A number of epic battles ensued in the South Pacific Theater during WWII making a definitive list of the top five interpretive at best. The five listed below would certainly be considered, however, in any top list regarding World War II battles in the South Pacific.
Battle of Midway – The success at the Battle of Midway was due in part to the reconnaissance planes deployed to observe the Japanese armada from a distance. As a result, US carriers were able to successfully ambush the Japanese carriers as they descended on the Midway Islands. With four Japanese carriers sunk and a U.S. victory, Japan’s hope to invade Hawaii was crushed.
Battle of Iwo Jima – The airstrips on Iwo Jima were crucial for the short-range American aircraft to successfully launch air strikes on Japan. In February of 1945, US Marines landed on the island and ensued in what was some of the fiercest, bloodiest fighting experienced in the Pacific Theater during WWII. In all, more than 6,000 Marines were killed and an estimated 20,000 Japanese. Upon successfully securing this tiny five mile island, the Marines raised the American flag, a scene which has since been forever memorialized.
Battle of Okinawa – This battle was the largest amphibious assault of the Pacific Theater. Four US Army divisions and two US Marine divisions were further supported by naval, amphibious and tactical air forces. This battle was nicknamed the “Typhoon of Steel” due to the intense fighting and kamikaze attacks of the Japanese coupled with the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles used in the assault. The Battle of Okinawa saw the highest number of casualties of the Pacific Theater. Over 100,000 Japanese were either killed, captured or committed suicide. The Allies lost more than 65,000. In addition to the number of military lost, countless civilians were also killed.
Battle of the Philippine Sea – The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a crucial in abolishing the Imperial Japanese Navy’s ability to organize large-scale carrier action. The battle held carrier-versus-carrier action between the United States and the Japanese naval forces. While Japan suffered a heavier loss – three aircraft carriers, up to 645 aircraft, and hundreds of pilots – the training of US pilots and crew was accredited with a lighter loss for the United States.
Battle of Guadalcanal – Also known as the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Battle of Guadalcanal was the first major offensive by the Allied forces against Japan. The Japanese were not only outnumbered, but they were taken off guard. The Japanese made numerous attempts over the next few months to regain control, but finally evacuated the island.
Every battle in WWII, whether it be the South Pacific, European, African or other theater, was indeed crucial to the success of the Allied forces. And while some may dispute the list above, the five battles listed here, no doubt, they could arguably be the top five battles of WWII of the Pacific Theater.