2° 49' 60S Long 171° 40' 60W Canton
Island is the largest and most northern island in the Phoenix Island Group in Republic of Kiribati (Gilbert Islands). Located about
mile to the southwest of Christmas
Island. During World War II, these islands were considered part of the Gilbert Islands. The atoll is a low, narrow rim of land surrounding a large
shallow lagoon. It is 4.5 miles wide on the west, from which it narrows
to the southeast point, which is nine miles distant from the northwest
point. Also known as "Kanton". Wartime spelling "Canton".
and British occupied the island in two separate camps. On March 3,
1938 President Roosevelt placed Canton and Enderbury
under jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. In April 1939,
when Canton and Enderbury were placed under joint British and American
control for fifty years, and "thereafter until such time as it
may be modified or terminated by mutual consent". During 1938
and 1939 Pan American Airways laid developed the airfield and deepened and cleared the lagoon, then initiated flights to
New Zealand using Canton as one of the ports of call.
Canton Airfield was an important refueling stop for aircraft being ferried from Hawaii via Palmyra to Canton, then via Fiji and Nouméa to Australia. The island was known for having only one palm tree and one
On November 1, 1943 Canton Island was bombarded by thirteen shells fired by I-36.
Charles Martin Quartermaster 3/c, USS Natchaug
also remember that there was one tree on the island. We took a jeep,
for a joy ride, If I remember it was getting dark and I hit this
tree a glancing blow. That was my only claim to fame aboard my ship.
Of all the 22 islands in the Pacific, I visited, this was one of
the worst. No liberty just nothing to do. We would only spend a day
or two to unload our gas and oil. Then head back to either Pearl
Harbor or Guam."
Erik Andal recalls:
"My grandfather told me that the island had occasional Japanese
fly over at night, but only once was there an attack from such planes.
As I recall him saying, it was very brief and from one plane. No casualties.
Without intent, my grandfather left me interested in the Central Pacific war
The airfield is still in use today.
Arthur Hembree adds:
was on Canton during the NASA operation Dominic and JTF ops in 1962. I have a few snapshots of interest, i.e. FFA plane N116 and other island facilities of the era. Photos are from box camera and may not transfer well."
Thomas F. Equels adds:
"While working for Contractor H&N on Canton Island in 1971, we saw the hull of the troop ship [USS President Taylor] and nearby on the beach was the fuselage of a PBY with a radial engine close by."
Wartime airfield still in use today
Beached February 14, 1942
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
April 23, 2018