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World War II (1939–1945)

by: History SparkNotes

Southeast Asia

The battle lasted for two and a half months, until June 21, and cost nearly 19,000 American lives. The Japanese losses were even more sobering: more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, while the civilian death toll was estimated to be 80,000 to 100,000.

Mounting Casualties

As Allied forces retook one by one the territories that Japan had captured earlier in the war, they became alarmed by Japan’s increasingly extreme tactics. At Guadalcanal in August 1942 and in nearly every battle afterward, Japanese forces simply refused to surrender, even when they were clearly losing. This tactic resulted in huge death tolls for the Japanese forces, as well as increased Allied casualties. Each battle became progressively worse in this respect, and by the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945, the Japanese were fighting to nearly the last man. In Okinawa, even many Japanese civilians committed suicide when it became clear that the island was falling to the Americans.

These developments made Allied commanders worry about what it would take to win the war. Although the Allies had a plan in the works to land U.S. ground troops on the Japanese home islands, if the Japanese population chose to fight to the death, as many were speculating, the cost in American lives would be overwhelming. As Allied forces closed in on Japan proper, however, the U.S. Air Force was able to stage extensive bombing raids over Japanese cities, including Tokyo, which gradually began to demonstrate a viable alternative to a ground invasion.