The Pacific War


WE ARE ahead of schedule in the Pacific war because we have outfought, outgeneraled, and outproduced the Japanese. The ocean empire of Japan, as distinct from her continental possessions, lies severed and ready for dismemberment before us.

After the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese High Command was thrown back on its heels. The blows suffered by the Japanese fleet and air forces upset the whole basic strategy of Japan’s defense. The enemy is now forced to improvise. It would have been the height of folly for our forces not to follow up this advantage.

It is natural for Europeans to assume that the issue must first be settled in Europe, and that the disposal of the Japanese can wait. The hungry Frenchman, aware of the high standards we still maintain in the Americas, finds it difficult to assuage his hunger by the thought — if it ever occurs to him—that his own security depends as much as ours on the defeat of Japan.

The Pacific, as Mr. Grew has pointed out, swallows ships and planes in vast quantities. But to have diverted these for the relief of hungry Europeans, or for the further supplying of our armies in Europe, at a time when the military opportunities in the Pacific demanded speed and pressure, would have been difficult to justify.

Certainly there can be no large-scale attention to the non-military needs of Europe before the Far Eastern conflict is over. For that matter, the starved and diseased peoples of the Philippines must also be asked to wait in patience. The Chinese have had to watch us put our greatest effort into the struggle in Europe for three years, and they are still far from liberation.

The problems of reconstruction are as global as those of war. It is hard for people who have suffered occupation to discover that liberation does not mean an immediate return to conditions as they were before the war. It is just as hard for Asiatics as for Europeans — and unless we make it clear that we consider the welfare of the Chinese and the Filipinos as important as that of the liberated European peoples, we are in for trouble.

Race hatred

We must also face the matter of our attitude toward racial discrimination. Our feeling against the Japanese is partly due to the fact that they themselves have a strong sense of racial superiority. In the Philippines they not only committed atrocities against us, but they tried to pillory us as a race-proud people before the Filipinos.

If they had stopped there, the situation might now be different. They found Americans and Filipinos fighting side by side as equals, and when the Filipinos continued to resist, the Japanese made the mistake of treating white and brown men alike. Naturally the Filipinos stuck by us.

We have allowed Japanese propaganda about the racial issue to put us on the defensive. But actually our shortcomings in this matter are generally admitted to be deviations from the accepted standard of our national behavior. Surely it is against the doctrine of race superiority that we are fighting. We have no smoke screen comparable to “Asia for the Asiatics.”

The Japanese soldier

Our treatment of captured Japanese gives the lie to the Japanese charge that Americans are beasts and are intent on enslaving peoples they conquer.

Those who are impatient with our good treatment of German and Japanese prisoners would do well to think of its importance in terms of saving American lives. The more the enemy can be persuaded that surrender means good treatment, the more likely he will be to surrender. The more he is persuaded — as the Germans and the Japanese wish their troops and civilians to be persuaded — that Americans do not treat their prisoners well, the more American lives will be wasted in blasting him out.

The one thing that causes the Japanese soldier to hesitate about surrender is fear — plain, stark, human fear, fear of being tortured and put to death. Years of indoctrination have not destroyed his will to live. The German surrenders because he knows his conqueror’s way of life and ethical standards: in spite of Nazi indoctrination, he now believes that, prisoners are well treated. But the Japanese, the product of a hot-house system, suckled on xenophobia and implicated, if he is a soldier, in atrocities against the enemy, by forced participation, is ignorant of the world.

The first tenet of Japanese propaganda is that the Japanese soldier does not surrender. Yet the more we learn about the Japanese soldier, the more human he seems. The much vaunted Japanese discipline is far from being perfect. Troops do not always rush into banzai charges when they are ordered to do so. They are critical of their High Command and are often fiercely antagonistic towards their officers, who frequently desert them.

We sometimes forget that a number of Japanese officers openly mutinied in Tokyo in 1936. The corruption of Japanese troops in China is common knowledge. The larger corruption by which top Japanese generals of good family make fortunes out of war and preparations for war is part of the social and political system. The whole military system is full of potential cleavages.

The view we take of the Japanese determines our military and political strategy. Much of the success of MacArthur’s campaign in the Philippines came through his brilliant use of propaganda, which helped him to secure the assistance of the Filipinos and to confuse and outwit the enemy. He dealt with Yamashita as a human and fallible general; he flooded the Japanese and the Filipinos with leaflets and set up the Voice of Freedom wherever he went. There may be some connection between these things and the relatively small losses he suffered.

We have made it clear that Japanese militarism is going to be destroyed and that the Japanese Empire will be dismembered and war criminals punished. The warmaking potential of Japan will be controlled in the same way, probably, as Germany’s.

All this is excellent and necessary, but it gives us no weapons with which to lessen Japan’s will to resist. Is there no group in Japan to whom we could offer hopes and rewards in order to make more difficult the frantic efforts of the militarists to keep their hold on the country? These questions are very important if the Russians are joining in the war against Japan.

Russian entry into the war would probably mean heavy support for Okano and his Japanese Emancipation League in Yenan, the capital of Communist China. The Russians would not only say that they are fighting Japanese militarism. They would undoubtedly take advantage of the weaknesses in the Japanese economic system by offering concrete inducements to Japanese workers and peasants. Okano has always asserted that China has no quarrel with the Japanese people, the victims of Japanese militarism. According to observers, this theme has had marked success in converting many Japanese prisoners of war to Okano’s way of thinking.

The meaning of liberation

From every point of view this is the time for a reexamination of our political purposes in Asia. We have in the Philippines a platform from which we can make those purposes clear. The Filipino people have certainly had few doubts, up till now, of the meaning of their resistance to the Japanese. The famous letter of Tomas Confessor, Governor of the Island of Panay, dated February 20, 1943, is the best statement of the reasons why the struggle was continued: —

“This is a total war, in which the issues between the warring parties are less concerned with territorial questions but more with forms of government, ways of life, and those things that affect even the very thoughts, feelings, and sentiments of every man. In other words, the question at stake with respect to the Philippines is not whether Japan or the United States would possess them, but more fundamentally it is: What system of government should stand here and what . . . code of morals should govern our existence? . . . If our people are undergoing hardships and are doing it gladly, it is because we are willing to pay the price of those constitutional liberties. . . . I will not surrender as long as I can stand on my feet.”

A continuing responsibility

The Filipinos fought for their freedom as valiantly as any people in Europe. Our own attitude towards that freedom is now being fully discussed in Congress and elsewhere. The issue can be stated in a simplified form: Shall we recognize full political independence for the Philippines in August this year as President Osmeña has demanded? If so, shall we then wipe our hands of all responsibility for their economic future, which, without our aid, would be bleak indeed?

The course we are going to take will be watched very carefully by our allies in Europe and Asia. If we agree to political independence without economic concessions, the Filipinos will suffer. This would discourage nationalist movements all over colonial Asia and do much to discredit the widely advertised disinterestedness of our political intentions towards the Philippines. If we agree to economic concessions but delay or limit political independence, we shall be accused of bad faith. Such an accusation would undermine a good deal of our political prestige in Asia.

We have to remember, in making this decision, that the Filipino expects the United States to carry out what he feels to be an elementary responsibility — the restoration of the material losses suffered in the fighting. After all, we were responsible for Philippine defense at the time of the Japanese invasion.

The Commonwealth Government needs an early clarification of its status. It has the task of restoring law and order among a population much of which has learned to take care of itself and much of which is armed. It is a difficult task and one which President Osmeña is wisely undertaking with the assistance of the resistance movement leaders such as Tomas Confessor.

But if President Osmeña cannot produce American support, his internal position will suffer and the political future of the present Commonwealth Government will suffer also. The fact that General MacArthur kept his promise is now a great political asset. Let us hope that we do not destroy it by economic shortsightedness.

Air power and Japan

The fight of the Filipinos for their freedom and the assistance they gave our forces are two reasons why we are ahead of schedule in the Pacific. There are other reasons which come closer home. The most important of these is the extraordinary development of techniques of triphibious warfare, that highly specialized combination of land, sea, and air power. When we think of that modern centaur of air and naval power, the carrier task force, or of the flying artillery which paces our ground forces, it seems artificial to separate air power from its sister services.

General Arnold’s second Report on the Army Air Forces will remain among the most dramatic documents of the war. The record is truly American in its interlocking of technical progress and human courage and ingenuity.

The conquest of distance was even more important, early in 1944, than the conquest of difficulties of supply, climate, and equipment allocation. The Seventh Air Force alone, operating in the Central Pacific, had to cover an area five times that of the United States. In one year it shortened the distance between its forward bases and Tokyo from 3467 to 1267 nautical miles.

The principles, or formulas, underlying our air operations were simple: “First, eliminate or neutralize the enemy’s air forces. Second, isolate a battle area of our own choice, cutting enemy supply and communications lines — a process we call interdictions. Third, coöperate in the closest possible ways with our attacking ground or amphibious troops.”

The Arnold report includes the accomplishments, missions, and problems of all our Air Forces, including the Twentieth, the global air force. The Fourteenth Air Force in one year claims 640,900 tons of Japanese shipping sunk, 237,050 tons probably sunk, and 396,950 tons damaged. From May to October the Tenth Air Force carried nearly 100,000 tons of supplies to North Burma. More than 75,000 men were flown in, and over 10,000 casualties were evacuated. During the eighty days that Imphal was cut off, we flew in 28,120 tons of supplies and 61,000 men.

The report brings out with remarkable clarity the dependence of air power upon the civilian economy, upon science, invention, research. Psychological tests for airmen, aviation medicine, new types of aluminum runways, flak suits, mobile weather stations, radar, the extraordinary one-day, ten-day, and thirty-day compacs — all these are part of what is really a combat story. To produce and to keep one airplane in the air, to keep on improving it, and to use it to the best advantage — this requires more than a certain number of men: it requires a certain type of society.

Carrier-based raids to the doors of the Imperial Palace combined with B-29 attacks raise the question whether Japan’s land-based aircraft can protect the vital centers of her industry from our bombs. Air power maintains the isolation of hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops all over the Pacific — on islands which make useful practice targets for new airmen.

Air power is denying rich raw materials to the Japanese homeland. The landing on Palawan helped to restrict Japan’s access to the oil fields of Balikpapan and Tarakan. Oil installations in Borneo have come in for heavy poundings. These shallow wells produce oil which can be pumped straight into warships and which, in our hands, would release for other purposes much shipping now tied up in transporting oil from the States. There is no place the Japanese can go to escape our bombs. Like the Fortress of Europe, the inner zone of Japan’s defenses has no roof.