The Pacific War


WE ARE hitting right across the middle of the extended Japanese Empire and forcing Japan into a position where she must choose between defending a small inner circle and trying to hold every place we decide to attack. The strategy forcing Japan to make this decision is composed of many elements.

The largely unadvertised and often forgotten submarine and air campaign against Japanese shipping, which has lopped off some three million tons of shipping, did much to prevent, even in the early days, the full exploitation by Japan of her newly won empire. To this attrition of the merchant fleet must now be added unquestioned naval supremacy — a supremacy reinforced by the addition of two British fleets to the navies opposing Japan.

Our advance across the waistline of the Philippines made it clear that the ultimate outcome of the Battle of the Philippines was no longer in doubt. It also increased the chances that the Japanese armies in the Southwest Pacific and Southeast Asia might be cut off from direct sea communication with the homeland. Add to this the ever growing weight of our strategic bombing attacks on the Japanese mainland and in sum you have an offensive which has thrown the Japanese High Command off balance.

The dilemma for the Japanese is difficult indeed. Vast numbers of men and large stores of equipment were transported at great expense to the outlying parts of her empire. This empire had great vitality. Only half a year ago a dangerous offensive against India’s northeastern provinces almost succeeded. But now the supplying of these garrisons by sea becomes more and more costly. These possessions were won by sea power, and by sea power they must be defended. But if they are defended, Japan exposes her ships, both merchant and combat, to costly attrition. If the outposts are not supplied they do not provide raw materials, and must wither on the vine.

The case of Southeast Asia is somewhat different, perhaps, from that of the Netherlands East Indies and the Pacific islands, which depend entirely on sea communications. It is a tribute to Japan’s foresight in anticipating the Pacific offensive that every effort was made to cut China into two sections and to complete the north-south rail connection of which Tokyo now boasts, though somewhat prematurely.

Japan’s success in China

There is no question that Japanese successes in China have made the reconquest of the Asiatic mainland much more difficult than it might have been. The Japanese, anticipating the ultimate success of MacArthur and Nimitz, removed all hope that AmericanChinese forces would strike from West China to the seacoast to make our landings easier.

The importance of the offensive in China and the possible establishment of north-south rail communications must not be underestimated. We can look forward, during the course of the year, to making the sea lanes from Tokyo to Southeast Asia far too dangerous to use. We can expect to recapture Singapore and Hong Kong and Formosa. But to rob the Japanese of their land line through Korea and China to the south we must either fight costly land battles up and down continental Asia or cut Japanese traffic across the Strait of Tsushima between Japan and Korea.

When we have knocked out Japan as a naval power, a task which Admiral Nimitz considers far from accomplished, we must still dispose of her as a continental power. If the Japanese defend every land bastion the way they defended Myitkyina in Burma, we shall have a long and arduous task in front of us — a task which the Japanese undoubtedly hope will not be supported in America.

The success of the Japanese land offensive in China has been tempered by the American political offensive in that same country. The Japanese answered our naval offensive by a continental land offensive, and we have countered by coöperating with the Chungking government in every possible way. Our objectives in China coincide largely with those of the Chinese themselves. We want a full mobilization of China’s human and material resources in the war against Japan.

In time of war we are ready to support almost anyone who is willing and able to fight the common enemy. Therefore we were impatient of political obstacles to military collaboration with the Communists, who, according to all reports, were fighting with vigor against the Japanese. The Japanese offensive undoubtedly assisted American diplomacy in China by heightening the sense of urgency and bringing military affairs to a head. Those who had carried the ball in American diplomacy, Ambassador Gauss and General Stilwell, had to be sacrificed, for they had had to do the unpleasant things. But we should not underestimate the contribution which Stilwell’s costly Burma offensive made to the morale of the Chinese people and government. Without the determined effort to accomplish the impossible — the opening of the Ledo and Burma Roads — the situation in China would have been desperate.

The changes in the Chinese government have not yet affected radically the course of the war or of Chinese politics, but they have at least made it possible for things to move. Ambassador Hurley and General Wedemeyer have a greater opportunity to build up a basis for American Chinese coöperation than any of their predecessors. The Chinese scene has undergone no great changes, but the cumulative effect of many small ones has been to bring about something of a change in the political climate.

Russia’s criticism

The Russians, it is true, are openly skeptical of the value of the cabinet shifts and other moves in China. Izvestia repeats the charge that large forces are tied up watching the Communists, and says that the influence of reactionary elements still splits the forces of national unity. The alleged military success of the Chinese Communists is contrasted with the defeats suffered by the National Government. It is argued that Chungking is the chief obstacle to unity.

These views are not necessarily to be taken at their face value. Russia’s criticism of the Chungking government and her unofficial support of the Communists may well be connected with such events in Europe as the struggle over the future of Poland. When the Russians want to exert pressure, they put it on all over the world and on almost every level. They do not necessarily want to create a TitoMikhailovitch situation in China. But at a time when they are backing their Lublin Committee for Poland they are not likely to weaken their case by neglecting their friends in China. Certainly the pattern of reconstruction built up in Europe between Russia and her allies is going to be taken as a precedent in the Far East.

In this sense the Chungking-Communist relation is the most important factor in Russian, Chinese, and American relations. If it is handled successfully, there can be established a pattern for Russo-American coöperation in the Far East. If it is mishandled, the consequences are likely to be serious.

China stays in the ring

In spite of Russian criticism, we can point to certain changes in China. For one thing, Wang Shih-chieh, the new Minister of Information, came out with a frank statement that China must contribute most of the land forces in the campaign against the Japanese and must fend for herself while doing everything necessary to make American coöperation possible. This marks a change to a more aggressive spirit.

Generalissimo Chiang’s New Year promises of constitutional progress within the current year were hedged with the suggestion that they would be contingent on a successful counteroffensive. Democracy is the reward, as it were, for success in battle. This is not much of a step forward even in words, but at least it differs from previous promises of constitutional government within a year after the close of hostilities. More tangible is the student movement to join the Army. The Army was not ready to receive these volunteers, but their enthusiasm is the nearest approach that Kuomintang China has made towards a revival of the old spirit of the revolution.

Moreover the Chinese WPB, assisted by Donald Nelson, is now making for increased production. The Myitkyina airfield makes the crossing of the Hump much easier and safer than ever before. It is rarely necessary to climb more than 10,000 feet during the flight. Much more matériel is going into China now and it is being more intelligently used. Many Chinese are coming to this country for training in technical as well as in military subjects. Kuomintang China has an eleventh-hour chance to ensure its survival.

China and France

The parallel is far from being exact, but it is useful to think of the Chinese situation as having the same elements as the European. The relation of Chungking to Yenan is similar to that between the French who fought the war from outside metropolitan France and the resistance movement inside the country. The Communists operate for the most part behind enemy lines. They feel that they have shown their capacity not only to fight the enemy but also to govern themselves efficiently.

The Communist press has long been critical of Chungking, and Communist negotiators have demanded better and better terms for their incorporation into Kuomintang China. They are in a strong position to enforce those terms, and they are going to be as uncompromising with their own people as they have been with the enemy. They know that we need their assistance, too, and that in time of war we shall not look too closely at political ideologies so long as there is willingness to coöperate against the Japanese. Japanese reports of secret American air bases in North China indicate a certain degree of coöperation already.

Our diplomacy in the Far East is at least freer than it is in Europe, for the very good reason that there is no Thai, Chinese, Annamese, Burmese, or Japanese vote of any consequence in the United States. But the American people should be watching our diplomatic task in China far more closely than they are. We shall fail in China if we do not aid the revolution which is going on in that country and so help to build a bridge between ourselves and the Soviet Union. This is a task for the highest statesmanship.

Liberation of the Philippines

The future of the Filipino people hangs on the outcome of issues similar to those in China. Here the return of a government-in-exile more closely parallels what has happened in Europe. We are not too well informed about what we found in Leyte after the conquest — wherein Japanese propaganda was successful and wherein it failed. We have not had full information on the reception accorded the Commonwealth Government, but it is clear that there has been a very intelligent attempt on the part of that government to make necessary adjustments.

The best publicity for the resistance forces comes from one of the leaders of the Commonwealth Government, Brigadier General Carlos P. Romulo. Like President Osmeña, he belongs to the richer elements in the Philippines and had every reason to watch anxiously the social and political attitudes of the resistance movement. But being a realist in politics he saw that, any adjustment between the Commonwealth Government and the Filipino patriot must include a broadening of the base of political rule. This approach has succeeded on Leyte and may well succeed over alt the Islands unless forces are discovered more radical than any which have as yet. appeared.

The comforting assurances which Japan’s leaders have given their people about the inner security and solidarity of the Co-prosperity Sphere are patently false. Judging from their broadcasts, which treat the Philippine campaign as vital for Japan, it would seem that the Japanese High Command has already written off any hope of saving the situation, but is seeking to draw all the propaganda value possible out of it.

It may be easier for the Japanese to keep control of domestic sentiment by taking the initiative in administering the shock of defeat in the Philippines in large, overpowering doses rather than by letting the news come out slowly and piecemeal. Certainly it is difficult to see how the government can survive such a tragedy without distracting public attention by dramatic moves on the domestic front.

Japan listens to Saipan

The opening of a powerful standard-wave transmitter on Saipan by the OWI is worth several battleships to our side. Nothing can embarrass the exponents of Japanese short-term propaganda so much as credible news — and this, presumably, is what the Japanese people will be getting from Saipan. The Saipan station has been heard clearly in Honolulu, which is twice as far away as Tokyo and is not in the direction of the beam. There must be many in Japan who can listen.

Even more important than standard-wave broadcasts to Japan will be the leaflets which we shall, it is to be hoped, drop in large quantities over the big cities of that land. It will be a long time before Japan is flooded with literature like Germany, where we are dropping hundreds of millions of leaflets a month, but when the time comes the effects will undoubtedly be tremendous.

The long task of breaking Japan’s will to fight has just begun. Still in a strong position by virtue of her successful offensive in China, Japan apparently has as much will to continue the struggle as Germany after the tide turned at Stalingrad and El Alamein. Now is the time when all the devices of psychological warfare at our disposal should be thrown into the scales. For there are only two views of the Japanese: that they are not human, and that they are. The first school stresses the mumbo-jumbo of Japanese uniqueness, of Emperor-worship and long indoctrination, of superstitions and strange beliefs. The second school stresses the basic human emotions of love and hate, of fear and hope. If the Japanese are to be treated as human beings, then we should do our best to base our policy and propaganda on that assumption.