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A Brief History of the INDOPACIFIC Region: Part 6

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

January 17, 2022 | INDOPACOM

The Allied Push Back in the Pacific

After the Battle of Midway, the Allied forces, consisting primarily of the United States, Great Britain, and Australia, began to push back and retake parts of the Pacific region from Japanese control.

From July 1942-May 1943, the Allies regained control over several countries in the Pacific. This included that Battle of the Eastern Solomons, resulting in Japan losing a carrier, destroyer, and a submarine, and the sea battles of Cape Esperance and Santa Cruz Islands, further damaging Japanese naval forces. Shortly after, the Allies advanced further with the Battle of Guadalcanal and the Battle of Tassafaronga, which secured communications with Australia and New Zealand and supporting Allied supplies and reinforcements. In the summer of 1942, British forces retook Madagascar and the United States retook the Aleutians, allowing support for the Kuril Islands. Furthermore, the U.S. invaded Woodlark and Kiriwina Islands. These islands were ideal to launch aircraft from to retake the coast of New Guinea, securing Nassau Bay and New Georgia and Rendova in the Solomons. It eventually led to the Japanese evacuation of Vella Lavella on October 7, 1943. All of these loses forced Japan to decide their last line of defense would be from western New Guinea and the Carolines to the Marianas and must be held at all costs.

By 1943, the Allies revised their plans. They decided to move through the Philippines and Micronesia on their way to mainland Japan. This would disrupt Japanese communications and support air raids and naval battles. To start, they would need to take Rabaul. By constructing air bases on each island captured, the Allies blocked any movement Japan made in return. Western New Guinea fell to the Allies in August 1944.

The U.S. launched a limited offensive to speed up the war and draw Japanese forces away from other areas. This campaign began with retaking the Gilberts, including Makin and Tarawa. Next was the Marshalls. In early 1944, the U.S. bombarded Kwajalein Atoll and used their fleet to attack the Japanese base at Truk in the Caroline Islands. Their next objective was the Mariana Islands. In June 1944, 500 Allied ships and 125,000 troops went up against 1,0055 Japanese aircraft, 9 aircraft carriers, and 450 aircraft. The Allies went up against fierce resistance, but in July, they took Sapian.

While all this was going on, the Japanese Combined Fleet went up against the U.S. 5th Fleet in the greatest carrier battle of the war, known as the Battle of Philippine Sea. 9 Japanese aircraft carriers went up against 15 of the U.S. It began on June 19, 1944, with four Japanese waves, resulting in losing 300 planes and two carriers, forcing a Japanese retreat. These Allied forces would continue to occupy other strategic islands, including Guam and Tinian in July 1944.

The Philippines was the next objective for the Allies. So, in September 1944, General Douglas MacArthur’s forces landed in Morotai and Palau Islands before landing in Leyte. In October 1944, American forces seized the areas around, leading to numbers encounters between Japanese and U.S. forces including the Battle of Leyte Gulf. This battle was the war’s greatest naval confrontation and resulted in heavy Japanese casualties. It reduced the Japanese Naval strength and cleared the way for the U.S. occupation of the Philippines, with Manilla’s fall on March 3, 1945.

Eventually, the Allies successfully took Sapian. This is considered another turning point of the war in the Pacific. This triggered the Tokyo Prime Minister and his entire Cabinet to resign, and many considered it a signal that they would ultimately lose the war. It also supported the U.S. establishment of air bases for B-29 bombers, the first of which took off from Saipan on November 24, 1944, bombing Tokyo in the first bombing raid on the capital since 1942. But this would not be the last.

Next Up: A Brief History of the INDOPACIFIC Region: Part 7: The End of WWII



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