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The War Years

During World War II, Palmyra was transformed from a remote, sparsely inhabited atoll into a bustling U.S. military installation.

A soldier’s initials from World War II inscribed in concrete, Cooper Island, Palmyra Atoll. 

Aerial of Palmyra Atoll, 1941.

Airfield, Palmyra Naval Air Station, 1943.

Meng Island, Palmyra Naval Air Station, 1942.

Camouflaged ammunitions dump, Palmyra Naval Air Station, 1943.

One Navy company, four companies of U.S. Marines and a band were on hand to honor a navy captain shot down in flames at the battle of Midway. The captain, who survived, received the Navy Cross at this 1942 ceremony.

Platoon of U.S. Marines marches along the causeway, 1942.

Marine 1st Lt. John W. Bustard holds school on the volleyball court for the men of the second platoon.

Marine quarters, Palmyra, 1942. The hut slept eight men and was made out of “scrap lumber and what we could steal off the Navy.” 

On the day of the big game, Lt. Bustard and members of the second platoon gather around the radio. Bustard uses a stethoscope to improve reception.

Marines from the second platoon enjoy a game of volleyball.

Men of the second platoon enjoy at swim after a long hike. © John W. Bustard Collection

Radio and communications group, Palmyra Naval Air Station, 1942.

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