Pain & Purpose in the Pacific
 Richard Carl Bright


Historically one might conclude that the pain of a people began long before the onset of WWII. Through an act of genocide committed in the 17th century by Spanish colonists against the local inhabitants of the Marianas Islands of the Pacific, the Chamorro race was almost wiped out. The “peaceful” or “Pacifico” had become a place of mourning; a place of pain. They would recover, but “Pain in the Pacific” would happen again.

During the 1930s, an aggressive Japanese military bound on expansion, created conflict with the Chinese that gave them contrived reason to invade, occupy and slaughter nearly 30 million Chinese. They would be killed for any number of reasons or no reason at all. They died in military operations, for being guerrillas, for possessing some food, for being in the way, for being a girl, or just because a bored Japanese soldier wanted to have some fun. Entertainment included rape, dousing people with gasoline and lighting a match, forcing sons to rape mothers, shoving sticks of dynamite up girls’ vaginas to blow them up, cutting fetuses out of pregnant wombs, and chopping off countless heads.

Objections by the United States and Great Britain had little effect until they halted the trade with Japan and sent aid to China. The Japanese didn’t like that, and expanded their military aggression into the areas of the Pacific regions that would supply the resourses needed to continue their military expansion. The one military power even the military complex of the Japanese knew would cause them trouble, and that they may not be able to handle was the United States. In an attempt to deliver a knockout punch to the Americans, the Japanese Navy and airpower would attempt to destroy the American Navy and aircraft at Pearl Harbor.

 As a result of that action, one hundred thousand Americans would die in what become the Pacific War. Japan’s loses would be 2.5 million military and civilians. This book tells the story to include the personal accounts of many who were there.

On December 7th, 1941 the conflict officially began.

At 07:55, the dive bombers hit the airbases at Hickam, Wheeler, Kaneohe, the Navy Yard, and Ford Island. The torpedo bombers would follow. Fighters maintained a cover over the islands to prevent US aircraft from spoiling the success of the attack. Later they would attack and strafe everything they considered to be a target. At about the same time the dive bombers went into action, torpedo bombers hit the anchorages. They focused heavily on the main anchorage known as “Battleship Row” on the east side of Ford Island. They also targeted the carrier births on the west side of Ford Island. The Japanese attack caused a severe blow to the U.S. Navy, but not a knockout punch. Admittedly, the punch they did deliver could have been worse. Fortunately for the Americans, the U.S. aircraft carriers weren’t in the harbor to be victims of the attack. The carriers Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga, which could have been in the Harbor, were out to sea.

The results of the surprise attack are as follows: The Battleships that had been sunk were the Arizona, the Oklahoma, the California, the West Virginia and the Nevada. The Arizona and the Oklahoma were a total loss. The others would be re-floated, repaired, and they would contribute to the war in the years ahead. The Battleships that suffered less serious damage were the Tennessee, Maryland, and the Pennsylvania. Target ship Utah, and the minelayer, Ogala were capsized and lost. The destroyers put out of action were the Helm, Shaw, Cassin, and Downes. Ships that suffered light to moderate damage were the light cruisers Honolulu, Helena, Raleigh, the sea plane tender Curtis.

These are the facts as provided by the War Records depository at the University of Hawaii: The surprise attack started at 7:55 a.m. and ended shortly before 10 o’clock. There were 96 ships in Pearl Harbor, and 31 Japanese ships in the striking force. This included six aircraft carriers that sent 350 planes on the raid. The smallest Japanese vessels were five midget submarines released from larger subs. At Pearl Harbor, 18 American ships were sunk or seriously damaged. At the airfields 188 planes were destroyed. The Navy personnel casualties were 2,008 killed (nearly half lost on the USS Arizona) and 710 wounded. The Marines lost 109 men, with 69 wounded. The Army lost 218 men, with 364 wounded. Among the civilian population 68 were killed and 35 wounded  to total 2,403 killed, 1,178 wounded.

The Japanese striking force lost 29 planes (15 dive bombers, 9 fighters, and 5 torpedo planes) and one large submarine and all five midget subs. The Japanese casualties are estimated at 75 to 100 killed.

The Japanese attacked not only Pearl Harbor, on December 7th, but on the same day (December 8 due to the International Date Line) the Japanese bomb the islands of Wake and Guam. They also bomb Clark Field, and other Airfields in the Philippines. The Japanese then invaded Malaya and occupied Thailand, and they seized the international settlement at Shanghai.

On December 8th, the U.S. Congress declares war on Japan.

On December 10th, the Japanese troops capture Guam and begin their landings on northern Luzon in the Philippines.

On December 23rd, Wake Island is surrendered to the Japanese.

On December 24th, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commanding United States Army Forces in the Far East, begins evacuation of Manila and withdraws to Bataan.

On December 26th, Hong Kong, then under British jurisdiction is lost to the Japanese.

This all happened in December of 1941, and by the 2nd of January, 1942 Japanese forces occupy Manila. The Japanese were on the move.

 January 7th, The Siege of Bataan begins.

February 1st, The U.S. Navy launches air and surface attacks against Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands. We began to test the waters, and delivered a little punch of our own. In time there would be more, and they would be powerful. (The picture below is from the U.S. invasion of Saipan).

February 15th, Singapore, a British Crown Colony surrenders to the Japanese.

February 27th & 28th, The Battle of the Java Sea results in the most severe U.S. Naval losses since Pearl Harbor, and leads to the collapse of organized Allied military resistance in that area.

March 8th,   The Japanese land in New Guinea, occupying Lae and Salamaua. In doing so they are threatening Port-Moresby, the last defensive post held by the Allies to protect Australia.

March 11th, MacArthur leaves the island of Corregidor for Australia.

March 17th, MacArthur arrives in Australia. Here he utters the now-famous words, “I came through, and I shall return.”

March 30th, MacArthur is designated the Allied Supreme Commander of the Southeast Pacific Areas (Australia, most of the Indies, and the Philippines). Admiral Chester Nimitz is designated Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Area.

 April 9th, Bataan surrenders. The starving U.S. and Filipino survivors begin a 65-mile “death march” to Japanese prison camps.

April 18th, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle leads sixteen B-25 bombers from carrier Hornet to bomb targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Kobe, and Nagoya. This was a psychological victory for the Americans, but did very little long term damage to Japan.

May 7th, General Jonathan Wainwright, MacArthur’s successor in the Philippines, surrenders Corregidor and all U.S. troops under his command.

Up until now the Japanese were winning the war, but there was a change in the wind. Call it the carrier based aircraft. This time they were the American planes that showed their strength.

May 4th – 8th, The Battle of the Coral Sea. This was a Japanese tactical victory, but also a strategic defeat. It is the first Naval battle in history in which all fighting is done by carrier-based planes and the opposing ships never saw each other.

June 3rd – 6th, The Battle of Midway. This American victory deals the Japanese their first major Naval defeat, and confirms the power of the aircraft carrier as an offensive weapon in war.

The Americans had delivered a severe blow to the Japanese Navy, and with their allied forces, the Americans were now on the move. What followed was the island jungle, Naval and air battles of the War in the Pacific. It was more of the pain that would ultimately bring purpose to the fight. 

The Contents of this book include not only an Overview of the chronology of The Pacific War beginning with what got us into the conflict, Pearl Harbor, the attack On Guam and the surrender, the attack on The Philippines and the surrender, and that which you have read here thus far. The book focuses on major campaigns such as the landing on the island of Saipan, the jungle battles, the biggest Banzai charge of the war, the suicides, but also on the saving of lives in this key battle for position in the Pacific. This book reports on The Battle of the Philippine Sea, where the Japanese Navy was turned back, and the air battles are known and characterized as the Marianas Turkey shoot.  A chapter in this book focuses on the retaking of our territory of Guam; another on the battle for Tinian where the biggest U.S. bomber base in the world was built. The air war and the contribution to victory with the B-29 bomber is understood within the pages of this book.

The battles of Peleliu, Anguar, Ngardololok, Ngesebus, The Palau Islands  are detailed, and even to a greater extent are the battles of Leyte and the battles of Luzon, Manila, Mindanao in the Philippines and the great sea battles for Leyte Gulf, Palawan Passage, Sibuyan Sea, Surigao Strait, Samar, Cape Engano, Ormac Bay and Bataan and the island of Corregidor.

The chapters on Iwo Jima are written and documented in great detail and with emotion from the memories of those who fought there.  You don’t want to miss this.

The final battles which were on and near the Ryukyu Islands, and mainly the island of Okinawa are spelled out ; it was a campaign that took three months to finish, and thanks in part to the Kamikaze, cost the Americans and allies more casualties than any battle of the Pacific War. This leads us to the firebombing of Japan, the final mass destruction with the dropping of the atomic bombs on August 6th and 9th and the surrender of the Japanese on the 14th of August 1945. Following the conclusion of the war, are the epilogue, and my after thoughts.