Micronesia, a name given the Pacific islands extending from the Gilbert Islands, on the Equator, northwestward to the Marianas. (Other divisions of the Pacific islands are Melanesia and Polynesia; for map, The name is Greek for “region of small islands.” The people, related to Polynesians, speak Malayo-Polynesian languages.

The Micronesian islands are scattered over an area of 3,000,000 square miles (roughly 7.8 million km2) and have a land area of about 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2). In addition to the Gilberts and Marianas, the islands include the Caroline Islands, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Wake Island. The Gilberts are part of Kiribati, an independent country. Nauru is independent.

Wake and Guam are United States possessions. The Northern Mariana Islands are a United States commonwealth. The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau are self-governing republics in free association with the United States.

Japan held most of the islands as League of Nations mandates after World War I, and took Guam, Wake Island, Nauru, and the Gilberts early in World War II. Some of the war's fiercest fighting took place here. II, section “The War with Japan, 1941-45,” subtitles Offensive Against Japan, 1943-44 [Tarawa; Kawjalein] and Final Campaigns in the Pacific, 1944-45.) After the war, many of the islands were placed in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Until its dissolution in 1994, the trust was administered by the United States.