World War II Pacific Island Territories: Fiji

Figure 1.--Fiji like much of the South Pacific at the time of World War II was little touched by the outside world. Pearl Harbor changed that as a flood of Japanese and American men and material collided in the region. Fiji was targeted by the Japanese, but it was the Americans that arrived on the island in force.

After the initial Japanese offensive following Pearl Harbor, Fiji to the southeast of the Solomons found itself along with New Caledonia and the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) on the front line of the Pacific War. Suva boasted one of the finest natural harbors in the South Pacific--3 miles wide and cutting 2 miles inland. The U.S. Navy chose Nandi Bay for its main advance naval base (JAMPUFF). The Army, Marines, and Navy rushed air, ground , and naval assets to the island. Fiji boasted of one of the few concrete air strips in the South Pacific and more were soon under construction. The Seabees arrived (June 1942). The New Zealanders participated in the build up. Even before the American buildup, Fiji was one of several targets of the Japanese FS Operation designed to seize the French and British South Pacific South Pacific islands east of Australia. This would have severing the sealanes to Australia and New Zealand, cutting them off from America, the first step in conquering both Dominions. Operation FS would have been the next Japanese Pacific offensive after they destroyed the American carriers at Midway. The ensuing Japanese Midway disaster (June 1942), however, significantly reduced the striking power of the Imperial Fleet. Fiji was an important support base for the Matines on Guadalcanal and the ompletion of the of Solomons CArtwheel campaign drawing rings around Rabaul (1942-43). The American Pacific Fleet proved to have just enough naval power to prevent the Japanese from moving beyond the Solomons until new construction would fundamentally change the balance of naval power. In addition, the United States garrisoned Fiji with 10,000 well-equipped Marines. A Japanese invasion would not have faced the small. poorly equipped force they found on Wake and Guam immediately after Pearl Harbor. Fiji soldiers fought with the the Allies in the Pacific campaigns that followed. Fijian soldiers acquired a reputation in the difficult American Solomon Islands campaign. The United States and other Allied countries maintained military installations in Fiji during the War, but after the Solomons campaign, Fiji gradually became a remote rear area used for staging and logistics.


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Created: 1:03 AM 11/13/2015
Spell checked: 3:35 PM 5/31/2017
Last updated: 3:35 PM 5/31/2017