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
January 1943. Taken with the October 1942 British Battle of
El Alamein and June 1942 American Battle of
three Allied successes are usually considered as
marking the turning point in the 40 month old war
against the Axis powers. The Battle for
ending as it did Japanese hopes of controlling
the South West Pacific should also be added to
this roll-call of victory.
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
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
A cruiser on both sides was damaged, but the Japanese
force turned back.
Monthly Loss Summary - 2 merchant ships
of 6,000 tons
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.
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
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
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.
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
Monthly Loss Summary - 5 merchant ships
of 33,000 tons
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
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
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.
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
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
In the New Caledonia area, New Zealand trawler
"Tui" and USN aircraft sank submarine "I-17".
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.
- 2 merchant ships of 4,000 tons
- 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
- 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
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
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
- 1 merchant ship of 7,000 tons
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.
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
- 1 merchant ship of 7,000 tons
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
6th - Normandy Invasion: Operation
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
- 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
The island of Saipan
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
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.
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.
New Guinea - Conclusion
- On 30th July, US troops landed near Cape
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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"
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.
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"
"YAMASHIRO" and a heavy cruiser were sunk.
of Samar -
Back to the north, early on the 25th, the
threat was still great as the main Centre Strike
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
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.
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",
"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
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
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
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
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
"Indefatigable" and "Victorious" on
oil installations around Palembang, southern Sumatra on
the 24th and 29th. Adm Vian was in command.
Philippines - Three years after the Japanese landed
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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
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
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.
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.
was damaged and
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.
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.
- 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.
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
British Pacific Fleet
- Adm Rawlings, now with "King George V",
"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
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
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
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.
... 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
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.