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The USA's Victories and Defeats in the Pacific War

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America and its allies won the Pacific War from 1941 - 1945. As such, the USA's victories outnumbered its defeats; and only in 1942 did the Americans have any notable defeats. At both land and sea the American navy and army outnumbered and outmatched the Japanese. These are a few of their victories and defeats in the Pacific.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor was the surprise airstrike that decimated much of the U.S. fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. Japan’s aircraft had somehow managed to reach Pearl Harbor undetected and their bombs wiped out hundreds of American aircraft on the ground. In the absence of aircraft carriers the battleships at Pearl Harbor became the primary naval target, and a number of these were sank.

As such, this was one of their defeats in the Pacific. They were perhaps fortunate that Japan abandoned a potential third wave which might have hit their oil supplies at Pearl Harbor, and that the aircraft carriers were absent. After Pearl Harbor salvage operations began, and some of the battleships were repaired and ready for action by 1943.

Pearl Harbor

The Philippines Campaign

The first Philippines Campaign, which ended in 1942, was one in which the Philippines fell to Japan. Here MacArthur and his troops could not hold the Philippines and eventually withdrew. The campaign lasted for a few months before the Americans surrendered the oil-rich Philippines. After the Battle of Corregidor, MacArthur vowed to return and retake the Philippines later in the war. True to his word MacArthur made his return in 1944 and by ’45 the Philippines had been retaken.

Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway was a triumph for the U.S. Navy and a much more complete victory than that of the Battle of Coral Sea a few months earlier. After U.S code breakers had informed Nimitz of the Japanese carrier fleet heading towards Midway, the Navy sent three American carriers to intercept the Japanese when they begun their aerial bombardment of Midway.

One bold American sortie effectively decided the battle. SBD dive bombers broke through the clouds and headed towards the Japanese aircraft carriers. Three of the Japanese carriers were set ablaze by bombs and could not remain afloat. Only one Japanese carrier remained to continue the battle, and its aircraft bombed the Yorktown aircraft carrier before the Americans finished off this remaining carrier.

The Imperial Japanese Navy had lost four aircraft carriers, and abandoned Midway Island. In addition to this, hundreds of their aircraft were lost with the carriers. The Pacific War was far from over, but this battle had opened the path to victory.[1]

Battle of the Philippine Sea

This was a naval battle in 1944 that involved Japanese and U.S. aircraft carriers around the Mariana Islands. After the U.S. Marines landed at Saipan in 1944, a Japanese fleet with hundreds of aircrafts was sent out to wipe out the U.S. aircraft carriers and then the invasion fleet. The battle lasted only a few days, and was a decisive Allied victory.


The Imperial Japanese Navy drafted and approved Operation A-Go to hold the Marianas. This counted on hundreds of aircraft from nearby Japanese airfields as well as their aircraft carriers. With that the Japanese expected to wipe out the U.S. naval presence in the region, and defeat the U.S. invasion fleet by cutting of its supply line before they could establish beachheads at Saipan.

On June 15 the first U.S. Marines began flooding the beaches of Saipan. Thousands arrived, and thousands more were expected. However, the U.S. Navy had to defeat the approaching Japanese fleet first before they could begin advancing further in Saipan.

U.S. submarines detected the IJN fleet shortly before the battle. As such, they reported the fleet heading towards the Mariana Islands.

The battle began on the 19th. The Japanese Navy sent out waves and waves of aircraft towards the U.S. carriers, only to find that very few of them returned. The F6F shot down most of the IJN's planes before they could reach their targets. Hundreds of Japanese aircraft were lost on the 19th.

U.S. submarines also found the Japanese aircraft carriers later in the day. These submarines targeted the aircraft carriers with torpedoes which had enough impact to ensure that the orders were given to abandon them. The remainder of the Japanese fleet made a withdrawal and temporarily lost contact with the Americans.

However, on June 21 scout planes from the USS Enterprise rediscovered the Japanese fleet. A new wave of U.S. aircraft took off and headed for the Hiyo aircraft carrier. Their torpedoes were enough to ensure that this aircraft carrier was also lost during the battle. On their return flight approximately 80 U.S. aircraft were lost as the night set in. In fact, most of their aircraft losses came during this period.

The Japanese fleet then retreated and returned to harbor. It had lost almost all of its aircraft during the battle, as well as three aircraft carriers. The Battle of Midway had pretty much been repeated as the Imperial Japanese Navy did not sink a single Allied warship in the Philippine Sea. The defeat here all but ensured the loss of Saipan, and the rest of the Marianas, as Japanese troops could not be resupplied or reinforced by the Imperial Japanese Navy.  


Battle of Okinawa

The final battles of the Pacific War were on the Japanese home islands in ’45. Much of the Japanese Empire had now fallen, but to land on Japan the Allies had to take Okinawa which would be an ideal platform for further amphibious landing. This was one of the largest battles of the Pacific War that involved hundreds of thousands of troops. What remained of Japan’s navy was also sent to Okinawa as part of Operation Ten-Go, but their largest battleship Yamato would be intercepted and sunk by U.S. aircraft before it got there along with much of its supporting ships. The Battle of Okinawa ended with the expected American victory.

Okinawa was the final battle for the Americans before Japan surrendered. The USA and its allies had decimated the Japanese military at land, air and sea from 1942 on. Their early defeats were set-backs, while their numerous victories ensured the demise of the Japanese Empire.



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  1. "Battle of Midway and the Aleutian Islands." WW2 Database. 26/04/2016 <Web >

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