The history of the Marshall Islands records the successive influences of various peoples. It is thought that the islands were populated from around 3,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. by migrations from the Philippines, Malaysia, New Guinea and adjacent islands. During the past thousand years, an influx of Polynesians occurred.
Until the 16th century, the area had no contact with the Western world and developed its own culture, which is still evident today. Spanish explorers first "discovered" the Marshalls in 1526, but had little to do with these small coral islands. In the late 1700s, the Marshalls were "rediscovered" by various European voyagers, notably English Captains Gilbert and Marshall (for whom the Marshall and Gilbert Islands are named). It was not until the l9th century, with the arrival of traders, whalers and missionaries that Western influences began to be felt. The development of the copra (coconut) trade, together with awakening interest in the strategic importance of the islands, led to rivalries among the increasingly imperialistic nations of Europe.
By the end of the 19th century, Spain had surrendered her Micronesian claims to Germany. During World War I, the Japanese took control of Micronesia. The islands remained under Japanese domination until they were occupied by the U.S. toward the close of World War II. Apparently when the Germans arrived on Kwaj they asked, "Who owns this?" Someone raised their hand and was immediately shot. When the Japanese arrived the same process ended with someone being shot. When the Americans arrived, the answer to "Who owns this?" was "Nobody." So the US Government kept it.
In one historic week, from January 29 to February 4, 1944, with the most powerful invasion force ever assembled up to that time, American forces seized Kwajalein Atoll from Japan. The invasion of the Marshall Islands, code named Operation Flintlock, served as a model for future operations in the Pacific. The seizure of Kwajalein Atoll was the first capture of prewar Japanese territory and pierced the Japanese defense perimeter, paving the road to Tokyo. It took strategic control of the Marshalls away from the Japanese and eliminated major naval and air bases. It severed Japanese lines of communication and shortened the Pacific campaign.
The task force that accompanied the 4th Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division to Kwajalein Atoll was the largest in the Pacific, with an assemblage of carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers. The major atoll islands of Kwajalein, Roi and Namur were bombarded by ships, carrier-based planes and land-based planes from the Gilbert Islands for days prior to troop landings.
The Battle for the Southern Atoll
The invasion of Kwajalein Island by the 7th Infantry Division was a near-perfect amphibious assault on beaches at the west end of Kwajalein on February 1, 1944. The island was secured at dusk on February 4th, when the 32nd Regimental Combat Team surged across the last 150 yards of the island, overrunning the one remaining bunker (now known as Bunker Hill). American losses were 142 dead, 845 wounded and two missing in action. The estimate of enemy losses was 4,938 dead and 206 taken prisoner. The Battle for the Northern Atoll and The battle for Roi and Namur islands also began on February 1. The islands were secured in 24 hours and 15 minutes of fierce fighting. The 4th Marine Division set three new records with 7th Infantry Assistance
The battle for Roi and Namur islands also began on February 1. The islands were secured in 24 hours and 15 minutes of fierce fighting. The 4th Marine Division set three new records on its first operation. It be-came the first division to go directly into combat from the United States; it was first to capture Japanese-mandated territory in the Pacific; and it secured its objective in a shorter time than that of any other important operation since the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Battle casualties were 190 Marines killed and 547 wounded on the two islands. Japanese losses were 3,472 killed and 264 taken prisoner. Many bunkers and buildings remain as evidence of the Japanese time in Marshallese history.
Following the Japanese surrender in 1945, the is-lands remained under U.S. military administration until 1947, when they became part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI). By agreement with the United Nations, the U.S. assumed responsibility for the TTPI through the Department of the Interior. In 1969, negotiations began for a new political status for Micronesia.
In 1979, constitutional self-government in free association with the U.S. was established for the Marshall Islands.
Eleven of the (97-145 depending on how you count) islands are leased by the United States and are part of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site (RTS), formerly known as Kwajalein Missile Range. RTS includes radar installations, optics, telemetry, and communications equipment, which are used for ballistic missile and missile-interceptor testing and space operations support. Kwajalein has one of five ground stations used in controlling the range that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational system.
There are a variety of housing arrangements for families, couples, and unaccompanied personnel. Your housing assignment will be based on a number of factors, including the status of your contract (accompanied or unaccompanied), number of pre-approved dependent family members, and the availability of living quarters. Accompanied or family quarters are similar to stateside homes. Singles quarters are studio style dwellings, all of which contain fully furnished rooms approximately 400 square feet in area, small kitchenettes, private bathrooms, central air conditioning and access to free laundry facilities.
Recreational opportunities at Kwajalein are plentiful. There are pastimes and hobbies to suit almost everyone. You may find yourself getting involved in recreational activities you might never have considered.
- Play organized sports such as basketball, softball, volleyball, soccer, and inner-tube water polo.
- Shoot a round of golf at the Holmberg Fairways Golf Course & Country Club. The course provides nine holes with 18 tees, 2,945 yard par 36, club and locker rental, themed tournaments, driving range, practice putting green, and an air-conditioned bar.
- Bowl a game at the bowling center and/or compete in a league.
- Compete in a tournament or play a recreational game of tennis at the outdoor tennis court.
- Hit the ramps at the skate park.
- Enjoy free membership to the Ivey Gym Fitness Center available 24 hours a day.
- Enjoy exploring uninhabited tropical islands, sport fishing for Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Wahoo, Marlin and Sailfish, scuba diving, water skiing or sailing. The Small Boat Marina rents marine vessels for a nominal fee. Power boats and a boat for water skiing are available. Sailboats such as; Cal 20s, Hobie Cats and Lasers are also available. Kayaks are available for rent for a nominal fee as well. (A Kwajalein/Roi-Namur boat license is required to operate larger boats Boating licensing classes are available for a nominal registration fee.)
- Join an outrigger canoe team, the surfing club or kite board and windsurf near the perimeter of the island.
- Explore uninhabited tropical islands and historical sites.
- Take advantage of swimming opportunities at one of Kwajalein’s two saltwater swimming pools or beautiful beaches.
- Visit local sea life while reefing, snorkeling in the beautiful tide pools and diving in the ocean surrounding the island.
- Hang out at the recreation center. The Adult Recreation Center is available to ages 19 and older. Activities available include pool, air hockey, ping pong tables, video games, shuffleboard, music room, TV room, weekly movies and Wii computer games. A conference room, computer access, kitchen and BBQ area are also available.
- See a movie at one of the two theaters. The Richardson theater is an outdoor theater with free family oriented movies every weekend. The Yuk Theater is an A-frame theater featuring free PG13, and usually have adult rated movies every weekend.
- Engage in a hobby. The hobby shop provides both woodworking opportunities as well as resources for ceramics and pottery enthusiasts.
- Catch up on your reading at the Grace Sherwood Library.