How the Pacific World Became West
Forthcoming in an edited collection: World War II and the West it Wrought, Mark Brilliant and David Kennedy, eds. (Stanford University Press).
Posted: 13 May 2019 Last revised: 18 Nov 2021
Date Written: May 8, 2019
The American West is usually thought to end at the Pacific shores of American states, but this essay argues that the increased U.S. presence in the Pacific World in the aftermath of World War II made U.S. dominated areas of the Pacific Ocean part of the American West. U.S. military and foreign policy leaders thought of the ocean as an “American lake,” to be secured and used for U.S. national security purposes. They imagined settled areas like the Marshall Islands to be empty spaces, ideal for nuclear testing. The United States did not withdraw its military presence, but continued to occupy Guam and other islands, and built bases that would be relied on for future wars. Exploring the impact on Pacific Islanders, this essay argues that the effect of American actions on the islanders should be remembered in histories of the U.S. West.
This essay was written for a 2017 conference on World War II and the West it Wrought, hosted by the Bill Lane Center on the American West, Stanford University. It was published in an edited collection: World War II and the West it Wrought, Mark Brilliant and David Kennedy, eds. (Stanford University Press, 2020).
Keywords: Cartography, Guam, Historiography, Imperialism, Law of the Sea, Marshall Islands, Militarization, Nuclear Testing, Pacific World, West
JEL Classification: N32, N37, N42, N47, F54, Y80
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation