The Pacific War


JAPAN’S long succession of defeats in the Pacific has had more impact on her High Command than fear of Russian participation in the war or Germany’s collapse. They are more concerned with meeting present dangers than dismayed by the prospect of new accessions of strength to Japan’s enemies.

The increase in the scale and the weight of our strategic bombing of Japan’s industrial and military centers has not only produced great physical damage; it has heightened tensions, compelled widespread evacuation and decentralization, and made the significance of our victories in the Pacific an unconcealable reality to every Japanese. The failure of the Imperial Navy to prevent attacks by our fleet on Japan’s home bases, and our presence on Iwo and Okinawa, have created fears that an invasion of the homeland may come at any moment.

Japan’s military rulers have long been certain of Germany’s eventual defeat. They have made their calculations with this certainty in mind. Except in so far as she engaged Allied strength, Germany ceased to be an effective ally once we assumed the offensive against her.

Japanese propagandists have been steadily preparing their people to fight alone, presenting Allied successes against the Germans with considerable accuracy, admitting Japan’s isolation from her ally, and attempting to induce a “siege mentality.” The certainty of Germany’s defeat had as its corollary the threat of possible Soviet action. Russia’s denunciation of her Neutrality Pact, with Japan did not increase her freedom to act against Japan, but it does increase her freedom of action in relation to her allies. The orientation of Japan’s defensive strategy has not changed; the safeguarding of her continental base and its communications is still a primary objective. The disturbed mood of the Japanese people is a reaction to immediate military disasters. The formation of a new political party and the resignation of the Koiso Cabinet may reflect a demand for change, but they do not weaken totalitarian control or mean a less vigorous prosecution of the war. More drastic measures for regimentation and mobilization have been instituted, and the urgency of the national crisis is being exploited to tighten the government’s hold on the people.

Japan’s next-to-last Cabinet?

The Suzuki Cabinet is neither a weak Cabinet nor a peace Cabinet. Its strength derives from the fact that it attaches to the government more closely the sanctions and prestige of the Imperial institution and the traditional sources of Japanese nationalism.

Admiral Baron Kantaro Suzuki, although he was once attacked by the “Young Officers,” has not been out of politics. As a member of the Privy Council since 1929 and its president since 1944, he has enjoyed a central position among the strongest elements in Japanese political life.

General Korechika Anami, the War Minister, is a strong Army man; even more significant are the appointments of men like Field Marshals Hata and Sugiyama to top Army commands. General Kenji Doihara, the cunning and ruthless “Lawrence of Manchuria,” leaves an assignment that has never been made public to assume the post of Inspector General of Military Education, which, despite its innocuous title, is one of the three key positions in Japan’s military administration.

The Home Ministry becomes increasingly important as the war progresses, since it is charged with the exercise of wide police functions. From what little is known of him, the new Minister, Genki Abe, is a formidable figure whose long professional career as a police administrator fits him to keep the home front in order.

The new political party, “The Great Japan Political Association,” which replaces the old “Imperial Rule Assistance Political Society,” does not augur a shift of power in Japan. The new party’s president, General Jiro Minami, was War Minister in 1931, the time of the Mukden Incident that launched Japan on her aggression in Manchuria. Well before that he was a bitter foe of disarmament and a proponent of mechanized forces and large Army budgets. He identified the interests of the nation with those of the Army, and stressed the political and economic relation of Manchuria and Mongolia to Japan’s national defense. On excellent terms with the Army, he is also on excellent terms with such men as Yoshisuke Aikawa, chief of the powerful Nissan combine, which was created to exploit Manchuria.


The most violent advocates of Japanese imperialism must know they have lost the war; but like the leaders of the Nazi Party, they have nothing to gain from a negotiated peace and prefer to continue the war to an annihilationist conclusion. We are committed to destroy Japanese militarism and its gains, and the wealth and hopes of the “Young Industrialists,” of whom Aikawa is typical, are inextricably associated with them.

But there also exist in Japan elements, including such long-established powers as the Mitsubishi, whose interests are those of the state though not the interests of the people or a party. They are neither liberal nor moderate. Their strength derives from the matured totalitarian structure of the Japanese social order, from an economic system that permits their domination of 70 million Japanese. This group, too, knows that Japan has lost the war; but a bloody and protracted struggle that might make us willing to offer a compromise peace presents them with the hope of salvaging something from defeat. At the moment they support continued resistance, and welcome all efforts to prepare the Japanese for a last-ditch fight.

Will they cease to support the policies of the present Cabinet as war destroys the sources of economic strength at home and threatens to work changes in Japan’s social structure? If such a cleavage should occur, we must not mistake it for the overthrow or renunciation of militarism. This latter group is inseparable from the feudal militarism that has characterized Japan for so many centuries. They have fostered the basic institutions that are its foundations, although they have been sometimes hesitant in supporting its adventures abroad, and will surely be reluctant to follow it to the destruction of the bases of their power.

Patience in the Pacific

We shall need much wisdom to achieve our political objectives in the Pacific, where they have been presented even less clearly than in Europe. Victory in Europe may change our attitude toward the Pacific war. We are likely to be more vulnerable to hasty thinking, to accept the end of fighting as the end for which we fight; and the cost of war will seem greater as the prospect of peace grows clearer.

Some who do not trust the emotional ability of the nation to continue the struggle, who fear a letdown after Germany’s defeat, have muddied our view of the enemy and our objectives by proclaiming that the Japanese are creatures apart, that they are bestial and subhuman opponents whose motives and attributes are mysterious and unknowable. The effort to maintain our willingness to fight by atrocity stories, by viewing Japanese conduct of the war as stemming from racial barbarity or exotic peculiarity, obscures the salient fact that it is totalitarian militarism and aggression we are fighting in the Far East as well as in Germany.

The fate of Manila was not basically different from the fate of Warsaw or Rotterdam; Nanking should be recalled in the same way as the cities of Spain and Abyssinia. Atrocities cannot be evaluated in a vacuum. We must be mature enough to fight the war on a political, not an emotional, basis.

Well done, Navy

Our statesmanship will have to be superb if it is to equal the influence of our sea power upon history. The tempo of our advance in the Pacific threatens to outdistance our political thinking.

Fleet Admiral King’s Second Report is the story of a remarkable year in naval history, in which we won domination over the world’s greatest ocean, took part in the invasion of the European continent, and developed the techniques of amphibious assault capable of putting our forces ashore almost anywhere we choose. It was a period of sustained offensive actions, which were often carried on simultaneously over enormous distances.

Fast carrier task forces performed the triple functions of destroying enemy shipping, providing direct and indirect support to landing operations, and participating in the pattern of strategic bombing of the enemy’s homeland. Sea-borne air power successfully challenged land-based planes. The theory that shore defenses enjoyed an overwhelming superiority over attacking fleets was exploded. Especially notable has been the use of naval gunfire, both to silence shore defenses in preparations for landings and to give continuing close support to advancing troops.

The audacious and imaginative deployment of our naval strength has involved considerable risk and some losses. But as Admiral King points out, “the risk of so exposing ships is justifiable, if the object sought is sufficiently important, more especially when command of the sea is not in jeopardy. . . . The new applications of naval gunfire in amphibious operations, as well as in fleet actions, have demonstrated that the battleship is a versatile and essential vessel, far from obsolete.”In this work we have made full use of our older battleships, permitting our newer ships to accompany and protect fast carriers.

Navy’s flying wedge

These flexible applications of sea power beyond the orthodox view of its mission, along with development of supply organizations that accompany the fleet and give it range and sea-keeping ability, have changed the character of naval warfare. The question of future Pacific bases must be viewed in the light of this change.

Positions in the Ryukyus increase our amphibious threat to both Japan’s homeland and the China coast, and bring even the Korean peninsula within the possible radius of such action. But until we have carried further the destruction of Japan’s war machine by strategic bombing, and until we can accumulate in the Pacific materiel and ground forces on a scale far greater than we have so far deployed there, the Ryukyus are chiefly valuable as they further the process of driving a wedge between Japan and her continental holdings. To defeat Japan’s armies on the continent or to defeat them in Japan proper, it will first be necessary to cut communications between them.

Our new position in the Ryukyu chain gives us control of the traditional route of sea commerce between Japan and China. We are reducing Japan’s once extensive sea traffic from Shanghai southward to a kind of blockade-running. To complete the isolation of Japan we shall have to dominate the Yellow Sea, the Strait of Tsushima, and the Sea of Japan, and deny her the warmaking resources of North China and Manchuria, just as we are cutting her access to the southern regions.

Japan, according to Secretary Forrestal, still has an army of about seventy combat divisions. If we include depot or service divisions and puppet troops, the total of Japanese ground forces would probably come to around five million; she will probably be able to increase that number considerably. Some idea of the magnitude of the military tasks ahead of us can be drawn from the fact that 60,000 Marines were put ashore at Iwo Jima by a naval force of over eight hundred vessels manned by some 220,000 Navy personnel; fourteen hundred ships supported the landing of the Tenth Army in the Ryukyus.

The communications of Japan’s armies on the mainland of Asia are vulnerable from air attack from two directions: from the Fourteenth Air Force in Northwest China and from Ryukyu and Philippine bases. As the Fourteenth has been forced to relinquish its advanced bases by Japan’s drives in China, many of its missions have been taken over by air forces operating from newly won bases in the Pacific.

Japan on the mainland

Japan still has opportunities for offensive movements in China. She no longer can hope to knock China out of the war or consolidate her territorial gains, but she can force the dissipation of China’s painfully accumulated military potential and push back our air bases. Her campaigns also serve to sharpen China’s political and economic problems; they supply victories to help offset Pacific defeats; they strengthen her against attack from the mainland.

China’s most pressing military problem is transportation. Her weak internal communications are as great a handicap to her military effectiveness as her comparative isolation. The Stilwell Road opens a crack in the land blockade of China. One of the deputy directors of China’s newly created War Transport Board, Major General McClure, describes some of the difficulties to be met: “Not only is there a lack of motor vehicles, adequate roads, maintenance facilities, trained drivers, and engineering aid for construction, but there is also a lack of proper organization so that what facilities are available can be effectively used in the war effort.”

He goes on to say: “We are currently engaged in training, equipping, and supplying many divisions of the Chinese armed forces scattered throughout Free China. The amount of food, clothing, ammunition, and other supplies required for these fighting men is immense, and for the most part they must be carried by the motor vehicles now in China.” Airfields, too, must be largely supplied with gasoline, bombs, and plane parts by truck.

The part China will play in the final defeat of Japan will involve political as well as military decisions by both China and her allies. As victory approaches, past military contributions to the defeat of the enemy tend to be forgotten. Some Chinese would like to build up a large army, and not use it. China’s part in the war will be judged not purely by her record of long resistance; it will be judged as well by the strength of her finish, and what she does with her army.