Tarawa, population 28,802 (1990), is the capital of Kiribati. Tarawa is an atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, previously the capital of the former British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. The administrative center of the atoll is Bairiki Island. Betio Island is a port through which copra and pearl shell are exported. The population is mainly Micronesian. During World War II, Tarawa was occupied by the Japanese, and starting on November 20, 1943 it was the scene of the bloody Battle of Tarawa. On that day United States Marines landed on Tarawa and Makin atolls and took heavy fire from Japanese shore guns.
Tarawa is the site of a teacher's training college and a marine training school, as well as an international airport.