Source: US State Department
Eventually, the islands came under British influence as the Pacific was divided up in the late 19th century. The Ellice Islands were administered by Britain as part of a protectorate (1892-1916) and later as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony (1916-74).
During World War II, several thousand American troops were in the islands. Beginning in October 1942, U.S. forces built airbases on the islands of Funafuti, Nanumea, and Nukufetau. Friendly cooperation was the hallmark of relations between the local people and the troops, mainly U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy SeaBees. The airstrip in the capital of Funafuti, originally built by the U.S. during the war, is still in use, as is the "American Passage" that was blasted through Nanumea's reef by SeaBees assisted by local divers.
In 1974 the Ellice Islanders voted for separate British dependency status as Tuvalu, separating from the Gilbert Islands, which became Kiribati upon independence. Tuvalu became fully independent in 1978 and in 1979 signed a treaty of friendship with the United States, which recognized Tuvalu's possession of four small islands formerly claimed by the United States.
NOTE: The information regarding Tuvalu on this page is re-published from the US State Department. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Tuvalu History information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Tuvalu History should be addressed to the State Department.