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A SUNDAY IN DECEMBER : WAR IN THE PACIFIC

“There was only one kind of Japanese casualty--the dead.”

That official assessment from a 1951 U.S. Army history of World War II perhaps best captures the character of the war in the Pacific.

Destruction of the American fleet at Pearl Harbor was key to Japan’s strategy for the entire war. With U.S. military power in the Pacific crippled, it would try to construct fortified bases along a defensive perimeter looping from Burma through the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) to the Solomon Islands and north to the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. From these outposts it hoped to intercept and destroy any allied counterattack, waging a war of attrition that would ultimately wear down the American will to fight.

The United States seriously disrupted the Japanese strategy with its naval victory at Midway, followed by the offensive at Guadalcanal near the end of 1942. From there the U.S. strategy was to “island hop” its way into a position from which it could launch attacks on the Japanese home islands. The island campaign was a bloody and grueling struggle against an enemy that vowed never to surrender.

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A land invasion of Japan was ruled out as too costly after steep American casualties on Okinawa. The alternative was the dropping of two atomic bombs, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

1) SINGAPORE:

Feb. 15, 1942: British forces surrender

Malaya:

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Dec. 8, 1941: Japanese 25th army moves into Malaya.

2) BATAAN PENINSULA:

Jan. 7, 1942: Main battle positions

April 9, 1942: American forces surrender

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3) CORAL SEA:

May 3, 1942: Japanses land at Tulagi.

May 4, 1942: First U.S. air strike on Tulagi.

4) MIDWAY:

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June 3, 1942 U.S. air planes sight Japanses ships within search area

5) GUADALCANAL:

Aug. 7, 1942: U.S. Marines attack

Feb. 7, 1943: Japanese forces withdraw

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6) LEYTE GULF:

Oct. 23, 19445: U.S. submarines sink two cruisers

7) IWO JIMA:

Feb. 19, 1945: U.S. Marines land on heavily defended Iwo Jima

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8) OKINAWA:

April 1, 1945: U.S. 10th Army lands on Okinawa

May 21, 1945: Japanese withdraw from ‘Shurl Line’

June 21, 1945: End of Japanese resistance

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