Sunday, June 7, 2009

World War II, Pacific Theatre:

An Overview

In this entry, we will turn our focus once again to the second World War; but this time, we will be featuring the Pacific Theatre rather than Europe.

When most people think of the South-East Pacific, what usually comes to mind will include warm oceans, beautiful volcanic islands covered in palm trees, sandy beaches, and Hawaiian shirts. But to the Allied troops fighting in the jungle islands from 1941-45, it was no happy vacation. On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese suprise attack on Pearl Harbor threw the United States into one of the worst wars in the history of the world; and to defeat Japan, which had been taking over much of Asia since the 1930's, the U.S.-along with our allies in the Pacific, Great Britain and Austrailia to name a few-soon found themselves fighting a new kind of warfare in South-East Asia. In most of America's past wars, both armies fought on stable continents; but in the Pacific, almost every battle was fought on very small islands or in the middle of the ocean. This led to a kind of "leap frog" warfare: "jumping" armies from one island to the next to take ground, and naval engagements in between, if not involved in the land battles. The Pacific theatre saw a rise in airplane engagements; and with the development and improvement of the aircraft carrier, planes soon made a huge part of the defending and attacking forces on both sides.

In this overview, we will see what fighting in South East Asia was like, and what made the Pacific Theatre of the war so different, and yet so vital of importance.

The Americans
"Hit the beach!" After a naval artillery barrage and aircraft bombings to "soften up" the dug-in enemy, U.S. troops beach landings could turn out to be a brilliant victory or a bloody nightmare of a failure.

A U.S. Soldier runs for cover on a hill covered with giant native grasses and bamboo. The jungle islands were often covered in dense foilage; giving the enemy excellent concealment. A U.S. Soldier waits at the ready near a coastal cliff.
This picture, along with the one above, shows the gear of the average U.S. Marine serving in the South Pacific. Helmet with cloth camoflauge cover, belt with ammo pouches and-most importantly-a canteen, camoflauge uniform, and M1 Garand rifle with bayonet.
The Enemy: Japan
This is what the enemy soldier looked like.
A khaki uniform, cotton for the hot jungle, putees, and U.S. made M1 Springfield rifle leftover from the First World War (we were allies then, and the United States had been supplying Japan with military arms, equiptment, raw materials, and advisors since the 1860's). The only gear he wore was a light-weight belt with ammo pouches, a canteen, and a bayonet. He wears a standard issue field cap.
A Japanese soldier with standard-issue jacket and early-style helmet. The Aircraft
A Japanese A6M5 Mitsubishi, nick-named "zero" by U.S. troops. It was extremely effective, and during the first two years of the war it could not be out-fought by any fighter the allies could muster.
U.S. Navy Avenger, a fighter-bomber that proved it's service well.

A U.S. P-38 Lightning, nick-named "forked-tailed devil" by the Japanese for it's unique fuselage. It was one of the best airplanes in U.S. Service, and it was a group of Lightnings that shot down and killed Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in his private plane as he flew out one morning to survey the area before the battle.

The Combat
Combat in the jungle was often a nightmare of an experience involving close-combat on many occasions, or assaulting an open beach which often ended in a horrid battle.

U.S. troops fire at oncoming Japanese troops.
A U.S. Marine fires through an opening in the jungle at a distant enemy.

We hope you enjoyed this entry, and we'll be updating with more in-depth entries on the Pacific Theatre soon!