|The Republic of Nauru's history in the European era is one of relentless persecution of land and people. At every point there's a story of heroic survival. Nauru's World War 2 experience is one of these stories.
In 1942 the Japanese infiltrated the Pacific and for two main reasons Nauru became a prime target for occupation. Exported Phosphate was richly fertilising Australian and New Zealand agricultural soils, and the tiny isolated Pacific Island was strategically located to be a military base.
Not long after the invasion the Japanese had no use for Nauruan nationals and deported two thirds of the population,1200 people to Truk, an island military base in the Carolinas, now the Federated States of Micronesia 1000 kilometres to the north-west. The remaining third spent the three years of occupation on Nauru. Five hundred people died mainly of starvation and disease. The infrastructure and sustainable land was completely destroyed.
Realising the war was within living memory when in Nauru recently I photographed survivors.
I continued in the exercise in neighbouring Kiribati. Some of the people photographed were working in the phosphate mines on Banaba at the time of the war and were deported to Nauru; but there was also the bloody Battle of Tarawa. In November 1943, 6000 American and Japanese soldiers died over 3 days of fighting at yet another base on Betio Island at the southern end of the main atoll.
Elderly Ikiribati vividly remember the fiery battle and destruction of the island.
All photographs Copyright © Jocelyn Carlin.
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