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Why did Japan fail to interfere with shipping from America to Vladivostok from 1941-1945?

Why did Japan fail to interfere with shipping from America to Vladivostok from 1941-1945?

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Throughout World War II, the United States was able to supply Russia with food and many crucial war materials, such as aluminum, via Russia's Pacific port, Vladivostok. Japan steadfastedly refused to attack or prevent Russian shipping from reaching this port with a few isolated exceptions, such as the sinking of the Belorussia in 1944. As can be seen by the map below the route to Vladivostok goes right by Japan:

Japan had signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union in April of 1941, shortly before the German attack on that country. However, my understanding is the pact only guaranteed the land borders and said nothing about shipping. Also, nothing stopped Japan from disavowing the pact, just as Russia later did in 1945.

In addition to the points already raised by @TomAu and @DevSolar…

The Pacific lend-lease route skirted the problem by officially being handled by the Soviets. Supervision and routing was handled by the Soviets. Cargo was loaded into Soviet flagged ships, many US ships were handed over to the Soviets. Since ships on the route might be inspected by the Japanese they did not include war materials. The Pacific route handled things like food, trucks, and locomotives which were allowed. War material instead went via the Arctic Convoys and the Persian Corridor.

Attacking the US/Soviet lend lease would have meant sinking Soviet ships killing Soviet sailors and loss of goods purchased by the Soviets. Since Japan was not at war with the Soviets, and was anxious to not be at war with them, there was little justification to attack their ships.

There's an insinuation in the question that Japan could simply attack the Soviets, and there was nothing the Soviets could do about it. The Japanese had already learned this was not so.

Since 1931 the Japanese had been testing the Soviets in a series of escalating border skirmishes. In the summer of 1939 this escalated to a major battle, the largely forgotten Battles of Khalkhin Gol. Then Corps commander Georgy Zhukov was called in to deal with the Japanese probing attacks once and for all and show what the Soviet army was capable of when it got its act together. Zhukov used massed armor to achieve a double envelopment to decisively end the battle.

After this humiliating defeat, the Japanese attitude towards expansion switched from looking north at Siberia (Hokushin-ron) to looking south at southeast Asia and Pacific islands (Nanshin-ron). The Japanese had already suffered a defeat the hands of the USSR, and now had no motive to pick a second fight by interfering with their shipping.

Why should they?

Destroying those supplies would require the commitment of forces Japan did not have to spare, with little to show for it.

If a country Japan was at war with -- the USA -- insists on shipping war supplies to a country Japan was not at war with, why should Japan mind?

Whether those supplies reached Russia or not did not make a difference for Japan. (Except perhaps merchant tonnage sunk, but the US was more than capable of replacing such losses.) They could instead try to sink supply ships supplying US troops, which would be much more useful to Japan's war effort.

Japan had a five year non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union (which the Soviets broke in 1945 after four years). Attacking Russian shipping would have been an act of war, and Japan didn't really want or need a "third" enemy. Japan feared that the Americans would use Soviet territory to launch air strikes or "stage" an invasion if it provoked Russia sufficiently. In this instance, therefore, Japan was content to "let sleeping dogs lie." The country did have the consolation that the materials would not be used against her (at least until the 1945 "double cross.")

Yes, Japan was allied with Germany, but only against England and the U.S., the two maritime powers that Japan truly feared (and were capable of invading Japan). The book "Marching Orders" and other sources show that Japan urged Germany to make peace with the Soviet Union so they could concentrate "two on two."

I think I found the answer. The Second World War was a war for hegenon between Eurasian powers such as Great Britain, Germany and Japan. And the United States and their political golem the Soviet Union. This war took the form of Hegelian dialectics. Such a process required the installation in all countries of a very influential agency, often acting as the ruling elite. These elites pursued policies that conflicted with the interests of the countries they managed. A good example is Adolf Hitler or Hideki Togo. The result of World War 2 was the acquisition of world hegemony. This required the destruction of Eurasia.

Why did Japan not invade the Soviets during WW2? And vice versa?

Pardon my ignorance, but this seemed like the right place to ask. Where both nations too occupied with Germany and the US respectively, to get caught in a two front war? Or did neither country have interested in taking on its allies enemy?

Couple of reasons Japan did not attack USSR.

Japan was fighting in a large part to secure resources like oil, rubber, industrial ores, etc and those were more easily found in China and Southeast Asia.

Japan had a couple of major border clashes with the USSR before WW2 proper and was soundly defeated which made her a little gun-shy.

Good answers already, here's another. Attacking the Soviet Far East is a strategic boondoggle. It's absolutely massive, the terrain is awful, there's no highways and one rail line. 1000km to the nearest city (Irkutsk) from the Soviet-Japanese border. For comparison, it's 1000km from Warsaw to Moscow.

A Japanese attack on the Soviets would not have come anything close to a knock-out blow. Given a shoestring budget, the Soviets could honestly have fallen back for months without losing anything of importance. The most major impact would the loss of Vladivostok, a major lend-lease port.

The harsher reality was, the Soviets had beaten the Japanese before, and were ready to beat them again. The Far Eastern defense force had a little more than 1 million soldiers ready in 1941. With the benefit of hindsight, it's apparent that the possibility of Japan actually impacting the Eastern Front was negligible.

At the time, the reasoning for the Japanese higher command was simple. The Japanese were heavily invested in China at this point, and didn't have the resources free to open up another front, especially not major land power like the USSR.

The harsher reality was, the Soviets had beaten the Japanese before, and were ready to beat them again. The Far Eastern defense force had a little more than 1 million soldiers ready in 1941. With the benefit of hindsight, it's apparent that the possibility of Japan actually impacting the Eastern Front was negligible.

Right. Plus, the Japanese army was in no way able to duke it out with the Red Army. Arguably, the field army of Japan was along with China the weakest of the major powers. It was mainly an equipment issue - they lacked in everything regarding quality and quantity. They lacked artillery and anti-tank guns and on the ground, they had barely any weapons that could knock out a T34 or Sherman tank.

This is a good answer. They already had their hands full, considering the U.S., China, and the rest of the allied powers.

Ass kicking given them by the Soviets at Khaikhin Gol in 1939 demonstrated to the IJA that they shouldn't fuck with the Red Army.

It's also worth remembering that Japan and the USSR had signed a Non-Aggression Pact after Japan's defeat in Asia at the hands of the Soviets. Despite their apparent superiority, the Soviets weren't ready or willing to continue the hostilities, largely due to Stalin's purges.

After the Germans invaded the USSR, the Soviets needed almost their entire military force to hold off the Nazis. They left skeleton forces to monitor their borders with Japan, and so relied on the Non-Aggression Pact holding.

Likewise, Japan committed the majority of its military to the invasion of South-East Asia and the Pacific War (as well as their war of attrition in China). They didn't have the forces available to open up an additional front against the USSR.

The Non-Aggression Pact wasn't broken until the last days of the war. Once they knew they would conquer Germany, the Soviets diverted several divisions east to capture the Kuril Islands, to the north of the Japanese home islands. This move had nothing to do with the war against Japan, but had everything to do with the setup for the Cold War, but that's going a bit off topic.

Ultimately, both Japan and the USSR needed to maintain peace between themselves in order to wage war against the others' allies.

They relied on a non-aggression pact to hold off Japan, while they were fighting an enemy that had just broken one?

The Russians are of course the traditional enemy of Japan, so this course of action was often discussed. The Soviet Union was simply too strong. The Japanese got hip-deep into a war with China well before a European war between German and the Soviets became likely. When it did come along, the Japanese found the balance of forces even further in the Soviet's favor. .

Had the Japanese been able to capture Mongolian/Chinese resources and then reached a settlement they then might have enough forces to stab the Soviets in the back. As it was, they did not. .

They did however have a navy that was not doing too much. They also wanted resources to replace those the Americans had cut off. And so they launched the wrong war against the wrong enemy at the wrong time.

The reason Japan pulled the trigger was the war with China which couldn't be maintained without securing crucial natural resources Japan lacked to wage war, particularly fuel. A war with the Soviet union offered little immediate alleviation of this problem, and while Soviet's focus would have been westward, the recent disaster at Khalkhin Gol made the Japanese leadership wary of the Red army. At the same time the European East Asian colonies had everything they needed, easily accessible, in abundance. With the war in Europe made them indefensible they turned into very tempting targets. This option, unlike a war with the Soviet's, also allowed Japan to utilize it's substantial navy.

Both options were discussed but the latter option was more attractive. Of course then maintaining neutrality with the Soviets were important as to not divert unnecessary resources from the main objective. Dito for the Soviet's.

The Japanese did attack the Soviets, in the Khalkhin Gol campaign in 1939. They lost. Decided their efforts were better spent going South than North.

The Soviets were barely holding on by their fingernails against the Nazis, they didn't have anything to spare against Japan.

In part the Japanese army had to decide whether to build its army to fight in China or Russia.

Short answer they tired. But border skirmishes early war put Ann end to that until after the fall of Germany. At that point the Soviets launched a massive invasion of Japan's mainland holdings, taking Manchuria in an incredibly short time and knocking out much of Japan's army stationed there. Basically for the terrain in question it wasn't worth fighting.

Germany did invade the Soviet Union, Japan and Germany were allies, Japan probably told Hitler, stay out of Asia.

It was always interesting to me that the Japanese allowed about half of all lend-lease aid to Russia to cross the Pacific, as long as it was not direct war material without interference for the entire duration of the war. They really didn't want to fight the Soviets. And there is a strong argument that the Soviets entering the war what finally made them quit, not the A-bombs.

I would say because China and Korea would more likely become communist and also for post war reasons with the allies

They could've, but they had more than enough on their own hands to deal with. America was attacking Japan with full force. Japan's population wasn't big enough to take on another front to fight. If anything, Russia was just as strong (and mentally crazier) than the Americans. They would've been inhilaited if they tride to invade Russia. See what Russia did to the Nazi's in Stalingrad, even though Russia lost millions of men themselves throughout that fight.

I think the question implies attacking the USSR instead of the USA

Japan was not initially fighting the U.S., they were embroiled in a war in China since 1937. And it was wearing down their available resources. They did want to fight the Soviets, and did so during 1938 and 1939, but it didn't go well for them. There was huge internal debate over whether to pursue a Northern Strategy (attack the Soviet Union) or Southern Strategy (seize the colonial islands to the south). And significant disagreement over which might be more likely to bring war with the U.S. There was also intense rivalry between the army and the navy.

They decided on the southern route, one reason being that the resources there were already developed while the Soviet far east had a lot of resources but would take a lot of time to develop. Also because they could fairly easily get into Indochina (and in fact did so through diplomacy), which was controlled by Vichy France. And also because they were still uncertain that Germany would defeat Russia quite as quickly as Hitler thought would happen.

The war in Europe needed everything Russia could throw into it, including most of their Siberian forces. They weren't ready to start the Soviet-Japanese war until after Germany was dealt with, but then they did, right on schedule as they had promised the U.S. 6 months before.

So actually, they did attack each other. Just only at the beginning and end. The rest of the time they had a neutrality pact.


Names for the war Edit

In Allied countries during the war, the "Pacific War" was not usually distinguished from World War II in general, or was known simply as the War against Japan. In the United States, the term Pacific Theater was widely used, although this was a misnomer in relation to the Allied campaign in Burma, the war in China and other activities within the South-East Asian Theater. However, the US Armed Forces considered the China-Burma-India Theater to be distinct from the Asiatic-Pacific Theater during the conflict.

Japan used the name Greater East Asia War ( 大東亜戦争 , Dai Tō-A Sensō) , as chosen by a cabinet decision on 10 December 1941, to refer to both the war with the Western Allies and the ongoing war in China. This name was released to the public on 12 December, with an explanation that it involved Asian nations achieving their independence from the Western powers through armed forces of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. [52] Japanese officials integrated what they called the Japan–China Incident ( 日支事変 , Nisshi Jihen) into the Greater East Asia War.

During the Allied military occupation of Japan (1945–52), these Japanese terms were prohibited in official documents, although their informal usage continued, and the war became officially known as the Pacific War ( 太平洋戦争 , Taiheiyō Sensō) . In Japan, the Fifteen Years' War ( 十五年戦争 , Jūgonen Sensō) is also used, referring to the period from the Mukden Incident of 1931 through 1945.

Participants Edit

Allies Edit

The major Allied participants were China, the United States and the British Empire. China had already been engaged in bloody war against Japan since 1937 including both the KMT government National Revolutionary Army and CCP units, such as the guerrilla Eighth Route Army, New Fourth Army, as well as smaller groups. The United States and its territories, including the Philippine Commonwealth, entered the war after being attacked by Japan. The British Empire was also a major belligerent consisting of British troops along with large numbers of colonial troops from the armed forces of India as well as from Burma, Malaya, Fiji, Tonga in addition to troops from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Dutch government-in-exile (as the possessor of the Dutch East Indies) were also involved. All of these were members of the Pacific War Council. [53]

Mexico provided some air support in the form of the 201st Fighter Squadron and Free France sent naval support in the form of Le Triomphant and later the Richelieu. From 1944 the French commando group Corps Léger d'Intervention also took part in resistance operations in Indochina. French Indochinese forces faced Japanese forces in a coup in 1945. The commando corps continued to operate after the coup until liberation. Some active pro-allied guerrillas in Asia included the Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army, the Korean Liberation Army, the Free Thai Movement and the Việt Minh. [ citation needed ]

The Soviet Union fought two short, undeclared border conflicts with Japan in 1938 and again in 1939, then remained neutral through the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact of April 1941, until August 1945 when it (and Mongolia) joined the rest of the Allies and invaded the territory of Manchukuo, China, Inner Mongolia, the Japanese protectorate of Korea and Japanese-claimed territory such as South Sakhalin. [ citation needed ]

Axis powers and aligned states Edit

The Axis-aligned states which assisted Japan included the authoritarian government of Thailand, which formed a cautious alliance with the Japanese in 1941, when Japanese forces issued the government with an ultimatum following the Japanese invasion of Thailand. The leader of Thailand, Plaek Phibunsongkhram, became greatly enthusiastic about the alliance after decisive Japanese victories in the Malayan campaign and in 1942 sent the Phayap Army to assist the invasion of Burma, where former Thai territory that had been annexed by Britain were reoccupied (Occupied Malayan regions were similarly reintegrated into Thailand in 1943). The Allies supported and organized an underground anti-Japanese resistance group, known as the Free Thai Movement, after the Thai ambassador to the United States had refused to hand over the declaration of war. Because of this, after the surrender in 1945, the stance of the United States was that Thailand should be treated as a puppet of Japan and be considered an occupied nation rather than as an ally. This was done in contrast to the British stance towards Thailand, who had faced them in combat as they invaded British territory, and the United States had to block British efforts to impose a punitive peace. [54]

Also involved were members of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, which included the Manchukuo Imperial Army and Collaborationist Chinese Army of the Japanese puppet states of Manchukuo (consisting of most of Manchuria), and the collaborationist Wang Jingwei regime (which controlled the coastal regions of China), respectively. In the Burma campaign, other members, such as the anti-British Indian National Army of Free India and the Burma National Army of the State of Burma were active and fighting alongside their Japanese allies. [ citation needed ]

Moreover, Japan conscripted many soldiers from its colonies of Korea and Taiwan. Collaborationist security units were also formed in Hong Kong (reformed ex-colonial police), Singapore, the Philippines (also a member of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere), the Dutch East Indies (the PETA), British Malaya, British Borneo, former French Indochina (after the overthrow of the French regime in 1945) (the Vichy French had previously allowed the Japanese to use bases in French Indochina beginning in 1941, following an invasion) as well as Timorese militia. These units assisted the Japanese war effort in their respective territories. [ citation needed ]

Germany and Italy both had limited involvement in the Pacific War. The German and the Italian navies operated submarines and raiding ships in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, notably the Monsun Gruppe. The Italians had access to concession territory naval bases in China which they utilized (and which was later ceded to collaborationist China by the Italian Social Republic in late 1943). After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declarations of war, both navies had access to Japanese naval facilities. [ citation needed ]

Theaters Edit

Between 1942 and 1945, there were four main areas of conflict in the Pacific War: China, the Central Pacific, South-East Asia and the South West Pacific. US sources refer to two theaters within the Pacific War: the Pacific theater and the China Burma India Theater (CBI). However these were not operational commands.

In the Pacific, the Allies divided operational control of their forces between two supreme commands, known as Pacific Ocean Areas and Southwest Pacific Area. [55] In 1945, for a brief period just before the Japanese surrender, the Soviet Union and Mongolia engaged Japanese forces in Manchuria and northeast China.

The Imperial Japanese Navy did not integrate its units into permanent theater commands. The Imperial Japanese Army, which had already created the Kwantung Army to oversee its occupation of Manchukuo and the China Expeditionary Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War, created the Southern Expeditionary Army Group at the outset of its conquests of South East Asia. This headquarters controlled the bulk of the Japanese Army formations which opposed the Western Allies in the Pacific and South East Asia.

Conflict between China and Japan Edit

By 1937, Japan controlled Manchuria and it was also ready to move deeper into China. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident on 7 July 1937 provoked full-scale war between China and Japan. The Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communists suspended their civil war in order to form a nominal alliance against Japan, and the Soviet Union quickly lent support by providing large amounts of materiel to Chinese troops. In August 1937, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek deployed his best army to fight about 300,000 Japanese troops in Shanghai, but, after three months of fighting, Shanghai fell. [56] The Japanese continued to push the Chinese forces back, capturing the capital Nanjing in December 1937 and conducted the Nanjing Massacre. [57] In March 1938, Nationalist forces won their first victory at Taierzhuang, [58] but then the city of Xuzhou was taken by the Japanese in May. In June 1938, Japan deployed about 350,000 troops to invade Wuhan and captured it in October. [59] The Japanese achieved major military victories, but world opinion—in particular in the United States—condemned Japan, especially after the Panay incident.

In 1939, Japanese forces tried to push into the Soviet Far East from Manchuria. They were soundly defeated in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol by a mixed Soviet and Mongolian force led by Georgy Zhukov. This stopped Japanese expansion to the north, and Soviet aid to China ended as a result of the signing of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact at the beginning of its war against Germany. [60]

In September 1940, Japan decided to cut China's only land line to the outside world by seizing French Indochina, which was controlled at the time by Vichy France. Japanese forces broke their agreement with the Vichy administration and fighting broke out, ending in a Japanese victory. On 27 September Japan signed a military alliance with Germany and Italy, becoming one of the three main Axis Powers. In practice, there was little coordination between Japan and Germany until 1944, by which time the US was deciphering their secret diplomatic correspondence. [61]

The war entered a new phase with the unprecedented defeat of the Japanese at the Battle of Suixian–Zaoyang, 1st Battle of Changsha, Battle of Kunlun Pass and Battle of Zaoyi. After these victories, Chinese nationalist forces launched a large-scale counter-offensive in early 1940 however, due to its low military-industrial capacity, it was repulsed by the Imperial Japanese Army in late March 1940. [62] In August 1940, Chinese communists launched an offensive in Central China in retaliation, Japan instituted the "Three Alls Policy" ("Kill all, Burn all, Loot all") in occupied areas to reduce human and material resources for the communists. [63]

By 1941 the conflict had become a stalemate. Although Japan had occupied much of northern, central, and coastal China, the Nationalist Government had retreated to the interior with a provisional capital set up at Chungking while the Chinese communists remained in control of base areas in Shaanxi. In addition, Japanese control of northern and central China was somewhat tenuous, in that Japan was usually able to control railroads and the major cities ("points and lines"), but did not have a major military or administrative presence in the vast Chinese countryside. The Japanese found its aggression against the retreating and regrouping Chinese army was stalled by the mountainous terrain in southwestern China while the Communists organised widespread guerrilla and saboteur activities in northern and eastern China behind the Japanese front line.

Japan sponsored several puppet governments, one of which was headed by Wang Jingwei. [64] However, its policies of brutality toward the Chinese population, of not yielding any real power to these regimes, and of supporting several rival governments failed to make any of them a viable alternative to the Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek. Conflicts between Chinese Communist and Nationalist forces vying for territory control behind enemy lines culminated in a major armed clash in January 1941, effectively ending their co-operation. [65]

Japanese strategic bombing efforts mostly targeted large Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Wuhan, and Chongqing, with around 5,000 raids from February 1938 to August 1943 in the later case. Japan's strategic bombing campaigns devastated Chinese cities extensively, killing 260,000–350,934 non-combatants. [66] [67]

Tensions between Japan and the West Edit

From as early as 1935 Japanese military strategists had concluded the Dutch East Indies were, because of their oil reserves, of considerable importance to Japan. By 1940 they had expanded this to include Indochina, Malaya, and the Philippines within their concept of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japanese troop build ups in Hainan, Taiwan, and Haiphong were noted, Imperial Japanese Army officers were openly talking about an inevitable war, and Admiral Sankichi Takahashi was reported as saying a showdown with the United States was necessary. [68]

In an effort to discourage Japanese militarism, Western powers including Australia, the United States, Britain, and the Dutch government in exile, which controlled the petroleum-rich Dutch East Indies, stopped selling oil, iron ore, and steel to Japan, denying it the raw materials needed to continue its activities in China and French Indochina. In Japan, the government and nationalists viewed these embargos as acts of aggression imported oil made up about 80% of domestic consumption, without which Japan's economy, let alone its military, would grind to a halt. The Japanese media, influenced by military propagandists, [f] began to refer to the embargoes as the "ABCD ("American-British-Chinese-Dutch") encirclement" or "ABCD line".

Faced with a choice between economic collapse and withdrawal from its recent conquests (with its attendant loss of face), the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters (GHQ) began planning for a war with the Western powers in April or May 1941.

Japanese preparations Edit

In preparation for the war against the United States, which would be decided at sea and in the air, Japan increased its naval budget as well as putting large formations of the Army and its attached air force under navy command. While formerly the IJA consumed the lion's share of the state's military budget due to the secondary role of the IJN in Japan's campaign against China (with a 73/27 split in 1940), from 1942 to 1945 there would instead be a roughly 60/40 split in funds between the army and the navy. [71] Japan's key objective during the initial part of the conflict was to seize economic resources in the Dutch East Indies and Malaya which offered Japan a way to escape the effects of the Allied embargo. [72] This was known as the Southern Plan. It was also decided—because of the close relationship between the United Kingdom and United States, [73] [74] and the (mistaken [73] ) belief that the US would inevitably become involved—that Japan would also require taking the Philippines, Wake and Guam.

Japanese planning was for fighting a limited war where Japan would seize key objectives and then establish a defensive perimeter to defeat Allied counterattacks, which in turn would lead to a negotiated peace. [75] The attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by carrier-based aircraft of the Combined Fleet was intended to give the Japanese time to complete a perimeter.

The early period of the war was divided into two operational phases. The First Operational Phase was further divided into three separate parts in which the major objectives of the Philippines, British Malaya, Borneo, Burma, Rabaul and the Dutch East Indies would be occupied. The Second Operational Phase called for further expansion into the South Pacific by seizing eastern New Guinea, New Britain, Fiji, Samoa, and strategic points in the Australian area. In the Central Pacific, Midway was targeted as were the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific. Seizure of these key areas would provide defensive depth and deny the Allies staging areas from which to mount a counteroffensive. [75]

By November these plans were essentially complete, and were modified only slightly over the next month. Japanese military planners' expectation of success rested on the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union being unable to effectively respond to a Japanese attack because of the threat posed to each by Germany the Soviet Union was even seen as unlikely to commence hostilities.

The Japanese leadership was aware that a total military victory in a traditional sense against the US was impossible the alternative would be negotiating for peace after their initial victories, which would recognize Japanese hegemony in Asia. [76] In fact, the Imperial GHQ noted, should acceptable negotiations be reached with the Americans, the attacks were to be canceled—even if the order to attack had already been given. The Japanese leadership looked to base the conduct of the war against America on the historical experiences of the successful wars against China (1894–95) and Russia (1904–05), in both of which a strong continental power was defeated by reaching limited military objectives, not by total conquest. [76]

They also planned, should the United States transfer its Pacific Fleet to the Philippines, to intercept and attack this fleet en route with the Combined Fleet, in keeping with all Japanese Navy prewar planning and doctrine. If the United States or Britain attacked first, the plans further stipulated the military were to hold their positions and wait for orders from GHQ. The planners noted that attacking the Philippines and British Malaya still had possibilities of success, even in the worst case of a combined preemptive attack including Soviet forces.

Following prolonged tensions between Japan and the Western powers, units of the Imperial Japanese Navy and Imperial Japanese Army launched simultaneous surprise attacks on the United States and the British Empire on 7 December (8 December in Asia/West Pacific time zones). The locations of this first wave of Japanese attacks included the American territories of Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, and Wake Island and the British territories of Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Concurrently, Japanese forces invaded southern and eastern Thailand and were resisted for several hours, before the Thai government signed an armistice and entered an alliance with Japan. Although Japan declared war on the United States and the British Empire, the declaration was not delivered until after the attacks began.

Subsequent attacks and invasions followed during December 1941 and early 1942 leading to the occupation of American, British, Dutch and Australian territories and air raids on the Australian mainland. The Allies suffered many disastrous defeats in the first six months of the war.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Edit

In the early hours of 7 December (Hawaiian time), Japan launched a major surprise carrier-based air strike on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu without explicit warning, which crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet, left eight American battleships out of action, destroyed 188 American aircraft, and caused the deaths of 2,403 Americans. [77] The Japanese had gambled that the United States, when faced with such a sudden and massive blow and loss of life, would agree to a negotiated settlement and allow Japan free rein in Asia. This gamble did not pay off. American losses were less serious than initially thought: the American aircraft carriers, which would prove to be more important than battleships, were at sea, and vital naval infrastructure (fuel oil tanks, shipyard facilities, and a power station), submarine base, and signals intelligence units were unscathed, and the fact the bombing happened while the US was not officially at war anywhere in the world [g] caused a wave of outrage across the United States. [77] Japan's fallback strategy, relying on a war of attrition to make the US come to terms, was beyond the IJN's capabilities. [73] [78]

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 800,000-member America First Committee vehemently opposed any American intervention in the European conflict, even as America sold military aid to Britain and the Soviet Union through the Lend-Lease program. Opposition to war in the US vanished after the attack. On 8 December, the United Kingdom, [h] [79] the United States, [i] [80] Canada, [81] and the Netherlands [82] declared war on Japan, followed by China [83] and Australia [84] the next day. Four days after Pearl Harbor, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, drawing the country into a two-theater war. This is widely agreed to be a grand strategic blunder, as it abrogated both the benefit Germany gained by Japan's distraction of the US and the reduction in aid to Britain, which both Congress and Hitler had managed to avoid during over a year of mutual provocation, which would otherwise have resulted.

South-East Asian campaigns of 1941–42 Edit

Thailand, with its territory already serving as a springboard for the Malayan Campaign, surrendered within 5 hours of the Japanese invasion. [85] The government of Thailand formally allied with Japan on 21 December. To the south, the Imperial Japanese Army had seized the British colony of Penang on 19 December, encountering little resistance. [86]

Hong Kong was attacked on 8 December and fell on 25 December 1941, with Canadian forces and the Royal Hong Kong Volunteers playing an important part in the defense. American bases on Guam and Wake Island were lost at around the same time. British, Australian, and Dutch forces, already drained of personnel and matériel by two years of war with Germany, and heavily committed in the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere, were unable to provide much more than token resistance to the battle-hardened Japanese. Two major British warships, HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, were sunk by a Japanese air attack off Malaya on 10 December 1941. [87]

Following the Declaration by United Nations (the first official use of the term United Nations) on 1 January 1942, the Allied governments appointed the British General Sir Archibald Wavell to the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM), a supreme command for Allied forces in Southeast Asia. This gave Wavell nominal control of a huge force, albeit thinly spread over an area from Burma to the Philippines to northern Australia. Other areas, including India, Hawaii, and the rest of Australia remained under separate local commands. On 15 January, Wavell moved to Bandung in Java to assume control of ABDACOM.

In January, Japan invaded British Burma, the Dutch East Indies, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and captured Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Rabaul. After being driven out of Malaya, Allied forces in Singapore attempted to resist the Japanese during the Battle of Singapore, but were forced to surrender to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 about 130,000 Indian, British, Australian and Dutch personnel became prisoners of war. [88] The pace of conquest was rapid: Bali and Timor also fell in February. [89] [90] The rapid collapse of Allied resistance left the "ABDA area" split in two. Wavell resigned from ABDACOM on 25 February, handing control of the ABDA Area to local commanders and returning to the post of Commander-in-Chief, India.

Meanwhile, Japanese aircraft had all but eliminated Allied air power in Southeast Asia and were making air attacks on northern Australia, beginning with a psychologically devastating but militarily insignificant bombing of the city of Darwin on 19 February, which killed at least 243 people. [91]

At the Battle of the Java Sea in late February and early March, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) inflicted a resounding defeat on the main ABDA naval force, under Admiral Karel Doorman. [92] The Dutch East Indies campaign subsequently ended with the surrender of Allied forces on Java and Sumatra. [93] [94]

In March and April, a powerful IJN carrier force launched a raid into the Indian Ocean. British Royal Navy bases in Ceylon were hit and the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and other Allied ships were sunk. The attack forced the Royal Navy to withdraw to the western part of the Indian Ocean. [95] This paved the way for a Japanese assault on Burma and India.

In Burma, the British, under intense pressure, made a fighting retreat from Rangoon to the Indo-Burmese border. This cut the Burma Road, which was the western Allies' supply line to the Chinese Nationalists. In March 1942, the Chinese Expeditionary Force started to attack Japanese forces in northern Burma. On 16 April, 7,000 British soldiers were encircled by the Japanese 33rd Division during the Battle of Yenangyaung and rescued by the Chinese 38th Division, led by Sun Li-jen. [96] Cooperation between the Chinese Nationalists and the Communists had waned from its zenith at the Battle of Wuhan, and the relationship between the two had gone sour as both attempted to expand their areas of operation in occupied territories. The Japanese exploited this lack of unity to press ahead in their offensives.

Philippines Edit

On 8 December 1941, Japanese bombers struck American airfields on Luzon. They caught most of the planes on the ground, destroying 103 aircraft, more than half of the US air strength. [97] Two days later, further raids led to the destruction of the Cavite Naval Yard, south of Manila. By 13 December, Japanese attacks had wrecked every major airfield and virtually annihilated American air power. [97] During the previous month before the start of hostilities, a part of the US Asiatic Fleet had been sent to the southern Philippines. However, with little air protection, the remaining surface vessels in the Philippines, especially the larger ships, were sent to Java or to Australia. With their position also equally untenable, the remaining American bombers flew to Australia in mid-December. [97] The only forces that remained to defend the Philippines were the ground troops, a few fighter aircraft, about 30 submarines, and a few small vessels.

On 10 December, Japanese forces began a series of small-scale landings on Luzon. The main landings by the 14th Army took place at Lingayen Gulf on 22 December, with the bulk of the 16th Infantry Division. Another large second landing took place two days later at Lamon Bay, south of Manila, by the 48th infantry Division. As the Japanese troops converged on Manila, General Douglas MacArthur began executing plans to make a final stand on the Bataan Peninsula and the Island of Corregidor in order to deny the use of Manila Bay to the Japanese. A series of withdrawal actions brought his troops safely into Bataan, while the Japanese entered Manila unopposed on 2 January 1942. [98] On 7 January, the Japanese attacked Bataan. After some initial success, they were stalled by disease and casualties, but they could be reinforced while the Americans and Filipinos could not. On 11 March 1942, under orders from President Roosevelt, MacArthur left Corregidor for Australia, and Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright assumed command in the Philippines. The defenders on Bataan, running low on ammunition and supplies, could not hold back a final Japanese offensive. Consequently, Bataan fell on 9 April, with the 76,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war being subjected to a grueling 66-mile (106-km) ordeal that came to be known as the Bataan Death March. On the night of 5–6 May, after an intensive aerial and artillery bombardment of Corregidor, the Japanese landed on the island and General Wainwright surrendered on 6 May. In the southern Philippines, where key ports and airfields had already been seized by the Japanese, the remaining American-Filipino forces surrendered on 9 May.

US and Filipino forces resisted in the Philippines until 9 May 1942, when more than 80,000 soldiers were ordered to surrender. By this time, General Douglas MacArthur, who had been appointed Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific, had been withdrawn to Australia. The US Navy, under Admiral Chester Nimitz, had responsibility for the rest of the Pacific Ocean. This divided command had unfortunate consequences for the commerce war, [99] and consequently, the war itself.

Threat to Australia Edit

In late 1941, as the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor, most of Australia's best forces were committed to the fight against Axis forces in the Mediterranean Theatre. Australia was ill-prepared for an attack, lacking armaments, modern fighter aircraft, heavy bombers, and aircraft carriers. While still calling for reinforcements from Churchill, the Australian Prime Minister John Curtin called for American support with a historic announcement on 27 December 1941: [100] [101]

The Australian Government . regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the democracies' fighting plan. Without inhibitions of any kind, I make it clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.

Australia had been shocked by the speedy and crushing collapse of British Malaya and the Fall of Singapore in which around 15,000 Australian soldiers were captured and became prisoners of war. Curtin predicted the "battle for Australia" would soon follow. The Japanese established a major base in the Australian Territory of New Guinea beginning with the capture of Rabaul on 23 January 1942. [102] On 19 February 1942, Darwin suffered a devastating air raid, the first time the Australian mainland had been attacked. Over the following 19 months, Australia was attacked from the air almost 100 times.

Two battle-hardened Australian divisions were moving from the Middle East for Singapore. Churchill wanted them diverted to Burma, but Curtin insisted on a return to Australia. In early 1942 elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy proposed an invasion of Australia. The Imperial Japanese Army opposed the plan and it was rejected in favour of a policy of isolating Australia from the United States via blockade by advancing through the South Pacific. [103] The Japanese decided upon a seaborne invasion of Port Moresby, capital of the Australian Territory of Papua which would put all of Northern Australia within range of Japanese bomber aircraft.

President Franklin Roosevelt ordered General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines to formulate a Pacific defence plan with Australia in March 1942. Curtin agreed to place Australian forces under the command of MacArthur, who became Supreme Commander, South West Pacific. MacArthur moved his headquarters to Melbourne in March 1942 and American troops began massing in Australia. Enemy naval activity reached Sydney in late May 1942, when Japanese midget submarines launched a raid on Sydney Harbour. On 8 June 1942, two Japanese submarines briefly shelled Sydney's eastern suburbs and the city of Newcastle. [104]

In early 1942, the governments of smaller powers began to push for an inter-governmental Asia-Pacific war council, based in Washington, DC. A council was established in London, with a subsidiary body in Washington. However, the smaller powers continued to push for an American-based body. The Pacific War Council was formed in Washington, on 1 April 1942, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his key advisor Harry Hopkins, and representatives from Britain, China, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Canada. Representatives from India and the Philippines were later added. The council never had any direct operational control, and any decisions it made were referred to the US-UK Combined Chiefs of Staff, which was also in Washington. Allied resistance, at first symbolic, gradually began to stiffen. Australian and Dutch forces led civilians in a prolonged guerilla campaign in Portuguese Timor.

Japanese strategy and the Doolittle Raid Edit

Having accomplished their objectives during the First Operation Phase with ease, the Japanese now turned to the second. [105] The Second Operational Phase was planned to expand Japan's strategic depth by adding eastern New Guinea, New Britain, the Aleutians, Midway, the Fiji Islands, Samoa, and strategic points in the Australian area. [106] However, the Naval General Staff, the Combined Fleet, and the Imperial Army, all had different strategies for the next sequence of operations. The Naval General Staff advocated an advance to the south to seize parts of Australia. However, with large numbers of troops still engaged in China combined with those stationed in Manchuria in a standoff with the Soviet Union, the Imperial Japanese Army declined to contribute the forces necessary for such an operation [106] this quickly led to the abandonment of the concept. The Naval General Staff still wanted to cut the sea links between Australia and the United States by capturing New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa. Because this required far fewer troops, on 13 March the Naval General Staff and the Army agreed to operations with the goal of capturing Fiji and Samoa. [106] The Second Operational Phase began well when Lae and Salamaua, located in eastern New Guinea, were captured on 8 March. However, on 10 March, American carrier aircraft attacked the invasion forces and inflicted considerable losses. The raid had major operational implications because it forced the Japanese to stop their advance in the South Pacific, until the Combined Fleet provided the means to protect future operations from American carrier attack. [106] Concurrently, the Doolittle Raid occurred in April 1942, where 16 bombers took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, 600 miles (970 km) from Japan. The raid inflicted minimal material damage on Japanese soil but was a huge morale boost for the United States it also had major psychological repercussions in Japan, in exposing the vulnerabilities of the Japanese homeland. [107] Because the raid was mounted by a carrier task force, it consequently highlighted the dangers the Japanese home islands could face until the destruction of the American carrier forces was achieved. [108] With only Marcus Island and a line of converted trawlers patrolling the vast waters that separate Wake and Kamchatka, the Japanese east coast was left open to attack. [108]

Admiral Yamamoto now perceived that it was essential to complete the destruction of the United States Navy, which had begun at Pearl Harbor. [106] He proposed to achieve this by attacking and occupying Midway Atoll, an objective he thought the Americans would be certain to fight for, as Midway was close enough to threaten Hawaii. [109] During a series of meetings held from 2–5 April, the Naval General Staff and representatives of the Combined Fleet reached a compromise. Yamamoto got his Midway operation, but only after he had threatened to resign. In return, however, Yamamoto had to agree to two demands from the Naval General Staff, both of which had implications for the Midway operation. In order to cover the offensive in the South Pacific, Yamamoto agreed to allocate one carrier division to the operation against Port Moresby. Yamamoto also agreed to include an attack to seize strategic points in the Aleutian Islands simultaneously with the Midway operation. These were enough to remove the Japanese margin of superiority in the coming Midway attack. [110]

Coral Sea Edit

The attack on Port Moresby was codenamed MO Operation and was divided into several parts or phases. In the first, Tulagi would be occupied on 3 May, the carriers would then conduct a wide sweep through the Coral Sea to find and destroy Allied naval forces, with the landings conducted to capture Port Moresby scheduled for 10 May. [110] The MO Operation featured a force of 60 ships led by two carriers: Shōkaku and Zuikaku, one light carrier (Shōhō), six heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and 15 destroyers. [110] Additionally, some 250 aircraft were assigned to the operation including 140 aboard the three carriers. [110] However, the actual battle did not go according to plan although Tulagi was seized on 3 May, the following day, aircraft from the American carrier Yorktown struck the invasion force. [110] The element of surprise, which had been present at Pearl Harbor, was now lost due to the success of Allied codebreakers who had discovered the attack would be against Port Moresby. From the Allied point of view, if Port Moresby fell, the Japanese would control the seas to the north and west of Australia and could isolate the country. An Allied task force under the command of Admiral Frank Fletcher, with the carriers USS Lexington and USS Yorktown, was assembled to stop the Japanese advance. For the next two days, the American and Japanese carrier forces tried unsuccessfully to locate each other. On 7 May, the Japanese carriers launched a full strike on a contact reported to be enemy carriers, but the report turned out to be false. The strike force found and struck only an oiler, the Neosho, and the destroyer Sims. [111] The American carriers also launched a strike with incomplete reconnaissance, and instead of finding the main Japanese carrier force, they only located and sank Shōhō. On 8 May, the opposing carrier forces finally found each other and exchanged air strikes. The 69 aircraft from the two Japanese carriers succeeded in sinking the carrier Lexington and damaging Yorktown. In return the Americans damaged Shōkaku. Although Zuikaku was left undamaged, aircraft and personnel losses to Zuikaku were heavy and the Japanese were unable to support a landing on Port Moresby. As a result, the MO Operation was cancelled, [112] and the Japanese were subsequently forced to abandon their attempts to isolate Australia. [113] Although they managed to sink a carrier, the battle was a disaster for the Japanese. Not only was the attack on Port Moresby halted, which constituted the first strategic Japanese setback of the war, but all three carriers that were committed to the battle would now be unavailable for the operation against Midway. [112] The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval battle fought in which the ships involved never sighted each other, with attacks solely by aircraft.

After Coral Sea, the Japanese had four fleet carriers operational—Sōryū, Kaga, Akagi and Hiryū—and believed that the Americans had a maximum of two—Enterprise and Hornet. Saratoga was out of action, undergoing repair after a torpedo attack, while Yorktown had been damaged at Coral Sea and was believed by Japanese naval intelligence to have been sunk. She would, in fact, sortie for Midway after just three days of repairs to her flight deck, with civilian work crews still aboard, in time to be present for the next decisive engagement.

Midway Edit

Admiral Yamamoto viewed the operation against Midway as the potentially decisive battle of the war which could lead to the destruction of American strategic power in the Pacific, [114] and subsequently open the door for a negotiated peace settlement with the United States, favorable to Japan. [112] For the operation, the Japanese had only four carriers Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū and Hiryū. Through strategic and tactical surprise, the Japanese would knock out Midway's air strength and soften it for a landing by 5,000 troops. [112] After the quick capture of the island, the Combined Fleet would lay the basis for the most important part of the operation. Yamamoto hoped that the attack would lure the Americans into a trap. [115] Midway was to be bait for the USN which would depart Pearl Harbor to counterattack after Midway had been captured. When the Americans arrived, he would concentrate his scattered forces to defeat them. An important aspect of the scheme was Operation AL, which was the plan to seize two islands in the Aleutians, concurrently with the attack on Midway. [112] Contradictory to persistent myth, the Aleutian operation was not a diversion to draw American forces from Midway, as the Japanese wanted the Americans to be drawn to Midway, rather than away from it. [116] However, in May, U.S. intelligence codebreakers discovered the planned attack on Midway. Yamamoto's complex plan had no provision for intervention by the American fleet before the Japanese had expected them. Planned surveillance of the American fleet in Pearl Harbor by long-ranged seaplanes did not occur as a result of an abortive identical operation in March. Japanese submarine scouting lines that were supposed to be in place along the Hawaiian Islands were not completed on time, consequently the Japanese were unable to detect the American carriers. In one search area Japanese submarines had arrived on station only a matter of hours ahead of Task Force 17, containing Yorktown, which had passed through just before midnight on 31 May. [117]

The battle began on 3 June, when American aircraft from Midway spotted and attacked the Japanese transport group 700 miles (1,100 km) west of the atoll. [118] On 4 June, the Japanese launched a 108-aircraft strike on the island, the attackers brushing aside Midway's defending fighters but failing to deliver a decisive blow to the island's facilities. [119] Most importantly, the strike aircraft based on Midway had already departed to attack the Japanese carriers, which had been spotted. This information was passed to the three American carriers and a total of 116 carrier aircraft, in addition to those from Midway, were on their way to attack the Japanese. The aircraft from Midway attacked, but failed to score a single hit on the Japanese. In the middle of these uncoordinated attacks, a Japanese scout aircraft reported the presence of an American task force, but it was not until later that the presence of an American carrier was confirmed. [119] Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo was put in a difficult tactical situation in which he had to counter continuous American air attacks and prepare to recover his Midway strike planes, while deciding whether to mount an immediate strike on the American carrier or wait to prepare a proper attack. [120] After quick deliberation, he opted for a delayed but better-prepared attack on the American task force after recovering his Midway strike and properly arming aircraft. [120] However, beginning at 10.22am, American SBD Dauntless dive bombers surprised and successfully attacked three of the Japanese carriers. [120] With their decks laden with fully fueled and armed aircraft, Sōryū, Kaga, and Akagi were turned into blazing wrecks. A single Japanese carrier, Hiryū, remained operational, and launched an immediate counterattack. Both of her attacks hit Yorktown and put her out of action. Later in the afternoon, aircraft from the two remaining American carriers found and destroyed Hiryū. The crippled Yorktown, along with the destroyer Hammann, were both sunk by the Japanese submarine I-168. With the striking power of the Kido Butai having been destroyed, Japan's offensive power was blunted. Early on the morning of 5 June, with the battle lost, the Japanese cancelled the Midway operation and the initiative in the Pacific was in the balance. [121] Parshall and Tully noted that although the Japanese lost four carriers, losses at Midway did not radically degrade the fighting capabilities of the IJN aviation as a whole. [122]

New Guinea and the Solomons Edit

Japanese land forces continued to advance in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. From July 1942, a few Australian reserve battalions, many of them very young and untrained, fought a stubborn rearguard action in New Guinea, against a Japanese advance along the Kokoda Track, towards Port Moresby, over the rugged Owen Stanley Ranges. The militia, worn out and severely depleted by casualties, were relieved in late August by regular troops from the Second Australian Imperial Force, returning from action in the Mediterranean theater. In early September 1942 Japanese marines attacked a strategic Royal Australian Air Force base at Milne Bay, near the eastern tip of New Guinea. They were beaten back by Allied forces (primarily Australian Army infantry battalions and Royal Australian Air Force squadrons, with United States Army engineers and an anti-aircraft battery in support), the first defeat of the war for Japanese forces on land. [123]

On New Guinea, the Japanese on the Kokoda Track were within sight of the lights of Port Moresby but were ordered to retreat to the northeastern coast. Australian and US forces attacked their fortified positions and after more than two months of fighting in the Buna–Gona area finally captured the key Japanese beachhead in early 1943.

Guadalcanal Edit

At the same time as major battles raged in New Guinea, Allied forces became aware of a Japanese airfield under construction at Guadalcanal through coastwatchers. [124] On 7 August 1942, US Marines landed on the islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomons. Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, commander of the newly formed Eighth Fleet at Rabaul, reacted quickly. Gathering five heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and a destroyer, he sailed to engage the Allied force off the coast of Guadalcanal. On the night of 8–9 August, Mikawa's quick response resulted in the Battle of Savo Island, a brilliant Japanese victory during which four Allied heavy cruisers were sunk, [121] while no Japanese ships were lost. It was one of the worst Allied naval defeats of the war. [121] The victory was mitigated only by the failure of the Japanese to attack the vulnerable transports. Had it been done so, the first American counterattack in the Pacific could have been stopped. The Japanese originally perceived the American landings as nothing more than a reconnaissance in force. [125]

With Japanese and Allied forces occupying various parts of the island, over the following six months both sides poured resources into an escalating battle of attrition on land, at sea, and in the sky. US air cover based at Henderson Field ensured American control of the waters around Guadalcanal during day time, while superior night-fighting capabilities of the Imperial Japanese Navy gave the Japanese the upper hand at night. In August, Japanese and US carrier forces engaged in an indecisive clash known as the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, resulting in the sinking of the light carrier Ryujo, and damage to the USS Enterprise (CV-6) . In October, US cruiser and destroyer forces successfully challenged the Japanese in night-time fighting during the Battle of Cape Esperance, sinking one Japanese cruiser and one destroyer for the loss of one destroyer. During the night of 13 October, two Japanese fast battleships Kongo and Haruna bombarded Henderson Field. The airfield was temporarily disabled but quickly returned to service. On 26 October, Japanese carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku sank USS Hornet (CV-8) and heavily damaged Enterprise in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. The loss of Hornet, coupled with the earlier loss of USS Wasp (CV-7) to the IJN submarine I-19 and heavy submarine damage to the USS Saratoga (CV-3) in September, meant that US carrier strength in the region was reduced to a single ship, Enterprise. However, the two IJN carriers had suffered severe losses in aircraft and pilots as well and had to retire to home waters for repair and replenishment. From 12 November to 15 November, Japanese and American surface ships engaged in fierce night actions in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, one of the only two battles in the Pacific War during which battleships fought each other, that saw two US admirals killed in action and two Japanese battleships sunk.

During the campaign, most of the Japanese aircraft based in the South Pacific were redeployed to the defense of Guadalcanal. Many were lost in numerous engagements with the Allied air forces based at Henderson Field as well as carrier-based aircraft. Meanwhile, Japanese ground forces launched repeated attacks on heavily defended US positions around Henderson Field, in which the Japanese suffered appalling casualties. To sustain these offensives, resupply was carried out by Japanese convoys, termed the "Tokyo Express" by the Allies. The convoys often faced night battles with enemy naval forces in which they expended destroyers that the IJN could ill-afford to lose. Fleet battles involving heavier ships and even daytime carrier battles resulted in a stretch of water near Guadalcanal becoming known as "Ironbottom Sound" from the multitude of ships sunk on both sides. However, the Allies were much better able to replace these losses. Finally recognizing that the campaign to recapture Henderson Field and secure Guadalcanal had simply become too costly to continue, the Japanese evacuated the island and withdrew in February 1943. In the six-month war of attrition, the Japanese had lost as a result of failing to commit enough forces in sufficient time. [126]

By late 1942, Japanese headquarters had decided to make Guadalcanal their priority. Contrarily, the Americans, most notably, U.S. Navy admiral John S. McCain Sr., hoped to use their numerical advantage at Guadalcanal to defeat large numbers of Japanese forces there and progressively drain Japanese man-power. Ultimately nearly 20,000 Japanese died on Guadalcanal compared to just over 7,000 Americans.

China 1942–1943 Edit

In mainland China, the Japanese 3rd, 6th, and 40th Divisions, a grand total of around 120,000 troops, massed at Yueyang and advanced southward in three columns, attempting again to cross the Miluo River to reach Changsha. In January 1942, Chinese forces scored a victory at Changsha, the first Allied success against Japan. [127]

After the Doolittle Raid, the Imperial Japanese Army conducted the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign, with the goal of searching out the surviving American airmen, applying retribution on the Chinese who aided them, and destroying air bases. This operation started on 15 May 1942 with 40 infantry and 15–16 artillery battalions, but was repelled by Chinese forces in September. [128] During this campaign, the Imperial Japanese Army left behind a trail of devastation and also engaged in biological warfare, spreading cholera, typhoid, plague and dysentery pathogens. Chinese estimates put the death toll at 250,000 civilians. Around 1,700 Japanese troops died, out of a total 10,000 who fell ill when Japanese biological weapons infected their own forces. [129] [130] [131]

On 2 November 1943, Isamu Yokoyama, commander of the Imperial Japanese 11th Army, deployed the 39th, 58th, 13th, 3rd, 116th and 68th Divisions, a total of around 100,000 troops, to attack Changde. [132] During the seven-week Battle of Changde, the Chinese forced Japan to fight a costly campaign of attrition. Although the Imperial Japanese Army initially successfully captured the city, the Chinese 57th Division was able to pin them down long enough for reinforcements to arrive and encircle the Japanese. The Chinese then cut Japanese supply lines, provoking a retreat and Chinese pursuit. [132] [133] During the battle, Japan used chemical weapons. [134]

Burma 1942–1943 Edit

In the aftermath of the Japanese conquest of Burma, there was widespread disorder and pro-Independence agitation in eastern India and a disastrous famine in Bengal, which ultimately caused up to 3 million deaths. In spite of these, and inadequate lines of communication, British and Indian forces attempted limited counter-attacks in Burma in early 1943. An offensive in Arakan failed, ignominiously in the view of some senior officers, [135] while a long distance raid mounted by the Chindits under Brigadier Orde Wingate suffered heavy losses, but was publicized to bolster Allied morale. It also provoked the Japanese to mount major offensives themselves the following year.

In August 1943 the Allies formed a new South East Asia Command (SEAC) to take over strategic responsibilities for Burma and India from the British India Command, under Wavell. In October 1943 Winston Churchill appointed Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as its Supreme Commander. The British and Indian Fourteenth Army was formed to face the Japanese in Burma. Under Lieutenant General William Slim, its training, morale and health greatly improved. The American General Joseph Stilwell, who also was deputy commander to Mountbatten and commanded US forces in the China Burma India Theater, directed aid to China and prepared to construct the Ledo Road to link India and China by land. In 1943, the Thai Phayap Army invasion headed to Xishuangbanna at China, but were driven back by the Chinese Expeditionary Force.

Midway proved to be the last great naval battle for two years. The United States used the ensuing period to turn its vast industrial potential into increased numbers of ships, planes, and trained aircrew. [136] At the same time, Japan, lacking an adequate industrial base or technological strategy, a good aircrew training program, or adequate naval resources and commerce defense, fell further and further behind. In strategic terms the Allies began a long movement across the Pacific, seizing one island base after another. Not every Japanese stronghold had to be captured some, like Truk, Rabaul, and Formosa, were neutralized by air attack and bypassed. The goal was to get close to Japan itself, then launch massive strategic air attacks, improve the submarine blockade, and finally (only if necessary) execute an invasion.

The US Navy did not seek out the Japanese fleet for a decisive battle, as Mahanian doctrine would suggest (and as Japan hoped) the Allied advance could only be stopped by a Japanese naval attack, which oil shortages (induced by submarine attack) made impossible. [78] [99]

Allied offensives on New Guinea and up the Solomons Edit

In the South Western Pacific the Allies now seized the strategic initiative for the first time during the War and in June 1943, launched Operation Cartwheel, a series of amphibious invasions to recapture the Solomon Islands and New Guinea and ultimately isolate the major Japanese forward base at Rabaul. Following the Japanese Invasion of Salamaua–Lae in March, 1943, Cartwheel began with the Salamaua–Lae campaign in Northern New Guinea in April, 1943, which was followed in June to October by the New Georgia campaign, in which the Allies used the Landings on Rendova, Drive on Munda Point and Battle of Munda Point to secure a secretly constructed Japanese airfield at Munda and the rest of New Georgia Islands group. Landings from September until December secured the Treasury Islands and landed Allied troops on Choiseul, Bougainville and Cape Gloucester.

These landings prepared the way for Nimitz's island-hopping campaign towards Japan.

Invasion of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands Edit

In November 1943 US Marines sustained high casualties when they overwhelmed the 4,500-strong garrison at Tarawa. This helped the Allies to improve the techniques of amphibious landings, learning from their mistakes and implementing changes such as thorough pre-emptive bombings and bombardment, more careful planning regarding tides and landing craft schedules, and better overall coordination. Operations on the Gilberts were followed in late-January and mid-February 1944 by further, less costly, landings on the Marshall Islands.

Cairo Conference Edit

On 22 November 1943 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and ROC Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, met in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss a strategy to defeat Japan. The meeting was also known as the Cairo Conference and concluded with the Cairo Declaration.

Submarine warfare Edit

US submarines, as well as some British and Dutch vessels, operating from bases at Cavite in the Philippines (1941–42) Fremantle and Brisbane, Australia Pearl Harbor Trincomalee, Ceylon Midway and later Guam, played a major role in defeating Japan, even though submarines made up a small proportion of the Allied navies—less than two percent in the case of the US Navy. [99] [137] Submarines strangled Japan by sinking its merchant fleet, intercepting many troop transports, and cutting off nearly all the oil imports essential to weapons production and military operations. By early 1945, Japanese oil supplies were so limited that its fleet was virtually stranded.

The Japanese military claimed its defenses sank 468 Allied submarines during the war. [138] In reality, only 42 American submarines were sunk in the Pacific due to hostile action, with 10 others lost in accidents or as the result of friendly fire. [139] The Dutch lost five submarines due to Japanese attack or minefields, [140] and the British lost three.

American submarines accounted for 56% of the Japanese merchantmen sunk mines or aircraft destroyed most of the rest. [139] American submariners also claimed 28% of Japanese warships destroyed. [141] Furthermore, they played important reconnaissance roles, as at the battles of the Philippine Sea (June 1944) and Leyte Gulf (October 1944) (and, coincidentally, [ clarification needed ] at Midway in June 1942), when they gave accurate and timely warning of the approach of the Japanese fleet. Submarines also rescued hundreds of downed fliers, including future US president George H. W. Bush.

Allied submarines did not adopt a defensive posture and wait for the enemy to attack. Within hours of the Pearl Harbor attack, in retribution against Japan, Roosevelt promulgated a new doctrine: unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan. This meant sinking any warship, commercial vessel, or passenger ship in Axis-controlled waters, without warning and without aiding survivors. [j] At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, the Dutch admiral in charge of the naval defense of the East Indies, Conrad Helfrich, gave instructions to wage war aggressively. His small force of submarines sank more Japanese ships in the first weeks of the war than the entire British and US navies together, an exploit which earned him the nickname "Ship-a-day Helfrich". [142]

While Japan had a large number of submarines, they did not make a significant impact on the war. In 1942, the Japanese fleet submarines performed well, knocking out or damaging many Allied warships. However, Imperial Japanese Navy (and pre-war US) doctrine stipulated that only fleet battles, not guerre de course (commerce raiding) could win naval campaigns. So, while the US had an unusually long supply line between its west coast and frontline areas, leaving it vulnerable to submarine attack, Japan used its submarines primarily for long-range reconnaissance and only occasionally attacked US supply lines. The Japanese submarine offensive against Australia in 1942 and 1943 also achieved little. [143]

As the war turned against Japan, IJN submarines increasingly served to resupply strongholds which had been cut off, such as Truk and Rabaul. In addition, Japan honored its neutrality treaty with the Soviet Union and ignored American freighters shipping millions of tons of military supplies from San Francisco to Vladivostok, [144] much to the consternation of its German ally.

The US Navy, by contrast, relied on commerce raiding from the outset. However, the problem of Allied forces surrounded in the Philippines, during the early part of 1942, led to diversion of boats to "guerrilla submarine" missions. Basing in Australia placed boats under Japanese aerial threat while en route to patrol areas, reducing their effectiveness, and Nimitz relied on submarines for close surveillance of enemy bases. Furthermore, the standard-issue Mark 14 torpedo and its Mark VI exploder both proved defective, problems which were not corrected until September 1943. Worst of all, before the war, an uninformed US Customs officer had seized a copy of the Japanese merchant marine code (called the "maru code" in the USN), not knowing that the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) had broken it. [145] The Japanese promptly changed it, and the new code was not broken again by OP-20-G until 1943.

Thus, only in 1944 did the US Navy begin to use its 150 submarines to maximum effect: installing effective shipboard radar, replacing commanders deemed lacking in aggression, and fixing the faults in the torpedoes. Japanese commerce protection was "shiftless beyond description," [k] and convoys were poorly organized and defended compared to Allied ones, a product of flawed IJN doctrine and training – errors concealed by American faults as much as Japanese overconfidence. The number of American submarines patrols (and sinkings) rose steeply: 350 patrols (180 ships sunk) in 1942, 350 (335) in 1943, and 520 (603) in 1944. [147] By 1945, sinkings of Japanese vessels had decreased because so few targets dared to venture out on the high seas. In all, Allied submarines destroyed 1,200 merchant ships – about five million tons of shipping. Most were small cargo carriers, but 124 were tankers bringing desperately needed oil from the East Indies. Another 320 were passenger ships and troop transports. At critical stages of the Guadalcanal, Saipan, and Leyte campaigns, thousands of Japanese troops were killed or diverted from where they were needed. Over 200 warships were sunk, ranging from many auxiliaries and destroyers to one battleship and no fewer than eight carriers.

Underwater warfare was especially dangerous of the 16,000 Americans who went out on patrol, 3,500 (22%) never returned, the highest casualty rate of any American force in World War II. [148] The Joint Army–Navy Assessment Committee assessed US submarine credits. [149] [150] [ full citation needed ] The Japanese losses, 130 submarines in all, [151] were higher. [152]

In mid-1944 Japan mobilized over 500,000 men [153] and launched a massive operation across China under the code name Operation Ichi-Go, their largest offensive of World War II, with the goal of connecting Japanese-controlled territory in China and French Indochina and capturing airbases in southeastern China where American bombers were based. [154] During this time, about 250,000 newly American-trained Chinese troops under Joseph Stilwell and Chinese expeditionary force were forcibly locked in the Burmese theater by the terms of the Lend-Lease Agreement. [154] Though Japan suffered about 100,000 casualties, [155] these attacks, the biggest in several years, gained much ground for Japan before Chinese forces stopped the incursions in Guangxi. Despite major tactical victories, the operation overall failed to provide Japan with any significant strategic gains. A great majority of the Chinese forces were able to retreat out of the area, and later come back to attack Japanese positions at the Battle of West Hunan. Japan was not any closer to defeating China after this operation, and the constant defeats the Japanese suffered in the Pacific meant that Japan never got the time and resources needed to achieve final victory over China. Operation Ichi-go created a great sense of social confusion in the areas of China that it affected. Chinese Communist guerrillas were able to exploit this confusion to gain influence and control of greater areas of the countryside in the aftermath of Ichi-go. [156]

After the Allied setbacks in 1943, the South East Asia command prepared to launch offensives into Burma on several fronts. In the first months of 1944, the Chinese and American troops of the Northern Combat Area Command (NCAC), commanded by the American Joseph Stilwell, began extending the Ledo Road from India into northern Burma, while the XV Corps began an advance along the coast in Arakan Province. In February 1944 the Japanese mounted a local counter-attack in Arakan. After early Japanese success, this counter-attack was defeated when the Indian divisions of XV Corps stood firm, relying on aircraft to drop supplies to isolated forward units until reserve divisions could relieve them.

The Japanese responded to the Allied attacks by launching an offensive of their own into India in the middle of March, across the mountainous and densely forested frontier. This attack, codenamed Operation U-Go, was advocated by Lieutenant General Renya Mutaguchi, the recently promoted commander of the Japanese Fifteenth Army Imperial General Headquarters permitted it to proceed, despite misgivings at several intervening headquarters. Although several units of the British Fourteenth Army had to fight their way out of encirclement, by early April they had concentrated around Imphal in Manipur state. A Japanese division which had advanced to Kohima in Nagaland cut the main road to Imphal, but failed to capture the whole of the defences at Kohima. During April, the Japanese attacks against Imphal failed, while fresh Allied formations drove the Japanese from the positions they had captured at Kohima.

As many Japanese had feared, Japan's supply arrangements could not maintain her forces. Once Mutaguchi's hopes for an early victory were thwarted, his troops, particularly those at Kohima, starved. During May, while Mutaguchi continued to order attacks, the Allies advanced southwards from Kohima and northwards from Imphal. The two Allied attacks met on 22 June, breaking the Japanese siege of Imphal. The Japanese finally broke off the operation on 3 July. They had lost over 50,000 troops, mainly to starvation and disease. This represented the worst defeat suffered by the Imperial Japanese Army to that date. [157]

Although the advance in Arakan had been halted to release troops and aircraft for the Battle of Imphal, the Americans and Chinese had continued to advance in northern Burma, aided by the Chindits operating against the Japanese lines of communication. In the middle of 1944 the Chinese Expeditionary Force invaded northern Burma from Yunnan. They captured a fortified position at Mount Song. [158] By the time campaigning ceased during the monsoon rains, the NCAC had secured a vital airfield at Myitkyina (August 1944), which eased the problems of air resupply from India to China over "The Hump".

In May 1943, the Japanese prepared Operation Z or the Z Plan, which envisioned the use of Japanese naval power to counter American forces threatening the outer defense perimeter line. This line extended from the Aleutians down through Wake, the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, Nauru, the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, then westward past Java and Sumatra to Burma. [159] In 1943–44, Allied forces in the Solomons began driving relentlessly to Rabaul, eventually encircling and neutralizing the stronghold. With their position in the Solomons disintegrating, the Japanese modified the Z Plan by eliminating the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and the Bismarck Archipelago as vital areas to be defended. They then based their possible actions on the defense of an inner perimeter, which included the Marianas, Palau, Western New Guinea, and the Dutch East Indies. Meanwhile, in the Central Pacific the Americans initiated a major offensive, beginning in November 1943 with landings in the Gilbert Islands. [160] The Japanese were forced to watch helplessly as their garrisons in the Gilberts and then the Marshalls were crushed. [160] The strategy of holding overextended island garrisons was fully exposed. [161]

In February 1944, the US Navy's fast carrier task force, during Operation Hailstone, attacked the major naval base of Truk. Although the Japanese had moved their major vessels out in time to avoid being caught at anchor in the atoll, two days of air attacks resulted in significant losses to Japanese aircraft and merchant shipping. [161] The Japanese were forced to abandon Truk and were now unable to counter the Americans on any front on the perimeter. Consequently, the Japanese retained their remaining strength in preparation for what they hoped would be a decisive battle. [161] The Japanese then developed a new plan, known as A-GO. A-GO envisioned a decisive fleet action that would be fought somewhere from the Palaus to the Western Carolines. [162] It was in this area that the newly formed Mobile Fleet along with large numbers of land-based aircraft, would be concentrated. If the Americans attacked the Marianas, they would be attacked by land-based planes in the vicinity. Then the Americans would be lured into the areas where the Mobile Fleet could defeat them. [162]

Marianas and Palaus Edit

On 12 March 1944, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed the occupation of the Northern Marianas, specifically the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. A target date was set for 15 June. All forces for the Marianas operation were to be commanded by Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. The forces assigned to his command consisted of 535 warships and auxiliaries together with a ground force of three and a half Marine divisions and one reinforced Army division, a total of more than 127,500 troops. [163] For the Americans, the Marianas operation would provide the following benefits: the interruption of the Japanese air pipeline to the south the development of advanced naval bases for submarine and surface operations the establishment of airfields to base B-29s from which to bomb the Japanese Home Islands the choice among several possible objectives for the next phase of operations, which would keep the Japanese uncertain of American intentions. It was also hoped that this penetration of the Japanese inner defense zone, which was a little more than 1,250 miles (2,010 km) from Tokyo, might force the Japanese fleet out for a decisive engagement. [164] The ability to plan and execute such a complex operation in the space of 90 days was indicative of Allied logistical superiority.

On 15 June, the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions supported by a naval bombardment group totaling eight battleships, eleven cruisers, and twenty-six destroyers landed on Saipan. However, Japanese fire was so effective that the first day's objective was not reached until Day 3. After fanatic Japanese resistance, the Marines captured Aslito airfield in the south on 18 June. US Navy Seabees quickly made the field operational for use for American aircraft. On 22 June, the front of the northward advancing 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions widened to such a degree that General Holland Smith ordered the bulk of the Army's 27th Division to take over the line in the center, between the two US Marine divisions. The 27th Division was late taking its position and was late in making advances so that the inner flanks of the marine divisions became exposed. A giant U was formed with the 27th at the base 1,500 yards (1.4 km) behind the advancing formations. This presented the Japanese with an opportunity to exploit it. On 24 June, General Holland Smith replaced General Ralph C. Smith, the commanding general of the 27th Division, who he believed lacked an aggressive spirit. [165]

Nafutan, Saipan's southern point, was secured on 27 June, after the Japanese troops trapped there expended themselves in a desperate attempt to break through. In the north, Mount Tapotchau, the highest point on the island, was taken on 27 June. The Marines then steadily advanced northward. On the night of 6–7 July, a banzai attack took place in which three to four thousand Japanese made a fanatical charge that penetrated the lines near Tanapag before being wiped out. Following this attack, hundreds of the native population committed mass suicide by throwing themselves off the cliffs onto the rocks below near the northern tip of the island. On 9 July, two days after the banzai attack, organized resistance on Saipan ceased. The US Marines reached northernmost tip of Saipan, Marpi Point, twenty-four days after the landing. Only isolated groups of hidden Japanese troops remained. [166]

A month after the invasion of Saipan, the US recaptured Guam and captured Tinian. Once captured, the islands of Saipan and Tinian were used extensively by the United States military as they finally put mainland Japan within round-trip range of American B-29 bombers. In response, Japanese forces attacked the bases on Saipan and Tinian from November 1944 to January 1945. At the same time and afterwards, the United States Army Air Forces based out of these islands conducted an intense strategic bombing campaign against the Japanese cities of military and industrial importance, including Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe and others.

The invasion of Peleliu in the Palau Islands on 15 September, was notable for a drastic change in Japanese defensive tactics, resulting in the highest casualty rate amongst US forces in an amphibious operation during the Pacific War. [167] Instead of the predicted four days, it took until 27 November to secure the island. The ultimate strategic value of the landings is still contested. [168]

Philippine Sea Edit

When the Americans landed on Saipan in the Marianas the Japanese viewed holding Saipan as an imperative. Consequently, the Japanese responded with their largest carrier force of the war: the nine-carrier Mobile Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa, supplemented by an additional 500 land-based aircraft. Facing them was the US Fifth Fleet under the command of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, which contained 15 fleet carriers and 956 aircraft. The clash was the largest carrier battle in history. The battle did not turn out as the Japanese had hoped. During the previous month, US destroyers had destroyed 17 out of 25 submarines in Ozawa's screening force [169] [170] and repeated American air raids destroyed the Japanese land-based aircraft.

On 19 June, a series of Japanese carrier air strikes were shattered by strong American defenses. The result was later dubbed the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. All US carriers had combat-information centers, which interpreted the flow of radar data and radioed interception orders to the combat air patrols. The few Japanese attackers that managed to reach the US fleet in a staggered sequence encountered massive anti-aircraft fire with proximity fuzes. Only one American warship was slightly damaged. On the same day, Shōkaku was hit by four torpedoes from the submarine Cavalla and sank with heavy loss of life. The Taihō was also sunk by a single torpedo, from the submarine Albacore. The next day, the Japanese carrier force was subjected to an American carrier air attack and suffered the loss of the carrier Hiyō. [161] The four Japanese air strikes involved 373 carrier aircraft, of which 130 returned to the carriers. [171] Many of these survivors were subsequently lost when Taihō and Shōkaku were sunk by American submarine attacks. After the second day of the battle, losses totaled three carriers and 445 aircrew with more than 433 carrier aircraft and around 200 land-based aircraft. The Americans lost 130 aircraft and 76 aircrew, many losses due to aircraft running out of fuel returning to their carriers at night.

Although the defeat at the Philippine Sea was severe in terms of the loss of the three fleet carriers Taihō, Shōkaku and the Hiyō, the real disaster was the annihilation of the carrier air groups. [172] These losses to the already outnumbered Japanese fleet air arm were irreplaceable. The Japanese had spent the better part of a year reconstituting their carrier air groups, and the Americans had destroyed 90% of it in two days. The Japanese had only enough pilots left to form the air group for one of their light carriers. The Mobile Fleet returned home with only 35 aircraft of the 430 with which it had begun the battle. [161] The battle ended in a total Japanese defeat and resulted in the virtual end of their carrier force. [173]

Leyte Gulf, 1944 Edit

The disaster at the Philippine Sea left the Japanese with two choices: either to commit their remaining strength in an all-out offensive or to sit by while the Americans occupied the Philippines and cut the sea lanes between Japan and the vital resources from the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. Thus the Japanese devised a plan which represented a final attempt to force a decisive battle by utilizing their last remaining strength – the firepower of its heavy cruisers and battleships – against the American beachhead at Leyte. The Japanese planned to use their remaining carriers as bait in order to lure the American carriers away from Leyte Gulf long enough for the heavy warships to enter and to destroy any American ships present. [174]

The Japanese assembled a force totaling four carriers, nine battleships, 14 heavy cruisers, seven light cruisers, and 35 destroyers. [174] They split into three forces. The "Center Force", under the command of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita, consisted of five battleships (including the Yamato and Musashi), 12 cruisers and 13 destroyers the "Northern Force", under the command of Jisaburō Ozawa, comprised four carriers, two battleships partly converted to carriers, three light cruisers and nine destroyers the "Southern Force" contained two groups, one under the command of Shōji Nishimura consisting of two Fusō-class battleships, one heavy cruiser and four destroyers, the other under Kiyohide Shima comprised two heavy cruisers, a light cruiser and four destroyers. The main Center Force would pass through the San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea, turn southwards, and then attack the landing area. The two separate groups of the Southern Force would join up and strike at the landing area through the Surigao Strait, while the Northern Force with the Japanese carriers would lure the main American covering forces away from Leyte. The carriers embarked a total of just 108 aircraft. [174]

However, after Center Force departed from Brunei Bay on 23 October, two American submarines attacked it, resulting in the loss of two heavy cruisers with another crippled. After entering the Sibuyan Sea on 24 October, Center Force was assaulted by American carrier aircraft throughout the whole day, forcing another heavy cruiser to retire. The Americans then targeted the Musashi and sank it under a barrage of torpedo and bomb hits. Many other ships of Center Force were attacked, but continued on. [174] Convinced that their attacks had made Center Force ineffective, the American carriers headed north to address the newly detected threat of the Japanese carriers of Ozawa's Northern Force. On the night of 24–25 October, the Southern Force under Nishimura attempted to enter Leyte Gulf from the south through Surigao Strait, where an American-Australian force led by Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf and consisting of six battleships, eight cruisers, and 26 destroyers, ambushed the Japanese. [175] Utilizing radar-guided torpedo attacks, American destroyers sank one of the battleships and three destroyers while damaging the other battleship. Radar-guided naval gunfire then finished off the second battleship, with only a single Japanese destroyer surviving. As a result of observing radio silence, Shima's group was unable to coordinate and synchronize its movements with Nishimura's group and subsequently arrived at Surigao Strait in the middle of the encounter after making a haphazard torpedo attack, Shima retreated. [175]

Off Cape Engaño, 500 miles (800 km) north of Leyte Gulf, the Americans launched over 500 aircraft sorties at the Northern Force, followed up by a surface group of cruisers and destroyers. All four Japanese carriers were sunk, but this part of the Japanese plan had succeeded in drawing the American carriers away from Leyte Gulf. [175] On 25 October the final major surface action fought between the Japanese and the American fleets during the war occurred off Samar, when Center Force fell upon a group of American escort carriers escorted only by destroyers and destroyer escorts. Both sides were surprised, but the outcome looked certain since the Japanese had four battleships, six heavy cruisers, and two light cruisers leading two destroyer squadrons. However, they did not press home their advantage, and were content to conduct a largely indecisive gunnery duel before breaking off. Japanese losses were extremely heavy, with four carriers, three battleships, six heavy cruisers, four light cruisers and eleven destroyers sunk, [176] while the Americans lost one light carrier and two escort carriers, a destroyer and two destroyer escorts. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, arguably the largest naval battle in history, was the largest naval battle of World War II. For the Japanese the defeat at Leyte Gulf was catastrophic, the Imperial Japanese Navy had suffered its greatest ever loss of ships and men in combat. [177] The inevitable liberation of the Philippines also meant that the home islands would be virtually cut off from the vital resources from Japan's occupied territories in Southeast Asia. [177]

Philippines, 1944–45 Edit

On 20 October 1944 the US Sixth Army, supported by naval and air bombardment, landed on the favorable eastern shore of Leyte, north of Mindanao. The US Sixth Army continued its advance from the east, while the Japanese rushed reinforcements to the Ormoc Bay area on the western side of the island. The US reinforced the Sixth Army successfully, but the US Fifth Air Force devastated Japanese attempts to resupply. In torrential rains and over difficult terrain, the US advance continued across Leyte and the neighboring island of Samar to the north. On 7 December US Army units landed at Ormoc Bay and, after a major land and air battle, cut off the Japanese ability to reinforce and supply Leyte. Although fierce fighting continued on Leyte for months, the US Army was in control.

On 15 December 1944 landings against minimal resistance took place on the southern beaches of the island of Mindoro, a key location in the planned Lingayen Gulf operations, in support of major landings scheduled on Luzon. On 9 January 1945 General Krueger's Sixth Army landed its first units on the south shore of Lingayen Gulf on the western coast of Luzon. Almost 175,000 men followed across the twenty-mile (32 km) beachhead within a few days. With heavy air support, Army units pushed inland, taking Clark Field, 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Manila, in the last week of January.

Two more major landings followed, one to cut off the Bataan Peninsula, and another, that included a parachute drop, south of Manila. Pincers closed on the city, and on 3 February 1945 elements of the 1st Cavalry Division pushed into the northern outskirts of Manila and the 8th Cavalry passed through the northern suburbs and into the city itself.

As the advance on Manila continued from the north and the south, the Bataan Peninsula was rapidly secured. [ by whom? ] On 16 February paratroopers and amphibious units assaulted the island fortress of Corregidor, and resistance ended there on 27 February.

In all, ten US divisions and five independent regiments battled on Luzon, making it the largest campaign of the Pacific War, involving more troops than the United States had used in North Africa, Italy, or southern France. Forces included the Mexican Escuadrón 201 fighter-squadron as part of the Fuerza Aérea Expedicionaria Mexicana (FAEM—"Mexican Expeditionary Air Force"), with the squadron attached to the 58th Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Forces that flew tactical support missions. [178] Of the 250,000 Japanese troops defending Luzon, 80 percent died. [179] The last remaining Japanese soldier in the Philippines, Hiroo Onoda, surrendered on 9 March 1974. [180]

The Eighth Army invaded Palawan Island, between Borneo and Mindoro (the fifth-largest and westernmost Philippine island) on 28 February 1945, with landings at Puerto Princesa. The Japanese put up little direct defense of Palawan, but cleaning up pockets of Japanese resistance lasted until late April, as the Japanese used their common tactic of withdrawing into the mountain jungles, dispersed as small units. Throughout the Philippines, Filipino guerrillas aided US forces to find and dispatch the holdouts.

The US Eighth Army then moved on to its first landing on Mindanao (17 April), the last of the major Philippine Islands to be taken. Then followed the invasion and occupation of Panay, Cebu, Negros and several islands in the Sulu Archipelago. These islands provided bases for the US Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces to attack targets throughout the Philippines and the South China Sea.

Allied offensives in Burma, 1944–45 Edit

In late 1944 and early 1945, the Allied South East Asia Command launched offensives into Burma, intending to recover most of the country, including Rangoon, the capital, before the onset of the monsoon in May. The offensives were fought primarily by British Commonwealth, Chinese and United States forces against the forces of Imperial Japan, who were assisted to some degree by Thailand, the Burma National Army and the Indian National Army. The British Commonwealth land forces were drawn primarily from the United Kingdom, British India and Africa.

The Indian XV Corps advanced along the coast in Arakan Province, at last capturing Akyab Island after failures in the two previous years. They then landed troops behind the retreating Japanese, inflicting heavy casualties, and captured Ramree Island and Cheduba Island off the coast, establishing airfields on them which were used to support the offensive into Central Burma.

The Chinese Expeditionary Force captured Mong-Yu and Lashio, [181] while the Chinese and American Northern Combat Area Command resumed its advance in northern Burma. In late January 1945, these two forces linked up with each other at Hsipaw. The Ledo Road was completed, linking India and China, but too late in the war to have any significant effect.

The Japanese Burma Area Army attempted to forestall the main Allied attack on the central part of the front by withdrawing their troops behind the Irrawaddy River. Lieutenant General Heitarō Kimura, the new Japanese commander in Burma, hoped that the Allies' lines of communications would be overstretched trying to cross this obstacle. However, the advancing British Fourteenth Army under Lieutenant General William Slim switched its axis of advance to outflank the main Japanese armies.

During February, the Fourteenth Army secured bridgeheads across the Irrawaddy on a broad front. On 1 March, units of IV Corps captured the supply centre of Meiktila, throwing the Japanese into disarray. While the Japanese attempted to recapture Meiktila, XXXIII Corps captured Mandalay. The Japanese armies were heavily defeated, and with the capture of Mandalay, the Burmese population and the Burma National Army (which the Japanese had raised) turned against the Japanese.

During April, Fourteenth Army advanced 300 miles (480 km) south towards Rangoon, the capital and principal port of Burma, but was delayed by Japanese rearguards 40 miles (64 km) north of Rangoon at the end of the month. Slim feared that the Japanese would defend Rangoon house-to-house during the monsoon, which would commit his army to prolonged action with disastrously inadequate supplies, and in March he had asked that a plan to capture Rangoon by an amphibious force, Operation Dracula, which had been abandoned earlier, be reinstated. [182] Dracula was launched on 1 May, to find that the Japanese had already evacuated Rangoon. The troops that occupied Rangoon linked up with Fourteenth Army five days later, securing the Allies' lines of communication.

The Japanese forces which had been bypassed by the Allied advances attempted to break out across the Sittaung River during June and July to rejoin the Burma Area Army which had regrouped in Tenasserim in southern Burma. They suffered 14,000 casualties, half their strength. Overall, the Japanese lost some 150,000 men in Burma. Only 1,700 Japanese soldiers surrendered and were taken prisoner. [183]

The Allies were preparing to make amphibious landings in Malaya when word of the Japanese surrender arrived.

Iwo Jima Edit

Although the Marianas were secure and American bases firmly established, the long 1,200 miles (1,900 km) range from the Marianas meant that B-29 aircrews on bombing missions over Japan found themselves ditching in the sea if they suffered severe damage and were unable to return home. Attention focused on the island of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, about halfway between the Marianas and Japan. American planners recognized the strategic importance of the island, which was only 5 miles (8.0 km) long, 8 square miles (21 km 2 ) in area and had no native population. The island was used by the Japanese as an early-warning station against impending air raids on Japanese cities, [184] additionally, Japanese aircraft based on Iwo Jima were able to attack the B-29s on their bombing missions on route to their missions and on the returning leg home, and even to attack installations in the Marianas themselves. [184] The capture of Iwo Jima would provide emergency landing airfields to repair and refuel crippled B-29s in trouble on their way home and a base for P-51 fighters escorts for the B-29s. [185] Iwo Jima could also provide a base from which land-based air support could protect the US Naval fleets as they moved into Japanese waters along the arc descending from Tokyo through the Ryukyu Islands. [186]

However, the Japanese had also come to realize the strategic value of Iwo Jima and Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi was assigned command of the island in May 1944. In the months following, the Japanese began work constructing elaborate defenses, making the best possible use of the island's natural caves and the uneven, rocky terrain. The island was transformed into a massive network of bunkers, hidden guns, with underground passageways leading from one strong point to another. Natural caves were enlarged, and many new ones were blasted out. A total of 11 miles (18 km)s of tunnels were constructed. [187] The Japanese also went to great lengths to construct large underground chambers, some as much as five stories deep to serve as storage and hospital areas with thick walls and ceilings made of reinforced concrete. [187] The main underground command post had a concrete roof 10 feet (3.0 m) thick. Pillboxes, bunkers and other defensive works were built close to the ground. A series of strong points covering the landing areas were also built, most were covered with sand and then carefully camouflaged. The many well-camouflaged 120mm and 6-inch guns were emplaced so that their fire could be directed to the beaches. The pillboxes and bunkers were all connected so that if one was knocked out, it could be reoccupied again. Smaller-caliber artillery, antiaircraft guns, and mortars were also well hidden and located where only a direct hit could destroy them. [188] The Japanese were determined to make the Americans pay a high price for Iwo Jima and were prepared to defend it to the death. Kuribayashi knew that he could not win the battle but hoped to inflict severe casualties so costly that it would slow the American advance on Japan and maybe give the Japanese some bargaining power. [187] In February, a total of 21,000 Japanese troops were deployed on Iwo Jima. [187]

The American operation ("Operation Detachment") to capture the island involved three Marine divisions of the V Amphibious Corps, a total of 70,647 troops, [189] under the command of Holland Smith. From mid-June 1944, Iwo Jima came under American air and naval bombardment, this continued until the days leading up to the invasion. [188]

An intense naval and air bombardment preceded the landing but did little but drive the Japanese further underground, making their positions impervious to enemy fire. The hidden guns and defenses survived the constant bombardment virtually unscathed. On the morning of 19 February 1945, 30,000 men of 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions under the command of Maj. General Harry Schmidt landed on the southeast coast of the island near Mt. Suribachi, an inactive volcano, where most of the island's defenses were concentrated. The Japanese held fire until the landing beaches were full. As soon as the Marines pushed inland they came under devastating machine gun and artillery fire. Although they managed to gain a foothold on the beaches, the defenders made them pay a high price for every advance inland. By the end of the day, the Marines reached the west coast of the island, but their losses were severe almost 2,000 men killed or wounded. On 23 February, the 28th Marine Regiment reached the summit of Mt. Suribachi, prompting the now famous Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photograph. Navy Secretary James Forrestal, upon seeing the flag, remarked "there will be a Marine Corps for the next 500 years". The flag raising is often cited as the most reproduced photograph of all time and became the archetypal representation not only of that battle, but of the entire Pacific War. For the rest of February, the Americans pushed north, and by 1 March, had taken two-thirds of the island. But it was not until 26 March that the island was finally secured. Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles fought by the Americans during the Pacific War the Japanese fought to the last man.

American casualties were 6,821 killed and 19,207 wounded. [190] The Japanese losses totaled well over 20,000 men killed, with only 1,083 prisoners were taken. [190] Historians debate whether it was strategically worth the casualties sustained. [191]

Okinawa Edit

The largest and bloodiest battle fought by the Americans against the Japanese came at Okinawa. The seizure of islands in the Ryukyus was to have been the last step before the actual invasion of the Japanese home islands. Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands, was located some 340 miles (550 km) from the island of Kyushu. [192] The capture of Okinawa would provide airbases for B-29 bombers to intensify aerial bombardment of Japan and for direct land-based air support of the invasion of Kyushu. The islands could also open the way for tightening the blockade of Japanese shipping and be used as a staging area and supply base for any invasion of the home islands. [193]

The Japanese troops defending Okinawa, under the command of Lieutenant General Ushijima Mitsuru, totaled some 75,000-100,000, augmented by thousands of civilians on the heavily populated island. American forces for the operation totaled 183,000 troops in seven divisions (four US Army and three Marine) under the Tenth Army. [194] The British Pacific Fleet operated as a separate unit from the American task forces in the Okinawa operation. Its objective was to strike airfields on the chain of islands between Formosa and Okinawa, to prevent the Japanese reinforcing the defenses of Okinawa from that direction.

After an intense seven day bombardment the main landings on Okinawa took place on 1 April, on the Hagushi beaches near the central part of the island's west coast. [195] However, there was little opposition at the beaches as the Japanese had decided to meet the Americans farther inland out of range of naval gunfire. About 60,000 American troops landed on the first day, seizing the two nearby airfields and pushing across the narrow waist of the island to cut it in two.

The first major Japanese counterattack occurred on 6 and 7 April, in the form of attacks by kamikaze aircraft and a naval operation, called Ten-Go. A force, under the command of Admiral Seiichi Itō, consisting of the battleship Yamato, the light cruiser Yahagi and eight destroyers was assembled. This force was to be used as bait to draw away as many American carrier aircraft from Okinawa as possible, in order to leave Allied naval forces vulnerable to large scale Kamikaze attacks. The Japanese were short of fuel, consequently the Yamato had only enough to reach Okinawa. Off Okinawa it was planned to beach the battleship and use her 18.1 inches (46 cm) guns to support the fighting on the island. [196] After being sighted by an American submarine and reconnaissance aircraft, naval attack aircraft were sent to attack the Japanese force resulting in the sinking of the Yamato, Yahagi and four of the destroyers. [197] Mass Kamikaze attacks intensified during the following three months, with a total of 5,500 sorties being flown by the Japanese. [198]

In the northern part of Okinawa American troops only met light opposition, and the area was seized within about two weeks. However, the main Japanese defenses were in the southern part of the island. There was bitter fighting against well-entrenched Japanese troops, but US forces slowly made progress. The seizure of Shuri castle on 29 May, the center of Japanese resistance, represented both a strategic and psychological blow. [199] Organized resistance was not over until 21 June. [200] But many Japanese went into hiding and the campaign was not declared over until 2 July.

The battle for Okinawa proved costly and lasted much longer than the Americans had originally expected. The Japanese had skillfully utilized terrain to inflict maximum casualties. [201] Total American casualties were 49,451, including 12,520 dead or missing and 36,631 wounded. [202] Japanese casualties were approximately 110,000 killed, and 7,400 were taken prisoner. [202] 94% of the Japanese soldiers died along with many civilians. [203] Kamikaze attacks also sank 36 ships of all types, damaged 368 more and led to the deaths of 4,900 US sailors, for the loss of 7,800 Japanese aircraft. [204]

China, 1945 Edit

By April 1945, China had already been at war with Japan for more than seven years. Both nations were exhausted by years of battles, bombings and blockades. After Japanese victories in Operation Ichi-Go, Japan was losing the battle in Burma and facing constant attacks from Chinese Nationalist forces and Communist guerrillas in the countryside. The Imperial Japanese Army began preparations for the Battle of West Hunan in March 1945. The Japanese mobilized 34th, 47th, 64th, 68th and 116th Divisions, as well as the 86th Independent Brigade, for a total of 80,000 men to seize Chinese airfields and secure railroads in West Hunan by early April. [205] In response, the Chinese National Military Council dispatched the 4th Front Army and the 10th and 27th Army Groups with He Yingqin as commander-in-chief. [206] At the same time, it airlifted the entire Chinese New 6th Corps, an American-equipped corps and veterans of the Burma Expeditionary Force, from Kunming to Zhijiang. [205] Chinese forces totaled 110,000 men in 20 divisions. They were supported by about 400 aircraft from Chinese and American air forces. [207] Chinese forces achieved a decisive victory and launched a large counterattack in this campaign. Concurrently, the Chinese managed to repel a Japanese offensive in Henan and Hubei. [206] Afterwards, Chinese forces retook Hunan and Hubei provinces in South China. Chinese launched a counter offensive to retake Guangxi which was the last major Japanese stronghold in South China. In August 1945, Chinese forces successfully retook Guangxi. [ citation needed ]

Borneo, 1945 Edit

The Borneo campaign of 1945 was the last major campaign in the South West Pacific Area. In a series of amphibious assaults between 1 May and 21 July, the Australian I Corps, under General Leslie Morshead, attacked Japanese forces occupying the island. Allied naval and air forces, centered on the US 7th Fleet under Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, the Australian First Tactical Air Force and the US Thirteenth Air Force also played important roles in the campaign.

The campaign opened with a landing on the small island of Tarakan on 1 May. This was followed on 1 June by simultaneous assaults in the north west, on the island of Labuan and the coast of Brunei. A week later the Australians attacked Japanese positions in North Borneo. The attention of the Allies then switched back to the central east coast, with the last major amphibious assault of World War II, at Balikpapan on 1 July.

Although the campaign was criticized in Australia at the time, and in subsequent years, as pointless or a "waste" of the lives of soldiers, it did achieve a number of objectives, such as increasing the isolation of significant Japanese forces occupying the main part of the Dutch East Indies, capturing major oil supplies and freeing Allied prisoners of war, who were being held in deteriorating conditions. [208] At one of the very worst sites, around Sandakan in Borneo, only six of some 2,500 British and Australian prisoners survived. [183]

Landings in the Japanese home islands (1945) Edit

Hard-fought battles on the Japanese islands of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and others resulted in horrific casualties on both sides but finally produced a Japanese defeat. Of the 117,000 Okinawan and Japanese troops defending Okinawa, 94 percent died. [179] Faced with the loss of most of their experienced pilots, the Japanese increased their use of kamikaze tactics in an attempt to create unacceptably high casualties for the Allies. The US Navy proposed to force a Japanese surrender through a total naval blockade and air raids. [209] Many military historians believe that the Okinawa campaign led directly to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a means of avoiding the planned ground invasion of the Japanese mainland. This view is explained by Victor Davis Hanson: "because the Japanese on Okinawa . were so fierce in their defense (even when cut off, and without supplies), and because casualties were so appalling, many American strategists looked for an alternative means to subdue mainland Japan, other than a direct invasion. This means presented itself, with the advent of atomic bombs, which worked admirably in convincing the Japanese to sue for peace [unconditionally], without American casualties". [210]

Towards the end of the war as the role of strategic bombing became more important, a new command for the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific was created to oversee all US strategic bombing in the hemisphere, under United States Army Air Forces General Curtis LeMay. Japanese industrial production plunged as nearly half of the built-up areas of 67 cities were destroyed by B-29 firebombing raids. On 9–10 March 1945 General Curtis LeMay oversaw Operation Meetinghouse which saw 300 Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers dropped 1,665 tons of bombs, mostly 500-pound E-46 napalm-carrying M-69 incendiary bombs on the Japanese capital. [211] This attack is seen the most destructive bombing raid in history and killed between 80-100,000 people in a single night as well as destroying over 270,000 buildings and leaving over 1 million residents homeless. [211] In the ten days that followed, almost 10,000 bombs were dropped destroying 31% of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe.

LeMay also oversaw Operation Starvation, in which the inland waterways of Japan were extensively mined by air, which disrupted the small amount of remaining Japanese coastal sea traffic. On 26 July 1945, the President of the United States Harry S. Truman, the Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China Chiang Kai-shek and the Prime Minister of Great Britain Winston Churchill issued the Potsdam Declaration, which outlined the terms of surrender for the Empire of Japan as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference. This ultimatum stated that, if Japan did not surrender, it would face "prompt and utter destruction". [212]

Atomic bombs Edit

On 6 August 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in the first nuclear attack in history. In a press release issued after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, President Harry S. Truman warned Japan to surrender or "expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this Earth". [213] Three days later, on 9 August, the US dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, the last nuclear attack in history. More than 140,000–240,000 people died as a direct result of these two bombings. [214] The necessity of the atomic bombings has long been debated, with detractors claiming that a naval blockade and incendiary bombing campaign had already made invasion, hence the atomic bomb, unnecessary. [215] However, other scholars have argued that the atomic bombings shocked the Japanese government into surrender, with the Emperor finally indicating his wish to stop the war. Another argument in favor of the atomic bombs is that they helped avoid Operation Downfall, or a prolonged blockade and conventional bombing campaign, any of which would have exacted much higher casualties among Japanese civilians. [214] Historian Richard B. Frank wrote that a Soviet invasion of Japan was never likely because they had insufficient naval capability to mount an amphibious invasion of Hokkaidō. [216]

Soviet entry Edit

In February 1945 during the Yalta Conference the Soviet Union had agreed to enter the war against Japan 90 days after the surrender of Germany. [217] At the time Soviet participation was seen as crucial to tie down the large number of Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea, keeping them from being transferred to the Home Islands to mount a defense to an invasion. [217]

On 9 August, exactly on schedule, 90 days after the war ended in Europe, the Soviet Union entered the war by invading Manchuria. A battle-hardened, one million-strong Soviet force, transferred from Europe, [218] attacked Japanese forces in Manchuria and landed a heavy blow against the Japanese Kantōgun (Kwantung Army). [219]

The Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation began on 9 August 1945, with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo and was the last campaign of the Second World War and the largest of the 1945 Soviet–Japanese War which resumed hostilities between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Empire of Japan after almost six years of peace. Soviet gains on the continent were Manchukuo, Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia) and northern Korea. The USSR's entry into the war was a significant factor in the Japanese decision to surrender as it became apparent the Soviet Union were no longer willing to act as an intermediary for a negotiated settlement on favorable terms. [220]

In late 1945, the Soviets also launched a series of successful invasions of northern Japanese territories, in preparation for the possible invasion of Hokkaido:

Surrender Edit

The effects of the atomic bombings and the Soviet entry were profound. On 10 August the "sacred decision" was made by Japanese Cabinet to accept the Potsdam terms on one condition: the "prerogative of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler". At noon on 15 August, after the American government's intentionally ambiguous reply, stating that the "authority" of the emperor "shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers", the Emperor broadcast to the nation and to the world at large the rescript of surrender, [221] ending the Second World War.

Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

In Japan, 14 August is considered to be the day that the Pacific War ended. However, as Imperial Japan actually surrendered on 15 August, this day became known in the English-speaking countries as V-J Day (Victory in Japan). [223] The formal Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed on 2 September 1945, on the battleship USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay. The surrender was accepted by General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, with representatives of several Allied nations, from a Japanese delegation led by Mamoru Shigemitsu and Yoshijirō Umezu.

Following this period, MacArthur went to Tokyo to oversee the post-war development of the country. This period in Japanese history is known as the occupation.

Allied Edit

United States Edit

There were some 426,000 American casualties: 161,000 dead (including 111,914 in battle and 49,000 non-battle), 248,316 wounded, and 16,358 captured (not counting POWs who died). [224] [225] Material losses were 188+ warships including 5 battleships, 11 aircraft carriers, 25 cruisers, 84 destroyers and destroyer escorts, and 63 submarines, plus 21,255 aircraft. This gave the USN a 2-1 exchange ratio with the IJN in terms of ships and aircraft. [226] [227]

The US protectorate in the Philippines suffered considerable losses. Military losses were 27,000 dead (including POWs), 75,000 living POWs, and an unknown number wounded, not counting irregulars that fought in the insurgency. [228] Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Filipino civilians died due to either war-related shortages, massacres, shelling, and bombing. [229]

China Edit

According to official Chinese Nationalist statistics, losses to the regular National Revolutionary Army totaled 3,237,000, with 1,320,000 killed, 1,797,000 wounded, and 120,000 missing. The soldiers of the Chinese Communist Party suffered 584,267 casualties, of which 160,603 were killed, 133,197 missing, and 290,467 wounded. This would equate to a total of 3.82 million combined NRA/CCP casualties, of which 1.74 million were killed or missing. Neither total includes the considerable number of irregular guerrilla fighters sworn to regional warlords who fought the Japanese. [230] [231] Including them, an academic study published in the United States estimates Chinese military casualties at 6.75 million with 3.75 million killed or missing. The casualties break down as 1.5 million killed in battle, 750,000 missing in action, 1.5 million deaths due to disease and 3 million wounded. [232]

China suffered enormous civilian losses in the war. Estimates vary wildly, though there is a general consensus that civilian deaths were in the 17 to 22 million range, mostly from war-related causes such as famine. [233] A large number of deaths were caused directly by Japanese war crimes. For instance, 2.7 million Chinese civilians were killed in the "Three Alls" campaign. [234]

Commonwealth Edit

Between the Malayan Campaign (130,000 discounting some 20,000 Australians), [235] Burma Campaign (86,600), [236] [ full citation needed ] Battle of Hong Kong (15,000), [237] and various naval encounters, British Empire forces incurred some 235,000 casualties in the Pacific Theater, including roughly 82,000 killed (50,000 in combat and 32,000 as POWs). [238] The Royal Navy lost 23 warships in the Pacific and Indian oceans: 1 battleship, 1 battlecruiser, 1 aircraft carrier, 3 cruisers, 8 destroyers, 5 submarines, and 4 escorts. [239] There were significant indirect losses to the British Empire territories of India and Burma as a result of the war. These included 3 million deaths in the Bengal famine of 1943 and 0.25 to 1 million deaths in British Burma. [33]

Australia incurred losses of 45,841 not including deaths and illnesses from natural causes such as disease: 17,501 killed (including POW deaths in captivity), 13,997 wounded, and 14,345 living POWs. [240] New Zealand lost 578 men killed, with an unknown number wounded or captured. [241] 6 warships of the Royal Australian Navy totaling 29,391 tons were sunk: 3 cruisers (Canberra, Perth, and Sydney), 2 destroyers (Vampire and Voyager), and 3 corvettes (Armidale, Geelong, and Wallaroo, the latter two in accidents). [239]

Others Edit

Between Lake Khasan, Khalkin Gol, advisors deployed to China, and the 1945 operations in Manchuria and the Kuriles, Soviet casualties against Japan totaled 68,612: 22,731 killed/missing and 45,908 wounded. [242] Material losses included some 1,000 tanks and AFVs, 5 landing ships, and 300 aircraft. [243] [244] [245] [246] Mongolian casualties were 753. [247]

The entire 140,000-strong Royal Dutch East Indies Army was killed, captured, or missing by the conclusion of the East Indies Campaign. 1,500 colonial and 900 Dutch soldiers were killed in action. [248] Most of the colonial soldiers were freed on the spot or deserted. Of the ethnic Dutch troops, 900 were killed in action and 37,000 became prisoners. 8,500 of these POWs would die in Japanese captivity. [249] Dutch naval losses in the Pacific numbered 14 major warships and 14 minor ones totaling some 40,427 tons: 2 cruisers (Java and De Ruyter), 7 destroyers (Evertsen, Kortenaer, Piet Hein, Witte de With, Banckert, Van Nes, and Van Ghent), 5 submarines (K XVIII, K XVII, K XIII, K X, and K VII), 7 minelayers (Prins van Oranje, Pro Patria, Bangkalan, Rigel, Soemenep, Krakatau, and Gouden Leeuw, most of which were scuttled), and 7 minesweepers (A, B, D, C, Pieter de Bitter, Eland Dubois, and Jan van Amstel). [250] About 30,000 Dutch and 300,000 Indonesian forced laborers died during the Japanese occupation of the East Indies, [251] while 3 million Indonesian civilians perished in famines. [252]

Similar to the Dutch, the 65,000-strong French colonial army in French Indochina (16,500 European French and 48,500 colonial) disintegrated at the end of the Japanese invasion. 2,129 European French and 2,100 Indochinese colonial troops were killed, while 12,000 French and 3,000 colonial troops were kept as prisoners. 1-2 million deaths occurred in French Indochina during the Japanese occupation, mostly due to the 1945 Vietnamese Famine. [253]

Axis Edit

800,000 Japanese civilians [254] and over 2 million Japanese soldiers died during the war. According to a report compiled by the Relief Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare in March 1964, combined Japanese Army and Navy deaths during the war (1937–45) numbered approximately 2,121,000 men, mostly against either the Americans and their allies (1.1+ million) in places such as the Solomons, Japan, Taiwan, the Central Pacific, and the Philippines, or against various Chinese factions (500,000+), predominantly the NRA and CCP, during the war on the Chinese mainland, the Chinese resistance movement in Manchuria and Burma campaign. The losses were broken down as follows: [255]

Location Army dead Navy dead total
Japan Proper 58,100 45,800 103,900
Bonin Islands 2,700 12,500 15,200
Okinawa 67,900 21,500 89,400
Formosa (Taiwan) 28,500 10,600 39,100
Korea 19,600 6,900 26,500
Sakhalin, the Aleutian, and Kuril Islands 8,200 3,200 11,400
Manchuria 45,900 800 46,700
China (incl. Hong Kong) 435,600 20,100 455,700
Siberia 52,300 400 52,700
Central Pacific 95,800 151,400 247,200
Philippines 377,500 121,100 498,600
French Indochina 7,900 4,500 12,400
Thailand 6,900 100 7,000
Burma (incl. India) 163,000 1,500 164,500
Malaya & Singapore 8,500 2,900 11,400
Andaman & Nicobar Islands 900 1,500 2,400
Sumatra 2,700 500 3,200
Java 2,700 3,800 6,500
Lesser Sundas 51,800 1,200 53,000
Borneo 11,300 6,700 18,000
Celebes 1,500 4,000 5,500
Moluccas 2,600 1,800 4,400
New Guinea 112,400 15,200 127,600
Bismarck Archipelago 19,700 10,800 30,500
Solomon Islands 63,200 25,000 88,200
Totals 1,647,200 473,800 2,121,000

The IJN lost over 341 warships, including 11 battleships, 25 aircraft carriers, 39 cruisers, 135 destroyers, and 131 submarines, almost entirely in action against the United States Navy. The IJN and IJA together lost some 45,125 aircraft. [256]

Japan's ally Germany lost 10 submarines and four auxiliary cruisers (Thor, Michel, Pinguin, and Kormoran) in the Indian and Pacific oceans. [239] These four alone sank 420,467 gross tons of Allied shipping.

War crimes Edit

On 7 December 1941, 2,403 non-combatants (2,335 neutral military personnel and 68 civilians) were killed and 1,247 wounded during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Because the attack happened without a declaration of war or explicit warning, it was judged by the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime. [257] [258]

During the Pacific War, Japanese soldiers killed millions of non-combatants, including prisoners of war, from surrounding nations. [259] At least 20 million Chinese died during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). [260] [261]

Unit 731 was one example of wartime atrocities committed on a civilian population during World War II, where experiments were performed on thousands of Chinese and Korean civilians as well as Allied prisoners of war. Biological weapons used by Japan killed around 500,000 Chinese. [262] The Nanking Massacre is another example of atrocity committed by Japanese soldiers on a civilian population. [263]

According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27%, some seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians. [183] The most notorious use of forced labour was in the construction of the Burma–Thailand "Death Railway". Around 1,536 U.S. civilians were killed or otherwise died of abuse and mistreatment in Japanese internment camps in the Far East in comparison, 883 U.S. civilians died in German internment camps in Europe. [264]

A widely publicized example of institutionalized sexual slavery are "comfort women", a euphemism for the 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, who served in the Imperial Japanese Army's camps during World War II. Some 35 Dutch comfort women brought a successful case before the Batavia Military Tribunal in 1948. [265] In 1993, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yōhei Kōno said that women were coerced into brothels run by Japan's wartime military. Other Japanese leaders have apologized, including former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2001. In 2007, then-Prime Minister Shinzō Abe asserted: "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion". [266] On March 27 the Japanese parliament issued an official apology for Abe's comment. [267]

The Three Alls Policy (Sankō Sakusen) was a Japanese scorched earth policy adopted in China, the three alls being: "Kill All, Burn All and Loot All". Initiated in 1940 by Ryūkichi Tanaka, the Sankō Sakusen was implemented in full scale in 1942 in north China by Yasuji Okamura. According to historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta, the scorched earth campaign was responsible for the deaths of "more than 2.7 million" Chinese civilians. [268]

The incendiary bombing of Tokyo on 9–10 March 1945 overseen by Curtis LeMay has been seen by some post-war scholars as an unpunished war crime due to the allies eventual win. [269] This is due to the fact that the US Strategic Bombing Survey estimated that 84% of the attacked area was residential area inhabited by non-combatants that comprised mostly of women, children and the elderly. [270] A military aid to General Douglas MacArthur described the aerial raid as "one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non-combatants in all history. [271] General Curtis LeMay has been criticised for using napalm-carrying M-69 incendiary bombs as the fierce winds swept flames through a fifteen square mile area of Tokyo and burned the wooden Japanese houses with extreme ease. The raid caused Japanese citizens to be "scorched and baked to death," and generated heat so intense that many people who were able jump into the nearest river or lake were boiled to death. [272] In the subsequent months, over 60 smaller Japanese cities were treated in a similar fashion.

One of the greatest and continuous war crimes of the Pacific war was the collection of skulls and other remains of Japanese soldiers by American soldiers. Due to the racial overtones that characterised the Pacific War, the Japanese became dehumanised in the minds of Allied soldiers. It was common for American soldiers to collect teeth, ears, noses and arms as war trophies. The gold teeth of the Japanese were often made into souvenir necklaces while ears and skulls were pickled and preserved to be sent back home. [273] The issue was so prolific that a 1960s expedition to Mariana Island to repatriate the remains of Japanese soldiers found that nearly 60% of the corpses were missing their heads. [274] It has been shown to have been widespread enough to be commented upon by Allied military authorities and the US wartime press and “on a scale large enough to concern the military authorities as soon as the first living or dead Japanese bodies were encountered". [275] Both the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to issue official directives against it to the soldiers overseas and famed pilot Charles Lindbergh recorded in his wartime diaries that when passing through Hawaii was asked if he was carrying any bones due to the routine nature of giving them as gifts. [273] [276] In 1944, it was reported that Congressman Francis E. Walter gifted President Franklin D. Roosevelt a letter opener made from the arm bone of a Japanese soldier. [277]

On January 26, 1943, the submarine USS Wahoo commanded by Lieutenant Commander Dudley W. Morton was on its third war patrol when it encountered the Fukuei Maru, the Japanese transport ship Buyo Maru (1919) and two others. After torpedoing the Fukuei Maru and the Buyo Maru and engaging the other two in action for almost 14 hours before they eluded him, Wahoo returned to the wreck site to find rafts and lifeboats in the water. [278] While it is misreported and unknown as it who fired first, Wahoo opened fire with 4-inch guns on the largest lifeboat who returned fire prompting all on-deck guns including machine guns to fire on the lifeboats and the men in the water. [278] Richard O'Kane stated that the fire from Wahoo was intended to force the troops to abandon their boats and no troops were deliberately targeted. [279] Clay Blair states that Morton opened fire first and the shipwrecked returned fire with handguns with at least one account of a man in the water and one attempting to board the Wahoo waving white flags to no avail. [280]

It was later discovered that a majority of the men on board the Buyo Maru were Indian POWs of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Punjab Regiment, who had been captured by the Japanese in Southeast Asia and were being taken to New Guinea as forced labour. A total of 195 Indians and 87 Japanese died in the massacre. [278]

Following the surrender of Japan, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East took place in Ichigaya, Tokyo from 29 April 1946 to 12 November 1948 to try those accused of the most serious war crimes. Meanwhile, military tribunals were also held by the returning powers throughout Asia and the Pacific for lesser figures. [281] [282]

7 cool facts about the Battle of San Juan Hill

Posted On February 05, 2021 06:45:00

You’ve heard of the Rough Riders, Teddy Roosevelt, his Medal of Honor, and the ass-beating the United States gave Spain in Cuba. But do you know just how much went down at San Juan Hill that day?

Let’s start off with a big reveal: There’s no reason the United States should have won in Cuba against the Spanish. With the exception of the Americans (especially Roosevelts’ volunteers) being extremely hardy due to being raised in the rough backcountry of the American wilderness, the Spanish definitely had the upper hand.

Spain was in Cuba for centuries before the Americans invaded. They had hardened fortifications, strengthened over the years by repeated attacks from pirates, rebels, and conventional foes alike. Moreover, they were in the middle of putting down a slave uprising, so their troops were battle-hardened veterans. They also had better weapons, better food, and better gear.

By the time the Americans wanted to take the San Juan Heights (and Roosevelt charged Kettle Hill), the Spanish should have been ready to push the U.S. back into the sea.

But they didn’t count on how difficult it is going up against America in what is, essentially, a home game.

That looks way too boring for TR.

1. The Rough Riders were mostly famous before leaving for Cuba.

Imagine the sitting Secretary of the Navy resigning his office to join a bunch of cowboys, Native Tribesmen, the sheriff of Houston, Robert Mueller, Baker Mayfield, Rafael Nadal, Michael Phelps, Malcolm Gladwell, and Sebastian Junger as they team up to finish Afghanistan off once and for all. That was, in essence, the Rough Riders.

Pew… wait for it… pew

2. They were woefully underprepared.

The Navy had no real way to land horses in Cuba and many drowned. Even when they did have horses, the Americans had to hack their way through the dense jungles to get anywhere they wanted to go. By the time Roosevelt got to Kettle Hill, he and his men had hacked all the way there. They also had only one black powder cannon and a few gatling guns, not to mention black powder rifles that gave away their position to the Spanish. They also were issued heavy wool uniforms to fight in Cuba in July.

The Spaniards, in contrast, had new Maxim machine guns and smokeless Mauser rifles.

It’s helpful when the enemy comes to you. In the open. Wearing bright colors.

It’s helpful when the enemy comes to you. In the open. Wearing bright colors.

3. Spain messed up San Juan Hill, bigtime.

The Spanish commander, Arsenio Linares, didn’t fortify the area where his gunners would have clear lines of fire to anyone mounting an assault. Instead, he fortified the top of the hill and his gunners couldn’t necessarily see what the enemy was doing at the bottom.

Nothing supports a battle like winning it.

4. Roosevelt was only supposed to move up in support

T.R. and the Rough Riders were pinned down in high grass getting shot up by snipers on the nearby hill for hours before Roosevelt asked to advance and was told to only support regular Army troops attacking the front of the hill. Instead, he and his men charged the hill through the 3rd Cavalry, some of which joined them. Among the 10th Cavalry assaulting the San Juan Heights were the African-American Buffalo Soldiers, who joined Roosevelt in his charge up Kettle Hill.

His leadership is how he earned his nickname.

5. One of America’s greatest soldiers was at San Juan Hill.

A young Lieutenant John J. Pershing had to take command of D Troop when their captain was killed trying to breach Spanish defenses. He led the Buffalo Soldiers up the crest of the hill. One of Pershing’s Buffalo Soldiers was the first to plant the Stars and Stripes on the hilltop.

“Someone’s watching the other hill, right? Right?”

6. Roosevelt almost lost the battle.

Roosevelt bravely led the charge up San Juan Hill, an act which would earn him the Medal of Honor one day. But, in doing so, he left Kettle Hill lightly defended and subject to a Spanish counterattack. By the time Roosevelt realized what happened, 600 Spaniards were on their way to exploit his mistake. Luckily, the Americans moved Gatling guns to the crest of Kettle Hill by then and most of those attackers died.

Getting hit by giant caliber bullets is never fun.

7. San Juan Hill was not a flawless win.

The 1st Volunteer Cavalry suffered a 37-percent casualty rate, the highest of any unit in the entire Spanish-American War. Still the heights belonged to the Americans by 3 p.m. on July 1st. On July 4th, the Spanish fleet sailed out of the nearby harbor and met the U.S. Navy, which took down every last Spanish ship.

The war was over by mid-August, 1898, just six weeks later.

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II. The Early Westerners in Korea

In 1582, a white-man, whom the Korean royal archive refers to as "Pingni" (or "Mari"), landed with several Chinese sailors on Cheju-do, an island of Korea. He was immediately deported to China via sea. His nationality is not known. He is the first white-man in Korea, although on an island and not on the mainland Korea, recorded in the Chosun court archive. (Lee Hae Gang, 2000)

In 1592, Japan's Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea. One of his generals, Konishi Yukinaga (Roman name, Augustin Arimandono), a devout Roman Catholic, was accompanied by a Portuguese Jesuit priest, Gregorio de Céspedes (1550-1611). Father Gregorio arrived in Korea on December 27, 1593 and left in April 1594. He is believed to be the first white-man to set foot on the Korean peninsula.

Another Jesuit priest, Francesco Carletti, who was in Japan at the time of Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea, stated in a letter home that some 300,000 Koreans were taken to Japan as prisoners of war and sold off as slaves. Father Carletti bought five of the Korean slaves - dirt-cheap. Later, his Korean slaves became Christian converts, and one of them, Antonio Correa (1578?-1626), went to Holland with Father Carletti and became the first Korean to live in Europe. In about 1610, the Vatican sent Antonio back to Korea as a missionary, but he was not allowed in and returned to Italy. He later married an Italian girl and some of his descendents still live in Italy. Father Carletti's Korean slaves were probably the first Koreans to be baptized into the Catholic faith outside Korea. (Lee Hae Gang, 2000 Kim Andrew, 2000)

Sometime before 1653, a Spanish priest and three Dutchmen had arrived in Korea, and the three Dutchmen were still alive in Korea in 1653. One of them was Jan Janse Weltevree from De Rijp, Spain. Not much is known about these men. A Dutch trading ship, Sperwer (Sparrowhawk), on its way to Nagasaki, Japan, ran aground on the Cheju Island in August 1653. From the 64 persons on board, 36 survived the wreck. The Dutch sailors were treated well by the Cheju residents for a few days and then were sent to Seoul for interrogation. The Chosun government refused to let the Dutchmen leave the country fearing that they knew too much about Korea. In due course of time, twenty of the 36 survivors died from malnutrition and diseases. Eventually, eight of the survivors managed to escape to Japan in September 1666.

Hendrick Hamel, one of the lucky escapees, returned to Holland and published a detailed account of his captivity in Korea. His book, Journal van de Ongeluckige Voyage van 't Jacht de Sperwer (The journal of the unfortunate voyage of the Sperwer), was published in 1668. Hamel was the first Westerner to write about Korea from first-hand knowledge. (Lee Hae Gang, 2000)

The Philippines

Shortly before the invasion of Leyte began, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed MacArthur to invade Luzon on December 20, 1944, thus settling the argument as to whether Luzon or Formosa should be the next object of attack. It was not expected that Luzon would be easily reclaimed, but it was believed that the conquest of Formosa would be much more difficult and might require as many as nine divisions, more than were then available in the Pacific area. While construction of airfields on the muddy terrain of Leyte moved slowly forward, and while the fleet recovered from the Battle of Leyte Gulf, MacArthur decided to occupy the island of Mindoro, directly south of Luzon, for the construction of additional airfields. The attack on Mindoro began on December 15 and the invasion of Luzon was rescheduled for January 9, 1945. Both invasions were undertaken by the U.S. 6th Army under Lieut. Gen. Walter Krueger, supported by the 3rd and 7th fleets, and by the Army air forces in the area. After the preliminary air attacks on Luzon at the turn of the year, the 3rd Fleet moved into the South China Sea to strike the Indochina coast, Formosa, Hong Kong, and Chinese coastal points.

The U.S. troops encountered little opposition on the ground at Mindoro but they were subjected to heavy air attacks both en route and after landing. The Japanese had now begun to use kamikaze attacks on a regular basis and, although many such suicide planes were shot down, many others reached their targets. Before the end of the year new airfields on Mindoro were ready to handle planes supporting the larger invasion of Luzon.

On the way from Leyte Gulf to the landing site at Lingayen Gulf on the west coast of Luzon, the invasion armada suffered damage from repeated kamikaze attacks. One pilot plunged his plane onto the bridge of the battleship New Mexico, killing more than 30 persons, including the captain of the ship. The troops of the I Corps and the XIV Corps that went ashore at Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945, met little resistance because the Japanese had not expected a landing at that point. The Japanese commander in charge of defending the island was Gen. Yamashita Tomoyuki, the conqueror of Singapore and Bataan, who commanded the Japanese 14th Area Army. Realizing that the diversion of forces to Leyte and the inability of the Japanese High Command to send reinforcements to Luzon gave him little hope of defeating the 6th Army, Yamashita decided upon static defense aimed at pinning down Allied troops on Luzon for as long as possible. He established three principal defensive sectors: one in the mountains west of Clark Field in the Central Plains a second in mountainous terrain east of Manila and the third and strongest in the mountains of northwestern Luzon, centring initially on Baguio. Manila was also strongly defended, though Yamashita at one time apparently had some thought of abandoning the city.

The XIV Corps moved south through the Central Plains toward Manila and met little resistance until it reached the area of Clark Field, which was soon occupied. While this drive southward was in progress the XI Corps landed on January 29, 1945, on the west coast north of Bataan Peninsula to secure Subic Bay and cut access routes to the peninsula, thus preventing the Japanese from using Bataan as MacArthur had employed it in 1942. By February 5 the XI and XIV Corps had established contact inland at Dinalupihan. Meanwhile, on January 31, the U.S. 11th Airborne Division had made an amphibious landing at Nasugbu, south of Manila Bay. On February 3 a team from the 11th Division parachuted on Tagatay Ridge, soon linking up with the amphibious units from Nasugbu. The division then pushed northward toward Manila.

During the first week of February 1945 three divisions reached the outskirts of Manila and prepared their attack. The city was bitterly defended by the Japanese in house-to-house combat, and it was not until March 3 that the XIV Corps could announce that organized resistance was over. While Manila was under siege, further steps were taken to open Manila Bay for Allied shipping. On February 15 an infantry unit secured the southern tip of Bataan and the next day paratroops dropped on Corregidor Island, supported by an amphibious assault force. Within two weeks the occupation of the island was complete. The east and west coasts of Bataan Peninsula were cleared by elements of the 6th Division while other troops occupied smaller islands in Manila Bay during March and April. The 11th Airborne Division cleared the bay’s south shore.

With the Central Plains, Manila, and Manila Bay secured, the Luzon campaign turned into a mopping-up operation against firmly entrenched and fiercely resisting Japanese. Southern Luzon and the Bicol Peninsula were cleared by the 11th Airborne Division. Organized resistance in those areas was over by the end of May 1945, but in the mountainous sector east of Manila resistance continued almost until the middle of June. The defensive sector in the mountains of northwestern Luzon held out the longest. As U.S. troops drove northeast from Lingayen Gulf, Baguio fell on April 26. The I Corps continued the drive northeastward toward the Cagayan Valley, the southern entrances to which were secured in mid-May. The entire valley was in Allied hands by the end of June, leaving as the only strong, organized resistance on Luzon the Kiangan pocket in mountain fastnesses north of Baguio. The Japanese 14th Area Army maintained some resistance in this area until the very end of the war. Meanwhile, on July 4, MacArthur declared Luzon to be secure and the 8th Army took over the task of final mopping up.

Mindanao, second largest island in the Philippines, had been MacArthur’s first target before the change in plans made in September 1944, but as events turned out it was the last island to be retaken. The first landings were made by the 41st Division on March 10, 1945, at Zamboanga in southwestern Mindanao. On April 17 the X Corps started landings in central Mindanao and moved on to seize the interior of the island. Filipino resistance fighters proved of great help to the X Corps, but some isolated pockets of Japanese resistance were still holding out at the end of the war.


Responsibility for the planning of Operation Downfall fell to American commanders Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and the Joint Chiefs of Staff—Fleet Admirals Ernest King and William D. Leahy, and Generals of the Army George Marshall and Hap Arnold (the latter being the commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces). [18]

At the time, the development of the atomic bomb was a very closely guarded secret (not even then-Vice President Harry Truman knew of its existence until he became President), known only to a few top officials outside the Manhattan Project, and the initial planning for the invasion of Japan did not take its existence into consideration. Once the atomic bomb became available, General Marshall envisioned using it to support the invasion if sufficient numbers could be produced in time. [19]

Throughout the Pacific War, the Allies were unable to agree on a single Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C). Allied command was divided into regions: by 1945, for example, Chester Nimitz was the Allied C-in-C Pacific Ocean Areas, while Douglas MacArthur was Supreme Allied Commander, South West Pacific Area, and Admiral Louis Mountbatten was the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command. A unified command was deemed necessary for an invasion of Japan. Interservice rivalry over who it should be (the United States Navy wanted Nimitz, but the United States Army wanted MacArthur) was so serious that it threatened to derail planning. Ultimately, the Navy partially conceded, and MacArthur was to be given total command of all forces if circumstances made it necessary. [20]

Considerations Edit

The primary considerations that the planners had to deal with were time and casualties—how they could force Japan's surrender as quickly as possible with as few Allied casualties as possible. Prior to the Quebec Conference, 1943, a joint Canadian–British–American planning team produced a plan ("Appreciation and Plan for the Defeat of Japan") which did not call for an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands until 1947–48. [21] [22] The American Joint Chiefs of Staff believed that prolonging the war to such an extent was dangerous for national morale. Instead, at the Quebec conference, the Combined Chiefs of Staff agreed that Japan should be forced to surrender not more than one year after Germany's surrender. [23] [24]

The United States Navy urged the use of a blockade and airpower to bring about Japan's capitulation. They proposed operations to capture airbases in nearby Shanghai, China, and Korea, which would give the United States Army Air Forces a series of forward airbases from which to bombard Japan into submission. [25] The Army, on the other hand, argued that such a strategy could "prolong the war indefinitely" and expend lives needlessly, and therefore that an invasion was necessary. They supported mounting a large-scale thrust directly against the Japanese homeland, with none of the side operations that the Navy had suggested. Ultimately, the Army's viewpoint prevailed. [26]

Physically, Japan made an imposing target, distant from other landmasses and with very few beaches geographically suitable for sea-borne invasion. Only Kyūshū (the southernmost island of Japan) and the beaches of the Kantō Plain (both southwest and southeast of Tokyo) were realistic invasion zones. The Allies decided to launch a two-stage invasion. Operation Olympic would attack southern Kyūshū. Airbases would be established, which would give cover for Operation Coronet, the attack on Tokyo Bay. [ citation needed ]

Assumptions Edit

While the geography of Japan was known, the U.S. military planners had to estimate the defending forces that they would face. Based on intelligence available early in 1945, their assumptions included the following: [27]

  • "That operations in this area will be opposed not only by the available organized military forces of the Empire, but also by a fanatically hostile population."
  • "That approximately three (3) hostile divisions will be disposed in Southern KYUSHU and an additional three (3) in Northern KYUSHU at initiation of the OLYMPIC operation."
  • "That total hostile forces committed against KYUSHU operations will not exceed eight (8) to ten (10) divisions and that this level will be speedily attained."
  • "That approximately twenty-one (21) hostile divisions, including depot divisions, will be on HONSHU at the initiation of [Coronet] and that fourteen (14) of these divisions may be employed in the KANTO PLAIN area."
  • "That the enemy may withdraw his land-based air forces to the Asiatic Mainland for protection from our neutralizing attacks. That under such circumstances he can possibly amass from 2,000 to 2,500 planes in that area by exercising a rigid economy, and that this force can operate against KYUSHU landings by staging through homeland fields."

Olympic Edit

Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyūshū, was to begin on "X-Day", which was scheduled for 1 November 1945. The combined Allied naval armada would have been the largest ever assembled, including 42 aircraft carriers, 24 battleships, and 400 destroyers and destroyer escorts. Fourteen U.S. divisions and a "division-equivalent" (two regimental combat teams) [28] were scheduled to take part in the initial landings. Using Okinawa as a staging base, the objective would have been to seize the southern portion of Kyūshū. This area would then be used as a further staging point to attack Honshu in Operation Coronet.

Olympic was also to include a deception plan, known as Operation Pastel. Pastel was designed to convince the Japanese that the Joint Chiefs had rejected the notion of a direct invasion and instead were going to attempt to encircle and bombard Japan. This would require capturing bases in Formosa, along the Chinese coast, and in the Yellow Sea area. [29]

Tactical air support was to be the responsibility of the Fifth, Seventh, and Thirteenth Air Forces. These were responsible for attacking Japanese airfields and transportation arteries on Kyushu and Southern Honshu (e.g. the Kanmon Tunnel) and for gaining and maintaining air superiority over the beaches. The task of strategic bombing fell on the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific (USASTAF)—a formation which comprised the Eighth and Twentieth air forces, as well as the British Tiger Force. USASTAF and Tiger Force were to remain active through Operation Coronet. The Twentieth Air Force was to have continued its role as the main Allied strategic bomber force used against the Japanese home islands, operating from airfields in the Mariana Islands. Following the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, plans were also made to transfer some of the heavy bomber groups of the veteran Eighth Air Force to airbases on Okinawa to conduct strategic bombing raids in coordination with the Twentieth. [30] The Eighth was to upgrade their B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators to B-29 Superfortresses (the group received its first B-29 on 8 August 1945). [30]

Before the main invasion, the offshore islands of Tanegashima, Yakushima, and the Koshikijima Islands were to be taken, starting on X-5. [31] The invasion of Okinawa had demonstrated the value of establishing secure anchorages close at hand, for ships not needed off the landing beaches and for ships damaged by air attack.

Kyūshū was to be invaded by the Sixth United States Army at three points: Miyazaki, Ariake, and Kushikino. If a clock were drawn on a map of Kyūshū, these points would roughly correspond to 4, 5, and 7 o'clock, respectively. The 35 landing beaches were all named for automobiles: Austin, Buick, Cadillac, and so on through to Stutz, Winton, and Zephyr. [32] With one corps assigned to each landing, the invasion planners assumed that the Americans would outnumber the Japanese by roughly three to one. In early 1945, Miyazaki was virtually undefended, while Ariake, with its good nearby harbor, was heavily defended.

The invasion was not intended to conquer the entire island, just the southernmost third of it, as indicated by the dashed line on the map labeled "general limit of northern advance". Southern Kyūshū would offer a staging ground and a valuable airbase for Operation Coronet.

After the name Operation Olympic was compromised by being sent out in unsecured code, the name Operation Majestic was adopted.

Coronet Edit

Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu at the Kantō Plain south of the capital, was to begin on "Y-Day", which was tentatively scheduled for 1 March 1946. [33] Coronet would have been even larger than Olympic, with up to 45 U.S. divisions assigned for both the initial landing and follow-up. [34] (The Overlord invasion of Normandy, by comparison, deployed 12 divisions in the initial landings.) In the initial stage, the First Army would have invaded at Kujūkuri Beach, on the Bōsō Peninsula, while the Eighth Army invaded at Hiratsuka, on Sagami Bay these armies would have comprised 25 divisions between them. [35] Later, a follow-up force of up to 20 additional U.S. divisions and up to 5 or more British Commonwealth divisions would have landed as reinforcements. [36] [37] The Allied forces would then have driven north and inland, encircling Tokyo and pressing on toward Nagano.

Redeployment Edit

Olympic was to be mounted with resources already present in the Pacific, including the British Pacific Fleet, a Commonwealth formation that included at least eighteen aircraft carriers (providing 25% of the Allied air power) and four battleships.

Tiger Force, a joint Commonwealth long-range heavy bomber unit, was to be transferred from RAF, RAAF, RCAF and RNZAF units and personnel serving with RAF Bomber Command in Europe. In 1944, early planning proposed a force of 500–1,000 aircraft, including units dedicated to aerial refueling. Planning was later scaled back to 22 squadrons and, by the time the war ended, to 10 squadrons: between 120 and 150 Avro Lancasters/Lincolns, operating out of airbases on Okinawa. Tiger Force was to have included the elite 617 Squadron, also known as "The Dambusters", which carried out specialist bombing operations.

Initially, US planners also did not plan to use any non-US Allied ground forces in Operation Downfall. Had reinforcements been needed at an early stage of Olympic, they would have been diverted from US forces being assembled for Coronet—for which there was to be a massive redeployment of units from the US Army's Southwest Pacific, China-Burma-India and European commands, among others. These would have included spearheads of the war in Europe such as the US First Army (15 divisions) and the Eighth Air Force. These redeployments would have been complicated by the simultaneous demobilization and replacement of highly experienced, time-served personnel, which would have drastically reduced the combat effectiveness of many units. [ citation needed ] The Australian government had asked at an early stage for the inclusion of an Australian Army infantry division in the first wave (Olympic). [38] This was rejected by U.S. commanders and even the initial plans for Coronet, according to U.S. historian John Ray Skates, did not envisage that units from Commonwealth or other Allied armies would be landed on the Kantō Plain in 1946. [39] The first official "plans indicated that assault, followup, and reserve units would all come from US forces". [39]

By mid-1945—when plans for Coronet were being reworked—many other Allied countries had, according to Skates, "offered ground forces, and a debate developed" amongst Western Allied political and military leaders, "over the size, mission, equipment, and support of these contingents". [39] Following negotiations, it was decided that Coronet would include a joint Commonwealth Corps, made up of infantry divisions from the Australian, British and Canadian armies. Reinforcements would have been available from those countries, as well as other parts of the Commonwealth. However, MacArthur blocked proposals to include an Indian Army division because of differences in language, organization, composition, equipment, training and doctrine. [40] [41] He also recommended that the corps be organized along the lines of a U.S. corps, should use only U.S. equipment and logistics, and should train in the U.S. for six months before deployment these suggestions were accepted. [40] The British Government suggested that: Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Keightley should command the Commonwealth Corps, a combined Commonwealth fleet should be led by Vice-Admiral Sir William Tennant, and that—as Commonwealth air units would be dominated by the RAAF – the Air Officer Commanding should be Australian. [42] However, the Australian government questioned the appointment of an officer with no experience in fighting the Japanese, such as Keightley and suggested that Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead, an Australian who had been carrying out the New Guinea and Borneo campaigns, should be appointed. [43] [ page needed ] The war ended before the details of the corps were finalized.

Projected initial commitment Edit

Olympic [44]
Personnel 705,556
Vehicles 136,812
Deadweight tons (shipping) 1,205,730 [45]
Infantry divisions 11
Marine divisions 3
Armored divisions 0
Air groups 40
Coronet [46]
Personnel 1,171,646
Vehicles 222,514
Deadweight tons (shipping) 1,741,023
Infantry Divisions 20
Marine Divisions 3
Armored Divisions 2
Air Groups 50 [45]

Figures for Coronet exclude values for both the immediate strategic reserve of 3 divisions as well as the 17 division strategic reserve in the U.S. and any British/Commonwealth forces.

Meanwhile, the Japanese had their own plans. Initially, they were concerned about an invasion during the summer of 1945. However, the Battle of Okinawa went on for so long that they concluded the Allies would not be able to launch another operation before the typhoon season, during which the weather would be too risky for amphibious operations. Japanese intelligence predicted fairly closely where the invasion would take place: southern Kyūshū at Miyazaki, Ariake Bay and/or the Satsuma Peninsula. [47]

While Japan no longer had a realistic prospect of winning the war, Japan's leaders believed they could make the cost of invading and occupying the Home Islands too high for the Allies to accept, which would lead to some sort of armistice rather than total defeat. The Japanese plan for defeating the invasion was called Operation Ketsugō ( 決号作戦 , ketsugō sakusen) ("Operation Codename Decisive"). The Japanese planned to commit the entire population of Japan to resisting the invasion, and from June 1945 onward, a propaganda campaign calling for "The Glorious Death of One Hundred Million" commenced. [48] The main message of "The Glorious Death of One Hundred Million" campaign was that it was "glorious" to die for the holy emperor of Japan, and every Japanese man, woman, and child should die for the Emperor when the Allies arrived. [48] While this was not realistic, both American and Japanese officers at the time predicted a Japanese death toll in the millions. [48] From the Battle of Saipan onward, Japanese propaganda intensified the glory of patriotic death and depicted the Americans as merciless "white devils". [49] During the Battle of Okinawa, Japanese officers had ordered civilians unable to fight to commit suicide rather than fall into American hands, and all available evidence suggests the same orders would have been given in the home islands. [50] The Japanese were secretly constructing an underground headquarters in Matsushiro, Nagano Prefecture, to shelter the Emperor and the Imperial General Staff during an invasion. In planning for Operation Ketsugo, IGHQ overestimated the strength of the invading forces: while the Allied invasion plan called for fewer than 70 divisions, the Japanese expected up to 90. [51]

Kamikaze Edit

Admiral Matome Ugaki was recalled to Japan in February 1945 and given command of the Fifth Air Fleet on Kyūshū. The Fifth Air Fleet was assigned the task of kamikaze attacks against ships involved in the invasion of Okinawa, Operation Ten-Go, and began training pilots and assembling aircraft for the defense of Kyūshū, the first invasion target.

The Japanese defense relied heavily on kamikaze planes. In addition to fighters and bombers, they reassigned almost all of their trainers for the mission. More than 10,000 aircraft were ready for use in July (with more by October), as well as hundreds of newly built small suicide boats to attack Allied ships offshore.

Up to 2,000 kamikaze planes launched attacks during the Battle of Okinawa, achieving approximately one hit per nine attacks. At Kyūshū, because of the more favorable circumstances (such as terrain that would reduce the Allies' radar advantage), they hoped to raise that to one for six by overwhelming the US defenses with large numbers of kamikaze attacks within a period of hours. The Japanese estimated that the planes would sink more than 400 ships since they were training the pilots to target transports rather than carriers and destroyers, the casualties would be disproportionately greater than at Okinawa. One staff study estimated that the kamikazes could destroy a third to half of the invasion force before landing. [52]

Admiral Ernest King, the C-in-C of the U.S Navy, was so concerned about losses from kamikaze attacks that he and other senior naval officers argued for canceling Operation Downfall, and instead continuing the fire-bombing campaign against Japanese cities and the blockade of food and supplies until the Japanese surrendered. [53] However, General George Marshall argued that forcing surrender this way might take several years, if ever. [54] Accordingly, Marshall and United States Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox concluded the Americans would have to invade Japan to end the war, regardless of casualties. [54]

Naval forces Edit

Despite the shattering damage it had absorbed by this stage of the war, the Imperial Japanese Navy, by then organized under the Navy General Command, was determined to inflict as much damage on the Allies as possible. Remaining major warships numbered four battleships (all damaged), five damaged aircraft carriers, two cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 46 submarines. [55] However, the IJN lacked enough fuel for further sorties by its capital ships, planning instead to use their anti-aircraft firepower to defend naval installations while docked in port. [55] Despite its inability to conduct large-scale fleet operations, the IJN still maintained a fleet of thousands of warplanes and possessed nearly 2 million personnel in the Home Islands, ensuring it a large role in the coming defensive operation.

In addition, Japan had about 100 Kōryū-class midget submarines, 300 smaller Kairyū-class midget submarines, 120 Kaiten manned torpedoes, [55] and 2,412 Shin'yō suicide motorboats. [56] Unlike the larger ships, these, together with the destroyers and fleet submarines, were expected to see extensive action defending the shores, with a view to destroying about 60 Allied transports. [57]

The Navy trained a unit of frogmen to serve as suicide bombers, the Fukuryu. They were to be armed with contact-fuzed mines, and to dive under landing craft and blow them up. An inventory of mines was anchored to the sea bottom off each potential invasion beach for their use by the suicide divers, with up to 10,000 mines planned. Some 1,200 suicide divers had been trained before the Japanese surrender. [58] [59]

Ground forces Edit

The two defensive options against amphibious invasion are strong defense of the beaches and defense in depth. Early in the war (such as at Tarawa), the Japanese employed strong defenses on the beaches with little or no manpower in reserve, but this tactic proved vulnerable to pre-invasion shore bombardment. Later at Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, they switched strategies and dug in their forces in the most defensible terrain. [ citation needed ]

For the defense of Kyūshū, the Japanese took an intermediate posture, with the bulk of their defensive forces a few kilometers inland, back far enough to avoid complete exposure to naval bombardment, but close enough that the Americans could not establish a secure foothold before engaging them. The counteroffensive forces were still farther back, prepared to move against the largest landing. [ citation needed ]

In March 1945, there was only one combat division in Kyūshū. Over the next four months, the Imperial Japanese Army transferred forces from Manchuria, Korea, and northern Japan, while raising other forces in place. By August, they had 14 divisions and various smaller formations, including three tank brigades, for a total of 900,000 men. [60] Although the Japanese were able to muster new soldiers, equipping them was more difficult. By August, the Japanese Army had the equivalent of 65 divisions in the homeland but only enough equipment for 40 and ammunition for 30. [61]

The Japanese did not formally decide to stake everything on the outcome of the Battle of Kyūshū, but they concentrated their assets to such a degree that there would be little left in reserve. By one estimate, the forces in Kyūshū had 40% of all the ammunition in the Home Islands. [62]

In addition, the Japanese had organized the Volunteer Fighting Corps, which included all healthy men aged 15 to 60 and women 17 to 40 for a total of 28 million people, for combat support and, later, combat jobs. Weapons, training and uniforms were generally lacking: many were armed with nothing better than antiquated firearms, molotov cocktails, longbows, swords, knives, bamboo or wooden spears, and even clubs and truncheons: they were expected to make do with what they had. [63] [64] One mobilized high school girl, Yukiko Kasai, found herself issued an awl and told, "Even killing one American soldier will do. . You must aim for the abdomen." [65] They were expected to serve as a "second defense line" during the Allied invasion, and to conduct guerrilla warfare in urban areas and mountains.

The Japanese command intended to organize its Army personnel according to the following plan: [66]

Total mobilized: 3,150,000
Kyushu – 900,000
Kanto (Tokyo) – 950,000
Korea – 247,000
For the Decisive Battle
Kyushu – 990,000
Kanto – 1,280,000

Air threat Edit

US military intelligence initially estimated the number of Japanese aircraft to be around 2,500. [67] The Okinawa experience was bad for the US—almost two fatalities and a similar number wounded per sortie—and Kyūshū was likely to be worse. To attack the ships off Okinawa, Japanese planes had to fly long distances over open water to attack the ships off Kyūshū, they could fly overland and then short distances out to the landing fleets. Gradually, intelligence learned that the Japanese were devoting all their aircraft to the kamikaze mission and taking effective measures to conserve them until the battle. An Army estimate in May was 3,391 planes in June, 4,862 in August, 5,911. A July Navy estimate, abandoning any distinction between training and combat aircraft, was 8,750 in August, 10,290. [68] By the time the war ended, the Japanese actually possessed some 12,700 aircraft in the Home Islands, roughly half kamikazes. [69]

Allied counter-kamikaze preparations were known as the Big Blue Blanket. This involved adding more fighter squadrons to the carriers in place of torpedo and dive bombers, and converting B-17s into airborne radar pickets in a manner similar to present-day AWACS. Nimitz planned a pre-invasion feint, sending a fleet to the invasion beaches a couple of weeks before the real invasion, to lure out the Japanese on their one-way flights, who would then find ships bristling with anti-aircraft guns instead of the valuable, vulnerable transports. [ citation needed ]

The main defense against Japanese air attacks would have come from the massive fighter forces being assembled in the Ryukyu Islands. The US Army Fifth and Seventh Air Forces and US Marine air units had moved into the islands immediately after the invasion, and air strength had been increasing in preparation for the all-out assault on Japan. In preparation for the invasion, an air campaign against Japanese airfields and transportation arteries had commenced before the Japanese surrender. [ citation needed ]

Ground threat Edit

Through April, May, and June, Allied intelligence followed the buildup of Japanese ground forces, including five divisions added to Kyūshū, with great interest, but also some complacency, still projecting that in November the total for Kyūshū would be about 350,000 servicemen. That changed in July, with the discovery of four new divisions and indications of more to come. By August, the count was up to 600,000, and Magic cryptanalysis had identified nine divisions in southern Kyūshū—three times the expected number and still a serious underestimate of the actual Japanese strength.

Estimated troop strength in early July was 350,000, [70] rising to 545,000 in early August. [71]

The intelligence revelations about Japanese preparations on Kyushu emerging in mid-July transmitted powerful shock waves both in the Pacific and in Washington. On 29 July, MacArthur's intelligence chief, Major General Charles A. Willoughby, was the first to note that the April estimate allowed for the Japanese capability to deploy six divisions on Kyushu, with the potential to deploy ten. "These [six] divisions have since made their appearance, as predicted," he observed, "and the end is not in sight." If not checked, this threatened "to grow to [the] point where we attack on a ratio of one (1) to one (1) which is not the recipe for victory." [72]

By the time of surrender, the Japanese had over 735,000 military personnel either in position or in various stages of deployment on Kyushu alone. [73] The total strength of the Japanese military in the Home Islands amounted to 4,335,500, of whom 2,372,700 were in the Army and 1,962,800 in the Navy. [74] The buildup of Japanese troops on Kyūshū led American war planners, most importantly General George Marshall, to consider drastic changes to Olympic, or replacing it with a different invasion plan. [ citation needed ]

Chemical weapons Edit

Fears of "an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other" [75] encouraged the Allies to consider unconventional weapons, including chemical warfare. Widespread chemical warfare was planned against Japan's population [76] and food crops, [77] and chemical weapons were stockpiled in the Marianas. Due to several factors, including its predictable wind patterns, Japan was particularly vulnerable to gas attacks. Gas attacks would also neutralize the Japanese tendency to fight from poorly ventilated caves. [ citation needed ]

While large quantities of gas munitions were manufactured and plans were drawn, it is unlikely they would have been used. Richard B. Frank states that when the proposal reached Truman in June 1945, he vetoed the use of chemical weapons against personnel their use against crops, however, remained under consideration. According to Edward J. Drea, the strategic use of chemical weapons on a massive scale was not seriously studied or proposed by any senior American leader rather, they debated the tactical use of chemical weapons against pockets of Japanese resistance. [78]

Although chemical warfare had been outlawed by the Geneva Protocol, neither the United States nor Japan was a signatory at the time. While the US had promised never to initiate gas warfare, Japan had used gas against the Chinese earlier in the war. [79]

Fear of Japanese retaliation [to chemical weapon use] lessened because by the end of the war Japan's ability to deliver gas by air or long-range guns had all but disappeared. In 1944 Ultra revealed that the Japanese doubted their ability to retaliate against United States use of gas. 'Every precaution must be taken not to give the enemy cause for a pretext to use gas,' the commanders were warned. So fearful were the Japanese leaders that they planned to ignore isolated tactical use of gas in the home islands by the US forces because they feared escalation. [80]

In addition to use against people, the U.S. military considered chemical attacks to kill crops in an attempt to starve the Japanese into submission. The Army began experimenting with compounds to destroy crops in April 1944, and within one year had narrowed over 1,000 agents to nine promising ones containing phenoxyacetic acids. One compound designated LN-8 performed best in tests and went into mass production. Dropping or spraying the herbicide was deemed most effective a July 1945 test from an SPD Mark 2 bomb, originally crafted to hold biological weapons like anthrax or ricin, had the shell burst open in the air to scatter the chemical agent. By the time the war ended, the Army was still trying to determine the optimal dispersal height to cover a wide enough area. The ingredients in LN-8 and another tested compound would later be used to create Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War. [81]

Nuclear weapons Edit

On Marshall's orders, Major General John E. Hull looked into the tactical use of nuclear weapons for the invasion of the Japanese home islands, even after the dropping of two strategic atomic bombs on Japan (Marshall did not think that the Japanese would capitulate immediately). Colonel Lyle E. Seeman reported that at least seven Fat Man-type plutonium implosion bombs would be available by X-Day, which could be dropped on defending forces. Seeman advised that American troops not enter an area hit by a bomb for "at least 48 hours" the risk of nuclear fallout was not well understood, and such a short time after detonation would have exposed American troops to substantial radiation. [82]

Ken Nichols, the District Engineer of the Manhattan Engineer District, wrote that at the beginning of August 1945, "[p]lanning for the invasion of the main Japanese home islands had reached its final stages, and if the landings actually took place, we might supply about fifteen atomic bombs to support the troops." [83] An air burst 1,800–2,000 ft (550–610 m) above the ground had been chosen for the (Hiroshima) bomb to achieve maximum blast effects, and to minimize residual radiation on the ground, as it was hoped that American troops would soon occupy the city. [84]

Alternative targets Edit

The Joint Staff planners, taking note of the extent to which the Japanese had concentrated on Kyūshū at the expense of the rest of Japan, considered alternate places to invade such as the island of Shikoku, northern Honshu at Sendai, or Ominato. They also considered skipping the preliminary invasion and going directly at Tokyo. [85] Attacking northern Honshu would have the advantage of a much weaker defense but had the disadvantage of giving up land-based air support (except the B-29s) from Okinawa. [ citation needed ]

Prospects for Olympic Edit

General Douglas MacArthur dismissed any need to change his plans:

I am certain that the Japanese air potential reported to you as accumulating to counter our OLYMPIC operation is greatly exaggerated. . As to the movement of ground forces . I do not credit . the heavy strengths reported to you in southern Kyushu. . In my opinion, there should not be the slightest thought of changing the Olympic operation. [86]

However, Admiral Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations, was prepared to oppose proceeding with the invasion, with Admiral Nimitz's concurrence, which would have set off a major dispute within the US government.

At this juncture, the key interaction would likely have been between Marshall and Truman. There is strong evidence that Marshall remained committed to an invasion as late as 15 August. . But tempering Marshall's personal commitment to invasion would have been his comprehension that civilian sanction in general, and Truman's in particular, was unlikely for a costly invasion that no longer enjoyed consensus support from the armed services. [87]

Soviet intentions Edit

Unknown to the Americans, the Soviet Union also considered invading a major Japanese island, Hokkaido, by the end of August 1945, [88] which would have put pressure on the Allies to act sooner than November.

In the early years of World War II, the Soviets had planned on building a huge navy to catch up with the Western world. However, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 forced the suspension of this plan: the Soviets had to divert most of their resources to fighting the Germans and their allies, primarily on land, throughout most of the war, leaving their navy relatively poorly equipped. [89] [90] [91] As a result, in Project Hula (1945), the United States transferred about 100 naval vessels out of the 180 planned to the Soviet Union in preparation for the planned Soviet entry into the war against Japan. The transferred vessels included amphibious assault ships.

At the Yalta Conference (February 1945), the Allies had agreed that the Soviet Union would take the southern part of the island of Sakhalin, which Russia had ceded to Japan in the Treaty of Portsmouth after the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War (the Soviets already controlled the northern part), and the Kuril Islands, which had been assigned to Japan in the 1875 Treaty of St. Petersburg. On the other hand, no agreement envisaged Soviet participation in the invasion of Japan itself. [ citation needed ]

The Japanese had kamikaze aircraft in southern Honshu and Kyushu which would have opposed operations Olympic and Coronet. It is unknown to what extent they could have opposed Soviet landings in the far north of Japan. For comparative purposes, about 1,300 Western Allied ships deployed during the Battle of Okinawa (April–June 1945). In total, 368 ships, including 120 amphibious craft, were badly damaged, and another 28, including 15 landing ships and 12 destroyers, were sunk, mostly by kamikazes. The Soviets, however, had fewer than 400 ships, most of them not equipped for amphibious assault, when they declared war on Japan on 8 August 1945. [92]

For Operation Downfall, the US military envisaged requiring more than 30 divisions for a successful invasion of the Japanese home islands. In comparison, the Soviet Union had about 11 divisions available, comparable to the 14 divisions the US that estimated it would require to invade southern Kyushu. The Soviet invasion of the Kuril Islands (18 August – 1 September 1945) took place after Japan's capitulation on 15 August. However, the Japanese forces in those islands resisted quite fiercely although some of them proved unwilling to fight after Japan's surrender on 15 August. In the Battle of Shumshu (18–23 August 1945), the Soviet Red Army had 8,821 troops that were not supported by tanks and without back-up from larger warships. The well-established Japanese garrison had 8,500 troops and fielded about 77 tanks. The battle lasted one day, with minor combat actions going on for four more after the official surrender of Japan and the garrison, during which the attacking Soviet forces lost over 516 troops and five of the 16 landing ships (many of these formerly belonged to the US Navy and were later given to the Soviet Union) to Japanese coastal artillery, and the Japanese lost over 256 troops. Soviet casualties during the Battle of Shumshu totaled up to 1,567, and the Japanese suffered 1,018 casualties, making Shumshu the only battle in the 1945 Soviet–Japanese War in which Soviet losses exceeded those of the Japanese, in stark contrast to overall Soviet-Japanese casualty rates in land-based fighting in Manchuria.

During World War II, the Japanese had a naval base at Paramushiro in the Kuril Islands and several bases in Hokkaido. Since Japan and the Soviet Union maintained a state of wary neutrality until the Soviet declaration of war on Japan in August 1945, Japanese observers based in Japanese-held territories in Manchuria, Korea, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands constantly watched the port of Vladivostok and other seaports in the Soviet Union. [93]

According to Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar, the Soviets had carefully drawn up detailed plans for the Far East invasions, except that the landing for Hokkaido "existed in detail" only in Stalin's mind and that it was "unlikely that Stalin had interests in taking Manchuria and even taking on Hokkaido. Even if he wanted to grab as much territory in Asia as possible, he was too much focused on establishing a beachhead in Europe more so than Asia." [94]

Because the U.S. military planners assumed "that operations in this area will be opposed not only by the available organized military forces of the Empire, but also by a fanatically hostile population", [27] high casualties were thought to be inevitable, but nobody knew with certainty how high. Several estimates were made, but varied widely in numbers, assumptions and purposes, which included advocating and opposing the invasion. The estimated casualty figures later became a crucial point in postwar debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On 15 January 1945, the U.S. Army Service Forces released a document, "Redeployment of the United States Army after the Defeat of Germany." In it, they estimate that during the 18 month period after June 1945 (that is, through December 1946), the Army would be required to furnish replacements for 43,000 dead and evacuated wounded every month. [95] From analysis of the replacement schedule and projected strengths in overseas theaters, it suggested that Army losses alone in those categories, excluding the Navy and Marine Corps, would be approximately 863,000 through the first part of 1947, of whom 267,000 would be killed or missing. [96]

In preparation for Operation Olympic, the invasion of southern Kyushu, various figures and organizations made casualty estimates based on the terrain, strength, and disposition of known Japanese forces. However, as reported Japanese strength in the Home Islands continued to climb and Japanese military performance increased, so too did the casualty estimates. [5] In April 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff formally adopted a planning paper giving a range of possible casualties based on experience in both Europe and the Pacific. These ranged from 0.42 dead and missing and 2.16 total casualties per 1000 men per day under the "European Experience" to 1.95 dead and missing and 7.45 total casualties per 1000 men per day under the "Pacific Experience." [97] This assessment included neither casualties suffered after the 90-day mark (US planners envisioned switching to the tactical defensive by X+120 [98] ), nor personnel losses at sea from Japanese air attacks. [99] In order to sustain the campaign on Kyushu, planners estimated a replacement stream of 100,000 men per month would be necessary, a figure achievable even after the partial demobilization following the defeat of Germany. [5] As time went on, other US leaders made estimates of their own:

  • In a letter to General Curtis LeMay when LeMay assumed command of the B-29 force on Guam, General Lauris Norstad told LeMay that if an invasion took place, it would cost the US "half a million" dead. [100]
  • In May, Admiral Nimitz's staff estimated 49,000 U.S casualties in the first 30 days of Operation Olympic, including 5,000 at sea. [101]
  • A study done by General MacArthur's staff in June estimated 23,000 US casualties in the first 30 days of Olympic and 125,000 after 120 days, fighting an assumed Japanese force of 300,000 [102] (in actuality some 917,000 Japanese troops were on Kyushu, [103] ). When these figures were questioned by General Marshall, MacArthur submitted a revised estimate of 105,000, in part by deducting wounded men able to return to duty. [104]
  • In a conference with President Truman on June 18, Marshall, taking the Battle of Luzon as the best model for Olympic, thought the Americans would suffer 31,000 casualties in the first 30 days and ultimately 20% of Japanese casualties, which he estimated would include the entire Japanese force. This implied a total of 70,000 American casualties in the battle of Kyushu using the June projection of 350,000 Japanese defenders. [105] Admiral Leahy, more impressed by the Battle of Okinawa, thought the American forces would suffer a 35% casualty rate (implying an ultimate toll of 268,000). [106] Admiral King thought that casualties in the first 30 days would fall between Luzon and Okinawa, i.e., between 31,000 and 41,000. [106] Of these estimates, only Nimitz's included losses of the forces at sea, though kamikazes had inflicted 1.78 fatalities and a similar number of wounded per kamikaze pilot in the Battle of Okinawa, [107] and troop transports off Kyūshū would have been much more exposed.
  • In July MacArthur's Intelligence Chief, Maj. Gen. Charles A. Willoughby, warned of between 210,000 and 280,000 battle casualties in the push to the "stop line" one-third of the way up Kyushu. Even when rounded down to a conservative 200,000, this figure implied a total of nearly 500,000 all-causes losses, of whom perhaps 50,000 might return to duty after light to moderate care. [108]
  • The US Sixth Army, the formation tasked with carrying out the major land fighting on Kyushu, estimated a figure of 394,859 casualties serious enough to be permanently removed from unit roll calls during the first 120 days on Kyushu, barely enough to avoid outstripping the planned replacement stream. [109]
  • Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson stated "We shall in my opinion have to go through an even more bitter finish fight than in Germany. We shall incur the losses incident to such a war and we shall leave the Japanese islands even more thoroughly destroyed than was the case with Germany." [110] From D-Day to V-E Day, the Western Allies alone suffered some 766,294 casualties. [111]
  • A study done for Secretary of War Henry Stimson's staff by William Shockley estimated that invading Japan would cost 1.7–4 million American casualties, including 400,000–800,000 fatalities, and five to ten million Japanese fatalities. The key assumption was large-scale participation by civilians in the defense of Japan. [17]
  • Japanese military directives ordered the execution of all POWs being held if Japan was ever invaded. Towards the end of the war about 100,000 Allied prisoners were in Japanese custody.

Outside the government, well-informed civilians were also making guesses. Kyle Palmer, war correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, said half a million to a million Americans would die by the end of the war. Herbert Hoover, in memorandums submitted to Truman and Stimson, also estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 fatalities, which were believed to be conservative estimates however, it is not known if Hoover discussed these specific figures in his meetings with Truman. The Chief of the Army Operations Division thought them "entirely too high" under "our present plan of campaign." [112]

The Battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific, with an estimated total of over 82,000 direct casualties on both sides: 14,009 Allied deaths and 77,417 Japanese soldiers. [113] Allied grave registration forces counted 110,071 dead bodies of Japanese soldiers, but this included conscripted Okinawans wearing Japanese uniforms. [114] 149,425 Okinawans were killed, committed suicide or went missing, which was one-half of the estimated pre-war local population of 300,000. [113] The Battle resulted in 72,000 US casualties in 82 days, of whom 12,510 were killed or missing (this figure excludes the several thousand US soldiers who died after the battle indirectly, from their wounds). The entire island of Okinawa is 464 sq mi (1,200 km 2 ). If the US casualty rate during the invasion of Japan had been only 5% as high per unit area as it was at Okinawa, the US would still have lost 297,000 soldiers (killed or missing). [5]

In evaluating these estimates, especially those based on projected Japanese troop strength (such as General MacArthur's), it is important to consider what was known about the state of Japanese defenses at the time, as well as the actual condition of those defenses (MacArthur's staff believed Japanese manpower on Kyushu to be roughly 300,000). [115] Nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals (awarded for combat casualties) were manufactured in anticipation of the casualties resulting from the invasion of Japan the number exceeded that of all American military casualties of the 65 years following the end of World War II, including the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In 2003, there were still 120,000 of these Purple Heart medals in stock. [116] There were so many left that combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan were able to keep Purple Hearts on hand for immediate award to soldiers wounded in the field. [116]

Following the surrender and demobilization of Japan, vast amounts of war matériel were turned over to the US occupation forces in the Japanese Home Islands and South Korea. While some totals (particularly for items such as swords and small arms) may be inexact because of the problems of collection and the activities of the black market, the amount of military equipment available to the Japanese in and around the Home Islands by August 1945 was roughly as follows:

Military attachés and observers

Military and civilian observers from every major power closely followed the course of the war. Most were able to report on events from the perspective of embedded positions within the land and naval forces of both Russia and Japan. These military attachés and other observers prepared first-hand accounts of the war and analytical papers. In-depth observer narratives of the war and more narrowly focused professional journal articles were written soon after the war and these post-war reports conclusively illustrated the battlefield destructiveness of this conflict. This was the first time the tactics of entrenched positions for infantry defended with machine guns and artillery became vitally important. Both would become dominant factors in World War I. Even though entrenched positions had already been a significant part of both the Franco-Prussian War and the American Civil War, it is now apparent that the high casualty counts, and the tactical lessons readily available to observer nations, were completely disregarded in preparations for war in Europe, and during much of the course of World War I. [130]

In 1904–1905, Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton was the military attaché of the British Indian Army serving with the Japanese Army in Manchuria. As one of the several military attachés from Western countries, he was the first to arrive in Japan after the start of the war. [131] He therefore would be recognized as the dean of multi-national attachés and observers in this conflict, although out-ranked by British field marshal, William Gustavus Nicholson, 1st Baron Nicholson, who was later to become chief of the Imperial General Staff.

This WWII program was more expensive than the Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project, America’s nuclear bomb program, was one of the most expensive research and development undertakings of WWII. In total, the program cost about $2 billion, or nearly $30 billion in 2021 adjusted for inflation. However, there was one program that was 50% more expensive than the Manhattan Project. It was pushed through though because it was necessary for the Manhattan Project to work and the war to be won.

Since 1937, China had been fighting the Japanese largely on its own. By 1943, President Roosevelt feared that China would pull out of the war amidst mounting losses and free up a large portion of Japan’s military to refocus its efforts against the U.S. At the Cairo Conference in November 1943, Roosevelt pledged his support to Chinese General Chiang Kai-shek and his fight against the Japanese. Roosevelt committed America’s newest bomber, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, to bomb Japan from bases in China and India by the spring of 1944.

B-29 assembly was an enormous undertaking (Public Domain)

When Roosevelt made his promise to the Chinese, less than 100 B-29s had been built, and only 15% of them were actually flyable. The revolutionary long-distance high-altitude bomber was incredibly complex and required extensive testing and evaluation to make it combatworthy. Moreover, wartime pressure and Roosevelt’s promise only further strained the bomber’s development.

Additionally, the sophisticated aircraft needed highly trained crewmembers to fly it. By the time of the Cairo Conference, less than 75 pilots were checked out in the B-29 and very few aircrews were fully trained and certified on it. Workers also had to be trained on how to build the B-29. With its pressurized cabin, central fire-control system, and four massive 18-cylinder 2,200 horsepower engines, among other complexities, the B-29 was not an easy plane to build. Initially, over 150,000 man-hours were needed to build one aircraft.

The B-29 was needed to fulfill Roosevelt’s promise because it exceeded the range of America’s existing B-17 Flying Fortress. While a capable bomber in its own right, the B-17 just didn’t have the legs for a roundtrip bombing run to the Japanese mainland. It was also incapable of carrying and delivering the atomic bomb being developed by the Manhattan Project. Only the B-29 could deploy the nuclear weapons in development.

B-29s at Boeing’s Wichita plant (Public Domain)

So, hurried development of the B-29 was pressed on with little regard for cost, monetary or labor wise. Though B-29s and their components were assembled across the country from Washington to Georgia, the majority of B-29 work was done at Boeing’s plants in Wichita, Kansas. With production so rushed, much of the assembly line was located outdoors. The workforce battled heavy snowfall and negative temperatures during the winter of 1943-1944 to keep B-29s flowing into the hands of aircrews. On some days, workers could only operate in 20 minute stretches before they had to retreat to the warmth of one of the gasoline heaters laid out on the flight line.

Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, Roosevelt’s promise was not met, though he determined that it was close enough. The first 130 B-29s made the 11,500-mile journey from the U.S. to airbases in China and India by May 8, 1944. On June 15, 68 B-29s took off for the first bombing of the Japanese mainland since the Doolittle Raid of 1942. Unfortunately, the mission failed to hit its target and resulted in the loss of six aircraft. This was a huge blow to the B-29 program which cost the American taxpayer $3 billion, or just over $44.5 billion in 2021. Furthermore, the remote bases in China and India could only be resupplied by air which was risky and limited in capacity.

In January 1945, General Henry “Hap” Arnold placed General Curtiss LeMay in charge of operations against Japan. LeMay switched the B-29’s tactics from high-altitude precision bombing, which was largely ineffective, to low-level firebombings. These proved to be deadly against Japan since its cities were made largely of wood. Moreover, the capture of the Marianas gave the U.S. a base from which to launch B-29s with easier and more consistent supply access by ship. With the delivery of two atomic bombs on August 6 and 9, the B-29 proved its worth as a strategic bomber. Under LeMay’s leadership, the aircraft’s image changed from over-budget governmental waste to a symbol of American airpower in the nuclear age.

(Public Domain)

Media portrayals [ edit | edit source ]

Since the end of the Second World War, a number of Japanese and American films have depicted the character of Isoroku Yamamoto.

One of the most notable films is the 1970 movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, which stars Japanese actor Sô Yamamura as Yamamoto, who states after the attack on Pearl Harbor:

I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

There is no evidence that Yamamoto said this in reality despite the film calling it a quote. (See Isoroku Yamamoto's sleeping giant quote for further discussion.)

The first film to feature Yamamoto was Toho's 1953 film Taiheiyô no washi, (later released in the United States as Eagle of the Pacific), in which Yamamoto was portrayed by Denjirô Ôkôchi. ⎫]

The 1960 film The Gallant Hours depicts the battle of wits between Vice-Admiral William Halsey, Jr. and Yamamoto from the start of the Guadalcanal Campaign in August 1942 to Yamamoto's death in April 1943.

In Daiei Studios's 1969 film Aa, kaigun (later released in the United States as Gateway to Glory), Yamamoto was portrayed by Shôgo Shimada. ⎬] ⎭]

Award-winning Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune (star of The Seven Samurai) portrayed Yamamoto in three films:

  • Rengo kantai shirei chôkan: Yamamoto Isoroku (1968) (later released in Canada and United States as Admiral Yamamoto), ⎮]
  • Gekido no showashi 'Gunbatsu' (1970) (lit. "Turning Point of Showa History: The Militarists"), ⎯] and
  • Midway (1976) (where all of the Japanese scenes had English dialogue).

In Shūe Matsubayashi's 1981 film Rengō kantai (lit. "Combined Fleet", later released in the United States as The Imperial Navy), Yamamoto was portrayed by Keiju Kobayashi. ⎰]

In the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced epic, Yamamoto was portrayed by Oscar-nominated Japanese-born American actor Mako Iwamatsu. Like Tora! Tora! Tora!, this film also features the sleeping giant quote.

The most recent film to feature Yamamoto is Toei's 2011 war film Rengô kantai shirei chôkan: Yamamoto Isoroku (聯合艦隊司令長官 山本五十六), in which Yamamoto was portrayed by Kōji Yakusho. ⎱]

Alternate history [ edit | edit source ]

In the 1993 OVA series Konpeki no Kantai (lit. Deep Blue Fleet), the original timeline proceeds until Yamamoto's death in April 1943. However, instead of dying in the crash, Yamamoto blacks out and suddenly wakes up as his younger self, Isoroku Takano, after the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. His memory from the original timeline intact, Yamamoto uses his knowledge of the future to help Japan become a stronger military power, and eventually launching a coup d'état against Hideki Tōjō's government. In the subsequent Pacific war, Japan's technologically advanced navy decisively defeats the United States, and grants all of the former European and American colonies in Asia full independence. Later on, Yamamoto convinces Japan to join forces with the United States and Britain to defeat Nazi Germany.

In the 2004 anime series Zipang, Yamamoto (who is voiced by Bunmei Tobayama) works to develop the uneasy partnership with the crew of the JMSDF Mirai, which has been transported back sixty years through time to the year 1942.

In Douglas Niles' 2007 book MacArthur's War: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan (written with Michael Dobson), which focuses on General Douglas MacArthur and an alternate history of the Pacific War (following a considerably different outcome of the Battle of Midway), Yamamoto is portrayed sympathetically, with much of the action in the Japanese government seen through his eyes, though he could not change the major decisions of Japan in World War II.

Watch the video: What If Japan Attacked Soviet Russia Instead Of America During WW2- Alternate History (August 2022).