The occupation of Nukufetu Atoll and Motolalo Island (27 August 1943) was part of the US build-up of strength before the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.
Nukufetu Atoll (or Nukufetau) is part of the Ellice Islands, and is 650 miles to the south-east of Tarawa. Motolalo, at the southern corner of the Atoll, is the largest of the islands. In early August 1943 Nimitz decided to occupy the atoll as it was considerably closer to the Gilbert Islands than Funafuti, at that point one of only two US airfields within range.
Motolalo was occupied by an advance party from the Marine 2nd Airdrome Battalion on 27 August 1943, with the main part of the unit arriving five days later.
Two airfields were build on the island - a 3,500 fighter strip which crossed the island from west to east was ready by 9 October. A 6,100ft long bomber strip, which ran north-south and crossed the fighter strip, was ready by the end of the month. Both were used during the attack on the Gilbert Islands. Two bomber squadrons were based on the island by the start of the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. The airfields fell out of use early in 1944, and the airfields were reduced in important in May 1944, before being closed in December 1944.