The Pacific War


THE tide of war has turned so obviously against Japan that we are telling the world our strategy and discussing freely what we are going to do with that country when the shooting is over.

Iwo Jima was a base we took away from the Japanese, but Okinawa is a base we have acquired for our own purposes. The Japanese loss was great when we refused them the use of Iwo Jima as an airfield from which to bomb Saipan and to watch our movements. With Okinawa we acquired the airfields necessary to step up the saturation bombings of Japan’s industries, to tighten the blockade between Japan and the continent, and to secure a secondary staging area for further advances either to the continent or to the home islands.

Victory on Okinawa came from coördination of air, land, and sea forces. When combined offensive power is used in modern war, any lack of balance in the defensive forces is disastrous. Mere quantitative increase in weapons, which Japanese propaganda is pledging, will not restore the balance Japan so desperately needs.

Our military policy for the defeat of Japan, as President Truman put it, calls for pinning down the Japanese forces where they now are, and keeping them divided so that they can be destroyed piece by piece. We shall concentrate overwhelming power on each segment. We shall mass our ships, armor, artillery, and all other material in sufficient amount to make sure that the fewest possible American lives are expended. We shall maintain relentless pressure so that the enemy can never recover his balance.

The Japanese Navy is a shadow of its former self, but the role of sea power is still important in Allied war plans. The Pacific war will involve millions of American soldiers, and it takes two or three sailors to put one man ashore, and half a million tons of shipping for each division in an amphibious operation. We have made an amphibious landing once every ten days from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.

The Japanese, according to the press, have more than four million men under arms and can call up several million more. But the Japanese armies have already lost their capacity for strategic maneuver, whereas we can use our forces where we will. Japan has always depended on sea transport more than land, because the territories she occupied had few railroads. She is therefore in a much worse predicament than was Germany.

Japan concentrates

The Japanese now have little choice as between withdrawal from their outer defenses and attempts to hold them. They are facing the problem by concentrating strength as much as possible in certain key areas. They appear ready to fight in Indo-China, around Canton and Shanghai, in Hankow, and in North China and Manchuria. But they have pulled out of many Chinese coastal cities.

These points of concentration will soon become as isolated as the Pacific islands which the tide of war has passed by. In China we are passing from the defensive to the offensive, although limitations of supply prevent the launching of major offensives. General Wedemeyer does not have a fighting command, except for the use of air power. Now that South China can be more conveniently bombed from the Philippines, his air power has shifted north to take care of Central and North China.

Wedemeyer has more Americans in China than Stilwell had, but they are teamed with Chinese armies as coördinators and instructors, and in staff capacities, not as combat troops. The Chinese armies are being trained on the battleground. The recent Chinese successes have not destroyed large Japanese armies, but they have shown the recuperative power of China and have denied the enemy the full use of important land communications.

The Japanese in China are no longer able to make all the decisions. They have to be wary as to where they will commit their strength. They have to defend too much with too little. Japan’s leaders have even tried to encourage their people, in the face of predicted American invasion, by pointing to the eight-year struggle of the Chinese against Japan as an example. The wheel is indeed turning full cycle.

Japan talks to herself

The propaganda of Japan in her period of invasion jitters is similar to that of Germany under similar conditions. Japan tells the world of the impregnability of “Fortress Japan,” of the underground positions which naval artillery cannot touch or bombers destroy, of new weapons to come. Japan’s leaders, like Germany’s, claim to be fully prepared. The people are organized behind the “Steel Wall.”

Civilians soon to become soldiers cannot complain about lack of written instructions — witness the “ People’s Handbook on How to Build Fortifications.” If the People’s Volunteer Corps should change to combat units, this handbook, the civilians are told, will show them the way to sure victory.

If the enemy has had time to prepare the invasion, say the Japanese, we have had time to defend ourselves, and the cost to the enemy will be heavy. Like the Germans, the Japanese claim superior morale; but unlike the Germans, they promise that every man, woman, and child will die rather than submit.

The behavior of civilians on Japanese territory, such as Saipan and Okinawa, does not indicate that all Japanese civilians will carry out the predictions of the High Command and immolate themselves. The surrender of several thousand Japanese troops on Okinawa, the pay-off of two years of psychological warfare, also shows that Japanese troops, in defeat, do not always live up to the expectations of their Samurai leaders.

General MacArthur has made a salty comment on the Japanese High Command: “Putting a group of incompetents in command — just because they come from Japan’s ruling class — keeps down men of ability from the lower classes, and this naturally makes for tactical and strategic errors.” The General points out that, while Japanese admirals and generals have been shifted from post to post after failures in battle, not one has been demoted. In this way Japan’s leaders try to keep up the myth of their infallibility.

The Japanese people, for the first time in modern history, are feeling the effects of war on their own islands. Most of their wars have been fought on the soil of other nations; and up to now, few Japanese civilians have seen war’s devastation and ruin. Some Japanese are already learning the lesson that war as a national occupation is not always glamorous and profitable.

The great fire raids must be causing the people to question the leadership of the military — an idea long ago implanted by our propaganda — and to doubt the value of international aggression. The Japanese propagandists are doing their best to deflect Japanese thinking from the consequences of militarism to hatred of the American enemy by dwelling on the “barbarity” of American air attacks.

But the Japanese propagandists have their work cut out for them. In the space of two years they have told their people, first, that the Americans are soft, degenerate, and easy victims to the spiritually superior, hard-living, and inspired warriors of Japan; second, that the same Americans have outproduced the Axis, paid willingly with their blood for island conquests, are about to invade Japan, and have revealed themselves as tough, uncivilized barbarians, capable of the most abominable atrocities.

The Japanese people have laughed at our propaganda, which for over two years has been insisting that the leadership of Japan’s militarists is not only incompetent but selfish, class-conscious, and against the interests of the people. Now that they are suffering the effects of that leadership, will they continue to smile and to believe their masters?

Industry up in smoke

Many of the large factories of Japan are being destroyed. The great monopolists who own and operate the larger Japanese war plants are losing much of their investment, just as they have lost their shipping and the hard-won fields of exploitation in Greater East Asia. In addition, many of the small shops operated in homes are going up in smoke, and thousands of handicraftsmen are ruined in every raid.

The economic effects of the destruction of cities must be far-reaching, for Japanese agriculture is closely tied to both the small-scale industrial operators and the large-scale capitalists. We are, in effect, wiping out one of Japan’s largest and oldest industrial classes when we destroy small-scale industries.

The burning out of the Japanese cities must inevitably result in the destruction of social as well as economic patterns of urban life. If there ever was a modern form of enlightenment in Japan, it survived only in the cities. The wiping out of cities presumably changes the balance of Japanese society in favor of the farmer again, unless the city dwellers, escaping to the countryside, help to awaken the backward rural sections of Japan. This happened in China, and history may well be repeating itself in Japan. Will the dispossessed industrial troglodytes bring to their rural relatives a tough, hard spirit of resistance or will they bring discontent, questioning, and political unrest?

What is the Japanese government doing about its many problems? Enemy radio reports indicate that great care is being taken to counteract the non-military effects of bombing. Police controls have been tightened. Desperate attempts are being made to set up effective systems of control for evacuation and relief of air-raid victims. The government is trying to forestall economic discontent, not only by seeking to assure an adequate supply of food, but also by guaranteeing the dividends of large firms engaged in the manufacture of war materials.

The handicraftsmen had no dividends to be guaranteed, but the rich are cared for, and in this way the economic effects of bombing on the people are partially taken care of. In the general pauperization, it looks as if the relative contrasts between the upper and lower levels of Japanese society will to some extent be maintained. Discipline and indoctrination may keep the Japanese people in line for some time to come; but when distress comes also to agrarian Japan, it is inconceivable that scapegoats other than Americans will not be found by a peasantry with a long history of revolt. Those who are running our propaganda would do well to identify these scapegoats.

We are so certain of Japan’s defeat that we have begun to lay out blueprints for her future. The swelling tide of proposals for the treatment of post-war Japan indicates that, with typical American impatience, we are attempting to win the peace before we have won the war. It is commendable that we are trying to plan a political as well as a military victory over the Japanese, but we must beware that our premature preoccupation with the problems of post-war Japan does not delay our victory.

There is still a wide field for disagreement over the treatment of a defeated Japan. Here the enemy has an opportunity to play off one Ally against another. Nothing would please Tokyo more, for example, than an Allied debate over the advisability of retaining a “strong” Japan as a barrier against the spread of Russian influence in Asia. Disagreement among the Allies would not only interfere with the efficient prosecution of the war, but would also provide Japan’s leaders with the hope that they could gain the support of one Ally even after military defeat. The course of events in Europe is being closely watched by the Japanese for signs of Allied disunity.

It lies within the power of the Japanese government to bring this war to an end. Since it was foolish enough to start the war, will it be wise enough to avoid utter ruin? It can surrender unconditionally to the Allies or it can watch the slow destruction of Japan until, as General George Kenney put it, Japan’s islands will be nothing more than a menace to navigation.

Unconditional surrender

Those who advocate detailed definition of the terms of surrender apparently assume that we can shorten the war by teasing Japan with favorable conditions. They forget that any suggestion that we are prepared to discuss a negotiated peace would steel the determination of Japan’s leaders to hold out for still better conditions and to play off one Ally against another.

Unconditional surrender is a harsh doctrine. It is intended to be. Politically it means that we will discuss nothing with the present rulers of Japan. If we are going to apply the Jackson doctrine to the Far East, it means that those rulers are eligible for the war criminals list. We cannot compromise with Japanese militarism any more than we could with the German.

The enemy rightly fears unconditional surrender but is preparing for it. Prime Minister Suzuki not only is committing the Emperor more and more to full responsibility for the war, but also, by calling sessions of the Diet, is attempting to include the people. His purpose is to share responsibility with the Japanese people, but not power.

Unconditional surrender, Suzuki argues, means the end of Japan’s political structure and the extermination of the Japanese people. It is significant that this statement was made very vigorously some weeks after we had blanketed Japan by radio and leaflet with the text of President Truman’s V-E Day statement on Japan, which includes the point that surrender does not mean the extermination or enslavement of the people.

Suzuki goes even further. He calls this a holy war for the liberation of East Asia. “Should it miscarry, the freedom of the people of Greater East Asia will be lost forever.” He hopes that even after the defeat of Japan this idea will be recalled by the nationalist movements in colonial Asia and will live on to plague the returning colonial administrators. It guarantees trouble for any power which brings a harsh colonial policy to the Far East again, it steals the thunder from an enlightened, progressive colonial government, and it makes the granting of independence look like appeasement. It serves to warn us that the war in the Far East will not be over when the firing ceases. The real political struggle will then begin in earnest.