World War II

Japanese expansion in the Pacific during World War II reached the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati) with the invasion of Tarawa in December, 1941. Other Gilbert Islands were subsequently occupied. The Japanese intended on pushing further south into the Ellice (Tuvalu) islands, but heavy losses in the Battle of Midway slowed them down. This allowed the Americans to arrive first, landing on Funafuti in October 1942. They built a large airfield and installed anti-aircraft gun bunkers.
The British Colonial Aministration of the islands is transferred to Funafuti from Tarawa, but is later moved again to Suva, in Fiji.
 Subsequently, the Americans move up the chain, building airfields on Nukufetau and Nanumea. All three islands occupied by the Americans were bombed by the Japanese, generally with minimal damage. The Tuvalu Islands provided important advance posts that allowed the Americans to push north, which eventually led to the Battle of Tarawa, in November 1943.