Battles of WW2 in the Pacific
When Japan made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it as a "date which will live in infamy." Over 2,400 American servicemen were killed in the devastating attack and America was immediately brought into World War 2.
The U.S. would be fighting a war on two fronts: in Europe and in the Pacific. Despite the Japanese attacking the U.S., America's leading generals thought defeating Germany was the more pressing concern. That was where the majority of U.S. forces went at first.
General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz were in charge of U.S. forces in the Pacific. They devised a strategy of "island hopping" to defeat Japan.
The "island hopping" plan involved winning battles on Pacific islands to gain military bases and moving across the Pacific Ocean and closer to Japan. This strategy would span three years and would take U.S. forces in almost a full circle around the Pacific.
In many ways, the Battle of Midway was the turning point in which the U.S. began putting this plan into action. In June 1942, the U.S. Navy won an important victory over the Japanese and inflicted devastating damage on its fleet. Aircraft carriers proved to be the most important resource in the Pacific and Japan lost four of them at Midway.
From August 1942 to February 1943, American forces fought the Japanese during the Guadalcanal Campaign in the southern Solomon Islands. This campaign was the first major offensive on land against the Japanese. It was mostly led by the U.S. Marines, who captured an important Japanese airfield.
U.S. forces pushed closer to Japan throughout 1943 and 1944, scoring hard-fought victories at Tarawa, the Philippines, and Guam. In 1945, America fought two last major battles close to the Japanese home islands.
The first was the Battle of Iwo Jima in which the U.S. Navy and Marines took on over 20,000 heavily fortified Japanese soldiers dug into positions across the island. The battle took 36 days across February and March, with the Japanese fighting nearly to the last man. The U.S. also saw high casualties with over 6,000 Marines losing their lives in the battle.
The aftermath of the battle is famous for a photograph of five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising of the American flag at the top of Mount Suribachi.
From April to June of 1945, American and Japanese forces engaged in the brutal 82-day Battle of Okinawa. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties on both sides in the Pacific and was nicknamed the "kotetsu no hageshi kaze" or "typhoon of steel". In desperation, Japan utilized suicide kamikaze attacks and eventually saw over 100,000 killed.
The U.S. planned to use the island as a staging area and airbase for a planned invasion of Japan. However, the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made that unnecessary.