The Pacific War
ON THE WORLD TODAY
OUR immediate aim in the Far East is to bring to bear against the Nipponese the huge force released by victory in Europe. We have at last created the conditions for its effective use. Our amphibious advance across the Pacific has brought us within reach of the targets against which we can deploy massive land armies. We have denied the enemy access to vital resources, seriously impaired the mobility of his armies, and begun the destruction of his war machine at home. We have knocked out the Japanese Navy as an offensive force, neutralized or stormed Japan’s ocean bastions, and developed the enormous organization that can keep a steady flow of Allied strength toward Asia.
That the war against Japan has been predominantly a naval war so far, despite the scale of action in China, Burma, and the Philippines, is not purely the result of geography and choice. Our early defeats, the initial inadequacy of our merchant shipping, and, above all, the imperative need to halt German advances, combined to make the use of large land armies an impossibility. We were forced into a naval campaign and the strategy of islandand jungle-hopping.
We are closing in
The critical victories in the Owen Stanley Mountains, at Guadalcanal, and at Imphal were fought on Japanese terms and won by daring and courage. The bitter actions that stopped Japan’s advance allowed our naval operations to become more than harassment and diversion, and to develop into a true offensive. Japan can no longer gain time by trading space; the space we win henceforth will speed our military progress, give opportunities to deploy the forces transferred from Europe, and deprive Japan of vital parts of her empire. We are closing in.
Our success in cutting Japan’s sea lanes has meant that great numbers of Japanese troops are in no position to help in the defense of the homeland. According to reasonable estimates, a quarter of a million troops have been by-passed and isolated on Southwest and Central Pacific islands; perhaps another quarter million are scattered through the Netherlands East Indies and Southeast Asia.
The Japanese Army has always enjoyed an abundance of manpower. But it has been spending that commodity with a very lavish hand. The steady losses in the futile defense of island after island have not been small. Some 25,000 Japanese troops were killed on the few square miles of Iwo Jima. Japanese dead on Okinawa in the first thirty days of the battle were almost a thousand a day.
At least ten divisions of Japan’s crack troops were destroyed in the brilliant Burma campaign. And General MacArthur reports around 350,000 Japanese killed or captured in the Philippines. We have no way of knowing how many casualties, by disease and battle, Japan has suffered in her interminable campaign in China. Chinese estimates claim over three million.
Many Japanese garrisons will hang on in the fringes of the Empire, not because they are expendable or — like the German pockets in Europe — deny us positions we need, but because they are immobilized. Japan has not been able to develop an overland artery to offset her loss of the sea lanes through the China Sea and the Strait of Formosa. She controls the route, but has neither direct rail linkage nor uninterrupted use of the China sections.
Japan’s dream pipeline
Major General Chennault has called the SingaporeTokyo land route a ‘’dream pipeline.” One of the Fourteenth Air Force’s major missions has been the destruction of enemy supply and transport in China, now that air power from Philippine and Okinawa bases, and the sea sweeps of our fleet, have taken over the task of destroying Japanese shipping along the coast. They have hammered hard at bridges and rolling stock, at roads, trucks, and even coolie carts. The river steamers and junks with which Japan has been increasingly attempting to supplement her inland transport have taken to traveling largely at night.
The inadequacy of the land transport in Japan’s overseas empire, as well as her loss of shipping, makes the dispersal of her armies a more serious matter for her than it was for Germany, which possessed true interior lines and commanded a welldeveloped road and rail system that allowed strategic shifting of troops even under the battering of air attacks. But Japan can still undertake local offensive actions on the continent, and still has enough shipping to serve the demands of the “Inner Empire,” the Japan-Rorea-Manchuria triangle.
Transfusions for China
We have been destroying the cohesion of Japan’s empire, militarily, by our partial sea and air blockade of Japan proper, by the amputation of some sections, and by cutting inland communications as well as sea supply lines. We have been delivering heavy air blows at the enemy’s homeland. And we have been giving blood transfusions to China, which may enable that country to play a larger role in the final defeat of Japan.
We have trained and equipped a large number of Chinese divisions, which have been sent in support of widely scattered fronts. We have established staff schools, trained pilots, lent economic, agricultural, and petroleum experts. We have helped in the reorganization of China’s production plant and her transportation system. Most important of all, we have strengthened the hand of the Kuomintang.
At the same time, where we land in China — whether to acquire bases for the invasion of Japan, to engage Japan’s armies on the mainland, or to cut them off — will directly affect the political structure of China. Anyone with an army is still a political force in China. We will surely accept effective military help wherever we can find it. And new focuses of power will grow up around our beachhead, not only through the weakening of Japanese control, but because we shall bring with us goods, weapons, food, and power.
Jap subs and planes
Long and vulnerable as our supply lines are, Japan cannot use her ships against them after the fashion of Germany in the hirst World War. The escort carrier and the long-range air patrol have ended the day of the surface commerce raider and the Japanese submarine fleet.
The inactivity of Japan’s submarine fleet has been one of the mysteries of the war. Though largely intact, it may end its days in coast defense and blockade-running. If the Japanese High Command has hoarded it with a view to using it in a last-minute effort to cut our lines of supply, Germany’s defeat ends that hope. The huge anti-submarine strength we developed to overcome the menace of the German U-boat is free to guard our Pacific and Indian Ocean shipping.
Japan’s air force has suffered heavily from attrition, in pilots and planes. The effects of strategic bombing of production centers are being felt. Moreover, the complements of skilled maintenance crews who manned the hundreds of airstrips throughout the Pacific have been difficult for Japan to replace: she has never produced the abundance of trained technicians available to us or to Germany. Her air force is unable to beat off our B-29’s, to strike crippling blows at our air bases, or to provide sufficient cover for local tactical situations on the scattered fronts. It can seek only to blunt the spearhead of each new thrust.
From what we know of them, the suicide devices the Japanese have been using, such as the “ Baka Bomb,” are adaptations and developments of the Nazi “vengeance” weapons. Variously launched, they add an expendable human pilot to rocket-propelled projectiles. Although their usefulness is largely limited to compact targets, they have increased our losses.
They are, like the Kami-kaze planes, a terror instrument as well as a weapon. They lay increased demands on courage as well as firepower; we have not lacked either. It would be foolish to shrug them off as merely an attempt to repair a technological deficiency with cheap manpower; it would be equally foolish to view them as more fearful than another kind of ordnance. And as ordnance, a man is more vulnerable than a mechanism. In the early days of the war, when the Japanese held air superiority, the suicide attack was a grand gesture, not a tactic.
Now it is a gesture directed at the home front as well as at us. The Japanese people do not yet know that Japan has lost the war. Their propaganda is using every device at its command — glorification of the Japanese past, the alleged atrociousness of the American enemy, the duty to keep the land unsullied by alien boots — to maintain and build up attitudes of civilian resistance.
In this connection the collapse of the German Volkssturm cannot have been comforting to the Japanese government. But it can use the German example, as it has used the Italian example, to point out to its people what happens when determination lags.
Japan can still trade lives for time. Time will not add to her resources or better her military position. But for the present a prolonged and bloody resistance serves both the bitter-enders among Japan’s rulers, and those who hope to salvage something from defeat. Their hope rests on the faltering of our statesmanship, not of our armed force.
They cling to the chance that if they can make the price heavy enough, while distractions increase with the problems that follow victory in Europe, we may not insist on full political victory in Japan.
Bombing Japan’s industry
The damage to Japan’s industrial centers by B-29 attacks has been much greater than early cautious calculations anticipated. But it is difficult to estimate the effects of strategic bombing — social as well as military — from reconnaissance photographs. We know that hundreds of thousands of workers’ homes have been bombed out. We do not know to what extent the civilian services operated by these workers have been disrupted, how adequate the emergency housing measures have been, or what damage has been inflicted on food storage and distribution facilities.
Continuing crisis may not impair the control of Japan’s authoritarian rulers; it can even strengthen it. The Japanese people have shown in the past, and are showing today, an ability to withstand hardship and privation that is rivaled by few peoples in the world.
The hope of keeping Russia neutral has debarred Japanese propaganda from using the Bolshevist bogey to stiffen home morale, although for years the Japanese police carried on a campaign of ruthless suppression of Communist activities. Japan has concentrated on a far more effective device — one that may serve her even better after defeat than before.
“Throw the whites out of Asia”
Japan presents herself as the defender of Asiatic peoples against Western imperialism, and as a crusader for racial equality. Her propagandists are devoting increasing effort to fostering the legend — to survive after defeat — that her benevolent intentions and her promises of emancipation to colonial peoples were thwarted only by the disunity of Asiatics and the military intervention of Britain and America, who are determined to restore and maintain the old order in Asia.
Japan’s exploitation of Korea, Formosa, and her recent conquests, and her ruthlessness and arrogance, have prevented her from earning the coöperation of the peoples of Asia; her regime in occupied China and puppet Manchukuo have exposed nakedly the quality of her political ambitions and made clear that military aggrandizement, rather than concern for the welfare of Asiatics, is the motive of Japan’s rulers.
But post-war disharmony among the great Pacific powers, a scramble for positions of vantage and the restoration of old privileges, an ignoring of the political aspirations of Asiatics, plus the economic hardships that will follow peace, may give powerful impetus to such a legend, wipe out the memory of Japanese brutality and selfishness, and leave Japan a martyr in the eyes of Asia.
How do we look?
As Americans, we have the curiously durable and comforting illusion that the peoples of Asia view us with a kind of special trust and affection. We have relied heavily on our Philippine record to prove our intentions, and our ties with China seem to us ample demonstration of our interest in the problems and well-being of Asia. But our Philippine record will not be clear until it is seen what sort of meaning Philippine independence takes on in the post-war world.
The Chinese can remember what we so conveniently and readily forget: extraterritoriality, the Exclusion Act, and our sale of war material to Japan. We imagine that we have dissociated ourselves from the colonial sins of other powers by our public disapproval of British rule in India, and are hurt if Indian nationalists place no firm reliance on our statesmanship. Yet we have shown no tendency to view critically the rule of the Dutch in Indonesia — which has somehow managed to achieve among us a quite undeserved esteem as a model of colonial administration.
Our statesmen have yet to demonstrate a deep understanding of Asia’s problems, and we have yet to make clear what we believe will be a just and decent order in Asia. We have talked out of both corners of our mouths, and drawn heavily on the reservoir of good will we believe we possess in Asia. We have been insistent on world organization, but have not hesitated to impair both its moral basis and its democratic structure in order to strengthen our regional position in the Western Hemisphere.
The genuineness of our faith in its effectiveness is rendered suspect by our concern for unimpeded control of military bases in the Pacific. The Far East has seen the fate of Singapore, Truk, and Corregidor, and has learned better than we that Norfolk and Detroit, not Pearl Harbor, make the strength of our fleet. We decry the sinister influence of other nations’ generals in the political councils of the world, but are not aware of the way in which the demands of our own admirals must sound to the peoples of the Pacific. We are certain to win the war; but the end of Japan’s ability to fight, will not be the end of our responsibilities in the Pacific.