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War in the Pacific

Overview of World War II


Mushroom cloud over Hiroshima During World War II

Mushroom cloud over Hiroshima During World War II

United States Air Force USS Missouri - Site of the Japanese Surrender Ending World War II

The Japanese surrender ceremony that officially ended World War II occurred on the deck of the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.

Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

America followed a defensive policy in Japan until the summer of 1942. Following is a list of the events that occurred during World War II's War in the Pacific:

  • Early Japanese Victories - Japan was able to have many victories in the Pacific and began attacking the Philippines. The Americans eventually had to surrender after General Douglas MacArthur and his troops failed to hold the Bataan Peninsula and the island of Corregidor. This was when MacArthur said his famous line, "I will return."
  • Pacific Offensive - America began an offensive campaign during the summer of 1942. They defeated the Japanese at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. In August, 1942, America invaded Guadalcanal and by May, 1943 had freed the Aleutians.
  • Island Hopping - The Americans led by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz took back many Japanese held islands on their way to the Japanese mainland. In June, 1944, Saipan fell and then in July America captured Guam. In March, 1945, America took Iwo Jima and held Okinawa by June.
  • Philippines - MacArthur kept his promise and returned to the Philippines after important victories in the Battle of Leyte Gulf (led by Admiral William Halsey). By January, 1945, they had landed at Luzon to battle for the Philippines.
  • China - Chiang Kai-Shek led the Chinese against the Japanese. In January, 1945, the Ledo Road was opened, and the allies were able to get supplies to the Chinese who then expelled the Japanese.
  • Atomic Bombs - Throughout the war, America had been working on the creation of atomic bombs through the Manhattan Project. In August, 1945, America led by Harry Truman, who took over the presidency after FDR's death, decided to drop atomic bombs on two cities in Japan. Part of the rationale for this decision was that they wanted to avoid the loss of life that would accompany an invasion of the Japanese mainland. Hiroshima was the first target on August 6th and then Nagasaki was hit on August 9th. The two bombs killed approximately 100,000 Japanese instantly. By September 2, 1945, the Japanese had unconditionally surrendered. This was V-J Day (Victory over Japan day).

    Part 1: Origins of World War II, Part 2: The War in Europe, Part 4: The Homefront

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