Air power and problems of sovereignty in the South Pacific, 1935-41
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The development of aviation in the South pacific gave new significance to numerous Pacific islands which had for long been forgotten. Islands which appeared as almost indistinguishable dots on the map suddenly acquired real importance as stepping-stones in the successful operation of air routes through the Pacific. The result was a small scramble for islands. In 1935 the United States Government occupied Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands, which the British Government claimed. The following year the United States claimed Canton and Enderbury Islands. In 1939 the claim extended to the remaining islands of the Phoenix Group and numerous of the Line Islands (including Christmas Island), and the Ellice Islands. Also on the list were the northern Cook Islands and the Tokelau Islands, over which the New Zealand Government exercised jurisdiction. These claims led to a scarcely credible diplomatic wrangle on the eve of the Second World War. The British Government, in preparing its policy on trans-Pacific aviation and the United States claims, closely consulted the New Zealand Government. The dispute throws considerable light on the workings of the Commonwealth relationship, although this question will not be discussed directly. The concern of this thesis is with the problem which was new, the role of air power. Civil and military aviation drew attention to previously neglected islands. The thesis begins with the attempts by Pan American Airways to fly to New Zealand, and ends with the establishment by the United States of a chain of island air bases in the South Pacific designed to assist in the defence of the Philippines in a war with Japan.