Nauru gains its independence from Australia.
During World War II, Nauru was subject to significant damage from both Axis and Allied forces.
On 6 and 7 December 1940 the Nazi German auxiliary cruisers Orion and Komet sank four merchant ships. On the next day, Komet shelled Nauru’s phosphate mining areas, oil storage depots, and the shiploading cantilever. The attacks seriously disrupted phosphate supplies to Australia and New Zealand.
Japanese troops occupied Nauru on 26 August 1942. The native Nauruans were badly treated by the occupying forces. On one occasion thirty nine leprosy sufferers were reputedly loaded onto boats which were towed out to sea and sunk. The Japanese troops built an airfield on Nauru which was bombed for the first time on 25 March 1943, preventing food supplies from being flown to Nauru. In 1943 the Japanese deported 1,200 Nauruans to work as labourers in the Chuuk islands.
Nauru was finally set free from the Japanese on 13 September 1945, when Captain Solda, the commander of all the Japanese troops on Nauru, surrendered the island to the Royal Australian Navy and Army. This surrender was accepted by Brigadier J. R. Stevenson, who represented Lieutenant General Vernon Sturdee, the commander of the First Australian Army, on board the warship HMAS Diamantina Arrangements were made to repatriate from Chuuk the 737 Nauruans who survived Japanese captivity there. They were returned to Nauru by the BPC ship Trienza in on 1 January 1946. In 1947, a trusteeship was established by the United Nations, and Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom became the U.N. trustees of the island, with administration passing mostly to Australia.
Nauru became self-governing in January 1966. On 31 January 1968, following a two-year constitutional convention, Nauru became the world’s smallest independent republic. It was led by founding president Hammer DeRoburt. In 1967, the people of Nauru purchased the assets of the British Phosphate Commissioners, and in June 1970, control passed to the locally owned Nauru Phosphate Corporation. Money gained from the exploitation of phosphate was put into the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust and gave Nauruans the second highest GDP Per Capita and one of the highest standards of living in the Third World.
In 1989, Nauru took legal actions against Australia in the International Court of Justice over Australia’s actions during its administration of Nauru. In particular, Nauru made a legal complaint against Australia’s failure to remedy the environmental damage caused by phosphate mining. Certain Phosphate Lands: Nauru v. Australia led to an out-of-court settlement to rehabilitate the mined-out areas of Nauru.
By the close of the twentieth century, the finite phosphate supplies were fast running out. Nauru finally joined the UN in 1999.