie 1988 : 303). Offensive action was impossible and defensive activity less feasible with every air raid. Japanese officers turned their attention to preserving the troops...

  12. Chapter 7 THE END OF WAR
    (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 blood and fire. But for people on isolated central Caroline atolls, the end of war was as diffuse as its beginning, and the simple cessation of contact with Japanese provided the best evidence that Americans had won.

    The arrival of U.S....

    (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 captured personnel. At the conclusion of war, it was occupied with disarming and repatriating thousands of Japanese troops and Korean and Okinawan workers. MilGov’s third and most problematic objective was “restoring civilian living conditions to normal” (Richard 1957a:164–165).

    Initial MilGov activities in some islands were...

  14. Chapter 9 THE LEGACY OF WAR
    (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. These successive waves of change profoundly affected Micronesia’s physical and social environment. Landscapes, oceanscapes, agricultural and marine resources, and economic and communication infrastructure were altered, expanded, and destroyed. The transformations also reshaped Micronesian societies and cultures in terms of landownership, gender relations, familiar and novel forms of leadership, and interaction with other societies. During the few years of...

  15. APPENDIX A List of Participants in Oral History Interviews, 1990–1991
    (pp. 357-364)
  16. APPENDIX B Chronology of World War II in Micronesia (West Longitude Dates)
    (pp. 365-392)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 393-432)
    (pp. 433-464)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 465-492)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 493-494)