In November 1943 American forces successfully invaded the Gilbert Islands, which the Japanese had wrested from British control shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor almost two years earlier. Thus the United States initiated the great westward drive across the Central Pacific that would eventually bring Allied forces to the very doorstep of the Japanese homeland. This drive would constitute the northern or upper part of a two-pronged movement against the heart of Japanese military and economic power in the Pacific. The lower prong would be represented by General Douglas MacArthur's steady progress up the Solomon Islands, up the northern coast of New Guinea, and into the Philippine Islands. But it was to the Central Pacific route, westward from Hawaii through the myriad islands and atolls of Micronesia, that the American strategic planners had assigned the "main effort" in the war against Japan. Along this path U.S. naval, ground, and air
forces under command of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz were to begin a series of amphibious assaults of size and scope unparalleled in the history of oceanic warfare.