The War in the Pacific
August 15, 2017
Throughout its history, the United States has found itself engaged in quite a few conflicts, but some of the bloodiest and most devastating took place in the time span of 1941 to 1945. Locked in a brutal war with Imperial Japan, the United States and the Allies fought hard over a series of campaigns that, while not all clear victories, led to the eventual surrender of Japan’s forces.
Battle of Singapore
Controlled by the British, Singapore became a target for Japan’s advances. Leading the British defense was Commander Arthur Percival, a man whose misjudgment on the usefulness of the nation’s natural defenses proved to be devastating. Knowing an attack was inevitable, Percival assumed the thick jungles and impassable swamps of the Malay Peninsula would slow the Japanese down. Seven days after launching their attack, the Japanese overwhelmed the British and Commonwealth soldiers, taking over 60,000 troops, including Percival, as prisoners.
Battle of the Coral Sea
Since the American aircraft carriers were not present at Pearl Harbor, Japan had yet to face them and their incredible force. The Battle of the Coral Sea became the first conflict in which Japanese and American aircraft carriers were locked in combat.
There were heavy losses on both sides, including the American carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), which ultimately led to the retreat of the Allies. Despite their numerical victory, Japan cancelled its planned advance on Port Moresby in fear of more American carriers in the region.
Battle of Midway
Considered a turning point of the Pacific War, the Battle of Midway was the first major engagement between the United States and Japan.
Having partially cracked the Japanese naval communications, the United States was ready for Japan, this time delivering a devastating blow to the Imperial Navy. All four of Japan’s participating carriers were lost, along with 250 aircraft. The once mighty fleet suffered a huge loss, from which it never fully recovered for the remainder of the war.
Battle of Iwo Jima
One of the Pacific War’s most iconic battles, the Battle of Iwo Jima is known best for the image of the American Marines mounting the American flag on the island. Though it was an American victory, it was a costly one. Almost a month of fighting engulfed Iwo Jima, ending with a combined death toll of over 27,000.
While the Americans attacked with a larger force, the Japanese were dug in and refused to relinquish their position. Nearly 20,000 American servicemen were wounded and 6,800 were killed in the capture of Iwo Jima.
Battle of Okinawa
Even bloodier than Iwo Jima was the Battle of Okinawa, which saw the death of approximately 140,000 men. Hoping to take Okinawa as a base for air raids on mainland Japan, the US launched an enormous attack on the island. The battle became the largest amphibious campaign of the Pacific Theater and is also believed to have been an influence on dropping the atomic bombs on Japan less than two months after it ended.