On December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise strike on Pearl Harbor, severely damaging the united state Pacific Fleet. Once Germany and also Italy declared war ~ above the United states days later, America uncovered itself in a an international war.

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Primary Image: The US gone after a two-pronged offensive throughout the main and southwest Pacific to roll back the Japanese advance. (Image: The nationwide WWII Museum.)

On December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, severely damaging the us Pacific Fleet. When Germany and also Italy declared war on the United claims days later, America found itself in a an international war. Japan introduced a relentless attack that brushed up through the US regions of Guam, wake Island, and the Philippines, and also British-controlled Hong Kong, Malaya, and also Burma. Yet, with much of the united state fleet destroyed and also a country unprepared for war, America and also its allies decided they necessary to save great Britain and defeat Germany first. 

The Japanese, meanwhile, seek to complete what they began at Pearl Harbor. They aimed to damage the us carrier fleet in a victory so decisive the the United says would negotiate because that peace. V its battleship fleet crippled in Hawaii, the us Navy turned come two surviving assets. Aircraft carriers and also submarines placed a serious challenge to Japan’s triumphant fleet and were an essential to protecting mainland America. But as US attacks on Japanese naval forces and merchant ships escalated from isolated raids to full-scale battles, the discovering curve verified costly and also deadly.

Blunting the Japanese Onslaught 

Throughout the winter and also spring of 1942 the battle news reaching the United says from the Pacific to be grim. The Japanese amassed a vast brand-new empire v a protective perimeter the ranged from west Alaska to the Solomon Islands. In the southwest Pacific, Japan threatened American supply lines to Australia, complicating us plans to usage Australia together a staging ground for offensive action. 

But in ~ months, the tide of fight started to revolve as the joined States and also its allies in Australia and brand-new Zealand very first blunted Japan’s breakthrough and then began a long counterattack throughout the Pacific. The amphibious intrusion soon became the hallmark that the allied counterattack. As they progressed westward toward Japan, Allied forces repeatedly bombed and stormed Japanese-held territory, targeting small islands as well as the jungles of new Guinea and the Philippines. The goal was to dislodge the enemy and to for sure airfields and supply bases that can serve as the launching points because that future attacks. 

Turning Points

In at an early stage May 1942, US and also Japanese carrier forces clashed in the fight of the Coral Sea. If both political parties suffered significant losses, the us Navy confirm a significant Japanese attack for the first time. Then, in the battle of Midway the following month, us carrier aircraft dealt a disastrous blow come the Japanese navy, damaging four plane carriers. The battle marked the first major us victory versus Japan and also was a turning point in the war. By moving the balance of naval power in the Pacific, Midway permitted US forces to take the attack for the very first time. The Allies soon set their sights ~ above Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and on brand-new Guinea.

Amphibious Invasions and Island Hopping

In august 1942, the unified States an installed its an initial major amphibious landing in civilization War II in ~ Guadalcanal, utilizing innovative landing craft built by Higgins sectors in new Orleans. By seizing a strategic airfield website on the island, the joined States stopped Japanese initiatives to disrupt supply courses to Australia and brand-new Zealand. The intrusion ignited a ferocious struggle marked by seven major naval battles, three significant land battles, and almost continuous air combat as both sides sought to manage Henderson Field, called after Loy Henderson, an aviator killed at the fight of Midway. Because that six lengthy months US forces fought to organize the island. In the end they prevailed, and also the Allies took the first critical step in driving the Japanese earlier in the Pacific theater. 

With Guadalcanal in American hands, allied forces ongoing to near in top top Rabaul in brand-new Britain. As forces under the command the Admiral william F. “Bull” Halsey moved north through the Solomons, general Douglas MacArthur’s troops moved west along the northern coastline of Papua brand-new Guinea, grinding the end a hard-fought victory by in march 1943. Yet rather 보다 follow this success through a risky invasion of the heavily defended Rabaul, American army planners flower an ingenious plan: allied planes and ships would certainly isolate and neutralize Rabaul from the air and also sea while the bulk of MacArthur’s pressures pushed from the west to attack less-well-defended islands. This practice—skipping over heavily strengthened islands in order come seize lightly safeguarded locations that can support the next advance—became well-known as island hopping. Together Japanese strongholds to be isolated, defenders were left to weaken from starvation and disease. This new strategy turn the substantial Pacific distances into an American ally, and the unified States offered it come leapfrog across the Pacific.  

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Advancing on two Fronts

In addition to hopping from one less-defended island come another, the Allies’ Pacific strategy emerged another vital feature: soldiers, sailors, and US Marines pressed front on two fronts. As MacArthur’s troops leapt from island come island in the southwest Pacific, a central Pacific campaign began with the intrusion of Tarawa in the Gilbert islands in November 1943. By the end of the year, a two-pronged attack on Japan to be well underway. 


The US sought a two-pronged offensive throughout the central and southwest Pacific come roll ago the Japanese advance. (Image: The national WWII Museum.)

As 1944 began, the southwest Pacific was mostly under allied control. By February, the Allies were additionally making progression in the main Pacific. Naval and also air strikes reduced most of the Japanese bases throughout the area, and after several intense, bloody campaigns, many of the main Pacific to be secure. As the islands in the Marshall and also Mariana chains dropped to united state Army and also Marines pressures by that summer, troops built airfields in preparation for wait strikes on Japan itself. The Marianas to be a particularly valuable asset because they were close sufficient to Japan because that the joined States’ new, technologically progressed B-29 bombers to with the mainland. As the United claims geared up for this aerial bombardment that Japan, military leaders lobbied to continue their campaigns in the southwest and main Pacific. In the southwest, general Douglas MacArthur and also Admiral Chester W. Nimitz propelled for an assault on the Philippines, if in the main Pacific, Admiral Ernest J. King pressed because that an strike on Formosa (now Taiwan). 

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