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CAMPAIGN SUMMARIES OF WORLD WAR 2

PACIFIC OCEAN CAMPAIGNS, UNITED STATES & ALLIED, Part 2 of 2

1943-45

Admiral William F Halsey USN, Commander Third Fleet  (Library of Congress)

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1943

JANUARY 1943

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands - Unknown to the Americans the Japanese had been ordered to evacuate, but they still resisted strongly as US forces pushed them back towards Cape Esperance. 5th - Operating off the Solomons with a US cruiser force, the New Zealand "Achilles" was badly damaged in a bombing attack off New Georgia Island. 29th - The Japanese still carried supplies to Guadalcanal by submarine, and "I-1" was caught by New Zealand armed trawlers "Kiwi" and "Moa" to the north. In a fiercely fought action they drove the 2,000-ton boat ashore to the west of Cape Esperance and destroyed her.

Papua, New Guinea - The Buna and Gona area were slowly wrested from the Japanese, and by the 21st were in Allied hands. Papua, New Guinea had now been liberated. The first phase of the New Guinea campaign were over. Next was to clear the coast opposite New Britain and take the airfield at Lae. In preparation for this, Australian troops had already been airlifted to Wau, inland from Salamaua. Capturing the Huon Peninsula took most of 1943.

Monthly Loss Summary - 2 merchant ships of 9,000 tons

PROSPECTS FOR ALLIED VICTORY  - The Russians gained a famous victory with the German surrender at Stalingrad in January 1943. Taken with the October 1942 British Battle of El Alamein and June 1942 American Battle of Midway, the three Allied successes are usually considered as marking the turning point in the 40 month old war against the Axis powers. The Battle for Guadalcanal, ending as it did Japanese hopes of controlling the South West Pacific should also be added to this roll-call of victory.

FEBRUARY 1943

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands: Conclusion - By the 8th, Japanese destroyers had quietly evacuated over 10,000 troops from the Cape Esperance area. This marked the end of one of the most intense struggles ever for a single island. In the seven main naval battles alone, US losses had been one carrier, six cruisers and eight destroyers plus the "Wasp" and Australian "Canberra". Japanese losses were two battleships, one carrier, a cruiser and six destroyers.

Monthly Loss Summary - 4 merchant ships of 19,000 tons

MARCH 1943

New Guinea - Between the 2nd and 4th in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, US and Australian land-based aircraft annihilated a troop convoy bound for Lae from Rabaul. All eight transports and four escorting destroyers were sunk.

Aleutian Islands - Japanese supply operations to Kiska island in the North Pacific led to a cruiser gun action on the 26th - the Battle of Komandorski Islands. A cruiser on both sides was damaged, but the Japanese force turned back.

Monthly Loss Summary - 2 merchant ships of 6,000 tons

PACIFIC OCEAN - STRATEGIC AND MARITIME SITUATION

At the Casablanca Conference in January, the Allied strategy for the South West Pacific was agreed. Twin offensives were to be mounted up the Solomons and along the New Guinea coast (and thence across to New Britain), leading to the capture of the main Japanese base at Rabaul - later by-passed. Breaking through the Bismarck Archipelago in this way would open the route to the Philippines. American strategy was subsequently revised to allow for a parallel push through the Japanese mandated islands to the north.

Gen MacArthur, C-in-C, South West Pacific, had full responsibility for the New Guinea area, and Adm Halsey as C-in-C, South Pacific, tactical command of the Solomons. This overlapping caused some complications. Japanese resistance in both Papua and Guadalcanal pointed to many bloody battles in the months and years ahead. The US Seventh Fleet was formed to support Gen MacArthur's campaigning in New Guinea. For some time to come its main component (Task Force 74, previously 44) was Australian cruisers "Australia" and "Hobart", some US destroyers and the Australian 'Tribal' destroyers "Arunta" and "Warramunga". Main US naval strength would remain with Adm Halsey's Third Fleet in the South Pacific Command area to which New Zealand cruiser "Leander" was assigned.

APRIL 1943

New Guinea - Australian troops made limited moves from Wau towards the coast south of Salamaua.

Japanese Navy - Adm Yamamoto, Commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet was killed when his aircraft were ambushed and shot down over Bougainville in the northern Solomons. His travel plans were known in advance through decoded intercepts. Since 1940 the Americans had been able to read the Japanese 'Purple' diplomatic and command ciphers.

Monthly Loss Summary - 7 merchant ships of 35,000 tons

MAY 1943

Royal Navy in the Pacific - After re-equipping with American aircraft and working-up out of Pearl Harbor, fleet carrier "Victorious" joined the Third Fleet under Adm Halsey, seven months after a first USN request were made. From now until August 1943, she and "Saratoga" were the only Allied big carriers in the South Pacific. In the few months she was out there, there were not one carrier battle to follow on the 1942 Battles of Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz.

Aleutian Islands, Alaska - US troops landed on Attu island on the 11th. As usual the Japanese fought ferociously and the island was not secured until the end of the month. A few wounded were captured; the rest died in the fighting or by their own hand.

Monthly Loss Summary - 5 merchant ships of 33,000 tons

JUNE 1943

New Georgia Islands, Central Solomons - Apart from unopposed landings on islands to the north of Guadalcanal in February 1943, only now were US forces under Adm Halsey ready to make their next move up the Solomons chain, starting with the New Georgia group. On the 21st, US Marines landed at the southern end of the main island of New Georgia and on the 30th, Army troops on the nearby island of Rendova. New Georgia was not fully secured until the end of August 1943, by which time other landings had been made. Like the Guadalcanal campaign, Japanese attempts to bring in reinforcements led to a series of naval battles.

Monthly Loss Summary - 1 merchant ship of 1,200 tons

JULY 1943

New Guinea - On 30th June, Allied forces landed south of Salamaua. By mid-July they linked up with the Australians fighting through from Wau, and prepared to advance on Salamaua itself. The struggle against the usual fierce resistance continued right through July and August.

New Georgia Islands, Central Solomons - As the fighting for New Georgia Island continued, naval battles and other actions led to losses on both sides: Battle of Kula Gulf - On the night of the 5th/6th, three US cruisers and four destroyers were in a fight with 10 'Tokyo Express' destroyers off the north coast of New Georgia. The Japanese lost two destroyers, but another US cruiser went down to Long Lance torpedoes. Battle of Kolombangara - Four destroyers covered by cruiser "Jintsu" and five more destroyers ran supplies into Kula Gulf on the night of the 12th/13th. Opposing them were two American cruisers and the New Zealand "Leander" (Capt S. W. Roskill) with ten US destroyers. The Japanese cruiser was shelled to pieces, but all three Allied cruisers were disabled by torpedo hits and a destroyer sunk. "Leander" was out of action for 25 months, the last of the two New Zealand cruisers serving with Adm Halsey.

20th - Task Force 74 with cruisers "Australia", "Hobart" and US destroyers sailed from the New Hebrides for the New Georgia area of operations. In the Coral Sea, "Hobart" was torpedoed and badly damaged by submarine "I-11".

AUGUST 1943

Strategic and Maritime Situation - In May 1943, Allied agreement was reached on an offensive towards the Marshall and Caroline Islands in the Central Pacific to parallel Gen MacArthur's advance along the north coast of New Guinea. At the Quebec Conference, the Gilbert Islands were chosen as the first step in the island-hopping campaign under the overall command of Adm Nimitz, C-in-C, Pacific Fleet.

New Georgia Islands, Central Solomons - As the fighting on New Georgia came to an end, the Japanese evacuated Kolombangara, the next island in the group. Now the Americans started a policy of bypassing and sealing off heavily defended areas whenever strategically possible and leaving them to 'wither on the vine'. On the 15th they started with landings on Vella Lavella to the north of Kolombangara. By early October, by which time New Zealand troops had joined the fighting for Vella Lavella, the Japanese had left both islands, and the Central Solomons were clear. In early August another naval battle took place: Battle of Vella Gulf - Now the US Navy well and truly defeated the Japanese 'Tokyo Expresses'. On the night of the 6th/7th, six US destroyers sank three out of four Japanese destroyers with torpedoes in the waters between Kolombangara and Vella Lavella.

19th - In the New Caledonia area, New Zealand trawler "Tui" and USN aircraft sank submarine "I-17".

Aleutians - In mid-month US and Canadian troops landed on Kiska after heavy preliminary bombardments to find the Japanese had quietly left. The Aleutian Island chain were completely back in US hands.

Monthly Loss Summary - 2 merchant ships of 4,000 tons

SEPTEMBER 1943

New Guinea - As the Allies fought towards Salamaua, further north a three-pronged attack was launched on Lae by mainly Australian troops - from landings to the east, by men airlifted inland to the northwest, and from the direction of Wau. As the Japanese withdrew from both areas towards the north coast of the Huon Peninsular, Australians entered Salamaua on the 11th and Lae five days later. To prevent the Japanese holding on to the Peninsular, Australian forces landed north of Finschhafen on the 22nd as others moved overland from Lae in the direction of Madang.

OCTOBER 1943

New Guinea - Finschhafen was taken on the 2nd, but fighting continued in the area right through until December 1943 when the Australians started pushing slowly along the north coast towards Madang in parallel with their drive further inland.

North and Central Solomons - Battle of Vella Lavella - As nine Japanese destroyers completed the evacuation of the island on the night of the 6th/7th, they were intercepted by three US ships. A destroyer an each side was lost. In preparation for the invasion of the northern Solomons island of Bougainville, New Zealand troops landed on the Treasury Islands on the 27th.

German Raiders - The last operational German raider was sunk on the 17th. Heading for Japan, "MICHEL" was torpedoed off Yokohama by US submarine "Tarpon". Since leaving Europe in March 1942 she had accounted for 18 ships of 127,000 tons.

Monthly Loss Summary - 1 merchant ship of 7,000 tons

NOVEMBER 1943

Bougainville, Northern Solomons - The large Japanese island garrison was mainly established in the south and so the US Marines landed on the weakly defended western side near Empress Augusta Bay on the 1st. They soon had a large beachhead, and it was not until March 1944 that the Japanese mounted a strong counter-attack. Two main naval battles resulted in November: Battle of Empress Augusta Bay - Japanese force of four cruisers and six destroyers sailed to attack the invasion shipping. On the night of the 1st/2nd in a confused night action with four US light cruisers and eight destroyers, the Japanese were driven off with the loss of a cruiser and destroyer. Battle of Cape St George - Five Japanese 'Tokyo Express' destroyers headed for the Bougainville area and early on the 25th were intercepted by five US destroyers off the southern tip of New Ireland. Three of the Japanese were sent to the bottom in the last of the numerous and hard-fought Solomon Islands actions that started only 15 months earlier with the Battle of Savo Island.

British Gilbert Islands, Central Pacific - US forces now started the advance through the Central Pacific with the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. Under the overall command of Adm Nimitz, C-in-C Pacific Fleet, Adm Spruance's Fifth Fleet landed US Marines and Army troops on the atolls of Tarawa and Makin respectively on the 20th. Both were strongly defended but US losses on Tarawa were particularly heavy, although as usual few Japanese survived. Both atolls were secured by the 23rd. Next day, escort carrier "LISCOME BAY" was sunk off Makin by a submarine. The next step was to the Japanese Marshall Islands lying to the northwest.

Monthly Loss Summary - 1 merchant ship of 7,000 tons

DECEMBER 1943

New Britain, Bismarck Archipelago - Gen MacArthur was ready to complete his part in the isolation of Rabaul by preliminary landings on the southwest coast of New Britain, followed by a major assault at the western tip of Cape Gloucester on the 26th. Cover was partly provided by Rear-Adm Crutchley with cruisers "Australia" and "Shropshire". Fighting continued until March 1944 when, assisted by further landings, the western third of the island was secured. By November 1944, when Australian troops relieved the US forces, considerable numbers of Japanese were still penned in around Rabaul where they stayed until war's end.

 

1944

JANUARY 1944

New Guinea - US Army troops landed at Saidor on the 2nd covered by Rear-Adm Crutchley's mixed force of Australian and American warships. Saidor was soon taken as the Australian forces continued to push along the north coast and overland from Lae. They linked up with the Americans near Saidor on the 10th February, and the Huon Peninsula was now almost entirely in Allied hands.

FEBRUARY 1944

Japanese Marshall Islands, Central Pacific - After taking the south-eastern and undefended atoll of Majuro on 31st January, Adm Spruance's Fifth Fleet landed US forces half way up the Marshall's group on the huge atoll of Kwajalein the same day. The Japanese defenders resisted stubbornly, but with their wild Banzai charges were soon wiped out. At the western end of the Marshall's, Eniwetok atoll was also taken starting on the 17th. The Truk Raid - With the Japanese major fleet base of Truk only 700 miles away in the Caroline Islands, ships and aircraft of Fifth Fleet attacked, and together with patrolling submarines sank three cruisers, four destroyers and much shipping in mid-month.

MARCH 1944

Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago - To complete Allied strategic control of the Bismarcks, Gen MacArthur's US forces landed on the Admiralty Islands on the last day of February. Further landings were made during March, but by the end of the month, in spite of fierce resistance, they were secured. Some fighting continued through until May 1944. The main island of Manus became one of the major Allied bases for the rest of the war.

Bougainville, Northern Solomons - Only now did the Japanese launch their main attack on the US beachhead, but were soon beaten back. The survivors were left to themselves in the south of the island. In November 1944, Australian forces relieved the Americans and early in 1945 started a long and tedious campaign to clear them out.

APRIL 1944

New Guinea - As Australian forces approached Madang, entering there on the 24th, the Japanese concentrated their weakened divisions around Wewak. Now Gen MacArthur was ready to occupy most of the north coast with a series of leapfrog landings with US troops beyond the Japanese fallback positions. He started on the 22nd with Aitape and across the border in the Dutch half of the Island around Hollandia, which was soon secured. Aitape took longer.

MAY 1944

New Guinea - US forces made their next landings on Wadke Island on the 16th, and further west still on Biak Island on the 27th. The Japanese were not yet finished and fought hard against US attempts to break out from: their positions around Aitape; on the mainland near Wadke Island; and on Biak, in some cases right through until August 1944. All this time the Australians were pushing west along the north coast from Madang.

Rear-Adm Crutchley's TF74 and other units of Seventh Fleet landed Gen MacArthur's troops, and supported and supplied them. In June 1944 they drove off a determined Japanese operation to reinforce Biak Island by sea.

JUNE 1944

6th - Normandy Invasion: Operation 'Overlord' 

Saipan, Japanese Mariana Islands - With the Solomons campaign virtually over, Adm Halsey transferred from the South to the Central Pacific theatre to share in the command of the vast and ever-growing Pacific Fleet. He and Adm Spruance took turns planning and executing the assaults to come, and the Fleet was renumbered accordingly:

- Third Fleet for Adm Halsey
- Fifth Fleet for Adm Spruance.

Gen MacArthur's much smaller fleet in the South West Pacific remained the Seventh under Adm Kinkaid.

Fifth Fleet carried out the Marianas landings. From here US airpower could strike at the Philippines and Formosa, but most importantly initiate the strategic bombing campaign of Japan using the new B-29 Superfortresses. Over the next year these would devastate Japanese cities and in conjunction with the highly successful submarine offensive against Japan's merchant marine, nearly cripple the country's war production.

The island of Saipan were the first target, and after heavy air and sea bombardments, US Marines landed on the 15th. Effective resistance weas over by early July, by which time one of the most crucial naval battles of the Pacific war had been fought. At the finish, Japanese naval airpower received such a beating that it would never recover. Battle of the Philippine Sea - The Japanese had prepared for the Marianas landings and from the direction of the Philippines despatched a strong naval force that included nine carriers and five battleships, two of them the 18.1in-gunned "Musashi" and "Yamato". The carrier aircraft were knocked out of the sky by their better-equipped and trained US counterparts in the 'Great Marianas Turkey Shoot'. On the 19th, US submarines sank carriers "SHOKAKU" and "TAIHO", and next day carrier aircraft destroyed the "HIYO". The loss in pilots was a major defeat for the Japanese, and the Americans were left free to complete the capture of the Marianas. The Philippine's inner shield would then be broken.

JULY 1944

Guam (U.S) and Tinian, Japanese Mariana Islands - With Saipan secure and the Japanese fleet in disarray, the Americans went ahead with landings on the US colony of Guam on the 21st and Japanese island of Tinian three days later. Against the usual suicidal resistance, both islands were won by early August, although the last Japanese soldier hid out on Guam until 1972. The Marianas were now in US hands, and their fall had a political consequence. Gen Tojo's government resigned, but a cabinet apparently just as committed to continuing the war came to power.

AUGUST 1944

New Guinea - Conclusion - On 30th July, US troops landed near Cape Sansapor at the extreme west end of New Guinea, and the Allies were now firmly established along the whole length of this huge island. Gen MacArthur was ready to return to the Philippines. However only now in August, did the fighting die down around Aitape and on Biak Island, still leaving the Australians to finish off the remnants of by-passed Japanese divisions, in some areas until August 1945. But strategically the New Guinea campaign was over.

SEPTEMBER 1944

Halmaheras, Palau Islands & Ulithi, Western Pacific - Gen MacArthur's South West Pacific campaign and the Central Pacific advance of Adm Nimitz were about to meet for the invasion of the Philippines. Before they did, three more landings took place in the month, two on the 15th to secure bases for the coming assaults. To the northwest of New Guinea, Gen MacArthur's men were landed on Morotai in the Halmaheras by Seventh Fleet, which included cruisers "Australia" and "Shropshire" of the Royal Australian Navy. Air bases were soon under construction. On the same day, Third Fleet under Adm Halsey set US Marines ashore on the Palau Islands. Although vicious fighting continued for some weeks, the issue were never in doubt as the Japanese were wiped out, pocket by pocket, in the limestone caves. On the 23rd, the unoccupied atoll of Ulithi in the western Carolines were taken as a major fleet anchorage.

OCTOBER 1944

Leyte, Central Philippines - Because of faster-than-planned progress, the Americans decided to by-pass the southern Philippines island of Mindanao and go straight for Leyte. On the 20th Gen MacArthur returned to the Philippines with four Army divisions. Less than two and a half years earlier, he had made his famous "I will return!" statement. In preparation for the landings, Task Force 38 (Adm Mitscher) of Adm Halsey's Third Fleet (1) with a total of 17 fleet and light carriers had roamed the Philippine Sea, hitting the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa and the Philippines themselves. Now with six modern battleships, it was off Leyte covering the landings, throughout which Adm Halsey reported direct to Adm Nimitz in Pearl Harbor rather than Gen MacArthur, a separation of command which contained the seeds of potential disaster in the coming Battles of Leyte Gulf. Directly under Gen MacArthur, Vice-Adm Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet (2) carried out the invasion and provided close support. Including ships loaned from Third Fleet, he had 18 escort carriers and six old battleships. Australian cruisers "Australia" and "Shropshire" with two destroyers were again present. The one Royal Navy representative was fast cruiser-minelayer "Ariadne" serving as an assault troop carrier. The US fleets totalled well over 800 ships. 21st - In one of the first kamikaze ('heavenly wind') suicide attacks on Allied shipping off the beaches, "Australia" was hit on the bridge and badly damaged.

Battles of Leyte Gulf - The Japanese had prepared their response to the Leyte landings. A Northern Decoy Force (1) with four carriers and two converted battleship/carriers sailed south from Japan to lure away Adm Halsey's Third Fleet fast carriers (1). From west of the Philippines, a Centre Strike Force (2) of five battleships and 12 cruisers would approach Leyte Gulf from the northwest through the San Bernadino Strait. From the southwest via the Surigao Strait, a smaller Southern Strike Force (3) in two parts with a total of two battleships and four cruisers would also head for Leyte Gulf. The resulting pincer movement should be powerful enough to destroy Gen MacArthur's transports and savage the Seventh Fleet (2) now that Third Fleet's support (1) had been lured away. In fact the Japanese were about to lose three battleships, four carriers (admittedly with few aircraft on board), 10 cruisers and nine destroyers in the battles and actions known collectively as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The American transports were saved, but warship losses amounted to one light and two escort carriers, three destroyer types and one submarine, with other vessels damaged. The Americans could have lost far more. On the 23rd, still to the north of Borneo, Centre Strike Force (2) lost two heavy cruisers and the "Takao" damaged to US submarines, one of which ran aground and had to be destroyed.

Battle of Sibuyan Sea - On the 24th the same Centre Force (2) was heavily attacked by Third Fleet (1) aircraft as it neared the San Bernadino Strait. The giant battleship "MUSASHI" was sunk and the surviving ships appeared to turn back. As this happened, US carrier "PRINCETON" off Luzon in the Philippine Sea was lost to land-based aircraft attack. Now the Japanese Northern Decoy Force (1) did its job and Third Fleet (1) hurried north, leaving the San Bernadino Strait unguarded. Adm Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet (2) was left with only escort carriers and old battleships to protect the Leyte Gulf beachhead.

Battle of Surigao Strait - As the Southern Strike Force (3) tried to pass through from the southwest on the night of the 24th/25th, it was ambushed by Seventh Fleet's (2) Adm Oldendorf with the six old battleships, cruisers and destroyers, including the Australian "Shropshire" and destroyer "Arunta". In the last battleship action ever fought, the Japanese battleships "FUSO" and "YAMASHIRO" and a heavy cruiser were sunk.

Battle of Samar - Back to the north, early on the 25th, the threat was still great as the main Centre Strike Force (2) with four surviving battleships and eight cruisers sailed through the San Bernadino Strait to attack the escort carriers and accompanying destroyers of Seventh Fleet (2). The escort ships and carrier aircraft fought back bravely, but the heavy ships sank escort carrier "GAMBIER BAY" and three destroyers. Kamikaze aircraft also sank escort carrier "ST LO" and damaged others. In return, three of the Japanese cruisers were lost to escort carrier aircraft attack. Then just when Centre Force could have got in among the transports, it retreated back the way it came.

Battle of Cape Engano - While the US escort carriers were struggling to survive, Adm Halsey's Third Fleet (1) aircraft sank all four carriers of the Northern Decoy Force (1) on the 25th - "CHITOSE", "CHIYODA", "ZUIHO" and "ZUIKAKU" - although by this time their sacrifice had served no purpose as Centre Force (2) had failed to press home its attack on Leyte Gulf. As Centre Force retreated, the returning Third Fleet (1) were too late to stop it escaping through the San Bernadino Strait.

By any measure the US Navy and its carrier aircraft had struck the Japanese Navy a blow from which it could never recover.

Monthly Loss Summary - 1 merchant ship of 7,000 tons

NOVEMBER 1944

Leyte, Central Philippines - Although the Japanese managed to reinforce Leyte, and fight back with a fierceness that came as no surprise, they were too late to stop US forces from pushing forward throughout the island. A second landing at Ormoc Bay on the west coast took place in early December, and by the end of that month organised resistance were over. All this time the US Navy suffered increasing damaged in Philippine waters from kamikaze attack.

US Submarine Operations - By the end of the war, Japan's merchant marine almost ceased to exist, a significant factor in eventual defeat. US submarines accounted for 60 percent of sinkings as well as a third of warships. In November alone they sank battleship "KONGO" off Formosa, giant carrier "SHINANO" (built on a 'Yamato' hull) off Tokyo only days after her completion, and small carrier "SHINYO" off Shanghai.

Monthly Loss Summary - 1 merchant ship of 7,000 tons 

DECEMBER 1944

British Pacific Fleet - The Royal Navy prepared to return in force to the Pacific, but even then as a junior partner to the vast US fleets. At the end of November the Eastern Fleet was dissolved and Vice-Adm Sir Arthur Power appointed C-in-C of the newly formed East lndies Fleet. He took over some of the ships of the old Eastern Fleet from Adm Fraser including capital ships "Queen Elizabeth" and "Renown", four escort carriers and nine cruisers. Now as the last U-boats headed back for Europe, Adm Power had sufficient convoy escort strength for Indian Ocean operations. Adm Fraser became C-in-C, British Pacific Fleet (BPF) and early in the month flew to Sydney, his planned main base, and then on to Pearl Harbor to discuss with Adm Nimitz how the Fleet would be employed. By the end of the year, fleet carriers "Illustrious", "Indefatigable", "Indomitable" and "Victorious", battleships "Howe" and "King George V", and seven cruisers including the New Zealand "Achilles" and "Gambia" had been allocated to BPF. Adm Fraser's greatest challenges were to equip and train his aircrews to US Navy standards of operation and assemble a balanced fleet train. This would enable him to supply and support the fleet so it could operate alongside, but independent of, the Americans in the vast stretches of the Pacific. Even at the end he would lack many of the ships needed, especially fast tankers.

Leyte & Mindoro, Central Philippines - As the Leyte fighting drew to an organised close, Gen MacArthur's troops landed on Mindoro on the 15th. They were soon in possession of the air bases needed for the invasion of the main Philippines island of Luzon to the north.  

Monthly Loss Summary - 6 merchant ships of 43,000 tons

 

1945

JANUARY 1945

Fleet Air Arm Attack on Palembang - As the British Pacific Fleet transferred from Ceylon to Fremantle en route to Sydney, Australia, successful strikes were made by aircraft from carriers "Indomitable", "Illustrious", "Indefatigable" and "Victorious" on oil installations around Palembang, southern Sumatra on the 24th and 29th. Adm Vian was in command.

Luzon, Northern Philippines - Three years after the Japanese landed at Lingayen Gulf on the northwest coast of Luzon, Gen MacArthur's Sixth Army went ashore early on the 9th, supported as usual by Seventh Fleet with its Royal Australian Navy element. As the US forces spread out and headed south towards Manila, a secondary landing was made at the end of the month on Bataan Peninsula to stop the Japanese falling back there as Gen MacArthur had done in 1942. Kamikaze attacks continued to inflict heavy losses throughout the region, mainly in ships damaged, but on the 4th escort carrier "OMMANEY BAY" on passage to Lingayen was sunk off Mindoro.

5th-9th - Off Lingayen, Australian heavy cruiser "Australia" was hit by kamikazes on the 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th and finally had to be withdrawn.

FEBRUARY 1945

British Pacific Fleet - Early in the month, the BPF arrived in Sydney for replenishment. Adm Fraser stayed ashore as C-in-C and his number two, Vice-Adm Sir Bernard Rawlings in battleship "King George V", commanded the Fleet. Rear-Adm Vian was Flag Officer, First Aircraft Carrier Squadron. By this time nearly 60 ships of a diversity of types and flags were ready for the Fleet Train under Rear-Adm D. B. Fisher. BPF had been allocated Manus in the Admiralty Islands as its intermediate base, which Adm Rawlings reached by mid-March.

Philippines - Conclusion: On Luzon island, Bataan and Corregidor were taken, but the Japanese held out in Manila until early March in a struggle that wrecked the city. By now all the Philippines were under American strategic control, but to meet his promise to free all the islands Gen MacArthur's forces made amphibious landings on many smaller ones through to April. On some, especially Luzon, fighting did not end until the Japanese surrender in August.

Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands - With Adm Spruance now back in command of Fifth Fleet, the next assault was on the tiny island of Iwo Jima, south of Japan, needed as an air base to support the USAAF strategic bombing campaign. Landings took place on the 19th, but before this eight square mile volcanic island was secured in mid-March, 6,000 US Marines and most of the 21,000 defenders were dead. On the 21st, escort carrier "BISMARCK SEA" was sunk by kamikaze attack offshore.

MARCH 1945

British Pacific Fleet - On the 15th, Adm Rawlings signalled from Manus to Adm Nimitz that the British Pacific Fleet was ready to join Adm Spruance's Fifth Fleet. Now known as Task Force 57, battleships "King George V" and "Howe", carriers "Illustrious", "Indefatigable", "Indomitable" and "Victorious", five cruisers including the New Zealand "Gambia" and 11 destroyers, two Australian sailed for Ulithi to refuel. On the 26th they were on station off the Sakishima (Gunto) Islands in the Ryukyu group. Their mission was to prevent the islands being used as staging posts for Japanese reinforcements flying from Formosa to Okinawa. BPF's main weapon was of course not the battleships, but the Seafires and American-made Avengers, Hellcats and Corsairs of the carriers' strike squadrons. They started their attacks that day.

APRIL 1945

Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands - Okinawa was the main island in the Ryukyu group and half way between Formosa and Kyushu. It was needed as a major base for the coming, bloodiest invasion of all - mainland Japan. The Japanese were committed to defending Okinawa for as long as possible and with maximum use of kamikaze attack. Under Adm Spruance and Fifth Fleet, the greatest amphibious operation of the Pacific war started on the 1st with US Tenth Army including both Marines and Army forces landing on the west side of the island. There was little opposition to start, but by the time they had taken the northern five-sixths of the island on the 13th, bitter fighting was raging in the south, continuing through April, May and into June. Air and sea kamikaze missions led to heavy losses on both sides. The British Pacific Fleet did not escape: 1st - Operating off the Sakishimas, "Indefatigable" was hit by a suicide aircraft but saved from serious damage by the armoured flight deck. 6th - Japanese launched the first of 10 'kikusui' (floating chrysanthemum) mass kamikaze attacks which carried on until June. US losses in men and ships sunk and damaged were severe. On the 6th, British carrier "Illustrious" was hit. Damage was slight and she continued in service, but this much-battered ship (first seriously damaged in the Mediterranean in January 1941) was shortly relieved by "Formidable". BPF continued attacking the Sakishima Islands as well as airfields in northern Formosa, with short breaks for refuelling. The Fleet sailed for Leyte on the 20th to replenish

Battle of the East China Sea - Giant battleship "Yamato", a cruiser and destroyers sailed on a one-way mission for Okinawa. Overwhelmed by aircraft of Fifth Fleet on the 7th, "YAMATO", the cruiser and four destroyers were sent to the bottom southwest of Nagasaki.

Monthly Loss Summary - 3 merchant ships of 23,000 tons

MAY 1945

Borneo - Australian forces under Gen MacArthur started landing operations on Borneo, partly to recover the oil fields. On the 1st they went ashore at Tarakan on the east coast of Dutch Borneo, covered by ships of Seventh Fleet including the Australian cruiser "Hobart". Similar assaults took place at Brunei Bay on the north coast of British Borneo on 10th June, after which the Australians advanced south down the coast of Sarawak. In the last major amphibious operation of the war on the 1st July, the Australians landed at Balikpapan, south of Tarakan on the east coast. Tough fighting was needed to secure the port.

Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands - As the struggle for Okinawa continued, US Fifth Fleet was hit by four 'kikusui' attacks in May. By the 4th, BPF were back off the Sakishimas and also under fire: 4th - "Formidable" and "Indomitable" were hit by one aircraft each. 9th - "Victorious" was damaged and "Formidable" hit again by a suicide aircraft. In all cases the carriers' armoured deck allowed them to resume flight operations in a remarkably fast time. On the 25th the RN ships headed first for Manus to prepare for the next stage of the attack on Japan. In two months the aircraft of BPF had flown over 5,000 sorties.

JUNE 1945

British Pacific Fleet - The main body of the Fleet prepared to leave Sydney to join the US fleet, now the Third under Adm Halsey. As they did, newly arrived fleet carrier "Implacable" with an escort carrier and cruisers in support, launched raids on the by-passed island of Truk in the Carolines on the 14th and 15th.

Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands - The fighting finally came to an end on the 22nd after one of the bitterest of campaigns. More than 7,000 men of the US Army and Marine Corps had been killed - and nearly 5,000 men of the US Navy, mainly from kamikaze attacks. The Japanese had lost well over 100,000 killed. USN losses in ships included five carriers badly damaged and 32 destroyer types, many on radar picket duty, sunk or never repaired. Over 7,000 Japanese aircraft were lost from all causes.

JULY 1945

Australia - Prime Minister John Curtin failed to see the end of the war, dying on the 5th after an illness. Acting PM, Joseph Chiffley, succeeded him.

29th - Late on the 29th after delivering atomic bomb components to Tinian, US cruiser "lNDIANAPOLIS" was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea.

British Pacific Fleet - Adm Rawlings, now with "King George V", Formidable", "Implacable", "Victorious" and six cruisers including the Canadian "Uganda" and New Zealand "Achilles" and "Gambia" joined Third Fleet in mid-month to bombard Japan by sea and air through into August.

Japan - During the attacks on Japan the US Navy reserved the right to finish off the Imperial Japanese Navy and in aircraft strikes on Kure destroyed battleship "HARUNA", battleship/carriers "ISE" and "HYUGA", carrier "AMAGI" and several carriers under construction.

AUGUST 1945

Japan - As US Third Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet continued to bombard Japan, the Royal and Dominion Navies won their last Victoria Cross of World War 2. Lt Robert Gray RCNVR, Corsair fighter-bomber pilot with "Formidable's" 1841 Squadron pressed home an attack on shipping in Onagawa harbour, north-eastern Honshu on the 9th. Under heavy fire, he sank his target before crashing in flames and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Japan - Final Defeat .....

Although Japan's cities and production facilities were being destroyed by the strategic bombing offensive and now by Third Fleet warships laying off her shores, the Imperial Navy and merchant marine annihilated, and remaining overseas conquests isolated and under attack, the country was not beaten. There was therefore no let-up in the planning and execution of the campaigns needed to bring the war to a final conclusion. In South East Asia, Adm Mountbatten prepared to land in Malaya and the Americans planned to invade the southern Japanese island of Kyushu in the Autumn and Honshu around Tokyo early in 1946. US casualties of a million or more were expected, plus how many million Japanese? In a matter of days, all the planning came to nought: 6th - B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay", flying from Tinian dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT killed 80,000 people. 8th - Russia declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria early next day overwhelming the Japanese defenders. 9th - The second A-bomb was detonated over Nagasaki and over 40,000 people died. 15th - VJ-Day: After days of internal argument, Emperor Hirohito over-rode the politicians and military, and broadcast Japan's unconditional surrender over the radio. 27th - Ships of Third Fleet under Adm Halsey started to arrive in Tokyo Bay and anchored within sight of Mount Fuji. Representative ships of the British Pacific Fleet and Dominion Navies included "Duke of York" (flying the flag of Adm Fraser), "King George V", "Indefatigable", cruisers "Newfoundland" and New Zealand "Gambia" and two Australian destroyers. Australian cruisers "Shropshire" and "Hobart" later joined them. 29th - Adm Nimitz, C-in-C Pacific flew to Japan, followed by Gen MacArthur, C-in-C South West Pacific, and future Allied overlord of Japan.

SEPTEMBER 1945

 ... and Surrender

2nd - Gen MacArthur accepted Japan's surrender on behalf of the Allied powers on the quarterdeck of US battleship "Missouri". Amongst the signatories of the surrender document were Adm Sir Bruce Fraser for Great Britain, Gen Blamey for Australia, Col Moore-Cosgrove for Canada, Air Vice Marshal lsitt for New Zealand and, for the United States, Adm Nimitz.

Royal Navy - As ships of the Royal and Dominion Navies repatriated Allied prisoners of war and transport food and supplies throughout South East Asia, other surrenders followed during the next few days. 6th - On board light carrier "Glory" off the by-passed Japanese stronghold of Rabaul, Australian Gen Sturdee took the surrender of the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Local surrenders in the area took place on Australian warships. 12th - South East Asia was surrendered to Adm Mountbatten at a ceremony in Singapore. 16th - Arriving at Hong Kong in cruiser "Swiftsure", Rear-Adm C. H. J. Harcourt accepted the Japanese surrender.

 

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revised 9/7/11


 

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