Japan attacks Pearl Harbor; U.S. declares war on Japan
Lesson 4: Victory in the Pacific, 1943–1945
The U.S. victory over the Japanese Navy at Midway succeeded in stopping the Axis advance in the Pacific, and by early 1943 the Marines had driven the Japanese from Guadalcanal. Thus began the long, slow process of forcing the enemy out of a series of fortified positions in the Central and South Pacific. The strategy employed was often called "island-hopping" or "leap-frogging"—concentrating on certain critical enemy bases while bypassing others in the hope that, cut off from their supply routes, they would "wither on the vine," as the American commander, Douglas MacArthur, put it. By early 1945 the noose was tightening around Japan itself, as Allied forces captured islands close enough to be used as airbases for bombing raids against Japanese cities. One by one the largest cities in Japan were hammered from the air—a strategy that culminated in the use of the first atomic bombs, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945. The government in Tokyo announced its surrender soon thereafter, bringing World War II to an end.
This lesson will guide students through the military campaigns of the Pacific theater, tracing the path of the Allied offensives. Through an examination of historical documents and the use of an interactive map, students will gain an understanding of what the Allies were trying to accomplish, and why. Moreover, they will consider the controversial issue of the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After completing this lesson, students should be able to: discuss the overall Allied strategy in the Pacific from 1943–1945, and to assess how successful it was.
Explain the reasons behind the dropping of the atomic bombs, and why the use of these weapons was controversial.
Articulate the reasons behind the Japanese surrender, and the role the atomic bomb played in that decision.
Identify on a map locations that were important to the war in the Pacific.
Identify and explain the significance of the most important military engagements.
How did the Allies manage to defeat Japan?
History & Social Studies
Lesson 1: Turning the Tide in the Pacific, 1941–1943
In December 1941, Japanese armed forces launched a massive offensive, attacking targets as far East as Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and as far West as Burma. The goal was to create what the Japanese called the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere—an empire in which Japanese industries would have access to the substantial oil, rubber, and tin resources of Southeast Asia and Indonesia, plus a string of distant island bases from which this far-flung empire could be protected. By the beginning of spring 1942, the Japanese military was close to meeting its objectives. Nevertheless, in a series of engagements during the spring and summer of that year Allied forces succeeded in stopping the Japanese advance, so that by early 1943 it was the Allies who were on the offensive.
This lesson plan will focus on the overall strategies pursued by the Japanese and the Allies in the initial months of World War II in Asia and the Pacific. By examining military documents and consulting an interactive map of the Pacific theater, students will compare what each side hoped to accomplish with what actually happened. Also, students will have an opportunity to read personal accounts by those who fought in the Pacific War, giving them a glimpse of what conditions on the battlefront were actually like.
After completing this lesson, students should be able to: articulate the overall Japanese strategy for 1941–1942, and to assess how successful it was.
Discuss Allied strategy for 1941–1942, and to assess how successful it was.
Identify on a map locations that were important to the early war in the Pacific.
Identify the most important military engagements as well as explain their significance.
Discuss anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States, and how it affected the way the Pacific War was fought.
How did the Allies manage to turn the tide against the Japanese in World War II?