The Pacific War


THE fighting in the Pacific demonstrates the wisdom of the original decision to defeat Hitler first. It is clear that this decision was based on the sound military maxim of containing the enemy at his strong point and attacking him at his weakest.

Whatever the contrast between German and Japanese industrial and military strength, we could get at the European Fortress but not at the Co-prosperity Sphere. Yet in spite of the concentration upon Hitler, there is good reason to believe that we have convinced Japan’s leaders that they cannot hope to win the war.

If we compare our front in the Pacific with the Russian front, it is not to belittle our allies, but to find a parallel. Like the Russians, we lost just about all the territory and equipment we could afford to lose and still be in a position to strike back.

Our Navy, in the Pacific war, suffered an initial defeat which, in terms of relative fighting power, was as serious as that suffered by the Russian Army. The factors which saved us both are also comparable. The Japanese Navy, like the German Army, overreached itself; it set itself problems of supply of enormous magnitude.

Our submarines in the Pacific did the same work as Russian guerrillas behind German lines; the turning point at the Battle of Midway compares with Stalingrad. Certainly the loss of the Hawaiian Islands, which could easily have followed if we had failed at Midway, would have been as serious for us as would have been the loss of Stalingrad for Russia.

In both cases the enemy lost the initiative because he was outthought as well as outfought. The mark of our offensive against Japan, as of the Russian offensive against Germany, is the shifting weight we throw against the long front; once we secure the initiative, the enemy has the impossible task either of gambling on the direction from which the attack will come, or of fortifying every last inch of frontier. In both cases the reconquest of territory means little if the major forces of the enemy, the German Army and the Japanese Navy, are not destroyed.

Japan’s dilemma

It is difficult to say at what moment the Japanese lost the initiative. The process was gradual, taking in Midway, Guadalcanal, Attu; it came with our winning of the battle of production, our acquisition of experience in the technique of jungle fighting, and the shift of the fortunes of war in the Atlantic.

The movement from Guadalcanal to New Guinea and New Britain reveals a brilliant exploitation of sea and air power. If this is island-hopping strategy, it is not the sort that Tokyo expected: it is a process of destroying the enemy by seizing key points and by avoiding all unnecessary deviation.

To secure control of the Vitiaz Strait, for example, we neutralized some 40,000 Japanese on Bougainville, leaving them to starve or attempt to escape. What can Japan do, apart from leaving isolated garrisons to fight desperately, if she does not challenge our control of the sea? She cannot defend her outposts unless she maintains garrisons. But garrisons cannot be supported unless she can keep open her supply lines — a task which requires superiority in the air and on the sea. It takes a lot of shipping to supply possibly 100,000 troops in the area formerly centered on Rabaul.

There are two scores on which Japan cannot hope to match us in the sea and air. One is productive capacity, which needs no argument. The other is technological superiority. This has been apparent in several sea engagements but is just now striking in the air. A very important factor in upsetting Japanese calculations has been the increasing range of our fighter planes. Formerly they could accompany bombers only 200 miles from their bases, but that range has now been doubled. The explanation of the devastating bombing of Cape Gloucester, of the Marshalls, of airfields all the way from Ceram to Bougainville, lies in the tremendous range and bombcarrying capacity of the B-24 Liberator bomber.

Japan could hardly have anticipated that, two years after Pearl Harbor, with a European war on our hands, we should be able to acquire naval supremacy in the waters of the Aleutians, in parts of the Central Pacific, and in the Southwest Pacific. Nor could such tremendous bomb loads have been expected — in one week 700 tons were dropped on Cape Gloucester — when we have to fight on a front of 8000 miles, with supply lines of about the same length. Only tremendous resources and superior technology could have achieved this result.

One of the more spectacular developments in airplanes is the new B-25 Mitchell equipped with a 75millimeter gun, a cannon which flies at 300 miles an hour. This weapon, throwing a 15-pound projectile, is extremely damaging to Japan’s shipping. In the New Guinea area five direct hits left a Japanese destroyer sinking.

These are some of the qualitative factors behind the growing Pacific offensive. Add the facts that we now have over 800 warships afloat, that heavy British units are in the Pacific, that many of our big aircraft carriers — there was only one in the Pacific after Midway — are in use against the Japanese, and we can see the basic reason for the changed outlook. Nothing would please our Navy more than a fulldress battle with the elusive Japanese Navy — which will probably remain elusive because it could lose the war in an afternoon.

Admiral Nomura is reported to have said that Japan would win many battles but lose the war if she fought the United States. Whether or not Japan wins more battles depends on many factors — not least the progress of the war in Europe.

Our interest in India

The danger of an attack on India has passed, but the development of India as a base of operations against Burma and Malaya is another matter. It is one in which we have a vital interest because American troops are stationed there (to keep open the route to China) and because whatever happens in India is important to us, politically, in the whole Pacific area. From a strictly military point of view there is much to know about the strides India is making in industry and the growth of her volunteer army. From a strictly military point of view also we should like to know more about the Bengal famine. To what extent was it due to the loss of Burma, to diversion of shipping, to bad administration?

The disadvantage of the limited discussion of the real problems of India, as of China, in the American press is that the views of those who visit those countries, whether good or bad, will obtain unchallenged circulation. Since many of the reports coming from Americans are not very favorable to the authorities concerned in either country, it is possible that well-meaning official efforts to limit discussion may cause opinion to be malformed.

How to reorganize Asia

There is one aspect of Indian affairs which will concern us more and more as political warfare develops in Asia. It is the old question of the differing British and American attitudes towards imperial possessions. But is it as simple as that? Nothing could be more disastrous than to make the question of imperialism an issue between Britain and the United States — and nothing could be less real. The real issue is an internal one for both the United States and Britain.

If that is not clear to anyone, he has only to watch the Chinese or British press in its search for the future intentions of the American people — will it be the American century or the century of the common man ? Eventually we shall have to take sides in the international organization of human freedom.

The war in the East is going to bring this issue to a head more than the war in Europe. There are urgent reasons why discussion should be open and frank. But the price of admission is that we should be serious and responsible.

There are three main methods of organizing large groups of people of differing nationalities and races. The oldest, and in some ways most highly successful, is the British method: it is based on the idea of union of free peoples under one crown. It is in practice a complex composite of many levels of freedom.

The newest method is that of the Soviet Union, based on respect for national and cultural identity of groups forming a federation of soviet republics. In practice it is a composite of great simplicity, held together by a single party and dedicated to the establishment of a planned society.

The third method is our own. Within the Union, we believe in the assimilation of all national and racial groups — but our idea of world organization is still based on the assumption that all peoples, however large or small, if they are politically independent, will want peace and will achieve prosperity.

Hirohito a prince of peace?

Mr. Grew recently brought one issue to public attention. For two years we have been fighting Japan without very much public discussion of the role of the Japanese Emperor after the war. Something has been done to clarify his position in Japanese political life, but public attention has been directed to the militarists as the chief cause of Japanese aggression.

Mr. Grew suggests that our attitude towards Japan in the post-war world should be coöperative and helpful, not one of browbeating and vindictiveness. We should make clear to the Japanese what they have to gain by joining the family of nations and “playing the game with the rest of the world.”

There are elements, Mr. Grew suggests, in Japanese society which would rebuild their country, after a proper probationary period had seen the elimination of the fanatical military spirit, into a respectable member of the international family. In this connection the great devotion of the Japanese people to the Emperor could be a factor for good if the Emperor were a peace-loving man.

The importance of Mr. Grew’s speech, even though he was speaking as a private citizen, is that it is the first attempt on the part of a high government official to define any basis for political warfare against Japan.

Considered as political warfare, therefore, Mr. Grew’s line is excellent; it provides a basis for splitting the enemy without giving him any ammunition. An attack upon the Emperor would play right into the hands of the militarists, but the suggestion that the militarists misled the Emperor and therefore the people — that we could get on with a peaceful Emperor and a peaceful Japan — is most embarrassing to the militarists. The Tokyo radio reacted immediately, repudiating Mr. Grew’s distinction between the Emperor and the militarists.

Our chief concern is not with the future of the Emperor, but with the future of the Japanese people. It is their business whether they want to keep him — and if they do not, no power on earth will be able to put him on his horse again. The general aim of our policy is to make no decisions for liberated peoples, but to establish the conditions in which they can make decisions themselves. Heaven knows we have erred from that policy. But there is no ground for assuming, as some do, that Mr. Grew’s speech means the American government is going to back reaction in Japan. If backing reaction were an issue, there is no question that the American people would take the same stand that Chiang Kai-shek outlined in his brilliant New Year’s speech: “As to what form of government Japan should adopt, that question can better be left to the awakened and repentant Japanese people to decide for themselves. More important still,” Chiang added, “if the Japanese people should rise in a revolution to punish their warmongers and to overthrow their militarist government, we should respect their spontaneous will and allow them to choose their own form of government.”

If President Roosevelt approves of this idea, as Chiang suggests, then we have a basis for propaganda during the war and the hope for an intelligent attitude toward the Japanese people after the war.

The British are thinking more and more about this matter, and are leaning possibly a little in Mr. Grew’s direction. The Soviet press has broken a long silence on Japan: it is discussing the Pacific war with a freedom that reveals no fear of Japan’s forces in Manchuria.

Backfiring propaganda

In the meantime the militarists are doing their best to identify themselves with the Emperor. Imperial rescripts continue to pour upon the people the news of great victories against the American Fleet. It is doubtful whether even the Emperor’s prestige can withstand the burdens it is asked to bear.

What will happen when the war news is shown by inescapable events to be false? Japanese now believe that in two years Japan has sunk 450 and damaged 250 warships belonging to the United States. Some day this technique of short-term propaganda is going to be bankrupt, and the Emperor may be bankrupt with it.

Without exaggerating Japan’s difficulties, it is clear that the more garrisons which have to be reported as dying valiantly to the last man, the more apparent will become the plight into which her leaders have brought her. The capture of Makin and Tarawa by American forces on November 25 was not announced in Japan till December 20. The fall of Attu, however, was announced several days before we received full details. The change in timing is significant.

It is well for us that the Japanese have decided to keep up the heroic line of “honorable death” and “no surrender” for home consumption. While Japan was winning, this announcement occurred infrequently and provided an excellent stimulus to morale, but now that she is losing, the effects of too many examples of useless sacrifice will undoubtedly be depressing.