80-G-208974: Operation Flintlock, January-February 1944. Fourth Marine Division attack on Roi Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, February 1-2, 1944.

Fourth division Marines salute as the flag is raised on Roi Island, Kwajalein Atoll, marking the capture of this Japanese stronghold, 2 February 1944. Work goes on in the command post at the base of the flagpole. In the background is the remains of a three story concrete building, victim of the pre-invasion bombardment. (80-G-208974)

By MC1 Jonathan Nelson, NHHC Communication and Outreach Division

February 2024 marks a significant period of U.S. history – the 80th anniversary of the end the invasion of the Marshall Islands and Operation FLINTLOCK. On Feb. 5, Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Senior Historian Timothy L. Francis participated in a ceremony held by U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll (USAG-KA) in Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, to honor those who served and assisted in liberating the Marshall Islands during World War II.

Operation FLINTLOCK was a pivotal invasion during World War II in the Marshall Islands. It represented the largest amphibious assault at that time and significantly contributed to the Allied victory over the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy in the Pacific. The invasion commenced with pre-invasion attacks starting in November 1943, followed by D-Day on January 31, 1944. Soldiers quickly seized key islands, facilitating the establishment of fire support bases and providing access to the atoll's interior waters for rapid buildup of combat power.

"As a historian, I was honored to assist U.S. Army Garrison—Kwajalein Atoll commemorate the 80th anniversary of Operation Flintlock,” said Francis. “Being able to explain the complexities, difficulties and significance of the operation to staff and their families was a wonderful experience. In light of their struggles after the wave damage last month, the events also allowed me to emphasize the continued importance of the Marshall Islands to contemporary DoD operations as well as possible future naval logistics in the central Pacific."

A massive bombardment preceded the assault, decimating Japanese defenses on Kwajalein. Lead elements of two Regimental Combat Teams then landed, facing resistance from entrenched defenders. Despite obstacles, troops moved inland with support from armored amphibian tractors and tanks. Intensive training in Hawaii prior to deployment proved vital in efficiently neutralizing enemy bunkers and strongpoints. Over the next days, the assault progressed, culminating in the island's capture on February 4, 1944, with minimal casualties for U.S. forces compared to heavy losses for the Japanese.

“This is the 80th anniversary of a momentous military operation that not only shaped the course of history but also set the Marshall Islands on the path to liberation and eventual statehood as an independent Republic,” said U.S. Army Col. Andrew Morgan, USAG-KA commander. “It laid the foundation for a future where freedom and resilience became defining characteristics of both this remarkable community and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Following the conquest, U.S. forces quickly converted Kwajalein into a base, enabling subsequent operations against remaining Japanese-held islands. The success of Operation FLINTLOCK validated American amphibious doctrine and informed future tactics and strategies. Notably, the swift seizure of the Marshall Islands allowed for the advancement of plans for the Marianas invasion, hastening the course of the war in the Pacific and ultimately contributing to the Japanese surrender. The operation exemplified the innovation and adaptability of U.S. Armed Forces in the Pacific and their significant impact on the war effort.

For more information regarding Operation FLINTLOCK, visit: https://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/Recent/Article-View/Article/3677906/operation-flintlock-invasion-of-the-marshall-islands-january-february-1944/
For more information regarding the USAG-KA Operation FLINTLOCK commemoration ceremony and full leadership remarks by of U.S. Army Col. Andrew Morgan, USAG-KA commander, visit: https://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/Portals/66/Documents/Operation%20FLINTLOCK%2080th%20Anniversary%20Commemoration.pdf

NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for preserving, analyzing, and disseminating U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC comprises many activities, including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, 10 museums, USS Constitution repair facility, and the historic ship Nautilus.


Note to Media: For more information, contact the Naval History and Heritage Command Public Affairs Office at 202-433-7880 or nhhc_publicaffairs@us.navy.mil.