The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Oct. 23-26, 1944) was a naval engagement between the forces of the Imperial Navy of Japan and the United States Navy.
The United States planned to retake the Philippine Islands from the Japanese Empire as they saw the islands as a vital naval base of operations to start its island hopping campaign. By taking the islands, the American forces can launch a direct naval assault on the islands near the Japanese homeland. Expecting an invasion, Japanese forces launched its forces towards Leyte Gulf where Americans are bound to land its troops to start the liberation. However, the navy suffered heavy losses during previous naval engagements leaving them with a numerical disadvantage. In the ensuing battle, American fighters successfully inflicted heavy damages to the Japanese fleet forcing them to retreat. With the threat of a Japanese intrusion on the American transports gone, troops were able to land on Leyte paving a way to the eventual liberation of the rest of the Philippine Islands. The Japanese suffered heavy losses on its part allowing the United States to start invading the Philippines and eliminate any naval threats in the Pacific from the Japanese Navy.
Battle of Midway Island
The Battle of Midway Island (June 3, 1942) marked the first major naval victory against the Imperial Navy of Japan turning the tide of the war on the side of the Americans.
The Japanese planned to invade Midway Island as the islands were strategically placed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean thus, expanding Japan’s defensive perimeters by adding a naval base in its arsenal more closer to the US. They also hoped that the aircraft carriers of the United States that missed the attack on Pearl Harbor would be lured in to engage the Japanese fleet in a counter attack. The Japanese’s main goal was to finally wipe out the entire Pacific fleet of the United States rendering the country useless as Japan expand its Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere; the Japanese plan to bring Northeast and Southeast Asia under its rule. Unknown to the Japanese fleet, United States intelligence successfully decrypted the Japanese plan to invade Midway. They sent three aircraft carriers, Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise to ambush the Japanese fleet. The resulting naval engagement proved to be disastrous to the Japanese forces as they were caught off guard when US fighters attacked the vulnerable fleet. Four of its aircraft carriers were destroyed and dozens of veteran aircraft pilots killed. Japanese Admiral Yamamoto was forced to abandon the invasion of Midway. The battle marked the first major naval victory of the Americans. It was a great loss to the Japanese Empire losing four of its greatest aircraft carriers crippling the navy’s capability to battle on par with the United States.
Battle of the Philippine Sea
June 19, 1944
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a naval battle between the opposing forces of the United States and Japan. “Marianas Turkey Shoot.” It was considered to be “the greatest carrier battle in history.” The battle started when the Americans led its naval fleet towards the Marianas Islands to retake it from the Japanese. Because losing the Marianas meant that the defenses of the Philippines and Japan itself will lessen, the Imperial Navy decided to challenge the American fleet. It resulted in a decisive American victory and a great defeat to the navy of Japan. One contributing factor that led to Japan’s defeat was its inexperienced fighters and aging fighter planes.
Battle of Iwo Jima
February 19-March 26, 1945
One of the last battles on the Pacific Theatre between the forces of United States and Japan.
As the United States acquired more and more islands Japan previously controlled, it became obvious that the tide of the war is turning on the side of the Americans. However, in order for Japan to surrender the United States needed to invade the Japanese home islands. Americans moved their sights on the island of Iwo Jima. The island was strategically important because of its potential refueling base and emergency landing field for its fleet of bombers. On February 19, 1945 after shelling the island for 74 days, US marines landed on the island to wrestle its control from Japanese forces. The American forces after suffering heavy casualties finally succeeded in taking over the island on March 26, 1945 after 36 days of fighting. The Battle of Iwo Jima was a turning point in the Pacific War as it resulted in the deteriorating of Japanese supremacy in the Pacific. Iwo Jima subsequently became the stepping point for the last and largest engagement between the Japanese and United States. Battle of Okinawa.
Battle of Okinawa
April 1-June 22, 1945
The last and largest engagement between the forces of the United States and Japanese imperial forces. Okinawa Island was the largest in the Ryukyu Islands being of great importance as it was located just south of the Japanese main islands. The United States sought to take it from Japanese forces to launch raids on the archipelago, Japan’s home islands. American forces were numerically superior to that of the Japanese-287,000 against 130,000 troops. The battle resulted in massive casualties in both sides. The Japanese defenders fought bravely against its invaders and even using fanatical tactics to try do defeat American forces. Such tactics included Kamikazes, intentional ramming of Japanese fighter planes on American ships. In a desperate bid to defend the island, Japan launched Operation Ten Go. Japan sent the battleship Yamato, the largest and most armed battleship in history as a suicide attempt to destroy as many American ships as possible. Unfortunately, American submarines quickly spotted the ship and destroyed it before reaching the island. The battle continued on for many weeks and only ending after the Japanese garrison had been exhausted. The whole troops of Japan were wiped out including some 150,000 civilians. In the American side 13,000 were dead and 37,000 wounded. The unwillingness to give up showed by the Japanese forced the then-president Truman to allow the use of the atomic bomb to finally end the war.
Battle of Wake Island
Japanese fleet launched an invasion on a small atoll called Wake Island. Though they were unsuccessful in their first attacks, the eventual assaults this time by a larger Japanese fleet forced the defenders to surrender.
Battle of Java Sea
The battle was a decisive Japanese victory against the forces of the Allies which included the US, Britain and the Netherlands. The Japanese fleet was better organized and deployed constant air attacks demoralizing the Allies. In the end, Japan was able to invade the island of Java extending its empire’s reach in Southeast Asia once more.
The Doolittle Raids were the first air raid conducted by the United States on the Japanese Home Islands. On April 18, 1942 sixteen bombers launched from aircraft carrier USS Hornet flew to Japan in a mission to destroy strategic locations and boost American morale after the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Though, no sufficient damage was made it forced Japanese military to strengthen the defenses around the home islands, bringing back its powerful aircraft fleet to defend the islands. It also justified the Japanese invasion on Midway island .They believed that the bombers came from that island and if left untouched, it would pose a threat to Japan. The raids damaged the government’s prestige and in the ensuing battle in Midway hurt Japan’s overall prestige.
Bataan Death March
After the invasion of the Philippines by the Empire of Japan, some 75,000 American and Filipino forces surrendered after the loss in the Battle of Bataan. On April 9, 1942 Japanese forces forced march these prisoner of war (POW) to a prison camp about 63 miles away from Bataan. They were robbed of their belongings and were mistreated severely during the march. Prisoners were beaten harshly and most of the time for no apparent reason. Those who tried to get a drink of water were quickly executed. Eventually, the sides of the roads became littered with dead bodies. En route to the camp, about 7,000-10,000 died while others escaped to the jungle. Only 54,000 reached the camp.
Battle of Coral Sea
May 7-8, 1942
Japan planned an invasion on Port Moresby to try to keep the United States from helping Australia. Allied intelligence knew of the attack so they sent a task force to try to repulse the invasion. The Battle of Coral Sea marked the first time the Japanese failed to complete its mission in the war. The result of the Coral Sea engagement was that neither side won the battle completely. Japan won a tactical victory as it was able to sink more ships than the Americans. The United States won a strategic victory as Japan failed to complete its invasion.
Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
After the bloody engagement in the island of Okinawa, President Truman was forced to make a choice in the future of the war in the Pacific. With Germany defeated in Europe, all that stands in ending World War II is Japan. Truman knew after the Battle of Okinawa that Japan will fight to the end if ever American forces begin to invade the Japanese home islands. The casualties of such attack would be considerably high and it would only prolong the war. Refusing to throw away the lives of American soldiers, Truman agreed over moral reservations that using the Atomic bomb would quickly put an end to the war without any major American casualty. With Japan’s refusal to accept the “Potsdam Declaration” which stated that Japan will end in “prompt and utter destruction” if they do not surrender, the plan went into effect. On August 6, Enola Gay the bomber dropped the atomic bomb (Little Boy) on the city of Hiroshima. The bomb exploded 2,000 feet above Hiroshima destroying large parts of the city. Within minutes, the radiation effects caused by the bomb had killed 70,000-80,000 people. Another bomb was dropped (Fat Man) when the Japanese government still refused to surrender this time on the city of Nagasaki. 60,000-80,000 people were killed.
August 7, 1942-February 9, 1943
The Guadalcanal Island is a part of the Solomon Islands, a series of small islands 500 miles northeast of Australia. At the start of the war, Japan controlled much of the Solomon including Guadalcanal. The airbase in Guadalcanal was important to strengthen the sea lines of communication between Australia and United States. On August 7, the Allied troops landed on the shores of the islands and quickly captured an unfinished Japanese airstrip renaming it Henderson Field. Japanese reinforcements arrived and both sides battled viciously for the control of the island. Battles were done on air, land and sea for many months with heavy casualties on either side. As Allied forces grew increasingly in numbers, Japan launched a counteroffensive to retakes the islands from Allied forces. By November 15, the Allied forces decisively defeated Japanese but not without suffering major casualties. By mid-February Japan was forced to evacuate the island allowing the Allied forces to control the island. The battle was important to the war because it was the first major land defeat of the Japanese forces and ended any further expansion attempts. It was considered to be the first in a long series of battles that ultimately brought the United States on the Japanese home islands.
Attack on Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941
The United States had emplaced economic sanctions and embargo on Japan ever since it started its expansion towards China. Without essential supplies America believed it would stop its territorial acquisitions in Asia. Japan however did not agree on negotiations with the United States. Because oil reserves are running out, Japan needed to acquire lands rich with natural resources in the Pacific to support its extending empire in Asia. With this in mind, Japan would directly attack the military of the United States situated in Pearl Harbor to eliminate a possible counter offensive when it starts to acquire other territories especially the Philippine islands. Japan hoped that by destroying the Pacific Fleet of the United States, it would leave them unopposed in expanding its empire. On December 7, 1941 launched 6 of its aircraft carriers with hundreds of aircraft to Pearl Harbor for a surprise attack. Caught unaware, the ships moored in the bay were destroyed one by one as Japanese fighter planes and bombers dropped a barrage of bombs and bullets. Overall damages to the fleet were high; most of the battleships destroyed along with hundreds of aircraft. The following day, the United States declared war on Japan. After three days, Germany and Italy, Japan’s allies declared war on the United States.
Though it had destroyed the majority of the battleships of the Pacific Fleet, Japan failed to destroy the United States’ aircraft carriers at that time located on the main land. The battleships had become obsolete at the start of World War II which Japan still see as more important than aircraft power. The United States was forced to use its fleet of aircraft carriers to wage war on the Pacific, a major oversight of Japan which ultimately led to victories on the Pacific.