War in the Pacic
National Park ServiceU.S. Department o the InteriorWar in the PacicNational Historical ParkGuam
1941 to 1945
The Pacic Theater o World War II involved one-third o the Earth’s suracebut only
th o its total land mass. It involved vast distances and new strat-egy, tactics, equipment, and weapons o war. Moreover, it involved not justJapan and the United States but Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, theNetherlands, Canada, China, France, and the Soviet Union. Caught in the mid-dle were the people o the Pacic islands, upon whose homelands and inwhose waters the battles were ought. This chronology tracks signicant as-pects o the Pacic War as a ramework or understanding the people andevents commemorated at War in the Pacic National Historical Park.
Without warning, Japanese planesbomb Pearl Harbor and Hickam and WheelerAirelds on Oahu, and within 30 minutes de-stroy the power o the U.S. Pacic battle feet—except or aircrat carriers
, which are at sea. Japan declareswar on the United States and Great Britain. ThePacic war that the United States suddenlyound itsel embroiled in had begun many yearsbeore the attack on Pearl Harbor when Japan,lacking the raw materials or modern industrial-ization, looked to mineral-rich Manchuria tosupply them. Japanese attacks on China led toopen warare in July 1937. As a result o Japan’sinvolvement in China and the extension o Japan’s“Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” intoIndochina, the United States, Great Britain, andother countries roze Japanese assets and exports,threatening Japan’s industrial survival. This ledto accelerated Japanese economic expansioninto Southeast Asia and the Dutch East Indies,bringing it into direct confict with westerncountries that also had economic interests inthese areas. By 1941, Japan was committed to apolicy o aggression to achieve its goals. Japan’sinability to come to diplomatic terms with theUnited States, which it saw as its most ormida-ble opponent, led to the Pearl Harbor attack.
Congress declares war on Japan;Japanese bomb islands o Wake and Guam, andCaroline, Mariana, and Philippine Islands beginswith army landings on Makin and Marine land-ings on Tarawa, the keystones o Japanese de-enses in the Gilberts.
General MacArthur’s SouthwestPacic oensive to secure the western Solomons,New Guinea, and the Philippines begins withthe landings on New Britain, the largest islandin the Bismarck Archipelago.
31 January–4 February
American orces captureRoi-Namur and Kwajalein in the Marshalls.
29 February–7 March
MacArthur surprises Japa-nese by seizing the Admiralty Islands.
China-based B-29s make their rst attackon Japanese homeland. U.S. orces invadeSaipan.
Battle o the Philippine Sea in whichU.S. carrier-based aircrat engage and infictcrippling losses on Japanese carrier-based aircrat.
U.S. orces invade Guam.
U.S. orces invade Tinian.
U.S. orces invade Morotai andPeleliu.
U.S. orces invade Leyte.
Battle o Leyte Gul, the last andgreatest naval engagement o the war, results innear destruction o the Japanese Navy.
Air oensive against Japan beginswith B-29 attacks on Tokyo rom bases in theMarianas.
9 January–23 February
Reconquest o northernPhilippines begins as U.S. orces invade Luzonand occupy Manila.
19 February–17 March
U.S. Marines invade andconquer island o Iwo Jima ater bitter ghting.
B-29 re-bomb attack on Tokyoleaves much o the city in ashes and inauguratesa series o incendiary strikes against other Japa-nese cities.
19 March–21 June
Battle or the Ryukyu Islands,in which U. S. carrier-based planes make largescale attacks on Japanese ships and airelds inthe Ryukyus.
1 April–21 June
U.S. troops invade and captureOkinawa, main island o the Ryukyus. Japanesemilitary orces infict heavy casualties on Americantroops, but the island is nally secured.
Army Air Corps drops atomic bomb onHiroshima. A second atomic bomb is dropped onNagasaki three days later.
Japan accepts Allied unconditionalsurrender terms.
Japan signs ormal terms o sur-render.
Japanese land in New Guinea, occupyingLae and Salamaua and threatening Port Moresby,last deensive post protecting Australia.
MacArthur, who had let the Philip-pines six days beore, arrives in Australia. Herehe utters the now-amous words, “I came throughand I shall return.”
MacArthur is designated Allied Supremecommander, Southwest Pacic Areas (Australia,most o the Indies, and the Philippines); Adm.Chester Nimitz is designated Commander in Chie,Pacic Ocean Area.
Bataan surrenders. The starving U.S. andFilipino survivors begin a 60-mile death marchto Japanese prison camps.
July 28, 1944: an amphibious tractor or duck loadedwith Marines heads or the beach on Guam. A cruiseris visible close to shore.
allphotos NatioNalarchives uNless otherwise credited
President Franklin D. Roosevelt asks Congress to declarewar on Japan, December 8, 1941.US Marines hurl grenades at Japanese positions duringthe ghting on Saipan, 1944.Japanese submarine
carrying Kaiten one-mantorpedoes en-route to attack U.S. feet o Iwo-Jima,1945.Navy ocer scrambles to assist Hellcat pilot who hascrash landed on the deck o the carrier USS
,1944.U.S. Navy task group returns to anchorage or repairsand supplies ater strikes against the Japanese in thePhilippines, December 1944.Crew o carrier USS
battles res resultingrom kamikaze attack during Okinawa campaign,1945.Japanese kamikaze pilots prepare or a mission, 1944.
Papuan Campaign begins as Japanesetroops land at Gona and Buna, 100 miles east oLae and Salamaua in northern New Guinea, andbegins an overland drive across the Owen StanleyMountains to capture Port Moresby on thesouthern coast. In the months that ollow, Aus-tralian and U.S. orces rustrate every attempt totake the port and eventually drive the Japaneseback to Gona and Buna.
U.S. Marines invade Guadalcanal inthe Solomon Islands in the rst American oen-sive o the war. Subsequent Japanese eorts todrive the Americans o the island are consis-tently unsuccessul.
Japanese Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu signs document o sur-render aboard USS
, September 2, 1945.
Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle leads 16 B-25bombers rom carrier
to bomb targets inTokyo, Yokohama Yokosuka, Kobe, and Nagoya.
Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, MacArthur’ssuccessor in the Philippines, surrenders Corregidorand all U.S. troops under his command.
Battle o the Coral Sea. This Japanesetactical victory but strategic deeat is the rstnaval battle in which all ghting is done by car-rier-based planes and the opposing ships neversaw each other.
Battle o Midway. This American victorydeals the Japanese their rst major naval deeatand proves the oensive power o aircrat carriers.
Japanese occupy Attu and Kiska in theAleutian Islands.Clark and Iba Airelds in the Philippines; invadeMalaya and occupy Thailand; and seize the inter-national settlement at Shanghai.
Japanese capture Guam and beginlandings on northern Luzon.
Wake Island is surrendered to theJapanese.
r Gen. Douglas MacArthur, command-ing United States Army Forces in the Far East,begins evacuation o Manila and withdraws toBataan.
Hong Kong is lost to the Japanese.
Japanese occupy Manila.
Siege o Bataan begins. MacArthur,headquartered on Corregidor, proclaims theBataan Peninsula the center o American-Filipinoresistance to the Japanese invasion o the Philip-pines. But its jungles, swamps, and mountainsmake supply dicult, and the Bataan DeenseForce suers shortages o ood and medicinesthroughout the three-month ordeal.1
U.S. Navy launches air and suraceattacks against Japanese bases in the MarshallIslands.
Battle o Java Sea results inmost severe U.S. naval losses since Pearl Harborand leads to the collapse o organized Alliedmilitary resistance in that area.
Japanese navy sinks our Alliedcruisers in Battle o Savo Islands.
Battle o Eastern Solomons results insinking o one Japanese carrier by aircrat romUSS
The decisive American victoryin the naval battle o Guadalcanal prevents theJapanese rom landing reinorcements and makespossible the nal conquest o Guadalcanal byU.S. orces.
U.S. troops begin nal oensive toclear Guadalcanal. By February 9 organized Jap-anese resistance on the island is ended. TheAmerican victory opens the way or other Alliedgains in the Solomons.
Papuan Campaign ends in the rstdecisive land deeat o the Japanese.
Battle o the Bismarck Sea. U.S. andAustralian aircrat decimate a 16-ship Japanesesupply convoy bound or Lae and Salamaua,New Guinea, demonstrating the eectiveness olow-level bombing.
An indecisive naval battle o the Ko-mandorski Islands prepares the way or recon-quest o the Western Aleutians. By mid-AugustJapanese troops have been driven out o bothAttu and Kiska.
Munda Aireld, New Georgia, is cap-tured, providing Allied orces a base rom whichto bomb Japanese air and naval acilities atRabaul.
Americans overrun New Georgia,Solomon Islands, thus removing the Japanesethreat to orces on Guadalcanal.
Admiral Nimitz’s Central Pacicoensive to reconquer the Marshall, Gilbert,
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