Students at a school raise the Republic of Marshall Islands flag. *Photo from Wikipedia
May 1 is the Constitution Day, the day the Government of the Marshall Islands was officially established and the country became self-governing in 1979.
The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is an island country located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, slightly west of the International Date Line.
Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s, with Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar sighting an atoll in August 1526. Other expeditions by Spanish and English ships followed. The islands derive their name from British explorer John Marshall, who visited in 1788. The islands were historically known by the inhabitants as “jolet jen Anij” (Gifts from God).
The European powers recognized Spanish sovereignty over the islands in 1874. They had been part of the Spanish East Indies formally since 1528. Later, Spain sold the islands to the German Empire in 1884, and they became part of German New Guinea in 1885.
In World War I, the Empire of Japan occupied the Marshall Islands, which in 1919 the League of Nations combined with other former German territories to form the South Pacific Mandate.
In World War II, the United States conquered the islands in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign. Along with other Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands were then consolidated into the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands governed by the US.
Self-government was achieved in 1979, and full sovereignty in 1986, under a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Marshall Islands has been a United Nations member state since 1991.