Before World War II, Clipperton Island, a tiny speck in the Pacific some 670 miles southwest of Acapulco, Mexico, was practically unknown except to navigators and occasional fishermen. Politically part of French Oceania since 1932, it came under the administration of the French Government at Tahiti. On 1 December 1944, however, this little island suddenly assumed strategic importance. The Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet, ordered the Commander Western Sea Frontier at San Francisco to establish at once an expeditionary aerological station on this barren, uninhabited atoll.
Discovered by Spanish navigators early in the 18th century, the island had been used as a base by an English pirate, John Clipperton, in 1704 and thereafter became known as Clipperton Island. Clipperton had been the chief mate in the 26-gun ship Saint George, commanded by William Dampier, a famous and daring buccaneer. When Dampier had captured a 40-ton bark loaded with sugar, wine, and brandy, Clipperton, with 21 men, took possession of the prize and deserted. He pursued his piratical operations and roved the vast Pacific until his death in 1722.