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The Pacific War After Pearl Harbor

Part 2: American Victory

A large part of wartime communication was messages sent in code. By 1942, American codebreakers had broken the Japanese code. American military commanders knew that almost the entire Japanese fleet was headed to Midway Island in early 1942.

Taking a huge risk, the U.S. Navy decided to send most of its fleet there, too. In a bold surprise attack, the U.S. defended Midway Island and succeeded in sinking four of Japan's six aircraft carriers. It was a stunning victory, from which Japan would never quite recover.

A month earlier, the U.S. had won a victory in the Coral Sea, near Australia. The next year, the U.S. liberated Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. This began a series of "island hopping" battles, in which American forces would seize Japanese-held islands with the ultimate goal of being able to use them as bases for an attack on the Japanese homeland.

More islands were liberated: Guam in 1944, Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. Even the Philippines was taken from Japanese control.

But Japan wouldn't give up. The fighting for the islands had been fierce, and Japanese pilots had taken to flying "kamikaze" raids, in which they intentionally flew their planes into American ships, hoping to sink them.

President Franklin Roosevelt died in April 1945. His vice-president, Harry Truman, became president. He was troubled by his options for defeating Japan. It was thought that an invasion of Japan would cost 1 million American lives. Based on that and many other factors, Truman decided to allow the Army to drop two atomic bombs on Japan.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and injured in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9. Japan surrendered five days later.

The war was over.

First page > Japanese Successes > Page 1, 2

 Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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