WWII in the Pacific timeline

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Final From beginning of war

7 December 1941

Japanese carrier-based aircraft attack American military facilities on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, including the naval base of Pearl Harbor.Japanese aircraft strike the main US air base in the Philippines, Clark Field. Despite several hours of warning, American aircraft are largely caught on the ground and destroyed.

8 December 1941

The Unites States declares war on Japan. That same day, Japanese troops and occupy the island of Guam.

10 December 1941

In a stunning display of the changing world, Japanese land-based bombers attack and sink two British battleships, Prince of Walesand Repulse.

11 December 1941

Japan's first attempt to seize Wake Island goes awry when Marine artillery damages the light cruiser Yubari and sinks the destroyer Hayate. A second destroyer, the Kisaragi, is sunk by Marine aircraft. American marines defending Wake Island successfully repel a Japanese invasion attempt.

12 December 1941

Japanese troops make their first landing on Filipino soil near the town of Legaspi.

22 December 1941

An American task force headed by the carrier Lexington approaches within 425 miles of Wake before reports of Japanese naval units force their recall.

23 December 1941

Reinforced by ships returning from the Pearl Harbor raid, the Japanese launch their second attempt to invade Wake. The Marines put up a fierce, but ultimately hopeless defense, but by the end of the day, the remaining 400 marines and 1000 civilians are forced to surrender.

25 December 1941

After a three-week battle, Japanese troops overrun the city of Hong Kong and force its garrison of 14,000 men to surrender.

26 December 1941

The Flying Tigers made their combat debut, shooting down nine of ten Japanese bombers attacking their airbase.

January 2nd 1942

Japanese troops enter Manila

January 7th 1942

The Battle of Bataan begins.

January 11th 1942

Japan declares war on the Netherlands and invades their East Indies colonies. En route to Pearl Harbor, the carrier USS Saratoga is struck by a torpedo fired from the submarine I-6. Although damage was minor, the carrier is sent to Bremerton, Washington for repair and refit

January: 13th 1942

The first American helicopter, the Sikorsky R-4, flies.

January 19th 1942

Japanese troops enter Burma.

Japanese 23rd 1942

Japanese troops seize the small port of Rabaul, located on the eastern end of the island of New Britain. Work immediately begins on transforming the small port into the center of Japanese operations in the South Pacific.

January 31st 1942

British troops evacuate the Malay peninsula and evacuate to the island port of Singapore.

1 February 1942

Aircraft flying off Enterprise strike at Japanese bases at Kwajaelin, Wotjie and Malolelap in the Marshalls islands. Three ships are sunk and twenty aircraft are shot down.

February 15 1942

The Battle of Singapore ends as 130,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers become prisoners of the Japanese. This marks the largest surrender of British arms in that nation's history and a mortal blow supposed superiority of the European.

February 19 1942

President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast and the confiscation of their property.

February 23 1942

The Japanese submarine I-17 bombards the California coast with sixteen shells, doing little if any damage.

February 20 1942

Navy Lieutenant Edward O'Hare becomes the navy's first ace when he shoots down five Japanese bombers heading for his carrier, USS Lexington. O'H are is awarded the Medal of Honor.

February 25 1942

Over 1400 anti-aircraft shells are fried into the night skies over Loa Angeles in response to reports of slow-moving unknown aircraft flying overhead. Most of southern California comes under mandatory blackout and six people are killed by unexploded shells falling to earth. To this day, it is unknown who's aircraft were being shot at, if there were any at all.

February 25 1942

A scratch force of American, Australian, British and Dutch warships engage a Japanese squadron in the Battle of the Java Sea. In a furious fight, the Allied force is crushed, with two Dutch light cruisers and two British and one Dutch destroyer sunk.

February 28 1942

After intercepting an invasion convoy and disabling several transports, the heavy cruiser USS Houston and the Australian light cruiser Perth come under attack from the escorting Japanese warships. After taking four torpedoes and numerous shell hits, both warships are sunk. This effectively ends the Allied defense of the Dutch East Indies.

2 March 1942

The Dutch port of Surabaya is abandoned as Japanese troops approach. In a dry-dock they find the American destroyer Stewart, partially sunk but salvageable. Renamed Patrol Boat 102, the ships operates under Japanese colors for the rest of the war.

April 5 1942

The heavy cruisers HMS Cornwall and Dorsetshire are sunk by Japanese carrier aircraft.

April 9 1942

Starving and out of ammunition, American and Filipino troops on the Bataan peninsula surrender. Thousands die in the subsequent Bataan Death March from illness, abuse and neglect. In the Indian Ocean, the carrier HMS Hermes and the destroyer HMAS Vampire are sunk by Japanese carrier aircraft.

April 18 1942

American medium bombers fly off the deck of the carrier Hornet and strike Tokyo, Japan. Little damage is done but is seen as a major morale boost to the American public.

May 4 1942

Japanese troops land and take control of the small Solomon island of Tulagi.

May 6 1942

Organized resistance in the Philippines ends with the surrender of American troops on the island of Corregidor.

May 7 1942

The Battle of the Coral Sea begins and American and Japanese carrier aircraft exchange strikes. The small Japanese carrier Shoho is sunk and the Port Moresby invasion force turns back.

May 8 1942

After another exchange of carrier strikes IJMNS Shokaku is badly damaged and USS Lexington is sunk. Thus ends the first naval battle in which the opposing fleets never sight one another.

May 27 1942

The badly damaged carrier USS Yorktown arrives in Pearl Harbor. After a quick inspection, shipyard officials express the opinion that it would take six months to make the ship ready for action. They are given three days.

May 30 1942

After 72 hours of constant repair work, Yorktown takes to sea and joins American ships gathering for the Midway operation.

May 31 1942

Japanese midget submarines infiltrate Sydney harbor. Only one out of three succeed in making it in and takes aim at the heavy cruiser USS Chicago. Instead, the torpedoes strike a converted ferry.

June 3 1942

PBY Catalina patrol aircraft spot the Japanese invasion force heading towards Midway

June 4 1942

Japanese aircraft heavily damage, but do not destroy American facilities on Midway. Initial American counter-strikes do no damage but dive-bombers from the carriers Enterprise and Yorktown leave the Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga and Soryu blazing wrecks, to be joined later in the day by the Hiryu. Meanwhile, the few remaining Japanese aircraft locate and disable the Mogamicarrier Yorktown.

June 5 1942

While evading an American submarine, the cruisers Mogami and Mikuma collide. Subsequent air attacks from Midway sink the latter, while putting the latter out of action for two years.

June 6 1942

Still struggling to make repairs, Yorktown and the escorting destroyer Hammann are hit by torpedoes fired from the submarine I-168. Hammann sinks immediately, while Yorktown lingers until the following day.

June 7 1942

Japanese troops land on the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska, thus ending the Battle of Midway. In addition with the loss of four carriers and a cruiser, Japan lose almost their entire elite naval pilot corps along with their expert plane handling crews. While Americans losses are also serious, carrier Yorktown, one destroyer and over 100 aircraft, it is recoverable. The tide of the Pacific War has changed, almost six months to the day after Pearl Harbor.

July 5 1942

Allies aerial reconnaissance confirms that Japanese engineers have begun constructing an airstrip on the large flat plain located along the northern coast of the Solomon island of Guadalcanal. This is deemed serious as long-range bombers based here could harass, if not sever sea communications between the US West Coast and Australia

July 9 1942

Planning begins on Operation Watchtower, the recapture of Guadalcanal before the airstrip is completed. The assault force will be the First Marine Division recently landed on the North Island of New Zealand.

July 22 1942

Japanese troops begin an overland offensive to take Port Moresby and take complete control of the island of New Guinea. Opposing them are a collection of Australian militia and the inexperienced American 32nd Division, commanded by Douglas MacArthur.

July 31 1942

The first of the new aircraft carriers, the USS Essex, is launched at Newport News, Virginia.

August 7 1942

The United States launches their first offensive against Japan when Marines land on the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal. Supporting them is virtually the entire Pacific Fleet, including three aircraft carriers, Enterprise, Saratoga and Wasp.

August 9 1942

The Battle of Savo Island, the first naval battle in the Guadalcanal campaign is a crushing defeat for the Allies. A Japanese task force of five heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and one destroyer enter Sealark Channel (soon better-known as Ironbottom Sound). Taking advantage of Allied inexperience in night combat, the Japanese sink four heavy cruisers; HMAS Canberra, USS Astoria, Quincy, and Vincennes. More American sailors are killed here than in the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I combined. The following day the assault fleet is withdrawn, their holds still half-full of equipment and supplies for the Marines

August 19 1942

Japan's first attempt to crush the Marine beachhead at Guadalcanal ends in disaster as the Ichiki Detachment is all but wiped out along the Tenaru River.

August 25 1942

Japanese troops land at Milne bay, located at the extreme eastern end of New Guinea. The first carrier battle since Midway is fought off the Eastern Solomons. The Japanese lose the light carrier Ryujo while the American carrier Enterprise takes three bomb hits and is knocked out of action.

September 8 1942

A floatplane launched from a Japanese submarine stages the first aerial bombardment of the continental United States. Several incendiary are dropped on the forests of Oregon in a vain attempt to trigger a fire

September 12 1942

Japanese troops launch their second attempt to retake Guadalcanal. After two days of intense fighting along what would soon become known as Bloody Ridge, the Japanese withdraw, leaving behind 850 dead. Marine losses totaled a little more than one hundred.

September 15 1942

In what is arguably one of the luckiest shots fired during the Second World War, a spread of torpedoes fired from the Japanese submarine I-19 strike the carrier Wasp, the battleship North Carolina and the destroyer O'Brien. Both the first and last are lost, while North Carolina is forced to limp home, badly damaged.

October 11 1942

A Japanese naval task force covering a resupply convoy to Guadalcanal is ambushed by American ships in the Battle of Cape Esperance. The Japanese lose one heavy cruiser and a destroyer, while the Americans lost a destroyer of their own, in part due to friendly fire.

October 14 1942

In a night regarded by many marine veterans as the low point in the Guadalcanal campaign, the Japanese battleships Haruna and Kongo bombard Henderson Field with 973 14-inch shells. Forty-eight out of 90 American aircraft are destroyed outright, Also destroyed were much of the airfields fuel and ammunition stocks.

October 25 1942

The Japanese launch their second attack on Henderson Field. As before, they attack the center of the American line, Bloody Ridge, now held by the newly-arrived 147th Infantry Regiment (USA). After two days of fighting the Japanese again withdraw, losing 3000 men while American losses were less than 80.

October 26 1942

Another fierce carrier battle takes place of the Santa Cruz islands northeast of Guadalcanal. The Japanese carriers Zuiho and Zuikaku are damaged and over a 100 aircraft are lost. The Americans however lose the carrier Hornet along with 76 aircraft. This leaves the Pacific Fleet with one carrier, the badly damaged Enterprise.

November 9 1942

American Private Edward Leonski is executed in Melbourne, Australia for killing three Australian women in a series of murders attributed to the "Brownout Strangler."

November 13 1942

The campaign for Guadalcanal climaxes in a vicious series of naval battles resulting in heavy losses on both sides. In the end however, the Japanese cease their attempts to reinforce the island. Among the casualties were all five brothers of the Sullivan family, killed when their cruiser, the USS Juneau was torpedoed and sunk.

December 2 1942

Beneath the bleachers of the football stadium at the University of Chicago, the Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi initiates the first sustained nuclear chain reaction

January 15 1943

The Pentagon, the world's largest office building, is dedicated.

February 8 1943

The Battle for Guadalcanal officially ends as American forces secure control of the entire island.

March 2 1943

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea begins as bombers of the 5th Air Force attack a heavily-armed convoy bearing Japanese troops to New Guinea. Using newly-developed "skip-bombing" tactics, American aircraft sink all eight transports and five destroyers.

March 26 1943

One of the few daylight surface battles takes place as an American task force built around the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City engages Japanese warships escorting a convoy carrying reinforcements to the Alaskan island of Kiska. The result was inconclusive, but the Japanese ends their efforts to resupply the Aleutian Islands.

April 18 1943

Alerted by code intercepts, American P-38 fighters intercept two bombers attempting to land at the Japanese air base of Buin. Both are shot down, killing the target, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto.

May 11 1943

American troops recapture the Alaskan island of Attu (taken during the Midway campaign) after a brief, but vicious battle.

June 8 1943

While at anchor in the Inland Sea, the battleship Mutsu explodes and sinks, killing 1121 sailors.

July 6 1943

An American task force intercepts a Japanese resupply mission in Kula Gulf in the central Solomon Islands. Two Japanese destroyers are sunk, as well the American light cruiser Helena.

August 3 1943

PT-109, under the command of Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, is rammed and sunk by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. After two days behind enemy lines, Kennedy and his surviving crewmembers are rescued.

August 6 1943

Finally freed from escorting cruisers, six American destroyers ambush four Japanese destroyers carrying supplies. Three of the latter are sunk while the Americans suffer no casualties.

November 1 1943

US Marines land on the island of Bougainville, largest of the northern Solomon Islands.

November 2 1943

A Japanese attempt to destroy American invasion forces off the island of Bouginville is foiled by a force of American cruisers and destroyers. One Japanese light cruiser and destroyer are sunk for minimal damage to the Americans.

November 16 1943

In the only known instance of this occurring, a Japanese submarine torpedoes and sinks the US submarine Corvina.

November 20 1943

American Marines land on the Central Pacific atoll of Tarawa. The result is a fierce three-day battle that claims the lives of 990 Americans and nearly the entire Japanese garrison of 4700

November 22 1943

Roosevelt, Churchill and Chinese leader Chaing Kai-shek meet at Cairo, Egypt to discuss strategy.

November 23 1943

While preparing to begin air operations, the escort carrier Liscome Bay is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sinks. Among the 642 killed are the task force commander, Rear Admiral Henry Mullunix, and the hero of Pearl Harbor, Ship's Cook Third Class Dorie Miller.

November 29 1943

The naval ace of the Pacific War, Lieutenant Butch O'Hare, is killed while on night air operations over the Gilbert Islands. While the official cause was enemy combat, evidence exists to suggest that O'Hare fell victim to friendly fire. Nevertheless, the city of Chicago renames their largest airfield O'Hare, in honor of their native son.

December 30 1943

Subhash Chandra Bose sets up a pro-Japanese Indian government.

January 31 1943

American soldiers and marines invade the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific. Incorporating lessons from the earlier invasion of Tarawa, the Marshalls are taken quickly and with far fewer casualties.

March 6 1944

Japan launches its U Go offensive, intended to break British defenses along the Burma border and invade India. Fighting quickly coalesces around two small towns, Kolima and Imphal.

May 21 1944

Anchored in the West Loch of Pearl Harbor, the crew of LST-353 are loading ammunition when an explosion, possibly from a dropped mortar round, occurs. This sets off further fires and explosions, which spread to other nearby landing craft. In all, six LST's are lost and 392 men are killed

May 31 1944

The destroyer escort England sinks her 6th Japanese submarine in less than two weeks.

June 6 1944

Operation Overlord, code-named D-Day begins as 155,000 American, British, Canadian and French troops land in Normandy.

June 15 1944

In an invasion roughly equal to that of the D-Day landings, American soldiers and marines invade the island of Saipan in the Marianas.

June 19th-20th 1944

In the first major naval battle since 1942, the US Navy decisively defeats the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Three Japanese carriers are sunk and over 600 aircraft destroyed while American losses total 123 planes and no ships.

June 22 1944

British and Indian forces finally relieved the garrison of Imphal as the Japanese end their U-Go offensive. With 60,000 combat casualties and thousands more dead from disease and starvation, it is the Japanese Army's greatest defeat and the turning point in the struggle for Burma

July 6 1944

Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, who had commanded the Japanese carrier fleet in the first year of the war, commits suicide in a cave on Saipan.

July 18 1944

Prime Minister Hidecki Tojo resigns as a result of Japan's recent battlefield defeats in the Pacific and Asia.

July 21 1944

American Marines and Army troops invade the island of Guam, southernmost of the Marianas.

September 15 1944

Troops of the 1st Marine Division land on the island of Peliliu. Envisioned as a preliminary to the invasion of the Philippines, the Battle of Peliliu turns out to be one of the bloodiest and most controversial actions of the Pacific War.

October 20 1944

Protected by over 200 warships and 1500 aircraft, American troops under the command of Douglas MacArthur land of the island of Leyte, beginning the re-conquest of the Philippines.

October 23 1944

The largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf begins as the Japanese fleet attempts to destroy the American beachhead on that island. In a series of naval and air engagements, the Japanese navy is eliminated as a fighting force.

October 25 1944

In the closing stages of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Japanese aircraft of the Special Attack Corps deliberately crash themselves onto American warships, sinking one escort carrier and damaging several others. This marks the first appearance of the Kamikaze.

November 10 1944

While unloading its cargo, the ammunition ship Mount Hood explodes in Seedler Harbor in the Manus islands. Twenty-two small boats are destroyed and 432 men are killed.

November 29 1944

The new aircraft carrier IJN Shinano is torpedoed by the submarine Archerfish while on its trial cruise in the Inland Sea. Originally the third super-battleship of the Yamato-class, the ship had been converted to a carrier while under construction. At 62,000 tons displacement, Shinano has the distinction of being the largest ship sunk by a submarine.

December 18 1944

While conducting air operations off the Philippines, ships of the Third Fleet are caught by a major typhoon. Nine warships are damaged and three destroyers, top-heavy due to the lack of fuel, are sunk. Over 900 American sailors are lost.

February 3 1945

The Battle of Manila begins. Ordered abandoned by Commanding General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the naval commander refused to leave. The result was furious month-long battle that devastated the city of Manila and left 1000 Americans, 16,000 Japanese and over 100,000 Filipinos dead.

February 16 1945

In a combined airborne drop and amphibious assault, US troops seize the island of Corregidor

February 19 1945

While retreating across the Ramee Rive in Burma, some 900 Japanese soldiers are killed by crocodiles.

February 23 1945

During the invasion of Iwo Jima, an American patrol reaches the summit of Mount Surabachi and raises the American flag.

March 9 1945

American B-29 bombers fire-bomb the city of Tokyo, killing over 100,000 civilians.

March 19 1945

While operating 50 miles of the Japanese Home Islands, the carrier USS Franklin is struck by two bombs. Landing amongst aircraft preparing for take-off, the result was a series of fires and explosions that gutted the flight deck and killing 807 of the ship's crew. Remarkably, the ship survived the disaster and under her own power, sailed to New York for repair. To this day, the "Big Ben" has the record of being the most badly damaged warship not to have sunk.

April 1 1945

American troops land on the island of Okinawa, beginning the last, largest and costliest campaign of the Pacific War.

April 7 1945

The Japanese super-dreadnought Yamato is sunk while on a one-way route to Okinawa.

April 8 1945

After a week of almost no resistance, American Marines reach the outlying positions of the main Japanese defense line. Both sides suffer heavy casualties.

April 12 1945

President Roosevelt dies of a massive stroke. Vice-President Harry S. Truman is sworn in as President.

April 15 1945

While on radar picket duty, the destroyer USS Laffey comes under attack by 50 Japanese aircraft. Over the next few minutes, the destroyer is struck by no less than four bombs and six Kamikaze crashes. Yet, despite losing 103 officers and crew, the ship survives and is towed to the West Coast for repairs.

April 18 1945

On the island of Ie Shima, war correspondent Ernie Pyle is killed while accompanying troops of the 77th Division

May 5 1945

A " balloon bomb" sent from Japan crosses the Pacific Ocean and drifts over the Oregon woods. A group of curious civilians investigate the object and it explodes, killing five children and a woman. They become the only civilians killed on the American mainland in the Pacific War.

May 8 1945

Germany formally surrenders to the Allies in what has been called V-E Day. The fighting in the Pacific however, continues.

June 18 1945

While inspecting forward positions, 10th Army commander Lieutenant-General Simon B. Buckner is killed by enemy shell-fire. He becomes the highest-ranking American officer to be killed in action.

June 21 1945

The island of Okinawa is declared secure. For the United States, this was the bloodiest campaign of the Pacific War, with over 62,000 casualties. In addition, 28 ships are sunk by Japanese bombs and kamikazes, with another 368 damaged. Meanwhile, Japanese combat losses come to 96,000, with a further 7800 aircraft shot down. Finally, an estimated 150,000 Okinawan civilians are killed or injured in the fighting.

June 25 1945

Once again the US Third Fleet is forced to endure the wrath of a major typhoon. Unlike the previous episode, pains are taken to ensure all ships are fully fueled and in ballast. Nonetheless, several ships are damaged, the most serious being the cruiser Pittsburgh, which loses most of her bow. In addition, some 145 aircraft are either lost, or damaged beyond repair.

June 26 1945

The Charter of the United Nations was formally signed in San Francisco

July 16 1945

The first nuclear test is conducted in New Mexico

July 17 1945

The first post-war conference is conducted at Potsdam, Germany.

July 26 1945

The Allies issued then Potsdam Declaration, demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan.

July 30 1945

The USS Indianapolis is sunk while sailing from Tinian to Leyte. Due to an administrative mix-up, nearly four days will pass before help arrives, In that time, some 600 of 900 survivors perish of exposure and shark attack.

August 6 1945

A single B-29 bomber drops an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The city is leveled and some 70,000 people are killed. (The total would later be raised to 140,000 after deaths from burn and radiation injuries are counted.)

August 8 1945

The United States becomes the third nation to join the United Nations.

August 9 1945

A second atomic bomb is dropped in the city of Nagasaki, killing 40,000. That same day, the Soviet Union, in accordance to an agreement reached at Potsdam, declare war on Japan and invade Manchuria.

August 10 1945

Emperor Hirohito orders his government to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender.

August 14 1945

A group of die-hard officers of the Japanese military attempt to overthrow the government and seize the Emperor. The coup fails and the officers commit suicide. The following day a recording of the Emperor's surrender is broadcast to the Japanese public.

August 19 1945

Partisans led by Ho Chi Minh take control of the city of Hanoi and declare the independence of Vietnam.

September 2 1945

Representatives of the Japanese military and civilian government formally surrender on the deck of the American battleship Missouri, formally ending the Second World War.

September 8 1945

American troops land in South Korea, while Russian troops cross the Yalu River to occupy northern Korea.

September 9 1945

A moth found lodged in a Mark II computer at Harvard becomes the first known "computer bug."

October 24 1945

The United Nations is officially founded.

November 20 1945

The first War Crimes tribunals open in Nuremburg, Germany.

December 19 1945

Five torpedo bombers of Flight 19 disappear in the notorious "Bermuda Triangle."

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