Documents: Three Bad Months | Foreign Affairs

The historical past of our first three months at warfare should be painted in somber colours. The United States Navy suffered the worst losses in its historical past. Guam and Wake have been captured by Japan. In fast succession the enemy overran a lot of the Philippines, seized Hong Kong, swept over Singapore, principal bastion and base of the United Nations within the Far East, and lowered varied strategic factors within the Netherlands East Indies one after the other. As these strains have been written, the surging tide of conquest was nearing Rangoon, entry port for the Burma Road, and was imperiling India. Southward it was menacing Australia. In the West, the Anglo-America “life line” to Britain and Iceland had been safeguarded and strengthened; however Germany had commenced long-range submarine raiding operations in our coastal waters. All over the world, ship sinkings have been growing to totals which approximated these of the warfare’s worst months, and freight storage yards at American seacoast cities have been clogged with merchandise of the “Arsenal of Democracy” awaiting service provider transport which may transport them to the preventing fronts.

Thus in lower than 90 days the strategic image of the warfare had been significantly altered. The United Nations had suffered their worst defeats for the reason that fall of France. As spring approached, the short-range prospects have been grim. From the long-range viewpoint, nonetheless, the fundamental elements which have been the power in addition to the weak point of the United States haven’t in each case been modified by the occasions of its first three months of participation in a capturing warfare. We nonetheless possess many benefits.

Until December 7, 1941, the navy wrestle which had been in progress could possibly be described within the truest sense as a battle for the domination of Europe. For greater than two years the headlines had been telling of its progress. The Nazi legions had swept throughout nation after nation, elevating the swastika from the North Cape to the Acropolis. Even the battles in Africa had been, strategically talking, a part of the wrestle for the Old World; and the German invasion of Russia got here as certainly one of its remaining chapters. But already the warfare fairly evidently was “growing out” of Europe.

The Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor didn’t merely add to the checklist of belligerents. It enlarged the theater of navy operations from a continent to the world. Today, although quite a few nations nonetheless are ostensibly impartial, there are actually no non-belligerents. This has develop into the best warfare in historical past, the primary to deserve completely the time period “World War.” In one sense it’s a warfare of hemispheres, waged over the continents and the seven seas. In the fullest sense it’s whole warfare; it touches all fields, all values, of human curiosity.

In this warfare of the world the United States occupies strategically and geographically a central place. It lies behind two nice oceans, between a Europe which is nearly dominated by Hitler and an Asia of which the japanese portion is dominated by Japan. We dominate the western shores of the Atlantic and the japanese shores of the Pacific. But the opposing coasts, 1000’s of miles away, are within the palms of our enemies. Russia additionally occupies a central place between two enemies, the European Axis states and Japan. But Russia is a good sprawling land mass, within the midst of a continent, with few and precarious gateways to the nice and cozy seas and with out enough communications with the opposite United Nations.

Our strategic place is, in the primary, pretty clear. . . . Wars could be gained solely by carrying the preventing to the enemy, by the offensive. In whole wars what’s demanded is the offensive à outrance. This is especially true on this warfare. There could be no victory for us if Germany retains management of most of Europe, if Japan creates her “Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere” and holds China’s coasts in fief and exploits Malaya’s tin and rubber and the wealthy provides of the Indian archipelago. We can’t hope to change both scenario by defensive operations. Only conquest can counter and redeem conquest. If Germany and Japan are to be defeated, if the world is to renew one thing like its former political form, the United Nations, and notably the United States, by far probably the most highly effective of the companions, should reconquer Europe and Asia. The warfare should be carried to the enemy.

Once we settle for this as an axiom of victory, we should additionally settle for a few of the disadvantages that geography has imposed upon us. . . . To carry the preventing to our enemies, to win the warfare, we should transport troops, planes, males and provides in amphibian operations of unprecedented magnitude throughout 1000’s of miles of the Atlantic and Pacific. And irrespective of the place we select to strike, it’s Japan within the Far East and Germany in Europe who will have the ability to transfer their forces probably the most shortly over the shorter distances. This is one persevering with strategic drawback which we should acknowledge, settle for and overcome if we’re to win this warfare.

Yet we nonetheless have an amazing benefit. The United Nations possessed, and nonetheless possess, territories and bases within the Western Pacific-Asiatic theater of warfare and within the European theater. So far, no Axis Power possesses territory or bases within the western hemisphere (Martinique and Guadeloupe probably excepted). This signifies that as long as we maintain bases within the enemy’s sphere, and as long as we will deny him bases within the western hemisphere, we will carry the warfare to him however he can’t carry the warfare to us. Submarine operations off our coasts and occasional air raids on our coastal cities could be performed from transoceanic bases, however at lengthy vary our enemies can’t undertake severe, extended, intensive and steady offensive measures towards us at dwelling. So lengthy, furthermore, as we maintain our abroad bases and hold the enemy from securing bases on this hemisphere, the factories of our “Arsenal of Democracy,” not like these of any warring nation, can function with out a lot worry of extended interruption.

Germany and Japan perceive this. Their main technique has been, subsequently, to scale back the bases on which the facility of the United Nations relies upon within the European theater and within the Far Eastern theater. The best, most closely defended and most essential of those bases-perhaps the one one which is completely indispensable to victory and should be held in any respect prices if we’re to avert defeat-is the British Isles. As quickly as we entered the warfare, then, we directly took steps to make completely certain that Britain won’t be lower off. . . .

The Japanese assault upon Pearl Harbor, a contemporary duplicate of the assault on Port Arthur within the Russo-Japanese War, was disastrous in its penalties, although not so disastrous as a lot free discuss may point out.

Pearl Harbor didn’t basically and completely alter the strategic image within the Pacific; that image already had been altered by deliberate coverage. But the lack of the battleships Arizona and Oklahoma, and the extreme injury carried out to different capital and lighter items, lowered the ratio of our general superiority vis-à-vis the mixed Axis navies and within the Pacific additional elevated the Japanese superiority.

Japan’s strategical plan, of which the assault on Pearl Harbor was an integral half, was boldly conceived and elegantly executed. Its excellent attribute was the identical as has distinguished all of the German operations-complete coordination of effort. Wake and Guam have been captured (the previous with unexpectedly heavy losses to the Japanese because of the sensible protection by our marines) and our direct line of communications to the Philippines thus was severed. In the Philippines, the 2 principal airfields on Luzon, the place we had been attempting to construct up a putting pressure of heavy bombers, have been bombed closely in a shock assault launched from the Japanese bases on Formosa; and by the second day lots of our bombers had been destroyed on the bottom. The Philippines additionally have been invaded at quite a few factors. Simultaneously Hong Kong and Malaya have been assaulted. . . .

The first and foremost activity is to halt the Japanese surge of conquest, if not at Java then on the coast of northern Australia and in Burma. Our gigantic long-range convoys throughout the Pacific, unprecedented within the historical past of warfare, have begun to construct up stockpiles of supplies in Australia; and the provision routes have been strengthened by the garrisons we now have positioned on the islands alongside the way in which. But now that the Japanese are in possession of Malaya and the Indies, their want for oil and different uncooked supplies is essentially met, whereas we should transport most of our oil provides to Australia. Because of this, Australia’s function will probably be, in the intervening time, that of a defensive barrier slightly than an offensive base.

The sample of our eventual victory has already, partly, been set; the Fleet’s raid upon the mandated Marshall Islands follows the standard technique way back envisaged in case of a warfare with Japan. Such offensive operations should be, certainly will probably be, prolonged in scope and energy. For it is a warfare for survival, and solely by smashing assaults can we hope to avoid wasting our lives.

3 The following are excerpts from an article printed in Foreign Affairs, April 1942.


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