By Alistair Rogers
After the attack of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the United States was forced to engage a foe whose territory included encompassed much of the North Pacific and South Pacific Oceans. At its height in 1942, the Empire of Japan stretched from Alaska’s westward Aleutian Islands, southward to New Guinea and westward to the Philippines Islands, Thailand, French Indo-China (modern-day Vietnam), Sumatra and coastal China. With Japan entrenched through such a vast territory, the United States had to employ specific tactics to defeat enemy forces in isolated areas, recover occupied territories, and ultimately defeat Japan on its homeland. The employment of island hopping was instrumental in achieving this victory.
Also known as leap-frogging, island hopping focused on bypassing heavily armed locations for islands and atolls where airstrips could be constructed. With these airstrips in place, long-range bombers could attack the Japanese mainland while the Army and Navy avoided prolonged and bloody conflict. A large pincer movement was designed, with General Douglas MacArthur leading the Southwest Pacific Forces northward towards the Philippines, while Admiral Chester Nimitz lead the Central Pacific fleet westward from Hawaii. General MacArthur’s forces moved northward and gained important victories at Guadalcanal, New Guinea, and the Philippines, reaching that archipelago in June of 1945. Admiral Nimitz’s forces moved westward, taking key locations such as the Marshall Islands, Wake Island, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, reaching that important location in June of 1945. All the while, American B-29 Bombers attacked Japan throughout 1944 and 1945, most notably the firebombing of Tokyo in May 1945. The success of this pincer movement culminated in the dropping of two atomic bombs in early August of 1945, bringing the war to a quick-yet destructive conclusion, yet avoiding the bloody stalemate of a mainland-invasion.
Author unknown “Island Hopping” http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1671.html
Haywood, John PhD. Atlas of World History. New York : Barnes and Noble Books, 1997
Liu, Xiaoyuan “A Partnership for Disorder: China, America, and World War II” Journal of Empire Studies . September 5, 2011 http://empirestudies.com/2011/09/05/partnership-for-disorder/
“Island Hopping: Foothold Across the Pacific”: The National World War II Museum http://www.nationalww2museum.org/campaigns-of-courage/road-to-tokyo/island-hopping.html
Growing up as a child in Hong Kong, I heard much about the terrors that my grandparents on both sides of the family had endured under the rule of the Japanese during their invasions in Pacific East Asia. While these tales horrified me as a child, it sparked an interest in me and set me on the path of getting my bachelor’s degree in history at the University of San Francisco. I was so intrigued by the subject that by the time I was fourteen, I had read Iris Chang’s award winning book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, which was a gift from my grandfather, who insisted that this portion of history can never be forgotten.
As I grew up, I soon realize that most people in the world, even my peers in Hong Kong, were either indifferent or ignorant of the subject. Whilst I was disappointed by this realization, it continues provide me with the motivation and drive to spread the knowledge of this largely forgotten past; as the age-old expression goes: those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.
Nicole Dahlstrom is a non-profit marketing specialist with a history of coordinating marketing efforts for non-profit start-ups. She began her career while still in college when she interned at a local non-profit start-up called Spread the Care. After receiving a B.A. in Marketing, Nicole spent a year as an employment specialist with the national volunteer program, AmeriCorps. During her term of service, she aided a diverse set of clients with anything from learning to speak English to writing a business plan. Since finishing her term of service in September of 2014, Nicole has pursued a freelance writing career while studying online marketing for non-profits. She currently works as the Development Coordinator for the growing San Francisco based non-profit, Pacific Atrocities Education.