After the Fighting – Operation Magic Carpet

February 15, 2020
by Chris 

As the summer of 1945 drew to a close, Americans were rejoicing as news of the victory in the Pacific swept across the nation. After nearly four years of brutal fighting, the men and women of the United States military were ready to put an end to the war effort and get back to a normal way of life. For many, however, there was still the issue of returning back home. Throughout the Pacific and east Asia, American soldiers, sailors, and Marines who had fought tirelessly against Japan awaited the long journey home. A massive repatriation effort, known as Operation Magic Carpet, soon got underway.

Millions Went to War

From early 1942 to 1945, the United States had been shipping troops out across the Pacific to take part in the fight against the Japanese. While some would remain behind in Japan as occupying forces, the vast majority would eventually need to be repatriated.

The effort to bring American servicemen home technically started even before the formal end of the war. By mid-1943, nearly a year after the Battle of Midway turned the tide of war in the Allies' favor, the United States military realized it would need a massive effort to bring home the more than eight million troops scattered across all theaters. Committee to determine the best course of action were established by Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, and responsibility the implementation of the resulting recommendations fell to the War Shipping Administration (WSA).

Operation Magic Carpet: Bringing the Troops Home

USS Saratoga (CV-3) during Operation Magic Carpet, late 1945

USS Saratoga (CV-3) during Operation Magic Carpet, late 1945

In September of 1945, the task of bringing home millions of American military personnel who were no longer needed in the Pacific got underway. This process became known as Operation Magic Carpet, and was overseen by the WSA. At the start of the operation, roughly 370 US Navy ships were employed in the Pacific.

Aircraft carriers, hospital ships, battleships, and assault transports that had sufficient room were loaded up with as many people as they could carry before heading to the US mainland. Ships not originally equipped to transport servicemen en masse were converted into transports.

Within a month of the first Pacific transports sailing eastward, Operation Magic Carpet was in full swing. In December of 1945 alone, 700,000 troops were transported to the US mainland. Within another four months, the operation effectively concluded with a transport of more than 200,000 sailors and soldiers returning from east Asia.

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