Status: Republic, in free association with the United States
Population: 77,920 (2020 est.)
Area: 70 sq. miles
Currency: US Dollar (100 cents = $1)
The Marshall Islands is an isolated, sparsely populated, country in eastern Micronesia just north of the equator. It consists of 29 low-lying atolls and five coral islands. Altogether its 1,200 islands – 25 of which are inhabited – account for 70 square miles of land spread over 700,000 square miles of ocean. Most of its population is on the Majuro atoll, which ironically is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. They were named after British Captain John Marshall, who was the first to chart the islands in 1788.
From left to right: Marshall Islands Scott 3,17, and 23 used
The islands were discovered by Spanish navigators after 1526 and were claimed by Spain in 1592. They were governed from Mexico City as part of New Spain. After Mexico became independent, responsibility for all Spain’s Pacific islands was transferred to the governor of the Philippines. But apart from occasional missionary visits, they were largely ignored.
After 1859, German trading posts were established on Ebon and Jaluit atolls to take advantage of the thriving copra trade. In 1875, Germany established a consulate at Jaluit and negotiated treaties with a number of local chiefs. The German activity in the islands brought it to the verge of war with Spain. After a Papal intervention, Spain agreed to cede the Marshalls to Germany for compensation.
Germany officially declared a protectorate over the islands on October 15, 1885. It opened a post office at Jaluit on October 1, 1888, which initially used Imperial German stamps. A special Jaluit cancel was placed in use on March 29, 1889. German issues were replaced by a set overprinted “Marschall Inseln” diagonally in 1897. On September 29, 1914, barely two months after the start of World War I, a military force from New Zealand occupied Jaluit. The Japanese, who had joined the allies at the end of August, subsequently took over the Islands.
The Marshall Islands were formally assigned to Japan under a League of Nations mandate in 1920. Japan administered the Marshalls as part of its homeland, investing heavily in agriculture and fishing. Japanese postage stamps were used. As American forces advanced across the Pacific in World War II, they captured Majuro in January 1944. The large Marshallese lagoons were used to assemble the massive naval forces preparing for the attack on the Marianas. By April 1944, the U.S. forces had established four army APOs and five naval FPOs in the Marshall Islands.
From left to right: Marshall Islands Scott 608, 770, and1123j The War Is Ended single
Following World War II, the United States assumed control of the islands as part of its UN Pacific Trust Territory. The U.S. Navy administered the islands from 1947 until July 1, 1951, when they were placed under the Department of the Interior. With civilian control, a U.S. post office was opened in Majuro. In 1979, the Marshall Islands became an internally self-governing republic and in 1984 it became independent in free association with the United States. U.S. stamps were used until June 12, 1984, when the county issued its first postage stamps. The Marshall Islands is a copious producer of postage stamps.