Victory in the Pacific Islands proved difficult. The Japanese were fierce, unrelenting fighters. Japanese Kamikaze pilots flew “suicide planes” loaded with explosives into American ships. The remote islands were hard to reach and once there, hard to get through because of the dense jungle. The Allies were forced to make a devastating decision.
- Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces invaded American naval and air bases in the Pacific, as well as the Philippines. The American and Filipino troops, serving under General Douglas MacArthur, fled to the Bataan Peninsula. After the Island of Corregidor was conquered by the Japanese, these troops were forced to walk 70 miles to Japanese prison camps. Hundreds of Americans died during the Bataan Death March.
- In the spring of 1942, American warplanes engaged in fierce battles against the Japanese and won. The battles of Coral Sea and Midway were a turning point in the Pacific war.
- In Japan, Allied troops were slowly making progress, taking one island after another. But their victories came with enormous loss of life. Fighting through steamy jungles filled with poisonous snakes and malaria-carrying mosquitoes was much different than invading Europe.
- President Roosevelt died in the spring of 1945. Harry S. Truman took his place. Under Roosevelt’s direction, scientists had been working on the first atomic bomb after learning that the Germans were also developing such a device. In July, 1945, Truman met with other Allied leaders. They had a difficult decision to make. They could continue the invasion of Japan and risk losing more Allied soldiers or they could drop an atomic bomb in Japan, which they knew would kill many Japanese people and cause massive destruction.
- On August 6, 1945, the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a city in Japan. Over 80,000 people were killed and those who survived suffered terrible wounds. The Japanese government refused to surrender. Another bomb was dropped on August 9 over Nagasaki, Japan, killing 35,000 people. On August 15, Japan surrendered. World War II was over.
- Kamikaze: one who plans to die in battle
- Malaria: a serious disease spread by mosquitoes
Questions and Answers
Question: Was dropping the Atomic bombs on Japan the right choice?
Answer: That’s hard to say. Over 100,000 people were killed and large parts of the cities were flattened. Those that survived often died later from disease. The atomic bomb was truly a horrific invention. It’s possible, though, that as many people might have died if the fighting had continued.
Visit the Hiroshima Kids’ Peace Center to learn more about the atomic bomb and what people can do to work for peace.