Pacific War

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Chinese soldiers storm Japanese positions in the Battle of Tai'erzhuang (March 1938)
Surrender of US soldiers and Filipinos in Corregidor , Philippines (May 1942)
The USS Franklin on fire and listing after heavy Japanese bomb hits (March 1945)
The cloud of the first atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945

The Pacific War took place in East Asia and the Pacific region . It began with the Second Sino-Japanese War on July 7, 1937. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the USA entered into this conflict on the following day and thus into the Second World War against the Axis powers .

Other participating countries besides Japan, the USA and the Republic of China were Great Britain , Australia , New Zealand , the Netherlands and the Soviet Union . On the Japanese side, some of the countries they occupied declared war on the Allies during the course of the war. Towards the end of the war, after the Japanese had been defeated on their territory, some Asian countries entered the war on the side of the Allies. On September 2, 1945, the Pacific War and with it the Second World War ended on the US battleship Missouri in Sagami Bay with the signing of the Japanese document of surrender . It was the only war in which both nuclear (from the US via Japan) and biological and chemical weapons (both mainly from Japan in China) were used.

War denominations


The official Japanese name for the overall conflict , which consisted of the ongoing war against the Republic of China and the conflict that had just begun with the United States , was Daitōa sensō ( Japanese 大 東 亜 戦 争), Greater East Asian War . The name was approved by the Japanese parliament on December 10, 1941 . Two days later the name was announced to the Japanese people.

Another name was Taiheiyō sensō (太平洋 戦 争), which literally means Pacific War . The Imperial Japanese Navy had proposed this designation as the official name for the overall conflict at the Daihon'ei liaison conference in December 1941 , but was unable to enforce it. The term “Greater East Asian War” was then banned by the Allied occupation authorities ( SCAP / GHQ ) in December 1945 and the use of the term “Pacific War” was ordered. After the end of the occupation, both names had been in use in Japan since the 1950s.

The third term Jūgonen sensō (十五 年 戦 争), 15 Years War , was not used that often. It assumes that the Second Sino-Japanese War , which lasted until the end of the Second World War, began as early as 1931 with the Mukden incident . This war is known in Japan as the Sino-Japanese War ( Japanese 日中 戦 争, Nitchū Sensō) or as HEI , Operation C or Invasion of China . Today, the term Ajia Taiheiyō sensō (ア ジ ア 太平洋 戦 争), Asian-Pacific War, which, like the 15-year war, refers to the period between 1931 and 1945 and emphasizes the link between the conflicts, is increasingly gaining ground in Japan how the Pacific War practically hides the theater of war China. Representing this development was the publication of the 8-volume series Ajia Taiheiyō sensō by the publishing house Iwanami Shoten (岩 波 書店) in 2005, which is a summary of the latest research on the Asia-Pacific War.


The names for war are different: In the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China , War of Resistance against Japan ( Chinese 抗日戰爭, Pinyin kàngrì zhànzhēng ) is the official name of the war. The term is also used in other Southeast Asian countries for their own resistance against the Japanese occupation. The war in China is also referred to simply as the War of Resistance (抗戰, kàngzhàn ). In addition, the neutral term Tàipíngyáng zhànzhēng (太平洋 戰爭 / 太平洋 战争 - "Pacific War") also generally exists in Chinese .

USA and allies

The USA chose the name Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) for all military actions in the Pacific and the surrounding states.

Since the US Army , the US Navy and the US Marine Corps played an approximately equal role in this conflict and the area of ​​operation extended over the area of ​​the Pacific and Southeast Asia to India , in contrast to the European theater of war, no overall commander in chief was appointed how it was Eisenhower there.

The two US commanders in the PTO were from March 30, 1942 the Commander in Chief Pacific Ocean Areas Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and the Supreme Allied Commander Southwest Pacific Area Douglas MacArthur . The allied units of the British , Australians , New Zealanders and Dutch were also subordinate to them.

A third fighting area was the South-East Asian Theater (SEAT) , which included India, Burma , Thailand , Malaysia and Singapore . Indian, British and American troops operated here. From December 7, 1941 , the commander-in-chief was General Sir Archibald Wavell , who a month later also took over ABDACOM with additional Dutch and Australian units. After it was broken up at the end of February 1942, the SEAT initially came under the British command of India, only to be reorganized in August 1943 by order of Winston Churchill . As of October, the new Commander-in-Chief was Admiral Louis Mountbatten . The name China Burma India Theater (CBI) referred to the combat area of ​​the Allies who tried to fight the Japanese invasion of China from British India and Burma.


Pacific War 1937–1942

The Pacific War differed from the war in Europe in many ways . While the battle in Europe from the beginning to the end of the war took place mainly on the mainland, the fighting areas in Southeast Asia shifted from the mainland to the vast Pacific sea area. The naval battles between the Allies and Japan contributed significantly to the outcome of the war from 1942 onwards.

In the Pacific region , fighting on land was mostly in impassable rainforest areas , which is why no heavy equipment such as tanks was used. The coordinated action of the land , air and naval forces was therefore of crucial importance . By implementing this strategy, the Japanese conquered a huge space in a short space of time. The Americans later copied and perfected this approach.

The crisis in East Asia, which had raged between Japan and China since the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the formation of the puppet state of Manchukuo , led to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War on July 7, 1937 with the incident at the Marco Polo Bridge . By 1940, when the frontline came to a standstill, the Japanese army had conquered northern China and many of the coastal cities were under its influence. Despite many diplomatic attempts to prevent the war from spreading to Southeast Asia and to force the Japanese to withdraw from the occupied territories by means of economic embargoes, the attack on Pearl Harbor took place on December 7, 1941 .

After this sensitive blow against the USA, the Japanese penetrated further south as planned and, under the ideology of Asia, occupied the Asians in European and American colonies such as Hong Kong (→  Battle of Hong Kong ), the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies .

Within four months, Japanese troops had all of Southeast Asia and much of the Pacific under their control, with around 450 million people. This was the largest expansion in the history of Japan .

As early as mid-1942, after the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway , in which the Japanese fleet was severely weakened by the loss of four large aircraft carriers, the situation changed fundamentally: American troops were able to prevent further penetration by Japan and the imperial ones Put troops permanently on the defensive. This thwarted the isolation of Australia from America and US troops were able to advance continuously on Japanese-occupied territory.

From then on, the Japanese tried to inflict the highest possible losses on the attacking allies in order to force the USA in particular to reach a negotiated peace. The toughest fighting raged from late 1942 to mid-1944 in the South Pacific on the Solomon Islands , the Gilbert Islands , the Marshall Islands and the Marianas . A successful tactical method was the so-called island jumping , in which the Americans bypassed the particularly strongly fortified Japanese bases and took island by island in the direction of Japanese sovereignty.

At the end of October to the beginning of November 1944 the sea ​​battle of Leyte (Philippines) occurred , in which the Japanese lost almost their entire naval force. From a military point of view, this made a total defeat of the imperial troops inevitable. Yet Japan refused to surrender.

After bloody fighting on the Japanese islands of Iwojima and Okinawa , American bombers dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and the second on Nagasaki on August 9 . On August 8, the Soviet Union also declared war on Japan. Six days after the attack on Nagasaki, the Japanese Tennō announced on the radio the surrender ( Gyokuon-hōsō ), which was signed on September 2 in Tokyo Bay on the USS Missouri .

War zone

At its greatest extent, the war zone extended over an area with a radius of more than 5000 kilometers over the Pacific and Indian Oceans . In the north it extended to the Soviet Union and the Aleutian Islands , in the west to Burma and India . In the south the war zone bordered up to about 200 km on the coast of Australia, and in the east up to the military base Pearl Harbor on Hawaii.

From 1937 to the end of 1941 the war was almost exclusively confined to mainland China, but in 1942 the main battle area shifted to the Pacific Ocean. There, the soldiers on the islands usually awaited swamp areas and rainforest, which hindered the use of tanks and heavy artillery. It was therefore important to gain air sovereignty and set up air force bases on strategically located islands.


At the beginning of the 20th century, most of East Asia and the Pacific were under the rule of European and American colonial powers, for example Indochina (France), Philippines (USA), Hawaii (USA), Indonesia (Netherlands), Northeast New Guinea (Germany) and Malaya ( Great Britain). Korea and Taiwan were Japanese colonies.

Japan was involved in several wars before the Pacific War. In 1894 it captured Port Arthur, among others, during the First Sino-Japanese War . Thereupon the Russo-Japanese War broke out between 1904 and 1905 . Under Tennō Yoshihito , Japan fought alongside the Allies in World War I , in which Japan was able to take over German colonies of the German Empire , such as German New Guinea and Kiautschou ( Qingdao ). At the provisional end of this series of wars in 1919, Japan was the greatest power in East Asia alongside China: The country controlled not only today's Japanese islands, but also Korea, Taiwan, Sakhalin , several island areas in the South Seas and numerous coastal cities on the mainland.

From 1912 to 1926, the Taishō -Tennō Yoshihito ruled a mentally ill man, which shifted power from the Tennō and his confidants, the Genrō , to the parliament and the newly founded parties. In 1926, the Shōwa period began with Hirohito's enthronement . He ruled a country in which nationalist forces had increasingly gained influence since the end of the First World War.

After it was not possible to contain the economic crisis from 1929 onwards in the context of the global economic situation, voices in Japan were increasingly loud that saw territorial expansion as the solution to the problems. Due to the restructuring of the economy with a strengthened heavy industry, influential financial groups ( zaibatsu ) emerged with the same goal.

From the 1930s onwards, several coup attempts and massive persecution of socialists ultimately led to the rise of an ultra-national group made up of the military, who gained increased control over the government, including the office of Prime Minister of Japan . Political opponents were persecuted and the mass media censored. The aggressive campaign for a reorganization of the Pacific region ostensibly aimed to end the hegemony of the Asian countries and colonies by Western, European states and to replace them with a Japanese one (→  Pan-Asianism ).

The main interest of the Japanese expansion was the area of ​​what was then the Republic of China . After the Mukden incident on September 18, 1931, which was presumably caused by the Japanese themselves, the Manchuria crisis broke out and the Kwantung army occupied Manchuria - allegedly without much consultation with the Japanese government. On March 1, 1932, the puppet state of Manchukuo was proclaimed there, whose official president and later Emperor Puyi was. Due to international protests about the procedure in China, Japan left the League of Nations in 1933 , and in 1936 it concluded the Anti-Comintern Pact with the German Reich .

Course of war


On July 7, 1937, the incident at the Marco Polo Bridge occurred , which triggered the Second Sino-Japanese War , which marked the beginning of the Pacific War in Asia and is also considered to be the beginning of the Second World War in Japan.

Whether this incident, in which Japanese and Chinese soldiers engaged in firefights, was provoked by Japan is controversial. As a result, the Japanese opened an attack on Beijing , which the Chinese defenders had nothing to counter. On July 29th Beijing surrendered and one day later Tianjin (see also: Battle of Peking-Tianjin ). The Japanese continued their advance from the north and south in China and the national government of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek told them on August 7 war. The Japanese expected a quick victory, but the Second Battle of Shanghai , which began on August 13, lasted unexpectedly long and claimed a great number of victims with around 70,000 Japanese and around 200,000 Chinese soldiers. Japan was only able to win the battle in mid-November when the Japanese 10th Army landed in Hangzhou Bay and threatened to encircle the Chinese troops who were defending Shanghai in bitter house-to-house fighting .

The Chinese Communist Army won a small tactical victory in the Battle of Pingxingguan on September 25th, which went down in Communist Party's history as "The Great Victory of Pingxingguan" . In the narrow pass valley to Pingxingguan, which around 10,000 Japanese drove without prior exploration, a communist unit under Marshal Lin Biao succeeded in triggering a panic among the Japanese with hand grenades and rifle fire and routing them. They captured around 100 trucks with weapons and ammunition supplies. The Japanese side mourned about 1,000 deaths and prisoners and the Chinese about 500.

Prince Konoe Fumimaro announced Japan's goal of reorganizing Asia on November 5th. At the same time, the Japanese government made the Chinese government an offer to settle the incident if China adhered to the three principles formulated by Japanese Foreign Minister Hirota Kōki in 1934 in the future . The principles were:

  1. Suppression of all anti-Japanese activities,
  2. Recognition of Manchukuo and a friendly relationship between Manchukuo, China and Japan,
  3. common struggle against communism.

The Kuomintang initially refused to enter into negotiations and did not change this position until December 2nd. At this point, however, the Japanese had already captured Shanghai and the Chinese troops were in retreat. As a result, the Japanese government was no longer willing to resolve the conflict under the aforementioned conditions, but made much tougher demands: the demilitarization of northern China and Inner Mongolia , the payment of compensation and the establishment of political structures that would allow Manchukuo, Japan to live together and China should regulate. The Chinese government rejected these conditions.

The American gunboat USS Panay

Around December 8th, Japanese troops reached Nanking , the capital of the Kuomintang, and surrounded them. The bombing lasted day and night, and on December 12, the Chinese city commander ordered the withdrawal of the troops, which ended in panic on the Yangtze River . Many people drowned in the cold river. During the evacuation of American citizens from Nanking on the same day, the Japanese fired fighter planes at the fully loaded gunboat USS Panay ( Panay incident ). The boat was sunk. Three people died and 48 were injured. The Japanese government apologized for the incident, but together with reports of the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers that have now come to light, the image of Japan in the United States began to change.

Japanese troops occupied Nanking on December 13th. In the following three-week massacre in Nanking , more than 300,000 Chinese civilians were believed to have been murdered and around 20,000 women raped (see also war crimes committed by the Japanese Army in World War II ).

Chiang Kai-shek had the capital relocated to distant Chongqing .


Chinese soldiers during the urban warfare in the Battle of Tai'erzhuang
Chinese T-26 tanks (Soviet production) in Hunan Province

In January, after negotiations finally failed, the Japanese government announced that the Chinese national government would be wiped out. Japan decided to launch an offensive in the direction of Wuhan . In order to make this offensive possible, the most important railway junctions in the north should first be conquered. In order to conquer the city of Xuzhou , an important hub, the Japanese soldiers first tried to conquer the Chinese garrison town of Tai'erzhuang . However, the Chinese troops let the Japanese run into a trap and surrounded the Japanese troops in the Battle of Tai'erzhuang on March 24th . According to Chinese figures, around 30,000 Japanese soldiers were killed. This was the Japanese’s first major defeat in this war.

In March, Japan passed the National Mobilization Law , which focused all economic and social aspects on more efficient warfare, and came into force in April. Hopes for a peaceful solution to the conflict with China arose when Ugaki Kazushige , a former general and opponent of further escalations , became foreign minister in May of the same year. Instead of calming the situation, however, there were renewed disputes with the Soviet Union over Manchuria and, as a result, the Japanese-Soviet border conflict .

In a second attempt, the Japanese captured the city of Tai'erzhuang on May 19, and the battle for Xuzhou was also victorious, but the political myth of the invincibility of Japan was broken by the earlier incidents.

On June 9th, Chiang Kai-shek broke the dams of the Yellow River and flooded the country. He hoped to be able to slow down the Japanese advance. Failure to warn its own civilian population resulted in around 890,000 deaths and around 3.9 million people left homeless. 4000 villages and eleven cities were swept away by the floods. The Japanese campaign against Wuhan was also interrupted for months by the floods. It was not until October 25 that the Japanese conquered Wuhan with great losses (→  Battle of Wuhan ). Shortly afterwards they succeeded in conquering the canton without much resistance . Since the hoped-for Chinese surrender did not take place, the Japanese strategists realized that the war would last much longer than planned.


The Chinese began using magnetic warfare tactics after losing Wuhan . The aim was to lure the Japanese troops to certain positions that were supposed to serve as magnets, where they would be easier to attack or where at least their advance could be slowed down. The best example of this is the struggle for the city of Changsha , which was successfully defended in 1939, 1941 and 1942 and only conquered in 1944.

The Battle of Nanchang , the first major battle between the Japanese and the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) since the loss of Wuhan, ended on May 9 with the loss of the main supply line for the Chinese. This basically opened the way for the Japanese to the southeastern provinces.

In the battle for Suixian-Zaoyang , which had been going on since April , two Japanese divisions succeeded on May 7 in taking the two cities of Suixian and Zaoyang . The next day, however, the Japanese left again to move south. The Chinese pursued them and launched a major attack on May 15, which forced the Japanese to retreat after three days of intense fighting. By May 24th, the two cities were again in Chinese hands.

US Secretary of State Hull

At two consultations between US Secretary of State Cordell Hull and the Japanese ambassador in Washington in July and August of that year, at which Hull once again denounced the Japanese annexation of Manchuria and parts of China and expressed his fears that the islands offshore China would also The Japanese did not respond to these comments. However, they announced that they would enter into a military pact with Germany and Italy in the near future .

Since Japan's economic future depended primarily on raw material deliveries from colonies in Great Britain and France , they took advantage of the outbreak of World War II in Europe and blackmailed Great Britain to block the Burma Road in order to cut off supplies for the Chinese troops.

After the war in China had almost come to a standstill after more than two years, the Japanese began the battle for Changsha , the provincial capital of Hunan, on September 17th . With this they wanted to open the way to the southern provinces in order to be able to advance further towards Indochina. During the fierce fighting in which the Chinese successfully attacked the wide-spread Japanese front on the Xinqiang River from north and south, the Japanese also used poison gas . After a successful breakthrough, the Japanese stood outside the outskirts of Changsha in September but were unable to take the city because the Chinese behind them had cut off the supply routes. So they gave up on October 6th.

The battle of southern Guangxi , which began on November 15, lasted until February 25, 1940, and led to the isolation of the inner Chinese provinces from the coastal approaches. This left only two supply routes that the Allies could use for deliveries to China. On the one hand, there was the road from Lashio in Burma to Kunming , the capital of the province of Yunnan, and from 1942 “ The Hump ”, an airlift over the Himalayas organized by William H. Tunner .


Manchurian Army troops on a maneuver

In the United States, which tended to support Japan at the beginning of the war, sentiment quickly turned after reports of Japanese war crimes and the Panay incident, as well as the harm to American oil interests in China. In view of a possible threat from the Pacific region, the US began building a base on January 26th on the Palmyra Atoll in the Line Islands south of Hawaii . On the same day, the trade agreement concluded with Japan in 1911 expired . The US Pacific Fleet was ordered back to the Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii for an indefinite period on May 7th .

In 1940 the Japanese multi-party state came to an end, and a central organization called Taisei Yokusankai took over all functions. The Japanese set out to conquer South Henan on January 30th , which the Chinese were able to prevent after a month of fierce fighting. However, the battle of South Shanxi , which flared up on March 14th, was successfully led by the Japanese.

The fighting in China had thus reached a stalemate. Japan occupied the eastern part of China and suffered from guerrilla attacks by the Chinese. The rest of China was shared by the Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, with Mao Zedong's Communist Party. On March 30, the Japanese set up the so-called Reorganized Government of the Republic of China under Wang Jingwei in Nanking to represent Japanese interests. Given the brutality of the Japanese, the puppet regime was extremely unpopular among the population.

In July 1940, the Japanese increased the pressure on French Indochina , which they maintained until the summer.

In a press interview on August 1, the Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke announced the establishment of the Greater East Asian sphere of prosperity . This economic and defense community of Asian countries under Japanese rule should be free from Western influence.

The Communist Party in China had meanwhile succeeded in recruiting more than 400,000 soldiers in 115 regiments. On August 20th they opened the Hundred Regiments Offensive , which lasted until December 5th. They attacked the railway lines between Dezhou and Shijiazhuang in Hebei , between Shijiazhuang and Taiyuan in central Shanxi, and Taiyuan to Datong in northern Shanxi. To do this, they blew up tunnels and bridges and destroyed the rails. They did not shy away from direct attacks on Japanese garrisons either. The coal mine in Jingxing , which is important for the Japanese, was shut down by the communists for half a year. However, after the Japanese had given General Okamura Yasuji command in northern China, he began to search and attack the communist bases in a targeted manner. As a result, the communists gradually lost control of more than 420 districts they had previously controlled. Towards the end of the fighting, Peng Dehuai , the communist military leader, and Mao Zedong fell apart.

Chinese artillery cannon

On September 9, the American Navy awarded 210 contracts to contract builders for the construction of 210 warships, including twelve aircraft carriers and seven battleships .

On September 22nd, following an ultimatum, the Japanese pressed a military agreement from the French. This included the use of three airports and the transit of own troops through Indochina to China. In a note to the Japanese, the US disapproved of this approach and rejected it.

On September 27, 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy , which expanded the existing Anti-Comintern Pact to include mutual military support. In doing so, the Japanese emperor rejected his neutrality , which he had announced on September 5, 1939, and underlined his aggressive foreign policy, especially towards China. The American government thereupon called on all civilians in the Far East on October 8 to return to the USA, as the situation would be indifferent in this area and on October 23 imposed a total ban on the export of jet fuel and iron and steel scrap to Japan. On October 23, three passenger steamers left the United States to evacuate all Americans from China and Japan.

The German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis landed the British cargo ship Automedon west of Sumatra on November 11 ( Automedon incident ). In addition to the current code tables of the British merchant fleet, the Germans also got hold of the current situation and strategy assessment of the Far East by the planning division of the British General Staff. In December the Japanese obtained this important document via Berlin, which gave them a wide range of insights, especially into the strength of British troops in the Far East, and which contributed significantly to the future Japanese strategy. In particular, the documents indicated that the Royal Navy could not station enough ships in the Far East for the foreseeable future to implement the Singapore strategy and prevent Japan from advancing to the Indian Ocean .


On January 7, 1941, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto wrote a memorandum to the Japanese Navy Minister Koshirō Oikawa , in which he pointed out that a wait-and-see strategy with classic sea battles for the Japanese navy in the previous simulation games and maneuvers could not be won and therefore the sea-based air forces are to be expanded. A concentrated attack on the US fleet right at the start of the war would not only deal a severe blow to their morale and prevent attacks on Japan itself, but would also give the empire a window of six to twelve months to conquer Southeast Asia with its important sources of raw materials.

As early as January 27, 1941, the American ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew , reported that one of his diplomatic colleagues had told an embassy employee that many sources, including a Japanese one, spoke of a planned major attack on Pearl Harbor if it came to a rift with the United States.

The Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke signs the neutrality pact with the USSR on April 13, 1941 (behind him Molotov and Stalin )

In April, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a secret order allowing reserve officers to leave the military and volunteer in China. As a result, Captain Claire Lee Chennault founded the American Volunteer Group (also known as "Flying Tigers") in Kunming , a squadron that was put into active service in the US Air Force from 1942 onwards .

Two years after the Japanese-Soviet border conflict , the two parties signed the Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact on April 13th . The purpose of the pact was, on the one hand, to hold the back of the Soviet Union in the event of a German attack. On the other hand, Japan did not want to get involved in a German-Soviet conflict expected by Japan.

On May 12, the Japanese made the US an offer for a peace agreement for the Pacific region, asking the US to call Chiang Kai-shek to negotiate peace with Japan and to give up support for his regime . After that, a withdrawal of Japanese troops from China was planned. Only smaller occupation units were to remain. Japan continued to strive to normalize trade relations with the USA. However, the representatives of Japan also spoke of a "peaceful" territorial expansion into the Southwest Pacific and called on the USA to support them in the extraction and production of raw materials such as oil , rubber , tin and nickel . Literally it said: The Japanese ambassador continued to talk about guaranteeing independence for the Philippines together with the USA and establishing it as a neutral state. In return, the US demanded an assurance from Japan that the three-power pact it had entered into was only a purely defense alliance, and rejected Japan’s more far-reaching proposals.

The planned Japanese defense area in the Pacific (late 1941)

On July 2, more than a million men were drafted into military service in Japan, and the government obtained the approval of the Vichy regime to occupy French Indochina (now Vietnam , Laos and Cambodia ), which was carried out on July 29. Two days later, the US and Britain imposed an export - embargo on Japan and froze its financial resources.

Another peace offer for the Pacific region on August 6, which came in response to Roosevelt's demands in the previous embargo, was again rejected by the United States. The Japanese then proposed a meeting between their Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro and Roosevelt, but this did not take place because the US saw too great a gap between the interests of the two states.

Japan did not comply with the repeated demands of the US to leave China, and neither did a revised Japanese peace offer of September 6 that helped either party. On September 3, the American ambassador telegraphed from Tokyo to Washington that, in his opinion, a war in the Pacific was inevitable.

When a small Chinese guerrilla group met a Japanese division in the mountains southeast of Yueyang on September 6, the battle for Changsha broke out for the second time . The capture of the city failed again. From the end of September, the Japanese units withdrew to the Yueyang region.

The distribution of power in September 1939

The diplomatic efforts in November also resulted in no decision or rapprochement (see Hull Note ). On November 25, reconnaissance aircraft sighted and reported large movements of the Japanese fleets from Formosa towards Southeast Asia. As a result, US Admiral Stark issued a war warning to the US Pacific and Asian fleets two days later .

Because of the embargo of Great Britain and the USA and because Japan was cut off from the raw material supplies of the European allies, a war with the USA and Great Britain appeared as the only alternative to the loss of the empire in its previous form.

On December 1, the Gozen Kaigi informed the Tennō of the violent expansion of the Japanese sphere of influence to the south and the planned war of aggression against the USA. Meanwhile, the Japanese Ambassador Admiral Nomura Kichisaburō in Washington, DC continued peace talks with the American Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

In the worsening situation, the British put their troops on the Malay Peninsula on high alert on the same day . The fleet under Admiral Tom Spencer Vaughan Phillips was instructed to search the waters east of Singapore for enemy ships.

American planes sighted twelve Japanese submarines off the coast of Indochina on December 2, heading south, possibly to Singapore. On the same day, Yamamoto gave the signal to start all operations with the words: "Climb Mount Niitaka " and announce the day of the attack.

Admiral Phillips flew to Manila on December 4th and met with Admiral Thomas C. Hart and General Douglas MacArthur to reach an agreement for a cooperation agreement in the Far East. In the South China Sea, three Japanese divisions were on their way to invade Thailand and Malaysia at the time.

All Japanese consulates in the US have been ordered to destroy all of their coding and classified documents. This happened via Radio Tokyo , which broadcast the words "Higashi no kaze ame" (German: "Ostwind, Regen") in a weather forecast. This was one of the possible phrases that would herald war with the United States. In the Dutch colonies, too, this announcement was received by the listening station Kamer 14 on Java , the importance of which was known to the top management. Therefore, they immediately forwarded the report to their embassy in Washington to have the American government notified.

The movements of Japanese troops in Indochina did not go unnoticed either. Although the US was certain that these were "purely precautionary measures", Roosevelt subsequently sent Emperor Hirohito a diplomatic note on December 6 , in which he spoke of the "tragic effects" of recent events. Roosevelt once again expressed his hope that the peace in the Pacific would be preserved and that the peoples of the Pacific would not be permanently threatened by war. He appealed to the emperor for help in preventing death and destruction in the world.

Already on November 27th, the Kidō Butai , the Japanese Navy's response fleet , had left their Japanese bases and set course for Hawaii in order to take out the American Pacific fleet assembled there. The Japanese military command received the information that almost the entire American naval force was gathered there from their espionage network, which had been established in the USA since the beginning of 1941.

On December 6, Australian reconnaissance planes spotted the Japanese convoy heading south from Indochina. Admiral Phillips then left the meeting in Manila. British and American ships were ordered to sail to protect the East Asian islands, and British reconnaissance planes took off from their bases for constant patrol flights.

Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia

With the laying of mines off the coast of the Malay Peninsula by Japanese submarines, the actual Pacific War began on December 7th. Began one and a half hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor Japan in Kota Bharu with the invasion of the Malay Peninsula . Since December 8th was due to the date line in Southeast Asia , the attack on Pearl Harbor is still usually seen as the beginning of the war.

Just before midnight, the Japanese began their invasion of the Malay Peninsula and Thailand . To do this, they had set sail from Cam Ranh Bay and Saigon in Indochina in a large transport convoy , which was accompanied by a number of warships . In the Gulf of Thailand , smaller convoys split up to approach the beaches of Prachuap Khiri Khan (→  Battle for Prachuap Khiri Khan ), Chumphon , Bandon , Nakhon Si Thammarat , Pattani and Songkhla in Thailand and Kota Bharu in Malaysia. On the Isthmus of Kra in southern Thailand, the landings came without any significant resistance. Only in Kota Bharu did Indian, British and Australian units defend the landing beach, but after a few hours had to recognize the Japanese superiority and withdraw with losses.

Attack on Pearl Harbor and US declaration of war

The aim of the bombing of the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 was to eliminate the US Navy for a limited time so that Japan could conquer the raw material areas in Southeast Asia that its leadership believed it needed. Up until that day, an attack on the base in Hawaii had been considered unlikely due to its great distance from Japan. The insufficiently prepared US troops suffered a heavy defeat, which was the reason for the USA to actively enter the Second World War after the passive support of the Allies so far .

The US secret services had already recognized Japan's preparations for the conquest of Southeast Asia three weeks before the attack; They had missed the fact that Japan would attack the United States at the same time.

Burning, sinking wreck of the USS Shaw

At 6:10 a.m. Vice Admiral Nagumo issued the order to attack the squadrons of his undetected aircraft carrier group. The first attack wave reached the coast to 7:45 O'ahu . The first deaths occurred an hour earlier: two Japanese crew members died in their miniature submarine when it was discovered in the port entrance of Pearl Harbor and sunk by the destroyer Ward .

After the last Japanese planes left at around 1:00 p.m. local time, numerous ships in port, including all battleships, were sunk or badly damaged.

Destroyed aircraft after the attack

However, there is conflicting information about the outcome of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This is because insignificant ships were often not counted or there were inconsistencies in the counting of damaged or destroyed ships. Some of the dead and wounded were recorded separately according to civilians, naval and army affiliation, in some balance sheets the civilian victims were not recorded at all. However, it can be assumed that around 2400 people died and around 160 aircraft were destroyed on the American side. About 30 aircraft were shot down on the Japanese side, 65 soldiers died.

Even if the attack on Pearl Harbor hit the US Navy hard, the Japanese were unable to destroy one of their most important targets - the American aircraft carriers - as the two carriers otherwise stationed in Pearl Harbor were at sea to transport fighter planes to Wake and Midway (Not an uncommon task for aircraft carriers at the time). In addition, the decision of Vice Admiral Nagumo Chūichi not to fly a third wave of attacks, almost all fuel tanks and shipyards remained undamaged, the destruction of which would have delayed an American counter-offensive for a long time. Nevertheless, the American fleet was practically eliminated for several months by the losses suffered, which allowed Japan to concentrate its forces on the conquest of Southeast Asia.

The elimination of the battle fleet also meant that the concept of a decisive battle of the heavy artillery carriers, which had dominated the US Navy from one day to the next, was no longer applicable.

The US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war on Japan on December 8, 1941

The aircraft carriers and submarines that remained in the Pacific Fleet became the decisive naval warfare tools for defense and offensive. This was most evident in the appointment of the submarine weapon Admiral Chester W. Nimitz as the new Commander in Chief Pacific.

Due to the stationing of the ships in the port of Pearl Harbor, the loss of life for the US Navy - in relation to a battle on the high seas - was relatively low. This should have a significant long-term effect on the training of officers and men in the further course of the war.

One day after the attack, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the American declaration of war on Japan, thereby sealing the United States' entry into World War II . The start of the war, which was surprising and deeply humiliating for the US, led to an agreement and a strengthening of the will to resist in the US Congress and in the population - a psychological factor that the Japanese military leadership had underestimated.

At the same time, Great Britain , the Netherlands , Canada , Australia , New Zealand , Costa Rica , Honduras , Haiti , the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua declared war on the Japanese.

Advance of the Japanese

The Japanese now had a decisive advantage: they had air and sea sovereignty against the decimated and shocked Americans. As the war progressed in Europe, Great Britain was increasingly forced to concentrate its forces against Germany and Italy. So the Japanese army was able to continue its strategy of lightning-fast surprise attacks.

Less than three hours after the start of the war , Japanese bombers launched by Saipan bombed Apra Harbor on Guam and sank the American minesweeper USS Penguin . Shortly afterwards, 34 bombers of the Japanese 24th Air Fleet, which were stationed on the Kwajalein Atoll, began to bomb the airfield on Wake Island . Due to the hazy weather, the defenders of the island did not see the planes approaching and were completely surprised by the attack, which killed 52 defenders. Also, seven of only a week earlier by the USS Enterprise delivered Grumman F4F Wildcats were devastated.

On the way back from Pearl Harbor, some ships separated from the Japanese Kidō Butai main fleet and on December 8th also attacked the island of Wake, which fell to the Japanese on December 23rd despite the dogged defense by the American marines stationed there (→  Battle for Wake ).

The British crown colony of Hong Kong was also attacked by the Japanese shortly after 8:00 a.m. on the morning of December 8th . The Japanese were able to advance quickly thanks to the quickly gained air dominance. The Gin Drinkers Line , an expanded British defense line , fell on December 10th , and Kowloon had to be evacuated the next day under heavy artillery fire and bombardment.

Destruction of the British Force Z
HMS Prince of Wales in Singapore Harbor
HMS Repulse is leaving Singapore

When a confrontation in Asia could no longer be avoided, the British Navy relocated several ships to protect its colonies, including the new battleship HMS Prince of Wales , the now 25-year-old (and only partially modernized) battle cruiser HMS Repulse and the destroyer HMS Electra , HMS Express , HMS Tenedos and HMS Vampire to Southeast Asia. After arriving in the port of Singapore on October 27, 1941, these ships formed the Force Z combat group under the command of Admiral Sir Tom Phillips . The flagship of Admiral Philipps was the HMS Prince of Wales .

On the afternoon of December 8, 1941, Force Z set out for the Gulf of Siam to intercept Japanese troop convoys or convoys destined for the invasion of Malaysia and thus prevent further advance of Japanese troops. The Commander of Force Z , Admiral Phillips, knew that the local British Royal Air Force Air Force was unable to provide air cover for his formation. Nevertheless, he decided without air support against Japanese troops convoys to proceed as he - mistakenly - assumed that his ships against air attacks relatively assured would, especially since the largest ever sunk by land-based aircraft unit only one heavy cruiser , but hadn't been a battleship or battle cruiser. He also assumed - also erroneously - that the Japanese would not be able to carry out effective air strikes that far from the mainland on the open sea without an aircraft carrier .

On the morning of December 10, 1941, the HMS Repulse was already on the way back to Singapore together with the Prince of Wales , after the association had failed to find and place the Japanese troop convoys. At 11:00 local time, Japanese planes were sighted from HMS Prince of Wales , the number of which indicated an impending heavy attack. Then both ships totaling 86 near were Saigon in Indochina launched land-based Japanese bombers and torpedo bombers of the 21st and 22nd Air Flotilla (21 and 22 Marine Air Wing) of the Japanese Navy type Mitsubishi G3M Chukou (Nell ) and Mitsubishi G4M Hamaki (Betty) in the waters of Malaysia near Kuantan near Tioman ( Pahang province ) attacked with bombs and air torpedoes in a total of seven waves . After heavy hits, the HMS Repulse sank first and 45 minutes later the HMS Prince of Wales (which was quickly rendered maneuverable or incapable of combat due to an early accidental torpedo hit in the wave pants due to water ingress), killing a total of 840 crew members, including the commanding Admiral Sir Tom Phillips.

The British naval forces were severely weakened and further support could not be sent because all available forces at sea and in the air in Africa and Europe were tied up.

Japanese conquests
Soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army

The islands of Guam , Makin and Tarawa fell into Japanese hands on December 10th - the same day they began the invasion of the Philippines on the main island of Luzon . The allied units of the Americans and Filipinos stationed there under the command of General Douglas MacArthur were far inferior to the advancing Japanese. On the first day of the invasion, Japanese aircraft succeeded in taking out most of the American aircraft standing on the ground and thus gaining air supremacy. So they were able to bring the ground troops ashore at Legaspi (December 12th) and in the Gulf of Lingayen (December 22nd) almost unhindered . MacArthur then decided the orderly withdrawal of all units to the Bataan Peninsula .

Japanese troops landed on December 16 in Borneo near Miri , Lutong and Seria (→  Japanese invasion of Borneo ) and on December 19 in Mindanao in the southern Philippines. The bombing of the Burmese capital Rangoon by Japanese planes killed 2000 people on December 23. On the same day, two Japanese battalions landed in Kuching , Westborneo.

In Hong Kong, the Allied British, Indians, Canadians and local troops concentrated on defending Hong Kong Island, where they were under constant fire from the Japanese. However, after they landed on December 18 and the water supply was cut on December 20, the defense could no longer be maintained. The last Allied units surrendered on December 25th. The day has been known as "Black Christmas" in Hong Kong ever since .

In the interior of China, four Japanese divisions were grouped at Yueyang from December 24th. The renewed attempt to take the Chinese city of Changsha failed in the third battle for Changsha on January 15, 1942, after the Chinese defenders had succeeded in encircling three divisions of the Japanese who subsequently escaped.



The most important conquest of the Japanese took place on January 23rd, when the small Australian garrison in Rabaul on the northeastern tip of New Britain was overwhelmed and the port city was captured (→  Battle of Rabaul ). To do this, they offered a number of ships that resembled the attack fleet for Pearl Harbor. The Japanese drove to Rabaul with four aircraft carriers , two battleships , nine cruisers , 16 destroyers , a few mine-layers and gunboats , a seaplane tender , a few fleet tankers and the troop carriers, as well as seven submarines.

This gave the Japanese a very good starting point for a further advance in the direction of the Eastern Pacific and the South Seas , which was expanded into a veritable fortress in the following years . The mountains in the hinterland of the city, which are made of pumice stone , served as shelter . There, the Japanese had prisoners of war dig tunnels with a total length of more than 500 kilometers, which served as replenishment camps, intermediate troop camps and hospitals (15 of them alone). There were also five runways , a station for seaplanes , a submarine base and a military port . Rabaul was temporarily manned with up to 200,000 soldiers.

Fall of Singapore and allied defeat in Southeast Asia

First ABDACOM conference. Sitting around the table (from left to right): Admirals Layton , Helfrich and Hart , General ter Poorten , Colonel Kengen of the Royal Netherlands Army (at the head end) and Generals Wavell , Brett and Brereton .

To protect the colonial territories and their own sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, the Allies founded the ABDACOM , a joint command of the Americans, British, Dutch and Australians in Singapore on January 8 , under which the land, air and naval forces were to be coordinated. Despite some minor successes, such as in the sea ​​battle off Balikpapan on January 24th, the ABDACOM units could not stop the Japanese. Tarakan (→  Battle of Tarakan ), Thailand and British Malaysia fell to the Japanese in January. The British suffered a particularly severe setback during the siege of Singapore , when a combined British-Indian-Australian army with a strength of around 80,000 soldiers surrendered on February 15 and was captured by the Japanese.

During the Battle of Makassar Strait on February 4, the ABDACOM naval forces suffered a setback when they were attacked and forced to flee by Japanese bombers in pursuit of an invasion convoy . As a result, the Japanese landed on Borneo near Balikpapan .

Other goals of the invasion of Japanese were in February, to the Dutch East Indies belonging Sumatra (→  Invasion of Sumatra ), where in particular its oil fields because of the ongoing war slowly fuel reserves had run out. For the same reason, the Japanese ground troops tried to take Borneo completely as quickly as possible (→ Japanese invasion of Borneo ).

In order to prevent the occupation of Bali by the Japanese, the sea units of the ABDACOM fought from February 18 to 19 in the Badung Strait with the Japanese, which they lost (→  naval battle in the Strait of Badung ). On the night of February 19-20, the Japanese began the invasion of neutral Portuguese Timor . The Portuguese colony had been occupied by Dutch and Australian troops in 1941 to act as a buffer between the Japanese and Australia. After protests by the Portuguese governor, only the Netherlands left the colony; the Australians stayed and involved the Japanese, along with local volunteers, in a guerrilla war known as the Battle of Timor until 1943 .

On February 19, 71 Japanese dive bombers , 81 torpedo planes along with 36 fighters attacked the port of Darwin in northern Australia. They had started from four aircraft carriers that had left Palau four days earlier, together with two battleships, three cruisers and nine destroyers and were now in the Banda Sea. The airstrike on Darwin sank a US destroyer and seven freighters and caused considerable damage to an American aircraft tender, six cargo ships and the port facilities.

The Japanese celebrate their landing on Java - March 1, 1942

The Allies decided on February 25th to dissolve the ABDACOM due to their own powerlessness against the Japanese. Two days later, the ABDA fleet tried to prevent a Japanese invasion force from landing in southern Java. In the ensuing battle in the Java Sea and the following days (→  Battle in the Sunda Strait ), the entire ABDA fleet was wiped out by the Japanese units. The Japanese were able to set down further landing units on Java on March 1st (→  Japanese invasion of Java ). After only a few days, the Allies on the island were on the verge of defeat and the responsible Dutch under Lieutenant General Hein ter Poorten surrendered on March 8th. The signature on the formal declaration of surrender followed two days later.

First American operations in the Pacific

The US began moving troops to American Samoa on January 6, and moved three battleships and seven destroyers from the Atlantic to the Pacific Fleet on January 12 . Further units of the Marines were embarked for Pago Pago on January 20, accompanied by two aircraft carriers .

In order to at least slow down the further advance of the Japanese, the Americans launched an attack on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands . The task force with two aircraft carriers, five cruisers and eleven destroyers started on January 21st and reached their destination on January 27th. The fleet was split up and began with an artillery fire from the ships, as well as aircraft attacks by the carriers on the Japanese bases. Japanese counterattacks caused minor damage to an American carrier and cruiser. As a result of the attacks, the Japanese withdrew their aircraft carriers into the domestic waters.

To strengthen the troop contingent in the Pacific region, the USA withdrew more soldiers from the Atlantic region on January 21 and relocated them through the Panama Canal by means of troop transport convoys .

Shelling of the US west coast

On February 23, the shelling of an oil refinery near Ellwood , California by the Japanese submarine I-17 on the west coast sparked fears of invasion. However, the bombardment only caused slight damage to a pier and a pumping station. American planes that took off could no longer find the submarine. As a result, the guard on the American west coast was significantly increased.

South, Southeast Asia and Japanese advance into the South Seas

On January 29, in Washington, at the urgent request of the Australian government, the ANZAC defense sector was approved . The zone covered the Pacific between Australia, New Zealand and French Caledonia; only the troops stationed in New Zealand itself. The ANZAC troops were under Vice Admiral Herbert F. Leary of the United States Navy .

In March the Japanese captured Java and the Dutch East Indies completely, and the first invading forces landed on the beaches of New Guinea . The South Sea islands of the Solomon Islands also moved into the interests of the Japanese as an advanced base against the Americans, and so the first units landed there on February 13th.

Japanese troops who invaded Burma from neighboring Thailand in January captured Yangon on March 8 after evacuating the city the previous day.

The Americal Division was relocated from Melbourne to Nouméa in mid-March . As part of this operation, two aircraft carriers and several other warships accompanied the convoy. Meanwhile, the Japanese landings in New Guinea began at Lae and Finschhafen in the east of the island (→ Operation SR ). As a counterattack, 104 aircraft took off from the US aircraft carriers on March 10, when the fleet passed through the coral sea south of the landing zones. The machines flew over the Owen Stanley Mountains and attacked the Japanese ships. They succeeded in sinking four transport ships and damaging seven others, some severely. The landings could not be prevented with this attack.

British heavy cruisers HMS Dorsetshire (40) and HMS Cornwall (56) are under Japanese air raids. Both are sinking in the aftermath of the April 5th attacks. 424 crew members are killed

On March 12th, Japanese units landed at Sabang and Iri in North Sumatra to take over the rich oil fields there.

The Andamans in the Bay of Bengal as a base for the planned jump to India fell on March 23 (→ Operation D ), and an attack by the Japanese with five aircraft carriers on the British base on Ceylon resulted in the loss of two heavy cruisers .

With the start of the large-scale Operation C on March 30th, when six aircraft carriers, accompanied by four battleships and several cruisers and destroyers, entered the Indian Ocean , the Japanese tried to eliminate the British fleet and the rest of the Allied shipping units, which were still operated in the Indian Ocean.

Japanese N-Force landing units landed on April 1 at Fakfak in the northwest of the Bomberai Peninsula . With that they began the invasion of Dutch New Guinea . By April 22nd of that year, Babo , Sorong , Manokwari , Moemi , Nabire , Seroei , Sarmi and Hollandia were taken.

The Japanese were on April 5 with their Operation C units in front of Ceylon . Using the aircraft carrier machines, they began an intensive air strike on the port of Colombo , but were only able to sink a British destroyer and an auxiliary cruiser. On the return flight, the machines discovered two heavy cruisers on the open sea, which they immediately attacked and sunk. 424 British people were killed.

On April 9, the Allied troops surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines . After the capture by the Japanese, the Bataan death march took place , during which the prisoners had to walk from the south of the peninsula to a train station about 100 km away. Around 16,000 soldiers were killed.

On the same day, the Japanese Operation C units attacked the port of Trincomalee and discovered parts of the British East Asian Fleet in the open sea. The Japanese managed to sink a light aircraft carrier, a destroyer, a corvette and two tankers.

Air raid on Tokyo

B-25 just before the start of the Doolittle Raid

Since the Allies and US troops had to accept further defeats since the beginning of the war and were unable to stop the advance of the Japanese, high-ranking military advised in January the possibility of using specially modified bombers to reach the main Japanese islands and targets in the Tokyo , Yokohama , and Yokosuka areas , Nagoya and Kobe to bomb, to bring about a turnaround already in a relatively early phase of the war. For this purpose, volunteer bomber crews were trained on the converted machines in the spring to take off with the built-in full additional tanks and full cargo over a short distance. On April 2, an aircraft carrier with an escort left the port of San Francisco with a course for Japan. At a distance of about 1200 km from the destination, the 25 bombers took off on April 18 to carry out the so-called Doolittle Raid . After the bombing, which caused hardly any damage to speak of, but brought the Americans a propaganda victory, most of the planes landed in the Republic of China . Due to the propagandistic inflated success, the slogan: "Doolitt 'do it" became a synonym for the demand for harsh retribution against Japan.

Japanese conquests and first setbacks

The American division of the Pacific into various theaters of war, 1942

In Burma, the Japanese captured the city of Lasio on April 30, blocking the Allies' way to China. They entered Mandalay on May 1st .

The capital of the Solomon Islands, Tulagi , on the island of the same name, fell into Japanese hands on May 3 as part of Operation MO . The Japanese ships lying in port were bombed by 99 American aircraft from an aircraft carrier the next day. They were able to sink a Japanese destroyer and three minesweepers and damage four other ships.

Corregidor , the last Allied bastion on Luzon in the Philippines, fell on May 6th. The Japanese made 11,574 prisoners of war. On the following day, the allied leadership in the southern Philippines islands also surrendered. The remaining troops were asked to wage a guerrilla war against the Japanese.

On May 7th, the battle in the Coral Sea broke out and lasted until the next day. Two American task force associations were able to successfully prevent the capture of Port Moresby by the Japanese. In the first major naval battle between Japanese and American carrier associations, both sides lost an aircraft carrier and several other ships.

To secure the sea area around the Aleutian Islands , an American North Pacific fleet with headquarters in Kodiak was put together on May 21 , as Japanese submarines were spotted there time and again, and their on-board aircraft undertook reconnaissance flights.

Air Battles - June 1942 (Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes )

Battle for Midway

By eavesdropping on Japanese radio communications, the US was able to identify the next target of a major Japanese attack - the Midway Islands . A major factor in the run-up to the ensuing Battle of Midway were the decoding of the Japanese JN-25 naval code book and the combined radio reconnaissance of the American, British, Australian and Dutch armed forces. On May 25, two Marine Corps companies and an artillery battery were relocated there for defense purposes. Further reinforcements came on May 26th with armored vehicles and airplanes.

The Kidō Butai intended for the Midway attack ran out of Hashirajima Bay on May 27 and headed for its target. The day before, a smaller unit had set off from Ominato in the direction of the Aleutians. The landing units for this northern archipelago and Midway followed on May 28th.

Also on May 28, two American aircraft carriers with five heavy cruisers and several destroyers left the base on Pearl Harbor. Another porter and escort units followed two days later. Ships were relocated from the Central Pacific to strengthen the North Pacific Fleet.

As a diversion from the Midway attack, Japanese small submarines ran into Sydney Bay on May 31 to torpedo some ships there. A US cruiser was narrowly missed, a barge was sunk and a Dutch submarine was damaged in the roadstead . The Japanese escaped.

On June 3, 1942, the Japanese fleet conducted a minor operation against Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands as a diversion for Midway. The Americans were able to see through the action prematurely, so that it was ineffective.

The Battle of Midway began on June 4th with a Japanese air raid on the islands. Two Japanese aircraft carriers could not be used because of severe damage they had suffered in the Coral Sea; however, four large aircraft carriers were available for the attack on the Midway Islands. The American fleet could only muster three aircraft carriers, but had a tactical advantage as it had deciphered the Japanese radio code. The decisive battles took place on June 4th, 6th and 7th, during which an American aircraft carrier and all four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk. The Japanese casualties amounted to 3,500 men, the US Navy lost 307 deaths. Due to the heavy losses, the Japanese Navy had to withdraw first.

Japanese officers in the Aleutian Islands

At the same time, the Japanese began invading Attu and Kiska by the Aleutians . The resulting battle for the Aleutians was not over until August 15, 1943.

To strengthen the Pacific Fleet, the Americans moved an aircraft carrier, an escort carrier , a battleship, a heavy cruiser and nine destroyers from the Atlantic to the Pacific on June 10 . Five days later, a new organization of the Pacific Task Forces came into effect.

On July 1, six American troop carriers with marines on board, accompanied by an aircraft carrier, a battleship, four cruisers and ten destroyers , set off from San Diego for Operation Watchtower in the direction of the Fiji Islands. Also for this operation, two aircraft carriers, six cruisers and 14 destroyers ran into the same area from Pearl Harbor on July 7th.

Meanwhile, the Japanese fleet was completely reorganized. The new association structures came into force on July 14th. The fleet was joined by two newly built battleships, new escorts and seaplane carriers as well as some new cruisers and destroyers.

Japanese battleships in Tokyo Bay

Port Moresby in New Guinea continued to be a coveted Japanese target, so that from July 21st the Japanese landing units succeeded in building a bridgehead at Buna and Gona (→ Operation RI ). Allied air strikes often hindered the transport of troops. The Japanese then tried to advance over the Owen Stanley Mountains towards Port Moresby (→ Kokoda Track Campaign ). They did not succeed in conquering the city, which was defended by Australian units, despite heavy fighting in the jungle that lasted until mid-November.

Around the same time, near the Fiji Islands, the American naval units united to prepare for the start of Operation Watchtower .

A diversionary maneuver agreed with the British was started by them on August 1st. The British Asian fleet in the Indian Ocean put together three convoys for this purpose, which were accompanied by two aircraft carriers, a battleship and several cruisers and destroyers. The operation, called Operation Stab , represented a fake landing on the Andaman Islands and lasted until August 10th.

The battle for Guadalcanal

American troops of the 160th Infantry Regiment on Guadalcanal Beach
Marines in the Guadalcanal jungle

With the landing on the Solomon Islands -Insel Guadalcanal on August 7, Americans began Operation Watchtower , one of the costliest and fiercest battles during the Pacific War. It lasted into the next year and marked another turning point in favor of the Americans.

The target of the landings was the Lunga Point airfield , the westernmost base of the Japanese for land-based air operations. It was captured as early as the afternoon of August 8th, but was fierce over the next few months as the Japanese tried with all their might to get it back under their control.

The fighting took place not only on the island itself, but also in the waters between the main island of Guadalcanal and the islands of Savo Island and Florida Island with the offshore Tulagi . The area became known as Ironbottom Sound (Eisengrund Strait), as many Allied and Japanese ships sank there in the sea battles. This began with the battle of Savo Island on August 8th, when Japanese ships managed to break American cover and enter the area between the islands.

After the landing on Guadalcanal was communicated to the Japanese command, it relocated units of the Imperial Japanese Navy from Japan to Truk from August 11th . Five days later, the first convoys to deliver troops and supplies left for Guadalcanal. Shortly thereafter, however, a landed detachment was almost completely wiped out by the Americans, so that only a small number of them could continue fighting with the soldiers of the following convoys.

The first fighter aircraft launched by an American escort aircraft carrier for the airfield now known as " Henderson Field " arrived on August 20.

American supply convoys did not always reach their destination either. An American troop transport was sunk on August 22nd.

On August 23, the Japanese opened Operation Ka to land 1,500 soldiers in support of the fighting units on Guadalcanal. The next day it came to the battle of the East Solomon Islands , in which a Japanese aircraft carrier was sunk and an American one was damaged. The Americans succeeded in preventing Japanese supplies from landing. A few days later, however, the Japanese were able to set down the troops on Guadalcanal with fast destroyers. You lost a destroyer in the process.

The tactic of bringing supplies to Guadalcanal with fast destroyer convoys was expanded to a constant practice on August 28th by the Japanese when the first Tokyo Express , so named by the Americans, took off. The destroyers drove south from Bougainville in the northern Solomon Islands through the slot to then land troops on the northwest coast of Guadalcanal. These destroyer convoys led to many individual battles over the next few months.

Guadalcanal and other promotions during the year

The way of the Japanese over the Kokoda Track to Port Moresby

The Japanese continued to pursue their goal of conquering Port Moresby, New Guinea. For this purpose, on August 12 and 13, more Japanese troops landed at Buna and tried to cross the Owen Stanley Mountains via the Kokoda Track . Milne Bay was bombed from the air to cover it .

After being bombarded by a fleet of destroyers, the Japanese occupied Nauru on August 23 and Ocean Island on August 26 .

During the Battle of Milne Bay in New Guinea, which lasted from August 24th to 31st, the Australians and Americans succeeded in pushing back a Japanese landing force of over 1,800 men.

On September 9 and 29, a Japanese plane attacked the American mainland. A small plane took off from a Japanese submarine off Cape Blanco, dropped some bombs in the Oregon forest near Mount Emily and started a forest fire.

During the mutual attempts to bring reinforcements in the form of ships and soldiers to Guadalcanal, the Japanese sank an American aircraft carrier on September 15. A repeated attempt by the Japanese to take Henderson Field airfield on Guadalcanal was barely prevented by the defending Americans from September 13th to 16th during the Battle of Bloody Ridge .

The Japanese advance over the Owen Stanley Mountains on New Guinea was halted on September 17th by two Australian brigades within sight of Port Moresby (→ Battle of Ioribaiwa ).

A Japanese convoy that ran out of Rabaul , consisting of two seaplane carriers and an escort of destroyers, covered by a cruiser flotilla, was captured by American aerial reconnaissance on October 11th. Shortly afterwards, American ships north of Guadalcanal stopped the convoy. The sea ​​battle broke out at Cape Esperance , which prevented the Japanese landing. Two days later, a US transport convoy coming from Noumea landed around 3,000 soldiers and supplies at Lunga Point . The following night Japanese cruisers and destroyers shelled Henderson Field airfield and were able to destroy 48 of the 90 fighter planes stationed there. Only one aircraft was not damaged in the bombardment. The next day the Tokyo Express brought 4,500 Japanese soldiers ashore near Tassafaronga .

On October 25, the Japanese fleet, which had been at sea since October 11, set out in the direction of Guadalcanal to launch a major attack. It consisted of four aircraft carriers, two battleships and a number of cruisers and destroyers. Opposite her, the Americans had two aircraft carriers, a battleship, several cruisers and destroyers available for defense.

The US carrier USS Enterprise receives a close hit during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands

The incoming Japanese units were discovered by reconnaissance planes later that day. However, both sides could not make out the opposing porters. It was not until the next day that the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands broke out , in which the Americans lost a porter and two Japanese porters were badly damaged.

Until mid-November, Japanese fast destroyers ran repeatedly to Guadalcanal to bring supplies of soldiers, guns, ammunition and other equipment. There were repeated clashes with American units operating from Tulagi. Fighter planes stationed at Henderson Field also repeatedly attacked these convoys. Nevertheless, the Japanese managed to land successful. The USA also brought more soldiers to the island, for example on November 11, when around 8,000 men tried to go ashore at Lunga Point. In return, the Japanese launched a major attack against the Americans, so that the landing operation had to be canceled.

In the naval battle of Guadalcanal , which lasted until November 15, the Japanese shelled Henderson Field intensively, but had to retreat after very high losses of their own. This American victory marked the turning point in the Battle of Guadalcanal .

After the capture of Kokoda on November 2, the Japanese forces fled to Buna on the northeast coast of New Guinea after the battle of Oivi-Gorari on November 19. This marks the end of the Kokoda track campaign .

On November 30, the Japanese tried again to bring supplies to the troops on Guadalcanal at night with a fast destroyer flotilla. Thanks to the American telecommunications intelligence , the company was discovered early on. In the Battle of Tassafaronga, the Japanese sank an American heavy cruiser and badly damaged three others. They themselves only lost one destroyer. The Japanese supplies fell into the hands of the Americans. This was the last major naval battle for Guadalcanal, but the land war lasted until early February 1943. The Tokyo Express continued to try to bring supplies to the island. However, the ships usually threw the containers into the sea a few kilometers from the island in the hope of being able to quickly escape the American torpedo boats and submarines. As a result, the Japanese land units were often only able to recover a few of the supply containers. At the end of the year, the Japanese leadership decided to give up Guadalcanal and evacuate the remaining soldiers.

In mid-December, the Australians and also the Japanese armed their troops in New Guinea. From December 10-16, the Australians dropped eight armored vehicles in Oro Bay . Shortly afterwards, 1,460 soldiers arrived in the bay. Around the same time, the Japanese brought 800 soldiers ashore at Cape Ward Hunt north of Buna.

To compensate for the lost Henderson Field, the Japanese began building an air base at Munda Point on New Georgia in the New Georgia Archipelago in December .


Counteroffensive 1943–1945

At the beginning of the year, the Americans increasingly succeeded in deciphering Japanese radio codes . One of the most important codes was the Ultra code of the command office of the Truk Atoll . As a result, the decryption could be confirmed by many sightings. From mid-January onwards, American submarines increasingly sank smaller warships, such as destroyers and patrol boats, as well as tankers and transport ships. Fighter planes were often called in and deployed for attacks on larger convoys.

Fight in the Pacific

The first Allied victory with land combat troops was achieved by the Australians and Americans over the Japanese units, which had withdrawn to the coast near Buna, Gona and Sanananda after the unsuccessful advance on Port Moresby in the Papua Territory of New Guinea. The fighting ended on January 22nd with the escape of the Japanese from the fighting area (→ Battle of Buna-Gona-Sanananda ). As a result, the Battle of Wau takes place from January 29 to February 4 , where Australian units succeed in repelling Japanese units advancing from Sanananda with the help of newly flown troops over an airlift from Port Moresby.

When the rearguard supplies on and around Guadalcanal by the Japanese, there were repeated minor clashes. When an American fleet approached from the south in the direction of Guadalcanal to support the planned landings there, the battle of Rennell Island broke out on January 29th . With the subsequent American landings, the Battle of the Northern Solomon Islands began , in which the Americans were able to conquer New Georgia by August and Bougainville by March 1944 . At the beginning of February, the US deployed massive reinforcements on Guadalcanal. With fast destroyer flotillas, some with up to 22 destroyers, the Japanese evacuated 11,706 soldiers in Operation Ke by February 9th. The island was then finally in American hands. This secured the sea route between Australia and America, and Guadalcanal became an important point of departure for the Allied operations against Rabaul , the Japanese main base in the South Pacific.

The cruiser USS Salt Lake City during the naval battle of the Komandorsky Islands

The aircraft of the Australian Air Force and the US Navy won the battle in the Bismarck Sea , which lasted March 2-4. This prevented the transfer of around 7,000 Japanese soldiers to New Guinea.

Two days later, American destroyers shelled the Japanese airfield at Munda Point , but were unsuccessful. To attack another airfield on Kolombangara , the Vila Airfield , a US task force drove into the Gulf of Kula with three cruisers and three destroyers . There they met two Japanese destroyers, which were sunk by them after a short battle.

On occupied Nauru, the Japanese tried to continue exporting the phosphate deposits there in their favor, but were stopped by bombing US planes. A particularly violent attack was flown on March 25th. As a result, the Japanese deported 1200 Nauru to labor camps in Truk .

On March 26, the battle of the Komandorski Islands broke out when a Japanese convoy was attacked by an American fleet with a heavy and a light cruiser and four destroyers en route to Attu in the Aleutian Islands . The Japanese security group, which was superior to the Americans and consisted of two heavy, two light cruisers and four destroyers, withdrew after about three and a half hours of combat.

At the beginning of April there was a massive Japanese armament of the Rabaul and Buka bases . Four aircraft carriers brought over 160 warplanes to the bases. They served to prepare for a large-scale air offensive against Guadalcanal and Tulagi, Operation I-GO . On April 7, torpedo and dive bombers attacked the islands and sank an American destroyer and a tanker as well as a New Zealand corvette. Further Japanese air strikes were directed against Ore Bay near Buna on April 11 and against Milne Bay in New Guinea on April 14 , where two American transport ships were sunk. There the Allies began the Salamaua Lae campaign on April 22nd .

Admiral Yamamoto's death

A Lockheed P-38 Lightning

In mid-April, the American telecommunications reconnaissance managed to decipher a radio message according to which Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku , Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, wanted to visit the base on Bougainville . To intercept his aircraft, 16 Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters took off from the new second runway at Henderson Airfield on Guadalcanal on April 18 and headed north. With a loss of their own, they succeeded in shooting down three of the nine Japanese escort aircraft and the two transport planes. One of them was Yamamoto, who was killed in the process. Admiral Koga Mineichi was appointed as the successor to the Japanese supreme command .

American submarine successes

The Japanese transporter Nittsu Maru sinks in the Yellow Sea off China on March 23 after being torpedoed by the USS Wahoo (SS-238) ( periscope view )

Due to the deciphered Japanese codes, the success of the American submarines increased significantly in the middle of the year. They succeeded more and more often in penetrating Japanese waters and mainly damaging or even sinking transport and cargo ships arriving and departing there. Japanese warships were less likely to be directly attacked. The main focus was placed on the convoy route from Japan to Palau and from there to Rabaul.

The submarines also laid large minefields, for example directly off the Japanese coast near Inubo Seki , off Hong Kong and off Shanghai .

Furthermore, reconnaissance trips were made by the submarines in the North Pacific in preparation for the American operation Landcrab , the landing in the Aleutian Islands, which began on May 11th.

Overall, it can be said that the Japanese never paid the necessary attention to the threat posed by submarines. The Japanese had not considered that the conquest of the raw material areas alone was not enough to secure the empire. Japan was more dependent on maritime supply routes than any other nation at the time. Not only did the raw materials from Sumatra, the Philippines or China have to be brought to Japan and processed there. Substantial parts of the handling and transport of goods were also carried out by sea between the main Japanese islands themselves. The rail network was significantly less developed than that of European nations.

Due to the bottlenecks caused by the supply shortages, the Japanese military leadership was also forced to station large parts of the fleet near the Indonesian oil wells. The threat to cargo ships from US submarines also meant that Japanese submarines had to take over the transport of food, medicine and ammunition.

American air superiority

In June, the Japanese tried several times to prevent American transport companies from operating from the air. On June 5, there was a major aerial battle between 81 Japanese fighter planes and 101 American planes over the Russel Islands in the Solomon Islands. The Japanese lost 24 planes, while the Americans only lost 7 planes.

Another air strike was carried out over Guadalcanal on June 11th. The Japanese mobilized 94 planes to attack a convoy. American fighter planes took off from Henderson Airfield to defend themselves. Together with the ships' anti-aircraft guns, all but one Japanese aircraft could be shot down.

Island hopping

In a strong storm, the American marines land on Rendova
Operation Cartwheel 1943/1944
Operation Cartwheel 1943/1944

For further action in the Southwest Pacific, the Joint Chiefs of Staff envisaged a far-reaching undertaking to bypass the Japanese base of operations on Rabaul, as this city was viewed as very effective for the Japanese and therefore also very dangerous for their own advance. The resulting Operation Cartwheel marked the beginning of the strategically important battle for New Guinea and was prepared from mid-June with various shifts of troops and on June 30th with almost simultaneous landings on Rendova , in the New Georgia Archipelago ( Battle of New Georgia ), on Vella Lavella , New Guinea, Bougainville and New Britain launched. The Americans turned the so-called Iceland Hopping ( island hopping on).

Shortly after the American landings in the Gulf of Kula, the Japanese also landed there, so that the battle in the Kula Gulf broke out between July 5th and 6th . A few days later, the Japanese sent another Tokyo Express to the Gulf of Kula. He was captured on July 13 by an American task force and fought in the Battle of Kolombangara . The Americans lost this battle and the Japanese destroyers were able to land 1200 men near Vila on Kolombangara, but this had no further effect as the Americans bypassed this island.

A major American air raid on July 17th from Henderson Airfield on Guadalcanal with 223 fighter planes on Japanese ships near Bougainville resulted in the sinking of a destroyer and two damaged destroyers. The mission was repeated the following day. However, it was only possible to damage one destroyer.

In the North Pacific occurred during the bombing of the island of Kiska in the Aleutian Islands on July 22 to the mysterious Phantom battle Battle of the pips , in which an American battleship and Kreuzerflottille shot to nonexistent Japanese ships only as luminous dots on the radar screens were visible . A few days later, the Japanese managed to evacuate their 5,183 soldiers from Kiska in just 55 minutes.

The two islands of Woodlark and Kiriwina were occupied without a fight by the Allies as part of Operation Chronicle from July 23 . Airports were built on both islands to bomb Rabaul and to cover further operations in New Guinea.

In an attempt to reach Kolombangara with 900 soldiers on board, a Japanese destroyer flotilla came into contact with an American destroyer association on August 6 during the Battle of the Vella Gulf , which sank three of the four Japanese ships. A week later, the Americans landed 4,600 Marines on the island of Vella Lavella. On August 17th, the Japanese went ashore on the north coast of the island. In smaller destroyer fights, only slight damage was reported on both sides.

At the end of August, the Americans occupied some South Pacific islands without a fight in order to have the Seabees set up air bases there.

On September 1, the planes of three American carriers attacked the Japanese base on Marcus Island at night . In six waves of attack they lost only four machines, but could only cause slight damage to the runway.

At the same time ships with 8,000 Australian soldiers left Milne Bay to land at Lae in New Guinea. The Japanese tried to prevent the operation with a bomber association, but this was identified so early that it was intercepted by American fighters. The eastern part of New Guinea was freed by the landing troops after landings at Finschhafen on September 22nd.

Japanese submarine I-55

After the Italian surrender on September 8, two Italian gunboats , some steamers and an auxiliary cruiser sank in the ports of Kobe , Shanghai and other Japanese-occupied cities in the Far East so as not to fall into the hands of the Japanese.

Also on September 8th, the Japanese gave up the fight for Salamaua and retreated to Lae , which fell to the Allies on September 16, after the Japanese had left the city moving north the day before.

From September 17 to 18, the Americans bombed the island of Tarawa with 25 Liberator bombers, which had taken off from Canton and Funafuti . The bombers were also supported by fighter planes launched by three aircraft carriers, which attacked Japanese facilities in several waves.

During the evacuation of Japanese troops from Kolombangara in late September to early October, around 1,000 Japanese soldiers died in fire from American destroyers. The Japanese managed to get 9,400 men alive from the island. The Japanese then tried to evacuate Vella Lavella, but were prevented from doing so by the Americans in the Battle of Vella Lavella .

B-24 Liberator bombers

In order to further isolate the Japanese base on Rabaul from the outside world, allied air forces of the US Air Force and the British Air Force launched major attacks on October 12. The combined air fleet consisted of B-24 and B-25 bombers as well as P-38 and Beaufighter escort fighters. During the attacks on the port and the airfields, two transporters were sunk, three destroyers and three submarines as well as smaller units were damaged. The Allies lost four machines.

After Japanese submarines had identified and reported a large American fleet off Hawaii, the Imperial Japanese Navy, with three aircraft carriers from the 1st Fleet and three carriers from the 2nd Fleet, moved fighter planes from Truk to Rabaul at the end of November in order to carry out a concentrated air strike on the Solomon Islands prepare. When the carrier returned to Japan in early November, a carrier was torpedoed and damaged by an American submarine. Meanwhile, the main Japanese fleet in Truk was on heightened alert. It consisted of four battleships, twelve cruisers and 30 destroyers.

Battle for Bougainville

Landing craft are manned for the storm on Cape Torokina
Circling American landing craft off Cape Torokina during the landing operation on Bougainville
Japanese airfields on Buka and Bougainville 1943

On November 1, three U.S. Marine Divisions landed at Cape Torokina in Bougainville , Solomon Islands . They did not encounter any Japanese resistance. Four cruisers, 19 destroyers and a few minesweepers lay off the coast for cover. The Japanese tried to attack the ships with air strikes from Rabaul, but when these were unsuccessful, the Japanese leadership set a fleet in motion towards Bougainville, which arrived the following night. With the American units she fought the sea ​​battle at the Empress Augusta Bay . The landing on Bougainville could not be prevented by the Japanese.

The Japanese 2nd Fleet set out for Rabaul on November 3 to reinforce its units and was sighted by US airborne scouts in the Bismarck Archipelago the next day. After the fleet entered Rabaul, around 100 fighter planes from two American carriers launched a concentrated air strike on the port of Rabaul. They managed to seriously damage six cruisers and one destroyer while losing ten of their own machines. Shortly after this attack, a bomber squadron followed, which attacked Rabaul himself and again the port. That same evening, the Japanese withdrew six cruisers and five destroyers from Rabaul to Truk.

Meanwhile, on November 7th, the Japanese managed to land 1,175 soldiers on Bougainville in a night operation. On November 9th and 11th, the Americans landed their second and third waves. Due to the proximity of Bougainville to Rabaul (the distance was only about 300 km) they expanded the existing Japanese airfields in order to be able to attack the important Japanese base there.

During a Japanese attempt to carry out air strikes on Bougainville, American carrier aircraft intercepted the attackers and shot down 33 of 110 machines without a single loss of their own. The total loss of the Japanese after their unsuccessful attacks was so great that the carriers' air units were hardly operational.

Due to the American offensive, the Japanese tried to strengthen their garrison on Buka , north of Bougainville, which led to the naval battle at Cape St. George on November 26, 1943 . The Japanese suffered a crushing defeat in this battle and lost more than half of their units. The Americans, on the other hand, had no losses to complain about. This was the end of the Tokyo Express , the supply and evacuation trips for the Japanese in the Solomon Islands.

As early as the end of December, the Americans launched air raids on Rabaul from Bougainville. But it was not until the beginning of April 1944 that they were victorious in the Battle of Bougainville and the island was considered secure. In the protracted jungle battles, in which the Japanese withdrew to previously constructed underground bunkers, the Americans had 423 dead and 1,418 wounded. Many of the survivors contracted malaria after the battles .

Battle of the Gilbert Islands

On November 10, the preparatory phase for the large-scale Operation Galvanic began. For this purpose, two groups of transporters set off from Pearl Harbor and three days later from the New Hebrides (today: Vanuatu) , which met on November 17th west of the Solomon Islands between Baker Island and Tuvalu . The associated cover units, such as the fast aircraft carrier group, battleships, cruisers, destroyers and minesweepers were added a few days later.

Landing at Butaritari, Makin Atoll, November 20, 1943

The battle for the Gilbert Islands under the code name Operation Galvanic started on November 19 with the planned bombing of the landing areas. With planes from eleven carriers, artillery from five battleships, six cruisers and 21 destroyers, the beaches of Makin and Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands , as well as Mili in the Marshall Islands and Nauru were shelled. The next day, the American landings began on the Makin and Tarawa Atolls. Makin fell on November 23rd and Tarawa only on November 28th after fierce, loss-making fighting in which 4,300 Japanese and 1,000 Americans were killed.

Since the Japanese now assumed that the Americans would plan another landing operation on the Marshalls, they strengthened their bases there. From November 19th, several ships drove from Truk several times with supplies to Mili, Kwajalein and Maloelap .

Further actions towards the end of the year

At Cape St. George , southeast of Rabaul, there was a clash between five US and five Japanese destroyers on November 25th. The Americans sank three enemy ships in the Battle of Cape St. George , of which 178 sailors were rescued by a Japanese submarine.

In preparation for the capture of the Marshall Islands, six American aircraft carriers with nine cruisers and ten destroyers launched from December 4, multiple concentrated attacks on the important Japanese base on Kwajalein . They managed to destroy 55 Japanese aircraft, some on the ground. In addition, more than 42,500 gross tons of cargo ships and two cruisers were put out of action. The Americans themselves lost five fighter planes, and one of the carriers was damaged. Further artillery attacks were directed against Nauru with five battleships and twelve destroyers on December 8th.

The American landings on December 13th near Arawe in New Britain , during which 1,600 soldiers were dropped, ran under the code name Operation Director . In preparation for the landings, the US Air Force flew an air strike and dropped 433 tons of bombs over the landing zone.

On Christmas Eve of the year, the Americans opened Operation Dexterity , the landing at Cape Gloucester , with a mock attack on Buka and Buin on Bougainville. The actual landing operations began on Boxing Day with the dropping of 13,000 US Marine Corps men in waves. In a major attack by 60 Japanese fighter planes, the Americans lost a destroyer from their cover group; another was badly damaged.


The US offensive in the central Pacific continued, as the Japanese had suspected, in the attack on the Marshall Islands . In preparation, the US Navy laid minefields off Wotje , Jaluit and Maloelap with aircraft from the beginning of the year .

After more remote control key, the Japanese had been decrypted by the American Enlightenment, U-boats were reinforced in groups on patrol and intercepted many Japanese convoys. They often received support from allied air forces operating close by, which were also deployed on the convoys. Among other things, this also prevented replenishment deliveries to the Marshall Islands.

The HMS Renown with other ships in the British Asian fleet

In mid to late January, the British strengthened their East Asian fleet in the Indian Ocean with two aircraft carriers, two battleships, three cruisers and ten destroyers, including three Dutch ships. A second push with another six destroyers followed in early March. This gave them a powerful fleet, which consisted of three aircraft carriers, three battleships, 13 cruisers, 27 destroyers, 13 frigates , as well as some sloops , corvettes and six submarines. Since the middle of December of the previous year, the British were increasingly involved in missions against Japanese units in the Strait of Malacca . In some cases they extended their area of ​​operations to the Nicobar and Andaman Islands . German submarines also operated from Penang ; the British managed to achieve some successes against them as well.

Battle of the Marshall Islands and bombing of the Truk Atoll

On January 29, the American Fast Carrier Task Force 58 arrived north of the Marshall Islands and began bombarding the islands of Maloelap, Kwajalein, Roi, Eniwetok and Wotje. 6232 missions were flown. 49 machines were lost.

The Battle of the Marshall Islands began on February 1st under the code name Operation Flintlock with the American landing on the Kwajalein Atoll . The main objective of the operation against the Marshall Islands was to obtain land bases for further action in the direction of the Mariana Islands and the Philippines . In addition there was the important conquest of the Japanese base on Kwajalein.

Landing on Kwajalein

With strong artillery fire from the ships approaching the main islands of the atoll with the landing craft, the Americans managed to land around 41,500 men by February 7th. In contrast, about 8,700 Japanese tried to defend the atoll. Of these, only 265 went into American captivity.

At the same time as the start of operations, all American and Allied submarines were ordered to hunt down Japanese tankers in particular. This should cut off the fuel supply for the Japanese ships and planes, especially for Rabaul. The air strikes against Rabaul and the surrounding area were also intensified again.

On February 17, the Battle of the Marshall Islands continued with Operation Catchpole , the landing on the Eniwetok Atoll . Fighting on the islands lasted until February 23, killing 262 Americans and 2,677 Japanese. After capturing the Eniwetok Atoll, US troops managed to capture the eastern Marshall Islands by June 14th.

As part of Operation Hailstone on February 16 and 17, which was also intended as a cover operation for the capture of the Eniwetok Atoll, the island of Truk in the Caroline Islands was massively bombed by aircraft of the US Navy. The important Japanese base and large parts of the island were almost completely destroyed. Japanese defense was almost non-existent. More than 70 Japanese warships at anchor were sunk. However, the large battleships and cruisers anchored in the harbor shortly before had already left Truk and could no longer be tracked down. The bombing of Truk is often referred to as the Japanese Pearl Harbor .

Further American advance

In order to prepare the storm on the Mariana Islands as the next major offensive, carrier aircraft of the American Task Group 58.2 flew attacks on the islands of Tinian and Saipan on February 23 . In Operation Brewer , on February 29, the island of Los Negros in the archipelago of the Admiralty Islands was occupied by 1026 Americans as a further preparation .

In March, the Japanese launched Operation TA on Bougainville . With 12,000 soldiers they tried to displace the Americans, who now have 27,000 landed soldiers at Cape Torokina, from their bridgehead. The fighting lasted from March 9th to March 24th. The Japanese lost 5,469 men; the Americans - with the support of six destroyers in the defensive battle - counted only 263 dead.

To divert a landing operation on Emirau in the Bismarck Archipelago , US destroyers shot at Wewak in northern New Guinea on the night of March 19 and at Kavieng in New Ireland the next day . The landings on Emirau that took place in the meantime went completely without Japanese resistance, so that shortly afterwards the construction of an airfield and a base for patrol torpedo boats could begin.

In the Operation Desecrate One that was started by the United States on March 23, were united three task forces with a total of eleven aircraft carriers and several battleships, cruisers and destroyers, the Japanese installations on Palau, Yap and Woleai attack. Japanese planes tried to intercept parts of the fleet, but it was able to start its attacks from March 30th, during which 38 Japanese ships were sunk. However, there were no large warships among them.

New Guinea with the most important places

Allied air raids on Hollandia on April 12th resulted in the sinking of two freighters. Some small civilian fishing trawlers were also hit and sunk. In the Southwest Pacific, the Australians put together a security fleet for supply convoys between Finschhafen and the Admiralty Islands on the same day. It consisted of a destroyer, two frigates and 27 corvettes. During the escort, some of the frigates and corvettes shelled the city of Madang , Hansa Bay and some islands off the coast of New Guinea.

During the Japanese operation Take-Ichi , troop transports with around 20,000 soldiers on board ran from Shanghai to Halmahera on April 15 to deliver supplies for the units on the Vogelkop peninsula . Between April 26 and May 6, American submarines succeeded in sinking four transporters. Around 4,300 soldiers lost their lives in the process.

The British Asian Fleet set out on April 16 for a large-scale operation, code-named Cockpit of Trincomalee . With two aircraft carriers, three battleships, six cruisers and 15 destroyers, she set course for Sabang , which was attacked on April 19 with 46 bombers and 35 fighters. The Japanese lost 24 machines on the ground and some in the air. In addition, a steamer was sunk.

On April 17, Japanese troops advanced in southern China towards the new US air force bases.

Landing in Tanahmerah Bay, east of Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea

In preparation for the landings near Hollandia (→  Operation Reckless ) in New Guinea, the Americans launched air strikes from aircraft carriers on the islands of Wakde and Sarmi west of Hollandia on April 21 . Destroyers also attacked the same targets. The advances continued on the following days to support the landings in Humboldt Bay and Tanahmerah Bay near Hollandia , which began on April 22nd . Further landings took place at Aitape (→  Operation Persecution ). The Japanese resistance was very low, so that it was possible to occupy all airfields at Hollandia and Aitape by April 28th. The carrier groups then ran in the direction of Truk, which was heavily bombed on April 29th and 30th.

Due to the increased production of submarines in the USA, there were now so many boats available in the Pacific that they switched from individual tactics to group tactics. The sunk gross register tons rose sharply. Freighters and transporters from convoys were still the main targets. Occasionally a destroyer or a smaller military unit was sunk. The area of ​​operation of the American submarines encompassed the entire Pacific region as far as the Japanese coast.

On May 6, the British Asian Fleet, together with other Allied units, opened Operation Transom , a carrier attack on Surabaja in Java , which had been agreed with the United States. It served as a distraction from the American attacks on Wakde. On May 17th, at the same time as the American action, nearly 100 fighter planes flew multiple waves of attack against the port and the city's oil refineries. The Japanese lost twelve planes, a patrol boat and a freighter.

Meanwhile, the Japanese were preparing to defend the Mariana Islands. For Operation A-GO , three fleets left Japan on May 11th and 12th in the direction of the Mariana Islands. This included four large battleships, nine aircraft carriers and a number of cruisers and destroyers.

US units with a strength of 7,000 landed at Arara on May 17 and the next day on Wakde on the north coast of New Guinea to take the airfield there (→  Operation Straightline ). Of the 759 Japanese defenders, only one soldier was captured; the Americans lost 110 men. The landing on Biak followed on May 25th (→  Battle of Biak ). There was heavy and protracted fighting until June, in which 10,000 Japanese fought against the US landing forces. Requested reinforcements could be intercepted by the Americans while at sea and forced to turn back. On June 6, Allied planes bombed a convoy on the way to Biak. It was possible to sink one destroyer and damage three more.

Mariana Islands and Palau Islands

The aim of the American attack on the Mariana Islands was to capture two important airfields on the island of Saipan in order to be able to carry out air raids on the Japanese mainland from there. The establishment of further air force bases on the Mariana Islands made it possible to control the central Pacific, as land-based US aircraft could monitor this sector. It was also possible from there to attack the convoys that were coming from Indonesia to Japan and the occupied Philippines with essential raw materials, in particular oil, without an aircraft carrier and submarines.

Shortly before the start of the American Operation Forager to land on the Mariana Islands, a false report led to an attack on all available Japanese submarines against the invasion fleet expected in the east. However, since this operated west of the Mariana Islands, only a few American ships, including a battleship and two aircraft carriers, could be attacked unsuccessfully. Of the 18 leaked Japanese submarines sank the U-fighters of the US Navy six.

An American soldier discovers a Japanese woman with four children and a dog in a cave on Saipan

At about the same time on June 11, American carrier aircraft took off from the western fleet to launch attacks against the Marianas, which continued in the days that followed. The main destinations were on the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Guam .

On June 15, US marines landed on the 20 km long and 9 km wide main island of the Mariana Islands, Saipan (→  Battle of Saipan ). The bitter fighting lasted for three weeks and killed around 43,000 on the Japanese side. The Americans lost 3,500 soldiers. The main Japanese islands were within range of B-29 bombers from the beginning of July 1944 .

On June 18, the first major American bombing raids reached Honshu , albeit from bases in China.

The Japanese fleet of Operation A-GO captured the American ships near the Mariana Islands with reconnaissance planes on June 18 and launched four waves of attack early the next morning using carrier planes. The battle broke out in the Philippine Sea . Since the Americans were able to intercept the planes early, few of the Japanese planes broke through to the American ships (→  Mariana turkey shooting ). They could only cause minor damage. In return, the Americans sank three Japanese aircraft carriers.

On July 2, 7,100 men were brought ashore on Noemfoor Island , east of New Guinea, during Operation Tabletennis . Before that, cruisers and destroyers shelled the island.

About eight minutes after landing, two US officers plant the first American flag on Guam Beach

American carrier aircraft again attacked the Ogasawara Islands of Iwojima and Chichi-jima on July 4 to divert Mariana operations. Guam in particular, which had been heavily bombarded by American ship artillery since the beginning of June, was under a carpet of bombs from American combat bombers on July 5 and then again under intense ship fire until July 19. On July 21, the American troops landed on Guam with almost 55,000 men (→  Battle of Guam ). About 19,000 Japanese opposed them to defend the island. The fighting took the lives of 10,693 Japanese. Only about 100 could be captured. The almost impenetrable jungle offered protection to the rest of the Japanese ; they continued their guerrilla attacks on the Americans until the end of the war. In 1972 the old Japanese fighter Yokoi Shōichi was discovered on the island, who had to be explained that the war was long over.

Allied Operation Crimson began in the Indian Ocean on July 22nd . The British East Asian Fleet, consisting of two aircraft carriers, four battleships, eight cruisers and several destroyers, sailed towards Sumatra and launched an air and sea attack on the Japanese base in Sabang on July 25 . A cruiser, together with three destroyers, was even able to enter the harbor and fire several torpedoes at Japanese ships.

Landing on Tinian

Under heavy artillery fire from Saipan, the Americans began landing on the neighboring island of Tinian on July 24th . The 15,600 men did not encounter as fierce resistance as in Guam, nevertheless around 390 Americans fell. The Japanese lost 6,050 soldiers; 252 were captured. With the now complete conquest of the Mariana Islands, the northern flank was now created for an attack on the Philippines, and the Americans now threatened the sea route between Japan and its raw material sources in Indonesia .

During Operation Globetrotter , the capture of the islands of Amsterdam and Middelburg, east of Cape Sansapor in New Guinea on July 30, the units encountered no resistance.

On August 8th, Japanese forces destroyed the American air base in Hengyang . By October 11, they succeeded in conquering the other bases and establishing a land connection between the Japanese-held southern China and the Japanese troops in southern Indochina.

The Fast Carrier Task Force 38 began on August 28 with the preparations of the operations Tradewind and Stalemate II . The 15 aircraft carriers, six battleships, nine cruisers and 60 destroyers left Eniwetok in the direction of the Palau Islands and Morotai . Carrier aircraft repeatedly attacked Iwojima and Chichi-jima during the voyage on August 30 and September 2. The ship artillery of two cruisers and four destroyers also fired at Japanese facilities on the islands. Wake was bombed by a carrier, four cruisers and three destroyers on September 3rd. The first attacks against Palau began on September 6 and continued for three days. The island of Yap was the target of further attacks. Three combat groups began air strikes on Japanese-occupied airfields on Mindanao in the southern Philippines on September 10 . Since they did not encounter any defenses worth mentioning there, the air attacks could be extended to the Visayas in the central Philippines from September 12th . The Americans were able to destroy more than 200 Japanese fighter planes in three days.

The soldiers were rarely able to recover a little from the fight, as here on Peleliu

On September 15, the Americans began landing operations on the Palau islands of Peleliu and Angaur . The Japanese on Peleliu had buried themselves on a ridge and offered considerable resistance with around 5,300 soldiers. It was only with further personal support that the Americans managed to secure the island until mid-October, but individual Japanese groups were able to hold out until almost the end of the year. The Japanese defended themselves doggedly on the island of Angaur. The island finally fell into American hands on October 23.

Also on September 15, the Americans landed on Morotai with almost 20,000 soldiers and encountered virtually no resistance there. The troops were reinforced by a further 18,200 men by the beginning of October, including more than 12,000 Seabees and ground personnel for the airfields to be operated. During a hunt for a Japanese submarine on October 3, American ships accidentally sank their own submarine, the USS Seawolf . 79 crew members perished.

Encouraged by the success of the air strikes in the southern Philippines, aircraft from 15 aircraft carriers attacked airfields on Luzon on September 21 and 22 . The attacks were particularly aimed at the area around Manila . Two days later, operations were flown again in the Visayas. The Japanese lost more than 1,000 aircraft, a destroyer, a corvette, a mine-layer and a seaplane mother ship. Many other smaller units were sunk by the Americans, a total of around 150 ships. The Americans lost 54 fighter planes (18 of them due to various accidents). The actual American plan to land on Mindanao on October 20th was overturned due to the successes. The new destination was now Leyte .

At the beginning of October, the US first used attack drones , which were fired from airplanes at Japanese positions on Bougainville and Rabaul.


In preparation for the invasion of the Philippines, the units of Fast Carrier Task Force 38 left Ulithi on October 6th. Two days later, their ships bombarded Marcus Island and on the same day met with the rest of the units that were calling west of Palau. Together they launched major carrier aircraft attacks on the Sakishima Islands in the eastern China Sea and Okinawa on October 10 . The air battle broke out near Formosa , during which the airport near Aparri on Luzon was attacked on October 11 and airfields and facilities on Formosa were attacked on October 12, 13 and 14. They received support from bases in China that dispatched B-29 bombers. The Japanese flew defensive waves from Kyūshū , Okinawa and Formosa against the attackers, and many kamikaze pilots were also used. In doing so, they managed to damage some US ships, some very severely. During the retreat on October 15, the Americans once again bombed airfields north of Manila, which resulted in very heavy fighting with the defending Japanese machines. After all fighting was over, the Japanese falsely reported the sinking of eleven American aircraft carriers, two battleships and a cruiser. This had a fatal effect on the subsequent defense strategy for the Philippines.

A wave of Japanese air raids raged over the landing craft during the landing on Leyte
American Coast Guard LSTs on Leyte Beach

The British also took part again with a diversionary action (→  Operation Millet ). The Asian Fleet attacked the Nicobar Islands on October 17 and 18 , while the Battle of Leyte began in the central Philippines . The Americans prepared the landings with air raids on Mindanao from Biak and Sansapor , as well as from aircraft carriers against Leyte and Cebu . A submarine group sealed off the area between Mindanao and Samar . When an American minesweeper sank in a typhoon in the Gulf of Leyte , he was discovered by the Japanese, who immediately launched Operation Sho-1 in defense of the Philippines and ordered all available ships there. On October 19, the first American units landed on the island with little resistance and began from there in the Battle of Leyte with the conquest of the Philippines. The Japanese withdrew into the prepared defensive positions for the time being. From October 22nd to 25th, the Japanese Navy tried to prevent further landings. The sea ​​and air battles in the Gulf of Leyte caused the Imperial Japanese Navy the heaviest and decisive losses; she lost three battleships and four aircraft carriers.

During support trips by Task Force 38 for the soldiers who had landed on Leyte, there were repeated kamikaze attacks on American ships over the next few days, with the Japanese in particular targeting the aircraft carriers. Some machines hit the decks of carriers and destroyers. Two carriers were badly damaged. The Americans also flew further missions against airfields near Manila, where they succeeded on October 29 in destroying 71 Japanese aircraft in a dogfight. 13 more were made unusable while standing on the ground.

Fire from a kamikaze impact is extinguished on the USS Belleau Wood. In the background the burning USS Franklin

One of the most curious weapons used during the war was first launched by the Japanese on November 3rd - a FUGU balloon . The Japanese have been developing balloon bombs of this type since the humiliation of the Doolittle raid in April 1942. The paper balloons developed by Kusaba Sueyoshi and equipped with a control device drifted with the jet stream to North America within three days during the winter months. About 1000 balloons reached their destination, but caused almost no damage.

The fighting south of the Philippines continued throughout November with various mutual successes. The Japanese managed at times to land new troops and supplies on Leyte. In return, the American naval units were supported by parts of Task Force 34. On November 5 and 6, fighter jets from eleven American carriers flew concentrated air strikes on Luzon, with the area around Manila in the center again. The machines sank a cruiser and a guard boat in Manila Bay. The main target, however, was again the Japanese aircraft, of which 400 were destroyed in 25 of their own kills. Meanwhile, at sea, a kamikaze plane hit a US carrier and severely damaged it.

To stop the Japanese supply convoys, American carrier aircraft and bombers launched from Chinese airfields flew against them. On November 11th alone, 347 carrier aircraft deployments were counted. With the sinking of a cruiser, four destroyers and ten steamers in the Bay of Manila, the USA achieved another success on November 14th.

The Japanese deployed four Kaiten one-man torpedoes for the first time on November 20 to attack American ships off Ulithi. One tanker was destroyed, all other Kaiten could be shot down by the Americans beforehand. Even so, the Japanese reported a significant success for their new wonder weapon .

The British meanwhile reorganized their East Asian fleet. The older ships were merged to form the British East India Fleet, while the more modern units formed the new British Pacific Fleet. The high command in Ceylon was handed over to Admiral Bruce Fraser . He commissioned Rear Admiral Philip Vian to start Operation Outflank in November, which is to bomb oil refineries in and around Palembang in West Sumatra in several carrier attacks . The undertakings lasted until January 1945, when the largest British carrier fleet caused considerable damage in two waves to the facilities of the oil industry and they were no longer able to supply the Japanese with aviation fuel for around two months .

Strategic bombing raids

On November 24, the US began a series of heavy air strikes on Tokyo . The B-29 Superfortress bombers were launched from the newly established base on Saipan. Further attacks followed on November 26th, 29th and 30th as well as on December 3rd. This was the real start of the strategic air strikes on Japan .

The fighting over Leyte continued. The Japanese launched an air raid on November 27th to bring new troops to Leyte. The operation was a failure. Kamikaze attacks on the four American battleships, four cruisers and 16 destroyers lying in the Gulf of Leyte did not bring the hoped-for successes either. The air landings were repeated with greater success on December 5th and 6th, and the airfield near Burauen was under heavy Japanese fire for two days. A Japanese and an American destroyer sank in sea ​​battles in the Gulf of Ormoc . The following day, US troops landed at Ormoc and met hardly any resistance. In a kamikaze attack by 21 machines that followed shortly afterwards, the Japanese succeeded in sinking two destroyers and a landing craft.

On December 11th, three task groups of Task Force 38 set out from Ulithi to prepare for and support the landings on Mindoro . Air strikes on the area around Manila were carried out again by the porters as they approached the southern Philippines. The landing units of Task Group 78.3 succeeded in withdrawing the troops on December 15, although their flagship had been badly hit by Kamikaze attacks two days earlier and a large part of the command staff was killed in the process. The Japanese dive attacks lasted until the end of December.

Many prisoners were killed in an air raid on a Japanese troop carrier carrying 1,600 prisoners of war on December 16 in Subic Bay (Luzon). Even of those who were rescued, only about 500 later reached their destination in Japan as they were exposed to further air strikes on the island of Formosa.

In a severe typhoon on December 18, three destroyers of Task Force 38 sank off the southern Philippines (→  Typhoon Cobra ). Four aircraft carriers, four escort carriers, a cruiser, six destroyers, a tanker and a tug were damaged in some cases considerably. After this incident, the operation had to be stopped and the ships ran back to Ulithi.

A two cruisers and six destroying Japanese Association began on 24 December by the Cam Ranh Bay in Indochina from the operation REI . Their destination was Mindoro , which they reached on December 26th. There they began bombarding the American bridgehead. After the US Army Air Force flew air strikes on the unit and a Japanese destroyer was sunk by a PT boat , the unit turned off again and thus escaped complete destruction.

In the territory of New Guinea , the Australian 6th Division replaced the American units stationed there in November . Supported by naval and air forces , she fought the remnants of the 18th Army of the Japanese Empire, whose soldiers suffered from hunger and disease due to previous defeats. The Aitape Wewak campaign lasted until the end of the war.


On January 3, the British captured Akyab and began the occupation of Burma . The full length of the Burma Road had been open since the turn of the year, so the Allies were able to transport troops and supplies to China.

Landings on Luzon

The American Task Force 38, which had already left Ulithi towards the end of 1944, began intensive air raids on Japanese ships around the northern Philippines on January 3rd and 4th to prepare for and divert the landings on Luzon. The airfields on Luzon were also targets in which 100 machines were destroyed. Over the next few days, the Americans destroyed another 80 Japanese planes in order to gain air control over Luzon. Further missions were on January 9, Formosa, the Ryūkyū and Pescadores Islands . A destroyer, a corvette, a submarine hunter and several tankers and freighters could be sunk.

The battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) and other battleships and cruisers enter the Gulf of Lingayen

On the same day, the Battle of Luzon began with the landing in the Gulf of Lingayen on Luzon. 170,000 Americans went ashore against little resistance as the Japanese defense plan called for a retreat into the Sierra Madre Mountains . However, Kamikaze pilots tried to attack the ships in the Gulf. An escort carrier as well as several transport ships, a destroyer and two mine-layers were sunk. Three battleships and four cruisers continued to be hit with varying degrees of severity and mostly had to be transported away. Two days later, the Japanese sent explosive boats to attack the ships, several of which they were able to damage. The fighting continued until the end of the month. The Americans brought more and more troops and weapons to Luzon, which the Japanese wanted to prevent with vehement air strikes, in which kamikaze planes were almost always used. The US escort carriers flew well over 6,000 sorties until the soldiers who landed were no longer dependent on air support from January 17th.

When attacking American bases on Ulithi, Hollandia, Palau, Guam and Manus in Operation Congo , the Japanese tried to sink several ships with Kaiten submarines from January 11th. A sunken landing craft can possibly be attributed to these attacks.

Task Force 38, which operates west of the Philippines, increasingly attacked ships off the coasts of Formosa, China, Hong Kong and Hainan in mid-January . They managed to sink several ships.

In the Indian Ocean, the British landed further contingents of troops in Burma. In Operation Matador , the British brought two brigades ashore on January 16 at Ramree and on January 21 additional infantry units at Kangaw . The island of Cheduba was the target of Operation Sankey , in which 500 British disembarked on January 26, followed by an Indian brigade the next day. On January 30th, soldiers were finally dropped on Sagu in Operation Crocodile . Simultaneously with these landings, the British Pacific fleet was transferred from Trincomalee to the Pacific. In Operation Meridian , their warplanes and bombers flew attacks against oil refineries north of Palembang on January 24th and 29th. The fleet arrived in Fremantle on February 4th .

A Japanese commando that landed on Peleliu ( Palau Islands ) tried on January 18 to gain access to an American airport located there in order to destroy planes and ammunition. The company failed.

Task Force 38 aircraft repeatedly attacked targets in the Pescadors , Sakishima Gunto , Okinawa and the Ryūkyū Islands . Thirteen Japanese ships were sunk and three destroyers and two landing ships were damaged. Two aircraft carriers and one destroyer were badly damaged in Japanese counter-attacks with kamikaze planes and bombers on January 21.

Men of the 25th US Infantry Division at the Baleta Pass near Baguio City on Luzón

Meanwhile, further American troop reinforcements arrived on Luzon. Two divisions landed in the Gulf of Lingayen on January 27th. Further landings took place on January 29 at Zambales and San Antonio , where 30,000 Americans disembarked. On January 30, another battalion in Subic Bay was able to take Grumble Island and other units in Grande Island. The 11th US Airborne Division was landed on January 31, southwest of Manila Bay near Nasugbu . Japanese submarines tried to disrupt the landings, but were only able to achieve minor marginal successes.

American bomber squadrons attacked Iwojima daily from late January to mid-February in preparation for landing operations there. The total bomb load dropped during this period was around 6,800 t.

From February 4, the liberation struggle for Manila began in the outskirts. During the fighting, on instructions from Tokyo, the Japanese carried out the Manila massacre in the last three weeks of February , in which around 111,000 civilians were murdered.

Task Force 58 launched a first large-scale carrier attack against Tokyo on February 10 and in support of the Iwojima landings. On February 16, about 125 nautical miles south of the city, the fighters took off from the aircraft carriers to take down the Japanese defenses. Then the bombers took off, especially to attack aircraft factories in the Tokyo area, but this was hardly possible due to the bad weather conditions. A day later, the attacks continued and extended to targets near Yokohama . After the withdrawal to the south, the task force split up. Some battleships and cruisers drove to Iwojima for artillery support, while the other units were serviced at sea and then divided up for new tasks. The carrier aircraft flew further attacks against Tokyo on February 25, but these were also severely affected by the bad weather. Artillery attacks were then directed on Okinawa and Iwojima.

At the southern tip of Bataan near Mariveles , 5,300 American soldiers were landed. A day later, paratroopers jumped over Corregidor and an American battalion landed on the island. The fighting lasted until February 26th. After that, the island was declared secure. With Corregidor, the Americans had recaptured an important symbol of the former defeat in the Philippines.

Iwojima and Okinawa

In preparation for the landings on Iwojima, six battleships, five cruisers and 16 destroyers began artillery bombardment of the beaches and Japanese positions on the island from February 16. The actions were covered by ten escorts and their destroyer security. Aircraft from these carriers were repeatedly used against Japanese coastal batteries and the three airfields. The Japanese were able to get some hits on the big ships.

On February 23, American soldiers hoisted a flag on Iwojima's Suribachi volcano

The landings on Iwojima, code-named Operation Detachment, took place on February 19th. The artillery bombardment from the ships was moved further into the interior of the island when 30,000 soldiers disembarked. During the battle for Iwojima the island was fiercely defended by the Japanese down to the last man. They withdrew into the prepared, well-developed cave hiding places, where weapons from the heaviest ship's guns to handguns were stored. The Americans had to gradually conquer every single position in arduous hand-to-hand combat with hand grenades and flamethrowers . On February 21, there was a surprising kamikaze attack on the ships lying off the coast, in which one escort carrier was sunk and three others were damaged. The fighting on the island, which cost around 20,800 dead on the Japanese side and around 7,000 dead on the American side, lasted until March 26th. Only then could the island be declared safe. For the remainder of the war, Iwojima was one of the most important bases of the US Army Air Force, which landed the first B-29 on the island on March 6th. At the end of March, Iwojima was already serving 36 bombers as a base for the attacks on the main Japanese islands.

After the fall of the Vichy regime and the complete liberation of France in Europe on March 9, the Japanese army disarmed the French troops in Indochina and installed a puppet government there.

In the early morning hours of March 10, heavy air strikes were carried out on Tokyo . 334 Twentieth Air Force B-29 bombers dropped about 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on an area of ​​the city that was about 7/10 the area of ​​Manhattan, around 44 km² that contained factories and docks, but mostly the wooden apartments the worker. The attack lasted about 2.5 hours and triggered a huge firestorm in which nearly 100,000 people died. Other sources even speak of 150,000 dead. This was the largest and bloodiest air strike in human history to date.

Task Force 58, which ran out of Ulithi on March 14, began on March 18, lying off Japan, with attacks against airfields on Kyushu . The Japanese fought back with kamikaze counter-attacks that set an American aircraft carrier on fire and damaged two others. A day later, the Americans launched attacks against Kure. Several Japanese aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers were anchored there. Many were damaged. Again, in return, the Japanese succeeded in setting fire to two American porters. The Japanese also used Ōka bombs in further attacks against the ongoing task force .

After a short tank stop, the units of Task Force 58 turned south to run to the Ryūkyū Islands. On March 23, the ongoing ship artillery shells and air strikes in preparation for the landing on Okinawa began here. She received support two days later from the British Pacific Fleet, which covered the area south of the island, and other US task groups, which among other things brought the combat swimmer groups, which began clearing underwater obstacles on March 25th. The Japanese responded with air strikes from the Formosa area and Kyūshū. Kamikaze pilots got some hits on smaller units, but on March 30 the flagship of Task Force 58 was badly hit.

To hinder Japanese shipping traffic, Tinian launched 1529 missions in the large-scale Operation Starvation B-29 bomber on March 27 , around the waters of Shimonoseki, Kure, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, Yokohama and many others Mine port cities on the Japanese islands. Ports in Korea were also mined. The Americans lost 15 machines, 102 operational flights were canceled and the machines turned around before their mines were dropped. A total of 12,135 mines were sold.

Marines await their intervention as the artillery bombard a Japanese position in Okinawa

On April 1, the 10th US Army landed in Operation Iceberg on Okinawa , which was vehemently defended by the Japanese. Together with the reserve units, the Americans dropped 451,866 soldiers on the island. As with the conquest of Iwojima, the US naval artillery continued to bomb the hinterland during the local landings. The Japanese withdrew to the prepared cave systems on the island in order to attack the US troops in guerrilla fights. The ships lying off the coast were repeatedly targeted by kamikaze pilots and Ōka bombs, with a British aircraft carrier being damaged. The Japanese coastal batteries were able to hit an American battleship five times on April 5th. A day later, the Japanese began Operation Kikusui l , a major attack against the landing fleet off Okinawa. For this purpose, 198 kamikazes started from Kyūshū, of which 67 were able to penetrate to the ships. Of the 27 ships, some of which were hit several times, two destroyers, a landing ship and two ammunition transporters sank. Five ships were irreparably damaged and another 17 could continue to be used despite their damage. The following day, a second wave of 54 kamikazes started, of which only a few were able to penetrate. Even so, they managed to severely damage a battleship and a destroyer and lightly damage four other ships.

The Yamato - the largest and most powerful battleship ever built

In the course of the fighting for Okinawa, the last large battleship of the Japanese Navy, the Yamato , was called to a kamikaze action. The ship was ordered to run aground on the beach of Okinawa after the battle with the American landing fleet; After the ammunition had been fired, the crew should then join the army on the island in a defensive battle. The Yamato and five escort ships were sunk in the East China Sea by an American air raid by 386 carrier aircraft on the afternoon of April 7th . The loss-making conquest of Okinawa dragged on until June 21st.

While the British Asian fleet attacked targets in Sabang , Padang and Emmahaven on April 11 in Operation Sunfish with battleships, cruisers and destroyers covered by carrier aircraft, the Americans were preparing to hand over some of their ships to the Soviet Pacific Fleet . Since April 5, the Soviet Union had terminated the Soviet-Japanese neutrality treaty and was ready to cooperate with the Americans in the Pacific conflict area. In mid-April, training on American minesweepers (→ Operation Hula ) began in Cold Bay on the southern tip of Alaska , where around 2,400 Soviet navy personnel had arrived on five steamers  . These were the first preparations for an invasion of the main Japanese islands (→  Operation Downfall ).

In a large-scale kamikaze attack (→  Operation Kikusui-3 ) on April 16 on the landing fleet off Okinawa, 126 Japanese aircraft and six Ōka bombers flew in. They were able to sink one destroyer and damage three others so badly that they could no longer be repaired. An aircraft carrier was badly damaged, a battleship and destroyer escort slightly damaged. The kamikaze attacks continued on the following days, but with significantly fewer machines.

The road to Japanese surrender

For the landing on Tarakan , the south coast was taken under fire by Allied ships from April 27th. The operation Oboe launched on May 1, with the landing of 28,000 Australian soldiers.

On May 1, British troops landed near Rangoon in Burma as part of Operation Dracula . The operation Bishop , in the British carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers Port Blair and Car Nicobar in the Andaman and Nicobar fired, served to cover. Since Rangoon had already been evacuated by the Japanese, the British occupied the city on May 3rd without resistance. To the west of the Irrawaddy River , however, there were still smaller pockets of Japanese resistance.

The US Army Air Force began mining Japanese industrial facilities on May 3 to block them. The Japanese lost more than 50 ships on these mines by the end of the month. Most were smaller trading units, only one mine sweeper sank. Many war and merchant ships suffered damage.

After Germany surrendered on May 8, Japan declared that it was determined to continue fighting the Allies alone. Although the first voices spoke of early surrender among the military and especially in parliament , the majority of the top management were already preparing to defend the country down to the last man.

The British carrier aircraft flew air strikes on airfields in Sakashima-Gunto and Kyūshū, which American aircraft carriers joined shortly afterwards with their planes to repel the kamikaze pilots who repeatedly attacked the ships in front of Okinawa . The major Japanese offensive Kikusui 6 , which began on May 10, was launched with 150 kamikaze pilots. An American aircraft carrier was very badly damaged on May 11th. When the task force withdrew, a kamikaze flier hit another porter badly. The Americans lost eight ships in the following Kikusui operations on May 24th, 25th, 27th, 28th and 29th. Several others were damaged, but could still be used.

On May 11, 623 Australians disembarked on Wewak , Papua New Guinea , to take the peninsula. They were followed on May 14 by another Australian division to capture the airport. The peninsula could be considered secure on May 23rd.

Between May 17 and 26, the United States ceded 17 minesweepers and six submarine hunters to the Soviet Union as part of the Operation Hula Agreement and assigned them to the Soviet Pacific Fleet. From early June to mid-June, 13 more submarine hunters, a minesweeper and two landing craft followed. Also in mid-June, more than 1,100 USSR marines arrived in Cold Bay for training on frigates .

In a severe typhoon on June 6, eight aircraft carriers, three battleships, seven cruisers, 14 destroyers and smaller units were damaged. Some of them were so heavy that they had to be taken out of service. On June 9th, marines landed on the island of Aguni-jima .

In the continuation of Operation Oboe, ships dropped almost 30,000 Australian soldiers in Brunei Bay on June 10 after prior artillery bombardment .

On June 14, the British carried out a carrier attack with 48 Seafires , 21 Avengers and 11 Fireflies to neutralize the Japanese units on Truk (→  Operation Inmate ), which was repeated the next day. In addition, they shot at the atoll with attacked warships.

B-29 bombers drop bombs on Japan

To capture the oil fields and oil refineries near Balikpapan on Borneo , which were held by the Japanese, demining work began off the coast in mid-June. On June 24th, the underwater work to remove the designed landing obstacles began. Shortly thereafter, the bombardment of the landing zones by cruisers and destroyers began, after which almost 33,500 Australian infantrymen disembarked from July 1 in the continuation of Operation Oboe . The capture of the airfield and oil fields was completed on July 4th.

Task Force 38 again flew major attacks on Tokyo and the surrounding air bases with 1,022 aircraft on July 10th. Four days later, 1391 machines attacked other targets on the north of the island of Honshū and the south of Hokkaidō . On the same day, the battleships, cruisers and destroyers that had called up fired directly at targets on the main Japanese islands for the first time. These included the Kamaishi steel and iron works and, the following day, the Muroran steel and iron works . Tokyo and Yokohama were again targeted on July 17 and 18, with a large Japanese battleship badly damaged. In a night raid, carried out together with British units, the naval artillery bombed the industry at Hitachi , north of Tokyo and the next night important radar posts at Cap Nojima in southeastern Tokyo.

In the continuation of Operation Hula , the United States handed over ten frigates, six minesweepers, twelve mine clearance boats, a submarine hunter and 15 landing craft to the Soviet Union from mid-July to the end of July.

From Okinawa, Task Force 95 launched attacks on shipping in the China Sea and the Yellow Sea for the first time . The success between July 16 and 23 was initially only moderate. One destroyer was sunk in Kamikaze attacks and two others were partially badly damaged.

As a result of the Potsdam Conference , the Allies set a surrender ultimatum to Japan and the Soviet Union promised to take action in the Pacific three months after the war ended in Europe. Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki Kantarō rejected the ultimatum on July 27th.

In order to increase the pressure on the Japanese military, the government and also on the people, the attacks on Japan were further intensified in late July, while the US leadership continued to prepare for Operation Downfall in the background. In addition, more and more new and repaired ships of all classes from bases on the American west coast and Pearl Harbor were set in motion in the direction of Japan. Further units were relocated from the European theater of war to the Pacific region. The night attacks, especially on the inland sea at Kure and Kobe, led to the sinking of other large Japanese warships or their total damage. American ships also fired at production sites for war material, especially the aircraft factories near Hamamatsu .

The last successful kamikaze attack of the Pacific War took place on July 28th. A US destroyer was sunk off Okinawa.

Heavy air strikes by the US Air Force with B-29 bombers on port cities in Japan resulted in severe damage to the port facilities of Nagasaki on August 1 .

Use of the atomic bomb and the Japanese surrender

The military leadership decided to get President Harry S. Truman to use the new atomic bomb that had been successfully detonated in the Trinity test . Although many of the scientists involved in the development advised against its use, Truman, after hesitating beforehand, gave his consent. Preparations for this began on July 24, two days before the Potsdam ultimatum to Japan.

Mushroom cloud after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945

The targets for the drop from August 3 were four possible cities: Hiroshima , Kokura , Niigata and Nagasaki . Hiroshima was chosen as the primary target, as it was here that essential production facilities and stationed Japanese divisions could be hit. Furthermore, a great psychological effect could also be achieved here. Should Japan not surrender within three days, the second bomb should be dropped on the next target.

At 8:16 a.m. (8:15 a.m. and 17 seconds) local time on August 6, the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped by the 509th Composite Group's Enola Gay bomber detonated 580 m above Hiroshima. Between 90,000 and 200,000 people were killed instantly and 80% of the city was destroyed.

Three days later, on August 9, the second atomic bombing was carried out. The target was the city of Kokura , but due to dense clouds, the alternative target Nagasaki was attacked after three unsuccessful approaches. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m. several hundred meters away from the planned drop point on a densely populated area; a direct attack on the Mitsubishi armaments companies was actually planned. The explosion at a height of around 470 meters above the ground destroyed 80% of the buildings within a radius of one kilometer, and around 75,000 people died as a direct result of the explosion.

In the meantime, the Soviet Union had also declared war on Japan on August 8th and marched into Manchuria one day later (→  Operation Auguststurm ). The Red Chinese joined the Soviets with the 4th and 8th Revolutionary Army, which occupied some cities. The Soviet Pacific Fleet was set up and immediately began to mine shipping lanes off its own coast for defense purposes. Two days later, a Soviet association landed on the east coast of Korea .

Meanwhile, air strikes on the main Japanese islands by American and British aircraft carriers continued. Destinations were Honshu and Hokkaido as well as the capital Tokyo. On August 14, another 828 B-29 bombers were in action against Japanese cities, which, accompanied by P-51 fighters, were operating from Iwojima. On August 15, the US military command recalled a squadron that had just started against Tokyo to stop the fighting. Not all machines received the radio message and the last fierce aerial battles with Japanese kamikaze pilots developed.

The Japanese government announced on August 14 that it would accept the ultimatum. One day later (→  VJ-Day ) at 12:00 noon, a speech by Emperor Hirohito recorded the day before was broadcast on the radio in which he ordered all Japanese armed forces to stop firing. A feared mass suicide , especially at the Japanese management level, did not materialize. It was expected that it would take about a week for the surrender to spread to all the fighting Japanese units in the various countries.

Soviet soldiers and some formations occupied southern Sakhalin from August 16 and the northern Kuril Islands from August 19 .

On August 19, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek called on all Japanese troops to surrender to the National-Chinese units. At the same time, his order was issued to the Red Chinese soldiers to stop the fighting. The latter, however, was ignored by the troops under Mao Zedong , so that the Japanese did not surrender. The civil war battles between national and Red Chinese units continued. Only after the Chinese National 6th Army occupied Nanking on August 25th, the approximately one million Japanese were able to surrender. The surrender treaty was signed in Nanking on September 9th. In the Manchurian mountains , however, around 15,000 Japanese soldiers were still trapped between the fronts of the civil war. They stayed completely out of the fighting and remained in hiding until their final surrender in late 1948.

To secure the ceasefire, the carrier aircraft of Task Force 38 flew daily patrols over the Japanese islands. Your second task was to locate and map prisoner-of-war camps. The carrier fleet itself entered Sagami Bay off Tokyo on August 27 with 22 aircraft carriers, 14 battleships, 23 cruisers, 123 destroyers and twelve submarines . A first smaller unit of American soldiers secured Atsugi Airport near Tokyo on August 28 . They were followed two days later in an airborne operation by the 11th US Airborne Division , which occupied the airport and port of Yokohama. In the late afternoon, the Commander in Chief of the US 8th Army Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger and the Supreme Allied Commander Army General Douglas MacArthur landed at Atsugi airport. Around the same time, the Japanese handed over their naval base in Yokosuka to the Allies.

General Douglas MacArthur signs Japan's deed of surrender aboard the USS Missouri

On September 2, the Pacific War and with it the Second World War ended on the US battleship Missouri in Sagami Bay with the signing of the Japanese document of surrender . Japan was occupied by US troops in Operation Blacklist . In Korea , the 38th parallel was supposed to form the border between the occupied territory of the USA in the south on the one hand and that of the Soviets in the north on the other.

In Operation Magic Carpet , the Americans brought their troops back to their homeland from September 6th to March of the following year. All available ships in the Pacific region were used for this purpose.

Effects of war

The occupation units on the Japanese islands actually consisted only of US troops. The most important project of the occupation government, whose head as "SCAP" ( Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers ) General Douglas MacArthur was, was the drafting of a new constitution. It was announced on November 3, 1946. In it all points of the Potsdam Declaration were implemented. In addition, the emperor renounced his divine status in the constitution.

War crimes

In the Tokyo trials , which began on May 3, 1946 , the leading Japanese military and wartime politicians were indicted, in particular the Prime Minister and Chief of Staff General Tōjō Hideki . He and six other defendants were sentenced to death when the verdict was pronounced on November 12, 1948 . Around 20 others were sentenced to life imprisonment , most of whom were released in 1955 when Japan regained sovereignty. Further trials took place in Manila in the Philippines and in China. The latter became known as the Nanking war crimes tribunals (→ war crimes trials in China ). The Chinese investigated 650 cases, 504 of which were prosecuted in 13 hearings. 149 Japanese were sentenced to death. The controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo contains all the souls of the Japanese who “gave their lives for the fatherland”. In 1978 parliament decided to take in the souls of the Japanese war criminals who had been executed. Since then, there have been repeated protests, especially from China and Korea, when Japanese officials visit the shrine. Above all, the admission of "class A" war criminals is condemned.

Start of the Cold War

The Cold War between the superpowers Soviet Union and the United States had begun during the last months of the war . The rising power of communist China also played a far-reaching role, which was evident, for example, in the partition of Korea.

The Soviet Union administered North Korea and Sakhalin Island , the United States and Great Britain administered South Korea and Japan's remaining holdings in the Pacific . Japan itself was occupied by Allied troops from the end of the Pacific War. The end of the Allied occupation of Japan was set in the San Francisco Peace Treaty , which was signed on September 8, 1951. When it came into force on April 28, 1952, Japan was again an independent country. With the exception of the Amami Islands , which were returned to Japan in 1953, the Ryūkyū Islands were formally under US trusteeship for another 20 years. In a referendum in 1971, a majority of the population voted in favor of re-joining Japan. In 1972, sovereignty over the Ryūkyū and the uninhabited Senkaku Islands was returned to Japan. Japan signed a peace treaty with the People's Republic of China in 1978. Peace negotiations with the Soviet Union (and from 1991 with Russia) have repeatedly failed due to open questions (→  Kuril conflict ).

Cargo cult

A side effect of the Pacific War was the increased emergence of the cargo cult among the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands, especially in Papua New Guinea . It resulted from the massive amounts of war material dropped on the islands by the Americans and Japanese (ready-made clothing, canned food, tents, weapons and other goods) and brought about drastic changes in the islanders' lifestyle.

Casualty numbers

As with all major conflicts, it is difficult to give concrete numbers of victims. The information provided by historians and even the official bodies of the individual countries show considerable fluctuations in some cases.

Most of the dead were in China. It must be noted that in the last months of the war, the internal conflict between the Red and National Chinese also led to heavy losses on both sides. A total of 4,000,000 soldiers died and the civilian casualties, among which the Japanese carried out several massacres, amounted to around 10,000,000 people.

The Japanese lost approximately 1,200,000 soldiers and approximately 500,000 civilians, most of them in the two atomic bombs and the conventional bombing of Tokyo on March 9, 1945.

Allied losses (British, Indians, Australians, New Zealanders, Dutch) were around 150,000 dead. The US lost about 130,000 men in the Pacific. The losses of prisoners of war under Japanese guard are included.

Furthermore, there were also countless civilian casualties among the natives of the various Pacific islands who died in the invasions, abducted and recaptured.

Economic consideration

Ship productions in the USA and Japan during the Pacific War

Although the Japanese had the best structured and most powerful fleet in the world at the beginning of the Pacific War, the Imperial Japanese Navy was no longer able to cope with the American superiority during the war. This was mainly due to economic reasons.

With around seventeen times the national budget , steel production five times that of Japan and coal production seven times higher , the production capacities of the USA were far superior to those of Japan. There were also more modern and more effective production facilities. American productivity per capita at that time was the highest in the world. The table opposite shows the ship production of the Americans and Japanese in the course of the Pacific War. From this it becomes clear that towards the end of the war the material superiority of the USA was overwhelming. This does not take into account the fleet units that existed before the outbreak of war and the war losses of ships.

The Japanese were aware of the imbalance in military productivity before the attack on Pearl Harbor . The Japanese military leadership therefore assumed throughout the planning that it would be able to exploit a short-term “window of vulnerability” on the part of the US military. In peacetime, the US Senate had decided to arm the Navy to an extent that would have outclassed the Japanese Navy just by the number of warships it produced. While Japan's armed forces were often technologically superior, especially at the beginning of the war, for example in aircraft or submarines, the USA overtook Japan in many crucial areas during the war, for example in the area of ​​important radar technology.

Military cemeteries and memorials

United States

The following cemeteries and monuments were largely established by the American Battle Monuments Commission , which was founded in 1923 and have been administered and maintained by this organization ever since.

USS Arizona Memorial

The US Navy memorial above the sunken USS Arizona to commemorate the soldiers who died there

The American memorial spans the wreckage of the USS Arizona , which sank on December 7, 1941 . It marks the resting place of 1,102 of 1,177 soldiers who perished in the sinking of the USS Arizona.

The site was inaugurated in 1962 and opened in 1980. It spans the wreck without touching it. On May 5, 1989, the wreck was designated a National Historic Landmark . It is visited by more than 1 million visitors annually.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

The American war cemetery near Manila

The American memorial and the military cemetery are about ten kilometers southeast of Manila . The site is adjacent to Fort Bonifacio, the former US Fort William McKinley.

The 61.5 hectare area is home to the largest US cemetery from World War II. 17,206 soldiers are buried here. Most of them perished while serving in New Guinea and the Philippines.

In the stone chapel there are 25 mosaic cards , which document the successfully completed missions of the Americans in the Pacific region, China, India and Burma. The names of 36,285 missing persons are listed on a large limestone plaque .

Honolulu Memorial

The Honolulu Memorial is part of the National Memorial Cemetery and is located in a small external volcanic crater near downtown Honolulu on Oahu , Hawaii . There are the names of 18,096 missing persons from the Pacific War, not including those from the Southwest Pacific (see above). In addition, the names of 8196 missing from the Korean War and 2504 missing from the Vietnam War are engraved there.

Here, too, there are mosaic maps of the American successes in the Pacific. Also those from the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Guadalcanal American Memorial

Guadalcanal American Memorial

The memorial above the capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara, was built jointly by the American Battle Monuments Commission and the Guadalcanal-Solomon Islands Memorial Commission. It commemorates the fallen in the United States and their allies during the battle from August 7, 1942 to February 9, 1943.

The memorial consists of a square column with an edge length of about 1.2 m and its height about 7.3 m. An inscription is engraved on the column.

Four walls, which are aligned with the main battle port of the Solomon Islands, contain the names of the battles and lists of US and Allied ships lost there.

Saipan American Memorial

Saipan American Memorial

The US built the Saipan American Memorial above the port of Tanapag on Saipan . Set up as part of a memorial park, it honors the Americans and native chamorras who fell during the Battle of the Mariana Islands. The 24,000 Americans who perished in the liberation of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam between June 15 and August 11, 1944, are specially commemorated here.

The memorial consists of an approximately 3.6 m high rectangular obelisk made of rose granite , which is embedded in an environment of native flora . A little to the north there is a 7 m high tower with a carillon .

Papua American marker

This bronze plaque was unveiled in the offices of the local US embassy on November 6, 1992 , on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of General MacArthur's arrival in Port Moresby , Papua New Guinea .

Cabanatuan American Memorial

Cabanatuan American Memorial

This memorial was erected after the war by survivors of the Bataan Death March and Cabanatuan POW Camp . The ABMC has been responsible for their administration and maintenance since 1989 .

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

On December 5, 2008, President George W. Bush proclaimed the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument as the organizational umbrella for nine previously disjointed memorials to the Pacific War in the states of Alaska , Hawaii and California . In Alaska, three locations were recorded on the Aleutians , which commemorate the Battle of the Aleutians , in Hawaii existing and new memorials in the port of Pearl Harbor were organizationally combined and handed over to the National Park Service . In California, the largest camp for interning Japanese-born Americans has been designated as a memorial. The National Monument is still under construction (end of 2008) and has no facilities of its own.


Yasukuni shrine

Yasukuni shrine

In the Yasukuni Shrine , a Shinto shrine in Tokyo , those members of the Japanese military are venerated as kami and hero souls (英 霊, eirei ) who fell on the side of the imperial armies in battle. This also includes the soldiers of the Pacific War, who have been grouped together in soul registers .

Domestic and international criticism is particularly strong that the officers sentenced to death in the war crimes trials in Tokyo , as well as members of the notorious 731 unit , which carried out experiments with biological weapons on prisoners of war and Chinese civilians during the war in Manchuria , are also venerated . The Japanese emperors Hirohito and Akihito have not visited the shrine since it became known in 1979 that category A war criminals ( crimes against world peace ) had been added to the list of kami the year before . In brochures and today on its website, the shrine itself describes the Tokyo trials as show trials and is therefore considered revisionist .

This also applies to the Yūshūkan Museum next to the shrine . Here the self-sacrifice for the emperor and fatherland is represented as a sacred sacrifice. The tenor of the museum, as of the entire shrine complex, is expressed on a bronze plaque unveiled on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor : “ Almost six thousand men died in suicide attacks, whose tragic heroism is unprecedented and who show the hearts of our enemies Fear froze. The entire nation has shed tears of gratitude for its unwavering loyalty and self-sacrifice. "

Memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The destroyed inner city of Hiroshima was rebuilt, only the central island in the river Ōta was preserved as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park ( Heiwakōen ). There are a number of memorials on the site, including a flame that is supposed to go out when the last atomic bomb has been destroyed, the atomic bomb dome (Gembaku), the Hiroshima Peace Museum , the Children's Peace Memorial , which commemorates Sadako Sasaki , and a memorial site for the Korean slave laborers who were killed .

Every year since August 6, 1947, the victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima have been commemorated with a large commemoration ceremony.

There is also a Park for Peace (Matsuyama-machi) in Nagasaki , with a monument and numerous sculptures from various countries and partner cities, which commemorates the victims of the atomic bombing there. In the Peace Hall, which, like the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, was built as a joint memorial for peace and against nuclear weapons, a tour tells the story of the bombing and its victims.

Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

The Peace Memorial Park on Okinawa is located at the southern end of the island. Part of it is the War Museum, which documents the way to battle, the battle itself and the reconstruction of Okinawa. A few kilometers to the west is the Himeyuri Monument , which commemorates the students of Himeyuri Gakutotai who served in hospitals on the island under the worst conditions . The underground tunnels of the former Japanese naval headquarters are also nearby and can be visited.

Memorial and mass grave of the Oka unit on Guadalcanal

Near Mount Austen, about 14.5 km from Henderson Airfield, there is a small white pillar with a plaque on Hill 27. It was erected in 1994 by the Japanese from Fukuoka to commemorate the infantrymen under the command of Akinosuke Oka who fell here in the battle for the island. On the opposite hill 31 there is a mass grave in which 85 Japanese soldiers are lying. The remains were excavated by the Japanese in the surrounding area in 1984 and buried in this grave.

The main Japanese memorial, opened in 1984, is located at the foot of Hill 35. A fisherman stands on a white pedestal and looks out over the open sea. A fishing net hangs over his shoulder . The sculpture depicts Seiichi Takahashi , a soldier who fell there.

Memorial at Isely Field, Saipan

A Japanese memorial is located near today's international airport on Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands , with the names of the Japanese soldiers who fell there on plaques. The former Isely airfield was a battlefield between the United States and Japan.


Memorial hall for the Nanking massacre

A hall was built in 1985 in Nanking to commemorate the 300,000 Chinese who were murdered by the Japanese at the beginning of the war in December 1937 . The well-known names of the victims are engraved in the so-called "Cry-Wall". The hall is at the Jiangdong city gate, in the immediate vicinity of which there is a mass grave with around 10,000 bodies from the massacre.

East Timor

Memorial to the victims of the Japanese occupation of Timor

In 1946 a memorial was erected in the Taibesi district of the state capital Dili in memory of the victims of the Japanese occupation. It consists of the coat of arms of Portugal , the colonial power of the time and two crossed rifles.

Common memorials

Japanese-American Memorial on Attu

On July 1, 1987, the Japanese and the USA erected a joint memorial on the Aleutian island of Attu . The 5.5 m high steel monument stands on a mountain peak 9.5 km above the US coast guard station. Right next to it is a memorial stone that was placed there in 1978 by a Japanese private citizen.

See also

Portal: Pacific War  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of the Pacific War
Portal: Imperialism and World Wars  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of imperialism and world wars


See portal: Pacific War / Bibliography


Feature films


  • Spiegel TV - In the hell of the Pacific. DVD / VHS , 2002.
  • National Geographic: The Battle of Midway. DVD / VHS , 2003.

Series: Pacific Squadron 214

  • Pacific Squadron 214 - A Heap of Black Sheep”, 36-part American TV series (original title “Baa Baa Black Sheep”), first broadcast in the USA by NBC 1976–1978, in Germany by RTLplus 1989.

Miniseries: The Pacific

Web links

Commons : Pacific War  - Album with pictures and audio files


The main sources for this article were:

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Saburō Ienaga: The Pacific War 1931-1945. Pantheon Books, New York 1978, ISBN 0-394-73496-3 , p. 249.
  2. John W. Dower: Embracing Defeat. Japan in the Wake of World War II. Norton & Co., New York 1999, ISBN 0-393-04686-9 , p. 419.
  3. Ienaga, p. 252 ff.
  4. ^ David Evans, Mark Peattie: Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. Naval Institute Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1-61251-425-3 , p. 475 f. ( Online on Google book preview, English).
  5. ^ Peace and War - United States Foreign Policy 1931–1941, Department of State: Washington, 1943 (English).
  6. Discussions with Japan 1941 and Pearl Harbor .
  7. Memorandum 91: Regarding a Conversation Between the Secretary of State, the Japanese Ambassador (Nomura), and Mr. Kurusu (English).
  8. Original text of the telegram from FD Roosevelt to Emperor Hirohito (English).
  9. Original text of the US declaration of war on Japan (English).
  10. ^ L. Klemen: The Netherlands East Indies 1941-1942. - Chronology of the Dutch East Indies, 7 December 1941 - 11 December 1941 . ( Memento of December 1, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) In:, accessed on January 26, 2011 (English).
  11. ^ The conquest of Dutch New Guinea, 1942. In: Retrieved October 21, 2020 .
  12. ^ A b Bullard, Steven: Japanese army operations in the South Pacific area: NewBritain and Papua campaigns, 1942–43 . Ed .: Australian War Memorial. Canberra 2007, ISBN 978-0-9751904-8-7 (English).
  13. ^ Jon Robb-Webb: The British Pacific Fleet Experience and Legacy, 1944-50 . Routledge, London and New York 2016, ISBN 978-1-138-27495-2 , pp. 110 ff . (English, [accessed on July 15, 2020]).
  14. ^ Gavin Long: Australia in the War of 1939-1945: Series One: Army, Volume 7: The Final Campaigns. Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963, accessed August 9, 2020 .
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on February 3, 2006 in this version .