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    The Pacific Strategy, 1941

    On December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, severely damaging the US Pacific Fleet. When Germany and Italy declared war on the United States days later, America found itself in a global war.

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    The Pacific Strategy, 1941-1944

    On December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, severely damaging the US Pacific Fleet. When Germany and Italy declared war on the United States days later, America found itself in a global war.

    Primary Image: The US pursued a two-pronged offensive across the central and southwest Pacific to roll back the Japanese advance.

    On December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, severely damaging the US Pacific Fleet. When Germany and Italy declared war on the United States days later, America found itself in a global war. Japan launched a relentless assault that swept through the US territories of Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines, as well as British-controlled Hong Kong, Malaya, and Burma. Yet, with much of the US fleet destroyed and a nation unprepared for war, America and its allies decided they needed to save Great Britain and defeat Germany first.

    The Japanese, meanwhile, sought to complete what they began at Pearl Harbor. They aimed to destroy the US carrier fleet in a victory so decisive that the United States would negotiate for peace. With its battleship fleet crippled in Hawaii, the US Navy turned to two surviving assets. Aircraft carriers and submarines mounted a serious challenge to Japan’s triumphant fleet and were critical to protecting mainland America. But as US attacks on Japanese naval forces and merchant ships escalated from isolated raids to full-scale battles, the learning curve proved costly and deadly.

    Blunting the Japanese Onslaught 

    Throughout the winter and spring of 1942 the war news reaching the United States from the Pacific was grim. The Japanese amassed a vast new empire with a defensive perimeter that ranged from western Alaska to the Solomon Islands. In the southwest Pacific, Japan threatened American supply lines to Australia, complicating US plans to use Australia as a staging ground for offensive action.

    But within months, the tide of battle started to turn as the United States and its allies in Australia and New Zealand first blunted Japan’s advance and then began a long counterattack across the Pacific. The amphibious invasion soon became the hallmark of the Allied counterattack. As they advanced westward toward Japan, Allied forces repeatedly bombed and stormed Japanese-held territory, targeting tiny islands as well as the jungles of New Guinea and the Philippines. The goal was to dislodge the enemy and to secure airfields and supply bases that could serve as the launching points for future attacks.

    Turning Points

    In early May 1942, US and Japanese carrier forces clashed in the Battle of the Coral Sea. While both sides suffered major losses, the US Navy checked a major Japanese offensive for the first time. Then, in the Battle of Midway the following month, US carrier aircraft dealt a devastating blow to the Japanese navy, destroying four aircraft carriers. The battle marked the first major US victory against Japan and was a turning point in the war.

    By shifting the balance of naval power in the Pacific, Midway allowed US forces to take the offensive for the first time. The Allies soon set their sights on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and on New Guinea.

    Amphibious Invasions and Island Hopping

    In August 1942, the United States mounted its first major amphibious landing in World War II at Guadalcanal, using innovative landing craft built by Higgins Industries in New Orleans. By seizing a strategic airfield site on the island, the United States halted Japanese efforts to disrupt supply routes to Australia and New Zealand. The invasion ignited a ferocious struggle marked by seven major naval battles, three major land battles, and almost continuous air combat as both sides sought to control Henderson Field, named after Loy Henderson, an aviator killed at the Battle of Midway. For six long months US forces fought to hold the island. In the end they prevailed, and the Allies took the first vital step in driving the Japanese back in the Pacific theater.

    With Guadalcanal in American hands, Allied forces continued to close in on Rabaul in New Britain. As forces under the command of Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey moved north through the Solomons, General Douglas MacArthur’s troops pushed west along the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, grinding out a hard-fought victory by March 1943. But rather than follow this success with a risky invasion of the heavily defended Rabaul, American military planners hatched an ingenious plan: Allied planes and ships would isolate and neutralize Rabaul from the air and sea while the bulk of MacArthur’s forces pushed westward to invade less-well-defended islands. This practice—skipping over heavily fortified islands in order to seize lightly defended locations that could support the next advance—became known as island hopping. As Japanese strongholds were isolated, defenders were left to weaken from starvation and disease. This new strategy turned the vast Pacific distances into an American ally, and the United States used it to leapfrog across the Pacific.

    Source : www.nationalww2museum.org

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    During World War II, the Battle of Guadalcanal was significant because it

    A. was the first decisive victory for American naval forces.

    B. evened out the naval strength of the Japanese and US navies.

    C. was the first major Allied offensive against Japanese forces.

    D. allowed Japan to construct an airfield from which to attack the Allies.

    Click card to see definition 👆

    C.

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    Which of the following losses changed the Japanese plan to continue advancing and taking islands in the Pacific?

    A. Japan's loss of aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway.

    B. Japan's loss of its naval base on the island of Midway.

    C. Japan's loss of its airfield on Guadalcanal.

    D. Japan's loss of ships and planes in the Coral Sea.

    Click card to see definition 👆

    A.

    Click again to see term 👆

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    Terms in this set (9)

    During World War II, the Battle of Guadalcanal was significant because it

    A. was the first decisive victory for American naval forces.

    B. evened out the naval strength of the Japanese and US navies.

    C. was the first major Allied offensive against Japanese forces.

    D. allowed Japan to construct an airfield from which to attack the Allies.

    C.

    Which of the following losses changed the Japanese plan to continue advancing and taking islands in the Pacific?

    A. Japan's loss of aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway.

    B. Japan's loss of its naval base on the island of Midway.

    C. Japan's loss of its airfield on Guadalcanal.

    D. Japan's loss of ships and planes in the Coral Sea.

    A.

    Before August 1945, military leaders in Japan

    A. repeatedly asked the Allies for terms of surrender.

    B. refused Allied requests for their surrender.

    C. mounted a final offensive against Allied troops.

    D. were unaware that the Allies had defeated Germany.

    B.

    During World War II, US naval forces were able to intercept the Japanese fleet before it reached Midway because

    A. US ships were on their way to Japan when they met the outbound fleet.

    B. US ships waited near the island to intercept inbound Japanese ships.

    C. US intelligence had deciphered messages laying out the Japanese plan.

    D. US warplanes on their way to Japan happened to spot the inbound fleet.

    C.

    During World War II, who was the commander-in-chief of the Pacific fleet?

    A. Dwight D. Eisenhower

    B. Douglas MacArthur

    C. Chester Nimitz D. George S. Patton C.

    During World War II, which battle denied the Japanese the opportunity to attack Australia?

    A. Battle of the Coral Sea

    B. Battle of Midway

    C. Battle of Guadalcanal

    D. Battle of Iwo Jima

    A.

    During World War II, which battle was the first significant US victory in the Pacific?

    A. Battle of the Coral Sea

    B. Battle of Midway

    C. Battle of Guadalcanal

    D. Battle of Iwo Jima

    B.

    Which Allied nation dropped the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945?

    A. Britain B. United States C. Australia D. France B.

    As a result of Japan's increasing use of suicide attacks in 1945, Allied leaders began

    A. decreasing the number of bombing raids on Japanese cities.

    B. developing more accurate and effective anti-aircraft weapons.

    C. thinking of a new strategy besides invading the Japanese mainland.

    D. weighing the pros and cons of surrendering to the Japanese.

    D.

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    World War II Turning Points in the Pacific

    In 1942, World War II in the Pacific turned as Japan was halted after several victories and the Allies took the offensive after the Battle of Midway.

    Humanities › History & Culture

    World War II Pacific: The Japanese Advance Stopped

    World War II Pacific: The Japanese Advance Stopped Stopping Japan and Taking the Initiative

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    US Navy SBD dive bombers at the Battle of Midway, June 4, 1942. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

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    Updated on July 03, 2019

    Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and other Allied possessions around the Pacific, Japan swiftly moved to expand its empire. In Malaya, Japanese forces under General Tomoyuki Yamashita executed a lightning campaign down the peninsula, forcing superior British forces to retreat to Singapore. Landing on the island on February 8, 1942, Japanese troops compelled General Arthur Percival to surrender six days later. With the fall of Singapore, 80,000 British and Indian troops were captured, joining the 50,000 taken earlier in the campaign (Map).

    In the Netherlands East Indies, Allied naval forces attempted make a stand at the Battle of the Java Sea on February 27. In the main battle and in actions over the next two days, the Allies lost five cruisers and five destroyers, effectively ending their naval presence in the region. Following the victory, Japanese forces occupied the islands, seizing their rich supplies of oil and rubber (Map).

    Invasion of the Philippines

    To the north, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, the Japanese, who had landed in December 1941, drove US and Filipino forces, under General Douglas MacArthur, back to the Bataan Peninsula and captured Manila. In early January, the Japanese began attacking the Allied line across Bataan. Though stubbornly defending the peninsula and inflicting heavy casualties, US and Filipino forces were slowly pushed back and supplies and ammunition began to dwindle (Map).

    Battle of Bataan

    With the US position in the Pacific crumbling, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to leave his headquarters on the fortress island of Corregidor and relocate to Australia. Departing on March 12, MacArthur turned over command of the Philippines to General Jonathan Wainwright. Arriving in Australia, MacArthur made a famous radio broadcast to the people of the Philippines in which he promised "I Shall Return." On April 3, the Japanese launched a major offensive against the Allied lines on Bataan. Trapped and with his lines shattered, Major General Edward P. King surrendered his remaining 75,000 men to the Japanese on April 9. These prisoners endured the "Bataan Death March" which saw approximately 20,000 die (or in some cases escape) en route to POW camps elsewhere on Luzon.

    Fall of the Philippines

    With Bataan secure, the Japanese commander, Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma, focused his attention on the remaining US forces on Corregidor. A small fortress island in Manila Bay, Corregidor served as the Allied headquarters in the Philippines. Japanese troops landed on the island on the night of May 5/6 and met fierce resistance. Establishing a beachhead, they were quickly reinforced and pushed the American defenders back. Later that day Wainwright asked Homma for terms and by May 8 the surrender of the Philippines was complete. Though a defeat, the valiant defense of Bataan and Corregidor bought valuable time for Allied forces in the Pacific to regroup.

    Bombers from Shangri-La

    In an effort to boost public morale, Roosevelt authorized a daring raid on the home islands of Japan. Conceived by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle and Navy Captain Francis Low, the plan called for the raiders to fly B-25 Mitchell medium bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), bomb their targets, and then continue on to friendly bases in China. Unfortunately on April 18, 1942, Hornet was sighted by a Japanese picket boat, forcing Doolittle to launch 170 miles from the intended take-off point. As a result, the planes lacked the fuel to reach their bases in China, forcing the crews to bail out or crash their aircraft.

    While the damage inflicted was minimal, the raid achieved the desired morale boost. Also, it stunned the Japanese, who had believed the home islands to be invulnerable to attack. As a result, several fighter units were recalled for defensive use, preventing them from fighting at the front. When asked where the bombers took off from, Roosevelt stated that "They came from our secret base at Shangri-La."

    The Battle of the Coral Sea

    With the Philippines secured, the Japanese sought to complete their conquest of New Guinea by capturing Port Moresby. In doing so they hoped to bring the US Pacific Fleet's aircraft carriers into battle so that they could be destroyed. Alerted to the impending threat by decoded Japanese radio intercepts, the Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz, dispatched the carriers USS Yorktown (CV-5) and USS Lexington (CV-2) to the Coral Sea to intercept the invasion force. Led by Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher, this force was soon to encounter Admiral Takeo Takagi's covering force consisting of the carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku, as well as the light carrier Shoho (Map).

    Source : www.thoughtco.com

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