THE spring months brought the war towards a crisis. Since December 7 the strategic situation of the United Nations had deteriorated steadily; and as these words are being written the Axis Powers are mustering their forces for the summer offensives. The decisive months of what is probably the critical year of combat are at hand, with the future course of world history at stake.

Between February and May, Java and Burma were lost to the Japanese; the tragic epic of the Philippines came to its inevitable end; and the war at sea reached a crisis in many ways comparable with some of the worst months of the unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. As I write, the total American and Philippine casualties -- killed, wounded, prisoners and missing -- number between 75,000 and 100,000. We have lost 41 commissioned naval vessels of various types,[i] and probably about 800 to 1,800 planes in combat (plus possibly an equal number in operations, i.e., due to forced landings, crack-ups, etc.). War authorizations and appropriations as of May 10 reached the tremendous sum of $197,267,000,000. Yet war came to the United States less than six months ago and so far we have scarcely begun to fight. There can be no doubt that this war will be by far the most expensive in our history.

The months just passed have witnessed the extension of American power to territories that a few months ago were known in America only to geographers. Army troops are scattered almost literally from pole to pole. Our one-ocean Navy is fighting a seven-ocean war. Our war effort so far is still in the preparatory stage; the enemy still holds the initiative; we are still on the strategic defensive. Our efforts have been devoted to increasing our armed strength to make it adequate to the exigencies of global war, to transporting that strength to far-flung overseas bases and theatres of action -- India, the Middle East, Australia, and the British Isles -- and to helping supply other United Nations, particularly Russia. Our difficulties have been terrifically aggravated by the interior position of the enemy; by the nature of the "perimeter war" which we therefore are forced to fight; and by the unprecedented lengths of our water-borne supply lines, often three to fifteen times as long as the largely land-borne supply routes of the enemy. These all emphasized the pertinent fact of the first months of struggle; that this is a "quartermaster's war."

II

The enemy's most serious attack in the spring months was against our long supply lines. It represented an attempt to cut off the United States from the various theatres of action and to defeat us before we had started. Based on the traditional strategy of the guerre de course, or war of attrition at sea, it was conducted primarily by the Germans, with some secondary help from the Italians but with surprisingly little as yet from the Japanese. It took the form of: (1) Concentrated submarine attacks upon our coastal shipping. (2) Attacks by air and by submarine and surface raiders upon United Nations convoy routes to Murmansk and Archangel. (3) Attacks upon transatlantic convoys. (4) Attacks upon Mediterranean shipping.

For a time, it appeared that Japanese surface and submarine raiders would play havoc with shipping in the Bay of Bengal. This threat, however, was reduced by what appeared to be the British abandonment of Calcutta as a major Indian port in favor of Bombay, Karachi and other less-exposed ports, and by probable Japanese naval needs elsewhere. The British seizure of Madagascar, the evident concentration of strong British naval forces in the Indian Ocean, and the reënforcement of United Nations air power in India and Ceylon, helped to ease, at least temporarily, a serious situation in the Indian Ocean. The failure of the Japanese to follow up their early and ineffective submarine attacks along our West Coast also mitigated a dangerous situation at sea. Nevertheless, by late spring it had to be admitted that the enemy's guerre de course had achieved unexpectedly effective results and that no immediate relief was in sight.

The most dangerous threat was to our coastal shipping. Tankers, which carry most of the gasoline for the Eastern states, were being sunk in such great numbers that the greatest oil-producing nation in the world was forced, in May, to institute a stringent system of gasoline rationing for that region. Though no announcement to the effect was made, coastal tanker operations were obviously suspended for a time. Cargo vessels were also sunk in great numbers. No complete statistics of losses were published, but certainly the world-wide rate of ship destruction (the larger part of it represented by losses off our coasts) was for a considerable period during the spring in excess of the worldwide rate of ship construction.[ii] Vice Admiral John W. Green-slade emphasized the gravity of the situation in an address to shipyard workers in May when he said: "War goods are piling up at the docks of both coasts and are backing up at some inland war plants. For example, 40,000 military trucks are standing at a single East Coast port waiting for ships."

The success of the German submarine operations off our coasts and in other areas had several causes. In the first place, the means of defense was inadequate because of the fact that we are fighting a seven-ocean war with a one-ocean navy. Secondly, there was an early lack of properly coördinated counter-measures by the several agencies engaged in anti-submarine operations. The third factor was the improvement in combat characteristics of the modern submarine as compared with the submarine of the First World War.

Though shifts of naval strength are not announced in wartime, we may surmise that our entry into the war in the Pacific, our heavy naval losses at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in the early months, and the demands upon United Nations naval strength to protect convoy routes to Australia and to build up a formidable sea force in the Indian Ocean, have resulted in a world-wide redistribution of naval power. This could have been done, as far as the United States is concerned, only at the expense of our Atlantic forces. In the case of the British, it would have to be at the expense of the Atlantic and Mediterranean forces. The Italians in late May issued a curiously worded communiqué, which was neither confirmed nor denied by the Navy Department, claiming the sinking off Brazil of a battleship of the Maryland class, which had been stationed in the Pacific before December 7;[iii] and President Roosevelt, in his address of April 28, revealed that American naval units were then operating in the Mediterranean. The loss of the British carrier Hermes in the Indian Ocean, and the sinking near the Netherlands Indies of several Australian vessels formerly stationed in the Mediterranean, showed that the British had drawn to an unknown degree upon their Atlantic and Mediterranean strength to build up their Far Eastern forces.

In any case, it seems clear that the opening up of a new theatre of war in the Pacific had forced some reduction in the naval strength of the United Nations in the Atlantic, and that this was reflected in an increase in merchant ship losses. Nevertheless, the necessity of protecting our overseas supply lines had created such a demand for naval shipping that our Atlantic coast could not have been adequately protected in the early months of war even if the shifts had not occurred.

Submarine chasers, destroyers, escort vessels, patrol planes, radio and sonic detectors, and trained men to operate these instruments of battle, were badly needed. The belated inauguration of an adequate building program of escort vessels, bottlenecks in Diesel engines and other propulsion machinery, and the inescapable need for time for training as well as construction, made it clear in May that, although gradual improvement in the situation along the coastal shipping routes can be expected, there were no grounds for hope for any immediate and startling reduction in the toll taken by the Axis.

Another factor contributing to the success of the Axis coastal attacks was an early lack of proper coördination between our defensive agencies. Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and civilian agencies were often at odds. Inadequate liaison and the inexperience of personnel contributed to the commission of grave mistakes, including at least one instance of the bombing of one of our own ships. Operations have only recently been adequately decentralized. After some weeks of abortive attempts at coöperation,[iv] Army planes engaged in anti-submarine work were put under command of the Navy; but not until May could a naval commander in Virginia, for instance, use Army planes at nearby airfields until specific authorization for a specific mission had been secured from Army air headquarters in New York. The inevitable delay was often serious. These frictions and mistakes are being eliminated, but there is still ample room for improvement.

The improvement in German submarines also militated against our defensive efforts. The improvised vessels pressed into service as anti-submarine units during the First World War no longer serve so useful a purpose. The type of German submarine which is raiding our coast has a displacement of about 750 tons, but major improvements in marine engineering have given this type a cruising range of 12,000 miles or more.[v] This means that they can easily cruise to Atlantic coastal waters, remain on station for two or three weeks, and return to their home bases without refueling. The modern submarine has a surface speed of about 20 to 22 knots, as compared with 10 to 14 for the submarines of the First World War.

Though the effectiveness of aircraft patrol puts a limit on submarine operations near enemy coasts in daylight, the modern submarine is a formidable night raider. Most of the attacks on our coastwise shipping have been made at dusk, at dawn or during the night, and the majority of them have been by submarines operating on the surface and using their high surface speed to deliver quick torpedo attacks, and then to escape into the darkness. Many fast American yachts as well as 50 old destroyers were transferred to Britain before we entered the war, the latter in exchange for needed bases. Most of the remaining yachts, and such vessels as trawlers, hastily armed and assigned to patrol and convoy work, are too slow to meet effectively the menace of such night attacks.

Nor are there, by any means, enough anti-submarine vessels. The Axis probably maintains at least eight submarines off our coast continuously, and many semi-official estimates put the total at three times that number. Most of these are German, but a few are Italian. The focus of the attacks, judging from the announced sinkings, was formerly off Hatteras and southward to the Florida coast. Our concentration of anti-submarine units in that area, however, forced the Axis submarines to seek new hunting grounds, and they have moved northward to the Gulf of St. Lawrence area and southward to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. It will take time to build up a force strong enough to protect effectively all the great expanse of Atlantic coastal waters.

The effectiveness of the enemy's offensive at sea was heightened by losses on the Murmansk convoy route. The approach of summer brought almost perpetual daylight to the northern latitudes and deprived Allied convoys of the protection of darkness. Drifting pack ice canalized the convoy route to a narrow lane north of the North Cape. Both developments facilitated the German attacks. Nazi planes based on northern Norway, and submarines and destroyers probably based on the new German naval base at Trondheim and at Narvik, are such a menace to the northern route in summer that the Persian Gulf may have to be used as the main supply line to Russia in the immediate future.

As enemy pressure in other seas increased and forces were shifted to meet it, German attacks upon transatlantic convoys also grew in frequency and intensity, and gained a measure of success greater than they had achieved in the winter months, although not comparable in importance with the losses inflicted upon the United Nations off our Atlantic coast and on the Murmansk route. Intensified Nazi and Italian air attacks upon British shipping in the Mediterranean, particularly upon convoys to Malta, also increased the shipping toll.[vi]

Thus at the time I write the war at sea is the most important in our several theatres of action. I have dealt with it at some length because past and present ship losses are crippling the offensive power of the United Nations; because our ability to implement any course of action is restricted and canalized by lack of shipping; and because in the months to come the victory or defeat of the Axis guerre de course may well mean victory or defeat in the struggle for the world.

III

But the unceasing struggle to protect our shipping lanes is only one aspect of the war at sea and of course only one of many aspects of the wider struggle. Troop convoys are more heavily protected than any other type of convoy. These, despite enemy attacks, were reaching their destinations without losses, although the quantity of troops transported was not nearly so large as popularly supposed. And naval task forces were operating successfully in many seas.

The process of building up an AEF in Northern Ireland and Scotland started with the transport of a small infantry force across the Atlantic in January. It was continued, and in May a large convoy with more infantry units and units plainly identifiable from the Army communiqué as armored units, made port safely in Northern Ireland. As I write, however, the forces in the British Isles are as yet not large, nor are they as yet adequately trained or equipped for immediate action. American air forces in the British Isles are being quietly built up, a process which will probably be speeded during the summer months by utilization of a fighter-plane air ferry route by way of Labrador, Greenland and Iceland to Britain. American pilots and planes obviously are being prepared to join in the great and growing British air offensive against Western Europe. In late May and early June this offensive had already developed into the greatest air raids in history. Over a thousand planes participated in the mass raids that blasted Cologne, Essen and other cities in the industrial Rhineland and Ruhr.

The objectives of this offensive are four: to strike against German industry, against German communications and against German morale, and to create a diversion by forcing the Germans to transfer planes from the Russian front to Western Europe. Major-General James E. Chaney commands all American Army forces, ground and air, in the British Isles. Admiral Harold R. Stark, former Chief of Naval Operations, commands United States naval forces in European waters. These appointments, and our steadily mounting strength in the British Isles, plainly indicate the strategic importance we attach to those Isles and to the eastern Atlantic area. Such recognition was also implied by the strengthening of our garrison in Iceland, the replacement of all Marines there by Army troops, and the assumption of supreme command from the British by an American officer, Major-General Charles H. Bonesteel.

In the Mediterranean-Middle Eastern area, American power was also being moved slowly into position at the time of writing. In addition to the utilization of American naval units in the Mediterranean,[vii] American technical and supply troops in the Egyptian-Eritrean-Red Sea area were increased in number, though no combat units had as yet been sent to the Middle East. Engineers and transportation experts were also working in the Persian Gulf ports and on the Trans-Iranian Railway and along the Middle Eastern railroad and road network to expedite the transport of supplies into Russia. In Russia itself a lease-lend military mission, headed by Brigadier-General Philip R. Faymonville, was clearing Russian applications and speeding the despatch of matériel from the Arsenal of Democracy to the Arsenal of Man Power.

Small numbers of American forces -- mainly transport and plane experts, engineers, etc. -- were toiling in widely-scattered parts of Africa to set up, develop and guard the air ferry and supply routes and ports. Increasing numbers of long-range planes were being ferried across the North Atlantic to Britain, as well as by way of the Caribbean islands and Brazilian airports to West Africa, and thence by way of equatorial airports to the Middle East and on to India.[viii] Defenses of some of the West African ports were also being built up slowly against a possible threat from Dakar.[ix] And American naval units, in addition to patrolling the Caribbean and watching Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana, were mounting guard off Brazil and Africa and, in the waters of the South Atlantic, helping to guard supply routes to West Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope.

But rightly or wrongly, American attention was concentrated on the Pacific during the spring months. For the Pacific is an American responsibility; the war there will be decided primarily by what we do or fail to do. The British Empire shares in that responsibility only in so far as the relatively small though well-seasoned forces of Australia and Canada are able to help. It is a responsibility that, as I write, we have not acquitted ourselves of too well. The Philippine Archipelago has fallen to the enemy, after a gallant but inadequate defense; the Netherlands Indies, richest islands of the world, were overrun following the surprisingly quick fall of Singapore; Burma is gone; and the Japanese stand ready to try for new conquests.

IV

The Philippine campaign cannot be adequately described at this time; it must be judged in the light of history. But in fairness to the British, whose quick loss of Singapore has been much criticized in this country, it should be emphasized that the main Japanese effort was directed initially against Malaya and Singapore; then against the Netherlands Indies and Java; and not until these efforts had been completed did Japan divert her attention to the scattered centers of resistance remaining on Bataan, Corregidor and elsewhere. And in fairness to General Douglas MacArthur, an effort should be made to see the Philippine campaign in truer perspective. A hero-worshipping press and public have ridiculously distorted his fine achievements. The men of Bataan fought well and gallantly; but not everything in the Philippine campaign deserves praise.

We lost the Philippine campaign on the opening days of the war. More correctly, we lost it before the war started. Our foreign policies and our military policies in the Far East were not coördinated. We were not in any proper sense prepared to implement militarily our political opposition to the Japanese course of empire, or even to defend what we owned.

The initial Japanese blows at the Philippines, like the initial Japanese blow against Pearl Harbor, had one purpose: to neutralize our offensive power. The attack on Pearl Harbor further reduced the ability of our fleet, already weakened by transfers to the Atlantic, to interfere with the Japanese drive toward the Southwestern Pacific; the blow against the Philippines destroyed most of our air power in the islands. In the words of Clark Lee of the Associated Press, who was on the scene: "The fate of Luzon and Bataan was sealed just before I P.M. on December 8, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." Most of the 36 heavy bombers on Luzon, and many of the medium bombers and pursuit ships, some of them parked in neatly-lined rows, were destroyed on the ground at Clark and Iba Fields. On December 10 the Japanese wrecked the Cavite Naval Base. Fortunately, most of the ships of the Asiatic Fleet (which was not a "fleet" at all, but a weak squadron) were not in port; but the evacuation of Cavite, in accordance with prior war plans, quickly became a necessity.

The subsequent land operations necessarily became a side show. The Japanese were content to land enough troops on Luzon (and subsequently on other islands) to seize the bases which they needed immediately and to contain our land forces. They were secure in the knowledge that those forces were powerless to interfere with their supply lines through the South China Sea. Whatever "punch" we retained in the Philippines was gone when our surface ships and submarines were driven southward to bases in Java and Australia and our bombers were destroyed or forced to evacuate. From then on, the main operation was one of siege, while the Japanese slowly rounded up what, in many islands, amounted to little more than guerrilla bands.

The exact number of troops under General MacArthur's command in the Philippines has never been revealed, but the total was far under the figures usually quoted at the beginning of the war. There were only a handful of white troops, probably not more than 8,000 to 15,000 in all. The great bulk of the forces was composed of inadequately trained and equipped Philippine Army reservists, hastily called to the colors at the start of hostilities.

In the island of Cebu, for instance, Colonel Irvine C. Scudder had called some 50,000 men to the colors, but the only equipment available consisted of about 1,500 old rifles and one .50-caliber and a few .30-caliber machine guns. There was no artillery. In Mindanao, the second most important island of the Philippines, Major-General W. F. Sharp was not much better off. He probably had a total of about 30,000 men, led in part by white officers, but there were only two companies of Philippine Scouts, the finely trained professionals who have long been a part of the Regular Army and who amply proved the value of training in the Philippine campaign. General Sharp's men were equipped with Lee-Enfield rifles of First World War vintage, the extractors of many of which crystallized with use. General Sharp employed Moro metal workers to make new parts, but not enough could be supplied; bamboo sticks were sometimes used to pull the empty cartridge cases from the rifles. There were about 50 rounds of ammunition per man, a handful of machine guns, and four old mountain guns which served as field artillery.

The forces on Luzon, "stronghold" of the Philippines, had more modern equipment than those in the rest of the archipelago; but at best it was a conglomerate army which was commanded by General MacArthur, and later by Lieutenant-General Jonathan M. Wainwright. It included large numbers of inadequately trained Philippine Army troops; sailors without ships and aviators without planes; the Fourth Marine Regiment, transferred from Shanghai just before the war; National Guardsmen from New Mexico (anti-aircraft gunners), Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and California (a provisional tank group); the Thirty-first Infantry, which had never seen service except in the Far East; and the Philippine Scouts. The Scouts and the Thirty-first bore the brunt of the struggle; if it had not been for them the Battle of Bataan would have ended much sooner than it did.

The withdrawal of our delaying forces -- half-mobilized, half-trained -- from the Lingayen Gulf area in the north and from the Lamon Bay region in the south, where the Japanese made their principal landings, and the evacuation of Manila, united the American forces on Bataan Peninsula in early January. The shore end of the peninsula and the entrance to the secondary naval base on Subic Bay were held for a short time; then a withdrawal to a second delaying line was made; and then the main line of resistance, roughly across the center of the peninsula, was taken up. American troops suffered and earned glory in the foxholes of Bataan from mid-January until the final Japanese assault on April 1. There was skirmishing and patrol activity by both sides. The Japanese made sporadic attempts to filter through our lines and to land from barges on our flanks and in our rear. There was more or less constant shelling and bombing; for which, however, the rocky terrain and the thick jungle offered good cover.

A careful effort to eke out food and medicines could carry the defenders along only for a limited time. The attempts made between January and April to send in supplies from outside were bound to fail. A submarine (whose name is well known to the Japanese but is withheld from the American people by the strange inconsistencies of censorship) early ran the blockade, brought in anti-aircraft ammunition, and removed some American securities and gold. Another submarine, also unidentified except to the enemy, subsequently evacuated High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre and his family. Surface ships brought food and other supplies from Australia and New Zealand to southern islands in the Philippines and a small amount of these eventually found their way, by inter-island steamer or small boat, to Bataan and Corregidor; one blockade runner brought in a substantial supply of rations. But for every ship that got through, several were sunk; the effort was hopeless from the start and the authorities must have known it.

Before the middle of March General MacArthur was ordered to Australia by President Roosevelt, there to assume a new Southwestern Pacific command for the United Nations. General Wainwright took over command of the Philippines. General MacArthur and his party were evacuated, probably to Mindanao, by motor torpedo boats of a squadron led by Lieutenant John D. Bulkeley, whose small vessels sank several Japanese ships before and after the trip. The trip from Mindanao to Australia was made by plane.

The Japanese assault in Bataan at the beginning of April was made against men worn down by months of siege, by malnutrition and sickness, and cut off, as they themselves had known since the President's speech of late February, from possible succor.[x] The Japanese attack was overwhelming and the enemy broke through. On April 8, after a conference with his commanders, General Wainwright agreed that further resistance was hopeless, and on April 9 the tattered, starving, bloody remnants of the Army of Luzon surrendered. Major-General Edward P. King, Jr., who was in immediate command on Bataan, surrendered a total of between 35,000 and 40,000 American and Philippine troops, many of them wounded. In addition, there were about 25,000 civilians on Bataan, nearly all of them Filipinos, at the time of surrender.

The surrender of Bataan sealed the fate of Corregidor and its satellite fortresses in Manila Bay, although these held out until May 7. Like Bataan, Corregidor was without air support.[xi] Unlike Bataan, it was subjected to extremely heavy plunging fire from 240-mm. batteries emplaced in the mountains of Bataan Peninsula, as well as to intensive air bombardment. A battle of 33 hours preceded the final surrender, with Japanese shock troops swarming across the narrow channel between Bataan and Corregidor during the night to land on the shell-torn beaches of the rocky islet. The beach defenses had been torn to shreds and heavy casualties had been caused by the intensive bombardment. For, contrary to the previous impressions which were given, officers who escaped from Corregidor earlier in the fighting have now made it clear that practically all of the fortress's guns were emplaced in the open in obsolescent mountings, that the famous tunnels in the rocks were virtually uninhabitable, and that in consequence the defenders of the fortress were constantly exposed.

And so the short-lived and disastrous Philippine campaign came to an end sometime on May 7 (Philippine time) as General Wainwright "haggard from lack of sleep and from worry," as the Japanese described him, sought the Japanese commander to ask terms. They were hard: unconditional surrender of all armed forces in the Philippine Islands. Communications with the Philippines ended on May 6, so it is not yet certain whether or not Wainwright complied, or if he did, whether or not his orders were heeded. All that is known is that 11, 574 soldiers, sailors, Marines and civilians, Filipinos and Americans, became Japanese prisoners when Corregidor and its three companion forts fell. The Japanese later reported that General Sharp in Mindanao had heeded General Wainwright's "command to surrender." If so, that was not remarkable, for the enemy had already occupied most of the key points on this and other islands. Except for guerrilla warfare, then, which may last as long as the war lasts but cannot affect its outcome, the most costly and the most tragic campaign in America's military history has ended.

V

The most tragic thing about the Philippine campaign was that its not inconsiderable losses were incurred in what from the first was bound to be a military side-show. And in the last phases the Japanese had long before overrun the Netherlands Indies and the case of "The Islands" was hopeless.

The saga of the Asiatic Fleet is more properly a part of the story of the Netherlands Indies campaign than of the Philippine campaign, although men of that fleet fought on land in Bataan and elsewhere in the Philippines, and Bulkeley and his mates fought in small craft in and around Manila Bay.

Admiral Thomas C. Hart's little fleet was made up of two cruisers, 24 patrol planes of "Patwing Ten," [xii] a squadron of destroyers, the old aircraft tender Langley and a considerable number of submarines. Bombed, harassed and chivvied, opposed by overwhelming air power and sea power, only one fate was possible for the Asiatic Fleet. It helped to bring 10 convoys into Singapore, it fought delaying actions in Macassar Strait and the Java Sea, it carried out orders and exacted the blood of the enemy. And, with the exception of considerable remaining strength in submarines, it was virtually wiped out. The heavy cruiser Houston, damaged by bombing and apparently further damaged in the Battle of the Java Sea, was lost some time after that battle in a manner that has never been described. The light cruiser Marblehead, the "ship that was bombed to hell," was kept afloat after action off Borneo by the will of her crew and the efficiency of her officers, and limped home in a voyage that is already a naval epic. Most of the destroyers were sunk in various engagements, many of them by bombing; some were destroyed by their crews, after incurring damage, in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. Many small units -- tenders, auxiliaries and minesweepers -- were lost in and around Manila Bay and in the Philippines. The tanker Pecos was sunk by bombing in the Indian Ocean. "Patwing Ten" ended its brief epic of combat with two left out of 40 Consolidated Catalina flying boats.

Soon after the evacuation of Cavite, Admiral Hart turned over command of American naval forces in the Southwestern Pacific to Vice Admiral William A. Glassford Jr. He himself assumed command of all the United Nations naval forces in that area under General Sir Archibald P. Wavell. It was an ill-fated command. Malaya and Singapore and the outposts of the Netherlands Indies fell before it could really start to function. The quick Japanese conquest of Malaya and Singapore decided the fate of the Indies. General Wavell was wisely named supreme commander in India; his strategic decisions were no longer needed in the Southwestern Pacific and plans for General MacArthur's transfer to Australia had already been initiated. The Dutch took over the local command in Java. The Netherlands Indies Fleet, reinforced by damaged units of the Asiatic Fleet and by British and Australian ships, was destroyed in a heroic action in the Java Sea. The way thus cleared, Japanese forces landed on Java on February 28 and quickly overran the island. Military and naval establishments and important oil developments on the island were largely destroyed by the Dutch in an efficient but hurried application of the "scorched earth" policy. The official radio station at Bandung sent out its last message on March 8: "We are shutting down now. Good-bye until better times. Long live the Queen!"

The American share in the battles for Java and the Netherlands Indies was not very great. The scattered and damaged units of the Asiatic Fleet, particularly the submarines, were a factor in the defense of the islands, and some of the patrol planes of "Patwing Ten" did effective reconnaissance and bombing work. Long-range and medium dive bombers of the Army Air Corps also did yeoman service. But planes never reached the Indies in sufficient quantity to tilt the balance in our favor; and those that did were handicapped by technical difficulties, including the chemical reaction of Dutch aviation gasoline on our leak-proof tanks. The air fields were inadequate and there were few anti-aircraft guns or fighter planes to defend them. Again and again our air bases were almost literally bombed out of existence. The old Langley, which had been pressed into service to ferry fighter planes from Darwin to Java, was sunk with a deckload of fighters before she ever reached Java. In general, it was the same old story of "too little and too late."

The number of American fighting men who participated in the defense of Java has never been revealed. They were headed by Admiral Glassford, who succeeded Admiral Hart (under Dutch naval command) after the latter had requested relief and the original Wavell command had been abrogated. A Texas National Guard field artillery outfit, a battalion of the 131st Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel B. S. Tharp, fought in Java, and was left there when the island fell. These men have received little official recognition. If we are to judge by War Department communiqués, they are the "forgotten men" of our current chapter of history.

The fall of Java and Japanese mopping-up operations in the Philippines brought no pause to Japan's offensive. The scattered remnants of the Asiatic Fleet made their way first to Darwin, from which they were bombed out; and later, according to published Australian reports, to Perth. In the meantime, while the Japanese drive toward the Southwestern Pacific had been under way, the United States had been greatly reënforcing the few troops originally sent to Australia, and the Australian Government had brought home some divisions from the Middle East. A supreme command for the Southwestern Pacific was set up under General MacArthur, with the Australians and the units of our Navy acting under his orders in an area around Australia and up to, but not including, New Zealand. Planes were ferried to Australia; air bases were set up on York Peninsula, Port Moresby, Darwin and elsewhere; and our fliers commenced to exchange raids with the enemy. As the spring wore on, it was plain that our air and surface strength in the Australian area was increasing and in April and May we struck more blows against the enemy in this area than he did against us.

At the same time, American troops were sent to New Zealand, New Caledonia and other Pacific islands in order to safeguard the transpacific supply route to Australia. Apparently it was the beginning of an enemy attempt to cut this route which led to the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4 to 9), the largest naval encounter in the Pacific since the war started. It also was the only naval battle that has resulted in a clear-cut American victory. Like the Battle of the Java Sea, which led eventually to the loss of the Houston and other units of the Asiatic Fleet, it involved losses, which had not been announced as this was written. In any event, however, the Japanese received a definite check and suffered the loss of two aircraft carriers and damage to a third, in addition to the loss of two cruisers and many small vessels. This battle increased Japan's naval losses since the war started to perhaps one-third of her cruiser fleet, 21 destroyers and 11 submarines.

While pressing southward toward Australia, the Japanese continued their drive into Burma. American participation in that campaign was at first limited to the dauntless exploits of the small American Volunteer Group of fliers, who with 100 shark-nosed P-40 pursuit planes held initial mastery of the air, but who gradually were worn down and forced from their Burmese airfields back into China. Later, heavy American bombers, operating from Indian bases under command of Major-General Lewis H. Brereton, conducted bombing raids against Rangoon and other bases which had been seized by the Japanese in Burma, and American planes of the Ferry Command brought in supplies and evacuated personnel. Lieutenant-General Joseph W. Stilwell, USA, who was appointed Chief of Staff to Chiang Kai-shek, commanded the Chinese forces which tried to help the beleaguered British save the day, but the entire campaign was futile and the Burma Road was eventually closed by the Japanese.

During the operations in the Far East, the United States was also busy reënforcing and strengthening its position in other parts of the Pacific. A highway to Alaska and a rail link between the Canadian and Alaskan railway systems were started. Hawaii's position was greatly strengthened; other islands in the group besides the traditional citadel of Oahu became strong points. The Pacific Fleet, under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, operating in detached units as carrier striking forces or task groups, made a series of raids on Japanese positions. Some of the raids were as far north as Japanese-conquered Wake and Marcus Islands, others were made on the Marshall and Gilbert groups, and some were made in the New Guinea area. They were of varying effect: some exacted a heavy toll of enemy light units, others had minor results.

The first air raid in history upon Japan, led by "Jimmy" Doolittle, famous army and racing pilot, who was promoted to Brigadier-General for his exploit, was made on April 18. Apparently its effect on Japanese psychology was greater than had been expected and it produced some military results. Executed by a relatively small number of B-25 medium bombers, which may have been flown off a carrier's deck to land at some Asiatic base, the raid gave a great "lift" to the morale of the United Nations; but since it could not be followed up immediately by other raids it necessarily could have little lasting effect.

VI

Important as were the operations of American forces in the various theatres of action, perhaps our greatest accomplishment in the spring months was the slow but steady progress made toward putting our own wartime house in order. I do not refer only to production of munitions and the sinews of war. The period was one of military planning as well as of military operations. The visit to London of Harry Hopkins and General George C. Marshall, followed later by the visit of the chiefs of the Army and Navy air arms, indicated that plans were being made and decisions taken. In the first months of war we obviously had been groping in the strategical dark. There had been considerable danger -- and one cannot say that it has been entirely ended -- that we might attempt to be strong everywhere, with the inevitable result that we would be weak everywhere. General Marshall's visit many months after the start of the war was not, in one sense, encouraging, for it revealed that so far no final decision had been taken, that our strategy was still in the making. But as these final lines are being written our plans seem to be gradually crystallizing at last.

Our main initial offensive is obviously going to be made in the air against Germany. Possibly it will be followed, if opportunity offers, by thrusts by amphibian and land forces. Meanwhile, American tanks and planes already are operating in Russia, and American supplies of other sorts have been shipped there in great quantities. To compensate China at least partly for the closing of the Burma Road, the system of air transport to that country will be greatly enlarged. We plan to meet the enemy from the skies of Western Europe to the hinterland of China, and to strike him harder and harder. The test of all our plans, the culmination of all the operations to date, will come in the critical months of summer now at hand.

[i] This figure includes all published losses until May 25, but does not include unannounced losses, or damaged ships. By types, the losses are: two battleships (Arizona and the capsized Oklahoma, the second of which may some day be salvaged); the cruiser Houston, nine destroyers, four submarines, and many tenders, small craft and auxiliaries. No army transports or merchant vessels are included in this total.

[ii] By May 22 the United States, somewhat behind schedule, was launching merchant ships at the rate of two a day. By the end of the year the rate was to be increased to three a day.

[iii]West Virginia, Maryland and Colorado: eight 16-inch guns. The Italian claim, though circumstantial, has not yet been verified from any reliable source.

[iv] Friction and lack of coördination between the Army and Navy is still one of our most serious problems in all theatres of action.

[v] A new type of German submarine engine has been reported, but little is known about it.

[vi] For a time, at least, convoys to Malta were abandoned and the little island, victim of more than 2,300 bombing raids, was isolated.

[vii] President Roosevelt did not reveal their number, location or purpose, but it seems likely that these units may include some battleships. The latter have been of little use in the Pacific, but based on Gibraltar they might act as a check to the French fleet.

[viii] The Air Ferry Command of the Army Air Forces was also flying bombers to Hawaii, Australia and the Pacific islands. The scope of its operations is unprecedented; already it is far larger than the peacetime commercial operations of all the American airlines put together. The Air Ferry Command is commanded by Brigadier-General Harold George.

[ix] This threat was slight. There was positive information that no German forces had used Dakar at least until early in 1942.

[x] The Army had lived on carabao, horse and mule meat, stewed monkey and rice; 20,000 men had malaria. The insufficiency of quinine on Bataan, which is near the greatest quinine-producing area in the world, is only one of many inadequacies for which an accounting must be given after the war.

[xi] A few Curtiss P-40's, gradually dwindling in number and held together almost literally with baling wire, had been Bataan's sole air defense. They operated from makeshift fields, hewn out of the jungle, and were occasionally equipped with improvised bomb racks and used as bombers.

[xii] Later additions and replacements raised the total to 40, including six planes which had been sent to the Dutch but which they had refused to fly because the old-design Consolidated Catalinas had proved to be "flying coffins."

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • HANSON W. BALDWIN, military and naval correspondent of the New York Times; author of "The Caissons Roll," "United We Stand!," "Strategy for Victory" and other works
  • More By Hanson W. Baldwin