VII. The Contemporary Period, 1945–2000 > H. The Pacific Region, 1944–2000
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1944, Feb. 2)
H. The Pacific Region, 1944–2000
1. The Islands, 1946–2000
The postwar years brought a period of significant change to the islands. They saw the dismantling of colonial rule through peaceful negotiation, except in Vanuatu; by the 1990s, only France and the U.S. remained “colonial powers” in the Pacific. They saw generally successful attempts at regional cooperation among independent island states, but they also witnessed the steadily growing dependence of the small, resource-poor, isolated islands on metropolitan countries. At the close of the 20th century, real political or economic independence appears to be a vanishing dream for most island communities.  1
1946, July 1, 25
The U.S., under Operation Crossroads, carried out the first of its atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  2
Former (Japanese) mandated territories of the Marianas and the Marshall and Caroline Islands were given by the UN to the U.S. as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI). The TTPI was designated a strategic trusteeship, which meant (1) that its political status could not be altered without the agreement of the governing power; (2) its affairs were to be supervised by the UN Security Council, where the U.S. (not the Trusteeship Council) had veto powers; and (3) the U.S. could close off any part of it for strategic purposes. Initially under the U.S. Navy, the administration of the TTPI was assumed by the Department of the Interior in 1951.  3
The creation of the South Pacific Commission (SPC) resulted at the signing of the Canberra Agreement by six colonial powers: Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. The first regional body of its kind, the SPC was intended primarily to secure Western political and military interests in the postwar Pacific.  4
The territories of Papua and New Guinea were merged into one administrative unit by Australia.  5
1954, March 1
The U.S. exploded its first hydrogen bomb, code-named Bravo, at Bikini Atoll, with long-term environmental and political consequences.  6
An independence referendum in the French territories was ordered by Pres. Charles de Gaulle. It returned majority support for the continuing presence of France in the islands.  7
The Hawaiian Islands, a territory of the U.S. since the turn of the century, became the 50th state of the U.S.A.  8
1962, Nov. 4
The U.S. carried out its last nuclear test (Tightrope) in the Pacific.  9
Western Samoa became the first Pacific island to gain independence.  10
The first South Pacific Games were held at Backhurst Park in Suva.  11
Dutch New Guinea (Iriyan Jaya) became a part of Indonesia.  12
Anthony Solomon, a Harvard economics professor appointed by Pres. John F. Kennedy to carry out a survey of political, social, and economic problems in Micronesia, recommended an “integrated plan of action” to increase the islands' dependence on the U.S.  13
The Cook Islands gained self-government from New Zealand; a constitutional conference in London moved Fiji further along the path of internal self-government.  14
1966, March
The University of Papua New Guinea opened and rapidly became the center for debating national issues by an emerging Papua New Guinean elite.  15
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.