The Pacific War


THE end of all strategy in the Pacific war is the annihilation of the Japanese fleet and the Japanese armies. All other things are subsidiary to these aims. It is therefore our good fortune that military and political necessity happened to combine when the landings on Leyte began.

The liberation of a million people on Leyte removed from Japanese control the first sizable group of civilians since the days following Pearl Harbor. We are now able to forge again the bonds which we had developed with an Asiatic people and which the defeats of three years ago so rudely severed.

The long years of occupation stretched almost to the breaking point the resources if not the resolution of the resistance movement. We never lost all contact with the Filipino resistance groups, as we now know, but Japanese pressure was constant and intense. By far the largest single item discussed by the Japanese radio was the activities of the Japanese troops against guerrillas.

The benevolent Japanese Army

The lid covering the Co-prosperity Sphere has been lifted sufficiently to confirm our long-held views of Japanese methods of exploitation and colonial rule. Amdador Daguio, formerly a newspaperman in Tacloban, well known to Americans on Leyte, and now working as a writer for the Office of War Information, tells of the Japanese belief that terror is the most effective weapon with which to handle native peoples. In the Philippines, as in China, provincial officials and common people were compelled to witness public executions of their countrymen: it was part of the program of the occupying authorities.

To the intelligent Filipino, as to the intelligent Chinese, the contrast between the practices of the Japanese Army and the lofty principles of the Army code was only too apparent. When the military mind engages in propaganda, the results are usually disastrous, whatever the country, but this is particularly true of Japan. Only the Japanese Army could instruct a conquered people in the warrior code — “Modest in its strength and unostentatious in its kindness, the Imperial Army becomes an object of admiration when it quietly displays its valor and benevolence" — and at the same time warn them that if a Japanese soldier were harmed, ten influential persons would be held as hostages.

The Japanese have apparently run true to form — the form they showed in Manchuria and North China, in Nanking and Canton. They have no ideas to export, no common intellectual or political tradition shared with the other peoples of Asia. They cannot use effectively the one weapon which fell to their hands: the nationalist movements of the East. They try to ram their inbred, old-fashioned doctrines down the throats of everyone they conquer; they understand propaganda only as a means of social control in a situation which they dominate with bayonets.

If they had any political sense at all, they could have parts of Asia at their feet instead of under their heels. A liberal, democratic Japan would have been a much more dangerous enemy for us and the European powers than the present imperialistic Japan. As it is, the Japanese have apparently stirred Filipino nationalism only against themselves, and not against us as they hoped.

There is the possibility, but it is little more than a possibility, that the retreating Japanese Army may take belated steps to secure the political good will of the Filipinos. The Japanese could create considerable difficulties for the returning Commonwealth government if they started an agrarian revolution, brought about the division of landed estates, and liquidated the rich Filipinos. This they are not likely to do, because they do not want to teach such things to their own people and because the rich Filipinos have cooperated with them the most.

The exiles return

General MacArthur not only took important members of the Commonwealth government into Leyte with him, but he handed over civil authority as fast as possible. President Sergio Osmeña took over the civil administration within a week of landing.

One of the first things Osmeña did was to make Ruperto Kangleon, leader of the resistance movement, Governor of Leyte. This appointment showed a realistic and coöperative approach to a problem which has concerned the Commonwealth authorities in Washington so long — that of how officials elected before the occupation and resident in another country would be received by those who stayed to fight it out.

If these relations between patriot forces and returning officials work out well, some of the credit goes to the Americans and Filipinos in the field who kept up constant communication. Part of it should go to the short-wave radio broadcasts from San Francisco which kept the Filipino guerrillas well informed of the doings of the Commonwealth government in Washington as well as of the general progress of the war. According to men returning from Leyte, American broadcasts did much to give the resistance movement a true picture of the war.

If Governor Kangleon is typical of guerrilla leaders, they are of high quality. He had served for nearly thirty years in the Filipino constabulary and army. When MacArthur returned, Kangleon had four thousand men under his command. He gave the American forces, of whose coming he had been warned, invaluable information and cooperated magnificently on invasion day.

The Filipinos clean house

The matter of how to deal with the patriots goes hand in hand with the problem of collaboration. The attitude of the patriot forces is naturally strongly anti-collaborationist: the patriots tend to think of everyone who stayed in the towns as a collaborationist, and prefer to shoot all prominent officials first and ask questions later. So far it seems that President Osmeña is prepared to deal with collaborationists by due process of law administered by Filipinos.

Among the many officials on Leyte who had worked for the Japanese and were jailed by Osmeña’s orders was Bernardo Torres, the former Governor of Leyte. Osmeña set up a board under the chairmanship of General Basilio Valdes, Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army, who returned to the islands with him. Persons accused of disloyalty are given a prompt and open hearing, with counsel provided if necessary. Local residents may prefer charges. The board is not a summary court. It reports findings to President Osmeña. If the evidence is obviously too scanty, cases can be dismissed, but otherwise the general practice will be to wait for the revival of Filipino courts and accumulation of written evidence. Many accused of collaboration will have written records of their assistance to the guerrillas.

The Commonwealth government is apparently impressed, according to statements by General Romulo, with the “excesses committed against alleged collaborationists” in Europe. Certainly it is important that any action should come only as the result of due process of law. But President Osmeña wall have to convince the patriots that legal procedure will not be misused to screen traitors from justice.

The democratic character of the Filipino people will be tested in many other ways. It is a difficult task to clean up after the Japanese. Not least among the difficulties is that of securing conviction for collaboration with the enemy under the Commonwealth government’s penal code. (Confession or the testimony of two witnesses to an overt act is necessary to prove a charge of treason.) There will be many defenses such as that of Torres, who claimed to have been serving the best interests of his countrymen as well as to have been acting on the advice of an American Army man.

The currency situation is chaotic, with Japanese military scrip, pre-war American and Filipino notes, and guerrilla scrip all in circulation. A new Philippine victory issue, printed at the Bureau of Engraving a few weeks before the landings, has been issued. But nothing can be done without the coöperation of the people. The health of the Filipinos in some areas has deteriorated to an alarming extent because of the limited and unvaried diet.

In spite of everything, new towns are developing where old ones have been destroyed, and public services are coming back into shape. The support given to the liberating forces is already evidence enough, when taken with the history of the resistance movement, to dispel all doubts that the Filipino people are well able to govern themselves. No people has had a better test of its political maturity.

The strength of truth

There is another thing which we have been able to test through our return to the Philippines — the importance, in our propaganda, of the strategy of truth. According to all available reports, there is every reason to believe that we have established and maintained our credibility in the Philippines. Even Tokyo, in fact, seems to have given us favorable mention on this score. When the Voice of Freedom station began broadcasting from Leyte, the Japanese immediately imposed the severest penalties on listeners. According to Asahi, a Tokyo newspaper, American propaganda warfare in the Philippines is “extremely realistic and there is an aura of truth and credibility surrounding it.” Other Japanese papers reveal a real concern over the volume of accurate reporting of the fighting. Truth in the news is the chief weapon in our propaganda.

B-29’s speak Japanese

The great air task forces which now have the whole of Japan within their reach and have bombed military objectives in Tokyo itself bring the war to a new phase. The Japanese home front, for the first time, is a combat area. We are not so clear about what we should say to the Japanese people when we reach them as we are about what we should say to the German people.

We have been able to reach the Germans by mediumwave radio and by leaflets to the tune of 600 million a month. We have interrogated thousands of prisoners and have almost immediate access to German newspapers. We feel that we know the Germans, how to talk to them, and how they will react. But what shall we say to the Japanese handicraftsman, war plant worker, housewife, and farmer?

Bombs themselves will do much. They will destroy to some degree the myth of invincibility and affront the divinity of the Emperor in his own back yard. We shall want to know, however, whether or not the Japanese people will blame both the Emperor and the militarists for the coming defeat or whether the Emperor will remain above the whole business. For the time being it seems wise, contrary to the views expressed by one Chinese newspaper, to avoid bombing him and his palace. Such an act would provide excellent propaganda ammunition to the Japanese, which they would use to intensify their line that Americans are barbarians.

As the raids increase, the Japanese people will certainly be forced to recognize the gigantic hoax which the militarists have put over them in the handling of the news. This may produce confusion of thought, panic, and despair, but it is hardly likely to produce anything in the way of a popular movement against the militarists. Those of us who live in democratic countries are always tempted to underestimate what can be done by rigid control of thought. There is no way of making any serious change in the thinking of members of totalitarian states without breaking down the state controls.

We know how these controls work. Japanese civilians on Saipan were often willing to surrender, but a few soldiers could terrorize hundreds of civilians into suicide or at least into refusal to come out. When Japanese soldiers are separated from their officers, they are much more likely to surrender if appealed to in the right way; and when they have surrendered, they are very malleable material. In fact, most Japanese prisoners want to come to America and settle down on a piece of land. If we could promise them land and settlement in the South Seas after the war, we might undermine Japanese troop morale to some extent.

Chinese Communists claim great success with prisoners they have indoctrinated and then freed. But it is a different matter to influence Japanese still under police supervision or officer control to take decisive political action against their overlords. Have we any program in mind? Have we any conception of what sort of Japan will be permitted to survive after defeat? The idea of military government for the Japanese is fantastic. But if military government is impracticable, how can Japan govern herself and under what sort of leadership?

It is easier to ask than to answer these questions. But if we do not have a well-thought-out and publicly supported policy on these issues, we shall find ourselves two moves behind our present and potential allies when it comes to dealing with Japan.

Who shall rule a conquered Japan?

The Chinese, who have been directly exposed to Japanese propaganda in a way that we have never known, are usually in favor of encouraging revolution in Japan. They feel that the whole rotten and archaic structure of the Emperor cult and institution must go if there is to be any healthy life in Japan. The Chinese are probably much more ready than are we to accept a renovated Japan into the family of nations.

We seem much less willing than the Chinese to take the risk of revolutionary change in Japan, and also less willing to face up to the problem of the livelihood of 70 million Japanese after they are defeated. The Cairo Conference is no solution of the Japanese problem. When the Empire has been removed, the armies disbanded, and the war factories destroyed, what shall we do?

We prefer not to think of such matters. We cannot see how a defeated totalitarian state can contain the seeds for its own rebirth into a peaceful democratic society, and yet we recoil at the thought of completely re-educating a misdirected people. Japan poses much more difficult questions than does Germany. Public attitudes grow slowly. It is not too early to give serious thought to Japan in defeat.