Atlas of the World Battle Fronts in Semimonthly Phases to August 15 1945
|Atlas of the World Battle Fronts in Semimonthly Phases to August 15 1945 (1945)
The atlas shows the front lines of World War II in two-week steps between 1 July 1943 and 15 August 1945.
- White : Axis territory
- Pink : Allied territory
- Red : Allied gain since previous map
- Black : Axis gain since previous map
- Grey : Neutral Nations
About the maps
The map used for presenting the war against Germany through November 1944 is based on azimuthal equidistant projection, in which curving latitudes and converging longitudes appear somewhat as they do on a sphere. The red grid lines are drawn at 500 mile intervals zeroed on Berlin. The last six months of the war in Europe are shown on an enlarged section of this map; the enlargement results in a change of scale from about 250 to 125 miles to the inch.
The war against Japan is presented on the Mercator projection, in which latitudes and longitudes appear at right angles. The scale varies according to distance from the equator. The distortion caused by scale variation is made apparent by the red grid, in which lines are drawn at 500 mile intervals, Tokyo being used as a zero point. Comparison with the 500 mile intervals on the opposite page accentuates the great distances involved in the Pacific.
War Against Germany
As midsummer 1943 drew near, the battle fronts of Europe were ominously quiet. The year had opened with the Soviet triumph at Stalingrad. In May, Axis forces in Africa had capitulated. The tide of victory had turned, and the Allied nations were girding for the assault on German-held Europe from the west, south, and east. By 1 July, the strategy for the defeat of Germany had been decided and our forces were poised for the initial blow.
The lull was broken on 5 July, when the Germans, employing great armored strength, launched an offensive toward Kursk. Five days later the ground troops of the Allies struck their first blow at the Axis homelands by invading Sicily, key island in the Mediterranean and stepping stone to continental Europe.
Crumbling Italian resistance to the Allied sweep through Sicily and the resignation of Mussolini exposed the weakness of Fascist Italy. While Germans in Sicily fought for time to make their withdrawal, Germans in Russia found their powerful tank thrust halted and their front yielding before a Soviet counter offensive aimed at Orel.
As the Soviets developed their drive they disposed of the theory that the Red Army could not wage a successful summer offensive. Within a month, the Nazis on the Eastern Front had been thrown from the offensive to the defensive, and a new light was cast on Soviet capabilities.
On 17 August, less than six weeks after our initial assault, Sicily was cleared and Allied artillery was firing on the Italian mainland across the narrow Strait of Messina. Soviet forces extended their offensive as they thrust to the Sea of Azov. Decisions taken at Quebec included the invasion of Southern France and the seizure of Sardinia and Corsica.
The Axis cracked when Italy surrendered on 8 September. Next day the U. S. Fifth Army landed at Salerno Gulf. The British, who had crossed from Messina on 3 September, were advancing up the Italian heel and toe. Unable to repel these invasions, the Germans also met reverses on the Eastern Front including the loss of the Donets Basin.
Over half the Soviet territory lost since June 1941 had now been reoccupied. Linking up a solid front in Italy, the Allied Armies seized the port of Naples as well as the Foggia airfields from which our bombers were to join with the Eighth Air Force and RAF Bomber Command in the onslaught against German industry. Sardinia and most of Corsica were liberated.
Italy declared war against Germany on 13 October. Although the Germans failed to halt our advance at the Volturno River, their defense betokened the bitter fighting which lay ahead. On the Eastern Front the Nazis had only a few days’ respite before the Soviets launched fresh drives all along the 1,200-mile front.
Our pace slowed in Italy. The enemy, falling back into mountainous terrain ideally suited to defense, was exploiting this advantage. On a much larger scale he was being forced to retreat along the Eastern Front. One Soviet drive cut the land escape routes of the German forces in the Crimea.
While bitter fighting continued to mark the dogged Allied advance in Italy, the Red Army scored a significant victory by capturing Kiev. Marshal Stalin’s Soviet anniversary speech highlighted the Allied fraternity in arms, but Hitler found it necessary to denounce defeatism and internal unrest.
As winter approached, our Fifth Army drew near to the Cassino corridor. British attacks met intense resistance. Although the Soviets continued to push toward Pripet Marshes, they suffered their first setback since July as the enemy counter-attacked toward Kiev. The Cairo Conference arrived at a definite commitment to invade France in the late spring of 1944.
Winter closed in. Ice covered the Eastern Front as far south as the Ukraine while mud deepened in Italy. On both fronts operations were slowed down, but on neither did the enemy find rest. Continuing pressure kept him committed to action and consequent attrition in a two-front war.
Scarcely pausing after their summer-autumn offensives, the Soviets launched two large-scale drives: one toward Vitebsk, the other through Zhitomir. Meanwhile, the intensity of our strategic air attack was growing. In December, for the first time, U. S. bombers based in Britain exceeded the RAF in both sorties and tonnage.
Along the Italian Front the Fifth Army inched toward Cassino on the road to Rome. General Eisenhower returned to England from the Mediterranean to organize the western invasion force. The Soviets entered pre-1939 Poland, but were halted to the south where the Germans counter-attacked to protect their communications.
In a bold attempt to outflank the strong defence line through Cassino, substantial Allied forces were landed in the German rear at Anzio on 22 January. A firm beachhead was established, but swift enemy reaction confined it to a small area. The Soviets struck the invader again, this time in the north.
The defence of Cassino and enemy counter-attacks at Anzio frustrated our hopes for an early penetration of the German position. Static warfare continued in Italy until strength could be gathered for a fresh assault. The Soviets encircled a force equivalent to 10 divisions near Cherkassy and advanced on the northern and central fronts.
The air war over Germany reached its climax when our airmen, in a series of gigantic battles, broke the back of the German Air Force. In Italy, enemy counter-attacks subsided after failing to dislodge our beachhead at Anzio. The Red Army eliminated the Cherkassy pocket and pushed attacks in the north, center, and south.
Another effort to set the Italian Front in motion proved abortive when the enemy succeeded in holding Cassino against the shattering force of our concentrated air and ground attack. Less successful in southern Russia, the Germans were forced back by the momentum of three Soviet Armies.
Axis territory, already under terrific air assault and, in Italy, converted to a battleground, was again penetrated as sweeping advances carried the Soviet Armies into Romania. German divisions, sorely needed on the battle fronts, were being held in the west against the invasion threat of our rapidly growing forces in Great Britain.
A lull had followed our unsuccessful Cassino attacks in Italy. There, as in the United Kingdom, the Allies waited for shipping to bring in the means necessary to breach the German defences. Soviet forces reached the Czechoslovak border, captured the port of Odessa, and drove through the Crimea to Sevastopol.
Fleets of 1,000 or more aircraft from the west struck German-held Europe almost daily. As the attacks grew heavier they shifted from industrial targets in Germany to communications in France and the Low Countries. Nazi propaganda, dwelling on defensive strength in the west, reflected fear of imminent invasion. Meanwhile, Mediterranean planes augmented the aerial assault.
On 11 May the U. S. Fifth and British Eighth Armies launched a coordinated offensive in Italy. Allied bombers continued their systematic disruption of communications in the west, while the Mediterranean air forces maintained their destructive attacks. The Soviets took Sevastopol, which they had lost in July 1942 after a bitter 250-day siege.
As our offensive gained momentum on the main Italian Front, Allied forces broke Out from Anzio beachhead, where they had been contained for four months, and effected a junction with columns advancing from the south. Prised from their strong defenses, the Germans were thrown into hasty retreat northward through Rome. The shattering power of Allied air attacks steadily mounted.
On 6 June Allied forces crossed the English Channel and invaded Europe. His communications paralyzed by our air assault, the enemy was powerless to move sufficient forces to the breach in his coastal defenses. Rome was captured two days before the invasion in the west. German flying bombs began falling on southern England, too late to influence the course of the war.
The capture of Cherbourg gave the western Armies a major port with which to augment the build-up over the invasion beaches. In Italy, the German retreat was in full swing. The Soviets began their fourth year of war with a smashing offensive in White Russia.
Daily unloadings of troops and supplies now were the yardstick of progress in France. General Eisenhower was gathering resources to break out of the beachheads, which his forces were doggedly expanding in tough, hedgerow fighting. In Italy, resistance stiffened but we maintained our steady advance. The Soviet avalanche swept forward, traversing 175 miles of White Russia in only 10 days.
Aided by a great air armada, American divisions smashed the German defences at St. Lo and pushed south to Avranches near the base of the Brittany Peninsula. The Red Army, in a fortnight of unprecedented advances, drove to the Vistula south of Warsaw and reached the Baltic Sea near Riga.
Pouring through the gap at Avranches, American columns swept across Brittany, drove south to the Loire, and swung northward to envelop thousands of the disorganized enemy near Falaise. Envelopment on a grander scale was threatened on 15 August, when our forces landed in southern France. Meanwhile, the westward march of the Red Army continued.
While Allied planes inflicted disastrous losses on the retreating enemy, fast-moving ground forces swept across the Seine and raced north and east toward the frontier. From the south, our columns sped up the Rhône Valley toward a junction. Axis territory melted away in the east as Romania capitulated and Soviet troops seized the oil areas near Bucharest.
Allied columns from the west drove into German territory, demonstrating their superiority over the once-invincible Wehrmacht. Our northern and southern pincers joined near Dijon, sealing off most of France. British troops seized the great port of Antwerp, but the harbor entrance was stubbornly held by the enemy, who fully realized the logistical problems of the Allies. By mid-September both Finland and Bulgaria had quit the Axis.
Airborne landings in the Arnhem area gave the Allied forces a menacing salient, while intense fighting raged before the defences of Aachen, Metz, and Belfort. French patriots freed western France, except for isolated coastal strong points. In difficult mountain assaults, the Allies in Italy cracked the main defences south of Bologna. Soviet forces cleared the Estonian mainland and drove deeper into the Balkans, while the Germans evacuated southern Greece.
The Western Front remained comparatively static as the British continued the slow, costly process of clearing Antwerp harbor and American forces assaulted Aachen. Despite the gravity of events in the east and west, Germany maintained a large forte in Italy, stoutly resisting our advance through the mountains. Large areas of the Baltic States were cleared by the Soviets, whose powerful formations were poised at the border of East Prussia.
Aachen fell on 21 October. On the Eastern Front, the Soviets drove 20 miles into East Prussia. Although hard-pressed from three sides, Germany might have expected to find some compensation in the shortening of her fronts and communication lines. But our strategic bombers were now rocking her internal transportation structure with heavy, selective attacks on railroads and fuel plants.
Upon clearing the last resistance in the Antwerp area, the Allies launched a large scale offensive to break through the western defenses of Germany. The difficulty of attacking the enemy’s permanent fortifications was greatly increased by unusually severe weather and flooded terrain. The Soviets, too, met potent opposition in East Prussia and at the gates of Budapest.
As the Allied attack in the west mounted in intensity, the heaviest blows were struck in the Aachen area, with the object of breaking into the Cologne plain. Offensives further south overpowered Metz and Belfort and reached the Rhine in Alsace. Although the Germans still clung to their Danube citadel at Budapest, the Red Army forged ahead in the sectors to the northeast and south.
As the United States completed its third year of war, the western Allies’ grinding offensive through the Siegfried fortifications realized advances which directly threatened Germany’s two vital industrial areas—the Ruhr and the Saar. The principal drive, in the north, reached the halfway point between Aachen and Cologne. Here, as in Italy, severe weather and swollen streams impeded our progress. In western Hungary, the Red Army’s advance carried to Lake Balaton.
In a bold attempt to cut the supply lines behind our northern offensive, Hitler committed his strategic reserve, punching into our thinly-held sector in the Ardennes. The attack was skillfully prepared and was favored by wooded terrain and phenomenally poor visibility. Heroic fighting by our troops at the shoulders of the salient and swift counteraction against the flanks succeeded in containing the penetration. Soviet forces encircled Budapest and drove up the Danube toward Vienna.
While the Germans attacked in an effort to relieve besieged Budapest, a massive Soviet offensive was launched along the upper Vistula. The enemy’s painful withdrawal from the Ardennes was accelerated by the constant pressure of our air and ground forces. In the Saar region, we gave ground before a diversionary offensive.
Tremendous strides were made by Soviet Armies, which cleared virtually all of Poland and East Prussia and smashed into Germany on a 300-mile front. Their Ardennes front restored, the Allied Armies in the west regrouped for new offensives and took the first step toward closing the Rhine—a drive to reduce the pocket at Colmar.
Resuming the general offensive, the western Allies again directed the main effort toward the approaches to the Ruhr. The Soviet tide swept over the Oder River into Silesia, surrounded Breslau, and reached within 35 miles of Berlin. Budapest fell. At the Tripartite Conference at Yalta, plans for the final destruction of German military power were coordinated and ratified.
Aided by air blows which paralyzed communications throughout the length and breadth of Germany, the Allied Armies surged across the Cologne Plain. To the south, other forces drove eastward through the rugged Eifel along the Moselle River. Powerful elements of the Red Army consolidated bridgeheads and regrouped along the Oder while significant advances were made by forces on the flanks.
The massive offensive in the west reached the Rhine from Koblenz to the Dutch border. Dashing to seize a usable bridge overlooked by the enemy, United States troops crossed the broad river at Remagen. In the Saar, a coordinated offensive was launched to destroy the remaining German forces west of the Rhine. Soviet forces cleared Pomerania to the Baltic Sea.
As airborne forces in unprecedented strength descended in the German rear, the western Allies stormed the Rhine near Wesel. Near Mainz and Mannheim also, American troops forced the Rhine barrier. The routed columns of the enemy were pounded without respite by our watchful airmen. U. S. armored spearheads joined to effect the historic encirclement of the vast German forces in the Ruhr.
Western Allied forces driving into the heart of Germany encountered no cohesive front. The enemy could not offer effective opposition to our deepest thrusts, although he still resisted our pressure to the north and south. On the Italian Front, where the Allies launched their final offensive, they also met strong resistance. Soviet troops captured Vienna and continued up the Danube Valley.
The meeting of the Eastern and Western Fronts along the Elbe severed Germany and divided her beaten army into isolated groups. Fighting raged in Berlin while the last resistance was cleared in the Ruhr. Our forces driving into Austria pressed towards contact with those of the Soviets and with the Allied Armies in Italy, which had cleared the Po Valley and were hastening toward the Alpine passes. Partisans liberated large areas in western Yugoslavia.
Utterly defeated, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on 7 May 1945, at Reims. At that moment, there were more than three and one-half million Americans participating in the greatest of all European wars. Redeployment to the Pacific started immediately—the Japanese aggressor was still to be defeated.
War against Japan
By throwing back the Japanese in the Coral Sea and Midway battles, the Navy had set the stage for our advance westward and northward across the broad Pacific. In late June, United States forces under the strategic direction of General MacArthur landed on New Georgia while others continued the advance along the eastern coast of New Guinea. In Asia, the Japanese advance had severed our vital supply route to China and carried to the borders of India.
Strong air and naval attacks aided the advance of our ground forces toward the important air base at Munda Point. China entered her seventh year of war supported by the U. S. Fourteenth Air Force, which, in far-ranging missions, made the most of the limited supplies flown over the Hump.
While Allied troops overcame fanatical resistance in the Southwest Pacific jungles, our growing air power not only furnished indispensable support but also carried the attack across barriers of distance. U. S. and RAF bombers ranged over Burma, where the monsoons hampered ground operations. Aleutian-based planes struck the Kuriles.
Munda airfield fell to our forces on New Georgia, and the advance through the Solomons continued with a landing on Vella Lavella. In the Aleutians, United States troops went ashore on Kiska and found that the Japanese, spurred by our June and July bombardments, had evacuated their isolated garrison.
While carrier task forces blasted Marcus and the Marshalls, Admiral Nimitz’ Central Pacific forces edged toward the Gilbert Islands with landings on Baker and in the Ellice chain. New Georgia was completely ours. At the Quebec conference our sights were trained on the Marshalls, the Marianas, northern New Guinea, the Admiralties, and Burma.
With the capture of Salamaua in New Guinea, we next looked toward Lae. To reach this objective Allied airborne troops dropped on Nadzab and drove eastward in coordination with an amphibious force which landed a few miles beyond Lae. By mid-September the garrison was under heavy pressure from three sides. Our mounting air power dominated the bases to the north and east.
In Burma, the new Southeast Asia Command prepared its limited resources for offensive action. Allied aircraft attacked the enemy lifeline through Rangoon. In New Guinea, Lae fell to the Allies on 16 September. Australian units isolated Finschhafen and drove northwest up the Markham Valley toward the enemy base at Madang. Meanwhile, our aircraft were softening up the next objectives in the Central Pacific.
In China, a Japanese offensive southeast of Nanking overran the rail center at Kwangteh. The newly seized airfields in the Southwest Pacific had been speedily put in use and, for the first time, fighters escorted our bombers against Rabaul, pivotal Japanese base in New Britain. In New Guinea, Australians entered Finschhafen.
Landings on Bougainville, Choiseul, and Treasury Islands carried the Allied advance to the far end of the Solomons. Chinese troops reoccupied Kwangteh but were confronted with a new Japanese offensive toward the “rice bowl” of central China. An enemy drive along the Burma-China border was aimed at Allied forces on the upper Salween.
As our troops consolidated and enlarged their holdings on strategic Bougainville, our Choiseul force, which had landed as a diversion, was withdrawn. In western Burma, enemy pressure caused further withdrawals. In the north, American-trained Chinese troops advancing south from Shingbwiyang clashed with the Japanese for the first time.
Our Central Pacific amphibious forces moved into the Gilbert Islands to seize Tarawa, Makin, and Abemama. Meanwhile, our air forces were softening new targets. On the Asiatic continent the Japanese Army retained the initiative. Plans were adopted at Cairo for extending our two-pronged advance through the Central and Southwest Pacific, timed with renewed efforts in Burma and China.
As we entered our third year of the war, Southwest Pacific forces launched an attack against New Britain to secure the passages into the Bismarck Sea. On Bougainyule and New Guinea fighting continued. Chinese forces, supported by American fliers, registered gains west of Tung Ting Lake.
New landings on New Britain won the important airstrips at the western tip of the island. Meanwhile, Allied aircraft in the Central and Southwest Pacific persistently pounded the Japanese bases and airfields. On the heels of the withdrawing enemy, the Chinese reoccupied additional territory in central China.
Seizure of the port and airfield at Saidor brought under effective Allied control the straits leading to the Bismarck Sea. Allied forces continued their assaults on the enemy’s New Britain bases. In northern Burma, United States Engineers pushed construction of the Ledo Road into enemy-held territory in the Hukawng Valley.
By-passing other strong points in the Marshalls, Central Pacific forces struck out toward Japan with landings on Majuro and strongly-defended Kwajalein. Chinese troops advanced in northern Burma, clearing the way for the supply road to their isolated homeland. Seesaw fighting continued along the India-Burma border.
Allied troops seized Green Islands on the Japanese supply route to the northern Solomons. In New Guinea, the battle for Huon Peninsula ended. In western Burma, there was heavy fighting north of Maungdaw. Allied fliers continued to interdict the port of Rangoon and the roads and rail lines inland.
While U. S. carrier planes blasted the enemy base at Truk, Central Pacific assault troops stormed Eniwetok in the northwestern Marshalls. Premier Tojo dismissed his Army and Navy chiefs of staff and took over both posts. Southwest Pacific forces landed on Los Negros in the Admiralties on the northern rim of the Bismarèk Sea.
As resistance ended in western New Britain, a new beachhead was secured on the northern coast. The clearing of the Ledo route progressed in northern Burma, United States ground units participating for the first time. To the south, Japanese infiltrations forced withdrawals in the Tiddim area.
Southwest Pacific forces consolidated their positions in the Admiralties and landed on two islands in the St. Matthias Group. In India, a Japanese offensive cut the supply road to Imphal and threatened the Ledo rail line. Allied airborne troops landed in Burma near Katha to disrupt Japanese communications.
Imphal was virtually under siege but in northern Burma our advance continued and Chindit forces played havoc with enemy communications. Southwest Pacific aircraft kept up their effective blows on Hollandia, Wewak, and other key Japanese bases while ground forces went forward in New Guinea and New Britain.
Seizure of beachheads at Hollandia and Aitape marked new Allied progress in New Guinea. In India, there was heavy fighting near Imphal while Allied gains were registered along the Ledo route in northern Burma. In an effort to join his north and central China forces, the enemy launched an offensive in Honan Province.
Allied columns approached Myitkyina, key communications center of north Burma, while, to the east, Chinese forces crossed the Salween River on a broad front. The Allied situation at Imphal improved considerably. In China, the Japanese Honan offensive made substantial gains, establishing a through rail route between north and central China.
Leapfrog operations westward to Maffin Bay and Biak Island extended Allied strategic domination over the entire New Guinea area. As the heavy monsoon rains commenced in Burma, American and Chinese units penetrated the outskirts of Myitkyina in the face of determined resistance. On the Salween, the Chinese approached Lungling.
In a thrust which carried them 1,100 miles nearer the enemy’s homeland, Central Pacific forces landed on Saipan in the Marianas on 15 June. The assault troops encountered determined resistance but initial objectives were secured. The Allied picture looked brighter in Burma, but in China a Japanese drive south from Tung Ting Lake gained momentum and seriously threatened important U. S. air bases.
In the great air-sea battle which followed our landing in the Marianas, United States carrier forces inflicted crippling blows on the Japanese Navy. In bitter fighting ashore, marines and soldiers won the southern half of Saipan. Meanwhile, Allied forces in Southeast Asia were heavily engaged at Imphal, Myitkyina, and Lungling.
With Saipan in our hands, naval air and surface units proceeded to neutralize Guam and other enemy bases in the Marianas. Off the eastern coast of Vogelkop Peninsula, Southwest Pacific troops seized Noemfoor Island and its airstrip. In China, the Japanese southward advance isolated the rail city of Hengyang while a complementary drive from Canton made considerable progress.
In Tokyo, the reverberations of the chain of Allied victories unseated Premier Tojo and his entire cabinet. In the Marianas, Central Pacific forces assaulted Guam and Tinian. Unopposed landings at Sansapor on the Vogelkop Peninsula completed the last phase of the 1,300-mile advance along the New Guinea coast.
United States heavy bombers, based on newly won Marianas fields, inaugurated large-scale attacks on Iwo and Chichi Jima. Southwest Pacific aircraft, while continuing their widespread missions against shipping and air bases in the eastern islands of the Indies, reached out to strike southern Mindanao. Allied troops in north Burma cleared Myitkyina after weeks of heavy fighting.
His offensive against Imphal repulsed, the enemy was now retreating under constant pressure from Allied air and ground forces. Japanese in China, stalled by Chinese resistance at Hengyang and by floods near Canton, prepared to strike toward the U. S. air center at Kweilin. In by-passed Pacific areas, thousands of Japan’s soldiers were hopelessly isolated by our air and naval supremacy.
With simultaneous landings on Peleliu and Morotai, our Pacific axes of advance converged toward the southeast flank of the Philippines. At the second Quebec conference the decision was made to step up the schedule of Pacific operations by landing on Leyte in October. It was also decided to establish B-29 bases in the Marianas—B-29’s were already striking Japan from bases in China. Looking ahead to the conclusion of hostilities in Europe, the Allied Chiefs laid the foundation for redeployment to the Pacific.
The occupation of Peleliu and adjacent islands and the seizure of Ulithi Atoll, which was to become a major naval base, strengthened the cordon around the enemy bases in the Carolines. Naval task forces bombarded the Philippines, and Southwest Pacific aircraft struck the rich oil sources at Balikpapan, Borneo. In China, the Japanese drive toward Kweilin and a fresh assault based on Canton both pointed toward Liuchow, a road and rail center from which B-29’s operated.
Carriers, penetrating Japan’s inner defences to strike damaging air blows against the Ryukyus, Formosa, and Luzon, reduced the enemy’s capacity to reinforce the Philippines. China-based B-29’s added their weight against Formosa. In the southern Palaus, new landings met little opposition, but bitter fighting attended the mopping-up of Peleliu and Angaur. Foochow, last of the important Chinese coastal cities, fell to the enemy.
General MacArthur returned to the Philippines when American forces landed in strength on Leyte on 20 October. This threat to the strategic defense of Japan’s transient empire brought swift reaction by major elements of the enemy fleet. In the greatest air-sea battle in history, our Navy won a brilliant victory and dealt a mortal blow to Japanese sea power.
Despite torrential rains and some Japanese success in landing reinforcements, our troops recaptured most of Leyte and approached Ormoc, the main enemy port. Allied forces in northern Burma made substantial progress and surrounded the Salween town of Bhamo, on the trace of the Ledo Road. The enemy’s only gains were in China, where he occupied Kweilin and Liuchow.
The enemy suffered heavy losses in the Leyte fighting and in our air attacks against his convoys of reinforcements. B-29’s flew their first major mission from the Marianas, bombing Tokyo. Allied holdings off the northwest coast of New Guinea were increased by further landings in the Mapia and Asia Islands. Japanese columns in southern China merged, and pushed westward.
While our air and surface craft were decimating the enemy’s Leyte-bound convoys, an amphibious force seized Ormoc on the west coast, thus bottling up the remaining enemy forces. Other units landed unopposed on southern Mindoro as powerful strikes by carrier planes softened up Luzon. In Burma, a general enemy withdrawal was in progress in all sectors. A Japanese advance northward from Indo-China and the forces driving south from Nanning met to form a corridor.
Although numerous pockets remained, the Leyte-Samar campaign was essentially ended. The effect of our gains was already felt on Luzon as fighters rose from Leyte and Mindoro to accompany bombers in attacks on Manila airfields, shipping and other targets. Prodigious efforts to supply China by air were accomplishing gratifying results; in January alone, 46,000 tons were to be ferried over the Hump, more than three times the tonnage during the corresponding period in 1944.
Luzon was invaded on 9 January by the largest American force yet employed in the Pacific. The enemy, who had faced south, was caught off balance by our entry at Lingayen Gulf. Again, landings were preceded by carrier strikes against the Philippines, Formosa, and the Ryukyus. Central Pacific planes bombed Iwo Jima every day.
As our main Luzon force swept toward Manila, other units landed north and south of Manila Bay. Control of surrounding waters was expanded by the capture of Mindoro and Marinduque. In Burma, Chinese troops cleared the last stretch of the Ledo route (now renamed Stilwell Road) and the first convoy crossed the frontier into China.
In the Philippines we fought into Manila. Simultaneously, U. S. air power was blasting the Carolines, Marshalls, and Bonins and surface craft joined in the preparatory attacks on Iwo Jima. Announced to the Yalta Conference were plans for a thrust westward to Okinawa following the conquest of Iwo Jima. In Burma, progress continued along the approaches to Mandalay and on the Arakan coast.
Marines stormed ashore on Iwo Jima, halfway between Saipan and Tokyo, and in a grim battle of annihilation wiped out strong dug-in positions one by one. Southwest Pacific forces reduced all organized resistance in Manila and secured Corregidor in a 12-day operation. Landings on Palawan won two airfields. In central Burma, British advances threatened Mandalay and Meiktila.
The battle for Iwo Jima reached its final stages as the remaining enemy forces were split into pockets. Already, Marianas-based B-29’s returning from strikes on Japan were using Iwo Jima for emergency landings. The invasion of western Mindanao extended our control of the Sulu Sea. In central Burma, Meiktila and its airfields fell to British columns.
American forces landed on Okinawa in the Ryukyus, after intensive air and naval preparation and seizure of supporting positions on adjacent islands. Initial resistance was light and two airfields were quickly seized. Heavy fighting continued against the Japanese on Luzon, but the conquest of the Philippine Archipelago progressed rapidly with landings on Panay, Cebu, and Negros. Mandalay, key city of central Burma, fell to Allied forces.
Fighters from Iwo Jima now escorted B-29’s on the devastating attacks against Japan’s industrial centers. Our forces on Okinawa met increasingly fierce resistance as they fought southward against strong fortifications. Opposition was lighter in the north. Landings in the Sulu Archipelago placed Allied outposts within 40 miles of Borneo. The Japanese in China, still campaigning against U. S. airdromes, were counter-attacked at Laohokow but mounted a new offensive toward Chihkiang.
In Burma, the British exploited the enemy’s collapse with a 200-mile dash toward Rangoon. After fierce mountain fighting, Baguio fell to our Luzon forces. New landings liberated large areas of southern Mindanao. Borneo, already virtually isolated, was threatened with Allied reconquest as Australian troops landed on Tarakan Island. The Japanese still held the initiative in China, but their thrust toward Chihkiang was halted by strong air and ground opposition.
Rangoon fell to an Allied amphibious force which promptly joined hands with the troops approaching from the north. The seizure of Balete Pass on Luzon and new landings on Mindanao brought our forces to close grips with the largest Japanese pockets in the Philippines. On Okinawa, soldiers and marines fought for every yard of the powerfully-defended ground before Naha and Shuri.
The campaign in Burma was virtually over. Alarmed by our wedge driven into the Ryukyus at Okinawa, and by Allied sea and air domination of the supply routes to China, the Japanese started large-scale withdrawals from central and south China. Meanwhile, our air effort against the Japanese homeland mounted in intensity.
Landing at Brunei Bay, the Allies invaded the northwest coast of Borneo. Our Luzon and Mindanao forces, in cooperation with the guerrillas, compressed the battered remnants of the once-powerful enemy garrison. After the loss of Naha and its airfield, Japan’s Okinawa defenders took their last stand along the south shore of the island.
Organized resistance on Okinawa was brought to an end. Our long and arduous progression across the Pacific had now carried us within easy striking distance of the Japanese homeland. Allied troops continued to reduce the scattered but sizeable enemy forces left in the wake of this advance. On Luzon, near Aparri, American paratroops dropped to aid in clearing the northern plain. Australians landed at Balikpapan, third Allied objective on Borneo.
Reaching a tempo of over 1,200 sorties a week throughout July, B-29’s delivered staggering blows against Japanese industrial targets. The enemy offered negligible resistance in the air. Okinawa bombers as well as planes from carriers, which moved freely along the coast of Japan, concentrated on airfields and shipping in the Honshu-Hokkaido area, while heavy surface ships shelled targets along the shores.
Japan’s alternatives of immediate, unconditional surrender or complete destruction were announced in a joint Anglo-American-Chinese declaration at Potsdam. The final offensive against Japan was coordinated with the USSR, which was committed to early participation in the war. Land-based aircraft blasted the home islands and joined with carrier planes in delivering the coup de grace to the Imperial Japanese Fleet.
To the Japanese, August brought a swift series of calamities. On 6 August a new weapon, the atomic bomb, was loosed on Hiroshima, wiping out 60 percent of the city. Two days later, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and launched a powerful offensive into Manchuria. On 9 August, a second atomic bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki. Realizing the impossibility of resisting the array of overwhelming power, the Japanese surrendered on 14 August.
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).|