The Pacific Fleet was the US naval branch positioned in the Pacific, charged with the task of ending Japan’s imperial spread. The Japanese strategically captured islands ranging from the South Pacific to Alaska in the building of their new empire. They captured British and American colonies and naval outposts, surrounding Japan with island outposts of their own. The US Pacific fleet led the counterattack to push back against Japanese spread.
Japan’s initial strategy was to weaken the American Pacific Fleet before they even entered the war by bombing the Naval base at Pearl Harbor. Their aim being to destroy America’s fleet of battleships. They successfully sank the USS Arizona and USS Nevada, but despite greatly damaging the USS California and Oglala both ships were able to be repaired and took part in many battles throughout the war. The USS Cassin and Downes were two destroyers that were greatly damaged beyond repair during the attack, yet the machinery and weaponry on board was able to be salvaged. The equipment salvaged was brought to Naval Yards and new ships were built around them, given the names of the original sunken destroyers. Nearly 20 American ships were destroyed, yet by the 1940’s battleships were no longer as important of a naval vessel as aircraft carriers were. None of the Pacific Fleet’s carriers were at Pearl Harbor the day of the attack.
The US took on a strategy of pushing back against Japanese influence in the Pacific. They took on a method of island hopping, seizing control of bases closer and closer to Japan. The fleet consisted of some 9 battleships, 20 cruisers, 3 aircraft carriers and 50 destroyers. Japanese generals decided to stage an attack similar to Pearl Harbor at the US Naval base at Midway Island. When American codebreakers received information that there was to be an attack, they staged a message saying that Midway was short on fresh water. Intercepted Japanese messages saying that the attack sight was short on fresh water confirmed that it would take place at Midway. With the American advantage of preparing for the attack they destroyed 4 Japanese aircraft carriers and 300 aircraft. Only 6 months after the bombing of pearl harbor America seized a crucial victory and Japan remained on the defensive for the remainder of the war.
The USS Indianapolis was the heavy cruiser charged with the task of helping carry out the top-secret Manhattan Project. The development of the first atomic weaponry. It sailed to the island of Tinian unescorted as no one was to know about the nuclear weapons, the ship's crew having no idea what they were delivering. Upon return from the islands the ship sailed unescorted again and was struck by two Japanese torpedoes. It sank in only 12 minutes and took 300 crew members with it. No distress signal was sent out. After four days and four nights of surviving in the open sea many shark attacks took place and hundreds succumbed to their injuries. Out of the 900 men that went into the water only 316 were rescued. However, the work carried out by USS Indianapolis would ultimately end the war against Japan.
The Pacific Fleet was the American fighter in the war against Japan. Without its rapid success, the Japanese empire would continue to grow closer and closer to the US. Without its victories at Midway and quick advancement towards Japan the war would’ve continued well into the 1940’s and the weakened Britain and France would’ve had to suffer even more casualties. Ultimately, it was what finally put an end to fighting in WWII.
Interested in World War II history?
Learn all about the inspiration behind our Allied Brewing Company family of beers. Each label represents a historic event or icon from this period that we're proud to share with you.