The South Sea Islands Under Japanese Mandate

Courtesy Reuters

IN 1899 the Spanish Government, deprived of the Philippine Islands and Guam by the terms of the treaty of peace that followed the Spanish-American War, sold to Germany its remaining possessions in the Pacific -- the Caroline and the Mariana archipelagoes. In 1920 the Council of the League of Nations charged the Japanese Government with a mandate over these and the Marshall groups, which since the opening of the World War had been occupied by a Japanese defense force. In 1921-22 the Japanese garrison was withdrawn and the control passed into the hands of a civil Japanese administration known as "The South Seas Bureau," which continues in operation today.

The three archipelagoes -- the Mariana, the Caroline and the Marshall -- lie scattered over a vast expanse of ocean in the form of a triangle. The base is constituted by the Caroline and Marshall groups which, at a distance of only a few degrees from the equator, extend east and west for over 2,500 miles. The apex is the furthest removed of the Mariana group, 1,200 miles to the north. So remote is the situation of these islands, and so far are they apart, that the writer's journey from Japan to the three archipelagoes and on to Davao in the Philippine Islands necessitated a voyage of over 7,000 miles. Yet in all this ocean vastness the aggregate area of the land surface of the three groups, comprising 623 islands besides hundreds of smaller islets and reefs, is only 700 square miles.

It was in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that little by little these islands were discovered and reported. The first recorded navigator to penetrate these seas was the Portuguese Diego da Rocha, who sighted certain of the islands in 1526, the same year in which Magellan recorded the existence of Guam, Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana group. Two years later the Spaniard Saavedra visited and described one of the minor groups. The Palau Islands were added to the map by Villalobos in 1542, though Drake had previously

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