World War II in Tuvalu
Bill 'Frag' Barrett's Funafuti

Robert Orizino of Syracuse, New York has kindly provided Tuvalu Online with information about a friend of his, Bill 'Frag' Barrett, who was stationed at Funafuti during World War II.


Marine Defense Forces first landed on Funafuti on October 2, 1942. The Japanese had already occupied Tarawa and other islands in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, and the United States was attempting to prevent further expansion. Included was a Naval Construction Battalion which built the airstrip.

Bill Barrett was born on the west side of Syracuse (Tipperary Hill), which is the Irish section. It was only place where the green light was OVER the red light at the intersection, in observance of the Irish tradition. Nicknames are another Irish tradition. It seems the Frag broke some bones during his chilhood, so his friends started referring to him as "Fragile", which was later shortened to "Frag". Frag entered the Navy was sent to  Funafuti in 1943 with the Aviation Ordinance Crew Vs65.

After getting his discharge from the Navy in 1945, Frag became a firefighter for the city of Syracuse, until he retired in 1984. He also took up side jobs to support his wife Jeanne and their eight children.

Frag wishes to share some photographs he took during his stay. Photographs of Funafuti during the war are extremely rare, and Tuvalu Online is greatly indebted to Frag and Robert for making them available. Frag recently celebrated his 77th birthday, and Robert, who is a professional glass etcher, etched him a drinking glass with the US Navy logo and Funafuti inscribed on it. Frag prizes it, along with his fond memories of Funafuti.

VS65 Aviation Ordinance

Frag's Squadron, Aviation Ordinance VS65. Frag is in the back row, second from the left.

Tuvalu Online Home Page

The United States Army has a webpage devoted to the American involvement during the Central Pacific Campaign. This can be seen at

Frag's Photo Album.

Click on the first image to see enlargements of these and additional slides

1. Funafuti

2. Funafuti

3. Barracks

4. Servicemen

5. Scene

6. Scene

Scout Plane
7. Scout Plane