Gilbert Islands, a group of 16 coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia, on the Equator. They are part of the independent country of Kiribati. The total area is 102 square miles (264 km2). Most of the more than 67,000 inhabitants are Micronesians.
The Gilberts were discovered by the British in 1764, made a protectorate in 1892, and a colony (that also included other islands) in 1915. During World War II, the Japanese occupied the Gilberts from 1941 to 1943, withdrawing after United States troops captured the largest island, Tarawa, in one of the war's bloodiest battles. The Gilberts, together with the Phoenix Islands and most of the Line Islands, became independent as Kiribati in 1979.