Although the roots of the Pacific war go back to the end of the First World War and are closely linked with the Japan-China wars of the 1930s, the most active stage of the conflict with respect to naval affairs came with the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. This aerial assault crippled the US Navy and threw to the winds its long-standing plans to engage the Japanese Navy in the Western Pacific with a powerful battleship fleet. For the duration of the conflict, ending with the Japanese surrender in 1945, aircraft carriers took center stage as the primary naval weapon used by both sides. For the United States carrier doctrine was forced to change significantly, and led to a complete revamp of the United States Navy’s tactics and construction priorities.
The Pacific War at sea involved hundreds of thousands of sailors, airmen, and soldiers and left tens of thousands of them dead. It could not have been fought without employing massive fleets of warships, and naval combat has never again reached the intensity of the battles off Guadalcanal and the Philippines. For a comprehensive introduction to some of the key factors in contemporary naval combat, look no further than this series of articles on Bright Hub Engineering, all dealing with WWII.
Destruction of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor
The First Widespread Use of Aircraft Carriers and Their Lasting Legacy
Carriers gained fame in the Second World War, and especially in the Pacific Theater. From the brilliant strike on Pearl Harbor by six Japanese carriers to Admiral Marc Mitscher’s fast carrier task forces that ravaged the central Pacific, aircraft carriers left their mark on naval history.
General information about aircraft carriers:
Some of the famous aircraft carriers of the Second World War and the immediate postwar era:
And some information about modern aircraft carriers used by France and England, which took to heart many lessons of the war in the Pacific:
Second-Class but Still Vital: Capital Ships, Cruisers, and Some of Their Major Battles
Although aircraft carriers took center stage early on in the Pacific Theater of WWII - the war in the Pacific could not have been fought without numerous battleships and cruisers taking to the seas. In fact, some of the most terrible battles were fought between ships like these armed with heavy guns.
Several important capital ship and cruiser designs:
And here are two articles relating to battles fought by capital ships and cruisers as well as the weaponry mounted by the biggest battleships:
Design Influences Stemming From the War in the Pacific from the Cold War to China’s Rise
The confrontation between Soviet and US naval forces during the Cold War never turned lethal, but if it had the lessons of the war in the Pacific would have led to the use of several ship and aircraft designs intended to combat aircraft carriers:
The Oscar Class: massive Soviet era cruise missile launching submarines meant to destroy heavily guarded ships.
Tupolev TU-22M Backfire: capable of delivering large anti-ship missiles and nuclear warheads across oceans and continents.
And as China’s economic and military power grows, echoes of Japan’s military rise in the early 20th century has led to increasing fears that history may repeat itself, and that there could be another war in the Pacific:
But would Chinese carriers pose a threat to anyone? Has China learned from Japan’s example?
Background Naval History and Terminology
To further understand the role of ships and personnel in the Pacific war, it is beneficial to grasp the basics of some naval concepts and history. For a broad overview, or a backgrounder, these articles will give you a grasp of some of the basics:
Degaussing, a method used to protect ships from one of their worst enemies, mines.
Naval Justice is always a concern when ships are run by large crews of people from disparate backgrounds and habits.
International Law has sought to control the behavior of warships at sea and their design particulars.
Liberty Ships are an excellent example of a design born out of necessity, and one that helped the Allies win the war.
Ships need facilities in order to operate and often its the Army Corps of Engineers that is given the responsibility of establishing them.
Some ships, like the famed Russian battleship Potemkin, have been at the core of extremely important political events like rebellions and revolutions.
- All images courtesy of the United States Government and accessed via Wiki Commons