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Island Hopping

(U.S. Air Force photo)

(U.S. Air Force photo)

A 7th Air Force B-24 heads for home after a strike against facilities on Nauru in the Gilberts in August 1943. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A 7th Air Force B-24 heads for home after a strike against facilities on Nauru in the Gilberts in August 1943. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A B-24 lands at Nanumea in the Ellice Islands in December 1943. The field was a refueling stop for 7th Air Force bombers flying long-range missions against the Gilberts. Additional B-24s are dispersed in revetments along the runway. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A B-24 lands at Nanumea in the Ellice Islands in December 1943. The field was a refueling stop for 7th Air Force bombers flying long-range missions against the Gilberts. Additional B-24s are dispersed in revetments along the runway. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the central Pacific, the role of the Hawaii-based 7th Air Force had been primarily a defensive one and after the Battle of Midway, the enemy had made no serious effort to advance in that theater. But, by late 1943 as growing U.S. naval strength permitted a more aggressive strategy in the central Pacific, the 7th's aircraft regularly were sent to "soften up" those islands scheduled for amphibious assault or to neutralize enemy forces on those islands of little strategic value which were to be bypassed by Allied forces island-hopping through the Gilbert and Marshall islands. Missions often were flown against targets more than a thousand miles away and operational difficulties proved more of a hazard than enemy opposition. When bases and targets were mere pinpoints in a vast ocean, any appreciable error in navigation meant ditching at sea with a good chance of never being rescued.

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Gilbert and Marshall Islands
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