The Pacific TheaterChapter 38 Part 2 AP US – Unit 14 World War II
While the Allies agreed that the defeat of the Nazis was their first priority, the United States did not wait until V-E Day to move against Japan. • Fortunately the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 had missed the Pacific Fleet’s submarines and some of the aircraft carriers that were out to sea at the time of the attack.
The Philippines and the Bataan Death March • In the first six months after Pearl Harbor, Japan conquered an empire that dwarfed Hitler’s Third Reich. • Including the Philippines. • The Japanese defeated the American and Filipino troops there, and as the battle was turning against the Allies, FDR ordered General Douglas MacArthur – commander of the Allied forces in the Philippines – to leave. • As MacArthur departed with his family and staff, he pledged to the thousands of men who were not able to escape, “I shall return.” • The Philippines fell to the Japanese at the Battle of Bataan (January 1 – April 9, 1942).
The Philippines and the Bataan Death March • After the battle, the Japanese took 75,000 Allied troops prisoners – more than 60,000 Filipino soldiers and 15,000 American soldiers. • The Japanese were only expecting 1/3 of this number and were logistically overwhelmed. • To move the soldiers from the battle site to the prison camps, the Japanese Army marched the prisoners over 60 miles.
The Philippines and the Bataan Death March • Many of the prisoners were already suffering from malaria or dysentery and marched in the sweltering sun with little food or water. • Sadly, many of the prisoners were beaten or killed by their captors on this march. • Between 5,000-10,000 Filipino soldiers and 600-650 American soldiers died on the march. • The atrocities committed on what would be known as the Bataan Death March further turned American opinion against the Japanese.
The Battle of the Coral Sea • The Philippines are just one example of Allied losses to the Japanese at the beginning of the war in the Pacific. • The Allies were finally able to push back a Japanese invasion at the Battle of the Coral Sea off of Australia in May 1942. • During this time, the Pacific Allies (Australia and America) stopped the Japanese drive towards Australia in a five-day battle. • During this battle, airplanes that took off from aircraft carriers did the fighting; not a single shot was fired by surface ships.
Battle of the Coral Sea Torpedo hit on Japanese carrier Shoho USS Lexington Sinks
The Battle of Midway • After their failed move south, the Japanese moved East to the strategic island of Midway. • Here, for the second time, the Allies pushed back the Japanese. • This was possible because the Allies had cracked the Japanese code and knew that Midway would be their next target. • By the end of the Battle of Midway, the Japanese had lost four aircraft carriers, a cruiser, and 250 planes.
Midway USS Yorktown after dive-bomber attack at Midway Planes from USS Hornet
The Battle of Midway • The Battle of Midway was a turning point in the Pacific, after that the Allies in the Pacific began to push back with a new strategy called island hopping. • Island hopping meant that the Allies bypassed heavily defended islands in order to take more strategic islands with fewer defenses. • This also cut off the Japanese armies on the bypassed islands and prevented them from contributing to the Japanese effort.
Code-talkers • The American forces gained an advantage by breaking the Japanese secret code, but they wanted to make sure that the Japanese couldn’t break the American code. • The civilian son of a missionary who lived with the Navajo Indians suggested that the Marines could use the Navajo language as their code. • Navajo is a language that is only spoken in the American Southwest and traditionally had no written alphabet or symbols.
Code-talkers • The Navajo were able to out-perform code machines because they were talking instead of translating through a machine. • The code-talkers also created a special dictionary for words such as dive-bomber, tank, and commanding general. • The Navajo code was never cracked during the war and was not even declassified until 1969 when the code-talkers finally received recognition for their contribution to the war.
Guadalcanal • The first Allied offensive began in August 1942 when 19,000 troops stormed Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. • By the time the Japanese abandoned Guadalcanal six months later, they called it the Island of Death. • Guadalcanal saw the use of guerilla warfare by the Japanese. • Guerilla warfare often uses sneak attacks, small groups, and hand-to-hand combat along with making use of the terrain of battle – in this case a jungle. • Guadalcanal marked Japan’s first defeat on land. From there the American forces island hopped towards Japan.
Leyte Gulf • In October 1944, 178,000 Allied troops and 738 ships converged on Leyte Gulf in the Philippines – MacArthur had returned. • The Japanese threw their entire fleet into the Battle of Leyte Gulf and developed a new defensive tactic against the allies – the Kamikaze, or suicide plane. • Kamikaze (which means “divine wind” in Japanese) pilots crashed their bomb-laden planes into Allied ships.
Leyte Gulf • In the Philippines, 424 kamikaze pilots embarked on suicide missions sinking 16 ships and damaging another 80. • Despite the physical danger and emotional fear caused by the Kamikaze, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was a disaster for Japan. • In three days of battle, Japan lost 3 battleships, 4 aircraft carriers, 13 cruisers, and almost 500 planes. • From this point on the Imperial Navy played only a minor role in defending Japan.
Iwo Jima • After retaking most of the Philippines and liberating the American prisoners of war (POW’s) there, MacArthur and the Allies moved on to Iwo Jima, a small volcanic island in the Pacific. • Iwo Jima was critical to the allies as a base from which heavily loaded bombers might reach Japan. • It was also perhaps the most heavily defended spot on earth, with 20,700 Japanese troops entrenched in the tunnels and caves of the eight square-mile island.
Iwo Jima • The fighting was brutal as the Japanese troops were able to move around the island through the tunnels and ambush Allied troops from the caves. • Over 6,000 Allies died from the 110,000 strong invasion force. Of the Japanese soldiers on the island, only 200 survived.
Iwo Jima • Sherman Tank with Flame Thrower takes out Japanese bunkers on Iwo Jima • Japanese Gun at Iwo Jima