World War 2 in the Pacific is covered. The U.S. and its allies fought Japan and eventually won but only after losing the early battles.
Japan was in an expansive mood in the 30's. Japan is a populous nation but had few of the natural resources necessary for nation building, e.g., oil, iron ore, tungsten, etc. In the middle and late 30's, Japan began to move to acquire those resources from Pacific nations.
Britain was occupied fighting Germany in Europe, France had been defeated and occupied by Germany so it fell to the U.S. to attempt to contain Japan in the Pacific.
Japan first attacked Northern China and occupied Manchuria. In Manchuria, the Japanese clashed with Russia in a mini-war. The Japanese were feeling their oats.
Japan then moved against the mainland of China and won victory after victory but could not totally defeat the Chinese.
The U.S. protested all the Japanese military moves in the Pacific, to no avail, and eventually they froze Japanese assets and cut off trade with Japan. Japan had depended heavily on industrial imports from the U.S.
Japan began planning for a Pacific war with the U.S. Admiral Yamamoto was the key Japanese military person in the planning. Yamamoto had spent years in the U.S. and had no illusions about defeating the U.S. However, he reasoned that a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet would buy about 6 months of time for the Japanese to expand their resource base and establish a ring defense around Japanese territory that the U.S. could not break through. In the early part of the century, Japan had been very successful with surprise attacks on Russia and China and so, a decision was made to attack the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, the major port for the US Pacific naval fleet.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was a success for the Japanese but the U.S. carriers of the Pacific fleet were at sea and escaped the attack. They would prove to be the decisive weapon later in the Pacific war.
Early Japanese Successes in the Pacific War. With the bulk of the U.S. fleet out of action, the Japanese quickly struck and took the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, and much of the East Indies. The Japanese were making the most of their 6 month reprieve guaranteed by Admiral Yamamoto.
Battle of Midway. In June 1942, one of the most decisive battles of all time was fought at Midway Island, a not-too-valuable small island located 1,000 miles from Hawaii. Admiral Yamamoto had assembled a vast fleet of battleships, aircraft carriers, etc for the assault on Midway. As they approached Midway Island, they were ambushed by a fleet of three U.S. aircraft carriers commanded by Admiral Raymond Spruance and a savage back and forth battle, fought almost entirely by air planes, was joined. The Japanese lost four of their carriers and the U.S. lost one - The Yorktown. The Japanese withdrew. The significance of the battle was that the Japanese lost the offensive in Pacific war and now had to go over to the defensive. Admiral Yamamoto had guaranteed the Japanese 6 months advantage after Pearl Harbor. They got exactly 6 months! No more!
Some have rated this U.S. victory at Midway as the greatest U.S. war victory of all time. I can't argue with that conclusion.
The Island by Island Campaign. After Midway, the U.S. and its allies had the strategic initiative and they slowly began to take control of the Pacific war. A bloody island by island campaign ensued: Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Guam, Peleliu, Philippines, Okinawa, etc. Okinawa (1945) was the most savage of the battles. Ten years after the Okinawan battle, the author served a year on the island. The scars of that horrendous struggle were still there. (See Okinawa for details)
End of World War 2 in the Pacific. After Okinawa, the U.S. and allies made plans for an assault by troops on the mainland of Japan. It was estimated that one million allied casualties would be suffered by the invading forces. However, the development of the atomic bomb made the invasion a moot point.
In July of 1945, the first test atomic bomb was exploded in the U.S. President Truman then delivered an ultimatum to the Japanese to surrender or be hit with a terrible new weapon. The Japanese were already suffering horrendous damage an casualties from air attacks and apparently thought nothing could be worse so they rejected the ultimatum. They were wrong in their assessment. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were struck by the atomic bombs in August 1945 and were wiped out. Japan then surrendered. World War 2 in the Pacific was over.
1. Germany in World War 2. Causes of World War 2. The major battles that Germany fought in.
2. American Generals - World War 2. Most generals discussed are from the European Theater but the Pacific had a few great ones also.
The war started with Japan victories but World War 2 in the Pacific ended with a US victory.
Last Updated: 09/19/14
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