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In the
law of the United States The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unifie ...
, an insular area refers to U.S.-associated jurisdictions not part of the
50 states The United States, United States of America is a federal republic consisting of 50 U.S. state, states, a Capital districts and territories#United States, federal district (Washington, D.C., the capital city of the United States), five major t ...

50 states
or the
District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscape ...
. This includes fourteen
U.S. territories The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all ...
administered under U.S. sovereignty, as well as three
sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relatio ...
s each with a
Compact of Free Association The Compact of Free Association (COFA) is an international agreement establishing and governing the relationships of Associated state, free association between the United States and the three Oceania, Pacific Island sovereign states of the Federate ...
with the United States. The term also may be used to refer to the previous status of the
Philippine Islands The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republik ...

Philippine Islands
and the
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) was a United Nations trust territory United Nations trust territories were the successors of the remaining League of Nations mandates and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to ...
when it existed. Three of the U.S. territories are in the
Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lamè Karayib; jam, Kiaribiyan Sii; nl, Caraïbische Zee; pap, Laman Karibe) is an Americas, American Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean ...
, eleven are in the
Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. ...

Pacific Ocean
, and all three freely associated states are also in the Pacific. Two additional Caribbean territories are disputed and administered by
Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conv ...

Colombia
. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the
U.S. Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first t ...
grants to the
United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature of the federal government of the United States. It is Bicameralism, bicameral, comprising a lower body, the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives, and an upper body, t ...

United States Congress
the responsibility of overseeing the territories. A series of
U.S. Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a coun ...

U.S. Supreme Court
decisions known as the
Insular Cases The Insular Cases are a series of opinions by the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Supreme Court in 1901, about the status of Territories of the United States, U.S. territories acquired in the Spanish–American War, and the periods shortly ...
created a distinction between "incorporated territories", where the full
Constitution of the United States The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation An organization, or orga ...
applies, and " unincorporated territories", where only basic protections apply. The only current incorporated territory,
Palmyra Atoll Palmyra Atoll (), also referred to as Palmyra Island, is one of the Northern Line Islands (southeast of Kingman Reef Kingman Reef is a largely submerged, uninhabited, triangle-shaped reef, east-west and north-south, in the North Pacific ...

Palmyra Atoll
, is uninhabited. A U.S. territory is considered "organized" when the
U.S. Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Wa ...

U.S. Congress
passes an
organic act In Law of the United States, United States law, an organic act is an Act of Congress, act of the United States Congress that establishes a territories of the United States, territory of the United States and specifies how it is to be governe ...
for it. All of the five U.S. territories with a permanent non-military population have constitutions, locally elected territorial legislatures and executives, and some degree of political
autonomy In developmental psychology Developmental psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions ...

autonomy
. Four of the five are "organized", but American Samoa is technically " unorganized" and subject to the direct jurisdiction of the
Office of Insular Affairs The Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) is a unit of the United States Department of the Interior that oversees federal administration of several United States insular areas. It is the successor to the Bureau of Insular Affairs of the United State ...
.


History

The first insular areas that the United States occupied were Baker Island, Howland Island and Navassa Island (
1857 Events January–March * January 1 – The biggest Estonian newspaper, ''Postimees'', is established by Johann Voldemar Jannsen. * January 7 – The partly French-owned London General Omnibus Company begins operating. * Januar ...
) then Johnston Atoll and Jarvis Island (both in
1858 Events January–March * January January is the first month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by as a modification ...
) would be claimed. After the War between the United States and Spain in 1898, several territories were taken that are still under U.S. sovereignty (Puerto Rico and Guam, both in 1898). Palmyra Atoll was annexed along with the Republic of Hawaii (formerly a Kingdom) that same year. American Samoa was reclaimed the following year (1899). In
1917 Events Below, the events of World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nation ...
, at the height of
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
, Denmark sold the
Danish Virgin Islands The Danish West Indies ( da, Dansk Vestindien) or Danish Antilles or Danish Virgin Islands were a Danish colonization of the Americas, Danish colony in the Caribbean, consisting of the islands of Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas w ...
to the United States. The former British-American condominium of Canton and Enderbury, consisting of the atolls of Canton and Enderbury in the northeast of the Phoenix Islands, became part of this new island state on July 12, 1979, the day of independence from the State of
Kiribati Kiribati (), officially the Republic of Kiribati (Gilbertese language, Gilbertese: '' ibaberikiKiribati''),
. The U.S. Navy annexed Kingman Reef in
1922 Events January * – The year begins with the at its largest extent, covering a quarter of the world and ruling over one in four people on . * – The is founded. * – , the parliament of the , ratifies the by 64–57 votes. * – ...
.
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
had sold the
Northern Mariana Islands The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI; ch, Sankattan Siha Na Islas Mariånas; cal, Commonwealth Téél Falúw kka Efáng llól Marianas), is an unincorporated territories of the Unit ...

Northern Mariana Islands
to Germany in 1899. The islands passed to Japan, which in turn lost them to the United States in 1945 after the end of World War II. The
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base Guantanamo Bay Naval Base ( es, Base Naval de la Bahía de Guantánamo), officially known as Naval Station Guantanamo Bay or NSGB, (also called GTMO, pronounced Gitmo as an acronym, by the United States Armed Forces, U.S. military) is a United ...
, located on the southern side of and taken from Spain in 1898, is not a U.S. outlying territory but a U.S. military base on formally "leased" land on the island of
Cuba Cuba ( , ), officially the Republic of Cuba ( es, República de Cuba, links=no ), is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud Isla de la Juventud (; en, Isle of Youth) is the second-largest Cuban islan ...

Cuba
. The
Marshall Islands The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands ( mh, Aolepān Aorōkin Ṃajeḷ), is an independent near the in the , slightly west of the . Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of . The countr ...
became self-governing in 1979 and fully independent along with the
Federated States of Micronesia The Federated States of Micronesia (; abbreviated FSM), or simply Micronesia, is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is oft ...
in 1986.
Palau Palau (), officially the Republic of Palau ( pau, Beluu er a Belau) and historically ''Belau'', ''Palaos'' or ''Pelew'', is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territori ...

Palau
achieved independence in 1994. The three countries maintain sovereignty with free association status with the United States, which provides them with defense assistance and economic resources.


Timeline

;August 28, 1867 :Captain of the USS ''Lackawanna'' formally took possession of the
Midway Atoll Midway Atoll (colloquialism, colloquial: Midway Islands; haw, Kauihelani, translation=the backbone of heaven; haw, Pihemanu, translation=the loud din of birds, label=none) is a atoll in the North Pacific Ocean. Midway Atoll is an insular a ...

Midway Atoll
for the United States. ;August 13, 1898 :
United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") (unofficial). , colors = Blue and gold  , colors_label = Colors , march = "Anchors Aweigh" , mascot = , equipment = List of equipment of the United St ...
under Admiral
George Dewey George Dewey (December 26, 1837January 16, 1917) was Admiral of the Navy Admiral of the Navy was the highest possible rank in the United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") (unof ...

George Dewey
,
United States Army The United States Army (USA) is the land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations above sea level (variable over geologic time frames) and consists ma ...
's Eighth Army Corps under Major General
Wesley Merritt Wesley Merritt (June 16, 1836December 3, 1910) was an American major general who served in the cavalry Cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldiers or warriors who Horses in warfare, f ...

Wesley Merritt
, and Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur Jr. captured the
City of Manila Manila ( , ; fil, Maynila, ), officially the City of Manila ( fil, Lungsod ng Maynila, ), is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are ...
from Spain after Governor-General of the Philippines surrendered the city, which then remained Spanish-occupied even after the declaration of Philippine Independence from Spain and the establishment of the
First Philippine Republic The Philippine Republic ( es, República Filipina), more commonly known by historians as the First Philippine Republic or the Malolos Republic, was a polity in the Philippines. It was established by the promulgation of the Malolos Constitutio ...
on June 12, 1898. ;February 4, 1899 : began between the
First Philippine Republic The Philippine Republic ( es, República Filipina), more commonly known by historians as the First Philippine Republic or the Malolos Republic, was a polity in the Philippines. It was established by the promulgation of the Malolos Constitutio ...
and the newly arrived US Military Government. ;April 11, 1899 :The
Treaty of Paris of 1898 The Treaty of Paris of 1898 ( Filipino: ''Kasunduan sa Paris ng 1898;'' Spanish: ''Tratado de París de 1898'') was a treaty A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered ...
came into effect, transferring
Guam Guam (; ch, Guåhan ) is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the Micronesia Micronesia (, ; from grc, μικρός ''mikrós'' "small" and ''nêsos'' "island") is a subregion of Oceania, consisting of thousa ...

Guam
, the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
, and
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
from Spain to the United States, all three becoming unorganized, unincorporated territories. Puerto Rico's official name was changed to ''Porto Rico'', a phonetic reinterpretation of the Spanish name for the territory. ;April 12, 1900 :The
Foraker Act The Foraker Act, , officially known as the Organic Act of 1900, is a United States federal law The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law Law is a system A system is a group of Int ...
organized
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
. ;June 7, 1900 :The United States took control of the portion of the
Samoan Islands The Samoan Islands are an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a ...

Samoan Islands
given to it by the Treaty of Berlin of 1899, creating the unorganized, unincorporated territory of
American Samoa #REDIRECT American Samoa American Samoa ( sm, Amerika Sāmoa, ; also ' or ') is an unincorporated territory of the United States Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) ...

American Samoa
. ;April 1, 1901 :General
Emilio Aguinaldo Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (: March 22, 1869February 6, 1964) was a Filipino Filipino may refer to: * Something from or related to the Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the Phi ...

Emilio Aguinaldo
,
President President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
of the
First Philippine Republic The Philippine Republic ( es, República Filipina), more commonly known by historians as the First Philippine Republic or the Malolos Republic, was a polity in the Philippines. It was established by the promulgation of the Malolos Constitutio ...
and Filipino leader in the Philippine–American War, surrendered to the United States, allowing the U.S. to form a civilian government for the Philippines. ;February 23, 1903 :Under the terms of a 1903 lease agreement, the United States came to exercise complete control over ,
Cuba Cuba ( , ), officially the Republic of Cuba ( es, República de Cuba, links=no ), is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud Isla de la Juventud (; en, Isle of Youth) is the second-largest Cuban islan ...

Cuba
, while
Cuba Cuba ( , ), officially the Republic of Cuba ( es, República de Cuba, links=no ), is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud Isla de la Juventud (; en, Isle of Youth) is the second-largest Cuban islan ...

Cuba
retained ultimate
sovereignty Sovereignty is the supreme authority within a territory. Sovereignty entails hierarchy within the state, as well as external autonomy for states. In any state, sovereignty is assigned to the person, body, or institution that has the ultimate a ...
over the territory. ;August 29, 1916 :The Philippine Autonomy Act or Jones Law was signed, promising the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
independence. ;March 2, 1917 :
Jones–Shafroth Act The Jones–Shafroth Act () —also known as the Jones Act of Puerto Rico, Jones Law of Puerto Rico, or as the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act of 1917— was an Act of the United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. C ...
reorganized
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
. This act conferred
United States citizenship Citizenship of the United States is a legal status Legal status is the position held by something or someone with regard to law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act accor ...
on all citizens of Puerto Rico. ;March 31, 1917 :The United States purchased the
Danish West Indies The Danish West Indies ( da, Dansk Vestindien) or Danish Antilles or Danish Virgin Islands were a Danish colony in the Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole Antillean ...
and renamed it as
U.S. Virgin Islands The United States Virgin Islands, officially the Virgin Islands of the United States,Also called the ''American Virgin Islands'' are a group of Caribbean islands and an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States The U ...
under the terms of a treaty with
Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), hu ...

Denmark
. ;May 17, 1932 :The name of Porto Rico was changed to
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
. ;March 24, 1934 :The
Tydings–McDuffie Act The Tydings–McDuffie Act, officially the Philippine Independence Act (), is a United States federal law that established the process for the Philippines, then an American imperialism, American colony, to become an independent country after a ten ...
was signed allowing the creation of the
Commonwealth of the Philippines The Commonwealth of the Philippines ( es, Commonwealth de Filipinas or ''Mancomunidad de Filipinas''; tl, Kómonwélt ng Pilipinas or ''Malasariling Pámahalaán ng Pilipinas'') was the administrative body that governed the Philippines ...
. ;November 15, 1935 :The
Commonwealth of the Philippines The Commonwealth of the Philippines ( es, Commonwealth de Filipinas or ''Mancomunidad de Filipinas''; tl, Kómonwélt ng Pilipinas or ''Malasariling Pámahalaán ng Pilipinas'') was the administrative body that governed the Philippines ...
officially inaugurated
Manuel L. Quezon Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina, (, ; 19 August 1878 – 1 August 1944), also referred to by his initials MLQ, was a Filipino people, Filipino statesman, soldier and politician who served as president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 193 ...
as the President of the Philippine Commonwealth, held at the steps of the Old Legislative Building. The event was attended by 300,000 Filipinos. ;December 8, 1941 :
Commonwealth of the Philippines The Commonwealth of the Philippines ( es, Commonwealth de Filipinas or ''Mancomunidad de Filipinas''; tl, Kómonwélt ng Pilipinas or ''Malasariling Pámahalaán ng Pilipinas'') was the administrative body that governed the Philippines ...
was invaded and occupied by Japan during
World War Two World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—forming two opposing m ...
, initiating "the most destructive event ever to take place on U.S. soil". Over 1,100,000
Filipino American Filipino Americans ( fil, Mga Pilipinong Amerikano) are Americans Americans are the Citizenship of the United States, citizens and United States nationality law, nationals of the United States of America.; ; ''Ricketts v. Attorney General'' ...

Filipino American
civilians died during the war. ;February 3 - March 3 1945 : The month long
Liberation of Manila The Battle of Manila (Filipino language, Filipino: ''Labanan sa Maynila''; Japanese language, Japanese: マニラの戦い; ) was a major battle of the Philippines Campaign (1944–45), Philippine campaign of 1944–45, during the Second World W ...
led by General
Douglas MacArthur , birth_date = , birth_place = Little Rock, Arkansas (The Little Rock, The "Little Rock") , government_type = council-manager government, Council-manager , leader_title = List of mayors of Lit ...

Douglas MacArthur
took place, and consequently resulted in
Manila Massacre #REDIRECT Manila massacre#REDIRECT Manila massacre Destruction of the Walled City (Intramuros), 1945 The Manila massacre ( fil, Pagpatay sa Maynila or ''Masaker sa Maynila''), also called the Rape of Manila ( fil, Paggahasa sa Maynila), involv ...
committed by the Japanese forces throughout the Battle of Manila. An estimated 100,000 Manila civilians were killed during the massacre. ;August 1945 : The United States regains full control of its colony of the Philippines following the Philippines campaign. ;July 4, 1946 :The United States formally recognized the
Philippine independence The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republik ...
, establishing the
Third Philippine Republic Third or 3rd may refer to: Numbers * 3rd, the ordinal form of the cardinal number 3 *fraction (mathematics) A fraction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European ...
and inaugurating
Manuel Roxas Manuel Acuña Roxas (; born Manuel Roxas y Acuña; January 1, 1892 – April 15, 1948) was the fifth President of the Philippines The president of the Philippines ( fil, Pangulo ng Pilipinas, sometimes referred to as ''Presidente ng Pil ...

Manuel Roxas
as the President of the independent Philippines. The independence ceremonies and inauguration rites were held at the
Quirino Grandstand The Quirino Grandstand, formerly known as the Independence Grandstand, is a grandstand located at Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines. History Contrary to popular belief, the first Independence Grandstand was not originally located on the present s ...

Quirino Grandstand
. ;July 14, 1947 :The
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harm ...

United Nations
granted the
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) was a United Nations trust territory United Nations trust territories were the successors of the remaining League of Nations mandates and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to ...
to the United States, consisting primarily of many islands fought over during World War II, and including what is now the
Marshall Islands The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands ( mh, Aolepān Aorōkin Ṃajeḷ), is an independent near the in the , slightly west of the . Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of . The countr ...
, the Carolina Islands,
Federated States of Micronesia The Federated States of Micronesia (; abbreviated FSM), or simply Micronesia, is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is oft ...
,
Northern Mariana Islands The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI; ch, Sankattan Siha Na Islas Mariånas; cal, Commonwealth Téél Falúw kka Efáng llól Marianas), is an unincorporated territories of the Unit ...

Northern Mariana Islands
, and
Palau Palau (), officially the Republic of Palau ( pau, Beluu er a Belau) and historically ''Belau'', ''Palaos'' or ''Pelew'', is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territori ...

Palau
. It was a
trusteeship Trustee (or the holding of a trusteeship) is a legal term {{Short pages monitor