The Pacific War

Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent entry into the Pacific War was brought about due to their history of growth and treatment by the Western powers (Smethurst). With Japan opening up to the West in 1854, and the subsequent modernization of the nation, the island saw itself quickly rise to the power yet not able to enjoy the same treatment that the Western nations gave each other. Their trade was restricted, efforts to expand looked down upon, were not seen as equals, and the people filled with a sense of nationalism (Smethurst). With their national pride and desire for an empire, Japan then launched its attack against the unsuspecting U.S. at Pearl Harbor.

Following the shock of the bombing, the U.S. quickly declared war on the Japanese with little resistance from the people. This war tested the might of the two’s naval forces as most of the fighting took place in the Pacific Ocean as well as on several islands in the area and parts of China. Though the U.S. forces were primarily focused on the war in the Pacific and China, the other Allied nations did provide aid on the other fronts of the war (such as Southeast Asia).

Despite several Japanese offensives and victories early on, the U.S. scored a crucial victory in the Battle of Midway in June of 1942. Here, the U.S. was able to take down four Japanese aircraft carriers while only suffering the loss of one of their own. This turning point in the Pacific War was made possible when U.S. forces were able to intercept several radio messages and decode them, revealing the Japanese force’s plans for the battle. The intelligence allowed the U.S. naval fleet to strike the Japanese when they were vulnerable. The aftermath of Midway then gave the U.S. the momentum it needed for the U.S. to turn the tide of the war. Soon after American forces were able to head to the mainland of Japan itself.

During this time, several countries were engaged in research on a successful nuclear weapon, however the Americans were the first to succeed in developing the atomic bomb. Knowing that directly invading the Japanese mainland would cost the lives of many American soldiers, this new weapon proved to be an attractive option. The decision of whether or not to drop the bomb was not as controversial as one would think, the ability to bring the Pacific War to a swift conclusion and to show off the might of the U.S. power to the other nations convinced the President into giving the order to use the new weapon. On August 6th, 1945 an atomic bomb used on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later on the 9th, another was dropped on Nagasaki. This would mark the first and last time a nuclear weapon has been used in any conflict by any nation. Faced with the destruction of this new weapon, the crippling of their navy back in July, as well as losses to the Soviet Union and other Allied forces, Japan surrendered on August 15th (and formally surrendered on September 2nd).