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Support for the WWII Online Exhibit is provided in part through a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission and The Century Fund.

 

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WW II War Front - The Pacific Theatre  

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japan moved quickly in the Pacific; the Philippines fell in March of 1942.  The Japanese threat to the Eastern Pacific ended, however, with the Battle of Midway in May of 1942.  The U.S. Navy then began its strategy of “island-hopping” in the Pacific, launching amphibious assaults on one key Japanese-held island after another, moving ever closer to Japan itself. 

Allentown native Mathias Gutman enlisted in the Navy at age 18 and eventually became Chief Petty Officer aboard the LST-553 in the Pacific.  LSTs, or Landing Ship, Tanks, which could transport supplies, vehicles, and troops onto beaches, were vital to successful “island-hopping.” Gutman was involved in several important island invasions, including the Philippine Islands (1944-1945) and Okinawa (April-June, 1945). 

Allentonian Private First Class Robert Schwoyer enlisted at the age of 17, just 5 days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Before the war ended, he and six of his brothers would all serve their country.  Schwoyer served with the 4th Marines in the Marshall Islands (Nov. 1943-Feb. 1944), Saipan (June-July, 1944), and Iwo Jima (February-March, 1945), critical American victories in the “island-hopping” campaign.  These were epic battles on forbidding terrain. After 26 days of fighting on Saipan, only 15 of the 48 men in Schwoyer’s platoon remained.  On Iwo Jima an enemy bullet hit the ammunition magazine on Schwoyer’s hip.  The metal magazine deflected the bullet and, although the magazine exploded, spewing shells, he was miraculously uninjured. 

 


Mathias Gutman


     
Meanwhile, men like Captain Mickey Hochella fought the Pacific air war.  A student at Moravian College when he enlisted in the Air Force, he was assigned to the 345th as part of the 5th Air Force.  On February 15, 1944, his unit launched its biggest mission of the war, targeting an important Japanese supply base.  Mickey’s plane was hit by shrapnel.  One crew member said that it was “as if a giant can opener had run down the side of the plane….” Part of the crew were strapped to the seats and died when the plane went down.  Most crew members were thrown into the ocean.  Mickey and another crew member pulled the crew into a life raft and began paddling to a nearby island, praying that they would not be spotted by Japanese planes overhead.  Two days later they were rescued.  That was Mickey’s 45th and last mission.  After a brief stay in the hospital, he returned home to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

     

Landing Ship, Tank
 
Captain Mickey Hochella with other men from his unit
     
It was through the struggles and sacrifices of men like Gutman, Schwoyer, Hochella, and millions more, that the United States ultimately won the war against Japan.