Nothing paints a struggle quite like taking a moment to look at casualty and lost lists. There was never a more brutal fight between two nations like there was between Japan and the United States. The environments were fetid, swampy, inundated with natural predators and configured to hide indigenous defenders. Both soldiers were filled with national pride. The slug fest here was first manifest in the devastating raid on Pearl Harbor. Some 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk and that includes five battleships. Devastation lay everywhere, there was blood and oil in the water, smoke and rage in the air. And we were helpless to reach out and strike back immediately.
The Battle of Midway, is, in the opinion of this writer, the key turning point of World War II. Launched just 6 months after Pearl Harbor, it was a battle settled pretty much in 5 minutes when dive bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown and the Hornet caught Kaga, the Akagi and the Soryu by surprise. The fact of the matter is that the Battle of Midway was another historical bellwether for the advantage being an industrial powerhouse made us. It was a bellwether for the advantage give during warfare of any industrial powerhouse. We did most of the damage to Imperial Japan and Russia threw the knockout blows against the Third Reich. But neither Japan nor Germany could out produce the US or the USSR.
That all said, Midway was an absolute disaster. The US lost the Yorktown, a single aircraft carrier, a destroyer and 307 men and 132 planes lost. The Japanese lost four large aircraft carriers, a heavy cruiser, 3500 men and 275 planes. Of the Japanese personnel that were lost many of them were the most experienced combat pilots in the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The Japanese navy was rather large at the outset of World War II and they still possessed five additional aircraft carriers, and six were under repair. The US had the Enterprise, the Hornet and the Lexington, plus 13 under construction.
Midway’s success allowed the US to invade Guadalcanal in August 1942 to prevent the Japanese from finishing a fortified runway there interdicting operations between Australia and US forces. During this struggle the Japanese launched a night raid on Rabaul which became the battle of Savo Island. Three US heavy cruisers, the Vincennes, the Astoria and the Quincy were sunk. The Australians lost the Canberra. US Commander Howard D. Bode shot himself later that next day.
The US had lost more than a thousand soldiers and had to give ground on Guadalcanal. The slug fest continued with a 50,000 man invasion led by Japanese Rear Admiral Tanaka and Lt. Genberal Haruyoshi Hyakutake. Thousands were lost on both sides, though the Marines were the deadliest force in the tough counterattacking. Gutting it out, we began to win the fight.
At the bitter end of it, General Orde Vandergrift was the hero of Guadalcanal. The Japanese lost 25,000 soldiers and the US lost 1,490 killed and 1,804 wounded. The Japanese lost 600 planes. In all, some 30,000 US lives and 8,000 British and Aussie and Indian soldiers died defeating Japan. After Guadalcanal, the slugfest continued on Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Luzon, Iwo Jima.