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Russian History: XX century

Russian History: XIX сentury

The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II

Allied Powers (SCAP), in the last days of the war. Instead, the Pacific was divided into area commands. The two most important were MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) and Admiral Chester Nimitz's Pacific Ocean Areas (POA). POA, in turn, was subdivided into North Pacific, Central Pacific, and South Pacific commands. Nimitz personally retained command of the Central Pacific.
Fighting in the Pacific was unlike fighting in Europe. The campaigns in Europe were characterized by huge ground forces driving overland into the heart of the enemy's country. Both in MacArthur's SWPA and Nimitz's POA, the Pacific war was a seemingly endless series of amphibious landings and island-hopping campaigns where naval power, air power, and shipping, rather than large and heavy ground forces, were of paramount importance.
Yet for the soldiers and marines who assaulted the countless beaches, the Pacific war was even more brutal and deadly than the war in Europe. Japanese defenders always dug in, reinforced their bunkers with coconut logs, and fought until they were killed. They almost never surrendered. On Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in November 1943 the marines suffered 3,301 casualties, including 900 killed in action, for a bit of coral 3 miles long and 800 yards wide. At Iwo Jima in February and March 1945 the marines lost almost 6,000 dead and over 17,000 wounded and fought for five weeks to take an island less than five miles long. At Iwo no battalion suffered fewer than 50 percent casualties, and many sustained even higher losses. In the southwest Pacific, MacArthur's casualties were proportionately fewer. Fighting on the larger land masses of New Guinea and the Philippines, he had more room to maneuver, and he could almost always "hit 'em where they ain't."
The history of the war in the Pacific falls neatly into three periods. The first six months of the war, from December 1941 to May 1942, were a time of unbroken Japanese military victory. At the-height of Japanese expansion in mid-1942, the tide turned. The period from mid-1942 to mid-1943 saw Japanese strategic thrusts into the south and central Pacific blunted by the carrier battles of the Coral Sea (May 1942) and Midway (June 1942). Limited U.S. offensives in the Solomons and in the Papuan area of eastern New Guinea were launched in the last months of 1942. Both offensives were begun on a shoestring, and both came close to failure. Yet they represented the end of defeat in the Pacific and the first tentative steps toward victory. Those steps became great leaps in 1944 and 1945. Two amphibious offensives developed, as MacArthur advanced across the northern coast of New Guinea into the Philippines and Nimitz island-hopped 2,000 miles across the central Pacific from the Gilbert Islands to Okinawa.
Japan on the Offensive
Japan, largely devoid of natural resources to-feed its industries, looked overseas for supplies of strategic materials such as ores and petroleum. Before 1939 the United States was Japan's major supplier. But President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull shut off American supplies in an effort to force the Japanese to end hostilities against China. The Japanese had long coveted the resource-rich British and Dutch colonies of Southeast Asia, and as the U.S. trade embargo tightened, the Japanese increasingly looked southward for raw materials and strategic resources.
Only the United States stood in Japan's path. The U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was the only force capable of challenging Japan's navy, and American bases in the Philippines could threaten lines of communications between the Japanese home islands and the East Indies. Every oil tanker heading for Japan would have to pass by American-held Luzon. From these needs and constraints, Japan's war plans emerged. First, its navy would neutralize the American fleet with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan would also seize America's central Pacific bases at Guam and Wake islands and invade the Philippines. With American naval power crippled, Japan's military would be free to seize Burma, Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies in a series of rapid amphibious operations. Japan would then establish a defensive ring around its newly conquered empire by fortifying islands in the south and the central Pacific. Japan's leaders were convinced that Americans, once involved in the European war, would be willing to negotiate peace in the Pacific.
To block Japanese ambitions, the United States Army had scant resources. Two small forces constituted the heart of the American land defenses in the Pacific--the garrison in the Territory of Hawaii and General Douglas MacArthur's command in the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Both were peacetime organizations, whose days were given to rounds of ceremonies, inspections, and languid training. Officers and their wives occupied evenings and weekends with rounds of social activities and golf, while the soldiers enjoyed more earthy pleasures in the bars and brothels of Honolulu or Manila.
Yet these forces would face overwhelming odds in the event of war. The thousands of islands that comprised the Philippines lay 8,000 miles from the American west coast, but only 200 miles from Japanese-held Formosa. To defend them, General MacArthur had the equivalent of two divisions of regular troops--16,000 U.S. regulars and 12,000 Philippine Scouts. He could call on additional thousands of Philippine militia, but they were untrained and ill equipped. Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short's Hawaiian command held 43,000 Army troops, including two infantry divisions, coast artillery, air corps, and support troops. Thus, in ground forces, the United States had the equivalent of three divisions in the Pacific to stand in the path of the Imperial Japanese Army.

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