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Christmas Island is located in the Indian Ocean between Indonesia and Australia. Situated 200 miles to the north is Java and Sumatra. To the southeast 960 miles away is the nearest point on Western Australia in Australia.
Christmas Island was British colonial set up a phosphate mining operation on the island, the Christmas Island Phosphate Company in 1897, and imported Chinese labor to work there, with first exports begining in 1900, with Japan being the biggest customer. The Dutch and British had a prewar agreement to develop a seaplane base on the island, but it was never used during the start of the war due to inadequet Dutch strength.
A Japanese submarine torpedoed a Norwegian freighter Eisevold, loading phosphate in Flying Fish Cove, which later sank. Japanese aircraft made numerous bombing raids on Christmas island and with most of the women & children evacuated, the threat of invasion grew real.
The island was occupied by the Japanese on March 31, 1942 with a bombardment and landing of 900 troops, the British surrendered before the landings had even been completed. The Japanese occupied the island until the end of the war. With the remaining Europeans imprisoned, the Japanese spent the first few weeks searching for the 1000 Malays and Chinese who had fled to the jungle. Most returned and were forced to work. Japanese attempts to profit from the mine were thwarted by acts of sabotage by the islanders and by Allied submarine attacks. By 1943 the Japanese were unable to maintain the island's food supplies, but solved this crisis by sending half the island's population to prison camps in Indonesia.
After the war, the island was administered by Singapore, and 1948 by the Australian and New Zealand goverments, with the island being aquired by Australia in 1958, it is still used for phosphate mining.
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