The New Hebrides were islands off the northern coast of Australia. It is today known as Vanuatu. They were unique in that they were administered by a British-French "Conduminium". The largest island was Espiritu Santo. They were one of countless Pacific islands that virtually no one had ever heard of and when the War began in Europe was as far away from it as imaginable. After Pearl Harbor the islands took on importance because of importance of maintaining the sea lanes between between Ausrtralia and the United States. The 3rd Construction Battalion (Seabee unit) was sent to Efate in the New Hebrides. The island of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides was the closest Allied-held island to Japanese-held Guadalcanal. The Japanese were intent on severing the sealanes to Australia. After Midway, the Japanese major naval striking force was decimated. They set about building an air base on Guadcannal to support operations to sever the sealanes. Thus Espiritu Santo became critical to the Allied defense of Australia. The Seabee 3rd Construction Battalion Detachment was moved from Efate to Espiritu Santo and assigned to rapidly prepare a bomber strip. The Seabees in only 20 days carved out a 6,000 foot airstrip from virgin jungle. This enabled the United States launch air attacks disrupting the construction of the Japanese air base. The First Marine Division launched the first Allied offensive of the War by invading nearby Guadalcanal (August 1942). The New Hebrides would be a major supply and staging area for the Marines on Guadacanal. Espiritu Santo 550 miles to the south was the closest source of supplies. It also meant that fighters could be flown in from Espiritu Santo.
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