Pacific Theater of Operations

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This article is about the United States military command area in World War II. For the portion of that war fought in the Pacific Ocean and East Asia, see Pacific War.
For naval operations in the Southwest Pacific area including the Netherlands East Indies, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and New Guinea, see South West Pacific theatre of World War II.
A map of the US Pacific Theater of Operations showing its component areas and its relationship to South East Asia Command.
Pacific Theater section of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Pacific Theater of Operations, or Pacific Theatre, is the area of operations of U.S. forces during the Pacific War of 1941-45. A theater of operations is

a land or sea area, and the airspace above it, established to employ one's forces to neutralize a strategic threat to national or alliance/coalition interests in regional or general conflict; it is part of the theater (of war); normally the nation's highest leadership and the respective theater (of war) commander would designate a part of the theater as the theater of operations in case of a major regional or national emergency and general war; the theater of operations can also be established in the case of a major counterinsurgency effort.[1]:GL-22

From mid-1942 until the end of the war in 1945, there were two U.S. operational commands in the Pacific:

In addition, during 1945, General Carl Spaatz commanded the separate U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific.

Because of the complementary roles of the United States Army and the United States Navy in conducting war in the Pacific theater, there was no single Allied or U.S. commander (comparable to Eisenhower in the European Theater of Operations) in the Pacific. Indeed, the organizational structure was rather complex, requiring the frequent involvement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Army and Navy commanders each reporting to both the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy.

Allied Pacific theater command structure.

The Japanese Combined Fleet was led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, until he was killed in an attack by U.S. fighter planes in April 1943.[2]:717 Yamamoto was succeeded by Admiral Mineichi Koga (1943–44)[2]:717 and Admiral Soemu Toyoda (1944–45).[2]:759–760

Pacific Ocean Area major campaigns and battles[edit]

Japanese naval aircraft prepare to attack Pearl Harbor.
Okinawa, 1945. A U.S. Marine aims a Thompson submachine gun at a Japanese sniper, as his companion takes cover.

North Pacific Area[edit]

Central Pacific Area[edit]

South Pacific Area[edit]

South West Pacific Area major campaigns and battles[edit]


1944 Strategy Conference in Honolulu. Left to right: MacArthur, Roosevelt, Leahy, Nimitz. The discussion weighs the options of Formosa or the Philippine Islands as the next operational target in the Pacific theater.
  1. ^ Note that the Battle of Leyte Gulf is listed in both the Central Pacific Area (under Nimitz) and in the South West Pacific Area (under MacArthur). Leyte Gulf is where Nimitz's western thrust across the central Pacific Ocean intersected MacArthur's northern thrust across the western Pacific Ocean. While the Pacific Ocean command structure was convoluted, operations were "designed to sequence the SWPA's operations with POA's forces across the central Pacific.[1]:IX-136The main purpose of sequencing is to arrange objectives/tasks in such a progression that collectively they lead to the accomplishment of the assigned ultimate objective in the shortest time possible and with the least loss of personnel and materiel."[1]:IX-135 Nimitz provided, but maintained control over, Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet to cover and support Admiral Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet operating under General MacArthur. The result of this imprecise arrangement was the crisis precipitating the Battle off Samar. Halsey was operating under Commander in Chief, Pacific Operating Area's (Nimitz') Operations Plan 8-44.[7]
  2. ^ By US submarines Darter and Dace under Admirals Lockwood and Nimitz.[7]
  3. ^ By US Navy's Third Fleet under Admirals Halsey and Nimitz.
  4. ^ By US Navy's Task Force 38 under Admirals Mitscher and Nimitz.


  1. ^ a b c Vego (2007).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Potter & Nimitz (1960).
  3. ^ Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander SWPA
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Silverstone (1968) pp.9-11.
  5. ^ Kafka & Pepperburg (1946) p.185.
  6. ^ Ofstie (1946) p.194.
  7. ^ a b Vego (2006) pp. 126-130


  • Cressman, Robert J. (2000). The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-149-1. 
  • Drea, Edward J. (1998). In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-1708-0. 
  • 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 1-59114-500-7. 
  • Ofstie, Ralph A. (1946). The Campaigns of the Pacific War. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 
  • Potter, E. B.; Nimitz, Chester W. (1960). Sea Power: A Naval History (First ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company. 
  • Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  • Vego, Milan N. (2007). Joint Operational Warfare: Theory and Practice. Newport, Rhode Island: United States Naval War College. 
  • Vego, Milan N. (2006). The Battle for Leyte, 1944: Allied and Japanese Plans, Preparations, and Execution. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.