War in the Pacific

In the five months following the neutralisation of the American Pacific Fleet on 7 December 1941 Japan conquered almost all of Southeast Asia. The first to fall was Hong Kong (25 December), followed by Malacca and Singapore (15 February 1942), the Netherlands East Indies (8 March 1942) and the Philippines (6 May 1942). Japan then moved to the offensive in Burma, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and began planning attacks on New Caledonia, the Fiji Islands and Samoa, but the Japanese advance was brought to a halt at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. Their plan to destroy the remnants of the American Pacific Fleet in a naval battle near the island of Midway in June 1942 ended in total failure. By the end of 1942 the American Navy had begun a limited offensive against the Solomon Islands, and larger offensives followed in 1943. In January 1943 the American Army began to push back the Japanese in New Guinea and in November the US Navy began an offensive against the Gilbert Islands. The American advance gained momentum in 1944, as the Army advanced to Hollandia, Biak and Manokwari on the north coast of New Guinea, Morotai in the Northern Moluccas and on to the Philippines in October 1944. The American Naval offensive progressed from the Gilbert Islands to the Marshalls and the Marianas. The fall of the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Guam in the Marianas brought Japanese cities within range of American heavy bombers. The Japanese Navy was destroyed at the battles of the Philippine Sea in June 1944 and Leyte Gulf in October 1944. As the war progressed, America's industrial superiority began to have more and more effect. In 1943-44 the Japanese Navy launched seven new aircraft carriers, while the Americans launched another 90. In January 1944, the Japanese had 4,050 aircraft at their disposal; the Americans had 11,442 in the Pacific alone. Between 1942 and 1945 American submarines sank more than four million tons of Japanese shipping out of a total of only five million. With the conquest of the islands of Iwo Jima in February 1945 and Okinawa in April, the Americans began preparations for an invasion of the Japanese home islands. This attack, codenamed Operation Olympic, was planned for 1 November 1945, but the two atomic bombs dropped on 6 and 9 August ended the war in the Pacific with Japan announcing its surrender on 15 August 1945.


John Keegan, Atlas of the World War II (New York, 2006)
Richard Holmes (ed.), The Oxford companion to military history (Oxford, 2001)

Information a.o. in:

Access Number 2.22.21,
- inv.no. 19 to 45 (Serie: Department of Decimal File Relating to World War II, 1939-1945). National Archives and Records Adminstration, College Park
- inv.no. 49 to 53 (Record group-4: USAFPAC) MacArthur Memorial, Norfolk
- inv.no. 483 to 498 (Stukken uit Shedden Collection, 1943-1945) National Archives of Australia, Canberra

See also:

- Allied defence of the Netherlands East Indies

- Japanese invasion