World War II in the Pacific Theater

The Pacific Theater was where a series of battles during World War II took place. Before the start of the war in the Pacific, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the American military base located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. After the surprise attack, the United States declared war on Japan and joined World War II. The attack came because the United States had stopped trade of oil and other materials to Japan. The attack came as a surprise because the US government didn’t think that Japan would be so foolish as to attack American territory.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it forced the United States to join World War II. On December 8th, 1941, just one day after the attack, the United States officially declared war on Japan. This was the beginning of World War II in the Pacific Theater. Together with Allied nations like Great Britain and Australia, the United States started to fight the Imperial Japanese forces on many islands in the Pacific.

USS Lexington explodes during the Battle of the Coral Sea

For the first few months of the war, Japan was able to take over multiple islands, including Wake Island. It intended to use these islands as bases from which to fight the Allies. At first, the United States and its allies were not able to stop Japan from taking these islands, but in May of 1942, the allied navies fought the Japanese in the Coral Sea, which lies between Australia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands

The Battle of the Coral Sea was in some ways a victory for both the Japanese and the Allies. The Japanese caused more damage, but the battle was the first time the Allies were able to stop an enemy advance.

On June 4th, 1942, the two navies fought again, this time in the Battle of Midway. Just like Japan had done to the United States at Pearl Harbor, the American Navy surprised the Imperial Japanese Navy and sank 254 aircraft and boats.

US Marines landing on Iwo Jima

After the Battle of Midway, the Allies were able to continue fighting and beating the Japanese Navy. During the war in the Pacific, the United States and Japan fought in almost twenty different battles. The bloodiest were the battles fought on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Though the United States won the battle of Okinawa, the American government decided that to keep fighting Japan would cause too many additional deaths. To try and end the war, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The blasts killed over 129,000 people and left behind radiation that affected the cities for years after.

On August 15th, 1945, Japan surrendered and, on September 2nd, signed the formal documents to put an end to the war. The Instrument of Surrender was signed aboard the USS Missouri, which you can explore at Pearl Harbor.