History of the Marshall Islands
The Marshall Islands is a republic of 29 atolls and 5 coral islands. The islands are
one of the four main groups that make up Micronesia. The nearest neighbor to the
Marshalls are the Federated States of Micronesia. They\'re only 26 populated islands in
the Marshalls because a lot of the islands are too small to support many people. There
are two roughly parallel chains of islands that make up the western Ralik group and the
eastern Ratak group. Now that you know what and where the Marshall Islands are I\'ll
explain the history.
The very early people of the Marshalls had no written language so it is very hard
to predict what went on. The only early history has been handed down from generation
to generation in the form of songs, and we can also get some facts from the folklore and
legends. One thing that they do know is that powerful chiefs ruled these large
civilizations able to move such large stones to build temples and cities. They must have
been somewhat advanced because they were able to build huge walls that were probably
there to enclose a city. These walls weighed many tons and were 20 ft. long, and even
some walls they have found to be 40 ft. high. Archaeologists are still puzzled of what
kind of machinery they had to move such large stones.
The real knowledge we know about the Marshall Islands history began in the
early sixteenth century. The sea going Europeans were trying to find sources of the Spice
Islands that were in very large demand in Europe. English, Dutch, Spanish and
Portuguese sea captains were all sailing around on their hunt for riches. One of the first
people we know of to definitely land on the Marshall Islands during this time is
Ferdinand Magellan. He landed in Micronesia on his journey to circumnavigate the
world. Forty years later in the 1560\'s after Magellan\'s voyage Spain claimed most all of
the islands in Micronesia. Spain wasn\'t really concerned about Micronesia because they
were busy building empires in South America, Central America, and Mexico. For the
most part Micronesia was under loose Spanish control for 300 years.
During those 300 years in 1788 Captain John Marshall named the Marshall
Islands. He was sailing between Australia and China on the boat the Scarborough and
sailed through the islands. Even though many Europeans had been in the Marshalls
previously he has been said to be one of the first people to "discover" the islands.
In the nineteenth century the dried meat of the coconut called copra became an
important trade items for European powers. Since there was much money in the copra
trade Germany, Spain, and Great Britain started to argue over the control of Micronesia.
In 1885 Germany gained control of the Marshalls while Spain kept control of the
Carolines and the Marianas. In 1886 the English and the Spanish were unhappy with
Germany\'s claims, but the dispute was settled by Pope Leo XIII in Rome. The Pope gave
all right to trade with these islands to Germany. Then shortly after that in 1898 the
Spanish- American war caused Spain to give the rest of Micronesia to Germany. This all
changed though during W.W.I.
In 1914 Japan which was allied with the U.S. and its European Allies took control
of the Marshalls and all of Micronesia with naval ships. Then in 1920 the League of
Nations gave Micronesia to Japan.
In 1935 against the agreement with the League of Nations Japan began to fortify
the islands. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations and secretly began to build
airfields and naval bases on the islands. Japan closed the Marshalls and Micronesia from
the rest of the world. To show just how secret Japan was in 1937 Amelia Earhart was on
her famous trip around the world in the air. She disappeared somewhere in the Japan
held Micronesia and has never been seen since. Many people think that she was short of
gas and made a forced landing on one of the islands. Japan was then upset over what she
may have seen and executed her.
After the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941 the Marshall Islands became a very
important strategic location in W.W.II. The Japanese used the islands on their push
southward toward Australia, and the U.S. wanted the islands on their push northward.
The Marshall islands were the next step for the Allied march toward the Japanese home
islands. The Kwajalein and Majuro atolls were picked as the two main places to