The Pacific War


THE Navy celebrated Navy Day by telling us that the absolute minimum for the defeat of Japan after Germany falls is from one and a half to two years. Mr. Churchill has suggested about the same length of time. Both statements were made after our success against the Japanese Fleet in the “second Battle of the Philippines.”

Such warnings are based on the unmanageable facts of geography and resistance, on the requirements of amphibious warfare, and on the amount of preparations needed for successful invasion. They will prove false only if Japan throws away her whole fleet or accepts unconditional surrender — or if Stalin’s Anniversary Speech means that Russia will take positive action.

Even if the whole fleet were disposed of, however, we have to remember that it was not German naval power that held up the invasion, except for the submarines. The destruction of the Japanese Navy would merely make the invasion possible; it is the first condition — not the guarantee — of success. Nor can we expect the militarists of Japan, who were foolish enough to plunge their country into world war, and who can hardly expect to survive defeat, to agree to surrender before their homeland is ravaged by bombing and occupied by Allied forces.

We are roughly in the same stage in the Pacific war as we were in the European struggle when the Tunisian campaign was about over. Japan is more vulnerable than is Germany in the degree of her reliance upon sea communications, and therefore suffers comparatively more when robbed of her naval strength. But in Europe we had Great Britain as a fighting and invasion base. We have still to secure and develop a staging area for the final assault upon Japan. On it we shall have to build roads, railways, docking facilities, factories,.warehouses, even living quarters. All the materiel for such an area will have to be transported many thousands of miles. It is not, as Admiral Young pointed out, a pretty picture.

How far have we come?

The amazing thing is that we have come as far as we have in so short a time. The increase of our naval forces is half the story. When France fell, we had 383 combatant ships — 15 battleships, 6 aircraft carriers, 37 cruisers, 225 destroyers, and 100 submarines. Today we have 1155 combatant ships, 45,000 landing craft, 5000 smaller vessels, and 34,000 aircraft. The total of combatant ships includes 23 battleships, 23 large carriers, 65 escort carriers, and twice as many destroyers and submarines as we had in 1940. There are well over three million men in this navy.

This amazing growth has been accompanied by a change in tactics. The Japanese know by heart the rhythm of our attacks — the air bombardments of the objective and all points that could assist it, the barrage from the sea and the establishment of local naval supremacy, the landing by assault troops and the quick follow-through. But there is little they can do about it, for they have not yet devised an answer to swift-moving, carrier-based air attacks. It is strange that the Japanese should have put their faith in “coral aircraft carriers” and land-based planes when they showed us the possibility of carrierbased attacks on the very first day of the Pacific war.

The Philippines: an opening wedge

The landings on the Philippines are the beginning of the hard road ahead but also the finish of long months of careful preparation and bitter fighting. Leading up to this smashing blow at the pivot of Japan’s empire were the fighting through the Gilberts and the Marianas, the bombing of Truk, the seizure of Palau and Morotai, the campaigns in New Guinea, the cutting of Japan’s communication lines between the Philippines and the home islands, the war of attrition on Japan’s shipping, the sea sweeps of the 14th Air Force from China bases, the B-29 raids on Japan proper, the air attacks on the Netherlands Indies.

More secret were the careful nursing of guerrilla units in the Philippine Islands and the coördination of their activities with the landings. The jigsaw puzzle fitted together when Leyte Island was taken after sustained carrier task force attacks from Formosa to within 200 miles of the Japanese homeland. Rarely has a tactical and strategic pattern been so beautifully conceived and executed.

What are the consequences? On the military side, the Japanese must either support or abandon a quarter of a million men in the Philippines. We endanger the shipping lanes along the China coast which tie Japan to her ill-gotten empire. Our carrierborne planes can even be used to hammer Japan’s lines of communication within China itself. Landbased bombers in the Philippines can shuttle to and from bases in China.

We have driven an arrow deep into what Japan has built up with her propaganda as the basic sea area, the waters enclosed by the Philippines, the Netherlands Indies, Malaya, and China. We have increased the isolation of Japan’s armies overseas, not only from the homeland but also from each other. To some extent we have neutralized the effects of Japan’s recent gains in China.

The Philippines: an example for Asia

The open appeal to Philippine guerrillas and the authenticated stories of their long resistance have bared to the world the meager Japanese success in securing acceptance for the Japanese theory of Asia for the Asiatics. It is clear that they fooled few people indeed, even among the uninformed and illiterate.

Few Americans knew the extent to which contact was maintained between the Philippines and Australia, to say nothing of the United States, during the period of Japanese occupation. We know now of the contribution which American publications and short-wave radio made in keeping the guerrillas informed of what was going on in the rest of the world.

Our reception in the first of the great, heavily populated areas under Japanese occupation is being watched all over the world. For here was the test. Would the American promises of independence still mean something? Did the Filipinos still believe them or had they been seduced by Japanese promises? With keen political sense MacArthur has always insisted on the phrase, “I shall return,” and quite rightly he has made much of the fact that this particular promise was kept.

The enormous job of reconstruction, in which we are bound to play a substantial part, will require a sure touch if we are to leave the Filipinos and others convinced that we mean what we say when we recognize the freedom and independence of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.

The Commonwealth government, under the sane leadership of President Osmena, returns to the islands with an accumulated 220 million dollars and with the respect of the Filipino people. But there are questions of foreign investments, of inviting foreign capital, of using foreign technicians, that will require high statesmanship if they are to be settled in the best interests of the Philippines.

Some provision has been made for these matters by the establishment of the Filipino Rehabilitation Commission by the same Congress which promised early independence after liberation. The Commission, composed of American Senators, Representatives, and Presidential appointees, as well as Filipinos, is set up to study problems relating to post-war trade, economics, and rehabilitation. While its powers are limited to investigation and recommendation, it will undoubtedly set the tone of Filipino-American relations on the economic, social, and political planes.

Suppose the Filipinos wish to change the social system which separated so many poor from so few rich, or suppose they want to follow new leaders unknown in Washington? Do we support the landlords and the present incumbents? Suppose the Osmena government decides to develop the resources of these rich islands through state-owned enterprises, which will make life hard for foreign private enterprise?

The Filipinos feel that we were responsible for their defense in 1939 and let them down; to return is the least we can do. The application of American money and brains to reconstruct what has been destroyed is taken almost for granted. If we can reconstruct and at the same time really allow the Filipinos to handle their own affairs, we shall have lived up to our highest ideals. It will be difficult.

Stilwell’s recall

The recall of General Stilwell brought to public attention a situation which had been slowly revealing itself for some time. It is a situation much more important than all the petty charges and mutual recriminations which are part of it, for this is a great experiment which must not be allowed to fail. Our relations with China are part of our distinctive foreign policy. They set the political climate for a large part of Asia.

The background to Chinese-American difficulties is simple. It lies in the contrast between China’s high international position, for which we are largely responsible, and her weak domestic situation. The international success came to those groups in China which least understood its significance and its responsibilities — the military, the right wing of the Kuomintang. Those Chinese who were moderntrained and internationally-minded, and who treasured most this newly arrived recognition, no longer wield much power in domestic politics. Those who rule, therefore, are bound up with the oldest part of Chinese life, with its economy and politics.

The necessities of war threw the American Army into broad contact with the Chinese; and even if the Army did not usurp the policy-making functions of the State Department, by its physical presence in China it was bound to be a political influence. No one dislikes politics more than General Stilwell; no American in China was a greater political influence. There was no way of avoiding this situation.

General Stilwell failed to establish successful coöperation between American and Chinese armies, except for the Chinese troops trained in India, because the basic conditions for such cooperation lay outside the military sphere. It was important, but not decisive, that the two armies contrasted violently in terms of training and equipment. More important is the fact that political power in China depends on armies, a point the Communists very well understand.

The cautious Generalissimo

After the Central Armies had wasted the flower of their German-trained divisions on the enemy, all the Generalissimo had left were armies of low caliber which the Japanese could tear to pieces. He has been cautious in the use of his forces therefore, knowing that his ultimate domestic power rests upon his military strength.

Chiang had to watch not only the Communists, who were building up their armies, but also other sections of Free China. The Generalissimo has behaved like the shrewd politician that he is, within the limits of his understanding of the Chinese and the international situation. That understanding is limited by the social background he represents and his narrow soldier’s view of authoritarian political organization.

From our point of view the obstacles to coöperation were rooted in the collapse of the Chinese administrative system, the reluctance to give our Army the lead in training Chinese armies and directing their war strategy, and in what we considered a lukewarm attitude towards the prosecution of the war. These are not obstacles that an American soldier is trained or expected to overcome: they are political and economic questions. There is no solution to them short of a national political revival in China.

Revolution deferred

The dilemma lies in the fact that we cannot get the best out of China as an ally or as a base if national revival means internal disturbance, and we are unlikely to see the Nationalist Revolution revived without such disturbance. We have taken the line that civil war in China is against the interest of the Allies and must be prevented. But those who insist on this policy must know that China pays a heavy price for it. The growth of a strong Communist army uncontrolled by Chungking not only lowers the prestige of Chungking abroad, but also lowers it at home within the territories of Free China.

Certainly the Communists have done an excellent job of organizing their area and of operating behind the Japanese lines. They have built up production both of food and of manufactured goods by encouraging coöperatives. They have raised the level of political consciousness of their people and vastly increased their military power.

The assumption that the Communists would come to terms if we put enough pressure on Chungking, as we apparently have tried to do, is hardly reasonable. Why should the Communists come to terms with Chungking when they have a friendly power behind them, and stand guaranteed that they will not be attacked? Having nothing to fear, they naturally raise their terms at every meeting. Knowing that Americans wish to believe that they are democratic and admirers of capitalism, they even persuade us that they want to develop private enterprise and free capitalism in Communist China.

Can China be industrialized?

The facts are that if China wishes to industrialize herself within the next fifty years, she can no more wait for this to come about by the private accumulation of capital than could the Russians in the 1920’s. Rapid industrialization comes only through state control and state initiative. Under these conditions, Turkey is a more likely model than America.

The future of the Communists in China obviously bears on our relations with the Soviet Union. No one knows whether or not the Soviet Union will have a vigorous Far Eastern policy. But one possibility is that the Chinese Communists will move up to Manchuria and occupy it. There are very few Russians now in Yennan. But Russian assistance, which went to Chungking when the chief concern of the Soviets was to keep Japan busy, has been replaced by open criticism. And unless the miracle of Chungking-Communist fusion occurs very soon, the hope of unity in China is poor indeed.