History of War


The conflict between the United States and Japan during World War II, often called the Pacific War, was noteworthy for its extreme brutality. The battles of the campaign were often fought under the most appalling of conditions, well away from centres of supply or other comforts that fighting men could rely upon in other theatres. Simply getting American soldiers and marines to where they needed to be to fight the Japanese enemy required the development of lengthy logistical support networks. Often, little could be sourced locally, and instead the guns, bullets and food of the Americans and their allies had to be brought to the western Pacific by ship from distant ports.

After the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the United States became resolutely united in its desire for vengeance against the Empire of Japan. Most of the wrecked battleships damaged in the Pearl Harbor raid would be raised and returned to service. In the meantime, however, the US Navy found itself fighting a desperate war against a determined Imperial Japanese Navy severely shorthanded.

Matters were scarcely better on land. In the Philippines, the embattled American garrison, debilitated by disease and low on food, held out against impossible odds for months until it was forced to surrender, with the last US soldiers capitulating on Corregidor in May 1942. General Douglas MacArthur, the American commander in the Philippines, was ordered by President Franklin D Roosevelt to evacuate, but he promised to return to liberate the islands.

It seemed highly unlikely that MacArthur would be able to keep his promise. Everywhere, it appeared, the victorious armies and fleets of Imperial Japan were advancing, their momentum unstoppable.


American vengeance for Pearl Harbor came first in the form of a daring airstrike against the Japanese Home Islands. On 18 April 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers, launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, on an audacious 700-mile, one-way mission against Japan. 12 of those bombers dropped their weapons on Tokyo around noon. Though they caused scant damage and few casualties, the Japanese military establishment was extremely embarrassed that such an attack could even be undertaken by the Americans.

The US and Japanese navies soon tangled at the Battle

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