World War II: The Pacific Islands


By the end of 1942, the Japanese Empire had expanded to its farthest extent. Japanese soldiers were occupying or attacking positions from India to Alaska, as well as islands across the South Pacific. From the end of that year through early 1945, the U.S. Navy, under Admiral Chester Nimitz, adopted a strategy of "island-hopping". Rather than attacking Japan's Imperial Navy in force, the goal was to capture and control strategic islands along a path toward the Japanese home islands, bringing U.S. bombers within range and preparing for a possible invasion. Japanese soldiers fought the island landings fiercely, killing many Allied soldiers and sometimes making desperate, last-ditch suicidal attacks. At sea, Japanese submarine, bomber, and kamikaze attacks took a heavy toll on the U.S. fleet, but Japan was unable to halt the island-by-island advance. By early 1945, leapfrogging U.S. forces had advanced as far as Iwo Jima and Okinawa, within 340 miles of mainland Japan, at a great cost to both sides. On Okinawa alone, during 82 days of fighting, approximately 100,000 Japanese troops and 12,510 Americans were killed, and somewhere between 42,000 and 150,000 Okinawan civilians died as well. At this point, U.S. forces were nearing their position for the next stage of their offensive against the Empire of Japan. (This entry is Part 15 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

    America’s Tent Cities for the Homeless

    More than 500,000 people were homeless in the United States at the end of last year. Many who find themselves living on the streets find a level of community and security in homeless encampments.

  • AP

    A Wild Elephant Runs Loose in an Indian City

    A wild elephant wandered into the streets and alleys of Siliguri, India, on February 10, leaving behind a trail of startled residents, damaged structures, trampled cars, and smashed motorbikes.

  • Christophe Simon / AFP / Getty

    Carnival 2016 Around the World

    Recent images of carnivals around the world, including images from Spain, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Bolivia, and more.

  • Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty

    Newlyweds in the Ruins: A Syrian Wedding Photo Shoot

    In Homs, Syria, where entire city blocks have been reduced to rubble by years of civil war, a Syrian wedding photographer thought of using the destruction of the city as a backdrop for pictures of newlywed couples to show that life is stronger than death.

Join the Discussion