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February 1942- September 1945: The Japanese Empire stretched across the face of Southeast Asia, and The Land of the Rising Sun now cast a long shadow. February 1942, the Japanese attacked mainland Australia, hitting a naval base at Darwin. Many people believed the engagement to be the prelude for an invasion, but the Japanese had overextended themselves. The Allies started to regain lost ground.

The American forces struck in a two-pronged attack, with General Douglas MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific, and Admiral Nimitz in the central Pacific. MacArthur would drive up from the Solomon Islands, through New Guinea, and then on to the Philippines. Admiral Nimitz would operate in the central Pacific and island-hop across the Marshall Islands, Marianas Islands, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

US forces hit the Gilbert Islands at Tarawa in November 1943. Japanese planes could strike the U.S. Fleet from Tarawa, so it had to be taken. It was a bloody battle. Tarawa had strong defences, and of the 3,000 Japanese defenders, only 17 surrendered. Over 1,000 Americans were killed and more than 2,000 wounded. Back in the United States, the public was horrified at the number of losses in such a short period of time, but the deaths were but a harbinger of things to come.

In June 1944, Admiral Nimitz turned his attention to the Marianas Islands of Saipan, Tinian and Guam. His Fleet was positioned to the west of the island group to protect the invasion landings. The assemblage of ships came under heavy Japanese air attack but, with inexperienced pilots and equipment inferior to that of US forces, the Japanese failed in these attacks . The Americans had over 900 carrier-based planes compared to Japan's 400. In what became known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot, three-quarters of Japan's planes were blown out of the sky. The US won the air battle and, consequently, gained control of the skies over the South Pacific.

This meant that the invasion of the Marianas Islands could proceed without significant Japanese air or naval interference, but the islands still had Japanese troops entrenched and ready to fight to the last man. The Americans paid an ungodly price for the islands: Saipan alone cost 3,000 lives; the taking of Tinian was similarly bloody even though the island less well-defended; and the battle of Guam lasted more than 3 weeks. On October 20th 1944, General MacArthur landed in the Philippines. Come February 1945, Iwo Jima was the target.

Iwo Jima was about 600 miles off the coast of mainland Japan, and the prelude to the invasion was a two-month bombardment by naval vessels and from the air. Surviving soldiers have described this battle as hell, and by the time the Stars and Stripes was raised over the island, thousands of Americans had died. Of the 21,000 Japanese troops defending the island, only 200 were taken alive.

On March 9th 1945, US Bombers struck mainland Japan and dropped 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on its capital, Tokyo. The attack destroyed 16 square miles of the city, and killed over 80,000 people, many of them suffocating in the firestorm that followed. More people died in that one sustained attack than in the entire bombing blitz of Britain. The US forces then created an air and naval blockade of Japan. Without an effective Navy or Air force, Japan was cut off from her overseas Armies and, more importantly, from essential supplies.

While the war in Europe ended on May 8th, 1945 (VE Day -- Victory in Europe Day), the war in the Pacific raged on. US forces fought fierce battles as they regained Japanese-held islands and inched their way closer to the Japanese mainland. The invasion of Okinawa began on April 1 1945. The island, only 350 miles from the Japanese mainland, was strongly defended by 100,000 troops waiting inland - seasoned troops entrenched in caves, who had established a network of tunnels for communication. The offshore fleet was exposed to Japanese kamikaze pilots; indeed, about 2,000 kamikaze missions destroyed 30 American warships and damaged another 200. Ultimately, the death toll for control of Okinawa was incredible: more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers, at least 24,000 civilians, and 12,000 American soldiers were killed.

Upon the death of President Roosevelt on April 12th, 1945, Harry Truman stepped in as President after only 82 days as Vice-president. Roosevelt had led America out of the Depression in the 30's, and through most of World War II. But the end was now in sight... and with the end came victory.

During the bloody confrontations against the Japanese on Siapan, Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Japanese soldiers had fought to the end - many soldiers and civilians alike chose suicide over capture. On one island, more than 8,000 civilians committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. American military leaders knew that invading mainland Japan would mean many more Americans losing their lives. More than 2,000,000 soldiers were earmarked for the invasion that was to take place some time between November 1945 and March 1946. But the Bomb offered America an alternative. With the atomic bomb, America could strike at the very heart of Japan without risking the lives of millions of American GIs. At the same time it would show the Russians - who were becoming a viable if awkward power in Europe - what power the United States now had.

Ten days after the Potsdam conference, the Allies dictated to Japan the terms for surrender. Failure to accept would mean utter destruction, which would come in the shape of the world's first atomic bomb. Surrender terms were ignored by the Japanese, and orders were given for the bomb to be dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on the morning of the 6th of August 1945. It was the turning point of the war, heralding the defeat and death of one power - the Japanese Empire - and the birth of a superpower: The United States of America. A second bomb was planned for August 11th, but the date was brought forward because of expected bad weather. On the 9th of August Nagasaki was hit with this second bomb. The Russians had declared war on Japan the day before, and the Japanese finally capitulated. World War II was finally over, and V.J.Day (Victory in Japan) is remembered on the 16th of August. On the 2nd of September 1945, General Douglas MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender on the American battleship U.S.S. Missouri, which was anchored in Tokyo Bay. MacArthur would go on to command the Occupation forces in Japan, and later to lead United Nations forces during the Korean war.

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For those visitors that have entered to this site, directly to this page, we would like to inform you that this page is part of a series of pages, within a section that acts as a backdrop to 'The Puzzle' project. 'The Puzzle' is a musical project that looks at different events from the 20th-21st Century.

This section is part of the 'World War II' zone. 'A Promise Of Peace' tells the story, in chronological order, of World War II.

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