While the U.S. was able to rapidly replace destroyed planes and boats, the Japanese lagged far behind, and this proved integral to the victory of the U.S. in the Guadalcanal campaign. After the ferocious fighting there, the initiative in the South Pacific conflict was now decisively in the hands of America and her allies.
On the back of the Guadalcanal victory, the Allies now initiated Operation Cartwheel. The aim was to isolate Japan’s airbase at Rabaul, on the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. This was an important – and heavily defended – base for the Japanese. Its neutralization would mean that the Americans could start to move across the Pacific, island by island, towards Japan itself.
Allied plans to advance towards the Japanese mainland started to come to fruition in June 1944. A massive force of 535 ships began an assault on Saipan, an island in the west of the Pacific Ocean. The aim of the mission was to establish airfields that, with the use of the long-range B-29 Superfortresses, would facilitate bombing attacks on Tokyo itself.