The atolls of Tuvalu acted as staging posts during the preparation for the Battle of Tarawa and the Battle of Makin that commenced on 20 November 1943, which were part of the implementation of “Operation Galvanic”. After the war, the military airfield on Funafuti was developed into Funafuti International Airport.
Post-World War II – Transition to Independence:
The formation of the United Nations after World War II resulted in the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization committing to a process of decolonization; as a consequence, the British colonies in the Pacific started on a path to self-determination.
In 1974, the ministerial government was introduced to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony through a change to the Constitution. In that year a general election was held, and a referendum was held in 1974 to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration. As a consequence of the referendum, separation occurred in two stages. The Tuvaluan Order 1975, which took effect on 1 October 1975, recognized Tuvalu as a separate British dependency with its own government. The second stage occurred on 1 January 1976, when separate administrations were created out of the civil service of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony.
Elections to the House of Assembly of the British Colony of Tuvalu were held on 27 August 1977, with Toaripi Lauti being appointed Chief Minister in the House of Assembly of the Colony of Tuvalu on 1 October 1977. The House of Assembly was dissolved in July 1978, with the government of Toaripi Lauti continuing as a caretaker government until the 1981 elections were held. Toaripi Lauti became the first Prime Minister on 1 October 1978, when Tuvalu became an independent nation. That date is also celebrated as the country’s Independence Day and is a public holiday.
Tuvalu is a volcanic archipelago, and consists of three reef islands (Nanumanga, Niutao and Niulakita) and six true atolls (Funafuti, Nanumea, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae and Vaitupu). Its small, scattered group of low-lying atolls have poor soil and a total land area of only about 26 square kilometres (10 square miles) making it the fourth smallest country in the world. The highest elevation is 4.6 meters (15 ft) above sea level on Niulakita. Over four decades, there had been a net increase in land area of the islets of 73.5 ha (2.9%), although the changes are not uniform, with 74% increasing and 27% decreasing in size. The sea level at the Funafuti tide gauge has risen at 3.9 mm per year, which is approximately twice the global average. The rising sea levels are identified as creating an increased transfer of wave energy across reef surfaces, which shifts sand, resulting in accretion to island shorelines. The Tuvalu Prime Minister objected to the report’s implication that there were “alternate” strategies for Islanders to adapt to rising sea levels, and criticized it for neglecting issues such as saltwater intrusion into groundwater tables as a result of sea level rise.