Just before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The barrage lasted just two hours, but it was devastating: The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight enormous battleships, and more than 300 airplanes. More than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died in the attack, and another 1,000 were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan; Congress approved his declaration with just one dissenting vote. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States, and again Congress reciprocated. More than two years into the conflict, America had finally joined World War II.
After a long string of Japanese victories, the U.S. Pacific Fleet won the Battle of Midway in June 1942, which proved to be a turning point in the war. On Guadalcanal, one of the southern Solomon Islands, the Allies also had success against Japanese forces in a series of battles from August 1942 to February 1943, helping turn the tide further in the Pacific. In mid-1943, Allied naval forces began an aggressive counterattack against Japan, involving a series of amphibious assaults on key Japanese-held islands in the Pacific. This “island-hopping” strategy proved successful, and Allied forces moved closer to their ultimate goal of invading the Japanese homeland.
“Island Hopping” is the phrase given to the strategy employed by the United States to gain military bases and secure the many small islands in the Pacific. The attack was lead by General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the Allied forces in the South west Pacific, and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-chief of the Pacific fleet. The US troops targeted the islands that were not as strongly defended by the Japanese. They took control of those islands, and quickly constructed landing strips and small military bases. Then they proceeded to attack other islands from the bases they had established. Slowly the US army moved closer to Japan, taking control of many of the surrounding islands.
The island hopping strategy was very costly. The US soldiers were not used to the guerrilla style of fighting, and the Japanese had the advantage of controlling many of the islands. Further, many US soldiers succumbed to illnesses such as Malaria, dysentery and skin fungus.Ultimately, the island hopping campaign was successful. It allowed the US to gain control over sufficient islands in the Pacific to get close enough to Japan to launch a mainland invasion. However, the island hopping took a long time and was very costly; even after war was close to ending in Europe it appeared that the war might continue indefinitely in the Pacific. Fearing a drawn out war with many more casualties, the US made plans to end the war quickly and force Japan’s surrender. They achieved this with the World’s first Atomic bombs.