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A map of the US Pacific Theater of Operations showing its component areas and its relationship to South East Asia Command.

The Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) was the World War II area of military activity in the Pacific Ocean and the countries bordering it, a geographic scope that reflected the operational and administrative command structures of the American forces during that period. (The other areas of the Pacific War -- the China Burma India Theater, the South-East Asian Theatre, and Manchurian Theatre -- had their own respective command structures, independent of PTO.)

The Pacific Theater of Operations was one of two areas in which the United States initiated offensive combat operations against the Axis in late 1942. This included operations by the 32nd and the 41st Infantry Divisions on New Guinea, the Americal Infantry Division on the Gilbert Islands, and the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal. The other area was the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, beginning with Operation Torch in November.

From mid-1942 until the end of the war in 1945, there were two operational commands in the PTO:

In addition, during 1945, General Carl Spaatz commanded the separate U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific.

Because of the complementary roles of the US Army and the Navy in conducting war in the Pacific theater, there was no single Allied or U.S. commander (comparable to Eisenhower in the ETO) for the PTO. Indeed, the organizational structure was rather complex, requiring the frequent involvement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Army and Navy commanders each reporting to both the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy. (The consolidation of their respective cabinet departments into the Department of Defense in 1947 addressed subsequent needs for control of joint operations on such large scales.)[citation needed]

The Pacific Ocean theater was one of four major naval theatres of war of World War II, that pitted forces of the Japan against those of the United States, the British Commonwealth, the Netherlands and France.

The theater included most of the Pacific Ocean and its islands, excluding the Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands East Indies, the Territory of New Guinea (including the Bismarck Archipelago) and the Solomon Islands (which were part of the Southwest Pacific area.) The Pacific Ocean theater also excluded China and mainland Southeast Asia. It takes its name from 30 March 1942[2] when it became the major Allied command in the theater, known simply as "Pacific Ocean Areas".[3]



Allied Pacific theater command structure.

The Japanese Combined Fleet was led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, until he was killed in an attack by U.S. fighter planes in April 1943.[4] Yamamoto was succeeded by Admiral Mineichi Koga (1943–44)[4] and Admiral Soemu Toyoda (1944–45).[5]

Admiral, later Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz commanded the vast majority of Allied naval forces in the Pacific Ocean during the period 1941–45. The Allied Pacific Ocean Areas (POA) command was formed in March 1942. The POA was further divided into the North, Central, and South Pacific Areas, with subordinate commanders.[6] Nimitz retained direct control of the Central Pacific Area (CENPAC). General Douglas MacArthur commanded the Southwest Pacific Theater, administratively separate from Nimitz's command and strategically equal.

Major campaigns and battles

Japanese naval aircraft prepare to attack Pearl Harbor.
Okinawa, 1945. A U.S. Marine aims a Thompson submachine gun at a Japanese sniper, as his companion takes cover.


  1. ^ Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander SWPA
  2. ^ Cressman(2000)p.84
  3. ^ Potter&Nimitz(1960)p.653
  4. ^ a b Potter&Nimitz(1960)p.717
  5. ^ Potter&Nimitz(1960)pp.759-760
  6. ^ Potter&Nimitz(1960)pp.652-653
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Silverstone(1968)pp.9-11
  8. ^ Potter&Nimitz(1960)pp.651-652
  9. ^ Kafka&Pepperburg(1946)p.185
  10. ^ Potter&Nimitz(1960)p.751
  11. ^ Ofstie(1946)p.194
  12. ^ Potter&Nimitz(1960)p.761
  13. ^ Potter&Nimitz(1960)p.765
  14. ^ a b Potter&Nimitz(1960)p.770
  15. ^ a b Ofstie(1946)p.275


  • Cressman, Robert J. (2000). The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-149-1. 
  • Drea, Edward J. (1998). In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-1708-0. 
  • Kafka, Roger; & Pepperburg, Roy L. (1946). Warships of the World. New York: Cornell Maritime Press. 
  • Miller, Edward S. (2007). War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897–1945. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1591145007. 
  • Ofstie, Ralph A. (1946). The Campaigns of the Pacific War. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 
  • Potter, E.B.; & Chester W. Nimitz (1960). Sea Power. Prentice-Hall. 
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company. 
  • Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 

See also



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