South Pacific Mandate
The was the Japanese League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 mandate consisting of several groups of islands (modern-day Palau
Palau , officially the Republic of Palau , is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and south of Tokyo. In 1978, after three decades as being part of the United Nations trusteeship, Palau chose independence instead of becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a...

, Northern Mariana Islands
Northern Mariana Islands
The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands , is a commonwealth in political union with the United States, occupying a strategic region of the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of 15 islands about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines...

, Federated States of Micronesia
Federated States of Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia or FSM is an independent, sovereign island nation, made up of four states from west to east: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It comprises approximately 607 islands with c...

, and Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

) in the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 which came under the administration of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 after the defeat of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...


Early history

Under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance
Anglo-Japanese Alliance
The first was signed in London at what is now the Lansdowne Club, on January 30, 1902, by Lord Lansdowne and Hayashi Tadasu . A diplomatic milestone for its ending of Britain's splendid isolation, the alliance was renewed and extended in scope twice, in 1905 and 1911, before its demise in 1921...

, after the start of World War I, Japan declared war on Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 on 23 August 1914 and participated in a joint operation with British forces in the Battle of Tsingtao
Battle of Tsingtao
The Siege of Tsingtao was the attack on the German-controlled port of Tsingtao in China during World War I by Imperial Japan and the United Kingdom....

 to capture the German settlement in China's Shandong Province. The Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 was tasked with pursuing and destroying the German East Asiatic Squadron and protection of the shipping lanes for Allied commerce
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

 in the Pacific and Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...


During the course of this operation, the Japanese Navy seized the German possessions in the Marianas
Mariana Islands
The Mariana Islands are an arc-shaped archipelago made up by the summits of 15 volcanic mountains in the north-western Pacific Ocean between the 12th and 21st parallels north and along the 145th meridian east...

, Carolines
Caroline Islands
The Caroline Islands are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, to the north of New Guinea. Politically they are divided between the Federated States of Micronesia in the eastern part of the group, and Palau at the extreme western end...

, Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

 and Palau
Palau , officially the Republic of Palau , is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and south of Tokyo. In 1978, after three decades as being part of the United Nations trusteeship, Palau chose independence instead of becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a...

 groups, mostly without resistance, by October 1914.

After the end of World War I, as determined in the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

, Japanese occupation of former German colonies in Micronesia
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest....

 north of the equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 was formally recognized, and Japan was given a League of Nations Class C mandate.

In line with the terms of the mandate, Japan sought to incorporate the islands as an integral part of its empire, mounting aggressive economic development
Economic development
Economic development generally refers to the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area...

 and immigration programs. Japanese
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

, Okinawan
The are the indigenous peoples of the Ryukyu Islands between the islands of Kyūshū and Taiwan. The generally recognized subgroups of Ryukyuans are Amamians, Okinawans, Miyakoans, Yaeyamans, and Yonagunians. Geographically, they live in either Okinawa Prefecture or Kagoshima Prefecture...

 and Korean
Korean people
The Korean people are an ethnic group originating in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. Koreans are one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogeneous groups in the world.-Names:...

 immigrants eventually came to outnumber islanders by as many as two to one.

Pacific War

During the 1930s, the Japanese Navy began construction of airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military projects in the islands controlled under the mandate, viewing the islands as "unsinkable aircraft carrier
Unsinkable aircraft carrier
An unsinkable aircraft carrier is a term sometimes used to refer to a geographical or political island that is utilized to extend the power projection of a military force...

s" with a critical role to play in the defense of the Japanese home islands against potential American invasion. These became important staging grounds for Japanese air and naval offensives in the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

. This work was done in secret, but this was not a direct violation of the Washington Naval Treaty
Washington Naval Treaty
The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was an attempt to cap and limit, and "prevent 'further' costly escalation" of the naval arms race that had begun after World War I between various International powers, each of which had significant naval fleets. The treaty was...

 as that treaty, by its own terms contained in Article XIX, did not apply to the Mandated Islands.
  • Kwajalein
    Kwajalein Atoll , is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands . The southernmost and largest island in the atoll is named Kwajalein Island. English-speaking residents of the U.S...

     was a major base supporting the attack on Pearl Harbor
    Attack on Pearl Harbor
    The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

     and the Battle of Wake Island
    Battle of Wake Island
    The Battle of Wake Island began simultaneously with the Attack on Pearl Harbor and ended on 23 December 1941, with the surrender of the American forces to the Empire of Japan...

  • Palau supported the Battle of the Philippines
    Battle of the Philippines
    Battle of the Philippines may refer to several wars, military campaigns, and major battles which have been fought in the Philippine Islands, including:...

  • Saipan
    Saipan is the largest island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands , a chain of 15 tropical islands belonging to the Marianas archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean with a total area of . The 2000 census population was 62,392...

     supported the Battle of Guam
    Battle of Guam
    The Second Battle of Guam was the American capture of the Japanese held island of Guam, a United States territory during the Pacific campaign of World War II.-Background:...

  • Truk became the base for amphibious landings on Tarawa
    Tarawa Atoll
    Tarawa is an atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, previously the capital of the former British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. It is the location of the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, South Tarawa...

     and Makin
    Makin (islands)
    Makin is the name of a chain of islands located in the Pacific Ocean island nation of Kiribati, specifically in the Gilbert Islands.-Geography:...

     in the Gilberts
    Gilbert Islands
    The Gilbert Islands are a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean. They are the main part of Republic of Kiribati and include Tarawa, the site of the country's capital and residence of almost half of the population.-Geography:The atolls and islands of the Gilbert Islands...

    , as well as Rabaul
    Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, Papua New Guinea. The town was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption. During the eruption, ash was sent thousands of metres into the air and the...

    , in the Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

    n mandate Territory of New Guinea
    Territory of New Guinea
    The Territory of New Guinea was the Australia-controlled, League of Nations-mandated territory in the north eastern part of the island of New Guinea, and surrounding islands, between 1920 and 1949...

  • Majuro
    Majuro , is a large coral atoll of 64 islands in the Pacific Ocean, and forms a legislative district of the Ratak Chain of the Marshall Islands. The atoll itself has a land area of and encloses a lagoon of...

    , was used in air strikes against Howland Island
    Howland Island
    Howland Island is an uninhabited coral island located just north of the equator in the central Pacific Ocean, about southwest of Honolulu. The island lies almost halfway between Hawaii and Australia and is an unincorporated, unorganized territory of the United States. Geographically, it is part...

  • Jaluit Atoll
    Jaluit Atoll
    Jaluit Atoll is a large coral atoll of 91 islands in the Pacific Ocean, and forms a legislative district of the Ralik Chain of the Marshall Islands. Its total land area is only , but it encloses a lagoon with an area of . Most of the land area is on largest islet of Jaluit . Jaluit is located...

     was the base from which the Japanese Navy seized Nauru
    Nauru , officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just...

     and Ocean Island
    Banaba Island
    Banaba Island , an island in the Pacific Ocean, is a solitary raised coral island west of the Gilbert Island chain and 300 km east of Nauru. It is part of the Republic of Kiribati. It has an area of 6.5 km², and the highest point on the island is also the highest point in Kiribati, at 81...


In addition to the islands' naval importance, the Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 utilized the islands to support air and land detachments. The "island-hopping" strategy employed by the United States military caused the Japanese Empire to lose control of its Pacific possessions between 1943 and 1945.

The League of Nations mandate was formally revoked by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 in July 1947, and the United States was made responsible for administration of the islands under the terms of a United Nations trusteeship agreement which established the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was a United Nations trust territory in Micronesia administered by the United States from 1947 to 1986.-History:...



Saipan is the largest island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands , a chain of 15 tropical islands belonging to the Marianas archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean with a total area of . The 2000 census population was 62,392...

 in the Marianas archipelago was the most important island militarily and economically in the South Pacific Mandate, and became the center of subsequent Japanese settlement. Another important island was Truk
Chuuk — formerly Truk, Ruk, Hogoleu, Torres, Ugulat, and Lugulus — is an island group in the south western part of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia , along with Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap. Chuuk is the most populous of the FSM's...

 in the Carolines archipelago, which was fortified into a major navy base by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The administration of South Pacific Mandate was managed by the Imperial Japanese Navy, which divided the region into six administrative districts reporting to naval headquarters in Truk. Later, in April 1922, civilian government was established in the form of a civil administration department which still reported to the local naval garrison commander in each of the six administrative districts: Saipan, Palau, Yap, Truk, Ponape and Jaluit Atoll.

Later, the headquarters of the South Pacific Mandate was transferred from Truk to Koror
Koror is the state comprising the main commercial centre of the Republic of Palau. It consists of several islands, the most prominent being Koror Island ....

, Palau, and its governor
Governor of the South Pacific Mandate
The following is a list of the Governors of the League of Nations South Pacific Mandate, administered by the Empire of Japan.-Commanders of Interim Southern Islands Defense Unit:*Tatsuo Matsumura...

 reported directly to the Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

. However, after the establishment of a Ministry of Colonial Affairs
Ministry of Colonial Affairs
The was a cabinet-level ministry in the government of the Empire of Japan from 1923-1942.-History:The original Ministry of Colonial Affairs was the short-lived Hokkaidō Colonization Office, established in the early Meiji period by Prime Minister Kuroda Kiyotaka to protect Japan's sparely populated...

, the mandate's governor was ordered to report to the colonial minister in June 1929.

When colonial affairs were absorbed into the Ministry of Greater East Asia
Ministry of Greater East Asia
The was a cabinet-level ministry in the government of the Empire of Japan from 1942–1945, established to administer overseas territories obtained by Japan in the Pacific War and to coordinate the establishment and development of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.-History and...

 in November 1942, the primacy of the Imperial Japanese Navy was again recognized by appointing an admiral as governor. Furthermore, the six administrative districts were reduced to three in November 1943: Marianas, Truk and Palau.


The population of the South Seas Mandate was too small to provide interesting markets and the indigenous people had very limited financial resources for the purchase of imported goods. The major significance of the mandate to the Empire of Japan was its strategic location, dominating sea lanes across the Pacific Ocean and providing convenient provisioning locations for sailing vessels in need of water, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. Later, the islands became important coaling stations for steam-powered vessels.


The initial population figures (1919-1920) for the mandated territories included around 50,000 indigenous
Indigenous peoples of Oceania
The indigenous peoples of Oceania are those peoples identified as indigenous peoples, as per the modern global definition of the term.Many of the present-day Pacific Island nations in the Oceania region were originally populated by Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian peoples over the course of...

 islanders. The total grew to 70,000 inhabitants in 1930, and more than 80,000 in 1933, as more Japanese settled in the islands
Japanese settlement in Micronesia
Large-scale Japanese settlement in Micronesia occurred in the first half of the 20th century when Japan colonised much of Micronesia. Modern-day Micronesian countries and territories including the Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands were once part of the...

. In the census of December 1939, the total population was 129,104, of which 77,257 were Japanese (including ethnic Taiwanese and Koreans), 51,723 indigenous islanders and 124 foreigners.


The mandated territories produced significant quantities of sugar cane, bananas, pineapples, taro
Taro is a common name for the corms and tubers of several plants in the family Araceae . Of these, Colocasia esculenta is the most widely cultivated, and is the subject of this article. More specifically, this article describes the 'dasheen' form of taro; another variety is called eddoe.Taro is...

, coconuts
COcOnuts is the second album released by Jane, comprising Animal Collective member Panda Bear, and Scott Mou. It was originally self-released on CD-R's, but later became the first album released by Psych-o-path Records in 2005. The Psych-o-path version was remastered by Rusty Santos and Edik Kleyner....

, and other tropical farming products on a par with Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

. The islands also provided bases for the Japanese fishing fleet.

In terms of mineral products, many islands yielded phosphates for farming, especially from Angaur
Angaur or Ngeaur is an island in the island nation of Palau. The island, which forms its own state, has an area of 8 km² . Its population is 188 . State capital is the village of Ngeremasch on the western side...

 island, which produced some 60,000 tonnes per year. Bauxite
Bauxite is an aluminium ore and is the main source of aluminium. This form of rock consists mostly of the minerals gibbsite Al3, boehmite γ-AlO, and diaspore α-AlO, in a mixture with the two iron oxides goethite and hematite, the clay mineral kaolinite, and small amounts of anatase TiO2...

 was another segment of the colonial economic structure, although the mineral was only present in the Palau group. Large quantities of pearls, both natural and cultured, were extracted from the islands.

The islands also allowed for regular flight links for long range seaplane
A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are a subclass called amphibian aircraft...

s such as the Kawanishi H6K2-L ("Mavis") of Dai Nippon Koku KK.

See also

  • Governor of the South Pacific Mandate
    Governor of the South Pacific Mandate
    The following is a list of the Governors of the League of Nations South Pacific Mandate, administered by the Empire of Japan.-Commanders of Interim Southern Islands Defense Unit:*Tatsuo Matsumura...

  • Nanshin-ron
    The was a political doctrine in the pre-WW2 Japan which stated that Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands were Japan's sphere of interest and that the potential value to the Japanese Empire for economic and territorial expansion in those areas was greater than elsewhere.This political doctrine...

     (Southern Expansion Doctrine)
  • Boshiro Hosogaya
    Boshiro Hosogaya
    , was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.-Biography:Hosogaya was born to a farming family in Nozawa, Nagano prefecture in 1888. He graduated from the 36th class of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1908. He was ranked 16th in a class of 191 cadets. As a midshipman, he...

  • Structure of Japanese Forces in South Pacific Mandate
  • Organization of Imperial Japanese Army forces in the Pacific
    Organization of Imperial Japanese Army forces in the Pacific
    -Commanders-in-Chief of South Seas Detachment:*Korechika Anami:-General, to Southern Area Theater, where he directed operations in western New Guinea and Halmahera area*Tomitaro Horii:-Commanding General, South Seas Detachment...

  • Nan'yō Shrine
    Nan'yō Shrine
    The is a Shinto shrine located in the island of Koror, in Palau. The shrine was the ichinomiya of the Japanese-administered colonial government of the South Pacific Mandate ; and it was established in 1940...

Further reading

  • Annual report to the League of Nations on the administration of the South Sea islands under Japanese Mandate. [Tokyo]: Japanese Government. (Years 1921 to 1938)
  • Herbert Rittlinger, "Der Masslose Ozean", Stuttgart, Germany, 1939
  • Cressey George B.
    George Cressey
    George Babcock Cressey was an American geographer, author, and academic. Born in Tiffin, Ohio, he attended Denison University and then the University of Chicago, where he received a PhD in geology. After receiving his degree, he taught at Shanghai college and traveled widely in China...

    "Asia's Lands and Peoples", X Chapter : "Natural Basis of Japan" (P.196-285), section "South Seas" (p. 276-277).,1946
  • Sion, Jules. "Asie des Moussons", Paris Librarie Armand Colin, (1928) I, 189-266, Chapter X "The Nature of Japan", section XIII "Japanese Colonial Empire" (p. 294-324), and section IV "Formosa and Southern Islands" (p. 314-320)
  • Book "Asia", Chapter X "Japanese Empire" (p. 633-716), section "The Japanese islands in South Seas".
  • Childress, David Hatcher,"The Lost City of Lemuria & The Pacific", 1988. Chapter 10 "The Pohnpei Island, in finding of sunken city"(p. 204-229)
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