Declarations and Outbreak of War - Because of the International
Dateline, events that took place on the 7th in Hawaii as
far as Washington and London were concerned, were already
into the 8th in Hong Kong and Malaya. By the 8th: (1)
Japan had declared war on Britain and the US; (2)
Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa,
Holland, the United States and a number of Central
American and Caribbean states had declared against Japan;
and (3) China declared war against the Axis powers.
South - Northern Borneo
and Philippines Islands - The first landings in
northern Borneo took place in Sarawak and Brunei on the
16th December, and continued through until late January
1942. In the Philippines, the island of Luzon was the
main target. Between the 10th and 22nd, landings were
made in the north of the island, in the south, and at
Lingayen Gulf in the west. The Japanese forces made a
combined drive on the capital of Manila, which was
declared an open city. They entered on 2nd January 1942
by which time preparations were being made to attack Gen
MacArthur's US and Filipino troops now withdrawn into the
Bataan Peninsular just to the west of Manila. The
southern island of Mindanao was invaded on 20th December
East - Hawaiian
Islands, Guam, Wake Island and British Gilbert Islands
- On the morning of the 7th local time (shortly after the
Malay landings) the Japanese Strike Force aircraft hit
Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. In the Attack on Pearl
total losses, three more sank but
were later re-commissioned, and the remaining three
damaged. Many were killed and a considerable number of
aircraft destroyed. Although the Pacific battlefleet
ceased to exist, the three priceless fleet carriers
Enterprise, Lexington and
Saratoga were fortunately absent and the
large oil stocks and important repair installations left
virtually untouched. By the 10th, Guam in the Mariana
Islands was captured and Makin and Tarawa in the British
Gilberts occupied. Tarawa was then abandoned until the
following September 1942. Wake Island was attacked on the
11th December, but the Japanese were driven off with the
loss of two destroyers by the US Marine defenders. A
later attempt on the 23rd succeeded.
Monthly Loss Summary - 241 merchant
ships of 432,000 tons
Allied Command -
Early in the month, British Gen Wavell was appointed to
command ABDA (American, British, Dutch, Australian)
forces responsible for holding Malaya and the Dutch East
South - Philippines and
Dutch East lndies - As the US and Filipinos were
slowly pushed into Bataan, the Japanese began the
invasion of the Dutch East lndies from southern
Philippines. First landings took place on the 11th at
Tarakan in Borneo and in the Celebes. More followed later
in the month, but which time they had reached the
Moluccas in the drive south towards Java.
20th - Submarine "I-124" minelaying off Darwin, northern
Australia, was sunk by Australian minesweepers
"Lithgow" and US destroyer "Edsall".
Southeast - Bismark
Archipelago - The first Japanese move towards the
southeast took place on the 23rd with landings at
Kavieng, New Ireland and Rabaul, New Britain. Rabaul
became the major Japanese base in the South West Pacific
and helped dictate the whole strategy of Allied moves in
the next two years.
Monthly Loss Summary - 30 merchant ships
of 71,000 tons
South - Dutch East
lndies - The two-pronged advance on Java continued
with airborne landings on Palembang in southern Sumatra
on the 14th, followed up by landings from the sea one day
later by forces carried from Indochina. A few days later
the islands of Bali and Timor were invaded from the
Celebes and Moluccas respectively. The scene was set for
the conquest of Java.
Battles of the Java Sea - ABDA's main naval force was
commanded by the Dutch Adm Doorman and consisted of a
mixed squadron of cruisers and destroyers for the defence
of Java: heavy cruisers "Exeter" and the US
"Houston", light cruisers "Perth"
(Australian), "De Ruyter" and Java" (both
Dutch), destroyers "Electra",
"Encounter", "Jupiter", plus two
Dutch and four American. They put to sea on the 26th
on the news that invasion convoys were approaching.
Failing to find them they headed back to Surabaya the
next day, but before getting in, more reports arrived and
the Allied force went out again towards a position to the
northwest. The main battle started on the 27th at
around 16.00 against the two heavy, two light cruisers
and 14 destroyers covering the Japanese transports. Both
Allied heavies opened fire at long range, but "Exeter"
soon hit and her speed reduced. In
the resulting confusion one of the Dutch destroyers was
torpedoed and sunk. As "Exeter" returned to
Surabaya with the second Dutch destroyer, the Royal Navy
destroyers went in to attack and
"ELECTRA" was sunk by
gunfire. Adm Doorman headed back south towards the Java
coast and sent off the US destroyers to refuel. He then
turned to the north with his remaining four cruisers and
two British destroyers. By now it was late evening and
"JUPITER" was lost
probably on a Dutch mine. "Encounter" picked up
survivors from the first Dutch destroyer and shortly
followed the Americans to Surabaya. The four cruisers,
now without any destroyers, were in action sometime
before midnight and both "DE RUYTER"
blasted apart by the big Japanese
torpedoes. "Perth" and "Houston" made
for Batavia, further west along the north coast of Java.
The next evening, on the 28th, "Perth"
and "Houston" left Batavia and sailed west for
the Sunda Strait to break through to the Indian Ocean.
From Surabaya three of the US destroyers went east and
eventually reached safety through the shallow Bali
Strait. "Exeter's" draught was too great for
this route and the damaged cruiser had to make for the
Sunda Strait accompanied by destroyer
"Encounter" and US destroyer "Pope. "
BattIe of the Sunda Strait - Late that evening "PERTH" and "HOUSTON" ran into the Japanese invasion
fleet in the Strait and attacked the transports. They
were soon overwhelmed by the gunfire and torpedoes of the
covering cruisers and destroyers, and sank in the opening
minutes of the 1st March. A Dutch destroyer following
astern suffered the same fate.
Later on the morning of
the 1st March "EXETER", "ENCOUNTER" and "POPE" fought a lengthy action with a
cruiser force to the northwest of Surabaya before they
Of the entire Allied
force in the Java Sea, only three old US destroyers
managed to get away.
Aircraft from four of the Pearl Harbor Strike carriers
raided Darwin, Northern Territories on the 19th. One
American destroyer and a number of valuable transports
South West Pacific
- The ANZAC Squadron was formed in the South West Pacific
from Australian cruisers "Australia",
"Canberra" and old light cruiser
"Adelaide", New Zealand light cruisers
"Achilles" and "Leander", and the
Monthly Loss Summary - 54 merchant
ships of 181,000 tons
South - Philippines and
Dutch East lndies - As the US and Filipinos struggled
to hold on to Bataan, Gen MacArthur was ordered to leave
for Australia. There he assumed the post of Supreme
Commander, South West Pacific. US Adm Nimitz was to
command the rest of the Pacific. The Java landings went
ahead on the 1st and Batavia, the capital of all the DEI,
fell. The Allied surrender was agreed on the 9th. On the
12th, northern Sumatra was occupied and the rest of March
spent consolidating the Japanese hold throughout the many
islands. Japan's southern perimeter had been secured in
less than four months.
South East - Bismarck
Archipelago, New Guinea, British Solomons Islands -
The Bismarck Sea was secured with two series of landings.
To the north the Japanese took Manus and other parts of
the Admiralty Islands. In northern New Guinea, they
landed in the Huon Peninsula at Lae, Salamaua and
Finschhafen. When they occupied the northern island of
Bougainville, the scene was set for the fierce Solomons
Islands battles to come.
Monthly Loss Summary - 98 merchant ships
of 184,000 tons
Conclusion - Japanese units made their final push on
Bataan and on the 9th, the Americans and Filipinos
surrendered. The island fortress of Corregidor held out
until the 6th May. Some resistance continued on other
Philippines islands. The infamous "Bataan
March" of American and Filipino POW's followed.
Doolittle Raid - American
B-25 bombers under the command of Col Doolittle took off
from US carrier "Hornet" for the first ever
raid on Japan on the 18th. Damage was slight, but the
strategic implications were to prove fatal to the
Monthly Loss Summary - 7 merchant ships
of 14,000 tons
and Maritime Situation - Indian and Pacific
To the west
and south the Japanese had secured their
perimeter to plan. They would also do so in the southwest
as the British, together with the Chinese in the
northeast, were steadily driven out of Burma. The
debate was now whether or not to push out to the southeast
towards Australia and New Zealand, and eastwards
to the United States.
Japanese gains had
been at little cost, not least on the naval side
as can be seen from the losses up to end of April
from all causes:
2 + 6*
battleships sunk at their moorings or
Now it was the
Allies' turn to establish a defence perimeter
running from the Hawaiian Islands around to
Australia and New Zealand. With most of the ANZAC
forces in North Africa, it was left to the
Americans to garrison many of the islands needed
to protect the supply routes from the US to the
two Dominions. By now they were occupying the
Line Islands south of Hawaii as well as Samoa,
Tonga, New Hebrides and New Caledonia. The
Australians were reinforcing Port Moresby in
Papua New Guinea and New Zealanders landing in
"Doolittle Raid" made a decisive impact
on Japanese strategy. The Allies had to be kept
away from the homeland. Japanese conquests would
be extended both to the southeast and east.
Landings would be made at Port Moresby to bring
Australia within bomber range, the southern
Solomons and beyond would be taken to cut
US-Australia supply lines, and Midway Island and
the Aleutians occupied to isolate Pearl Harbor.
Each of these
three moves led to three famous battles - (1)
Coral Sea, (2) Guadalcanal, and
(3) Midway, each one a
step-too-far. Thereafter the Japanese
would be on the defensive.
Papua New Guinea and
British Solomon Islands - Sailing from Rabaul, a
Japanese invasion force headed for Port Moresby, Papua
New Guinea covered by light carrier "Shoho" and
cruisers. Distant cover was given by a carrier strike
force of two fleet carriers. From the Coral Sea, aircraft
of US carriers "Lexington" and
"Yorktown", with a support group including
Australian cruisers "Australia" and
"Hobart" searched for them. First success in
of the Coral Sea (step-too-far 1)
to the Americans on the 7th when
their planes sank "SHOHO" off the eastern tip of New Guinea. Next
day, on the 8th, more aircraft strikes put fleet carrier "Shokaku" out of action on one side and sank
"LEXINGTON" and damage "Yorktown"
on the other. A draw
in naval terms, the battle was a strategic defeat for the
Japanese as the invasion ships turned back, leaving Port
Moresby, so close to the north tip of Australia, safe for
now. Throughout the battle, neither side's ships sighted
each other - the first time in naval history a major
action had taken place in this way. Before the battle started, the
Japanese took the opportunity to occupy a small island
called Tulagi in the southern Solomons, close to a larger
island known as Guadalcanal.
Monthly Loss Summary - 5 merchant ships of
Midway and the
Aleutians - Adm Yamamoto, with over 130 ships in a
number of separate groups, set out to seize Midway
island, occupy the western Aleutians, attack the eastern
end, and draw out the Pacific Fleet for destruction. At
the heart of the armada was the First Carrier Fleet (Adm
Nagumo) with four of the Pearl Harbor attack carriers.
The Americans had far fewer ships, but these included
carriers "Enterprise", "Hornet" and
"Yorktown" barely repaired after the Battle of
the Coral Sea. Battle of Midway (step-too-far
2) - On the 3rd, Dutch Harbor, close to Alaska,
was attacked from two light carriers. But the main battle
was far to the south off Midway between the carrier
aircraft of both sides. On the 4th/5th in the close run
battle, all four Japanese carriers - "AKAGI", "HIRYU", "KAGA" and "SORYU"
was badly damaged and finished off by a
Japanese submarine on the 7th. The Japanese forces
retreated, Midway was spared, and the Allies had their
first major strategic victory of World War 2. However,
the Japanese Navy remained strong, with more carriers in
the Pacific than the Americans. The occupation at this
time of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians was of little
Australia & New
Zealand - The US Pacific Fleet was reorganised in
June. Task Force 44 was allocated to Australian and New
Zealand waters including the New Guinea area, with
Australian cruisers "Australia",
"Canberra" and "Hobart", and the
American "Chicago" under Rear-Adm V. A. C.
Crutchley RN. Until the arrival of the British Pacific
Fleet in early 1945, Australian and New Zealand ships
were almost the only representatives of the White Ensign
in the Pacific.
Monthly Loss Summary - 6 merchant ships
of 31,000 tons
Papua, New Guinea -
After failing to took Port Moresby by sea at the time of
the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese planned to land
on the north coast at Buna and Gona and advance overland
by way of the Kokoda Trail. They landed on the 21st and
moved south, just as the Australians were preparing to
defend Kokoda itself and push north on Buna. The Japanese
captured Kokoda on the 29th, and throughout August slowly
pushed the Australians back south towards Port Moresby.
Monthly Loss Summary - 6 merchant ships
of 32,000 tons
(step-too-far 3), British Solomon Islands -
Japanese were now extending their hold in the southern
Solomons and building an airfield on the island of
Guadalcanal. From there they could move against the New
Hebrides, New Caledonia and other islands along the
supply routes to Australia and New Zealand. After the
Japanese presence was discovered, the US 1st Marine
Division was landed on the 7th, soon capturing the
airstrip which was renamed Henderson Field. Close cover
was provided by a force of American and Australian
cruisers. 9th - Battle of Savo Island
- In the early hours
of the 9th a Japanese force of seven cruisers and a
destroyer headed for Savo Island to the north of
Guadalcanal to get at the US transports. Instead they
stumbled on five patrolling cruisers. Taken completely by
surprise, Australian heavy cruiser "CANBERRA" and the American
were hit by a torrent of gunfire and torpedoes, and
sank in an area soon known as lronbottom Sound. The fifth
cruiser "Chicago" escaped and Australian
cruisers "Australia" and "Hobart"
were close by but took no part in the action. The
transports were untouched. From now on, as both American
and Japanese forces tried to bring in supplies and
reinforcements, numerous naval battles were fought in and
around the southern Solomons.
of the Eastern Solomons - On the 24th, Japanese and American carrier
groups covering supply operations to Guadalcanal were in
action to the east of the Solomons island chain. Japanese
light carrier on "RYUJO" was sunk and the American "Enterprise" damaged. From now on, the Japanese
relied increasingly on 'Tokyo Express' destroyers to
bring in supplies by night down 'The Slot' - the waters
between the islands of the Solomons.
Papua, New Guinea -
In their move on Port Moresby, Japanese troops
landed at Milne Bay at the extreme southeast tip of Papua
on the 25th. The mainly Australian resistance was strong
and by the 30th, the invaders were starting to evacuate.
By early September they had gone - the first major
setback Japanese forces have experienced on land.
Monthly Loss Summary - 3 merchant ships
of 1,500 tons
Papua, New Guinea - In mid-month the
Japanese reached their furthest point down the Kokoda
Trail, within 30 miles of Port Moresby. Australian
troops now went over to the attack
and slowly drove north towards Kokoda.
Solomon Islands - As the two sides struggled to build
up their forces, more fighting took place for possession
of Henderson Field. An old friend of the Royal Navy and
Malta was lost when US carrier "WASP"
was torpedoed by submarine
"I-19" on the 15th, yet another casualty of the
attempts to reinforce the island. Only carrier
"Hornet" remained operational in the South
Pacific, but she was joined by the repaired
"Enterprise" in October.
British Gilbert Islands
- After a brief stay in December 1941, Japanese forces
reoccupied and start fortifying the atoll of Tarawa.
Papua, New Guinea -
The Australians continued to push up the Kokoda Trail
against the usual bloody Japanese resistance. US troops
took a parallel track to reach the coast south of Buna.
Allied landings also took place on the north coast up
from Milne Bay in preparation for the coming assault on
Buna and Gona.
- As the struggle carried on for the island's one
airfield, supply and support operations led to two more
major naval battles: Battle of Cape Esperance - Off the north tip of Guadalcanal
on the night of the 11th/12th, a US cruiser force was in
action with a similar Japanese force. Both sides lost a
destroyer, and the Japanese a heavy cruiser. Battle of Santa
Cruz - From Truk,
a large Japanese carrier and battleship task force
approached the southern Solomons to support a major land
attack on Henderson Field. On the 26th they were in
action with a much smaller US carrier group north of the
Santa Cruz Islands. "HORNET"
was lost and "Enterprise" put out of action in exchange for
heavy damage to the carrier "Shokaku". The damaged
"Enterprise" was now the only US carrier in the
South Pacific. Adm King, US Navy Commander-in-Chief,
asked for the loan of a fleet carrier from the Royal
Navy. Anglo-US relations were strained when problems
arose about the need to re-equip with US aircraft, but
"Victorious" was ordered out in December.
Monthly Loss Summary - 2 merchant ships
of 14,000 tons
Papua, New Guinea -
Kokoda was captured on the 2nd, and by mid-month
Australian and American troops were attacking the
strongly fortified positions around Buna and Gona. Fierce
fighting carried on throughout November and December.
- Three more naval battles took place as US forces
started to push the Japanese away from the airfield
towards Cape Esperance. First Battle of Guadalcanal - On the night of the 12th/13th a
large Japanese troop convoy approached accompanied by two
battleships which were to bombard Henderson Field. A US
cruiser force set out to meet them in lronbottom Sound.
They lost two cruisers and four destroyers, and the
Japanese two destroyers in the fighting. Also Japanese
was disabled by gunfire and later finished
off by US torpedo aircraft attack. Second Battle of
Guadalcanal - Two
nights later the Japanese again tried to bring in troop
transports. This time a battleship action resulted and "KIRISHIMA"
was sunk by the "Washington".
of Tassafaronga -
On the 30th in the same area, an eight-destroyer 'Tokyo
Express' was intercepted by US cruisers and destroyers.
One of the Japanese was sunk but at the cost of one
cruiser lost and three severely damaged as the 24in Long
Lance torpedoes tore through the US lines.
Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands - After four months
struggle, the US 1st Marine Division was relieved by the
Army. Japanese destroyers continued to run in supplies by
nightly 'Tokyo Express', but by the end of the month High
Command in Tokyo had decided to evacuate its troops.
Meanwhile US forces pushed west from Henderson Field.