If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

American progress in the Pacific in 1944

The Allies, mainly the US, aimed to get closer to Japan in 1944. They captured key islands, like Kwajalein and the Mariana Islands, for airstrips to launch B-29 bombing raids. The US also focused on reclaiming the Philippines, controlling shipping lanes and cutting off Japan's resources. The Battle of Leyte Gulf severely weakened Japan's navy.

Want to join the conversation?

  • female robot grace style avatar for user Leo Chang
    How come the Battle of Leyte Gulf kept Japan from keeping the Philippines?
    (53 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • starky ultimate style avatar for user Sazzad H
    Why is the battle of Leyte gulf so important?I mean you have other parts of Philippines as well,Right?
    (15 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • old spice man green style avatar for user Jonathan Ziesmer
      The Battle of Leyte Gulf was important for several reasons.
      First of all, the Japanese lost all of their aircraft carriers and most of their battleships. The Japanese were at a point where they were unable to replace these losses.
      Second, this battle is considered the largest naval battle in history and was the first battle with organized kamikaze attacks.
      Lastly, as a result of the battle the Americans were able to invade the Philippines with infantry and take it back from Japan without the interference of the Japanese navy. The Philippines were strategic for a couple reasons, including that the Japanese had no other source of oil. In addition, after losing the Philippines the Japanese were unable to send reinforcements to their armies in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and other various islands still controlled by the Japanese, making it much easier for the Allies to recapture those places.

      I hope this helps you!
      (54 votes)
  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Shantel  Sipiorski
    Why did the Japanese need more natural resources? They didn't have enough of their own?
    (13 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine seedling style avatar for user inwayi2
      Japan doesn't really have a lot of natural resources. Even right now, it has really small oil fields, is short on petroleum, and doesn't have a lot of coal. Also, Japan is covered in forests, which make it hard to get resources. (and to farm)
      (10 votes)
  • leaf blue style avatar for user Ansel Shen
    Were the battleships yammamoto and musashi big parts in the Battle of Leyte Gulf?
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • spunky sam green style avatar for user History Helper
      By Yamamoto, do you mean Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto? In that case, he died a year before the battle during Operation Vengeance. As for battleship Musashi, its part was important in the battle as one of the few yamato-class ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. But it was sunk in that very battle.
      (22 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user SethCope1
    Who was the leader for Japan?
    (8 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Luke Skywalker
    If American troops would anyways overrun Japan, why nuke it.
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user briancsherman
      To take back the Philippines took the American troops months, and many soldiers died. For the Americans to take Okinawa it was more than two months of fighting. Unlike the Germans, the Japanese did not surrender when they were outnumbered. They kept fighting, believing that it was more honorable to die in battle than to give up to an enemy.

      Given the prior American experience, it was judged that to overrun Japan would take a long time, and that many American soldiers would die in the fighting. The atomic bomb was a way for the Americans to demonstrate that there was nothing to gain by staying at war, and everything to lose.
      (12 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user rylan.mcmahill
    why did usa take the places when they could just bom japan
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • male robot donald style avatar for user Alcyone
    what was happining in japan were they poor because there money was going into the war?
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      The government introduced a system of stringent rationing, that in addition to food included clothes, nails, needles, bandages, shoes, sakecooking oil, tire tubes, and many other items. I mentioned dire necessity, and this is illustrated by the fact that even the Draconian rationing system was overtaken in the final years of the war by the collapse of domestic production and the tightening Allied hold on Japan's shipping lanes. Increasingly, rations arrived late or not at all '" and the majority of Japanese civilians were forced into a life of petty crime as they struggled to find enough food for bare subsistence '" (Simon Parsons, Duke Today, March 20,2003).
      (6 votes)
  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Mark
    How come the battle of Okinwana was so bloody
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • blobby green style avatar for user joshrobin305
      Plenty of the battles in the Pacific were already quite brutal for the Americans due to various Japanese traps, featuring anything from foxholes and tanks buried underground to protect defensive units, coastal batteries, various traps hidden in the jungle, and more. However Okinawa was especially destructive for both sides due to heavy shelling on Japanese positions from ships on the coast, the many civilian casualties, use of children in combat, and many other factors that added to the casualties total.
      (5 votes)
  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Nathan Bitter
    how came the US had such a big navy if thet didnt realy have many wars?
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] We're now entering into 1944 where the Americans and the Allies are able to go even more on the offensive versus the Japanese and get closer and closer to Japan, get in bombing range of Japan and deprive the Japanese of, I guess you could say, their forward bases. And so right as we enter into 1944, and once again I'm giving you an overview I'm not giving every single battle that occurs, the Unites States is able to take Kwajalein. Which, once again, the strategic value of a lot of these, these islands are tiny they're barely large enough to have primitive bases plus, kind of an air field, but they're incredibly valuable because the bombers can land, refuel, get resupplied and then take off from there and then be on the offensive even further in. I guess you could say in Japanese territory. And with the taking on Kwajalein, just as a bit of a reminder, the Americans, amongst other things, now had control of the Soloman Islands. They now have control of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. They now have control of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. And as we'll see, the real theme of 1944 as we get into the middle of and the end of the year is to get as close as possible to the Japanese mainland. Because the Americans now had a B-29, or they had the B-29 bomber that had a 1500 mile radius. 1500 mile, I guess I could say 1500 mile range. Which means if they're able to get points of where their bombers could land and take off, and once again these bombsers are way too large and heavy to land on a carrier, but if they can find islands where they can do that from within a 1500 mile range of Japan then the United States could have bombing attacks directly on Japan and hopefully get closer to an end to the war. So that was really the theme, get as close as possible to Japan and then there was a secondary theme of take back The Philippines. One, it was a matter of pride, it was a former US possession ever since the Spanish-American War. But then on top of that, The Philippines are incredibly strategic for shipping lanes from Indonesia, remember those raw materials, those resources, that oil that Japan wanted from Indonesia. If you control The Philippines you're gonna control the shipping lanes between Indonesia and Japan. So you could deprive Japan of those natural resources. So The United States' kind of main focal areas in 1944, get as close as possible to Japan, get within bombing range, and take The Philippines. And this is exactly what they did. As we go into the summer of 1944, and one, there were some, as early as the summer of 1944, some bombing raids that took off in China to Japan with the new B-29s. So you do have some of these that happened as early, some of these bombing raids happened as early as summer of 1944. But in terms of actual islands, or territory The United States takes or takes back in the summer, in June of 1944, you have The Battle of the Philippine Sea. So Battle of Philippine Sea occurs right around, right around here. It's a victory for The US. It's a victory for The US. And it ends up really, really hurting Japanese ability to field carriers, have air warfare from carriers because so much of their carrier capability was damaged in The Battle of Philippine Sea. So, The Battle of Philippine Battle of the Philippine Sea this occurs in June 1944. And along with that, in the summer, the Allies are able to take several islands in The Mariana Islands. Once again, this is gonna be super important because from The Marianas, they're able to launch B-29 bombing attacks on the mainland in Japan. And so over that summer the Allies, the Americans in particular, are able to take Saipan, they are able to take Guam, they are able to take Tinian, which is this little island right over here. Some of these islands are quite hard to find. They're super small, in fact, even these little dots exaggerate their size, if you were to actually go onto Google Maps or Google Earth you'll see how small these are. And I encourage you to look at them it's really fascinating to see how small some of these islands are. They're really atolls, a lot of these are more atolls then islands. Not all of them are atolls. But you see, they barely have enough space for a landing strip for planes, especially the B-29s. And then as we go further into the summer and we start entering kind of later in the year, the Americans are able to take, at the time what was called Peleliu, now it's Palu. So Peleliu, they're able to take Morotai, and then perhaps most importantly in 1944, this might be the biggest deal out of all of these pacific battles that occur and all of these naval battles that occur, is The Battle of Leyte an The Battle of Leyte Gulf. Because The Battle of Leyte was important because in the process of taking Leyte The United States essentially is able to knock out the Japanese's ability to further defend, I mean they will continue, but realistically defend the rest of The Philippines. So once Leyte is taken by the Allies the odds of the Japanese being able to hold the rest of The Philippines becomes very low. And maybe even more important, The Battle of Leyte Gulf, which occurs right around there, it's an incredibly decisive battle for the American Navy. The Japanese go all in, and that bet is not a good one. The Japanese Navy is pretty much destroyed in The Battle of Leyte Gulf. And so 1944, once again, very good year for the Allies. Very bad year for the Japanese. Now the Allies are in control of they're in control of air strips, from which they can take B-29 raids to the mainland of Japan. So air strips, they can now, they're now within range to do bombing attacks on the mainland of Japan, and they now are very likely to control The Philippines and control the shipping lanes from Indonesia to Japan and they've all but destroyed the Japanese Navy. So, once again, things are not looking very good for Japan. And as we go into 1945, we'll see the Allies get closer and closer and get more intense bombing raids on Japan. And every time they get closer, the battles to take these islands, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, incredibly incredibly bloody and The United States says, 'Well what do we have to do to get the Japanese to surrender?' And we'll see what, at least in the mind of Truman, needs to happen.