WWII in the Pacific

WWII in the Pacific (1940-1942)
Standards 10.8.3, 10.8.4, 10.8.6
The U.S. and Japan – Roosevelt urged Congress to give allowance to build up Naval
forces as leaders agreed that war with Japan was inevitable. Japan had become
increasingly oppositional to the U.S. economic sanctions and an oil embargo on them
after events in French Indochina.
Japan attacks Pearl Harbor – On December 7, 1941, in the early morning hours.
Japan launched its surprise attack on the Naval base of Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii.
The American forces were confused and overwhelmed in the attack. 200 aircrafts
were damaged, 2,400 Americans were dead and the U.S. Naval forces had been
severely crippled. The U.S. declared war on Japan December 8, 1941. Germany and
Italy followed suit by declaring war on the U.S. on December 11, 1941.
Japan takes control of Pacific – In 1941, Great Britain had already felt the power of
the Japanese military and lost significant territory in Southeast Asia and the Asian
Pacific Islands prior to the U.S. entering the War. The U.S. then entered and suffered
the same losses. Japan quickly took control of Wake Island, Guam, Hong Kong,
Singapore, Dutch East Indies, and Burma.
The Philippines – General Douglas MacArthur led the U.S. forces in the Pacific
and fought with 10,000 U.S. soldiers and 60,000 Filipino soldiers to hold the island
chain. Japanese forces came ashore in December 1941 and in a couple of short
months cornered MacArthur on the Bataan Peninsula.
Bataan Death March – Supplies were short for the Allies on the Peninsula and it was
a struggle to hold on. MacArthur was ordered to leave the Island in March 1942 and
the survivors were captured by the Japanese. The Japanese then forced the prisoners
to march for 5 days without food and water across the steaming forests of Bataan.
Those who did not were beaten and shot.
Doolittle Raids – April 18, 1942 gave the U.S. their first thing to cheer about with the
successful bombings of mainland Japan as Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle led the
raids on Tokyo and other major cities of Japan.
Battle of Coral Sea (May 1942) – Under the direction of Admiral Chester Nimitz,
the U.S. fleet was finally able to halt the Japanese advance at Coral Sea. This was the
first major Naval victory in the Pacific for the U.S.
Battle of Midway (June 1942) – This marked the turning point in the War in the
Pacific. Midway sat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Asia and North
America. Naval intelligence was able to break the Japanese code and learned key
facts about Japan’s strategy at Midway. Admiral Nimitz used these plans to lure
Japan into a large naval battle where the U.S. handily defeated the Japanese fleet.
The U.S. takes control of the Pacific – The U.S. dealt a heavy blow to the Japanese
fleet, taking out many of its best ships. From this point, Japan was not able to match
U.S. production and after many battles the U.S. fleet greatly outnumbered Japan’s.
Battle of Guadalcanal (August 1942) – The next chain of Islands the U.S. took was
the Solomon Islands. Japan had just completed a small airstrip on the island of
Guadalcanal that was of interest. The U.S. attack included land, sea, and air attacks
and 6 months later, the U.S. finally drove the Japanese off the Island in February
1943. This is the first time U.S. forces are able to drive Japan off previously
conquered territory.
Allied Advance – Guadalcanal set off a succession of Allied victories that included a
strategy of Island hopping. The allied forces would skip strongholds altogether and
attack weaker Islands on their way to Japan.
Discussion Questions – Talk and Write Down All Answers
1. What were the effects of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the United States Navy?
How did that affect the early stages of the war in the Pacific? Explain.
2. Why was the Battle of Midway the turning point of the war in the Pacific? Why
was Japan not able to recover as the United States was after Pearl Harbor? Explain.
3. What were the reasons Japan decided on a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor?