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28 Of The Most Powerful Pictures From World War II In The Pacific

A look back at the Greatest Generation, presented by Getty Images.

Posted on October 20, 2016, at 5:24 p.m. ET

On Oct. 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore to the Philippines island of Leyte with the declaration, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!”

Nearly two years earlier, MacArthur and his family had been forced to flee the Philippines as an invading Japanese army took hold of the region. To the thousands of Filipino and American personnel left behind, Gen. MacArthur vowed, “I shall return.”

MacArthur reaches the shore at Leyte on Oct. 20, 1944, only several hours after US troops had taken the beach.
Roger Viollet / Getty Images

MacArthur reaches the shore at Leyte on Oct. 20, 1944, only several hours after US troops had taken the beach.

Despite the return to Leyte, the road to victory in the Pacific would be one of struggle, sacrifice, and unimaginable horror. Here are some of the most compelling images from the Pacific theater of World War II.

Dec. 7, 1941: In a surprise attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor, a force of 353 Japanese aircraft killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians; 129 Japanese soldiers were killed.
Universal History Archive / Getty Images

Dec. 7, 1941: In a surprise attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor, a force of 353 Japanese aircraft killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians; 129 Japanese soldiers were killed.

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Crowds in Times Square watch a bulletin board for latest news of war in the Pacific, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Crowds in Times Square watch a bulletin board for latest news of war in the Pacific, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On April 9, 1942, approximately 75,000 captured US and Philippine troops were forced to march 65 miles from Mariveles to San Fernando, in what became known as the Bataan Death March.

This march was named the Bataan Death March because of the high number of brutal and gruesome deaths along the road at the hands of the Japanese.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

This march was named the Bataan Death March because of the high number of brutal and gruesome deaths along the road at the hands of the Japanese.

The following months proved to be among the most bloody confrontations of World War II.

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American Marines approach a group of Japanese-occupied buildings, reduced to rubble during the Battle of Tarawa, a Pacific atoll in the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), in November 1943. In the background, smoke is rising from an oil-dump hit during the shelling.
Frederic Lewis / Getty Images

American Marines approach a group of Japanese-occupied buildings, reduced to rubble during the Battle of Tarawa, a Pacific atoll in the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), in November 1943. In the background, smoke is rising from an oil-dump hit during the shelling.

Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Corpses of Japanese soldiers are seen half-buried in the tidal sands of the Tenaru River following a night battle on Guadalcanal, 1942.

Two US officers plant the first US flag on Guam, eight minutes after US Marines and Army assault troops landed on the Central Pacific island during WWII in July 1944.
Batts / Getty Images

Two US officers plant the first US flag on Guam, eight minutes after US Marines and Army assault troops landed on the Central Pacific island during WWII in July 1944.

A US Marine is seen cradling a the barely living body of a tiny infant, who was found facedown in a cave where native islanders had been hiding to escape the fighting between US and Japanese forces.
W. Eugene Smith / Getty Images

A US Marine is seen cradling a the barely living body of a tiny infant, who was found facedown in a cave where native islanders had been hiding to escape the fighting between US and Japanese forces.

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Bettmann / Bettmann Archive
W. Eugene Smith / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

A weary and exhausted Marine weeps amid the rubble after the tough battle for Hill 200 Near Peleliu Airport in August 1944 (left); a group of Marines look on as Saipan civilians choose suicide over surrendering to American troops.

Marines sit at a table drinking coffee on board a Coast Guard assault transport, after fighting to take Eniwetok Atollt, Marshall Islands, in 1944.
U.s. Coast Guard / Getty Images

Marines sit at a table drinking coffee on board a Coast Guard assault transport, after fighting to take Eniwetok Atollt, Marshall Islands, in 1944.

Marines crouching behind a rock take cover as they blow up a cave connected to a Japanese bunker on Iwo Jima in 1945.
W. Eugene Smith / Getty Images

Marines crouching behind a rock take cover as they blow up a cave connected to a Japanese bunker on Iwo Jima in 1945.

Roger Viollet / Getty Images
W. Eugene Smith / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

A Marine advances under Japanese fire on Okinawa in 1945 (left); a grizzled and weary US soldier is seen smoking a cigarette during the final days of fighting to gain control of the island of Saipan in July 1944.

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A blindfold and bandaged American soldier lies on a stretcher with his hands clasped in prayer, during the fighting to take Okinawa in 1945.
W. Eugene Smith / Getty Images

A blindfold and bandaged American soldier lies on a stretcher with his hands clasped in prayer, during the fighting to take Okinawa in 1945.

US Marines pose on top of Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima with the American flag in February 1945.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

US Marines pose on top of Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima with the American flag in February 1945.

An American serviceman shares his rations with two Japanese children in Okinawa, 1945.
Fpg / Getty Images

An American serviceman shares his rations with two Japanese children in Okinawa, 1945.

A Japanese kamikaze aircraft has just struck the deck of the US aircraft carrier Saratoga on Feb. 21, 1945.
Mondadori Portfolio / Getty Images

A Japanese kamikaze aircraft has just struck the deck of the US aircraft carrier Saratoga on Feb. 21, 1945.

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Fpg / Getty Images
Wayne Miller / PhotoQuest / Getty Images

US Marine Cpl. Robert Borrell is seen firing a 50-caliber machine gun inside a bomber over Papua New Guinea, 1943 (left). After a raid on Rabaul, crewmen lift an injured Kenneth Bratton out of the turret of a TBF on the USS Saratoga in the Pacific, November 1943.

A group of Marines present a few rare cheerful smiles while aboard a United States Coast Guard manned transport somewhere in the Pacific, 1945.
Photoquest / Getty Images

A group of Marines present a few rare cheerful smiles while aboard a United States Coast Guard manned transport somewhere in the Pacific, 1945.

Cruiser USS Santa Fe passes alongside Essex class aircraft carrier USS Franklin, which had just been hit by a Japanese dive-bomber, setting off an ammunition store and killing 724 sailors.
Mpi / Getty Images

Cruiser USS Santa Fe passes alongside Essex class aircraft carrier USS Franklin, which had just been hit by a Japanese dive-bomber, setting off an ammunition store and killing 724 sailors.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States detonated an atomic bomb over Hiroshima and a second over Nagasaki on August 9. Six days later, Japan announced its surrender to the Allied forces.

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Atomic mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right) in August 1945.
Universal History Archive / Getty Images

Atomic mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right) in August 1945.

An aerial view of the damage wrought by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima weeks earlier, bringing a swift end to WWII.
George Silk / Getty Images

An aerial view of the damage wrought by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima weeks earlier, bringing a swift end to WWII.

A man with burns over his entire body is treated at the Army Transport Quarantine Station on Ninoshima Island 1945. This man was exposed within 1 kilometer of the hypocenter of the atom bomb dropped on Aug. 6. Persons so close to the hypocenter who received direct heat rays suffered skin-destroying burns and damage to their internal tissues and organs. Most died immediately or within a few days.
Galerie Bilderwelt / Getty Images

A man with burns over his entire body is treated at the Army Transport Quarantine Station on Ninoshima Island 1945. This man was exposed within 1 kilometer of the hypocenter of the atom bomb dropped on Aug. 6. Persons so close to the hypocenter who received direct heat rays suffered skin-destroying burns and damage to their internal tissues and organs. Most died immediately or within a few days.

A jubilant American sailor grabs and kisses a white-uniformed nurse while thousands jam Times Square to celebrate the long awaited-victory over Japan.
Lt. Victor Jorgensen / Getty Images

A jubilant American sailor grabs and kisses a white-uniformed nurse while thousands jam Times Square to celebrate the long awaited-victory over Japan.

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Crowds are seen celebrating Victory Over Japan Day in Oak Ridge, New Jersey.
Galerie Bilderwelt / Getty Images

Crowds are seen celebrating Victory Over Japan Day in Oak Ridge, New Jersey.

Silhouetted against the light of a Pacific sunrise, a Coast Guardsman stands in quiet reverence beside the graves, marked with crosses, of comrades who gave their lives fighting for an atoll in the campaign for the Philippines, 1944.
Interim Archives / Getty Images

Silhouetted against the light of a Pacific sunrise, a Coast Guardsman stands in quiet reverence beside the graves, marked with crosses, of comrades who gave their lives fighting for an atoll in the campaign for the Philippines, 1944.

See more iconic pictures from World War II at Getty Images.

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