Pacific Ocean theater of World War II

The Pacific Ocean theater of World War II was a major theater of the Pacific War, the war between the Allies and the Empire of Japan. It was defined by the Allied powers' Pacific Ocean Area command, which included most of the Pacific Ocean and its islands, while mainland Asia was excluded, as were the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, Australia, most of the Territory of New Guinea, and the western part of the Solomon Islands.

The Western Allies' command structure in the Pacific
Japanese naval aircraft prepare to take off from an aircraft carrier
U.S. 5th Marines evacuate injured personnel during actions on Guadalcanal on November 1, 1942
An SBD Dauntless flies patrol over USS Washington and USS Lexington during the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign, November 12, 1943
USS Bunker Hill hit by two Kamikazes in thirty seconds on 11 May 1945 off Kyushu

It officially came into existence on March 30, 1942, when US Admiral Chester Nimitz was appointed Supreme Allied Commander Pacific Ocean Areas.[1] In the other major theater in the Pacific region, known as the South West Pacific theatre, Allied forces were commanded by US General Douglas MacArthur. Both Nimitz and MacArthur were overseen by the US Joint Chiefs and the Western Allies Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCoS).

Most Japanese forces in the theater were part of the Combined Fleet (連合艦隊, Rengō Kantai) of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), which was responsible for all Japanese warships, naval aircraft, and marine infantry units. The Rengō Kantai was led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, until he was killed in an attack by U.S. fighter planes in April 1943.[2] Yamamoto was succeeded by Admiral Mineichi Koga (1943–44)[2] and Admiral Soemu Toyoda (1944–45).[3] The General Staff (参謀本部, Sanbō Honbu) of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) was responsible for Imperial Japanese Army ground and air units in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. The IJN and IJA did not formally use joint/combined staff at the operational level, and their command structures/geographical areas of operations overlapped with each other and those of the Allies.

In the Pacific Ocean theater, Japanese forces fought primarily against the United States Navy, the U.S. Army, which had 6 Corps and 21 Divisions, and the U.S. Marine Corps, which had only 6 Divisions. The United Kingdom (British Pacific Fleet), New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and other Allied nations, also contributed forces.

Major campaigns and battles


  1. Cressman 2000, p. 84.
  2. Potter & Nimitz 1960, p. 717.
  3. Potter & Nimitz 1960, pp. 759–60.
  4. Silverstone 1968, pp. 9–11.
  5. Potter & Nimitz 1960, pp. 651–62.
  6. Kafka & Pepperburg 1946, p. 185.
  7. Potter & Nimitz 1960, p. 751.
  8. Ofstie 1946, p. 194.
  9. Potter & Nimitz 1960, p. 761.
  10. Potter & Nimitz 1960, p. 765.
  11. Potter & Nimitz 1960, p. 770.
  12. Ofstie 1946, p. 275.


  • Cressman, Robert J. (2000), The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, ISBN 1-55750-149-1.
  • Drea, Edward J. (1998), In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army, NB: University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 0-8032-1708-0.
  • Hakim, Joy (1995), A History of Us: War, Peace and All That Jazz, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-509514-6.
  • Kafka, Roger; Pepperburg, Roy L. (1946), Warships of the World, New York: Cornell Maritime Press.
  • Miller, Edward S. (2007), War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897–1945, US Naval Institute Press, ISBN 978-1-59114-500-4.
  • Ofstie, Ralph A. (1946). The Campaigns of the Pacific War. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office..
  • Potter, E. B.; Nimitz, Chester W. (1960), Sea Power, Prentice-Hal.
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1968), U.S. Warships of World War II, Doubleday & Co.
  • Toll, Ian W. (2011). Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941–1942. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • (2015). The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • (2020). Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944–1945. New York: W. W. Norton.
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