|The Japanese Invasion of Hawaii|
|Part of World War II|
|United States||Empire of Japan|
|Commanders and leaders|
| William Halsey†|
| Chuichi Nagumo
The Japanese Invasion of Hawaii was the first major land, sea and air engagement of World War II. The Japanese struck with a force of six fleet carriers and an invasion force of two Infantry divisions. The first phase of the invasion involved a massive coordinated air strike against US military targets on Hawaii, followed up by the first major naval battle in the Pacific. After the Japanese defeated the US Navy, the 25th Army, under General Tomoyuki Yamashita landed on the northern tip of Oahu, and pushed south, before finally forcing the US Army to surrender upon reaching the outskirts of Honolulu. This was the first major defeat the US had suffered, and resulted in US forces pushed back to their own west coast.
- 1 Background
- 2 Operation AI
- 3 The Fleet Battle
- 4 The Hawaii Campaign
- 5 Aftermath
- 6 References
After annexing French Indochina, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt placed a series of embargoes on Japan until July 1941, when he finally banned the sale of oil. The Japanese were faced with the option of either withdrawing from China and losing face or seizing and securing new sources of raw materials in the resource-rich, European-controlled colonies of South East Asia; primarily the Dutch East Indies. In order to protect their move into South East Asia, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto devised a plan to strike the US Pacific Fleet, then based in Pearl Harbor, and cripple the US, preventing them from coming to the aid of the European-controlled colonies. During the planning phase of this operation, in March 1941, Commander Minoru Genda suggested the bold plan of following up the attack on Pearl Harbor with an amphibious invasion of the islands, to prevent any further US strikes against the operations south. The plan was audacious, but Admiral Yamamoto approved it, and forced the Army, though unwillingly to agree as well. General Yamashita's 25th Army was chosen for the task, although only the 5th and 18th Infantry Divisions where to take part in the upcoming invasion. The stage was then set for the greatest gamble in history.
Japan opened up the Pacific war with a devastating three wave strike on the island of Oahu. The first strike came at Pearl Harbor, damaging and destroying a number of battleships there. US aircraft, which were parked wing-tip to wing-tip on the runway to prevent sabotage, where easy targets and with this first strike, US air power had been dealt a savage blow. The second strike hit more military targets and sank a battleship trying to escape, blocking the harbor. The third wave then attacked the oil farms and sub pens, destroying both. Only a handful of fighters had gotten up into the air, and were easily knocked down. The operation to take Hawaii had gotten off to the promising start for the Japanese.
The Fleet Battle
The Battle Begins
Although the Japanese had destroyed the US Navy's battleships, they had not destroyed the carriers. The instant Pearl came under attack, the US Carrier force under command of Admiral William Halsey, which had been on their way to deliver fighters to Midway, turned around and steamed for Hawaii. The Japanese on the other hand were worried. The carriers were no where to be found, and fleet commander Admiral Chuichi Nagumo was fretting. He had confessed if not for the invasion force, he wouldn't have bothered with the third wave and just left already. All knew the US carriers wouldn't stand by while the islands were invaded, so patrols were sent out to look for the Yankee carriers.
1st US Strike Force
As the Japanese launched their 3rd strike on Hawaii, the USS Enterprise immediately lunched all its planes to give the islands air cover. However, the Wildcat pilots found the Japanese Zero a rude shock, and many planes were lost in the engagement. The Japanese realised that they were carrier planes and radioed back to their fleet the direction from which the planes had come.
1st Japanese Strike Force
After defeating the first wave from the Enterprise, the Japanese quickly deduced the location of the carrier and sent a strike force to destroy it. Following the direction from the US fighters, they quickly found the US carrier and attacked. The Zeroes engaged the Enterprise's combat air patrols (CAP) while the attack planes dove in. The Wildcats were no match for the Zero and were quickly overwhelmed, and the attack planes sank the carrier, and two cruisers, while damaging a third.
2nd Japanese Strike Force
After the sinking of the Enterprise, the Japanese were not satisfied. Two, possibly three more carriers were out in the Pacific. Through patrolling, they found a float plane, and allowed it to escape, following it back to the fleet it came from. Launching their strike force again, they ran head long into a flight of Buffaloes. The Buffaloes were horribly outclassed by the Zeroes and all were shot down, clearing the way for the attack planes. A US carrier was soon spotted launching planes, the USS Lexington, and the strike force pounced. Attacking with torpedoes and then bombs, Lexington was crippled, and then sunk. A cruiser was also damaged in the battle.
2nd US Strike Force
As the Japanese headed for the Lexington, the US launched their own strike. They ran head long into the Japanese Fleet's CAPs and were savaged. However, two strike forces got through. Kaga was damaged by diver bomber and unable to take on planes, and although Akagi was hit by a torpedo bomber, the weapon turned out to be a dud.
The Battle Ends
With two carriers sunk, what was left of the US fleet withdrew to the safety of the US West coast, leaving the skies of Hawaii ruled by the Japanese. The battle had only lasted a few hours and neither ship had seen each other. A new day in naval warfare had finally dawned.
The Hawaii Campaign
While the fleet battle raged, the Invasion of Hawaii was launched at Waimea Bay. Strong air cover allowed the Japanese to land, and also allowed them to quickly push off the beach. Despite having some aircraft available to contest the beach head, the overwhelming air superiority of the Japanese forced the Americans to withdraw. Not pausing to regroup, the Japanese pushed on. The 41st Tank Company sent its tanks into action in an attempt to stop the Japanese, but although the Japanese own tanks weren't a match, they concentrated theirs in strength at their thrusts, while the US spread theirs out over the whole front. The Japanese broke through, forcing the US to withdraw again.
The Push Inland
The US quickly discovered that although they could stop the Japanese assault in one position, the Japanese troops would simply flow around the strong point and flank them. It was during these attacks, that US soldiers discovered the horrific nature of the Japanese, as they found the remains of US soldiers who had surrendered. Time after time, the US was forced to withdraw. Losing Haleiwa air field, giving the Japanese Navy an air field. The US then withdrew to a defensive position along the Kolekole Pass, but failed to reinforce the Waianae Mountains, believing them to be impossible to move through. The Japanese moved fast, sending an entire division through the ranges and into the rear of the US Army. Caught off guard, the US withdrew again, surrendering Schofield Barracks and Wahiawa to the Japanese just before Christmas.
The Push South
As 1942 began, the US Army was having difficulty trying to form a defensive line like the one they had at the Kolekole Pass. The US Army employed loyal Japanese who tried to trick the Japanese soldiers and even taunt them, but moral among the IJA was high. They charged time and time again, spear heading their attacks with tanks or air craft support. As the US Army continued to withdraw, Honolulu came under air attack. The pilots were ordered to attack the white districts only in order to gain support from the locals, but this didn't work, and some of the non white districts, including Japanese, were bombed. Desperate to stop the Japanese, the US Army started padding out their ranks with Navy men, who's results were usually poor, but many were quick to adapt.
The Final Push
As the US Army continued to withdraw, many soldiers started retreating on their own, rather than waiting for the order much to the fury of their officers. The Japanese continued their advance, reaching Pearl City. In order to capture the city, Japanese dive bombers destroyed the massive guns protecting Pearl Harbor, but some of the battleships that were not fully sunk added some fire power to the defence of the city, forcing the Japanese to destroy them too. Here, the Japanese suffered their first major set back. The Americans mounted a decent defence of the city, stopping the Japanese cold, and then withdrawing, in order to prevent the IJA troops from slipping in behind them. This tactic chewed up the Japanese soldiers greatly. Elsewhere, the Japanese kept out flanking the Americans, forcing them back until they finally withdrew into Honolulu itself. As the Japanese reached the city, they found themselves dangerously low on ammunition and supplies. Their forces had been depleted by the rapid advances and withdrawing defence of the enemy. But unknown to the Japanese, American morale had collapsed.
As the IJA was preparing for a move against Honolulu, the High Command of Hawaii agreed that they would be unable to hold Honolulu against a Japanese attack and thought it best to surrender in order to spare the inhabitants and the city itself. The commanders of both sides meet in the Iolani Palace. General Yamashita led the Japanese delegation, while the US side was led by Admiral Husband Kimmel, General Walter Short, and Governor Joseph Poindexter. Despite the US trying to win favourable terms, they had no choice but to sign and leave themselves at the mercy of the Japanese whom they knew had not signed the Geneva Convention. The signing was filmed for prosperity, and with that, the Stars and Stripes were hauled down from the Palace flagpole and the Rising Sun hauled up in its place. This marked the conquest of Hawaii.
The next day all US forces across the islands formally surrendered to the IJA. The Japanese were ecstatic at their victory. They'd gambled greatly and won. Having won control of Hawaii had pushed the Americans back to their own West coast, while the Japanese were now free to strike at them while their own home islands were thoroughly protected. With no American fleet power in the Pacific, the Japanese were free to rampage throughout the Pacific, taking the vital oil supplies they desperately needed from the Dutch East Indies, while securing themselves a defensive perimeter against whatever counter attack would come. However for the people of Hawaii, the surrender was the beginning of two years of harsh treatment for them, but more forcefully the US forces who surrendered on the islands.