SW Pacific World War II Timeline 1941-1944
1930's Japan invaded China early in the 1930's and steadily expanded her area of conquest there through the 30's.
From November in 1940 the 8th Brigade group of the future 3rd Division was occupying defensive positions around Suva, Fiji.
December, 7, Japanese naval air strike on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, sinks several US battleships and destroys many aircraft but fails to attack the US aircraft carriers which were luckily at sea.
December, 8, Japanese invasion on north coast of Malaya.
Decemebr, 10, Japanese invades Luzon in Phillipines after air attacks destroy many US aircraft on ground.
British battle cruiser Repulse and battleship Prince of Wales sunk by Japanese bombers while heading from Singapore to intercept invasion.
December, 25, Hong Kong falls to Japanese invasion.
In January the 14th Brigade arrived in Fiji and took up defensive positions around Lautoka.
February, 15, Singapore falls to Japanese.
February, Around mid February the Japanese bombed Rabaul and were in the Solomon Islands, click for map.
February, Invasion of Dutch East Indies and battle of the Java Sea where allied losses were heavy.
March, Japanese invade Buka Island, north end of Bougainville.
April, 9, US lead forces surrender in Bataan, Phillipines.
April, Japanese take Admiralty Islands, north of Rabaul.
May, 8, Battle of Coral Sea, US and allied navies stop Japanese naval movements towards Port Moresby and the Solomons. First carrier battle, US lose the carrier Lexington but Japanese losses and damage similar.
June, 7, Battle of Midway further north in central Pacific, US knowledge of Japanese communication codes leads to the invasion task force being intercepted by US carrier borne aircraft. Three Japanese aircraft carriers lost, turning point in Pacific war as Japan lacked the industrial capacity to replace losses on this scale.
July, 6, Japanese invade Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon Islands. Period of maximum Japanese penetration into SW Pacific.
From July US forces arrived in Fiji and elements of the 3rd. Division were shipped back to NZ for training and re-organization in the Waikato.
August, 7, US Marines land in Guadalcanal to begin a six month period of bitter fighting in which time they slowly gained the ascendancy leading to the Japanese pulling out in February, 1943. By October US and Japanese forces were about equal at ~23,000 each but by January 1943 the US troop numbers had doubled, while Japan found it increasingly hard to maintain shipping supply lines.
August, 9, Battle of Savo Island took place very near the Guadalcanal landings when a Japanese cruiser task force arrived from Rabaul in the early hours of the morning. Through terrible allied shortcomings in communications at all levels, command cross purposes and elementary lapses in watchkeeping on the night, Admiral Mikawa achieved complete surprise and a stunning tactical success in destroying 3 US cruisers plus the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, which did not manage to fire a shot. However, anxious to get away with dawn approaching and not realising that the US Carriers that could have destroyed his force were moving away, Mikawa failed to attack the transport shipping at the beachheads which just might have put the US invasion in danger and given the Japanese a real victory. As it turned out, superior US naval resources in a series of battles and engagements over the next year, blunted the effectiveness of the tactically brilliant and daring Japanese navy in this region. Link for account of naval battles over this period from Encyclopedia Britannica CD 99.
November, the 3rd. Division was shipped to New Caledonia for advanced training.
February, 7, Japanese pull out of Guadalcanal.
Period of "holding the line" in the Solomons and action in other areas, eg. New Guinea. It must be remembered that the allied war leaders had decided that the European theatre of war was most important and the Pacific was only accorded major resources as they could be spared from Europe. It is in this period that JFK served in PT Boats in the Solomons.
August, US forces take Rendova Island and Munda on the eastern tip of New Georgia. Munda airbase soon in operation
During this month the NZ 3rd Division moved north from New Caledonia, regrouped at Guadalcanal then in September landed on Vella Lavella to replace US units and cleared the island of Japanese by 9 October.
October, 3rd Division units take the Treasury (Mono) Islands ENE of Vella Lavella.
February US forces take the Admiralty Islands. 3rd Division units land on Green (Nissan) Island north of Bougainville and clear the island of Japanese. An airstrip was then constructed as part of the US thrust north.
For NZ Herald article on Green Islands invasion.
Against a background of vast US resources pouring into the SW
Pacific in 1944, manpower shortages in the NZ war effort
brought the 3rd Division home in 1944 and many from that unit
were used to reinforce the NZ 2nd Division fighting in
Italy. The 3rd. Division had never been at full strength
and only had 2 operational Brigades not three.
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