On December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, severely damaging the united state Pacific Fleet. Once Germany and also Italy declared war on the United states days later, America discovered itself in a global war.

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

On December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise strike on Pearl Harbor, severely damaging the united state Pacific Fleet. When Germany and Italy declared war on the United claims days later, America discovered itself in a global war. Japan released a relentless assault that swept through the US regions of Guam, wake Island, and the Philippines, as well as British-controlled Hong Kong, Malaya, and also Burma. Yet, with lot of the united state fleet destroyed and also a nation unprepared for war, America and its allies decided they required to save great Britain and also defeat Germany first. 

The Japanese, meanwhile, sought to finish what they started at Pearl Harbor. Lock aimed to destroy the us carrier fleet in a win so decisive the the United states would negotiate because that peace. With its battleship fleet crippled in Hawaii, the us Navy turned come two making it through assets. Plane carriers and submarines an installed a serious difficulty to Japan’s triumphant fleet and also were an essential to protecting mainland America. However as US attacks on Japanese naval pressures and merchant ships escalated native isolated raids to full-scale battles, the learning curve proved costly and also deadly.

Blunting the Japanese Onslaught 

Throughout the winter and also spring that 1942 the war news reaching the United claims from the Pacific was grim. The Japanese amassed a vast new empire through a defensive perimeter that ranged from western Alaska come the Solomon Islands. In the southwest Pacific, Japan threatened American supply lines to Australia, complicating us plans to usage Australia as a staging floor for offensive action. 

But within months, the tide of fight started to revolve as the unified States and also its allies in Australia and brand-new Zealand an initial blunted Japan’s breakthrough and then began a long counterattack across the Pacific. The amphibious intrusion soon came to be the hallmark that the ally counterattack. Together they progressed westward toward Japan, Allied pressures repeatedly bombed and also stormed Japanese-held territory, targeting tiny islands and the jungles of new Guinea and also the Philippines. The goal was to dislodge the enemy and to for sure airfields and also supply bases that might serve as the launching points for future attacks. 

Turning Points

In beforehand May 1942, US and also Japanese carrier pressures clashed in the fight of the Coral Sea. While both political parties suffered significant losses, the us Navy checked a major Japanese attack for the very first time. Then, in the fight of Midway the following month, us carrier aircraft dealt a terrible blow come the Japanese navy, destroying four plane carriers. The battle marked the very first major united state victory against Japan and was a transforming point in the war. By moving the balance the naval strength in the Pacific, Midway permitted US forces to take the offensive for the an initial time. The Allies soon collection their sights ~ above Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and on brand-new Guinea.

Amphibious Invasions and Island Hopping

In respectable 1942, the unified States placed its an initial major amphibious landing in world War II in ~ Guadalcanal, utilizing innovative landing craft constructed by Higgins sectors in new Orleans. By seizing a strategy airfield website on the island, the united States halted Japanese efforts to disrupt supply routes to Australia and new Zealand. The invasion ignited a ferocious struggle marked by seven major naval battles, three significant land battles, and also almost consistent air combat together both sides sought to manage Henderson Field, called after Loy Henderson, an aviator eliminated at the fight of Midway. Because that six lengthy months US pressures fought to host the island. In the end they prevailed, and also the Allies take it the first an important step in control the Japanese earlier in the Pacific theater. 

With Guadalcanal in American hands, ally forces continued to near in top top Rabaul in brand-new Britain. As pressures under the command of Admiral william F. “Bull” Halsey moved north v the Solomons, general Douglas MacArthur’s troops moved west along the northern shore of Papua new Guinea, grinding out a hard-fought success by march 1943. However rather 보다 follow this success with a risky intrusion of the heavily protected Rabaul, American armed forces planners hatched an ingenious plan: allied planes and also ships would isolate and also neutralize Rabaul from the air and also sea while the mass of MacArthur’s forces pushed from the west to invade less-well-defended islands. This practice—skipping over heavily fortified islands in order come seize lightly safeguarded locations that can support the next advance—became recognized as island hopping. Together Japanese strongholds to be isolated, defenders were left to weaken from starvation and also disease. This new strategy turned the huge Pacific ranges into an American ally, and also the united States offered it come leapfrog across the Pacific.  

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Advancing on 2 Fronts

In enhancement to hopping native one less-defended island to another, the Allies’ Pacific strategy emerged another vital feature: soldiers, sailors, and US Marines pressed front on 2 fronts. Together MacArthur’s troops leapt from island to island in the southwest Pacific, a main Pacific campaign began with the invasion of Tarawa in the Gilbert islands in November 1943. Through the end of the year, a two-pronged assault on Japan to be well underway. 


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

As 1944 began, the southwest Pacific was mainly under allied control. Through February, the Allies were also making progression in the central Pacific. Naval and air strikes reduced most that the Japanese bases transparent the area, and after numerous intense, bloody campaigns, most of the central Pacific was secure. Together the archipelago in the Marshall and also Mariana chains fell to us Army and Marines pressures by the summer, troops built airfields in ready for waiting strikes ~ above Japan itself. The Marianas were a an especially valuable asset because they to be close sufficient to Japan because that the united States’ new, technologically advanced B-29 bombers to with the mainland. As the United states geared up because that this aerial bombardment the Japan, army leaders lobbied to continue their projects in the southwest and central Pacific. In the southwest, basic Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz driven for an attack on the Philippines, if in the central Pacific, Admiral Ernest J. King pressed for an strike on Formosa (now Taiwan). 

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The national WWII Museum will certainly commemorate the 80th anniversary the Pearl Harbor with 80 job of articles, oral histories, artifacts, and more.