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The Largest Battles of the Pacific War

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The Pacific War, which lasted from 1941 - 1945, had a number of battles. These battles were both at land and sea and varied in size and scale. The largest Pacific War battles involved hundreds of thousands of troops on both sides and lots of warships.

The Battle of Midway

The Pacific War had a number of the war's largest naval battles. This cannot be considered a great surprise, because both the Imperial Japanese Navy and US Navy were two of the largest navies in the world. This was particularly the case in relation to their carrier fleets, as Yamamoto had greatly invested in expanding Japan's carrier fleet.

As such, the Battle of Midway in 1942 was one of largest carrier battles of the war. The battle involved seven aircraft carriers, four on the Japanese side and three on the American side. In this respect the Japanese may have had slight numerical advantage in terms of aircraft, and the A6M was the best combat plane involved in the battle. However, US cryptographers had  deciphered Japanese naval codes and informed Nimitz of the Japanese carrier fleet heading towards Midway.

An US carrier fleet intercepted Japan's Midway fleet sooner than the Imperial Japanese Navy expected. Midway had been heavily fortified by the Americans who had been expecting the Japanese fleet. During the battle, an audacious sortie paid dividends as three US dive-bombers sank three Japanese aircraft carriers. While the Japanese sank the Yorktown, they also lost their last remaining carrier. The battle ended with all four of Japan's carriers wiped out, along with supported aircraft. In comparison, the Yorktown was the only carrier the Americans lost at the Battle of Midway.

Battle of Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa was one of the largest battles in the Pacific War that involved hundreds of thousands of soldiers.[1] It was also one of the final battles of this war in 1945 before the Japanese Empire surrendered to the Allies later that year. Victory was close for the Allies, but first they had to take Okinawa.

It was on April 1 that the first Allied soldiers began to land at Okinawa for Operation Iceberg. Approximately 183,000 Allied soldiers landed on the northern shoreline of Okinawa. About 300 hundred warships from the US and Royal Navy supported the operation. By 20 April, Allied troops occupied much of northern Okinawa.

At sea the last remnants of the Imperial Japanese Navy were called into action to further defend Okinawa. As such, the Japanese drafted Operation Ten-Go, which called upon the Yamato battleship and further destroyers for escort. The objective of this operation was for these ships to sail for Okinawa and then beach themselves as shore batteries. The crews could then also be used as further infantry reinforcements for the Japanese troops.

However, on April 7 the operation reached its predictable anti-climax. After the Allies had detected the ships heading towards Okinawa, a number of Allied aircraft carriers were sent to sink them. As such, hundreds of aircraft were launched and bombed the fleet. The Yamato exploded and sunk along with a number of the escorting Japanese destroyers.

In the south, the battle was not so straightforward for the Allies. During April they ran into the Machinato line which slowed the Allied advance. However, by the 24th April this line had been broken.

The month of May was one in which the Japanese army counter-attacked, but to no avail. Their armies retreated to the Shuri Line. Much of the combat in May was along this line. Only in the last days of the month would Shuri fall as the Allies advanced into Naha and Yonabaru which encircled Shuri. On the 29th, the Japanese abandoned Shuri.

By June the Allies had all but won the Battle of Okinawa. Allied troops took out remaining Japanese soldiers during this month. By June 21 the Okinawa battle was all but over and the Allies celebrated victory.

This battle had ended in defeat for Japan much the same as the Battle of Iwo Jima, Leyte Gulf and Philippine Sea. However, despite this the Japanese did not surrender in June or July and began to re-enforce their armies.

Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Leyte Gulf battle was the largest naval battle of the war in 1944. Recognizing the strategic importance of Leyte, and the Philippines, most of the Imperial Japanese Navy was sent to Leyte Gulf to defend against an Allied amphibious landing on Saipan. The Allies sent in a large fleet of carriers, with about 1,500 aircraft, battleships, cruisers and destroyers.

Against such a naval fleet the Japanese were at an acute disadvantage with the few hundred aircraft they had in comparison. Consequently, they deployed their carriers as decoys to lure away the Third Fleet so that the Center Force could strike at invasion shipping. Even though the Third Fleet took the bait, the Center Force did not have enough impact at the Battle off Samar to defeat the Allied operation.

Battle of Leyte Gulf Map

The battle ended as a decisive Allied victory with much of the Imperial Japanese Navy wiped out. However, the Allies also lost a few escort carriers during the battle with thousands of casualties. The U.S. Sixth Army took Leyte and the USA expanded the Philippines Campaign.

They were three of the largest battles of the Pacific War at land and sea. The Battle of Midway, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa involved the largest number of troops and warships in the Pacific Theater.



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  1. "Okinawa Campaign ." WW2 Database. 27/04/2016 <Web >

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