Nauru History

Figure 1.--The Nauru Government established a refuge camp on Nauru *2001). Here we see some the refuge chikdren (2003).

Nauru was settled by Micronesian and Polynesian peoples about 1,000 BC. The Nauruan settlers lived on coconut, pandanus fruit, and other plants from their liush new island home. They are believed to have invented an early form of aquaculture. They caught juvenile ibija, acclimated them to freshwater conditions, and raised them in Buada Lagoon. This was easier than actual fishing. This was all done by men. Women engaged in agriculture. Primarily due to its isolation, Nauru was able to avoid European colonization longer than most Pacific islands. The first Europeans visited Nauru named it Pleasant Island (1798). The initial Western presence was whalers using the island to resupply. A deadly tribal war followed which was only ended with European occupation. An Anglo-German Convention signed in Berlin divided Pacific areas between Britain and Germany (1886). Germany occupied the island (1888). The Germans developed the island's only important natural resource--phosphate. The Australians seized the island at the onset of World War I and after the War were granted a trusteeship by the League of Nations. Nauru was one of the few plces attacked by both Germany and Japn during the War. German raiders, disguised as Japanese merchant ships, operated out the Caroline and Marshall Islands before America entered the War. They shelled the island (December 1940). The phophate mining faciities were damaged, disrupting shipments to Australia and New Zealand. After Pearl Harbor (Devember 1941), Most of the European and Chinese workers were evacuated (February 1942). The Japanese did not get around to seizing the island until 9 months after Pearl Harbor (August 1942). The invasion was unopposed. As far as we know this was the last island seized by Japan in the Pacific War. The Nauruans were mistreated by the Japanese occupation forces. They killed 49 leppers by forcing them on a boat which they towed out to sea and sunk. A group of 1,500 Japanese and Korean laborers constructed an airfield. Some 300 Nauruan and Gilbertese were conscripted to assist in the construction work. It was operational (January 1943). The Japanese hoped to resume phosphate mining, but in the deteriorating military situation, this proved impossible. The American bombed the airfield and shore instalations (March 1943). The raid destroyed 15 Japanese aircraft parked and damaged various Japanese installations. In retaliation, the Japanese executed five British prisoners. By this time it was becoming increasingly difficult for the Japanese to supply their island bases because of the growing strength of the U.S. Navy. The Japanese transported 1,200 Nauruans to work as slave labor in the Chuuk islands--Part of the Carolines. Only about half would survive working for the Japanese.The Japanese naval bastion of Truk was located there. Food became increasingly short even with many of the Naruans removed. The United States decided to bypass Nauru raher than invade it. The Japanese were unable to resupply the island and as it was crammed with Japanese soldiers and Korean laborers thec food situatuin becane ibcreasingly strained. Some 300 of the occupiers died of starvation before the War ended. Conditions deteriorated to the point that some of the survivors reportedly resorted to canibalism. [Haden] The Japanese occupied so many Pacific islands that it took the Allies soime time to get tobthem to accept their surrender. The Japanese surrenderd the island to he Royal Australian Navy (September 13, 1945). The Allies reptriated 3,745 Japanese and Koreans. Some of the Japanese occupiers were troed forcwarc crimes because they execution Europeans and Nauruans. The Nauruans who had survived working for the Japaese on Chuuk were repatriated (January 1946). Nauru became a U.N. trusteeship (1947) and achieved its independence (1966). Nauru today is one of the smallest nations on earth. Australia helped set up a refugee camp on the island.


Haden, Jack D. "Nauri: A middle ground during World War II," Pacific Magazine (March-April 200).


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Created: 1:51 AM 3/4/2012
Last updated: 1:51 AM 3/4/2012