The Pacific theater of war - In summary, part 1
Links to more detailed posts on specific battles will be continually added in time.
The Japanese fleet
By 1937, Japan's fleet was somewhat larger than that of Antara. Their battleships included Kongo, Kirishima, Hiei, Haruna, Fuso, Yamashiro, Ise, Hyuuga, Nagato, Mutsu, Kaga, Tosa, Akagi, Yamato and Musashi. Shinano would never be attempted. One battlecruiser, the Amagi, was converted to a carrier as the ENT only allowed three vessels (in this case: Kaga, Tosa and Akagi) to be finished post 1920. The battleships under construction at the time of the ENT were supposed to be modified to fit the 35k ton displacement limit, Antara was the only nation to actually comply and not lie about the specifications of her ships.
In addition to her historical fleet of destroyers and cruisers, Japan would build the following fleet carriers: Hiryu, Soryu, four Shokakus under the names Shokaku, Zuikaku, Kyuuyou and Zuiryuu, and the single Taiho class.
The Threat of Antara
Antara's new empress was not as docile as their previous leader and immediately following the start of WW2 in Europe in September 1939, Empress Willamina II denounced the actions of the Axis Powers. Antara would provide the Allied powers with assistance through the use of supply convoys, while staying out the actual war for the time being. Willamina's aggressive attitude was exactly what her subjects had long desired, but it was widely interpreted by other nations as blatant warmongering. They were not wrong, Empress Willamina knew they would be forced to join the war, and thus her military power was building up in preparation. The trade embargoes on Japan was the final straw for them. Without the oil they needed to fuel their fleets, Japan could not continue their war with China. This, combined with the attitude of the Antarans, prompted the them to forward their plans at a decisive first strike along with a push through South-East Asia.
18 June - Surprise Attack at Port Isla
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On the afternoon of the 18th of June, a Japanese force of six carriers and various escorts launched an air attack on Antara's naval base of Port Isla in the Tuscadian Islands, a chain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here they sank several battleships and two carriers, along with several cruisers and destroyers. The two carriers, Westwood and Carpathia, would be raised and repaired by 1943. These two out of action carriers would greatly benefit the Japanese in the opening months of the Pacific War. The losses as Port Isla severely hampered Antara's ability to assist the Allies in repelling the Japanese assault in South-East Asia. Antara was unable to send a single cruiser until three months after the war had begun, let alone a battleship. Destroyers, submarines and other small combatants would be the only guard in the Pacific in the opening months.
June to December - Japanese push into South-East Asia
At the same time as the attack on Port Isla, Japan launched a large scale attack on other bases in the Pacific, as well as Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. In order to protect her possessions in the region, the Royal Navy sent two fleet units to aid in the holding back the Japanese assault. HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales arrived first, with HMS Malaya and HMS Valiant arriving a week later. Force Z was attacked on 21 June 1940, resulting in the loss of Renown and Repulse at the hands of IJA bombers.
The ABDA (Antaran-British-Dutch-Australian Command) was founded to combat Japan’s advance, but was largely ineffective due to language barriers and Antara’s inability to participate following the massive losses at Port Isla. Most of Antara’s battle ready capital ships were in the Atlantic and were in the process of crossing between the oceans.
At the time Antara's biggest contribution was severely damaging battleship Yamashiro and sinking destroyer Shikinami at the hands of submarine ARS V-98. Fuso and Yamashiro had sunk Malaya and Valiant (as well as an escorting destroyer) during the night of 14 July with the help of cruisers Aoba, Kinugasa and several destroyers. Their night experience gave them an edge, however Fuso sustained extremely heavy damage and the torpedoes from V-98 meant both battleships were confined to dockyards for the rest of the year. V-98 was spotted by land-based aircraft and was lost the next day.
Antara's primary concern was its own territories and most of her battles and engagements were centered around the Philippines. Here, several vessels were lost trying to fight a much larger and more experienced foe. The Philippines was invaded in September and although the army were mostly able to hold their own against the IJA, attrition became an issue. The Antarans simply could not keep their supply lines intact due to constant fights with the IJN. After awhile the army lost its footing and simply could not hold back the Japanese advance. All hope was lost and the Allies would be forced to retreat once again.
4 December - Battle off Manila
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While their were many previous engagements of equal size and worthy of recognition, the Battle off Manila was the last in the Philippines for several years. Several destroyers of DesDiv 12 were lost while successfully defending transports making their way into Manila Bay to aid in the evacuation of Allied personnel. They halted the advance of the Japanese Southern Expeditionary Force, which consisted of ships as large as heavy cruisers, whom of which was forced to retreat. The bay was blockaded so the transports were unable to leave until reinforcements arrived to challenge the enemy. This would be the first time an Antaran cruiser engaged in surface combat in the Pacific Theater. ARS Alexandria was able to fight off the Japanese and the evacuations were completed by morning. The following day, Manila had fallen and the Philippines had effectively surrendered.
The first month of 1941 finally saw the arrival of battleship division Five, consisting of Empress Azura and King William I. These modern battleships supported the carrier ARS Caprillo, the only active Allied fleet carrier in the Pacific at the time. Caprillo was quickly put onto Japan's hitlist and she was involved in several small fights upon arriving in the theater. By January, Burma had been occupied by the Japanese and Northern Borneo was invaded. Antara's ships were unable to dock in the Philippines and had to travel to ports in Australia, as well as the headquarters in Surabaya. The months long fighting in the Philippines had been a setback for the Japanese, but soon after they were back in full swing. The IJN stepped up its control of the sea to ensure that Allied supply convoys could not supply their troops. The Allies attempted to do the same but were unable to even attempt anything resembling a raid.
Members at ABDA command were looking for a decisive battle in the Pacific that would be able to delay the Japanese enough that the Antarans could finally receive the reinforcements the Allies so desperately needed. But even with the arrival more cruisers, two battleships and a carrier, they were still hopelessly outnumbered and had to chose their battles. On 14 January, carrier Caprillo took bomb hits from land based IJA aircraft while en route to Surabaya, she was forced to redirect to Melbourne along with her escort force for major repairs. On 18 January, Borneo had fallen and at the same time Malaya was invaded. Singapore fell on the 21st.
28 January - Battle of the Java Sea
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Knowing that an invasion of Java was imminent, ABDA organizes a force to counter the invasion force. The Japanese gathered their force at new bases in the Philippines and were correctly predicted to use the Makassar Strait to invade Surubaya. The Allied force consisted of nine cruisers and twelve destroyers, against six IJN cruisers and fourteen destroyers of the vanguard force. While the odds seemed to be favor of the Allies, the vastly more experienced Japanese force did well to outplay the only somewhat experienced Allied force that had communication problems.
The resulting late afternoon engagement resulted in an overwhelmingly disastrous defeat for the Allies. More than half the Allied cruisers were sunk, plus four more destroyers. The Japanese paid with a light cruiser and a destroyer. This decisive battle ended in the exact opposite outcome that the Allies were hoping for, instead it was ABDA that was destroyed, resulting in nothing but a quicker defeat for the next two years.
February to April
With the defeat at the Java Sea, the British defend their holdings as they had to dedicate most of their naval power in the Atlantic, this resulted in their withdrawal. Australia had no means to defend itself from a naval invasion and had to rely on the Antarans from then on. January 29, Java was invaded along with Sumatra. 3 February saw the invasion of New Britain. On 5 February Java and Sumatra surrendered within hours of each other. On 6 February New Britain is occupied and the Japanese push through the rest of the Solomon Islands, with the Antarans still attempting resistance.
Carrier Caprillo routinely sortied aircraft to attack locations such as Rabaul and Bouganville with little success. On 12 February Bouganville was captured. On March 2, an Antaran submarine strikes the IJN carrier Kyuuyo with three torpedoes, forcing her to be scuttled. This is the first major sinking of a Japanese ship in the Pacific War. On 6 March, Papua New Guinea is invaded. Antaran forces pour everything they have in defense of the last frontier of Australia. On 14 March - rather poetically - Caprillo receives a torpedo hit from an enemy submarine is forced to repair in Australia. Convinced that Caprillo and her battleship escorts would not be a problem, Japanese forces invade and capture Tulagi on the 18th.
The Battle of Collingwood Bay on 3 April, north-east of Port Moresby, saw the fast battleship ARS King William I engage in night combat with a Japanese cruiser and destroyer division while the former was conducting a bombardment of Japanese Army positions pressing towards Port Moresby. The raid and bombardment of IJA positions subsequently prompted a response from the Japanese navy, and lucky for them, the Allies tried it a second time. The ensuing fight saw King William I receiving catastrophic torpedo damage that sent her limping back home to Antaran dockyards for several months of repairs. With this, only a single Allied battleship remained in the Pacific at the time. On 4 April, Japanese army forces had suddenly broken through Allied lines and Port Moresby was under siege, within a day the city had had fallen.
7 April 1941 - Battle of the Solomon Sea
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Allied response to the attack was slow and three days later the largest Antaran taskforce at the time had assembled in an effort to keep the seas clear for a counter invasion. ARS Caprillo would be the spearhead of the force intent on picking a fight with enemy naval forces. They got more than they asked for, and four Japanese carriers were discovered heading towards them in the Solomon Sea. The first carrier battle of the war was a spectacular learning experience for the Antarans, even though it resulted in the loss of Caprillo. Her air group was at least able to sink the light carrier Shouhou. The battle demonstrated the varying effectiveness of shipborne AA, as Shouhou's airwing was entirely wiped out, but Zuikaku's and Shoukaku's airwings were able to sink Caprillo with minimal losses. Against experienced pilots, the Antarans needed more to be able to deal with them, this answer came mostly in the form of more fire control directed AA, as most of their auto cannons were manually guided.
April to September
The failure to counterattack the Japanese did still result in the loss of Port Moresby. With the sinking of the last active carrier in the Pacific, the Allies lost all confidence in their ability to fight the enemy. On 14 April, Antaran Admiralty declares it cannot prevent an invasion of Australia if the Japanese so wish to do so, and any attempt would result in needless casualties. Antara begins to slowly withdraw its forces from South East Asia and Australia over the next few weeks, but without some resistance from enemy forces. On 5 May, Japanese forces invade Vanuatu and capture it a day later. On 9 May, Japanese forces invade Fiji with Allied forces torpedoing two transport ships and a destroyer with torpedo boats, however it's not enough and Allies surrendered two days later.
The Battle off New Caledonia on 15 May occurs, resulting in the loss of HMAS Perth, destroyer ARS Morgan and cruiser Yura. New Caledonia is occupied after it was already evacuated. By 18 May, no Antaran forces remain in Australian waters and have since retreated.
On 24 May, Australian ports are blockaded. On June 12, Australia is invaded through Cairns and Darwin by IJA forces and over the next few months Japanese forces fight their way through east Australia with additional landings occurring along the coast. By 27 July, Japanese forces have reached Sydney and persuaded the Australians to surrender.
Around June, the Antaran military began devising its strategy for turning the tide of the war in the Pacific. By then the Army and Marine Corps were building up for eventual deployment, as up until then - they were purely on the defensive. The first phase involved the securing the islands nearest to Tuscadia, the largest Antaran island group in the Pacific and the base of her Pacific fleet. Several of these islands were captured by the Japanese during WW1, which included some of the Marshall and Gilbert islands. Many of these islands housed airfields, submarine pens, supply bases and radar stations. The Antarans correctly guessed that these islands were used to monitor Antaran navy movements via the deployment of aforementioned aircraft, submarines occasional radar station. They also noted that many of these smaller islands had especially small garrisons, so they were deemed priority targets as they could be invaded as early as August via a 'professional' invasion.
However, many commanders during noted that these smaller islands could be captured in as soon as two weeks after the respective meetings had been held. Problems highlighted were frequent submarine attacks and the secrecy of future operations due to the proximity of the Japanese held islands. The resulting strategy was that of an island hopping campaign to be commenced a two weeks later. July saw five island raids against garrisons with under 200 soldiers. Antaran marines were most often carried by fast ships such as destroyers and the landings occurred at night and were supported by direct gunfire from friendly vessels. For the entirety of June to September, sixteen raids were conducted and all were successes - with the final island being Wake Island on 19 September. On four occasions, captured airfields were used to launch Antara's first ever paratrooper squads into battle. The arrival of new aircraft carriers, namely the 'assault carrier' variant (smaller and cheaper than fleet carriers) saw the range of air cover extended. Throughout the two months, the Antarans lost a destroyer, a submarine, a frigate, two corvettes and several motor patrol boats. Most of its losses were in the navy, while the ground forces were quite successful and their casualties few. The experience proved valuable in the later full scale invasions in the war.
Japanese naval losses included three destroyers, thirteen submarines and around twelve patrol vessels including submarine chasers. Three of the submarine losses were technically captures as they were docked in their pens when their respective bases were raided. This phase of the campaign marked the first time submarines would engage in combat with one another in the Pacific War in two separate battles. The crew of the ARS V-118 was forced to abandon ship after it was disabled by shell fire from I-176, while the ARS V-88 sunk I-54 in a gun duel after she had ferried marines to an island.
21-22 September 1941 - Battle of the Marshall Islands
Despite the amount of naval engagements occurring the area, the only major battle occurred on 21 September. The raids prompted a major response from the Japanese fleet in the form of a carrier taskforce. Two days prior the IJN carriers Zuiryuu and Kyuuyo had arrived in the area of operation. The opposition would come in the form of the assault carriers White Coast and Cape Carida who were conducting ground attacks during the various raids, neither of which were built to strike other carriers. Their positions were already known to the Japanese and thus they were the first to launch their air group on the morning of the 21st. The morning attack caught the Antarans off guard, resulting in the utter destruction of White Coast.
Cape Carida retreated with her escorts whilst evading aircraft for several hours. Carida's crew worked overnight to repair damage and get her aircraft prepared for anti-ship warfare for the following morning. On the morning of the 22nd, the next day, the Antarans received contact reports from their flying boats of the Japanese carrier positions and Cape Carida launched her air wing for an attack. Both IJN carriers received minor damage however Kyuuyo unknowingly leaked oil, was followed by V-88 and torpedoed on the 24th. Following the morning attack, Zuiryuu retaliated and heavily damaged Cape Carida. Both carrier forces were forced to retreat for repairs.
It was no surprise that the air wing of an assault carrier was not enough to hold back attacks from enemy fleet carriers, but the battle did prompt the navy to rush its deployment of its own fleet carriers to the area as a result. December 4 saw the arrival of three fleet carriers of the New Andreas class: New Andreas, Arcadia and Allessia, of Carrier Division 4.
January to February
By January, Antara had secured the majority of the smaller and less defended islands in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, however there were several major islands which naval intelligence had correctly assumed were very heavily defended, namely atolls such as Tarawa which received frequent reinforcements and could not be taken with a small scale raid. A large invasion force would be required and one was nearly ready. It would not simply be up to the army and marine forces to assault the atoll, the navy would once again be required to protect the invasion force as the Japanese Navy still very much wanted to defend their territory. Although the Antaran navy wanted to pick a fight with the carrier division that was somewhere present in the Gilbert Islands, they could not be found, and vice versa. The navy assured the army that a safe perimeter would be kept around the area of operation when the invasion was set to kick off on 22 February. On 19 February, the invasion force and their vanguard set off from Tuscadia towards Tarawa Atoll, however the Japanese were able to track such a massive force and would respond in kind, with some delay.
22-28 February 1941 - Battle of Tarawa
The delays on the Japanese side were due to an apparent shortage of vessels, which was only realized when the size of the Antaran force was discovered. At the same time, the Japanese had started preparations for an invasion of Vescadia, an island midway between Antara and Japan which would be used as a staging area for a full scale invasion of Antara's main Pacific base at Tuscadia. The IJN had no time to reassign fleet assets and thus they had to make do with the forces they had.
The Antarans were going make use of three fast battleships (Emp. Azura, Emp. William IV, Emp. Coraline) for shore bombardment and air defense. They also had three fleet carriers, an assault carrier, two light carriers and three escort carriers for close air support and combat air patrol, as well as the many smaller vessels they were escorted by. This would be the first major shore bombardment of the Pacific, but not the last, rather the first of many.
Preliminary air attacks occurred on the 22nd at 5AM, with the objective of knocking out shore guns to allow for minesweepers to clear a path for the main landing force. By 5.30AM, navy guns opened fire for three hours of constant shelling. During the opening attacks, three minesweepers were sunk and one aircraft was downed. At 9AM, the landing boats went in. It was soon discovered that the shell fire from the battleships wasn't enough as many of the Japanese defenses were simply still standing which resulted in high casualties during the first day of the battle and frequent requests for air strikes.
The night of the 22nd saw two counterattacks against the Antarans, the second directly caused by the first. At around 2AM, the night skies around the Antaran fleet erupted in AA fire due to an air attack from the IJN light carriers Zuihou and Ryuujo. The Antarans had picked up aircraft thanks their new air search radar sets mounted aboard their battleships and some of their carriers, however no planes were launched and their were delays due to the unfamiliarity of the new equipment. Two landing ships, one supply ship and a battleship were struck, with the supply ship burning down and needing to be scuttled the following morning. However the battle was not concluded after the air attacks, as a radar contact persisted after the attacks had finished. A close range surface battle commenced between the invasion force and a Japanese squadron of nine destroyers and four cruisers. The Japanese deliberately delayed the counterattack achieve total darkness so a nighttime mass torpedo attack could be conducted. . The Antarans lost two destroyers and a troop ship, and torpedo damage to two carriers and a battleship. The Japanese lost one destroyer and one cruiser before withdrawing. The resulting attack ultimately did little to stop the Antarans but it was not without loss for both sides, especially the Antarans. The confusion of the attacking aircraft was the common excuse the the failure of the Antarans.
During the battle, the skies were lit up with flashes and explosions and the Japanese Army defenders used this diversion to mount their own counterattack which almost succeeded but swift last minute leadership caused the attack to bog down. The second day started off with less that half the amount of air support then earlier, resulting in the battle taking four days longer to finally conclude. It was very costly and taught many lessons about future invasions.
March to April
During March of 1942, Japan was making final preparations for a final end-game attack on the Antarans, a two part campaign that would end in a decisive battle. The last few months saw the Antarans counterattacking by sizing the island territories around Tuscadia. These islands needed to be secured by the Antarans to ensure safe passage to South East Asia and Australia for later campaigns. While this was going on, Japan also readied the Solomon Islands and other surrounding chains for an possible assault. They hoped it would not come to pass as their end-game attack would occur from April to May and would see the defeat of the Antaran Pacific Fleet and a peace treaty in favor of the Japanese.
The first target would be the atoll of Vescadia, midway between Japan and Tuscadia. Securing this atoll would provide Japan with a staging ground and breathing room that the bypassed the hotly contested Marshall Islands. Around the same time as this attack, Wake island would be assaulted again, but its capture was not required, the only requirement was that communications be halted.
The second target would be the final one, the major naval base of Port Isla at Tuscadia. The Pacific War was started there and that's where it would end. This time around the Japanese planned to invade Tuscadia rather than simply strike it. With it secured, the Japanese could retake their lost territories and the Pacific would fly the flag of the Rising Sun. At the same time, the Antarans were already preparing to retake Allied territories in Fiji, New Caledonia and the Solomon islands which would disrupt the second phase of the Japanese attack and cause it to be delayed.
On March 12, the Antarans invaded Fiji and secured it in four days. Due to the preparation of Japan's endgame campaign, few ships were able to retaliate, at least for Fiji. The attempt at taking New Caledonia would not go unopposed.
March 25 1942 - Second Battle of New Caledonia
The two light carriers Ryuujo and Zuihou, already well acquainted with the Antarans, spotted the Antaran invasion force 60km off New Caledonia to the North-East with scout aircraft. Knowing they had been spotted, the three carriers: New Andreas, Arcadia and Allessia, all launched fighters in preparation for an air attack. With delay, the enemy air attack did come, in waves, composed of both land-based and carrier based aircraft. Of the 68 bombers launched at the Antarans, 34 were shot down and 11 landed hits. Most of the aircraft were shot down by fighters. The carrier Allessia received heavy damage and would be forced into dry dock for two months. One destroyer and an escort carrier also received damage, no transports were attacked.
Aircraft launched from escort carriers supplemented the damaged Allessia and were used to scout the enemy taskforce which had tried to escape. At 17:25PM, when the sun had begun to set, the Japanese task force of two carriers and nine destroyers were sighted. Carrier Arcadia made the risk of launching her planes at night and it paid off with the destruction of Zuihou an hour later. All aircraft losses were due to aircraft needing to ditch after getting lost on their way home, with a total of eight planes. All pilots were rescued the following day once the invasion had begun. The increased Allied activity during the invasion made rescue attempts very efficient.
The battle was an Allied strategic victory, as even though they suffered more casualties and were down a fleet carrier for two months, the Japanese could not afford to lose a carrier no matter how small. New Caledonia was secured on 4 April, the same day as the Battle of Vescadia.
4 April 1942 - Battle of Vescadia
It was assumed that with the Antarans pushing through Fiji towards New Caledonia, most of the capital ships would not be able to respond to an attack as far north as Vescadia, however they did not take into account that the number of carriers they fielded had increased dramatically since the start of the war. Nevertheless, the operation was successfuly kept secret and thus the Antarans could not effectively counter the invasion. The Japanese had three main forces, a carrier force which would bombard the atoll by air, a landing force, and a backup force which consisted of battleships and other large vessels which would be able to help if needed.
While the invasion force set out in secret, they were in fact first spotted by a submarine almost two days prior, which alerted the Antarans of the impending attack. Despite the warning, they did not have enough ships to counter at that particular time. The fleet carriers Carpathia and Westwood, which had finished repairs only week earlier from being raised after the Attack on Port Isla in 1940, were the only carriers close enough to react. These two carriers, six cruisers and nine destroyers, had a day to prepare and set out. Neither carrier had a full aircraft compliment or a particularly experienced crew.
The morning of the 4th saw the Japanese carrier force launch aircraft to bombard the island. The overcast and drizzly conditions did not dissuade either of the opposing forces from launching aircraft at one another. The Antarans only fielded a few flying boats and some naval aircraft which attempted to strike at the landing force a.nd repel the ground attacks, with little to no success.
By midday, the Japanese carriers launched two more attack waves which hammered the atoll, after which the landing forces began their operation. Antaran morale wavered as there were no signs of help, until around 1:25PM where they received a radio message indicating that a friendly task force had arrived to support them and that surrender was not an option. Unfortutely, the Japanese had decoded the transmission and readied their aircraft for attack. The Antarans arrived 30km to the east of the island and launched aircraft to strike the landing craft, unaware the Japanese were alerted to their presence. At 3:40PM, Japanese carrier planes descended on the Antaran taskforce. Westwood's deck was penetrated by multiple bombs which set off her own bomb storage below deck, uncontrollable fires despite the rainy conditions caused her to be abandoned. As Carpathia's fires were kept in control when her bomb stores were eventually blown up, but torpedoes caused significant flooding that the damage control team could not handle all at once. Carpathia suffered worse casualties as despite what most would've assumed at the time. The order to abandon ship was not given until much later, when the captain realized the crew could not keep her afloat.
The carriers' aircraft were moderately more successful .Even though they had failed to locate the enemy carriers, they attacked the landing craft and some warships within visual range of the atoll. Fighters strafed and sunk two daihatsu landing craft, one bombed an LST but did not sink it, and several dive bombers struck the cruiser Tone and caused considerable damage. The only sinking was of the destroyer Yukaze, which was torpedoed by one of Westwood's six torpedo bomber. At least a third of the aicraft landed on the atoll after discovering their carriers had sunk, another third ditched in the water, and the last third were shot down - entirely by enemy fighters.
Despite the loss of their carriers, the escorts of the Antaran force insisted on pursuing the enemy after the admiral of the force was fished out from the water. The cruisers Alexandria, Jacinta and Danita, as well as their accompanying destroyers continued onward. 10km off Vescadia, Alexandria opened fire on the very distant Tone, which was covered in smoke. Both ships traded shells with neither vessels landing any hits. Jacinta attempted to shell the landing craft but was unsuccessful in finding a firing solution as her spotting aircraft refused to take off due to how crowded the skies were.
At around 5PM, the order was given for the Antaran ships to withdraw after additional contact reports rolled in from friendly subs, detailing the size of the enemy fleet. Realizing they were outnumbered, the admiral of the taskforce turned his ships around and fled. The garrison surrendered by 6PM.
The loss of the atoll didn't faze the Antarans too much as to them it was simply another island base in the middle of the Pacific, the only cause for concern was the massive fleet amassed to capture it, as well as the losses incurred attempting to defend it. They would not attempt to recapture the atoll later in the war, much to the delight of the Japanese, who would use it as a staging ground for the next phase of their operation.