Most of Emperor Hirohito's inner circle was determined to continue the war even after losses in the Philippines in February 1945 cut off Japan's supply lines. And though he was warned that the country, brought to its knees by the conflict, might erupt in a Communist revolution, Hirohito believed that one last decisive battle could reverse Japan's fortunes.

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The Americans, for their part, were startled by the intensity and determination of the Japanese defenders in the South Pacific. From the U.S. capture of the Mariana Islands through the firebombing of Tokyo and the dropping of the atomic bomb, this program chronicles the dreadful and unprecedented loss of life, and the decisions made by leaders on both sides that finally ended the war.

American Experience: Victory in the Pacific, Tuesday at 9 p.m. on PBS 6.

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