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A Brief History of the INDOPACIFIC Region: Part 5

January 3, 2022 | INDOPACOM

WWII in the INDOPACIFC Continued

As WWII continued to rage on the easter front, Japan continued its campaign to take over the Pacific. Next up was the fall of Singapore in February of 1942. Singapore was one of the most important British bases

in the Pacific. It was considered at the time to be strongly fortified and not at risk of capture. However, three large Japanese divisions forced the surrender of British, Australian, and Indian forces garrisoned there on February 15th. Sumatra also fell, with Java being one of the few remaining territories not overtaken yet.

The Battle of the Java Sea took place on February 27, 1942. It was the Allies desperate attempt to stop the Japanese invasion fleet. However, it was in vain, as the Japanese forces destroyed five Allied warships, landed on Java, and forced the surrender of 20,000 Allied troops.

With the continued push back of Allied forces, General Douglas MacArthur became the supreme commander of the Southwest Pacific area, including the Dutch East Indies, Philippines, Australia, the Bismark Archipelago, and the Soloman Islands. Almost all other Pacific territories fell under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Together, they were to hold communications, contain the Japanese threat, and support the defense of North America. While Japan’s plans were so far successful, the Allies had no plans for complete surrender.

Allied forces began to push back after the fall of Java. The U.S. Pacific Fleet bombed the Marshal Islands, Wake Island, Marcus Island, and Rabaul in February and March of 1942. On the heels of these, U.S. bombers raided Tokyo in April 1942, followed by the intervention of Japanese plans to seize Port Moresby and Tulagi, resulting in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. In June 1942, Allied and Japanese forces clashed once again in the Battle of Midway, with Allied forces again preventing a Japanese invasion of the island.

The Battle of Midway is considered the turning point in the war in the Pacific. Japan had sustained substantial causalities and their Naval strength diminished significantly. As a result, Japan decided against plans to invade New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa and Allied forces began planning their offensive to retake territories lost in the Pacific. Furthermore, the battle solidified the importance of Naval codebreaking, the use of the first radar systems, and the importance of aircraft carriers in combat. The United Stated wartime production was just beginning to ramp up.

Next Up: A Brief History of the INDOPACIFIC Region: Part 6: The Allies Push Back in the Pacific


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