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World War 2 in the Pacific

World War II did not just take place in Europe. The war also happened in the Pacific.

It involved countries such as Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines and lots of islands and countries in Southeast Asia.

Japanese expansion: taking over Asia

Before World War II, Japan was also expanding their empire (the lands they had control over that belonged to other people).

ww2 in the pacific and adjacent areas

They did this to get more resources and materials (things they could not create themselves).

For example, they invaded Manchuria in 1931, and China in 1937.

war flag of imperial Japanese army

Japan and Germany joined forces too. They signed a pact called the Tripartite Pact. They were part of the Axis agreement, which meant they would go to war when Germany did.

There was a general in Japan who was in favour of Japan becoming an Axis power. This man was called Hideki Tojo.

Hideki Tojo

When he became prime minister of Japan in 1940, Japan’s fate was sealed and they were set for war. Tojo wanted to invade the United States.

They did just this when they launched an attack on the US-owned island in Hawaii.

Pearl Harbor attack map 1941

Pearl Harbor

Japanese fighter planes came out of nowhere and bombed Pearl Harbor in order to try to break up the US Navy. War ships were bombed from the sky and the US could not fight back.

US planes were on the ground so could not take off in time to launch a retaliation.

Pearl Harbor USS Arizona

The Japanese fighter pilots managed to destroy all US war ships in two attacks.

They wanted to prevent a US attack so they decided to weaken the US navy with this attack on Pearl Harbor.

They thought that this would weaken the US and stop them from attacking. They were wrong.

The US declared war the next day.


The War in Asia

Japan did not stop there. Much like Hitler wanted to control Europe, Japan wanted to control Asia.

By 1942 they had taken over much of south-east Asia. However, the situation changed when the US won a critical battle at the Battle of Midway on June 4th, 1942.

The US navy sunk four Japanese aircraft carriers and the Japanese had to retreat.

Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway

Many more battles followed. The US and Japan fought for control over Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Iwo Jima.

Even after Hitler had been defeated, and Japan had been pushed back, they did not want to surrender.

The Atomic Bomb

President Harry Truman decided not to invade and dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

This atomic bomb was brutal and it killed thousands and thousands of people with one hit.

Harry S. Truman picture

It is often innocent people who die during war, because politicians are on different sides and want more land and money.

Japan did not surrender, even though so many of their citizens had died. So, Truman ordered another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

atomic cloud over Nagasaki
Atomic cloud over Nagasaki

Japan surrendered and signed a treaty with US General MacArthur. This was called V-J Day which means ‘Victory in Japan’.

Quiz Time


Whose side was Japan on?

What did Japan want?

Who took over as prime minister of Japan?

Where did Japan attack?


What did Truman do to make Japan surrender?

Do you think Japan should have surrendered before thousands of innocent people were killed?

Do you think that Truman should have killed lots of innocent people with a brutal atomic bomb?

Do you think we can call it a ‘victory’ when so many people died on each side?

World War 2

Loading bombs onto a World War II plane