chapter  10
14 Pages

End of an era

Following defeat at Coral Sea (May 1942), failure in the assault on Midway (June 1942), the loss of Guadalcanal (August 1942) and the unsuccessful campaign to wrest it back (November 1942), the pendulum of the Pacific War had begun to swing against Imperial Japan. But it was another six months (June 1943) until the American commanders – General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1956) – could launch their long-planned offensives in the Pacific.1 MacArthur, Admiral William (‘Bull’) Halsey (1882-1959), South Pacific Area commander, and Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1886-1969), Central Pacific Force commander,2 succeeded in seizing island by island from the Japanese: the Solomons, Bougainville, neutralized Rabaul, Tarawa (Gilbert Islands), the Marshalls, Hollandia (Dutch New Guinea), New Guinea and the Marianas.3 The American capture of Saipan and the Marianas in June 1944 brought them almost to the ‘front gate’ of Imperial Japan. The Japanese home islands were now within range of US B29 bombers.4 Consequently Prime Minister Tojo Hideki’s government took responsibility for the military setbacks and resigned.5 The Japanese tensely awaited the next move: the Ryūkyūs, the Kuriles, or the Philippines.