The Pacific Theater in rare pictures, 1942-1945

After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese quickly took control of a vast area of ​​the Pacific from the Philippines to Burma to the Aleutians to the Solomons.

While the Japanese took advantage of internal lines of communication, they had extended themselves somewhat. Once the Allies became strong enough to threaten their perimeter from multiple directions, the advantage would be lost, as Japan did not have enough aircraft and ships to defend in force at all points.

The turning point in the Pacific theater came in mid-1942 with the first great carrier battles in history. In June 1942, Japan was expected to capture Midway Island, a US-held base about 1000 miles from Hawaii.

Midway could have been used as a stage for future attacks on Pearl Harbor. The United States was still benefiting from being able to decipher Japanese radio messages. Therefore, American naval commanders, led by Chester Nimitz, knew an attack was coming.

The battle of the airplanes decided the fight at Midway. After the smoke cleared, four Japanese aircraft carriers were destroyed. The plot to capture Midway collapsed, and Japan lost its offensive capability in the process. After the Battle of Midway, the Japanese were forced to retreat and defend their holdings.

After the Battle of Midway, the Allies were able to launch a counter-offensive. The first phase of the invasion began with the Navy landing Admiral Nimitz and sea landings on Guadalcanal and the surrounding islands in the Solomons.

At the same time, forces led by General MacArthur with Australian allies set out to capture the Papuan Peninsula of New Guinea. After a long bloody struggle, both campaigns were successful.

From this point, Nimitz and MacArthur engaged in island-hopping campaigns that left firmly held islands to attack enemy weak points. Campaigns against the Aleutians and Rabaul were successful in halting the Japanese advance and securing safe havens for Allied advance on Japan.

While MacArthur pushed along the New Guinea coast, preparing to return to the Philippines, Nimitz crossed the central Pacific via the Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas, Carolines and Pallas.

Once the Marianas were taken, it would be possible to use them as bases from which the new long-range B-29 bombers could attack the center of Japan.

The advance through the central Pacific continued with the seizure of two islands, Tarawa and Makin, in the Gilberts in November 1943.

The Marines landed on Tarawa on 21 November and captured the island in four days of fighting at the cost of around 3,000 casualties. Army troops captured the small Japanese garrison on Makin between November 20 and 24, 1943.

During January and February 1944, Admiral Nimitz advanced to positions in the Central and Western Marshals. The major islands taken were Kwajalein, which was attacked by an army force on 1 February, and the islands of Roi and Namur, which were attacked by Marines on 3 and 6 February.

Moving 340 miles west from Kwajalein, a naval task force, accompanied by a regiment of marines and infantry, captured a Japanese air base at Engebi in Enewetok Atoll on February 17–19, 1944.

Meanwhile, on February 16, Nimitz launched a massive carrier raid on Truk in the central Carolinas, long considered Japan's major stronghold in the central Pacific.

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