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War in the Southern and Southwestern Pacific

Although this section deals in detail only with the Southern and Southwestern Pacific, it is in effect a chronicle of the war against Japan, for events in other areas are treated broadly in their chronological relationship. These events are discussed in detail in sections 10. War in the Central and Northern Pacific and 11. War in Eastern Asia.

Japanese Dreams of Empire

The Japanese began their efforts to establish a Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere (see Map 35) as early as 1931. Seizing a minor pretext, they then overran Manchuria and, in 1932, established it as a puppet state under the name of Manchukuo. Incursions into China proper followed. These were initially successful, but eventually the Japanese encountered the stubborn resistance of the Chinese, who were united under the central government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The crisis came in 1937, when a major offensive was launched to reduce China to submission. After overrunning large areas of northern China, the Japanese found that they could not break the Chinese will to resist, and a policy of economic strangulation was adopted. By 1939 they had seized the major coastal ports and had forced the removal of the Chinese capital inland from Nanking to Hankow and then to Chungking.

In 1940, Japanese pressure on the weak Vichy government of conquered France brought important concessions in Indochina, including the right of entry of Japanese troops. Japan's formal entry into the Axis alliance with the signature of the Tripartite Pact in September 1940 provided convincing proof of her ultimate aims. A treaty was concluded with Thailand (Siam), and by the end of 1940 the Japanese were threatening the Burma Road, the last important supply line from the outside world to China. In April 1941, Japan signed a five-year nonaggression pact with the USSR, and in July she completed the occupation of French Indochina. Her thoughts now turned to the so-called Southern Regions (the Philippines, Borneo, the Moluccas, Celebes or Sulawesi, Timor, Java, Sumatra, Malaya, Thailand, and Burma), an area extremely rich in raw materials.

Alarmed by the Japanese movements and ambitions, the United States, Great Britain, and the Netherlands, whose territories Japan coveted, joined in freezing her assets in their respective countries, thereby effectively curtailing her trade. It had long been obvious to the Japanese that the establishment of the Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere would result in conflict with theOccidental powers. Now the crisis was at hand.

Road to War

The stringent economic restrictions put into effect by the United States in 1940-1941 made it impossible for Japan to import the raw materials required for war production. She now faced the alternatives of either abandoning her ambitions for empire or making herself self-sufficient through the seizure of the Southern Regions. The former course was unthinkable, while the latter seemed a simple venture under existing circumstances. The British, American, and Netherlands forces confronting Japan were weak. The possibility of British and Dutch reinforcements arriving in strength in Asia or the East Indies was remote, for the Netherlands was in German hands and the British were struggling for survival in the Middle East. Even the USSR was reeling under German attacks. The United States was far from being mobilized and was committed through its lend-lease program to the support of the nations aligned against Germany and Italy.

Certainly the time was ripe for Japan to act with vigor and celerity if her dreams of empire were to be realized. Several years would be required for the United States and Great Britain to muster their full strength in the Pacific, years during which Japan could seize and develop the resources of the Far East and make herself impregnable against counterattack. Four years of campaigning in China had inured her soldiers to the rigors of war. Guns, tanks, planes, and other equipment had been tested in combat. In the many amphibious operations against Chinese ports the Japanese had developed skill in the type of war which they would encounter and had mastered the close coordination of land, sea, and air power.

By Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese Army had grown to a force of 2,400,000 trained men and 3,000,000 partially trained Reserves. The air fleet consisted of 7,500 planes (including 2,675 first-line planes), which were divided about equally between the army and the navy. The rate of new plane construction was 425 monthly, and additional pilots were being trained at a rate of 2,750 a year. Dissatisfied with the lesser role assigned her by the other powers, Japan in 1934 had denounced the naval agreements of 1922 and 1930, and had secretly increased the strength of her navy to 230 major vessels.

West of Hawaii the Allies could oppose this formidable Japanese war machine with approximately 350,000 poorly equipped ground troops, about 90 warships, and less than 1,000 planes, most of which were obsolete. This force, largely untrained and inexperienced and composed of a mixture of nationalities with divergent customs, languages, and interests, was scattered across the Pacific and Southeast Asia from Wake Island to Burma and from Hong Kong to Australia. The principal centers of Allied strength in the Far East were located in Malaya and the Philippines.

The strength of the Japanese armed forces was enhanced by their strategic disposition. The mandated islands in the Central Pacific, which had been secretly fortified, provided excellent bases for operations to the east against Hawaii, to the west against the Philippines, and to the south against New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Australia. American Guam and Wake Island were unfortified and could be taken easily. Bases on the China coast and airfields on Taiwan (Formosa), the Ryukyu Islands, and the home islands provided a safe channel for Japanese ship movements southward. The Japanese occupation of southern French Indochina in July 1941 furnished bases for easy access to Malaya and the key British naval base at Singapore. The Philippines, the principal American outpost in the Far East, were hemmed in on three sides by bases in the Palau group, Taiwan, Hainan, Spratly Island, and French Indochina. Hong Kong, which with Singapore and Manila constituted the foundation of Anglo-Saxon power and influence in the Far East, was isolated by a strong cordon of Japanese troops and by bases on Taiwan and Hainan.

The scene for the drive to the south had been well set, but Japan had her Achilles' heel--her merchant marine, which had grown to 6,100,000 tons. An industrial island nation like Great Britain, she needed to import large quantities of unprocessed materials for home consumption and for the manufacture of war goods; and support of the contemplated military operations would double the burden. Japan could fulfill her shipping requirements as long as undue losses were not experienced, but there was no margin of safety. The ravaging of Japan's merchant marine by American aircraft, submarines, and surface warships was to prove a decisive factor in her eventual defeat.

By December 1941, the United States Army had reached a strength of about 1,500,000 men, of whom 1,000,000 were not completely trained. The Army Air Forces had 1,157 first-line combat aircraft, of which 159 were four-engine bombers. The Navy consisted of 347 warships, and an ambitious expansion program was on the way. American merchant shipping aggregated more than 10,000,000 tons and was growing rapidly. Nevertheless, the state of American preparedness was gravely affected by the commitment of a large portion of war production to the conflict in Europe.

Japanese War Plan

As the time for war approached, the military hierarchy dominated Japan economically and politically as well as militarily. The basic war plan of Imperial General Headquarters was divided into three phases. Phase 1 included neutralization of the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, seizure of the Southern Regions, and establishment of a defensive perimeter to protect these regions and the Japanese homeland. Phase 2 consisted of the consolidation and strengthening of the perimeter with a string of fortified bases extending from the Kuril Islands through Wake Island, the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, northern New Guinea, Timor, Java, Sumatra, Malaya, and Borneo. Phase 3 embraced the interception and destruction of any attacking forces that might attempt to penetrate the defensive perimeter, and the waging of a war of attrition to destroy the will to fight of the United States, the principal antagonist.

With her western flank protected by the occupation of the China coast and her northern flank by the neutralization of the USSR through a nonaggression pact, Japan could apply maximum pressure toward the south and east. The only real threat to the Japanese war plan was the United States Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor. The first operation would therefore be the neutralization of this fleet by means of a surprise air attack. The First Air Fleet, a strategically mobile striking force built around 6 fast aircraft carriers, was assigned this task. Once the strike at Pearl Harbor had been successfully completed, strong air attacks, preliminary to invasion, were to be launched against the Philippines and Malaya to destroy the principal Allied concentrations of airpower in the Far East. Air blows would also be struck against Hong Kong, Wake, and Guam.

The main Japanese attack was to be the drive to seize the Southern Regions. The offensive would begin with a two-pronged thrust, one prong being directed against Malaya and the other against the Philippines. At the same time, Guam, Wake, Hong Kong, British Borneo, and Thailand were to be occupied; and advance bases were to be established in the Bismarck Archipelago, Netherlands Borneo (Kalimantan), Celebes, the Moluccas, and Timor. After the capture of Malaya and the Philippines, the two main forces were to be combined for the invasion of Java, the heart of the Netherlands East Indies. By then the First Air Fleet would have completed its operations in the Central Pacific and could lend its overwhelming power to the assault. At an opportune time, large-scale operations would be undertaken in Burma with the primary object of cutting the Burma Road. Upon the successful completion of these campaigns, the first-phase objectives would have been attained. The second and third phases would follow, and Japan would then revert to the strategic defensive, prepared to counter the eventual assaults of the United States and Great Britain.

This plan for the simultaneous conduct of many far-flung operations violated the cardinal military principle of concentrated application of combat power, but in view of Allied weakness such an unorthodox strategy was sound. Striking everywhere at once not only would exploit the essential element of surprise, but would place the Allies on the defensive on all fronts and confuse them as to the true Japanese objectives. It would take advantage also of the Allies' divergent self-interests and thus hinder any attempt to combine and concentrate available defensive forces during the first phase. The military leaders were confident that once Japan dominated the entire Far East, the Allies, operating at the end of long supply lines and lacking well-developed advance bases, would find reconquest a difficult and prolonged, if not impossible, task.


Early on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, the First Air Fleet surprised the bulk of the United States Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor and inflicted such damage as to put it out of action as an effective major force for some time. Simultaneously, 2 destroyers attacked the American base at Midway and withdrew after severely damaging its air installations. On December 8, Japanese bombers began to rain destruction on the American garrison of Wake Island. An attempt to land on December 11 was beaten off, but the exhausted garrison succumbed to an overwhelming assault on December 23. From bases on the secretly fortified nearby islands of Rota and Saipan, Japanese aircraft bombed Guam. The small American garrison on the unfortified island was overwhelmed by Japanese troops on December 10. During the month the Japanese also occupied Tarawa and Makin atolls in the Gilbert Islands.

The Japanese attack on Hong Kong came early on December 8 (local time). The British garrison held out until Christmas Day, when, exhausted and without possibility of outside aid, it surrendered. Simultaneously, Japanese troops moved from their bases in French Indochina to overrun Thailand and advance into Burma, and an amphibious force landed on the east coast of the Kra Peninsula and moved southward into Malaya. On Feb. 15, 1942, Singapore, symbol of British strength in the Far East, fell. By May 20, the Allies had been virtually driven from Burma into India, the Burma Road had been cut, and Southeast Asia was in Japanese hands. The western prong of the offensive had done its work well.

Fall of the Philippines

The Tydings-McDuffie (Philippines Independence) Act, passed by the United States Congress in 1934, provided for the complete independence of the Philippines after a 10-year period as a commonwealth. Independence was scheduled for July 1946. The fact that the United States intended to withdraw from the islands deterred it from any sizable augmentation of the defensive installations. To assist the Philippines Commonwealth in preparing its own defenses, the United States in 1935 sent Gen. (later General of the Army) Douglas MacArthur to serve as military adviser to the new government. An ambitious program for national defense was initiated in 1936, but it was not far advanced when the Japanese struck in 1941. Japanese encroachments in the years preceding the war had almost surrounded the Philippine Islands. The only line of communication that did not pass through Japanese-controlled waters was to the south, toward the East Indies.

On July 26, 1941, the United States, alarmed by Japan's threatening attitude in the Far East, ordered the embryonic Philippine Army into the service of the Army of the United States, as provided in the Tydings-McDuffie Act. A new headquarters, known as the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), was created, with General MacArthur in command. The Regular component of the Philippine Army was inducted immediately, and mobilization of 10 Reserve divisions began. National Guard tank and antiaircraft units were sent from the United States, and in November the 4th Marine Regiment was transferred from Shanghai, China.

By December, Allied ground forces in the Philippines totaled about 130,000 men, 100,000 of whom were hastily mobilized Philippine Army troops lacking training and inadequately equipped. American personnel numbered only 13,507 men, who for the most part were assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment, and various antiaircraft, armored, and harbor defense units. Other troops consisted of 12,000 dependable Philippine Scouts and 3,000 members of the Philippine Constabulary. The United States Far East Air Force, under the command of Maj. Gen. (later Lt. Gen.) Lewis H. Brereton, comprised 277 aircraft (only 142 of which were suitable for combat) and 5,609 aviation personnel. United States naval strength in the Philippines area consisted of 1 heavy cruiser, 1 light cruiser, 4 destroyers, 28 submarines, 6 gunboats, 28 aircraft, and miscellaneous vessels. This was the major portion of the United States Asiatic Fleet, commanded by Adm. Thomas C. Hart. By this time, approximately 500,000 tons of additional supplies and 20,000 troop reinforcements had been earmarked for dispatch to the Philippines, but the Japanese struck before the first shipments could arrive.

The configuration of the Philippine Archipelago makes it very difficult to defend in its entirety. It comprises about 7,100 islands and islets extending approximately 1,100 miles from north to south and 700 miles from east to west. The problem of defense resolved itself into an effort to hold only the largest and most important land areas, particularly Luzon and Mindanao.

A fundamental weakness of the Philippines was its dependence on the outside world. Though possessing rich natural resources, it lacked heavy industries and munition plants and had only a few factories capable of supplying even the smallest items of military equipment. Gasoline and oil had to be imported. Once cut off from outside assistance, the defenders of the islands could not long endure.

Capture of Luzon

General MacArthur's plan was to make his principal defense on Luzon, the largest and most important island of the group. All but three Philippine Reserve divisions and some miscellaneous troops were concentrated there. Except for 16 heavy bombers and a squadron of Navy patrol bombers, which were in Mindanao, the entire air force was also based on Luzon. A war warning had been received on November 27, and because of the lack of air protection Admiral Hart had moved most of the warships of the Asiatic Fleet out of Manila Bay.

For the defense of Luzon, MacArthur had organized three field forces: the North Luzon Force, the major defense unit, consisting of three Philippine Reserve divisions and elements of the Philippine Scouts, which was under the command of Maj. Gen. (later Gen.) Jonathan M. Wainwright; the South Luzon Force, composed of two Philippine Reserve divisions, elements of the Philippine 1st Regular Division, and two regiments of the Constabulary, commanded by Brig. Gen. (Later Maj. Gen.) George M. Parker, Jr.; and the USAFFE reserve, which was retained directly under MacArthur's command and included the Philippine Division, two Philippine Reserve divisions, two American tank battalions, and miscellaneous other units. The nucleus of the entire force defending Luzon was the Philippine Division. It included two first-rate Philippine Scout infantry regiments, the American 31st Infantry Regiment, and a full quota of division artillery. Two other forces had also been formed: the Philippine Coast Artillery Command, comprising all coast and antiaircraft artillery, which was charged primarily with the defense of Manila and Subic bays; and the Visayan-Mindanao Force, which was responsible for the defense of the southern islands. The plan of defense was to fight as strong a delaying action as possible, retiring as it became necessary to the Bataan Peninsula and the forts of Manila Bay, where a final stand would be made until the United States Navy brought aid.

The Japanese Fourteenth Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma and consisting of two reinforced divisions, the 16th and the 48th, was assigned to the invasion of the Philippines. These divisions were well trained and had had fighting experience in China. Each comprised almost 50,000 men and as many as 100 tanks. The 48th Division was to land in northern Luzon and the 16th in southern Luzon; both were to converge on Manila. Meanwhile, elements of the 16th Division would invade Mindanao. The bulk of the Japanese Third Fleet--5 cruisers, 14 destroyers, 1 seaplane carrier, and a host of auxiliaries--was designated the Northern Philippine Force and assigned to support the attack on northern Luzon. The Southern Philippine Force, consisting of the rest of the Third Fleet plus a carrier division--2 aircraft carriers, 5 cruisers, 13 destroyers, 2 seaplane carriers, and a large number of transports and supply ships--was assigned to support the landings in southern Luzon and in the Mindanao-Sulu Archipelago area. Once the landings in Malaya had been successfully carried out, the roving Japanese Second Fleet--2 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 4 destroyers--would provide added support for the main landing on northern Luzon.

The first task of the Japanese was to destroy American airpower and air installations and to seize airfields for land-based aircraft. Since army aircraft based on Taiwan could barely reach Luzon, navy planes had to be used for the main strikes until airfields in the Philippines had been captured. The plan was to strike at dawn on December 8 with a force of 84 fighters and 107 bombers, but a heavy fog blanketed the fields on Taiwan that morning, and the first aircraft did not leave until 10:15 am. The Japanese aircraft appeared over Luzon shortly after noon. The delay in attacking proved fortuitous for Japan. Since MacArthur had been informed at 3:30 am that a state of war existed, his planes were in the air at dawn seeking the enemy, and a number of false alerts kept them busy for most of the morning. When the Japanese planes arrived, many of the American fighters were in the process of landing for refueling, others were grounded at airfields because of dust, and the bombers were on the ground. The Japanese therefore encountered little resistance and proceeded to wreak havoc on the American aircraft and installations. The airfields on Luzon were virtually put out of action, and the naval base at Cavite was destroyed. By the end of the day half of the American bomber force and a third of the fighters had been destroyed. Possessing mastery of the air, the Japanese continued their destructive attacks during the succeeding days. The 16 remaining American bombers were withdrawn on December 11 to Mindanao, and then to Australia, without having been able to mount a single effective strike. By December 15, American fighters had been reduced to a handful, and these were now husbanded for reconnaissance purposes.

At dawn on December 10, the first Japanese landings took place at Aparri and Vigan in northern Luzon. Elements of the 48th Division, consisting of about 2,000 men each, went ashore at the two points. Early on December 12, 2,500 men of the 16th Division landed at Legaspi in southern Luzon. These landings were designed to lure the defenders to the extremities of the island so that, when the main forces debarked in central Luzon, MacArthur's forces would be divided and isolated. The general did not succumb to this strategy. Instead, he allowed the small forces in the areas concerned to delay the Japanese as best they could; attacked the Japanese naval forces supporting the landings with his meager air force, though with negligible results; and held his troops close in hand, awaiting the main landings. These came at Lingayen Gulf early on December 22 and at Lamon Bay before dawn on December 24.

Initially, MacArthur's plan had been to meet the Japanese at the beaches and drive them back into the sea. Since this was obviously impossible with the limited combat strength available, his troops had been ordered to hold certain lines inshore and delay the enemy. Thus, when the bulk of the 48th Division (43,110 men and from 80 to 100 tanks) landed at Lingayen Gulf, it encountered little opposition. General Wainwright's North Luzon Force braced itself to meet the inevitable onslaught. The Regular units fought well and offered stiff resistance, but the inexperienced Philippine Reserve divisions were no match for the battle-hardened Japanese troops. Constantly threatened with outflanking on the east, the North Luzon Force gradually gave ground. On December 31, Wainwright's troops were holding desperately to the Bamban-Mount Arayat line and at Baliuag in order to keep open the only escape route into Bataan Peninsula for the South Luzon Force. This force, which was threatened with outflanking on the south on the very first day, had been falling back toward Manila. On December 24, MacArthur ordered General Parker to prepare the defensive positions on Bataan; Maj. Gen. Albert M. Jones took command of the South Luzon Force. These troops passed around Manila on the night of December 30, and by dawn of the next day had crossed the dangerous bottleneck of the Calumpit bridges, which had been kept open by Wainwright's troops. (Manila itself had been declared an open city on December 26, but it was bombed repeatedly by the Japanese during the succeeding days.) On Jan. 1, 1942, Wainwright withdrew his forces to the Borac-Guagua line covering Bataan. There two Philippine divisions held off Japanese attacks until January 4 in order to allow the rest of MacArthur's forces to get into position on Bataan and prepare for the defense of the peninsula. By January 7, USAFFE was in position and organized for defense, with the forward line extending from Moron through Mount Natib to Abucay.

Fall of Bataan and Corregidor

Behind the forward defense line the USAFFE forces were organized into two corps. The 1st Corps, under General Wainwright, held the western sector, while the 2d Corps, under General Parker, defended the eastern sector. A reserve battle position extended from Bagac to Orion, and behind a line running roughly through Mariveles was the Service Command Area. The USAFFE reserve, consisting of elements of the reliable Philippine Division, was behind the reserve battle position in General Parker's sector, the sector containing the best routes for the Japanese advance. The forces on Bataan totaled about 80,000 men, including 15,000 Americans. Approximately 2,000 troops, who had been cut off in the retreat to Bataan, fled to the hills of Luzon and conducted guerrilla warfare. Food, housing, and sanitation problems on Bataan were greatly complicated by the presence of more than 26,000 civilian refugees, a contingency that had not been foreseen in planning the defense of the peninsula. All troops were immediately placed on half rations. With the United States Pacific Fleet virtually immobilized after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese in control of the waters surrounding the Philippines, the Bataan garrison would have to fight it out with its own limited resources.

Japanese probing attacks against the forward line began on January 9. Determined to conclude the Bataan campaign expeditiously, General Homma began to apply relentless pressure on January 10. The crisis came on January 22, when penetrations on both flanks of the forward line made the position untenable despite vigorous Allied counterattacks. A withdrawal to the reserve battle position was ordered and was completed by daylight on January 26. Meanwhile, on January 23, the Japanese began a series of landings on the southeastern tip of Bataan. Initially, they were opposed only by miscellaneous troops in the vicinity of the landings. Constabulary, Air Corps personnel, sailors, and Marines, organized into provisional units, held the invaders at the beaches until two regiments could be brought up from the front. These struggles, known as the Battle of the Points, continued until February 13, when the last of the Japanese were driven into the sea.

Concurrently with the amphibious landings in the south, General Homma launched an attack on January 26 against the 1st Corps sector, during which a Japanese regiment passed almost unnoticed through the Allied lines and reached an area deep in the rear. General Wainwright executed a series of counterattacks in what became known as the Battle of the Pockets. The Japanese resisted stubbornly, and it was not until mid-February that the pockets had been reduced and the battle position restored. In the meantime, Japanese attacks were made in the 2d Corps sector on January 27 and 28, but these were repulsed. The collapse of his offensive was a severe shock to General Homma. Operations in every other theater were meeting with phenomenal success, particularly in Malaya, where Singapore had fallen with a bag of 73,000 prisoners. Since Homma had been required to relinquish one of his divisions for scheduled operations in Java, his effective fighting strength had been so much reduced that it was necessary to suspend offensive operations for the time being. Moreover, he had already suffered 7,000 casualties, and between 10,000 and 12,000 of his men were hospitalized with tropical diseases.

Homma counted on a scarcity of food to weaken the defenders of Bataan while he awaited reinforcements, and his hopes were realized. Stocks for the 78,000 troops and 26,000 civilians on Bataan dwindled steadily. An occasional submarine arrived with food, but more often the cargo consisted of much-needed drugs or ammunition. Malnutrition led inevitably to physical wastage and greater susceptibility to disease. Vitamin deficiency caused the almost universal spread of beriberi, while every day hundreds of soldiers suffering from malaria, dysentery, or hookworm were admitted to field hospitals. By March 11, the troops were on one-third rations, and offensive action by the half-starved forces was no longer practicable.

On February 22, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered General MacArthur to proceed to Australia to become supreme commander of the Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific. He left on March 11, and General Wainwright took command of the newly constituted Luzon Force, comprising all troops on Bataan. General Jones succeeded to the command of Wainwright's 1st Corps. On March 19, Wainwright was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and became commander of the United States forces in the Philippines; Maj. Gen. Edward P. King, Jr., took over command of the Luzon Force.

Homma began to receive a steady stream of reinforcements, and by mid-March the increased activity of Japanese aircraft and artillery presaged a new offensive. Probing attacks began on the left of the 2d Corps sector on March 27, and pressure there grew steadily until April 3. Then, with heavy air, artillery, and tank support, the Japanese infantry attacked in strength. The Allied troops, now on quarter rations, counterattacked as best they could but were unable to prevent the collapse of the 2d Corps' left flank. Virtually all of the 1st Corps was moved to the 2d Corps sector in an attempt to stem the Japanese advance, but had little success. Gradually the troops were driven down the east coast of Bataan until, on April 9, General King, realizing the hopelessness of the situation, surrendered the Luzon Force to General Homma. The latter, who had expected the surrender of all troops in the Philippines, was furious when he learned that King spoke only for the Luzon Force. The Bataan garrison then began its long death march to Camp O'Donnell in central Luzon. It is known that on May 10 about 45,000 Filipino soldiers and 9,300 Americans were imprisoned in the camp; the remainder of the Bataan troops perished in the last fighting or during the death march and subsequent incarceration at Camp O'Donnell. A handful escaped to the hills to carry on as guerrillas.

Japanese attention was now focused on Corregidor, the last Allied stronghold in the Philippines. The island, which lies off the southern tip of Bataan, was the key bastion in the chain of island forts that stretched across the 11-mile entrance to Manila Bay. With the fall of Bataan, the Japanese lost no time in moving their artillery to Mariveles on the south coast. Then began an intensive bombardment, in which heavy guns on the south shore of Manila joined. By April 14, most of the fixed guns on Corregidor had been put out of action. Enemy aircraft supplemented the shelling with incessant bombing attacks that contributed impressively to the destruction of the materiel and morale of the defenders. Artillery fire continued throughout most of each day. It was estimated that on May 4 alone more than 16,000 shells hit Corregidor.

On May 5 and 6, Japanese landing barges approached the northern shores of the island. The Allied light field guns, which had been kept protected from bombardment, went into action and sank many of the barges, but the Japanese gained a foothold ashore. Wishing to end hostilities before nightfall (since his enemy by then might be among the many sick and wounded in Malinta Tunnel), General Wainwright offered the surrender of Corregidor to General Homma on the afternoon of May 6. The Japanese commander insisted on the surrender of all troops in the Philippines. The situation was such that the American commander had no choice; he complied at midnight, May 6. The 11,500 surviving Allied troops, exhausted by incessant bombardment and undernourishment, were evacuated to a prison stockade in Manila.

Capture of the Southern Philippines

The operations that took place on the southern islands concurrently with those on Luzon were comparatively small. The principal objective of the Japanese in this area was to seize bases for the support of the coming invasion of the Netherlands East Indies. They were content to capture initially the most important points on the major islands, leaving the interior areas to be mopped up later. The defense of the southern Philippines was entrusted to the Visayan-Mindanao Force, commanded by Col. (later Maj. Gen.) William F. Sharp. This force consisted of the equivalent of four Philippine Reserve divisions and a regiment of Constabulary troops; it had practically no artillery. Most of the troops were posted on Mindanao; part of one division held Cebu, and part of another defended Panay. On December 8, aircraft from 2 small Japanese carriers struck Davao, principal city of Mindanao, inflicting considerable damage on the few military installations there and destroying 2 long-range naval patrol bombers. The Japanese landed in strength near Davao on December 20, two days before the main landing on Luzon; drove off the weak Allied resistance; and, with the aid of the many Japanese civilians living in and about the city, established a firm perimeter defense around Davao and the adjacent airfield. On Christmas Day, the Japanese occupied the island of Jolo and began the construction of a large air base. On December 31, another beachhead was established on Mindanao, at Digos. While these operations were in progress, American long-range Army bombers, based at Darwin, Australia, and Navy patrol bombers, based at Amboina (now Ambon), Netherlands East Indies, made limited attacks on Japanese shipping supporting the landings, but without substantial results.

When General Homma realized that the capture of Bataan was not enough to force the surrender of all the Philippines, he sent additional troops to crush resistance in the other islands. Cebu was assaulted on April 10, and Panay on April 16, and additional landings were made on Mindanao: near Cotabato on April 29, and at Cagayan on May 3. The Visayan-Mindanao Force, only partially trained and fighting without artillery, could offer little effective resistance to the determined Japanese attacks. Gradually, the troops moved back into the hills to conduct guerrilla operations. On May 6, General Wainwright had agreed to surrender all troops in the Philippines. Fearing reprisals against the Luzon and Corregidor troops already surrendered, he sent couriers to the island commanders in the south, instructing them to capitulate. General Sharp accordingly surrendered the forces on Mindanao on May 10; three days later, Brig. Gen. Bradford G. Chynoweth surrendered the troops on Cebu and Panay. Many civilians and troops who did not choose to surrender fled into the hills and organized guerrilla bands.

Conquest of the Netherlands East Indies

The East Indies comprised the richest portion of the Southern Regions. The Japanese conquest of this prize would have to await the end of the campaigns in Malaya and the Philippines, when adequate forces and bases would become available. The problems of defending the Indies were much the same as those encountered in the Philippines. The string of islands extends east and west for about 3,000 miles. Java, the most populous island, was highly developed, but the other islands were generally undeveloped and had limited land communications. A gigantic army would be needed to defend all of them. In December 1941, the Dutch Army in the Indies numbered about 140,000 men, who were concentrated mainly on Java. These were mostly native troops, poorly equipped and of uncertain combat efficiency. Available Dutch naval forces included 3 cruisers, 7 destroyers, and 16 submarines. The principal naval base was at Soerabaja (now Surabaja), Java. About 150 aircraft of all types, generally obsolete, provided the air defense of the entire Netherlands East Indies. Airfields were situated at key points on all major islands, with the largest bases on Java.

When the United States Asiatic Fleet withdrew from the Philippines, it began to operate from Soerabaja. Meanwhile, American Flying Fortress bombers that had withdrawn from the Philippines to Australia prepared to move into the Dutch air bases. By the end of 1941 the Allied situation in the Far East was deteriorating rapidly. Hong Kong had fallen, Allied troops in the Philippines were being compressed onto the Bataan Peninsula, Singapore was in grave danger, and the Japanese had established strong bases in northern Borneo and the southern Philippines. Under this pressure, Allied cooperation began to show signs of strain: the Australians urged adequate defense of their country, the British stressed the importance of holding Singapore, the Americans sought reinforcements for their beleaguered troops in the Philippines, and the Dutch pressed for assistance in the defense of the Indies. In an attempt to unify the direction of the Allied war effort in the Far East, Gen. (later Field Marshal) Sir Archibald Wavell (later 1st Earl Wavell) was designated supreme commander for all American, British, Dutch, and Australian forces. Wavell named his forces the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM). Allied defensive strategy was now directed toward holding the Malay barrier, which was defined as the Malay Peninsula-Sumatra-Java-northern Australia line, with Burma and Australia as the essential supporting positions on its flanks. Communications with Luzon were to be reestablished and kept open through the northern Indies. The British sent reinforcements to Malaya and Burma and arranged for the return of two Australian divisions from the Middle East, and the United States made every effort to dispatch troops, supplies, and aircraft to the Indies.

All of these efforts were in vain. The rapidity of Japanese successes in the initial offensives made it possible to begin operations against the Indies sooner than had been expected. On Jan. 11, 1942, the first attacks were launched--at Tarakan, the Borneo oil port, and at Manado (Menado), a key base in Celebes. Succeeding landings are best shown on Map 38. At all places the Japanese easily overcame Dutch resistance. The small Allied air force could do little against greatly superior Japanese airpower. Allied naval strength in the area consisted of only 9 cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 36 submarines. Nevertheless, though no match for the vastly superior Japanese Fleet, the Allied warships attacked repeatedly. In the early dark hours of January 24, 4 Allied destroyers attacked a large convoy off Balikpapan, Borneo. In this, the Battle of Makassar Strait, the destroyers escaped unharmed after sinking 4 Japanese transports and a patrol ship and damaging other vessels. Subsequent engagements--the Battle of Lombok Strait (February 18-19) and the Battle of the Java Sea (February 27)--were not as successful for the Allies. In the latter losses from Japanese air and naval attacks were so severe that the surviving Allied warships were withdrawn from the Java Sea to Tjilatjap (Chilachap) on the south coast of Java. On February 28, 2 Allied cruisers, the Houston and the Perth, which were attempting to escape southward through Soenda (now Sunda) Strait, suddenly ran into a huge Japanese invasion armada in the process of assaulting Batavia (now Djakarta). The cruisers were destroyed, but only after sinking 3 loaded Japanese transports.

The few Allied aircraft and warships that remained were ordered to withdraw to Australia. On March 9, the Dutch finally surrendered the Netherlands East Indies to the Japanese. Allied attention was now directed to the defense of Australia. The enemy was not far away.

Establishment of the Defensive Perimeter

The Bismarck Archipelago, northeastern New Guinea, and Bougainville and Buka in the Solomon Islands were all mandated to Australia after World War I. The rest of the Solomon Islands constituted a British protectorate, and Papua (southeastern New Guinea) was an Australian territory. Dominating the northern shores of the Coral Sea, these islands provided excellent bases for attacks on Australia and the supply lines from the United States, which now ran a circuitous route through New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa to Hawaii. The principal Japanese objective in the area was Rabaul in the Bismarcks. It had a splendid natural harbor, the contiguous terrain was ideal for airfields, and from it control could be exercised over the area bounded by New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Solomon Islands.

While Japanese forces in the Netherlands East Indies were pouring ashore at Balikpapan and Kendari, Celebes, on January 23, their Fourth Fleet was engaged in assaulting Rabaul, Kavieng, and Kieta. The only opposition encountered was at Rabaul, where 1,400 Australian troops opposed more than 4,000 Japanese. About 400 of the defenders eventually escaped to Australia. Gasmata, New Britain, was occupied on February 8, and on the night of March 7-8, landings were made at Lae and Salamaua on the north coast of New Guinea. The Allies countered with an air attack on Rabaul by 6 bombers of the United States Fifth Air Force, based at Townsville, Australia, and a daring air strike by an American carrier-aircraft task force over the high mountains of New Guinea against Japanese shipping at Lae and Salamaua. Some damage was inflicted, but the Japanese occupation was not hindered. The Pacific defensive perimeter, as envisioned by the basic war plan of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, had now been established.

Expansion of the Defensive Perimeter

It was now time for the second phase of the Japanese war plan, consolidation and strengthening of the defensive perimeter, but the unexpected ease with which the initial offensives had been carried out lured the Japanese High Command into a program of further expansion. It was decided to occupy the Solomon Islands and Port Moresby, Papua, in order to strengthen the original perimeter through New Guinea and the Bismarcks. These conquests would pave the way for the subsequent occupation of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa, thus severing the supply lines between the United States and Australia. Expansion of the perimeter to include the Midway Islands in the Central Pacific and Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands was also contemplated.

The first operation was the capture, on May 3, of Tulagi in the southern Solomons. By July, all of the major islands of the Solomon group had been occupied by the Japanese. A strike by an American naval carrier task force against the invading convoy at Tulagi sank or damaged several destroyers and a number of smaller vessels with a loss of only 3 planes. Forewarned that a strong amphibious force was to move through the Coral Sea to occupy Port Moresby, Allied naval forces assembled for the approaching battle. (The Americans had broken the Japanese secret code before the outbreak of the Pacific war and often gained valuable information on impending operations.) The invasion armada was discovered by scouting planes off the Louisiade Archipelago on May 7, and Rear Adm. (later Vice Adm.) Frank J. Fletcher moved his American task force northward. About noon, his carrier aircraft attacked and sank a Japanese escort carrier. Early on the next day, the opposing carrier groups located each other and launched their aircraft for what was to be the first carrier-against-carrier battle in history and the first major naval battle to be fought without an exchange of shots by surface ships. In the resulting engagement, American planes damaged 1 Japanese carrier, while the Japanese inflicted damage to both American carriers, the Yorktown and the Lexington. The latter was so badly damaged that she had to be sunk. In this two-day Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese lost 105 carrier aircraft; the Americans, 81. Tactically, the engagement was a draw; strategically, it was an important American victory, because the Japanese turned about and abandoned their amphibious operation against Port Moresby.

Again by virtue of knowledge of the Japanese code, it was learned that a gigantic operation was planned to occupy Midway and destroy American naval strength in that area. Admiral Fletcher left the Coral Sea and hastened to join the naval forces of the Central Pacific for the coming battle. Meanwhile, General MacArthur set about strengthening Port Moresby and other bases in eastern New Guinea and established an air base at Milne Bay.


The stunning defeat inflicted on the Japanese Navy at Midway in June 1942 caused the American Joint Chiefs of Staff to order the adoption of a more aggressive policy for the South and Southwest Pacific. The overextension of the Japanese in their widespread operations made this policy feasible. The Japanese were faced with the difficulty of supplying troops thousands of miles from home and along a front that extended from India through Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies, New Guinea, and the Solomons, and thence northward through the Gilbert Islands to the Aleutians. Allied submarines and planes had taken an increasingly larger toll of shipping as the months went by, and the speed that had characterized early Japanese operations could no longer be maintained because there were fewer ships to cover greater distances.

The operations prescribed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff envisaged a two-pronged offensive, with one prong directed toward northern New Guinea from Port Moresby and the other up the chain of the Solomons. The final objective of both drives was the recapture of Rabaul, the principal Japanese base in the Southwest Pacific. These two offensives, the Guadalcanal campaign in the Solomons and the Papuan campaign in New Guinea, were the first Allied steps on the road that was to lead to Tokyo.

Guadalcanal Campaign

Japanese troops and construction personnel had landed on the north shore of Guadalcanal on July 6, 1942, and had begun to develop an airfield and a base for subsequent operations. The American objective was to seize these installations and drive the invaders from the island. Vice Adm. Robert L. Ghormley, commander of the South Pacific Area, with headquarters at Auckland, New Zealand, planned and exercised overall direction of the Guadalcanal offensive. Admiral Fletcher commanded the two task forces to be employed: the Amphibious Force and the Air Support Force. The Amphibious Force, under Rear Adm. (later Adm.) Richmond K. Turner, was composed of transport and naval support groups aggregating 23 transports, 8 cruisers, 15 destroyers, and 5 minesweepers. Aboard the transports were the 1st Marine Division, the 2d Marine Regiment of the 2d Marine Division, and other troops totaling 19,500 men, commanded by Maj. Gen. (later Gen.) Alexander A. Vandegrift. The Air Support Force consisted of 3 large carriers (the Saratoga, Enterprise, and Wasp), the battleship North Carolina, 6 cruisers, and 16 destroyers. This force, under Rear Adm. Leigh Noyes, was to provide air support for the assault and security against hostile air attack. All land-based planes in the South Pacific (a total of 291, including Army planes) were to be controlled by Rear Adm. (later Vice Adm.) John S. McCain, air commander under Admiral Ghormley.

General MacArthur agreed to use Southwest Pacific air forces to interfere with any Japanese attempt to send reinforcements from Rabaul and to keep that base under strong air attack during the American landings on Guadalcanal. Adm. (later Admiral of the Fleet) Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, agreed to post submarines to interfere with any dispatch of reinforcements from the Japanese base on Truk.

On August 6, as the American invasion fleet approached Guadalcanal from the south, there were actually only 1,500 Japanese in the Tulagi area and about 2,230 on Guadalcanal itself, concentrated near the airfield. Of these, 600 and 1,700, respectively, were labor troops of inferior fighting quality. Heavy air and naval bombardment preceded the landings, which were made on schedule the next morning. Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo islands, in the Florida group opposite the north coast of Guadalcanal, were captured by the morning of August 8 despite do-or-die fighting by the Japanese. The landings on Guadalcanal were unopposed, and the Marines moved inland without making contact with the Japanese on the first day. On August 8, the advance continued, the airfield (later named Henderson Field in honor of a Marine Corps pilot hero of the Battle of Midway) was captured, and a defensive perimeter established around it, all against light opposition.

The American occupation of Guadalcanal provoked a violent reaction by the Japanese. They seem to have attached great importance to its recovery, for a captured Japanese document reads in part: "Success or failure in recapturing Guadalcanal is the fork in the road which leads to victory for them or for us. Guadalcanal was to be a magnet that attracted powerful Japanese forces and a sinkhole in which they were dissipated. Costly naval battles were to be fought for three months, and the bitter struggle on the ground was to continue for half a year.

Despite the efforts of MacArthur's planes to keep Rabaul neutralized, large bomber groups were launched from the base to attack the American ships off Guadalcanal. Although many planes were destroyed, the attacks were renewed repeatedly. On the morning of August 8, the carriers of the Air Support Force retired to the south, and it was decided to withdraw all the other ships, including those of the Amphibious Force. Their departure was accelerated by a surprise night raid early on August 9 against American warships off Savo Island. In this Battle of Savo Island, 4 American cruisers were sunk, and 1 cruiser and 2 destroyers were damaged. The Japanese ships escaped without harm. Thus the Marines were left ashore without naval or air support and with meager supplies. Under the circumstances, General Vandegrift could do no more than concentrate his forces for the defense of the perimeter surrounding Henderson Field and request reinforcements.

On August 18, the first Japanese reinforcements, totaling approximately 1,000 men, arrived on the island. They attacked the Marines on August 21 and were almost annihilated. Meanwhile, on August 20, 19 Marine Corps fighters and 12 dive bombers arrived at Henderson Field; two days later, the first 5 Army planes landed.

A huge Japanese invasion fleet had left Rabaul on August 19 under continuous cover by land-based aircraft. It comprised 3 carriers, 8 battleships, 6 cruisers, 21 destroyers, and 4 troop transports. American forces gathered to intercept it, but all that could be mustered were 2 carriers, 1 battleship, 4 cruisers, and 10 destroyers. Also available were 36 planes on Guadalcanal and 69 long-range patrol bombers. In the ensuing Battle of the Eastern Solomons, fought on August 24, airpower decided the issue. The Japanese, all but stripped of their carrier aircraft, broke off the fight and withdrew. They had lost 1 carrier, 1 cruiser, and 1 destroyer; 1 seaplane carrier and 1 light cruiser were damaged; and about 90 of their aircraft were shot down. American losses consisted of 1 carrier (the Enterprise) damaged and 20 planes destroyed.

The Japanese now began to reinforce Guadalcanal by means of fast destroyers, the decks of which were loaded with men and equipment. These approached the island under cover of darkness, unloaded, and sped away before dawn. Troops and equipment were also moved in large landing craft from island to island down the chain of the Solomons, sailing by night and hiding by day. Between August 29 and September 11, approximately 6,000 troops were landed by these means. On September 13 and 14, the Japanese made determined attacks against the Marine position on Bloody Ridge but were repulsed with heavy losses. It now became evident to the Japanese that large forces, tanks, and artillery were needed to dislodge the Marines. The Seventeenth Army, with headquarters at Rabaul, was formed under Lt. Gen. Haruyoshi Hyakutake. The " Tokyo Express, as the swift-moving convoys of troop-ferrying destroyers and cruisers came to be known, operated almost nightly during the latter part of September and early October, building up Japanese strength on Guadalcanal. Meanwhile, the Marines were being reinforced. On September 18, the 7th Regiment of the 1st Marine Division arrived. Additional squadrons of fighters and dive bombers came to Henderson Field. Coast defense guns were emplaced, and more supplies and equipment reached the troops. On October 13, the 164th Infantry Regiment of the Army Americal Division also arrived.

During the period October 23-26, mostly days of torrential downpours, General Hyakutake made his final bid for victory. Heavy artillery shelled Henderson Field almost incessantly. At times the heavy rains turned the airfield into a sea of mud, preventing American aircraft from leaving the ground and giving the Japanese free rein in the air. But the frequent and violent tank-infantry attacks were beaten back with heavy losses. After a last futile effort on the night of October 25-26, Hyakutake abandoned the land offensive and, on about October 29, began a general withdrawal. General Vandegrift now moved westward to drive his enemy out of artillery range of Henderson Field.

In the meantime, persistent efforts by the Japanese Navy to reinforce the island resulted in a number of naval engagements. During the night of October 11-12, a Japanese force of 4 cruisers and 1 destroyer was intercepted and surprised by Rear Adm. Norman Scott's task force of 4 cruisers and 5 destroyers. In the resulting Battle of Cape Esperance the Japanese lost 1 cruiser and 1 destroyer sunk and 2 cruisers damaged. American losses consisted of 1 destroyer sunk and 2 cruisers and 1 destroyer damaged. As the battle ashore reached its peak on October 26, the two navies clashed in the Battle of Santa Cruz north of the Santa Cruz Islands. The Japanese armada consisted of 4 carriers, 4 battleships, 9 cruisers, 28 destroyers, and 7 other vessels. The much weaker American task force comprised 2 carriers, 1 battleship, 6 cruisers, and 14 destroyers. In this one-day naval-air battle, 3 Japanese carriers and 2 destroyers were damaged, but none were destroyed, although about two thirds of the 170 to 180 Japanese carrier aircraft were shot down. The American force suffered heavily and was forced to withdraw. The aircraft carrier Hornet and a destroyer were sunk, and the carrier Enterprise, the new battleship South Dakota, a cruiser, and a destroyer were damaged; 74 American planes were also lost.

The last major naval battle off Guadalcanal consisted of a series of engagements during the period November 12-15, known as the Battle of Guadalcanal. In three days of fighting the Japanese lost 2 battleships, 1 cruiser, 3 destroyers, and 11 transports sunk; 3 cruisers and 6 destroyers were damaged. In addition, thousands of ground troops drowned when the transports were sunk. American losses totaled 2 light cruisers and 7 destroyers sunk and 8 other vessels damaged. A damaged light cruiser was sunk by Japanese torpedoes while retiring. The final but lesser naval action was the Battle of Tassafaronga, fought in the narrow channel south of Savo Island on the night of November 30. An American force of 5 cruisers and 6 destroyers intercepted 8 Japanese destroyers carrying troop and equipment reinforcements. The smaller warships had the advantage in the constricted waters, and American radar was ineffective against targets close to shore. The Americans came off second best, losing 1 cruiser and suffering severe damage to 3 others. The Japanese lost only 1 destroyer, but the remainder turned about and failed to land their troops and cargo ashore.

The ground fighting continued sporadically after the abortive Japanese offensive of October 23-26. On the night of November 2-3, about 1,500 Japanese landed near Koli Point. By November 8, they had been encircled, and less than half of them escaped. American ground strength now grew rapidly. On November 4, the 8th Regiment of the 2d Marine Division disembarked; on November 12, 6,000 reinforcements, including the 182d Infantry Regiment of the Americal Division, arrived. Ground activity for the rest of the year was confined largely to constant pressure on the Japanese, and Marine Corps and Army troops advanced as far as Point Cruz.

The Japanese situation deteriorated rapidly after the costly defeat suffered in the naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Only small quantities of supplies and not more than 1,000 troop replacements were able to reach the island during the rest of the campaign. The food situation became desperate, and disease took an increasing toll. In January 1943, General Hyakutake departed with his headquarters for Bougainville, and other senior commanders began to desert their troops and head northward.

By this time, Maj. Gen. (later Lt. Gen.) Alexander M. Patch, now in command of the island garrison, had approximately 50,000 men. His principal tactical unit was the new 14th Corps, composed of two Army divisions, the Americal and the 25th, and the 2d Marine Division. Beginning on December 9, the 1st Marine Division had left for a well-merited rest. A general offensive was launched, and though the remaining Japanese fought bitterly, they were gradually forced westward into the point at Cape Esperance. The Tokyo Express now began operations in reverse, evacuating rather than strengthening the garrison. The Americans reached Cape Esperance on February 9, bringing the campaign to a close.

For the Japanese, Guadalcanal was a costly experience. In addition to many warships and hundreds of planes with their experienced pilots, they had lost 14,800 ground troops killed or listed as missing, 9,000 through sickness, and about 1,000 captured. Only 13,000 men were evacuated. American troop casualties totaled 1,600 killed and 4,245 wounded, of whom 1,042 killed and 2,894 wounded were Marines.

Papuan Campaign

The offensive in New Guinea, which General MacArthur had been ordered to launch simultaneously with the Guadalcanal offensive, was to start from Port Moresby and was designed to drive the Japanese from the northeast coast of the island. A Japanese amphibious force sent to capture Port Moresby had been turned back in May 1942 in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Now the Japanese planned to seize the town by an overland advance.

On July 22, Maj. Gen. Tomitaro Horii landed 4,400 troops at Gona, on the northeast coast of Papua, and quickly occupied Buna. By July 28, elements had penetrated inland to Kokoda, high in the Owen Stanley Range, where they encountered Australian resistance. Additional men and supplies arrived on the coast, and a base was established in the Buna-Gona area. By August 22, more than 11,000 Japanese were ashore, and the drive on Port Moresby began in earnest. The Australians delayed the advance courageously, and by mid-September had halted it at a point less than 32 miles from Port Moresby. Meanwhile, in the last days of August, 2,000 Japanese had landed at Milne Bay, on the southeastern tip of Papua, in order to seize the airstrip there and advance along the coast to Port Moresby. The attempt was a complete failure. Australian troops killed more than 600 of the invaders; most of the rest were evacuated by destroyers, while a few made their way up the coast to Buna. The Japanese supply line over the difficult mountains, tenuous at best, was almost broken by relentless bombing and strafing attacks by Allied planes.

By the end of September, MacArthur had in Papua the Australian 7th Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. George A. Vasey, and the 126th and 128th Infantry regiments of the American 32d Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Edwin F. Harding. He now ordered a counterattack against the half-starved Japanese. At this time, the Japanese situation on Guadalcanal was critical, and just as MacArthur's offensive was launched, the forces operating against Port Moresby were recalled to Buna. Allied troops then converged on Buna, the Australians moving over the Kokoda Trail and the Americans overland, by air transport to improvised airfields at Wanigela and Pongani, and by small boats along the north shore. By November 18, the outposts of the Buna position had been reached. It was an exceedingly strong position, for the Japanese had taken every advantage of the swampy terrain and dense tropical vegetation. Three strong defenses, each almost completely hidden, had been constructed: one was in front of Buna and the airstrip to the southeast, another lay across the Soputa-Sanananda road, and the third was the village of Gona. The position at Buna, held by about 2,200 Japanese, was in the zone of the American 32d Division; the other two, with a total garrison of more than 3,000, were in the zone of the Australian 7th Division.

The battle was to be essentially a slugging match between ground forces. The United States Navy would not risk its ships in the uncharted waters off Buna. Allied planes could not identify targets in the dense undergrowth and dropped bombs on their own troops, causing some casualties and seriously affecting morale, which was already depressed by the swampy terrain, high humidity, and numerous jungle insects and blood-sucking leeches. An attack in the rain against Buna on November 19 failed; an all-out attack along the entire Buna front on November 22 was equally fruitless. On the same day, the Australians, reinforced by two American battalions, launched a general attack against Gona and along the Soputa-Sanananda road. No headway was made, but American troops had begun to work their way around the Japanese position on the road, and by November 30 they had established a roadblock behind the Japanese, thereby cutting the supply line to Sanananda. The next three weeks were spent in maintaining this roadblock against desperate enemy attacks from all sides.

On December 1, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger was summoned to revitalize the American front before Buna. He arrived in time to see the failure on December 2 of a major assault by the 32d Division, which depressed troop morale to probably its lowest point. After reorganization another general offensive was launched against the Buna position on December 5. It was generally unsuccessful, but one unit broke through the Japanese lines west of Buna and established a narrow corridor to the coast. Reinforcements arrived on December 15, and the village of Buna was captured. By December 17, an Australian brigade with tanks had arrived in the American sector, and an attack was made the next morning. Progress was slow but steady. By Jan. 2, 1943, the Buna position had been taken. All efforts were now directed toward Sanananda and Gona. By January 22, organized Japanese resistance had ceased, and the Papuan campaign came to an end. About 12,000 Japanese, 2,000 Australians, and 850 Americans died in this campaign.

Operations in 1943

By the beginning of 1943, with their victories on Guadalcanal and in Papua, the Allies had definitely wrested the initiative from the Japanese in the South and Southwest Pacific areas. Since the preponderance of Allied resources in the Pacific theater were devoted to these operations, little could be done in the Central and North Pacific after the Battle of Midway. Admiral Nimitz' operations for the rest of 1942 had therefore been limited to submarine warfare and raids on Japanese island bases by air and light naval forces. In Burma, while awaiting reinforcements, the British were organizing their forces for limited land and amphibious operations to capture Akyab, and Lt. Gen. (later Gen.) Joseph W. Stilwell was working feverishly to organize Chinese divisions and train them into effective fighting units. An air transport system had been put into operation over the 500 miles of the Himalayan "hump to move supplies into China, and construction had begun on a new road to replace the portion of the Burma Road in Japanese hands.

In the South and Southwest Pacific the Allies continued their offensives up the chain of the Solomons and along the north coast of New Guinea. General Hyakutake's Seventeenth Army, with headquarters on Bougainville, defended the Solomons, while Lt. Gen. Hatazo Adachi's newly activated Eighteenth Army, with headquarters in the Lae-Salamaua area, controlled operations in eastern New Guinea. Both armies operated under the direction of Gen. Hitoshi Imamura's Eight Area Army, with headquarters at Rabaul. In early February 1943, the headquarters of the American Sixth Army was activated at Brisbane, Australia, with Lt. Gen. (later Gen.) Walter Krueger in command. Most of the American troops in the Southwest Pacific, including the 1st Marine Division, the 32d and 41st Army divisions, the 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 158th Infantry Regiment, and certain artillery and engineer organizations, were immediately assigned to this army. Soon it was to become the spearhead of General MacArthur's strategic offensive to recapture the Philippines. Adm. (later Admiral of the Fleet) William F. Halsey now commanded the South Pacific area. Ground operations in his area were to be conducted by the 14th Corps, under the command of Maj. Gen. (later Lt. Gen.) Oscar W. Griswold, which consisted of the 25th, 37th, 43d, and Americal divisions.

A detailed account of the many subsequent operations in the Solomons and along the northern New Guinea coast, which required almost all of the year 1943 to accomplish, is beyond the scope of this article. Many islands were captured, and numerous coastal leapfrog operations were conducted to isolate Japanese garrisons. These are indicated on Map 40. The importance of these operations should not, however, be depreciated: most of the positions were bitterly contested, Japanese power was severely drained, and American forces developed a skill in amphibious operations that was to serve them well in later major operations.

Approach to the Philippines

As 1944 dawned, Allied advances in the Solomons and New Guinea had virtually isolated the Japanese base at Rabaul; it appeared that the dreaded assault on this strongly fortified position would not be necessary. Toward the end of 1943, tremendous gains in aircraft and naval construction in the United States had permitted the Allies to take the offensive on a large scale. In November, Admiral Nimitz' Central Pacific forces had assaulted and captured Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands, obtaining bases that could support operations against the next objective, the Marshall Islands, and from which land-based planes could pound the great Japanese base at Truk. In China during 1943, air attacks had constituted the only Allied offensive operations. With increased strength, bombers operating from Chinese bases attacked Japanese bases in Burma, Thailand, Indochina, Hainan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Japanese shipping along the China coast was frequently attacked with good results. In Burma seesaw ground operations between Japanese and British-Chinese troops had taken place without material advantage to either side. There also the Allies gradually came to control the air.

During 1944 the tempo of the war in both the Southwest and the Central Pacific areas accelerated with each passing month. General MacArthur projected an advance to the Philippines along the New Guinea axis, while Admiral Nimitz moved directly westward. MacArthur's plan was to take advantage of the position of the Japanese forces, separated as they were by long distances and with only sea and air communications connecting them. The island-hopping and leapfrog techniques, which had proved so successful in 1943, were well suited to the isolation or destruction of the Japanese posts ahead. By these means, General Krueger's Sixth Army was to advance more than 2,000 miles to the Philippines in the next six months. With units of the Australian First Army in the process of taking over operations in eastern New Guinea and the Solomons and blocking the Japanese at Rabaul, MacArthur had adequate troops for the contemplated operations, but he was weak in naval and air support, particularly carrier aircraft to assist his long jumps up the New Guinea coast. Arrangements were made with Admiral Nimitz to have Rear Adm. (later Adm.) Marc A. Mitscher's Task Force 58, a large fleet strong in carriers, support MacArthur. Successive operations in both the Southwest and Central Pacific areas are shown on Map 41. By mid-September 1944, American forces were landing on Morotai Island and the Palau Islands. At the same time, Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet was launching its many carrier aircraft in attacks on Mindanao and other enemy bases in the Philippines.

Return to the Philippines: Leyte Campaign

It had been the American plan to capture the outlying islands of Mindanao, Talaud, and Yap and then to invade Leyte, in the central Philippines, on Dec. 20, 1944. Indeed, Maj. Gen. (later Gen.) John R. Hodge's 24th Corps had left Hawaii on September 15 en route to Yap. On that day, Admiral Halsey reported extremely weak opposition to his carrier-air attacks in the central Philippines and recommended the abandonment of the preliminary operations and an early attack directly on Leyte. It was decided to carry out his recommendation, and the 3d Amphibious Force, carrying Hodge's troops, changed course for MacArthur's area to participate in the Leyte operations, which were rescheduled for October 20.

An expedition comprising more than 700 ships was assembled for the invasion. Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kincaid's greatly augmented Seventh Fleet provided the naval and carrier-air support; it was divided into Northern and Southern Attack forces. General Krueger commanded the ground troops: the 10th Corps, Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert commanding, accompanied the Northern Attack Force; General Hodge's 24th Corps, the Southern Attack Force. On October 10, the Third Fleet inaugurated a seven-day air attack against Japanese bases in the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, and Luzon to protect the northern flank of the invasion forces. More than 100 Superfortresses of the 20th Bomber Command in China joined in the attack on Taiwan. The Third Fleet did its job of protection well, and MacArthur's forces arrived off Leyte without incident.

The defense of the northern Philippines had been entrusted to Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, conqueror of Singapore in 1942, and his Fourteenth Area Army. The Thirty-fifth Army, under Lt. Gen. Sosaku Suzuki with headquarters on Cebu, was charged with the defense of the central and southern Philippines. On October 20, there were 270,000 Japanese ground and air troops in the Philippine Islands. Suzuki expected that Mindanao would be the first American objective in the Philippines; hence only his 16th Division occupied Leyte. Its combat strength was 10,620 men, and it was supported by 1,000 base defense troops and 10,000 service troops. The division was no match for the four American divisions that landed on October 20, and the surprised Japanese troops withdrew to the northwestern section of Leyte.

While the Japanese were caught unprepared on the ground, this was not true of the Japanese Navy. The Combined Fleet went into action with a prearranged plan that almost turned the invasion into an American disaster. The Battle for Leyte Gulf, which took place on October 23-26, was actually a series of major surface and air engagements, culminating in three almost simultaneous naval actions: the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Samar, and the Battle off Cape Engano. These complex operations can best be understood by consulting Map 42. The Japanese plan was to destroy the American landing forces and supporting ships at Leyte Gulf by converging naval attacks from the north and south. The powerful Second Fleet, under Vice Adm. Takeo Kurita, was to make the converging attacks with its two subdivisions, the 1st Attack Force from the north and C Force from the south. These forces were to destroy the American warships at Leyte Gulf. Vice Adm. Kiyohida Shima's 2d Attack Force (Fifth Fleet) was to follow C Force and destroy American shipping in the gulf after the warships had been eliminated. Vice Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa's Third Fleet, with 4 half-empty carriers, was to move southward from Japan to lure Admiral Halsey's superior Third Fleet from the scene of action. If it succeeded in doing so and the major American forces at Leyte were destroyed, the loss of the entire Japanese Third Fleet would have been warranted.

On October 25, C Force entered Surigao Strait from the west and was attacked by the battleships and cruisers of Admiral Kincaid's Seventh Fleet. It was virtually destroyed. The 2d Attack Force came up in the rear, engaged the Americans briefly, and then reversed course and withdrew hastily under air attack. Meanwhile, Admiral Kurita's 1st Attack Force moved through San Bernardino Strait unmolested and headed southward for Leyte. (Admiral Halsey had moved to the north to engage the decoy Third Fleet; hence the strait had been left unguarded except for land-based aircraft.) Suddenly Kurita's warships appeared before Kincaid's unprotected escort carriers and destroyers off Samar. Guns from his battleships, up to 18 inches in caliber, fired at the carriers as they attempted to escape to the southeast. It began to look as though Kurita would have a turkey shoot among the huge assemblage of cargo and transport vessels in the gulf. Then, for many reasons (none particularly valid), he turned about and retired back through San Bernardino Strait. En route his fleet was attacked and damaged by a detachment of fast battleships and carriers sent southward by Halsey. The latter had concentrated his attention on Ozawa's carriers and had succeeded in sinking all of them.

The Japanese had planned to make the main defense of the Philippines on Luzon. Now they decided to fight the decisive battle on Leyte. Reinforcements began to pour in by barge, destroyer, and transport. The 16th Division was joined eventually by five others: the 8th, 26th, 30th, and 102d divisions from other islands of the Philippines; and the crack 1st Division from the general reserve in Shanghai. Despite the loss of 1,200 planes to Halsey's Third Fleet over the air replacement route from the Ryukyu Islands to the Philippines and the destruction of more than 400 planes at the Manila airfield complex, the Japanese managed to bring in 1,000 additional aircraft. Troop reinforcement convoys were under constant attack by American planes, and thousands of troops en route to Leyte were sent to watery graves.

The crucial land fighting occurred during November. Additional American troops had been rushed to Leyte, and Krueger's Sixth Army had been increased to seven divisions. The 10th Corps, operating in the northern sector, consisted of the 24th and 32d Infantry divisions and the 1st Cavalry Division; the 24th Corps, in the southern sector, of the 7th, 77th, and 96th Infantry divisions and the 11th Airborne Division. The fighting was extremely bitter, but the Japanese were gradually forced back. On December 6-7, they made a final bid for victory with a counterattack and paratroop operations designed to capture the Burauen airfields, but were unsuccessful. By Jan. 1, 1945, the Leyte campaign could be regarded as closed except for minor mopping-up operations. Meanwhile, on December 15, American troops had landed on Mindoro, just south of Luzon, to set up a base for operations against that island.

The Japanese had committed the major portions of their air and naval forces to the defense of Leyte. Both had suffered staggering losses. Their ground forces incurred about 70,000 casualties; American ground force casualties totaled 15,584.

Liberation of the Philippines

During 1944 the Allies had registered major gains on all fronts except in China. There the Japanese had resumed offensive operations on a large scale, exerting every effort to make their forces in China self-sufficient. In Burma an Allied advance had cleared the route of the new Ledo Road, connecting with the Burma Road in China, and in January 1945, supplies began to move over the road into China. The British, having repulsed a major Japanese offensive earlier in the year, were now themselves on the offensive and driving toward Rangoon and Mandalay. In the Pacific the two-pronged advance of Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur had merged in the Philippines, the outer defenses of Japan had been ruptured by the seizure of the Marianas, and Tokyo had come within range of American Superfortresses. Moreover, by the end of 1944, American submarines alone had sunk 4,300,000 tons of Japan's merchant shipping, and the Japanese were hard pressed to support their needs at home. As the year 1945 began, it was apparent that Japan had lost the war, but she would not yet admit defeat. Her forces continued to struggle with the same fanatical zeal and tenacity of purpose that had characterized their fighting in the early days of the war. While her air, ground, and naval strength had been considerably reduced, strong forces for defense still remained at her disposal.

The date set for the invasion of Luzon was Jan. 9, 1945. General Krueger's Sixth Army was to conduct the operations; General Eichelberger's Eighth Army took over Leyte, Samar, and Mindoro and prepared to clear the Japanese from the islands south of Luzon. The Australian First Army was assigned the mission of eliminating isolated Japanese garrisons on New Guinea, New Britain, and Bougainville and of recapturing Borneo and its rich oilfields. The Sixth Army planned to land at Lingayen Gulf, secure the central plain of Luzon, and capture Manila. Naval and air elements would conduct demonstrations along the south coast, and guerrillas would destroy communications in southern Luzon. Admiral Kincaid's augmented Seventh Fleet, designated the Luzon Attack Force, had the mission of transporting, landing, protecting, and supporting the invasion forces. It consisted of more than 850 vessels, including 6 old battleships, 18 escort aircraft carriers, 10 cruisers, 141 destroyers, and a host of smaller craft. Admiral Halsey's roving Third Fleet was to cover the invasion force by air strikes against targets on Taiwan and northern Luzon. Lt. Gen. (later Gen.) George C. Kenney's Far East Air Forces, based on Leyte and Mindoro, would bomb targets on Luzon, and China-based Superfortresses were to hit Taiwan and targets along the China coast.

For the Lingayen Gulf landing the Sixth Army had Maj. Gen. (later Lt. Gen.) Oscar W. Griswold's 14th Corps (37th and 40th divisions); Maj. Gen. Innis P. Swift's 1st Corps (6th and 43d divisions); and a reserve that included the 25th Division, the 158th Regimental Combat Team, the 6th Ranger Battalion, and the 13th Armored Group. In view of the reports of great Japanese strength on Luzon, additional troops were scheduled to join Krueger later. These were the 32d, 33d, and 41st divisions, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team.

General Yamashita's Fourteenth Area Army on Luzon aggregated approximately 250,000 men. There were only about 150 Japanese aircraft based on the island, but they were to exact a frightful toll of American shipping by suicide attacks known as Kamikaze. These attacks began on January 4 as the American invasion fleet passed the island of Panay. By January 13, when the last of the Japanese planes had been expended, 17 American ships had been sunk, 20 had sustained major damage, and 30 had received lesser damage. Isolated and lacking air and naval support, Yamashita entertained little hope of holding Luzon, and he planned only to conduct a delaying action to prevent the fall of the island as long as possible. His forces were divided into three groups: the Shobu Group (140,000 men) in the north, to guard against an invasion through Lingayen Gulf; the Kembu Group (30,000) in the center, to protect the Clark Field airfield complex; and the Shimbu Group (80,000), to protect southern Luzon. When forced to do so, the Japanese would withdraw into the mountains in the east and hold out there to the end.

At 9:30 am on January 9, the Sixth Army landed at Lingayen Gulf with the 14th Corps on the right and the 1st Corps on the left. Only light opposition was met, and by nightfall 68,000 men were ashore. While the 14th Corps made steady progress toward Clark Field, the 1st Corps encountered bitter resistance in the Cabaruan Hills, directly in its path, and in the Caraballo Mountains, on its eastern flank. The Japanese there were a threat to the American line of communications, for Lingayen Gulf would have to serve as the supply base until Manila had been captured. By January 31, the 14th Corps had seized the airfield complex in the Clark Field-Fort Stotsenburg area, but the 1st Corps was still occupied in the Caraballo Mountains. In the meantime, two subsidiary operations by Eighth Army troops had taken place. On January 29, the 11th Corps landed near San Antonio and rushed inland to seal off the Bataan Peninsula; on January 31, the 11th Airborne Division landed at Nasugbu and headed for Manila.

Krueger now organized elements of the 14th Corps into flying columns for a dash on the capital. By February 3, American troops had reached the outskirts of Manila, but it would take a month of stern fighting before the city could be cleared. Although Yamashita offered stubborn resistance in the mountains, he was pushed back steadily. By March 15, his forces had been broken into three separate groups, but he held out until Japan surrendered on August 14.

Meanwhile, Gen. Eichelberger's Eighth Army methodically set about eliminating Japanese resistance in the central and southern islands. By August 14, the greater part of the organized resistance had been wiped out, and the main Japanese forces on Mindanao were deep in the mountains of the interior, where they faced starvation. The Japanese lost more than 170,000 known killed on Luzon; American casualties were approximately 38,000, including about 8,000 killed.

Collapse of Japan

Even as American forces were fighting in the Philippines, on Iwo Jima, and on Okinawa, preparations were being made for the invasion of the Japanese homeland. The Japanese surrender on August 14 fortunately made it unnecessary to conduct this admittedly hazardous and costly undertaking.

Vincent J. Esposito
Colonel, United States Army; Head, Department of Military Art
United States Military Academy.

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