The War in the Pacific 1941-1945
United States England Australia New Zealand China Philippines Japan The Players
Background • Japanese imperial expansion begins in 1931 • Need for oil and other natural resources
Japanese War Mentality • Death before surrender • Bushido Code meaning “Way of the Warrior-Knight”, is a Japanese code of conduct and a way of the samurai life • If you surrender you disgrace your family and ancestors • All other Asians are inferior
Dec 1941 • Attack on Pearl Harbor Dec 7th • Dec 8th Japan invades US held territory of the Philippines • The US has only one hope: the aircraft carrier (3 survived Pearl Harbor)
Early 1942 • Japan invades various other Pacific Islands • US garrison in the Philippines surrenders to Japanese forces in April 1942 • Bataan Death March: • 60 miles • 76,000 POW • 12,000 are Americans • 5,000 die in a week
US/Allied Strategy • Reclaim the Pacific: Island hopping Campaign: one island at a time, clear it and use it as a base of operations for the next island. • Must clear the oceans of the Japanese Navy first! (Large challenge with a crippled Navy and only 3 Aircraft carriers!)
Japanese Strategy • Make the war so horrible the US will give up • They dug into tropical islands, built underground bunkers and fortresses. • heavy artillery, suicide attacks • Bleed the enemy dry, Japanese rarely surrender but die to the last man!
Early 1942: The US strikes back • Doolittle raid • May 1942: Battle of Coral Sea, first ever carrier vs. carrier battle- US looses an Aircraft carrier • TURNING POINT: Battle of Midway June 1942
Midway June 4, 1942 • US lost one of two carriers • Japanese lost four irreplaceable aircraft carriers in five minutes! • The Japanese would be on the defensive for the rest of the war.
The Kokoda Track • In July 1942 Australia had a small number of Militia in Port Moresby. These were 2nd line soldiers used for home defence: very young (18 & 19), inexperienced, poorly trained and equipped. BUT led by very good officers. • In that month the Japanese landed troops (1500 later growing to 5000) at Buna and Gona on the Papuan north coast and in the following month they landed another force at Milne Bay. • The barrier between the Japanese forces in the north and Port Moresby on the south coast was the Owen Stanley Range - a steep, rugged series of mountains crossed only by a few foot tracks, the most important of which was the Kokoda Track. Initially at the end of June, 600 Militiamen later growing to around 1000, (‘Maroubra’ force) were ordered to hold Kokoda and its airfield against any possible Japanese attack - but this proved an impossible task.
By the end of July the Militia were carrying out a fighting retreat and it was not until late in August that reinforcements from the 7th Division A.I.F. began to reach them. • ‘Ragged Bloody Heroes’ • The A.I.F. men, trained for desert warfare, found the country more frightening than they found the Japanese. Confusion was created by Japanese advances through the trackless jungle on the flanks of positions the Australians were prepared to defend.
By mid-September the Australians had dug in at Imita Ridge, fifty kilometers from Port Moresby, and were ordered to hold that position. A fight to the death was expected but the Japanese, lacking sufficient supplies and fearing an American attack on their base at Buna, began to withdraw.
Island Hoping: The first step: Guadalcanal • Invaded by the US Navy and Marines August 1942 Took the Marines 6 months to take the island from Japan Allies lost 7,100 men Japan lost 31,000 killed
A list of “D-Days” • Nov 1943 Bouganville • Nov 1943 “ Bloody” Tarawa • June 1944 Siapan • July 1944 Guam and Tinian • Oct 1944 Allies invade the Philippines • Feb 1945 Iwo Jima • April 1945 Okinawa (falls in June)
Soldier’s Lives • HARSH • Subtropical diseases • Humid, sticky, and always hot. • Average age was 19 • Death was around every corner.
Japan’s desperation • Oct 1944 U.S. warships in Leyte Gulf faced their first Kamikaze attacks • 2,257 Japanese aircraft were destroyed in these suicide missions during the war. • Kamikaze: Divine Wind • Kamikaze
A most famous Photo • Taken on Iwo Jima • February 23, 1945 • On March 16, when Iwo Jima was declared secured, 6,821 Americans and 21,000 Japanese (the entire force) had died • Iwo Jima - Flags of our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima • Iwo Jima - The Pacific
Planning for the end • May 1945 Allied forces plan Operation Olympic, the invasion of Japan itself in Nov. • US planners feared casualty estimates of one million! • Japan was desperate but unwilling to surrender!