WAR II IN ASIA: I
(click here for a
A Very Large Ocean
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor represented only the opening salvo
in an ocean-wide attack against Western powers. Within days of
Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces attacked Guam, Wake Island, the
Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Dutch East Indies, and
more. Sketchy Allied forces fought back bravely, but proved no
match for the crack Japanese troops.
The Defense of the Philippines and
In the Philippine Islands, a combined force of U. S. soldiers and
Filipinos under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur attempted to push
back the Japanese landing forces. However, the Fili-American
forces eventually retreated to a peninsula across Manila Bay from
on Corregidor, there to fight a holding action until relief could
from the crippled Pacific Fleet.
In spite of promises from superiors in Washington (including FDR), no
relief for the embattled defenders of Bataan was possible. Then,
on February 22, FDR ordered General MacArthur to turn over command to
his subordinate, Gen. Wainwright, and then board a PT boat to escape to
Australia, there to begin planning a Pacific offensive.
Gen. MacArthur, humiliated at the order to abandon his troops,
nevertheless succeeded in avoiding Japanese naval patrols to escape to
Australia. Once there, he called a press conference where he
addressed a message
to the soldiers and civilians left behind in the Philippines: “I
Click on this link to read
a detailed account of the Japanese attack on the Philippines.
"Battling Bastards of Bataan"
Left behind, without food or ammunition, the “Battling Bastards of
Bataan—No Mama, No Papa, No Uncle Sam” held out as long as they
could. However, MacArthur’s successor, Gen. Jonathan Wainwright,
faced with an impossible situation, decided to offer a surrender his
troops to the Japanese.
Above: American prisoners on Bataan await
Once the Americans surrendered, the Japanese marched the
survivors—many already sick and starving—fifty miles to a prison camp,
Camp O’Donnell. Along the way, the Japanese provided no food or
water for their prisoners. Those who fell by the road were
bayoneted by their captors—to save bullets—and then buried (some still
alive) by their weary comrades. 35% of
all Bataan prisoners died on the death march. Many more
died in prison in the Philippines or elsewhere on forced labor projects
for the Japanese.
the long march ahead. Note their gaunt appearance.
Despite MacArthur’s promise, the U. S. had no offensive plans.
Instead, they faced a number of difficult choices in deciding just how
they would defend remaining Allied possessions across thousands of
square miles of ocean. Meanwhile, Japanese forces landed on the
of New Guinea—the last major obstacle standing between Imperial Japan
and the continent of Australia.
Turning Points in the Pacific:
Coral Sea and Midway
As the Japanese Army pressed inland across New Guinea, the Japanese
Navy attempted to place its carrier forces within striking distance of
Australia. However, the three American carriers, which had
escaped destruction at Pearl Harbor, awaited them. Over two days
in May 1942,
the American carriers sank two Japanese carriers. This victory
Japan’s southward expansion.
Prior to Pearl Harbor, U. S. naval code breakers had not yet
broken the Japanese naval ciphers (code named Purple). After
Coral Sea, they had made some advances, but still could not decipher
Japanese messages. Nevertheless, after Coral Sea, Navy code
knew the Japanese were planning a new attack. The question
where? The code breakers laid a trap. Suspecting that the next
target was the small American air base on Midway island, they secretly
the Army base personnel to send a message—in a code the Japanese had
already broken—saying the island’s water pump had broken and they
needed a replacement. The next day, they intercepted a Japanese
message: Target “X” had
reported a broken water pump. The code breakers now had their
answer. The Japanese were planning to attack Midway.
Back in Pearl Harbor for repairs after
Coral Sea, the three American carriers—Yorktown, Lexington, and
Enterprise—race to take up stations
off Midway Island, where they lay in wait for the Japanese
attack. Beginning on June 3, planes from American and Japanese
carriers bombed and torpedoed their opponents. By June 6, the
Americans had sunk four Japanese carriers and stopped Japan’s advance
to the eastern Pacific. The Battle of Midway thus insured the
safety not only of Hawaii but the western
coast of the United States.
Above: An American carrier glides beneath
a protective cover of anti-aircraft fire during
the Battle of Midway