Pacific Theater Timeline

  • Pearl Harbor

    Pearl Harbor
    For month's, Japanese military leaders had been developing plans for a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, home of the US Navy's Pacific Fleet. Just before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor located at Oahu, Hawaii. The barrage lasted just two hours, but it was devastating.
  • Pearl Harbor

    Pearl Harbor
    The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight enormous battleships, and more than 300 airplanes. More than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died in the attack, and another 1,000 were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan; Congress approved. Three days later, Japan's allies Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States, and again Congress reciprocated. America had joined WWII.
  • Battle of Java Sea

    Battle of Java Sea
    On 26 February, 1942 the Allies received reports of a large Japanese fleet approaching Java, the principal island of the Netherlands East Indies. A force including the American and British heavy cruisers USS Houston and HMS Exeter and the Australian and Dutch light cruisers HMAS Perth, HMNS De Ruyter and HMNS Java set out to destroy the transports before they could land. Unable to locate the Japanese, they returned to base on 27 February but immediately received intel and set out to intercept.
  • Battle of Java Sea

    Battle of Java Sea
    They made contact that afternoon and began to fight. The Exeter's engines were damaged and it lost speed. The surviving Allied destroyers counter-attacked until the Japanese withdrew and were lost from sight. Doorman continued the chase. By 10.30pm the Perth and Houston were again exchanging fire and fending off Japanese destroyers. The two Dutch cruisers De Ruyter and Java were hit by torpedoes and blew up with a huge loss of life. Defeated, on 28 February the Allies left for Australia.
  • Bataan Death March

    Bataan Death March
    The fighting for the Philippines was over, but the suffering of the soldiers was just beginning. For five days and nights, the Japanese forced the starving, sick soldiers to march through the steaming forests of Bataan. Those who dropped out of line were beaten or shot. Those who fell were left for dead. The Japanese provided little food or water. Thousands of soldiers parished on this march. Hundred of those who completed this journey died of lack of food and medicine in Japanese prison camps.
  • Loss of Philippines

    Loss of Philippines
    General Douglas MacArthur led the defense of the Philippines, commanding a small force of Americans, and a number of poorly trained and equipped Filipino soldiers. They were no match for the Japanese invanders who came December 8, 1941. As the Japanese gained ground, MacArthur planned a retreat to the Bataan Peninsula, where he hoped to hold off the Japanese. Getting his troops into this defensive position took hard fighting and brillant leadership.
  • Loss of Philippines

    Loss of Philippines
    Food, medicine, and other supplies were short there. MacArthur urged Allied officials to send ships to help relieve his starving troops, but war planners thought it too risky. Secretary of War Henry Stimson said "there are times when men have to die." MacArthur and his forces fought on bravely, but illness and hunger took over. In March 1942, MacArthur was ordered to leave, although he promised to return. Less than a month later, 10,000 American and 60,000 Filipino troops on Baatan surrendered.
  • Doolittle Raid

    Doolittle Raid
    The loss of the Philippines was a low point for the US in the Pacific war. However, days later, Americans finally got good news: On April 18, 1942, Army Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle led a group of 16 American bombers on a daring air raid of Tokyo and several other Japanese cities. The aircraft had been launched from an aircraft carrier several hundred miles off Japan's coast. While this event did not do major damage to the Japanese targets, it did give the Americans something to celebrate.
  • Doolittle Raid

    Doolittle Raid
    It also gave the Japanese leaders something to worry and be angered about. Their outrage and concern would cloud their judgement and lead to major military mistakes in the oncoming months.
  • Battle of Coral Sea

    Battle of Coral Sea
    This battle feaatured one part of the Pacific fleet taht had not been badly damaged at Pearl Harbor, the aircraft carriers. The battle took place as Japanese forces were preparing to invade the British controlled Port Moresby on the island of New Guinea. To prevent this attack, US Admiral Chester Nimitz sent two aircraft carriers on the attack. In the following battle, American and Japanese navies both suffered damage.
  • Battle of Coral Sea

    Battle of Coral Sea
    For the Americans, this included loss of an aircraft carrier and several dozen aircraft . Yet, they had stopped the Japanese attack. For the first time, the Japanese advance had been halted.
  • Battle of Midway

    Battle of Midway
    Hoping to lure an American fleet into a large sea battle so that they could destroy it, Japanese military leaders attack Midway Island, which sat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While the Japanese had an advantage in the number of ships and carriers they had, America's naval intelligence officers had broken Japanese code and learned about the plans for attacking Midway. Americans knew the date for the planned attack, and from which direction the Japanese would approach.
  • Battle of Midway

    Battle of Midway
    Japanese war planners had been careless by refusing to fix flaws in their plans, believing that they could not be defeated, but they were wrong. Using his knowledge of Japan's plans, Admiral Nimitz placed his three available aircraft carriers carefully. His goal was to stop a Japanese landing at Midway to avoid contact with the larger Japanese fleet. His plans worked perfectly, and on June 4, 1942, Americans fought off the four Japanese aircrafts' air raid to the Midway Island.
  • Battle of Midway

    Battle of Midway
    Surviving Japanese planes raced back to their carrier in order to rearm and refuel. American aircraft followed them, and the Japanese depreately tried to ward them off. The USS Enterprise broke through the remaining Japanese defenses. As Fuchido had predicted, the fire and explosions followed by American bombing destroyed all three ships. American aircraft later on destroyed the fourth. Japanese aircraft managed to destroy the USS Yorktown, but Nimitz placed the rest of the ships greatly.
  • Guadacanal

    Guadacanal
    The Japanese had moved into the Solomon Islands in the spring of 1942, which threatened nearby Australia, who was fighting alongside the Allies in the Pacific. An Allied presence at the islands would help protect Australia, and provide a base for further efforts to push back the Japanese. A key goal in the islands was to capture an island called Guadalcanal. The Japanese had nearly completed an airfield there, but the rest of the island offered little. It was covered by swamps and dense jungles.
  • Guadacanal

    Guadacanal
    Daytime temperatures regularly reached the 90s, and millions of disease-carrying insects filled the air. It was a miserable place to fight. In spite of this, American forces came ashore on Guadacanal in August 1942. For the next six months, they fought in bloody combat with Japan. The battle took place on land, at sea, and in the air. Each sides won small victories, until Japanese forces fled the island in February 1943. It was a key moment in the war.
  • Island Hopping Strategy (Ask about date)

    Island Hopping Strategy (Ask about date)
    The Allies used a combination of land, sea, and air forces to capture key islands. These would then become the stepping-stones for future military actions. Focusing on Japanese weak spots, the Allies made steady progress in the Southwest Pacific in 1943. In 1944, the Allies captured locations in the Gilbert, Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana islands. The Allies also took advantage of America's industrial power. The fighting in the Pacific was very costly.
  • Island Hopping Strategy (Ask about date)

    Island Hopping Strategy (Ask about date)
    Both sides lost dozens of ships and thousands of aircraft. Japan was unable to replace the losses, but Amiercan factories could replace theirs. Allied leaders had focused on Europe first, which cut down the number of soldiers, sailors, and supplies for the Pacific war. Then, the Soviets began to push back Germany, the Allies made gains in North Africa, Italy, and France. This allowed Allied war planners to send more resources to the Pacific.
  • Island Hopping Strategy (ask about date)

    Island Hopping Strategy (ask about date)
    Hundreds of Native Americans in the Navajo nation served in the Marines as code talkers. Their main job was translating messages into a coded version of the Navajo language, which was so complex that the Japanese code-breakers were never able to figure it out. Navajo code-talkers could quickly and accurately transmit vital information about troop movements, enemy positions, and more. Their contributions helped the Allies win major battles.
  • Battle of Leyte Gulf

    Battle of Leyte Gulf
    Nearly 300 ships took part in the largest naval battle ever fought. At this time, the Allies had an advantage in ship numbers. When the battle was over, Japan had lost four carriers, three battleships, and a number of other vessels. The kamikaze, a Japanese word meaning "divine wind", made their first appearance in this battle. The term referred to a sudden storm that drove off a fleet preparing to invade Japan in the 1200s.
  • Battle of Leyte Gulf

    Battle of Leyte Gulf
    The kamikaze were pilots who loaded their aircraft with bombs and deliberately crashed into an enemy ship, knowing that they would die. A Japanese admiral said that such tactics were the only way of assuring their strength would be effective to a maximum degree. The attacks did not change the outcome of the battle, but the Allies feared the attacks.
  • Battle of Iwo Jima

    Battle of Iwo Jima
    Beginning in late 1944, the massive new American B-29 bomber began making regular raids on Japanese cities. Allied bombers dropped many tons of explosives on Tokyo and other centers. In order to provide a better base to launch these raids, American forces set out in February 1945 to capture Iwo Jima, a tiny volcanic island some 750 miles south of Tokyo, Japan's capital. The island was heavily guarded with Japanese soldiers, outnumbering American troops.
  • Battle of Iwo Jima

    Battle of Iwo Jima
    For the first time in the war, Japanese troops were fighting for their own land, hidden in caves, tunnels, and protected by concrete bunkers. Early in the battle, marines managed to capture the island's tallest point, Mount Suribachi, and while some thought that meant the battle was over, Japanese troops refused to surrender. The fighting went on for weeks, and by the time it was over, nearly 7,000 Americans were dead and many more wounded. 1,000 of the original 20,000 Japanese troops survived.
  • Battle of Okinawa

    Battle of Okinawa
    350 miles from Japan, Okinawa was to be the launching pad for the final invasion of Japan itself. First it had to be captured. This would be the bloodiest task the Americans would face in the Pacific. Allied troops invaded the island on April 1, 1945. The Japanese forces retreated to the southern tip of the island to plan their response, attacking five days later. Okinawa was filled with caves and tunnels, which the Japanese used to hide and launch deadly assaults.
  • Battle of Okinawa

    Battle of Okinawa
    Over 12,000 Americans died in the battle, and thousands more were injured. The Japanese lost 110,000 troops, and their willingness to fight to the death amazed Americans. In spite of the terrible losses, Americans finally gained control of the island on June 22, 1945. Lessons learned from this battle would have a major impact on the final days of war.
  • Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima

    Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima
    Vice president Harry S Truman had become president after Roosevelt's death in April. The new president had known nothing about the atomi bomb from the Manhattan Project prior to becoming president. Now, he had to decide if the US should use to weapon. Truman formed a group to advise him about using the bomb. The group debated where the bomb should be used and if Japan should be warned. After considering the options, the bomb was to be dropped on a Japanese city without warning.
  • Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima

    Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima
    However, the Allies did give Japan a last chance to avoid the bomb, issuing a demand on July 26 for Japan's surrender. Failure to comply would "lead to prompt and utter destruction". Japan didn't respond, and the plan went forward. On August 6, 1945, an American B-29 named the Enola Gay flew over the city of Hiroshima and dropped its atomic bomb. Seconds later, it exploded. Some 80,000 residents died, 35,000 were injured, 2/3rds of the city's 90,000 buildings were destroyed, and fires raged on.
  • Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki

    Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki
    In spite of the horror of Hiroshima, Japan's leaders took no action to end the war. For three days, they debated their next step. On August 9, 1945, the US dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The death toll there was 40,000. Surprisingly, this did not bring an end to the war. Japanese emperor Hirohito wanted to surrender, but military leaders refused. Some even tried to overthrow the Japanese government and continue war, but they failed.
  • V-J Day

    V-J Day
    After the US dropped a bomb on Nagasaki, Japanese emperor Hirohito wanted to surrender, but military leaders refused. Some even tried to overthrow the Japanese government and continue war, but they failed. Finally, on August 15, 1945, Hirohito announced the end of the war in a radio braodcast. It was the first time the Japanese people ever heard their emperor's voice. This day came to be know to the Allies as V-J Day.