Pacific Theater of Operations

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This article is about the United States military command area in the Pacific during World War II. For the operations in the central Pacific and East Asia, see Pacific War. For the operations in the South West Pacific, see South West Pacific theatre of World War II. For other uses, see Pacific Theatre (disambiguation).
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 Theater, was the area of operations of U.S. forces during World War II in the Pacific War during 1941-45. From mid-1942 until the end of the war in 1945, there were two U.S. operational commands in the Pacific. The Pacific Ocean Areas, divided into Central Pacific Area, North Pacific Area and South Pacific Area),[1]:652–653 was commanded by Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief Pacific Ocean Areas. The South West Pacific Area, including the New Guinea, Philippines, Borneo, and the Dutch East Indies, was commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific Area.[2] During 1945, the United States added the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific commanded by General Carl Spaatz.

Command structure[edit]

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). The organizational structure of the Pacific Theater was 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.[1]:717 Yamamoto was succeeded by Admiral Mineichi Koga (1943–44)[1]:717 and Admiral Soemu Toyoda (1944–45).[1]: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.[6]: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."[6]: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 d e f g h i j k l Potter & Nimitz (1960).
  2. ^ Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander SWPA
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Silverstone (1968) pp.9-11.
  4. ^ Kafka & Pepperburg (1946) p.185.
  5. ^ Ofstie (1946) p.194.
  6. ^ a b Vego (2007).
  7. ^ a b Vego (2006) pp. 126-130


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