Occupation of Funafuti Atoll (Operation Fetlock), 2 October 1942

Operation Fetlock, or the occupation of Funafuti Atoll (2 October 1942) saw the Americans seize the largest atoll in the Ellice Islands, ready to turn it into a base to use against the Japanese in the Gilbert Islands.

Funafuti is in the southern part of the Ellice Islands, 970 miles to the south-east of the Japanese-occupied Nauru Island.

The island was occupied on 2 October 1942 by the Marine 5th Defense Battalion. The operation was kept secret until the Japanese discovered it for themselves on 27 March 1943.

Once the Japanese knew that the island had been occupied, they carried out ten air raids between March and November 1943, starting from Nauru and staging through Tarawa. The Americans built an airfield on Fongafale or Funafuti Island, the largest in the atoll. This had been extended to 6,600ft length by April 1943, allowing its use by B-24s. Two bomber squadrons were based on the island by the start of the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. Aircraft based on the island attacked Nauru for the first time on 20 April 1943 and Tarawa on 22 April. There was also a small seaplane base, PT boat base and floating naval base (operational from 16 November 1943). The island was used to support the invasion of the Marshalls.

The rapid Allied advance soon reduced the important of Funafuti, and the base began to wind down from May 1943.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 October 2017), Occupation of Funafuti Atoll (Operation Fetlock), 2 October 1942 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/operation_fetlock_funafuti_atoll.html

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