While destroying their enemys navies, the Japanese lost no ships larger than a destroyer. The Allies decided on a more active defense policy to prevent further loses in the Pacific. Holding onto their remaining bases was a major concern if they were going to go on the offensive against the Nazis. Hawaii and Samoa were their key bases in protecting the seas from the US to Australia. The Japanese tended to use their few submarines to attack warships, so allied supply convoys were seldom attacked. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US was fortunate to have aircraft carriers at sea.
The navy used these carriers for nuisance raids on Japanese held islands such as Wake. General James Doolittle launched an attack by B-25s on the Japanese capital, Tokyo. Without causing extensive damage, the Japanese people were given a hint of what was to come, and it boosted American morale. The Japanese established a defensive perimeter running from the Aleutian Islands through Midway, Wake, the Marshalls, the Gilberts, Figi, Samoa to New Guinea and the Solomons in the hopes of stopping air raids similar to the one on Tokyo. They hoped to disrupt American supply convoys as well. Planes patroled the waters between the islands, and the Japanese navy was centered ready to go anywhere they were needed.
Although this would help them to save face, it would later be known as a victory disease. The Japanese navy, under the skilled leadership of Admiral Yamamoto hoped for a victory at the Battle of Coral Sea. In 1942, unless the Allied Pacific Fleet was destroyed, the allies would be strong enough to launch an offensive against the Japanese. This battle was a demonstration of how modern science changed the war.
It was the first encounter of aircraft carriers. Both sides suffered heavy losses during this battle, including the sinking of the US carrier Lexington. Although this was a tactical victory for the Japanese, it was a strategic success for the Americans because it affected the total picture of the war. To gain an advantage in the Coral Sea, the Japanese were forced to recall their fleet, which forced them to halt their drive toward Australia.
The Japanese regarded the island of Midway as the key to their perimeter defense. It was easy for them to disable the allied fleet by bombing Pearl Harbor from Midway. Yamamoto planned for a showdown with Admiral Nimitz. The US fleet had a magic decoder and knew exactly where the Japanese were going. So the US fleet was ready and waiting for the Midway attack on June 4, 1942.
US carrier planes sank four of Japans best carriers and destroyed their best air support, handing Japan its first great naval defeat. The balance of naval power had now shifted to the US for the first time in World War II. This decisive battle forced the Japanese to abandon their plans of overtaking Midway, Fiji and Samoa. The Japanese made one final attempt to take New Guinea. They seized Guadalcanal, one of the nearby Solomon Islands and established an air base there.
Guadalcanal was the stepping stone for the Allies, necessary for their return to the Philippines and their invasion of Japan. Shoestring was the nickname of the attack on the Japanese base construction on Guadalcanal. It was an attack of few men and equipment, and coincided with forces and supplies gathering for the invasion of North Africa. On August 7, 1942, 20,000 marines landed on Guadalcanal.
Followed by more landings leading to the Battle of Savo Island 2 days later. The Japanese successfully sank four out of five allied cruisers protecting transports unloading at Guandalcanal. The marines were left short of supplies. Hand to hand combat continued in the jungles of Guadalcanal.
Marines were specially trained for this type of combat and they displayed their reputation for heroism. .