Unit 1 of the first draft has no comparable text to Unit 1 of the final draft.
The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II
Source: The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II by the Curators of the National Air and Space Museum
Fifty years ago, the atomic bomb brought a sudden end to World War II and ushered in the nuclear age. The event was one of the critical turning points of our century.
This exhibition describes the war between Japan and the United States and its allies, the building of the atomic bomb, the decision to use it, the military effort to carry out that mission, the effects of the bombing, and the surrender of Japan.
UNIT 1: THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC
Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931 began what would evolve into a campaign to take control over East Asia and the western Pacific, creating a new empire which would later be called the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." Japanese expansionism was marked by naked aggression and extreme brutality. The slaughter of 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese in Nanking in December 1937 shocked the world. Civilians, forced laborers, and prisoners of war were subject to brutal mistreatment, biological experiments, and execution.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in an attempt to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet and open the road to further conquests. By spring 1943 the Japanese empire encompassed the Gilbert Islands to the east, most of New Guinea to the southeast, the Netherlands East Indies, Indochina, Thailand, and parts of Burma.
Folloing hard-fought battles in 1942 between Allied and Japanese naval forces, the Allies took the initiative and began a dual advance through the central and southwest Pacific, converging on the Philippines. With the opening of the Philippine campaign in October 1944, the stage was set for two of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war: the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945.
The USS Arizona is consumed by fire during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The USS Arizona Memorial (inset) spans the sunken hull of the ship.
A NEW ORDER IN ASIA
Already in control of Manchuria, Japan in mid-1937 escalated a minor incident into a major war, launching a full-scale attack on China. Japanese troops captured the capital of Nanking in December 1937, and by March 1940 they controlled most major Chinese cities.
By July 1941 the Japanese had occupied Indochina, and at that time President Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the United States and placed an embargo on the shipment of steel and oil to Japan, effectively creating an economic blockade. Soon the Japanese military began to feel the embargo's effect and realized that to keep expanding they had to capture the oil fields of the East Indies. The stage was set for the start of the Pacific war.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caught U.S. forces there and elsewhere in the Pacific unprepared. The Japanese army and navy swept through the Philippines, south Asia, and the Pacific, and it appeared that the Japanese empire might soon extend all the way to Australia.
Map of the Pacific showing Japanese expansion.
A Shanghai, China, railway station after a Japanese air raid, 1937. Courtesy of the National Archives
The gunboat USS Panay , part of an international force patrolling the Yangtze River, sinks near Nanking on December 12, 1937, after an unprovoked attack by Japanese bombers. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
THE RAPE OF NANKING
The Chines capital of Nanking fell on December 13, 1937. Surprised and irritated by the strong resistance of the Chinese, Japanese soldiers went on an unprecedented rampage. Some 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese were slaughtered (more that were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined), and 20,000 women of all ages were raped. The staff of the German Embassy in Nanking reported on the atrocities and described the Japanese army as "bestial machinery."
A December 1937 issue of the Tokyo Daily News reported that these two Japanese sergeants, competing in a contest, beheaded 105 and 106 Chinese civilians in Nanking. Courtesy of the Alliance for Preserving the Truth of the Sino-Japanese War
A Japanese soldier about to behead a young Chinese civilian.
Courtest of the Alliance for Preserving the Truth of the Sino-Japanese War.
Chinese being buried alive in Nanking. Courtesy of the Alliance in Memory of Victims of the Nanking Massacre
A mass grave of murdered Chinese unearthed near Nanking after the war. Courtesy of the Alliance in Memory of Victims of the Nanking Massacre.
"A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY"
--President Franklin D. Roosevelt
At 7:55 a.m. in Hawaii, Sunday, December 7, 1941, while Japanese diplomats in Washington were negotiating with the State Department, the first planes from a Japanese carrier task force attacked the U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor and other points on the island of Oahu.
The 363 planes, flying in two waves, caught the Americans by surprise and inflicted severe damage. The Japanese sank five of eight battleships and severely damaged the others. Eleven other ships were also destroyed or damaged. The U.S. suffered casualties--2,330 killed and 1,347 wounded--while the Japanese lost only 29 planes and about 100 men. The Pearl Harbor attacked plunged the United States into a just war against Japanese aggression in the Pacific.
Only 289 of the 1,466 men aboard the USS Arizona survived the attack. Although 1,104 Navy men and 73 Marines were killed, only 150 bodies were recovered. More than 900 remain entombed in the hull of the ship. Courtesy of the National Archives
The U.S. fleet under attack. Courtesy of the National Archives
The USS West Virginia settles to the bottom in flames, taking with her 105 men. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
A Japanese photograph showing "Battleship Row" in Pearl Harbor under attack. Courtesy of the National Archives
A heap of demolished planes and a wrecked hangar at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, following the attack. The Japanese destroyed 188 Army and Navy planes and damaged 159 others.
THE UNITED STATES GOES TO WAR
THE WORLD AT WAR
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into a conflict that was to include nearly half the world's population. England joined the United States in declaring war on Japan, and on December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
The U.S. leadership had earlier decided to give first priority to the war in Europe. In the Pacific, the Allies fought a delaying action until enough men and materiel became available for a limited offensive in the fall of 1942.
JAPANESE AGGRESSION CONTINUES
WAR SPREADS THOUGHOUT ASIA
As Japan's navy attacked Pearl Harbor, its forces also began to overrun most of Southeast Asia. Thailand, Burma, and Malaya quickly fell. By January2, 1942, Manila, the capital of the Philippines, had been occupied. On February 15 the British surrendered Singapore in Malaya, the worst military disaster ever suffered by a European nation in the Far East. The Japanese continued moving thr9ough the Dutch East Indies toward Australia. The crews of the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales transfers from their sinking ship to a destroyer. Japanese bombers sank the Prince of Wales and the cruiser HMS Repulse in the Gulf of Siam on December 10, 1941, causing a loss of 840 officers and men. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum
Led by Lieutenant General Sakai and Vice Admiral Masaichi, Japanese troops enter Hong Kong, December 26, 1941. British troops surrendered the city after a 17-day siege. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum
Japanese Forces land on the beach at Kavieng, New Ireland, January 1942. Courtesy of the National Archives
Japanese troops march through Fullerton Square, Singapore, February 1942. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum
Lt. En. Tomoyuki Yamashita receives the British surrender from Lt. Gen. A.E. Percival at Singapore, February 15, 1942.
Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum
U.S. soldiers instruct Filipino guardsmen prior to the fall of Corregidor, May 1942. Courtesy of the National Archives
Japanese army troops celebrate the capture of Mt. Limay on Bataan with a "Banzai" salute, April 1942. Courtesy of the National Archives
THE BATAAN DEATH MARCH
THE FALL OF THE PHILIPPINES
Almost simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippine Islands. The American garrison and the Philippine army were woefully unprepared to defend against the Japanese onslaught. By January 2, 1942, Manila had fallen and the American and Philippine defenders were retreating to the Bataan Peninsula. By April 8, most of the Bataan defenders had surrendered, while some had retreated to the island fortress of Corregidor in manila Bay. On May 6, Corregidor also surrendered.
The Japanese were brutal toward the American and Filipino soldiers captured at Bataan. Already short of rations and given little or no food and water, the prisoners were forced to march 104 kilometers (65 miles) to an internment camp, a trip that took up to two weeks. More than 600 Americans and 5,000 to 10,000 Filipinos perished during what became known as the March of Death. Of almost 20,000 Americans captured during the fall of the Philippines, over 40 percent would never return.
Treated by their captors with a mixture of contempt and cruelty, American prisoners await their fate during the Bataan Death March. Courtesy of the National Archives
American prisoners are guarded by a Japanese soldier during a rest break on the trek from Bataan, April 1942. Courtesy of the National Archives
American dead during the Bataan Death March. Courtesy of the National Archives
THE TIDE BEGINS TO TURN
THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK
Even the desperate early days of the Pacific war offered reasons for hope. A small group of American volunteer airmen under Col. Claire Chennault provided support for the Chinese. Another group of Army Air Forces airmen, led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, conducted a B-25 raid from the carrier Hornet and bombed four Japanese cities, including Tokyo, demonstrating that Japanese cities were not immune to attack.
While the Philippines and Burma were falling, a new era in naval warfare was beginning in the Coral Sea, where for the first time a sea battle was fought solely by aircraft. In June 1942 near Midway Island, Japanese naval forces, attempting to annihilate the U.S. navy, suffered a major defeat, losing four aircraft carriers in an action that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.
Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault, leader of the "Flying Tigers" f the American Volunteer Group and late of the Fourteenth Air Force in China. An exhibit on the Flying Tigers can be found in World War II Aviation (Gallery 205) upstairs.
On April 18, 1942, 16 bombers led b Lt. Col. James Doolittle took off from the carrier USS Hornet to bomb the Japanese homeland for the first time. Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
The Japanese captured eight of the Doolittle raiders and executed three. This pilot survived 40 months of solitary confinement. Court3sy of the U.S. Air Force
The Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho being torpedoed in the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 7, 1942. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy
Attack aircraft land on the USS Lexington which was severely damaged and eventually lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 7, 1942. Courtesy of the national Archives
A memorial service held for U.S. servicemen killed during the Battle of Midway. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
THE ALLIES ON THE OFFENSE
THE APPROACHES TO RABAUL
The U.S. victory at Midway in June 1942 gave the Allies the opportunity to launch a limited offensive aimed at blocking the Japanese advance in the south and southwest Pacific. The growing Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain, a likely starting point for future enemy offensives, became the objective.
The Allies advanced against Japanese positions along two lines converging at Rabaul. One offensive began at Guadalcanal and moved up the Solomon chain toward the Bismarck Archipelago. The other moved along the north coasts of Papua and New Guinea, isolating Rabaul.
The 20-month campaign decimated Japanese air and sea power in the southwest Pacific. Allied forces bypassed and neutralized more than 125,000 en Wakde Island, New Guinea, May 16, 1944. During the latter phase of the battle for new Guinea, the Americans suffered 9,500 casualties. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Soldiers wade knee-deep in water near Hollandia, New guinea, April 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
A B-25 Mitchell bombs a Japanese ship at Wewak, New Guinea, April 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
A Coast Guard photographer captures stretcher bearers heading down the ramps and into the surf during the invasion of Sarmi, New Guinea, May 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard
Wouned soldiers being moved back to their ships during the invasion of Dutch New Guinea, May 1944. Courtesy of the National Archives
B-25s bomb Japanese fortifications at Dobo, Dutch New Guinea, May 26, 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
U.S. Army paratroopers ready to jump and descending over Noemfoor Island, New Guinea, July 1944. Everything did not always go as planned. Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
Columns of Coast Guard landing craft packed with troops head for Cape Sansapor, New Guinea, July 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard
THE CENTRAL PACIFIC DRIVE
THE DUAL ADVANCE TOWARD THE PHILIPPINES
The Allied plan for defeating Japan developed in May 1943 called for ejecting Japanese forces from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska (occupied during the Midway campaign) and executing a two-pronged campaign through the Pacific.
One force, commanded by Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, would advance westward from Pearl harbor through the central Pacific. Another, led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, would continue its offensive through the south and southwest Pacific and drive westward along the coast of New Guinea. The two forces would join in the western Pacific in 1944 for an invasion of the Philippines.
The drive through the hundreds of small islands and atolls of the central Pacific was considered vital to the plan for defeating Japan. The main combat arm of the central Pacific drive was the U.S. Fifth Fleet, spearheaded by the Fast Carrier Task Force, whose mission was to support amphibious operations with long-range strikes by carrier-based aircraft.
Map of central and southwest Pacific.
Part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at rest, Ulithi anchorage, Caroline Islands. The Allied military offensives that began in 1943 were made possible by the unmatched productive might of U.S. industry. The delivery of fleets of new ships, thousands of new and improved aircraft, virtually unlimited amounts of munitions, and an entire arsenal of new weapons continued without interruption until the end of the war. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
THE GILBERTS AND THE MARSHALLS
THE OPENING MOVES
The invasion of the Gilbert Islands, the first objective of the central Pacific drive, began in November 1943 with an assault by Marines and Army troops on Makin atoll and heavily fortified Tarawa atoll. The bloody attack on Tarawa revealed serious flaws in U.S. amphibious warfare planning. Thereafter, prolonged aerial bombing and bombardment with armor-piercing shells would be used to knock out enemy positions before launching an amphibious assault.
After the Gilberts fell, U.S. forces focused on the Marshall Islands. Army and marine troops invaded and secured Kwajalein and Eniwetok atolls in February 1944. After the shock of Tarawa, the nearly perfect assault on Kwajalein set the pattern for the rest of the central Pacific invasions.
The Japanese withdrew to the Marianas, leaving as an outpost the island of Truk in the Carolines. The "Gibraltar of the Pacific" was supposedly impregnable to attack, but was revealed to be a hollow fortress. During two days in February 1944, carrier-based planes hit Truk repeatedly, destroying about 200 aircraft and sinking or damaging many ships.
The battleship USS Maryland shells the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll during the pre-invasion bombardment, November 20, 1943. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Four U.S. Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor for valor during the fierce fighting for Tarawa, in which 1,100 Marines were killed and almost 2,300 wounded. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Despite fierce resistance and heavy casualties, Marines begin climbing the seawall at Betio to clean out enemy pillboxes and shelters. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Marines advance along the invasion beach on Betio Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
A Marine takes a break during a lull in the fighting on Betio.
Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
A Marine wounded on Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, February 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Marines relax on a Coast Guard manned transport after the February 1944 assault on Eniwetok, which cost the Americans 348 dead and 866 wounded. Coast Guardsmen participated in every major amphibious landing of World War II. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Japanese ships in Truk harbor trying to escape attack by U.S. warplanes, February 16, 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Aircraft carrier crewmen take a swim in a lagoon in the Marshalls a few days after the battle for Kwajalein. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
THE MARIANAS AND THE PALAUS
THE THOUSAND-MILE LEAP
With the Gilberts and Marshalls secure, the Allies bypassed Truk and the Carolines and converged on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam in the Marianas. Some 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) from the nearest U.S. anchorage, Allied forces stormed ashore on Saipan on June 15, 1944.
By mid-July organized resistance on Saipan had ended; Tinian and Guam soon fell as well. At the cost of more than 5,000 lives, the U.S. gained bases that would allow increased submarine operations against Japanese commerce and the launching of B-29 raids against Japan.
As a prelude to the invasion of the Philippines, Adm. William F. Halsey's Third Fleet assaulted the islands of Angour and Peleliu in the Palaus. The assault on 6.5-kilometer (4-mile) long Peleliu, heavily fortified and honeycombed with hundreds of caves, cost the U.S. the highest combat casualty rate of any amphibious assault in American history.
THE JAPANESE ATTITUDE TOWARD SURRENDER
The battle for Saipan marked the first time Americans invaded an island inhabited by Japanese civilians. During the bitter fighting, the refusal of enemy troops to surrender, resulted in the loss of almost 30,000 Japanese.
The reasons for such behavior could be traced to the Japanese belief in the ideals of Bushido, an ancient code of conduct that Prime Minister Hideki Tojo had incorporated into the Japanese military code in 1941. The new code stated that Japanese should resist being taken prisoner and should kill themselves if captured. As the tide of the war turned against Japan, Tojo commanded Japanese troops to "die but never surrender," and to accept "death before dishonor." Wounded Japanese soldiers often killed themselves and the Allies who tried to help them.
This code of conduct made it difficult for the Japanese to understand the more lenient American attitude toward surrender and affected how they treated prisoners of war. It also explains why so few Japanese were captured during the war.
The Japanese fleet under attack by dive bombers and torpedo planes of the Fifth Fleet during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, June 20, 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
After two days of intense bombardment and air strikes against Saipan, landing craft full of U.S. Marines head for the beach, June 15, 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
The first wave of marines storm the beach on Saipan under intense enemy fire. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
A Marine rifleman shakes the sand from his shoes during a lull in the fighting on Saipan, June 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
The invasion of Saipan cost 16,500 American casualties, including 3,400 killed. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Survivors of the fighting on Saipan, June 1944 Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Supported by Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet, waves of amphibious landing craft begin the assault on Peleliu, September 15, 1944.
Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute.
American dead, Peleliu, September 1944. The Marines and Army suffered about 9,800 casualties, including about 1,800 dead. Only 301 of 10,695 Japanese surrendered. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
This Marine fought in the battle for Peleliu, during which eight of his comrades were awarded the Medal of Honor. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
"OUR FORCES STAND AGAIN ON PHILIPPINE SOIL"
--Gen. Douglas MacArthur
By the end of summer 1944, with General MacArthur's conquest of New Guinea and Admiral Nimitz's central Pacific drive essentially complete, the two forces prepared for the invasion of the Philippines. From air bases in the south and central Pacific, western China, and New Guinea, and from the Third Fleet at sea, Allied air and sea power pounded Japanese installations and shipping to isolate the island of Leyte in the central Philippines. On October 20, 1944, 60,000 Allied troops land on the beaches of Leyte.
Meanwhile at sea, three separate Japanese naval forces converged on the area, and in October 1944 the largest sea battle of all time ensued --the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese suffered a crushing defeat.
Map of Philippines
Key to the mobility of the carrier task forces was the periodic replenishment of fuel, supplies, and ordnance at sea. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Presiden Franklin D. Roosevelt discusses the forthcoming invasion of the Philippines with (left to right) Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Commander, Allied Forces, Southwest Pacific; Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet; and Adm. William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the President; Hawaii, July 27, 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
On October 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur wade ashore on Leyte to announce to the people of the Philippines, "By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil --soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples." Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
An Army truck rolls down the ramp of a Coast Guard manned landing ship onto Leyte. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Three Japanese soldiers killed in the fighting for Leyte. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
A Coast Guardsman attends to a soldier wounded by shrapnel on Leyte. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Adm. William F. Halsey Jr., Commander, Third Fleet (left), and Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitscher, Commander, Task Force 38 (right), victors of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
The Japanese aircraft carrier Zuiho, sunk by Third Fleet carrier planes on October 25, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
A U.S. escort carrier is shelled by enemy cruisers and battleships in Leyte Gulf, October 25, 1944. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
During action off the coast of Japan, the crew of an aircraft carrier uses foamite to prevent fire from spreading on the hangar deck. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Fighter pilots relax in a ready room before flight operations aboard an aircraft carrier. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
The first wave of American troops sweep through the waters of Lingayen Gulf towards the beaches of Luzon in the Philippines, January 9, 1945. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Army Air Forces B-25s attack Clark Field on Luzon, 1945.
Army Air Forces P-38 fighter-bombers napalm Japanese installations near Ipo Dam, Luzon, 1945.
While the Allies lay siege to Manila from February 3 to March 3, Japanese troops systematically destroyed the city and slaughtered about 100,000 civilians out of a population of 1 million. Men, women, and children alike were burned to death, blown up, bayoneted, shot, or beheaded in their homes, hospitals, churches, schools, and streets.
THE LIBERATION OF THE PHILIPPINES
The defeat of the Japanese navy in the Battle of Leyte Gulf did not alter the basic Japanese plan to fight to the finish in the Philippines. But despite fierce resistance on land, and the onslaught of kamikazes against U.S. warships at sea, General MacArthur declared on Christmas day 1944 that all organized resistance on Leyte had ended. . Naval Institute
The arresting hook of a Hellcat snags one of the many steel arresting wires on the aft end of the ship. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Immediately after the pilot taxied clear of the landing area, the wings were unlocked, and flight deck crewmen helped fold them back. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
The external fuel tank of this F6F-3 ruptured on landing aboard the USS Lexington. and flames engulfed the aircraft. The pilot released his safety belt and escaped over the wing. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Accidents during carrier landing, often due to a wounded pilot or a damaged aircraft, were not unusual. The Hellcat was remarkably rugged, often making it back aboard ship despite extensive damage. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
THE HELLCAT IN COMBAT
Although shooting down enemy airplanes was the Hellcat's principal mission, other duties evolved as its capabilities were tested in battle and Japanese aerial warfare tactics changed. Hellcat pilots escorted mass formations of carrier bombers in attacks against targets heavily defended by enemy fighters, often without losing a single bomber.
Other missions included fighter sweeps to catch enemy aircraft on the ground, patrols to spot approaching enemy aircraft, long-range searches for Japanese ships, ground-support operations against invasion beaches, and night fighting and photo reconnaissance.
The Mitsubishi A6M Reisen (Zero) was the main fighter of the Japanese navy. The Zero, or "Zeke," outperformed all types of Allied fighters early in the war. But it was no match for newer fighters, such as the Hellcat and Corsair, which were numerically and technologically superior and flown by better-trained pilots. A Zero is displayed in World War II Aviation (Gallery 205) upstairs.
A F6F-3 pilot launches form the USS Yorktown on June 19, 1944, on his way to what was later dubbed the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," the biggest one-day air battle in history.
Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
The light carrier Monterey(foreground) and the Wasp(background) come under attack by Japanese aircraft during the U.S. invasion of the Marianas, June-July 1944.
Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
A jubilant Alex Vraciu destroyed six Japanese dive bombers in eight minutes during the "Marianas Turkey Shoot" to become the highest ranking Navy ace at the time with 18 victories. The Japanese lost about 325 aircraft that day. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
Part of a U.S. Navy task force of 116 warships, including 16 carriers, steams towards a position 96 kilometers (60 miles) off the coast of Honshu, the largest island of Japan, February 16-17, 1945. During two days of combat off Japan, Hellcats destroyed over 300 enemy planes. Not one U.S. ship was attacked. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
The super-dreadnought Yamamoto was intercepted on April 7, 1945, by Navy Hellcats and carrier bombers as it headed for a one-way suicide mission against the U.S. armada at Okinawa. After many bomb and torpedo hits, the giant battleship listed heavily and sank, carrying with it almost 2,500 officers and men.
Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute
"TODAY IS V-E DAY"
May 8, 1945, was "Victory in Europe Day." Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen had brought the European war to a close by forcing complete and unconditional surrender on the Nazi Reich. They had won total victory in a just cause.
For one moment the Allies could celebrate--the war was not over. In the Pacific, the battle with Japan was becoming increasingly bitter. Allied losses continued to mount. It seemed quite possible that the fighting could go on into 1946. Unbeknownst to all but a small number of decision-makers and scientists, however, the Western Allies were preparing a revolutionary new weapon: the atomic bomb. To this day, controversy has raged about whether dropping this weapon on Japan was necessary to end the war quickly. But one thing is clear. The Pacific War would end in a way that few could anticipate on V-E Day.
"TODAY IS V-E DAY"
May 8, 1945, was "Victory in Europe Day." Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen had brought the European war to a close by forcing complete and unconditional surrender on the Third Reich. They had won total victory in a just cause.
For one moment the Allies could celebrate--but the war was not over. In the Pacific, the battle with Japan was becoming increasingly bitter. Allied losses continued to mount. It seemed quite possible that the fighting could go on into late 1946 with great loss of life. Unbeknownst to all but a small number of military and civilian decision-makers and scientists, however, the U.S. Pacific war would end abruptly, in a way that few could anticipate on V-E Day.
"Today is V-E Day" headline, plus a montage of newspaper front pages.
No caption needed.
New Yorkers toast the victory in Times Square. Courtesy of the National Archives
Concentration camp inmates at Buchenwald with their American liberators. Courtesy of the National Archives
German soldiers are marched into captivity, (more details needed). Courtesy of the National Archive