The Pacific War


THE campaign in the Philippines is a military classic in conception and execution —a beautiful example of teamwork between all branches of the armed forces, between the Allies, and above all between the liberating forces and those about to be liberated. A great unassimilated portion of the Coprosperity Sphere — the political, strategic, and communications heart of Japan’s Pacific empire —fell readily into our hands.

The importance of the Philippines to the war against Japan is clear. From this base a final campaign can spread its tentacles in many directions, all of them ultimately leading to Tokyo. We are already making the China Sea too dangerous for use.

We have added to our ranks millions of allies and have knocked the bottom out of Japan’s propaganda about “Asia for the Asiatics.” The Japanese exploited, but did not develop, the rich economic resources of the Islands. They have left the Commonwealth Government serious economic problems, but the great fact for the Philippines is liberation.

Two jumps ahead

The Pacific war is usually thought of as a long haul, but only those who know the Pacific can appreciate the fantastic rate at which we are gaining control of its waters. What must the Japanese think of the 1800-mile jump from Tarawa and Makin to the Marianas? This was followed by the 1600-mile leap from New Britain to the Philippines. Long before we reached the outskirts of Manila, our task forces had spread devastation in the China Sea, part of Japan’s basic sea area. Yet Americans at home take this superb accomplishment for granted.

The Japanese radio is not so complacent about it as we are. “The enemy has come pressing upon us, skipping three or four steps in one jump, for the step-by-step method was not speedy enough for him.” The element of speed is the thing that has upset Japan’s plans, confused her war effort, and changed her production priorities. In this sort of warfare vast areas can change hands overnight as the result of changes in the naval power of either side.

For example, the Philippine Islands were really won at the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea when we came to grips with a large part of the Japanese Navy in the actions of Surigao Strait, Samar, and Cape Engano. If those actions had been lost, we might have been thrown back to our bases in Australia and Pearl Harbor.

“On to Tokyo”

Landings on the coast of China have been promised by many of our admirals as well as by General Wedemeyer in Chungking. Admiral Nimitz has said that he thinks the conquest of Japan will involve landings on at least part of Japan proper. It looks as if one of the many roads to Tokyo may well be direct from the Philippines by way of the Bonins, the Kuriles, and the Ryukyu Islands.

We have developed a new fighting technique in the Pacific. Making full use of sea and air superiority, and of our mobility, we seize the strategic points and then outflank, isolate, and immobilize Japanese forces. We use our air force for everything from general bombardment to precise bombings of hillsides to start landslides that block highways.

By this technique we force the Japanese to choose between leaving their forces to be destroyed piecemeal and making costly attempts to reinforce and support them. Yamashita chose to reinforce Leyte — and paid a heavy price for his decision, for he could not stop our leaps to Ormoc, Mindoro, Marinduque, and Lingayen Gulf. This pattern can be repeated in the Japanese archipelago.

Unhappy colonists

A technique such as ours naturally creates its own problems. Between 250,000 and 300,000 Japanese troops have been left behind at Wake, Rabaul, Bougainville, New Guinea, and some of the Marshall Islands. They cannot be ignored. Occasionally they show signs of action, and in any case must be regularly softened up by sea or air bombardment, a task that consumes some of our combat strength.

Apart from the smaller atolls where the soil is not fertile, the Japanese garrisons are surprisingly well fed and supplied. Unless they ultimately surrender, the job of routing them out is likely to be both difficult and expensive.

The campaign in the Philippines also showed that the Japanese Navy is in no shape to supply and defend the Army. It cannot be ready, at one and the same time, to meet fleets of the size of Task Force 58. to undertake amphibious operations, and to convoy ships through the China Sea.

The fleet is still big enough, however, to impede our movements. It has about twelve battleships and various types of aircraft carriers, a sizable number of cruisers, and a large submarine fleet. Destroyers are down about 50 per cent from pre-war strength. The lack of balance is almost as serious a factor as the lack of ships. The fleet is short of cruisers and destroyers at a time when it needs them most, for the sea lanes to the south are vulnerable to attack by ships, carriers, and land-based planes.

Losses of carriers and carrier pilots further unbalance the strength of the Japanese fleet and tend to keep it restricted to land-based air cover. This situation would be less serious if land-based planes had shown themselves able to defend bases from our carrier task forces which they have not. Our task forces can be stopped only by forces which match them, and these the Japanese do not possess.

The condition of the Navy is the crux of the Japanese dilemma. What can the Japanese do with the naval strength remaining to them? Things have gone too far to turn the course of events by a sudden and swift stroke. To support the garrisons now abroad means patrolling the seas from the homeland to Rangoon, from the China coast to the Netherlands Indies.

There is the task of holding such bases as remain and the ever present responsibility for blocking the routes to Tokyo via the Bonins, Ryukyus, and Kuriles. Not to fight for the sea lanes to the south means losing materials, fuel, and large military establishments. It also means loss of prestige — and the difficult job of explaining to the Japanese people a situation which cannot be concealed.

The Japanese people were persuaded into believing that control of the southern regions was essential to their economic and political security. Before Pearl Harbor they believed that the United States and Great Britain were slowly strangling Japan by an economic blockade which could be broken only by force of arms. Loss of control of the sea routes to the southern regions will therefore be a heavy blow to the morale of the Japanese.

They have tried to provide for a land route from North China to Indo-China, Thailand, and Burma. Expecting American attacks on the China coast, they hope to be able to rush reinforcements to the attacked area. In North China above the Yellow River the east-west communications are good, but between that river and the Yangtse they are poor. In Central China there are rivers, roads, and railways, but along the coast, from Shanghai to Canton, east-west communications between the Hankow-Canton railway and the sea are almost negligible.

Where do we go from here?

If it is the American intention to drive inland from the coast when landing in China, the number of places at which we can land will be limited to Central and North China. If it is not the American intention to drive inland, but rather to hold small areas from which to protect other routes to Japan, then we shall land either on strategic islands off the China coast or on parts of the coast having poor communications inland. The Japanese cannot know what we have decided. They must prepare for everything.

The Japanese High Command cannot hope to hold the sea routes to its empire in the south, but it can and probably will make our efforts tedious. The Japanese will be pushed out of the remoter areas, such as Burma, but will cling to the mainland of China, to Indo-China, and to Thailand as long as possible. Already weakened considerably in Burma, they are still forcing on us some of the hardest fighting of the war in difficult country. From an overall strategic point of view, Burma was lost to the Japanese when they lost complete command of the China Sea and when American-Chinese troops crashed through the northern jungles to complete the Ledo Road connection to the Burma Road.

The long struggle in Burma has produced new tactics and innovations and the most diversified fighting forces in the world. These forces have specialized in long-range penetration through the jungles and in the use of air supply and special radio communication. They have drawn heavily on sheer human endurance, in which the Chinese, according to General Stilwell, are surpassed by none. When Mandalay has been restored as a base and the Irrawaddy has been crossed, we shall be in flatter country, where we can use our advantages of mechanized equipment. Then we can expect faster progress.

The Japanese are not safe so long as American and Chinese power exists in Free China. The Ledo Road is not going to work wonders. It will carry less than is brought in by air and will have to serve the campaign in lower Burma, but it does allow heavy equipment to come into China. It would be logical for the Japanese to make further efforts to occupy Kunming, the chief American base, and Chungking, during the next few months. It may now be too late for them to succeed, but the danger is far from over.

Hirohito to the hills?

The final area to be defended by Japan may well be North China, Manchuria, and the home islands. The militarists may split under the extreme pressure of events, but there will probably be enough die-hards to prevent the Japanese government from accepting unconditional surrender.

Americans spend a lot of time discussing what to do with the Japanese Emperor — without taking into account the probability that these extreme groups will take him with them to the mountains, for in him they have the source of all authority. But the Imperial family is so large that we could probably find a substitute Emperor if we so desired.

What the Japanese do about their Emperor is surely the answer to what we should do. If they destroy the Imperial institution, it would be foolish for us to restore it. If they leave it intact, it might be equally foolish for us to destroy it.

New bogey men

A new political strategy fits these military plans. On the domestic front the Japanese people are to be reassured about the Soviet Union, whose alleged aggressive designs were so often used to get the Army Bill through the Diet. The appeal to national security against the alleged imperialist designs of the Anglo-American powers is the main theme, supported lately by large doses of the truth — in spite of the fact that the truth high-lights the tragie mistakes of the militarists in military and political judgment.

The raids of the Superfortresses, at such small cost, combined with our medium-wave broadcasting from Saipan, have made it impossible to conceal the unpleasant facts any longer. The Japanese government therefore is trying to give enough facts to maintain its own credibility and at the same time to whip up national enthusiasm for defense by familiar appeals. One of the most important of these is the advertising of the Suicide Squad, those airmen who are said to dive their planes into American ships.

Then there is the appeal to national sentiment over the American bombing of sacred shrines. The Ise Shrine, which the Japanese claim we bombed, is about the most difficult of targets and must have been hit by accident, if it was hit at all. The Japanese government will probably claim that we have pinpointed all sorts of sacred shrines as time goes on.

The American air raids are causing considerable dislocation of normal life. There is an exodus from the cities to such an extent that permits are now required by those wishing to leave. Air-raid shelters and precautions are inadequate, and promises have been made that more shelters will be built and that steel and concrete buildings will be used as emergency shelters. Confusion breeds rumors to such an extent that one Tokyo newspaper complained: “People who spread rumors are more dangerous than high explosive and incendiary bombs.” This is why Tokyo propagandists now give more of the truth.

The chances of success in the new propaganda technique are high. Facts are likely to produce a realistic mood, to inspire fear, and to induce a desperate resolve to fight to the bitter end. As an outlet for this emotion, there is the suicide unit for some; and for all, there is the sublimation of their own feelings in the contemplation of such suicides. This is sound psychology in Japan.

On the foreign front the change came earlier and the appeals are different. The explanation to the Burmese, Thai, Indonesians, and others is that the Japanese are helping them resist the invading AngloAmerican imperialists. The Japanese Army, they are told, leaves “political independence” behind it for nearly all Asiatic peoples. The government has even talked of making concessions to Korea and Formosa, so long under dictatorial rule.

Men like Koiso and Shigemitsu have been wise enough to anticipate the future by leading this campaign of political retreat. If they can control the extremists, they may attempt to secure a negotiated peace. Any peace that would avoid the complete destruction of Japan’s economic life, leaving her the possibility of rising again, would be the logical conclusion of the present military and political strategy. An offer along these lines is highly probable during the year, perhaps during the next few months. If the extremists secure control of Japan’s government, however, it would be just as logical to expect an attack upon the Soviet Union, for such men would prefer a really first-class funeral.