Operation Raids on Ponape

The 'Raids on Ponape' were a series of US air and naval attacks on the island of Ponape in the eastern part of the Caroline islands group (15 February/1 May 1944).

Rugged and extensively forested, Ponape is about 19 miles (31 km) in diameter, has an area of 129 sq miles (334 km˛) and has a maximum elevation of 2,566 ft (782 m). possessing the shape of an eccentric circle, Ponape is surrounded by a reef and has a good anchorage. The Japanese invested fairly heavily in the island, and its inhabitants were moderately loyal to the Imperial Japanese empire, providing hundreds of workers for other islands. By the outbreak of the Pacific War, Ponape had a seaplane base, and was protected by a coastal battery and two anti-aircraft batteries. The Japanese had completed an airstrip by a time early in 1944 on an islet just to the north of the island capital of Colonia, on the northern coast of the main island, and were working on a second airstrip.

On 12 February 1944, six Japanese flying boats staged from Truk, the primary Japanese base in the Caroline islands group, through Ponape to newly captured Roi-Namur in the Kwajalein atoll of the Marshall islands group, and there managed to bomb and destroy the main US Marine Corps' supply dumps.

The USA responded with attacks by the bombers of Major General Willis H. Hales’s US 7th Army Air Force from Tarawa between 15 and 26 February. The Japanese facilities were then bombarded by seven battleships under Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee on 1 May 1944, with air cover was provided by the carriers of Rear Admiral Joseph J. Clark’s TG58.1. This was mostly a training exercise, as there were few worthwhile targets left on the island and the battle line had never before operated as a unit.

The island was then bypassed by the Allied counter-offensive.