Shelling of Johnston and Palmyra Atoll
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
December 12 to 24, 1941
Johnston and Palmyra Atoll, Pacific Ocean
Minor damage to U.S. installations, both islands heavily strengthened
Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
1st Defense Battalion
Various U.S. Navy forces
Marine 5-inch coastal guns
Possible surface vessels
Casualties and losses
1 Marine wounded
Damaged military installations
Possible damage to Japanese ships
Hawaiian Islands Campaign
Johnston and Palmyra
Johnston and Palmyra are two US-controlled atolls located in the Pacific Ocean. Johnston had been claimed for the US in 1858, Palmyra in 1859; both under the Guano Islands act. Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese navy forces attacked Allied possessions across the Pacific, including Johnston and Palmyra.
2 The attacks
Both islands had been obtained through the Guano Islands Act of 1856, although Palmyra was void of Guano. The lack of guano caused Palmyra to pass through the ownership of many different groups throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Johnston and Palmyra were placed under US Navy control in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt. Both islands were garrisoned and Johnston served as a refueling station for passing US Navy ships. Although an airfield was under construction on Johnston, the only aircraft present on the island were Navy PBY patrol planes, usually anchored offshore.
Johnston became noticeable to the Japanese command because of its location. Although it was too close to Hawaii to be amphibiously assaulted, it was near the major Japanese air base in the Marshall Islands. The executive officer of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion, Major Francis B. Loomis, had arrived on Johnston on December 7, 1941. He had been returning by air from an inspection of the American outposts in the Pacific when Pearl Harbor had been attacked. He then took control of the island’s garrison.
Following news of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the civilian contractors already present on Johnston began to building more emplacements for the Marines’ guns and positions. Six US Navy ships were also on Johns