The Northern Mariana IslandsThe Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean are a commonwealth of the United States.

Northern Marianas, a commonwealth associated with the United States. Its official name is Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It consists of 16 volcanic islands in the North Pacific Ocean, forming part of Micronesia, and it includes all of the Mariana Islands except Guam.

The islands extend for about 440 miles (700 km) in a north-south line, some 3,700 miles (5,950 km) west-southwest of Hawaii. Southwest of the islands, in the Mariana Trench, is the greatest known oceanic depth —35,810 feet (10,915 m).

The islands have a total area of 177 square miles (458 km2). The largest islands are Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. The climate is tropical. Most of the people are Micronesians. English is the official language but many people speak Malayo-Polynesian languages. Tourism is the leading source of income. The population is 69,221. Most of the people live on Saipan.

The Northern Marianas are self-governing, under the sovereignty of the United States. They have an elected governor and two-house legislature. Residents are United States citizens.

The Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan landed on Guam in 1521 and named it Isla de los Ladrones (“Island of Thieves”) after natives stole his skiff. Soon, the entire island group was referred to as the Ladrones. The Spanish, who took control in 1668, renamed the islands after the Spanish regent Mariana. Spain held the Northern Marianas until 1899, when it sold them to Germany. Occupied in World War I by Japan, they were made a Japanese mandate by the League of Nations in 1919.

The islands were captured by United States forces in 1944, and after World War II they became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1977 the Northern Marianas voted to become a United States commonwealth; the change took place in 1986.

II, section “The War with Japan, 1941-45,” subtitle Final Campaigns in the Pacific, 1944-45.