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Victory in the Pacific | Timeline

The War in the Pacific, 1944-1945

Beach assault, Saipan, June 1944. USGov PD.

June 15, 1944
U.S. Marines and Army troops, supported by a massive fleet, invade Saipan in the Mariana Islands of the Central Pacific.

June 19, 1944
Japan's counterattack results in the greatest carrier battle of World War II. U.S. forces shoot down so many Japanese planes that some American servicemen will call the battle "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."

July 7, 1944
The largest and most fearsome banzai charge of the Pacific War takes place on Saipan. Three thousand suicidal Japanese soldiers attack a U.S. Army division, overrunning two battalions.

July 9, 1944
Saipan falls to the Americans. Hundreds of civilians commit suicide at Marpi Point on the northern tip of the island. Time magazine poses a question that will remain relevant until the end of the war: "Saipan is the first invaded Jap territory populated with more than a handful of civilians. Do the suicides mean that the whole Japanese race will choose death before surrender?"

October 20, 1944
General Douglas MacArthur's 6th Army lands at Leyte, marking his triumphant return to the Philippines. It has been more than two years since he reluctantly abandoned his troops on Bataan and Corregidor.

October 23-26, 1944
The Battle of Leyte Gulf. The U.S. Navy defeats the Japanese Navy in the largest naval battle in history. American servicemen witness Japanese suicide attackers, kamikazes, for the first time.

November 24, 1944
U.S B-29 bombers. attack the Nakajima aircraft factory northwest of Tokyo. The high-altitude mission marks the first bombing raid of Japan from the Mariana Islands. Due to winds and other factors, most bombs miss their targets.

January 8, 1945: 1945
General Curtis LeMay arrives in the Marianas to take over the 21st Bomber Command, the B-29s.

January 20, 1945
The Japanese emperor, Hirohito, approves Ketsu-Go - the plan for a final, decisive battle in which soldiers and civilians on the Japanese home islands will fight to the death to resist an American invasion.

February 1945
Emperor Hirohito consults seven former prime ministers of Japan. All but one support Ketsu-Go.

February 19, 1945
U.S. Marines land on Iwo Jima, beginning five weeks of terrible fighting for control of the strategically-located island.

March 9 and 10, 1945
General LeMay's B-29s fly their first low-altitude incendiary mission carrying a destructive new weapon: napalm bombs. Though the pilots fear flying low will expose them to deadly anti-aircraft attacks, it will be the Japanese who suffer from the fires caused by the high-tech incendiary jelly. In less than three hours, more than 300 B-29s will destroy 16 square miles of Tokyo, killing more than 83,000 - by some counts up to 100,000 - civilians.

April 1, 1945
The U.S. Tenth Army invades Okinawa supported by the largest invasion fleet in history. Military planners have identified Okinawa as a necessary staging area for the invasion of Japan's main islands.

April 6, 1945
In Okinawa, after almost of week without enemy resistance, the Army encounters stiff resistance at Kakazu Ridge, the Imperial Army's first defensive line. The battle reveals the Japanese have developed an intricate cave system for concealing guns.

A first wave of ten kamikaze attacks hits the U.S. Fifth Fleet off the coast of Okinawa. It is the first large-scale attack by the suicide flyers.

The Japanese battleship Yamato lifts anchor and heads toward the U.S. Fleet off Okinawa on a one-way suicide mission. She is spotted almost immediately by an American submarine and carrier-based pilots. It will take 11 torpedoes and eight bombs to sink the Yamato. More than 3,000 men will go down to their deaths with her.

April 12, 1945
President Franklin Roosevelt dies. Vice President Harry Truman is sworn in as president.

May 8, 1945
V-E Day. Germany surrenders unconditionally. World War II in Europe is over.

May 12-18, 1945
In Okinawa, Marines hit Japan's main line of defense at Sugar Loaf Hill. It will take seven days and more than a dozen attempts to capture the hill. Marines will suffer thousands of casualties.

May 25, 1945
The Joint Chiefs of Staff meet to authorize the invasion of Japan. They choose November 1, 1945, as D-Day.

June 8, 1945
The Japanese hold an Imperial Conference in Tokyo. Despite reports that its war-making capability is severely limited and collapsing, the government decides Japan will fight to the death.

June 18, 1945
Truman's advisers brief him on U.S. plans to invade Japan. The president is particularly concerned about casualties and only approves an invasion of the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. He postpones a decision on the proposed second phase -- an invasion of the Tokyo area.

Organized Japanese resistance in the Philippines ends.

June 22, 1945
The U.S. captures Okinawa after 82 days of bloody battle. American forces have suffered more than 12,000 dead or missing, and more than 36,000 wounded. The losses on the Japanese side are even higher.

Emperor Hirohito meets with his war cabinet and advocates for a diplomatic solution to the war. The war cabinet agrees to ask the Soviet Union to mediate a peace with the Allies.

July 16, 1945
The U.S. Army successfully tests the world's first atomic bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

President Truman, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British prime minister Winston Churchill meet in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam to discuss post-war Europe. Stalin reaffirms his commitment to enter the war against Japan.

July 25, 1945
After General George Marshall meets with Truman, Secretary of War Henry Stimson authorizes the use of the atomic bomb.

July 26, 1945
The Allies issue the Potsdam Declaration. It calls on Japan to surrender its armed forces unconditionally or risk "prompt and utter destruction." Truman rejects an effort by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and others to include a guarantee that Japan's imperial system will be allowed to remain intact. He bases his decision on radio intelligence that indicates such a guarantee would not be enough to obtain surrender.

August 6, 1945
The B-29 Enola Gay drops the world's first deployed atomic bomb on a Japanese city, Hiroshima. From the U.S.S. Augusta Truman announces the bomb to the public.

August 7, 1945
General George Marshall, the chief proponent of invasion, expresses his doubts about going forward to General MacArthur after learning that the Japanese have massively built up their Japanese forces on Kyushu.

August 8, 1945, 11pm Tokyo time
The Soviet Union declares war on Japan and invades Japanese-held Manchuria in the largest land offensive of the Pacific War.

August 9, 1945
Japan learns that the Soviets have entered the war. The War Cabinet meets to discuss the Potsdam Declaration, which it has so far ignored. In the middle of the meeting the cabinet learns the U.S. has dropped a second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki. Late at night, the emperor will break a deadlock over how many conditions to attach to Japan's acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration.

August 10, 1945
The U.S. finally receives the Japanese response to the terms outlined in the Potsdam Declaration. The one condition the Japanese insist upon is that the declaration should not "prejudice the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler." It is not a simple request to retain the emperor as a figurehead leader, but a demand that the U.S. give the emperor substantive power over a post-war U.S. occupation and any reforms.

August 12, 1945
Japan receives America's response to the Japanese conditional surrender. Secretary of State James Byrnes makes it clear that Emperor Hirohito and the militarists will no longer be in charge.

August 14, 1945
President Truman becomes convinced that the Japanese will not surrender and authorizes resumption of conventional bombing. He tells the British ambassador he is contemplating authorizing a third atomic bomb attack on Tokyo. Seven hundred B-29s fly over Japan, dropping more than 4,000 tons of explosives on military targets.

Emperor Hirohito calls an Imperial Conference. A military faction wants to fight to the death, while a peace faction pushes to accept the Byrnes reply. The emperor again breaks the deadlock and accepts the Allies' terms for surrender. Before midnight he will record a surrender message to his people. Junior Army officers stage a short-lived coup d'etat.

August 15, 1945
Japanese civilians hear the voice of their emperor for the first time. His recorded message announces Japan's capitulation — without ever using the word "surrender."

August 17, 1945
After his overseas commanders refuse to accept the emperor's first surrender order, he issues a second statement urging all Japanese armed forces to surrender.

September 2, 1945
The formal surrender ceremony takes place on the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

September 3, 1945
The last Japanese organized resistance in World War II ends.

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