Kriege, Schlachten und bewaffnete Konflikte

Pazifikkrieg - Guadalcanal und Papua

Guadalcanal und Papua

Nachdem die gemeinsamen Stabschefs der USA am 2. Juli 1942 beschlossen hatten, positive Schritte zur Sicherung der Kommunikationswege zwischen den Vereinigten Staaten und Australien zu unternehmen, erteilten sie den Kommandanten im Pazifik eine Anweisung, Offensivoperationen im Südwestpazifik aufzunehmen. Die Kampagne sollte in drei Phasen durchgeführt werden: Erstens die Eroberung von Tulagi auf den Salomonen und den Santa Cruz-Inseln (etwa 450 km östlich der Salomonen); zweitens die Besetzung der zentralen und nördlichen Salomonen und der Nordostküste Neuguineas bis zum Gebiet Lae-Salamaua; drittens die Beschlagnahme von Rabaul und anderen Gebieten im Bismarck-Archipel. Die erste war die Bühne von Vize Adm gesteuert werden. Robert L. Ghormley, Kommandant der Süd - Pazifik - Region (Teil der Nimitz der Pazifischen Ozean Areas Befehls), in dem die südlichen Solomons wurden nun enthalten, das zuvor auf das Gebiet Südwest - Pazifik gehörte zu haben. Die zweite und dritte Phase sollten unter der strategischen Leitung von MacArthur durchgeführt werden.

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Am 6. Juli 1942 landeten die Japaner Truppen auf Guadalcanal in den südlichen Salomonen und begannen mit dem Bau eines Luftwaffenstützpunkts. Die Alliierten reagierten schnell und beschleunigten die Vorbereitungen, in die südlichen Salomonen zu ziehen, um zu streiken, bevor die Japaner fest verankert waren, und um eine Basis zu sichern, von der aus sie später in Richtung Rabaul vorrücken konnten. Am 7. August startete die 1. US-Marine-Division eine amphibische Landung gegen vernachlässigbare Opposition und begann die sechsmonatige Schlacht von Guadalcanal . Bei Einbruch der Dunkelheit am folgenden Tag besaßen sie den japanischen Flugplatz am Lunga Point in Guadalcanal (später Henderson Field genannt) und Tulagis hervorragenden Hafen. Diese Operation war die erste große Offensive der Alliierten im Pazifikkrieg.

Anfänglich war die Aufgabe der Alliierten auf Guadalcanal einfach gewesen, aber die Japaner waren entschlossen, die Insel zu halten, und begannen, Verstärkungen südlich von Rabaul nach Süden zu schicken und Marineeinheiten zu entsenden, um alliierte Schiffe anzugreifen, alliierte Stellungen an Land zu bombardieren, alliierte Transporte zu versenken und ihre eigenen zu schützen Verstärkung. In der Nacht vom 8. auf den 9. August 1942 griffen japanische Kreuzer und Zerstörer die alliierten Seestreitkräfte überraschend an und versenkten vier Kreuzer und einen Zerstörer (zwei japanische Kreuzer wurden beschädigt, von denen einer am 10. August versenkt wurde ein US-U-Boot). In der Schlacht an der Eastern Solomons (August 23-25), Allied Land- und trägergestützten Flugzeuge sank einen japanischen Lichtträger , einen Zerstörer und ein U - Bootund beschädigte einen Kreuzer und einen Wasserflugzeugträger, während alliierte Marineverluste ein Zerstörer versenkt und der schwere Träger Enterprise schwer beschädigt wurden. Die US-amerikanische Fluggesellschaft Saratoga wurde am 31. August schwer beschädigt, und japanische U-Boote versenkten die US-amerikanische Fluggesellschaft Wasp und beschädigten am 15. September ein Schlachtschiff .

Während dieser Aktionen hatten die Japaner mehr als 6.000 frische Truppen auf Guadalcanal gelandet, um die Überreste der ursprünglichen Garnison von 7.500 Mann zu verstärken. Am 20. und 21. August griffen sie den Brückenkopf der Marine wirkungslos an, gefolgt von einem zweiten Angriff am 12. und 14. September. Am 18. September traf ein US-Marine-Regimentskampfteam ein, um die 1. Marine-Division zu verstärken, gerade rechtzeitig, um weitere japanische Bodenangriffe abzuwehren. Bis Mitte Oktober hatten die Japaner rund 22.000 Soldaten auf der Insel versammelt, um sich auf einen umfassenden Angriff gegen rund 23.000 Verteidiger vorzubereiten, zu denen nun auch alle gehörtendie 1. Marine Division und zwei Regimentskampfteams. Weitere Versuche der Japaner, ihre Truppen auf Guadalcanal zu verstärken und dort alliierte Stellungen zu bombardieren, führten zu den Seeschlachten von Cape Esperance und den Santa Cruz Islands. Zwei japanische Kreuzer und zwei Zerstörer wurden versenkt und drei Träger und zwei Zerstörer beschädigt; Die Alliierten verloren den US-Träger Hornet und zwei Zerstörer, sechs weitere Schiffe wurden beschädigt. Der japanische Bodenangriff (20. bis 29. Oktober) war ein Fehlschlag.

The Allies continued to bolster their air and ground strength at Guadalcanal until by mid-November there were two U.S. Marine Corps divisions (less one infantry regiment), two U.S. Army regimental combat teams, and most of a U.S. Army infantry regiment. The Japanese organized another large-scale attempt to reinforce the island (November 13–15), but they lost 2 battleships, 3 destroyers, 1 cruiser, 2 submarines, and 11 transports and support craft in the effort. The Allies lost 2 cruisers and 7 destroyers sunk and 1 battleship and 1 cruiser damaged. Most importantly from a strategic standpoint, of the nearly 12,500 Japanese troops who attempted to land, only about 4,000 managed to get ashore, and they were without supplies or ammunition. Eight Japanese destroyers tried to land more troops on November 30, but they withdrew after one destroyer had been sunk and another severely damaged. This action, the Battle of Tassafaronga, cost Allied naval elements one cruiser sunk and three damaged.

U.S. Army and Marine Corps troops gradually expanded their hold on Guadalcanal as fresh reinforcements were brought in, and the 1st Marine Division was relieved. By January 5, 1943, the Allied garrison there amounted to about 44,000 men, opposing about 22,500 Japanese. By this time major command changes had also taken place within the Allied organization. In October 1942 Adm. William “Bull” Halsey had taken Ghormley’s place in the South Pacific Area and on January 2, 1943, ground operations on Guadalcanal passed from the command of Maj. Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift to Maj. Gen. Alexander M. Patch. Steady pressure from the U.S. 14th Corps was pushing the Japanese northward, and early in January they decided to evacuate their remaining troops. During the first week of February 1943 about 12,000 Japanese escaped during a series of destroyer sorties. The Japanese had lost more than 24,000 men in the campaign, while Allied combat losses were about 1,600 men killed and 4,250 wounded (these numbers do not reflect the significant casualties from disease). Naval losses were, on the Allied side, 2 heavy carriers, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 14 destroyers; on the Japanese, 2 battleships, 1 light carrier, 3 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 11 destroyers, and 6 submarines. On February 21, 1943, the U.S. 43rd Infantry Division began an unopposed occupation of the Russell Islands, where further bases were to be developed to support the advance on Rabaul.

While operations at Guadalcanal were underway, another major ground action was taking place in Eastern New Guinea. In accordance with the directive of July 2, 1942, MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Area headquarters had laid careful plans to secure Eastern New Guinea and to establish bases from which operations against the Lae-Salamaua area and New Britain could be mounted. Before these plans could be realized, however, the Japanese moved into the north coast of Papua to begin an attempt to take Port Moresby by overland action. On July 21 the Japanese began putting troops ashore near Gona. From here, a month later, Japanese troops began an overland march via the Kokoda Trail, a difficult route defended by Australian infantry, and by mid-September the advance Japanese elements were less than 35 miles (56 km) from Port Moresby. The Japanese, however, were exhausted by disease and by the difficulties of their arduous advance, low in supplies, and nearly starving. Unable to continue, they halted and a week later were ordered to withdraw toward Kokoda pending the outcome of operations at Guadalcanal.

Pursued by two Australian infantry brigades, the Japanese fell back to Buna and Gona, where by November 18, 1942, they had assembled about 7,500 men. By that time two regiments of the U.S. 32nd Infantry Division were near the front, and on November 19 one of the regiments, together with the Australians, began attacks against the firmly entrenched Japanese. In the next two months, the Japanese moved about 3,000 fresh troops in by small craft, while the Allies committed three more Australian infantry brigades, an Australian cavalry regiment, a Papuan infantry battalion, the rest of the U.S. 32nd Infantry Division, and another U.S. infantry regiment. Until mid-January 1943, operations were under Australian Lieut. Gen. Edmund F. Herring and U.S. Lieut. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger.

Gona fiel am 9. Dezember 1942 an die Australier undBuna- Dorf an die Amerikaner am 14. Dezember. Die Amerikaner nahmen am 2. Januar 1943 das befestigte Verwaltungszentrum der Buna-Mission ein, während die Australier am 18. Januar nach Sanananda zogen. Am 22. Januar war der letzte Widerstand vorbei. Die Japaner hatten tatsächlich beschlossen, sich mehr als drei Wochen zuvor aus dem Gebiet zurückzuziehen, zur gleichen Zeit, als sie Guadalcanal abgeschrieben hatten. Die Eroberung von Guadalcanal und Papua durch die Alliierten beendete die sechsmonatigen Bemühungen, die japanische Fahrt nach Süden zu stoppen. Die Kommunikationslinie nach Australien und Neuseeland war jetzt sicher.

Other incidents of the Papuan campaign included a Japanese attempt to outflank Port Moresby to the east by seizing Milne Bay. On August 26, 1942, the Japanese began putting 1,900 men ashore there. The defenders, two Australian infantry brigades and U.S. Army engineers, held firm, and on September 4 the Japanese evacuated their 1,300 remaining troops. Goodenough Island, off southeastern New Guinea, was taken by the Australians on October 22–26, 1942, against scattered opposition from Japanese stranded there during supply runs to New Guinea.

Altogether, the Papuan operations had cost the Japanese nearly 12,000 men killed and 350 captured, while about 4,000 escaped to the Lae-Salamaua area or to New Britain. Allied combat losses were approximately 3,300 killed and 5,500 wounded. The operations had been undertaken principally by ground and air units, with Allied naval forces contributing only small craft. The Allied air forces had played a considerably greater role, interdicting Japanese supply lines and flying Allied supplies and reinforcements to the front.

Japanese strategy after Guadalcanal

The fall of Guadalcanal forced the Japanese leaders to realize that Japan was now on the defensive and that the prospects for the future were increasingly gloomy. On March 25, 1943, the Naval General Staff accordingly mapped out a new policy, which called for strengthening Japan’s remaining defensive positions while launching every possible counterattack. On the same day, the Army and Navy high commands agreed to give priority to the defense of New Guinea with secondary emphasis on the Solomon Islands. To gain time, concentrated air attacks were launched from carriers against Allied positions in New Guinea, where the situation had deteriorated rapidly between early and mid-April. At this time the Japanese forces there were under the direct command of Yamamoto, but April 18 he was killed in an ambush by U.S. fighters when he and his staff were flying from Rabaul to Buin. His death was a significant blow to the Japanese Navy.

When the new Allied offensives were directed to Attu in the Aleutians in May 1943 the Japanese realized that their overextended defense line was now threatened everywhere. They still could not do anything to intercept the enemy invasion of the weakly defended island. At the end of June the Allies’ simultaneous landings on Rendova Island and New Georgia in the Solomons and at Nassau Bay in New Guinea confronted the Japanese with a more serious predicament. By August 5, when the air base at Munda in New Georgia fell to the Allies, the defeat of the Japanese forces in the Solomons was virtually assured. The Nassau Bay landing, followed by offensives along the coast of Huon Gulf, immediately endangered the weak New Guinea defense perimeter at Salamaua and Lae, whence the Japanese garrison was forced to retreat overland. The ever worsening situation in the Pacific thus led the Japanese to an overall review of war plans and to a new policy decision on September 30, 1943. A final defensive line was to be established from West New Guinea and the Carolines to the Marianas by the spring of 1944. This perimeter was to be held at all cost and to be used as a base for counterattacks. Accordingly, vigorous efforts were made to organize a new mobile land-based air force of over 700 planes under the 1st Air Fleet. Meanwhile, the attrition of the Japanese armed forces continued as the two Allied drives from the Solomons and New Guinea increased in tempo. Landings at Finschhafen on the Huon Peninsula in September and at Cape Torokina on Bougainville Island in November meant that Rabaul, a key to the Japanese defense in the theatre, would soon be encircled by the Allies. The Allied landings in the Gilberts later in November and on New Britain in December reinforced the threat of encirclement, but the Japanese, especially the Navy, still clung to Rabaul and even threw its precious carrier force into the battle.

To cope with the new threat, the Japanese Navy hurriedly mapped out a new defense plan, code-named Operation “A,” based on two pillars: the land-based air forces, centring around the newly formed 1st Air Fleet (1,055 planes) deployed in the Marianas, in the Carolines, and in West New Guinea; and a sea force of three regular carriers and six minor carriers, with 450 planes in all. In the event of an enemy landing at any point of the final defense line, the land-based air forces were to launch their attacks first and then the naval forces, in concert with those attacks, were to proceed west of the defense line and to deliver a decisive blow. Adm. Koga Mineichi—Yamamoto’s successor and one of the main proponents of the plan—and his staff were killed flying from Palau to Mindanao(auf den Philippinen) am 31. März 1944. Daraufhin aktivierte Adm. Toyoda Soemu, Kogas Nachfolger, die Operation „A.“ Die 1. Luftflotte konnte jedoch nur sporadische Angriffe bewältigen, und es war nur eine Frage der Zeit, bis die japanischen Heimatinseln von den Alliierten bedroht wurden.