A brief overview of the allies strategy in the Pacific theater during World War 2.
World War 2 Allied Strategy
After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the American Pacific Fleet was in disarray. Almost all operable aircraft and many battleships and smaller warships were destroyed. Although most of the fleet staff was busy rescuing stranded sailors trapped in sinking battleships and putting out fires on surviving ships and airfields, surviving ships and the few remaining aircraft went to the South of the island to attempt to intercept the Japanese navy. The Japanese were already to the North of the island, heading away. At the same time, Japanese forces attacked Thailand, the British territories, the Philippines and other Pacific islands.
The next day, upon the urging of President Roosevelt, Congress declared war on the empire of Japan. The US army and navy were mobilized immediately and rushed to reach the Pacific. As the US Navy was recovering from the attack, Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States. At the same time, the US found allies against Japan in Great Britain, (who had many Asian colonies at the time, including India, Singapore and several others) Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and China.
The Japanese continued to take islands in the pacific without any successful opposition until they were stopped at the Battle of the Coral Sea. A Japanese carrier force heading toward Australia was intercepted by an allied carrier group. The ships never saw each other, and the battle was fought in the air between the two air forces. Although neither side won a decisive victory, the Japanese advance on Australia was stopped. At the same time, Japan found an ally in Thailand because of their strained relations with the Allies.
Although the Battle of the Coral Sea was the first significant defense put up by the allies, it would be the Battle of Midway that would be the turning point of the war. By spring 1942, the allies had finally re-organized and recovered from the Japanese assaults and formed the Pacific War Council. After the Doolittle raids boosted allied moral and embarrassed the Japanese, Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto planned to take the allied air base at Midway and defeat an allied naval response that would come too late to save the island. His ‘secret’ plan was discovered by an excellent allied intelligence and allied naval commander Chester Nimitz set up a trap for the Japanese forces. When the Japanese carrier group arrived the trap was sprung, and the two groups clashed near the shores of Midway. The battle was a decisive allied victory. Four Japanese carriers were destroyed and only one Allied carrier, the USS Yorktown, was lost.
After the Battle of Midway, the Japanese navy was no longer superior to the allied navy and had lost much of its attack firepower. The allies now needed to devise a plan to take back the Pacific islands and attack the Japanese homeland. The allies soon adopted an Island Hopping strategy to regain pacific islands. This strategy would bypass major enemy strongholds and focus on poorly defended islands instead. Although the Japanese navy had been mostly destroyed, the Japanese land army has taken much of New Guinea. Only untrained Australian militia remained to defend the allied strongholds of the island. The allies quickly re-enforced the position and eventually managed to cut off and defeat the main Japanese bases on the island. There was a similar struggle at the island of Guadalcanal, where the US army was eventually able to defeat the Japanese and occupy the island. These two victories opened up the Pacific to the island hopping strategy, and in the months following these victories the allies successfully liberated Guam, the Philippines and many other small islands. United States general Douglas Macarthur, after being forced to retreat from Manila in 1942 returned to the Philippines three years later to lead the liberation of the island.
During the final stages of the war the allies invaded the Japanese islands of Iwo Jima and Okinowa because of their proximity to the Japanese mainland. During the battles, the Japanese forces grew increasingly desperate and began to use Kamikaze and suicidal tactics such as the Bonsai Charge, where soldiers ran at their enemies will shouting “Bonsai!” and carrying bayonets. Despite these tactics, the allies had successfully taken control of these islands several months later.
On May 7th, 1945, Germany surrendered to allied forces after the German capital of Berlin was taken by Soviet forces and Hitler, the dictator of Germany, committed suicide in his bunker. By the time the allies were planning the invasion of the Japanese homeland, President Roosevelt had died in office and been succeeded by President Truman. The allies estimated around 250,000 allied casualties if the Japanese homeland was invaded conventionally. During the war, the allies had developed the atomic bomb, a nuclear weapon capable of destroying large areas in a matter of seconds. The Japanese government had been training civilians to repel foreign invaders, and an invasion would take an extremely long time, have very high casualties and might cause political turmoil between the allies over who would control the captured nation. Ultimately, President Truman ordered the bomber Enola Gay to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. When the bomb exploded the city was engulfed in a huge mushroom cloud, and when the cloud retreated 80% of the city had ceased to exist and over 80,000 people had died. The Japanese still refused to surrender. A second atomic bomb was then dropped on the historical port city of Nagasaki, destroying many suburbs and the industrial area of the city. The Japanese caught wind of a not so secret plan to drop another bomb on Kyoto or Tokyo, and Japanese Emperor Hirohito began to reconsider Japan’s ‘fight to the last man’ policy.
On September 2nd, 1945, the Empire of Japan formally signed an unconditional surrender to the allied forces aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo bay. After 4 years of bloody naval, air and ground war, World War two was finally over, and its instigators would never again be able to threaten the world.
Information from the following websites was used in this report:
Written for my 8th grade history class.