With victory in Europe achieved, the Allies could focus all their attention on defeating Japan in the Pacific. There, they still faced stiff opposition.

Battles in the Pacific

During the war in the Pacific, the Japanese at first won a string of victories. They also controlled much of China and Southeast Asia. Despite the early Japanese advances, the Allies slowly turned the tide.

Bataan Death March

Just hours after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed the Philippines, which the United States had controlled since 1898. By May 1942, the Japanese had gained control of the islands. After the U.S. and Filipino defenders of Bataan surrendered, the Japanese forced their prisoners to march more than 60 miles in incredible heat with almost no water or food. The cruel Bataan Death March resulted in the death of as many as 10,000 prisoners.

One survivor described the ordeal as “a macabre litany of heat, dust, starvation, thirst, flies, filth, stench, murder, torture, corpses, and wholesale brutality that numbs the memory.” Many Filipino civilians risked—and sometimes lost—their lives to give food and water to captives on the march.

Americans Take the Offensive

After the battle of Midway, the United States took the offensive. That summer, United States Marines landed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Victory at Guadalcanal marked the beginning of an “island-hopping” campaign. The goal of the campaign was to recapture some Japanese-held islands while bypassing others. Each captured island served as a stepping stone to the next objective. As a result, American forces, led by General Douglas MacArthur, gradually moved north towards Japan.

A map shows World War 2 in the pacific from 1941 to 1945.
Image Long Description

After winning the war in Europe, the Allies poured all their resources into victory in the Pacific theater.

Analyze Maps

Based on the map, how would you describe the Allied strategy to defeat Japan?

On the captured islands, the Americans built air bases to enable them to carry the war closer to Japan. By 1944, the United States Navy, commanded by Admiral Chester Nimitz, was blockading Japan, and American bombers pounded Japanese cities and industries. In October 1944, MacArthur began the fight to retake the Philippines. The British, meanwhile, were pushing Japanese forces back into the jungles of Burma and Malaya.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments