AMERICA'S third year of war closed with United States troops fighting in the Philippine Islands and along the borders of Germany. The fourth year opens with the end of the war in sight.

During the three years of global conflict the United States has transported 5,000,000 armed men overseas (up to November 1944), and has suffered 528,795 casualties.[i] We have lost a minimum of 3,750,000 gross tons of merchant shipping, but have built 45,000,000 deadweight tons; we have lost two battleships, nine carriers, nine cruisers, 50 destroyers and 32 submarines, but since 1938 we have built a fleet many times the size of the prewar Navy and larger than the combined navies of the world. We have lost 14,600 planes in combat and 17,500 through accidents in this country, but built about 232,403 planes between July 1, 1940, and September 30, 1944. Up to the end of the current fiscal year, the war will have cost the United States about 400 billion dollars in appropriations and contract authorizations.

At this great price -- and an intangible cost which is incalculable -- the United States, fighting as part of the greatest coalition in history, has achieved battle results which are still short of complete triumph but which have decided the outcome of the war. The United States has experienced great defeats but has won through to great victories. Yet the end will be as costly as the beginning, in effort and probably in lives. The campaigns may be long drawn out. The battles of ultimate decision remain to be fought.

The American armies that flowed like a surging tide across France met stiffened defenses along the German frontier during the fall months of 1944 and were handicapped by problems of supply and bad weather. The war of movement gave way to the war of position. Just as these lines are written, the difficult, bitter business of a winter offensive in western Europe is being undertaken. But in the tropical Pacific, favored by the bright suns and smiling weather of the equatorial latitudes, we have dealt heavy blows to the enemy. General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines, and in the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea the Navy won a great but costly victory.

II

Our capture of Guam, Saipan and Tinian -- the greatest amphibious operation in the Pacific up to that time -- gave us bases for an approach to the main Japanese islands, and the strategic bombing of Japan's homeland from those bases has now begun. The seizure of the southern Marianas blocked Japan from effectively reënforcing such of the Marshalls and Carolines as still remained in her hands, and also advanced our bases of operations several thousand miles. The importance of this factor of bases cannot be overestimated. In the early days of the war Pearl Harbor was our only Pacific base beyond our own shores; it still is the only base for major repairs. But the great expansion of the fleet service forces, and the speed and efficiency with which advanced bases are constructed, now enable most of the units of our fleet to operate far west of Pearl Harbor for an indefinite period, unless they are very seriously damaged. Floating drydocks, headquarters installations, repair ships of every description, and airfields which maintain B-29 "Superfortresses" were undoubtedly installed at Guam and Saipan and Tinian. More and more this area will become the Navy's headquarters for the ultimate amphibious attack upon Japan's "inner fortress."

The major steps that followed the Marianas operations were taken at a tangent to the direct route to the main Japanese islands. Covered by wide-ranging and tremendous carrier task force "strikes" by Admiral William F. Halsey's Third Fleet, operations against Morotai and Palau were started almost simultaneously. Palau, one of the principal Japanese bases on the edge of the western Carolines, 525 miles from Mindanao in the Philippines, and Morotai (near Halmahera) in the Dutch East Indies 300 miles from Mindanao, lie on the flank of an approach to the Philippines from New Guinea. General MacArthur's main bases in the South Pacific are now in New Guinea; Australia and New Zealand have been nearly stripped clean of American Army and Navy forces. The Philippines lie within General MacArthur's southeast Pacific command, and his approach to the islands could be only by way of New Guinea. Prudence, therefore, dictated the landings on Palau and Morotai.

The Morotai landing was made against slight opposition on September 15 and was quickly successful. The Japanese main garrison was on nearby Halmahera, which was by-passed. Air strips were established on Morotai from which the Halmahera

 

fields could be dominated and from which the invasion of the Philippines could be supported. The Japanese on Halmahera were allowed to "stew in their own juice."

The landings on the Palau group, made under the direction of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, represented a far bigger operation and were, as expected, much more difficult. Major-General William H. Rupertus, commander of the veteran 1st Marine Division, which established the beachhead and did the bulk of the fighting on Peleliu Island in the Palau group, and Major-General Roy S. Geiger, U.S.M.C., commander of the Third Amphibious Corps, agreed that the Peleliu fight was the toughest they had experienced. General Rupertus likened it to a "larger Tarawa," and General Geiger said there were "more casualties" and more Japanese killed in proportion to the numbers engaged than in any previous action of the Pacific war.

After a protracted period of "softening up" by sea and sky bombardment, the initial landings on Peleliu, the principal island in the southern part of the extensive Palau group, were made on September 14. Almost simultaneously, Army troops of the 81st ("Wildcat") Division landed on nearby Angaur Island. Little opposition was encountered on Angaur, but on Peleliu the Japanese adopted new tactics. They attempted no fixed defense of the beaches, but withdrew to coral and limestone ridges inland, where a series of two -- and three-story interconnecting caves had been built, their entrances covered by steel doors. The Marines, subsequently reënforced by part of the 81st Division after the capture of Angaur, had to use every trick and strain every nerve to root the enemy out of his holes. Flame-throwers, pole charges, 155 mm. howitzers firing at the steel doors at point-blank range, and the traditional courage of the Marine Corps finally crushed the Japanese after a battle which was waged with ferocity and which lasted for some weeks.

While "Bloody Nose" Ridge on Peleliu was gradually being blasted to pieces, Army and Marine troops landed on other little islands of the Palau group. By early October some ten of them had been occupied; and the airfields, fuel dumps and bases on Babelthuap, largest of the Palaus, had been neutralized by planes based on the islands we had conquered.

Operations against the island of Yap had been projected, but because of the great success of Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet strikes against the Philippines and Formosa, the Yap operation was abandoned and the two divisions earmarked for it -- the 7th and 96th Divisions which composed the 24th (U. S. Army) Corps -- were transferred from Admiral Nimitz's command to General MacArthur's and used in the invasion of the Philippines. However, two little atolls -- Ngulu and Ulithi -- on either side of Yap, were seized without opposition. They dominate that island. Ulithi has one of the finest protected anchorages in the western Pacific and gives us another advance base for floating drydocks, repair ships and auxiliaries.

During all these operations, the Third Fleet, including the famous Task Force 58 (large, high-speed carriers) under Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, conducted a series of unprecedented carrier attacks. The Nansei Islands and Formosa were hit, and the Philippines repeatedly blasted. Admiral Halsey first hit the Philippines as a covering part of the Palau operation on September 8. Enemy air opposition was so weak, and the results achieved seemed so considerable, that the date of the Philippine invasion was advanced. Between October 10 and October 18 the Third Fleet struck heavily at the Nansei group and repeatedly at Formosa and Luzon. The Formosa attacks provoked an air battle. Our ships were attacked time and again by land-based planes, which succeeded in torpedoing but not sinking two ships, probably cruisers. For a while during this operation it seemed as if the Japanese fleet would accept the challenge of battle, for a carrier task force steamed out from bases on Formosa or the Chinese coast; but it turned back after air reconnaissance contact had been made at extreme range.

The long-expected invasion of the Philippines began on October 20. Supported by the might of the Third Fleet, and closely covered by the heavy and light ships and escort carriers of the Seventh Fleet under Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, MacArthur's naval commander, an armada of some 600 invasion ships steamed boldly from New Guinea and Pearl Harbor, and put into Leyte Gulf in the Visayas group in the central Philippines. Mindanao was by-passed. After a heavy preliminary bombardment, and after seizure of some small islands which dominated the entrances to the Gulf of Leyte, Army troops of the 24th Corps (Major-General John R. Hodge commanding) and the 10th Corps (Major-General Franklin C. Sibert commanding), the latter consisting of the 1st Cavalry and the 24th Infantry Divisions, landed on the eastern coast of Leyte.

Tacloban, capital of Leyte, was quickly taken and the Americans, fighting a grudge fight against the Japanese 16th Division, the conquerors of Bataan, established a 40-mile beachhead along the coastal road from the northern end of San Juanico Strait to Dulag. Using the excellent road system of the Philippines which made military movement more rapid than in prior jungle campaigns, troops under the tactical direction of Lieutenant-General Walter Krueger, commanding the Sixth Army, pushed inland to take Barauen and its nexus of airfields, and drove north to Carigara. Beachheads were also established on the adjacent island of Samar, covering San Juanico Strait and Leyte Gulf. Soon after our landings on this island General MacArthur announced that effective opposition on Samar had been broken.

III

On October 23 one of the most important naval battles of the war began. In a very well-planned operation, which, however, was not executed as smoothly as it was devised, the Japanese tried to annihilate our invasion shipping in Leyte Gulf and cut down the strength of our fleet. Not all the Japanese Fleet was engaged, but for the first time they risked the bulk of it. Their bold plan came very close to success -- and failed. Failure cost them the heaviest damage they have sustained in any battle since the war began.

The Second Battle of the Philippine Seas, as it will probably be called by historians, was a series of disconnected and sprawling air-sea engagements, which lasted to October 26. Three main Japanese task forces were involved, and Japanese plans called for coördinated use of land-based air power. The principal American forces engaged were Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet, Admiral Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet, and a small number of United States Army land-based planes.

In the light of after-knowledge, it is obvious that United States naval intelligence, excellent since Pearl Harbor, was again well informed. Our forces early discovered the approach of two of the Japanese task forces and launched submarine and air attacks upon them. Steaming from Philippine bases or from Singapore, the Dutch East Indies and south China, these two task forces headed toward the only two straits through the Philippine archipelago which are navigable for big ships. We had chosen the islands of Leyte and Samar as the focus of our invasion for several sound reasons. It is a central position, and our forces there automatically neutralized Mindanao to the south. Leyte Gulf has a fine harbor, and Leyte had good airfields which we wanted. And control of Leyte and Samar gave us control over the two straits -- San Bernardino between Samar and Luzon, and Surigao between Leyte and Mindanao -- toward which these Japanese forces were now advancing.

The smaller of the Japanese task forces headed through the Sulu Sea and the Mindanao Sea toward Surigao Strait. It comprised two old Yamashiro-class battleships, four cruisers and about eight destroyers. A northern force, sighted in the Sibuyan Sea moving toward San Bernardino Strait, consisted of five battleships, including the new 16-inch gun 40,000 to 45,000-ton Yamato and Musashi, eight cruisers and about 13 destroyers. In retrospect, it is clear that this force, rather than the third one which subsequently showed up 200 miles east of the northern tip of Luzon, was the main enemy force. These two southern groups included no carriers, but were supposed to be protected by land-based planes. These planes did not provide the enemy with adequate air defense, but their heavy air attacks on our shipping complicated our defensive problem and inflicted considerable damage on our vessels. One light carrier, the U.S.S. Princeton, was so badly injured by one of these land-based attacks that she subsequently blew up and sank, after a great fire. Her casualties were light, but some of our ships nearby suffered heavy damage and losses in men when she blew up.

On October 23 the two southern Japanese task forces were sighted and attacked by our submarines. Three or four enemy cruisers apparently were damaged at a cost of one of our submarines which ran on a reef and had to be destroyed.

On October 24 the planes from Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet carriers, those from the small escort carriers of Admiral Kinkaid, and perhaps a few land-based Army planes repeatedly bombed the two Japanese forces advancing at high speed through the Sibuyan and Sulu Seas. The heaviest attacks were concentrated against the large northern force, and during the day it turned and headed away from San Bernardino Strait. According to pilots' reports it had been badly smashed; some of the ships were on fire and a good many of them seemed to have been damaged.

Toward the end of the day, October 24, reports reached Admiral Halsey that a third Japanese task force, consisting of four aircraft carriers, two combination battleship-carriers of the Ise-class,[ii] four cruisers, and six destroyers, had been sighted heading south off northern Luzon. Admiral Halsey apparently believed that our air attacks had turned back the San Bernardino Strait task force, and he knew that Admiral Kinkaid had ample forces to deal with the small Surigao Strait task force, which was already badly battered by submarine and air assault. He turned almost the entire Third Fleet northward and headed at high speed toward the Japanese carrier task force off northern Luzon. This meant that all the modern battleships and large and high-speed carriers, as well as a considerable number of cruisers and destroyers, were drawn from the vicinity of Leyte. Left behind in the south to protect the vast mass of invasion shipping in Leyte Gulf was Admiral Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet, consisting of old battleships, some of them salvaged from the mud of Pearl Harbor, slow-speed escort carriers with a maximum speed of about 20 knots, cruisers and destroyers.

 

The decision was not in itself a mistake, and events show that it was probably a justifiable move. But the mistake that was made was in leaving San Bernardino Strait completely uncovered. It was a bad error which cost us dearly, and it might have had extremely serious consequences. History will explain why it was done; but in this limited perspective of time, it seems that the old trouble -- lack of a clear-cut, unified command -- was partly responsible. Admiral Kinkaid was under General MacArthur, but not under Admiral Halsey. Admiral Halsey was under Admiral Nimitz (who had his headquarters in Pearl Harbor), but was coöperating with, but not under, General MacArthur. San Bernardino Strait had been covered by American submarines, but the Army Air Forces wanted to include this area in their surveillance and to be able to bomb any ships sighted in the Strait without danger of mistake. So the submarines had been withdrawn. But why no motor torpedo boats or destroyers, or some form of surface patrol, was not stationed off the entrance when Admiral Halsey took his fleet to the north is not clear. Perhaps Admiral Halsey believed Admiral Kinkaid would provide this watch; perhaps Kinkaid thought Halsey had done it; both may have felt the Army Air Force would provide the necessary guard. Whatever the reason, San Bernardino Strait was left completely uncovered.

Not so Surigao Strait. Admiral Kinkaid had set up a nice reception committee for the southern Japanese task force. He had sent motor torpedo boats deep into the twelve-mile-wide strait to attack the Japanese as they steamed through. Eight or ten miles inside the eastern entrance, where Surigao Strait opens into Leyte Gulf, he had stationed his destroyers. And across the eastern debouchement of the strait was a line of old battleships and new cruisers under Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf. "My theory," said Admiral Oldendorf later, "was that of the old-time gambler -- never give a sucker a chance. If the Jap was sucker enough to try to come through the Straits I wasn't going to give him a chance."

And the southern enemy task force didn't have a chance. The torpedo attacks by motor torpedo boats and then by destroyers started before three-thirty a.m., as the Japanese force, already damaged by the air attacks the day before, steamed through the dark straits. Then the line of battleships and cruisers opened up, crossed the "T" of the enemy's column, and did fearful execution. The ships of the enemy column turned suicidally, one at a time, and all the guns of our long line registered in the darkness. In about forty minutes the Japanese task force was wrecked. Then, or later, both Japanese battleships are believed to have sunk, and many of the cruisers and destroyers went down with them.

But Admiral Kinkaid was still finishing off the Japanese cripples and picking some enemy prisoners out of the water when danger came from the north. The main Japanese task force that had been bombed in the Sibuyan Sea the day before and that had been seen to head back to the west had turned east again, unobserved, and had come through unguarded San Bernardino Strait with lights out in the darkness -- a remarkable navigation feat. These Japanese ships had turned south off the coast of Samar and had not been discovered until just after dawn, when they had opened fire upon six of our escort carriers, which were helping to support the Philippine invasion from stations north of Leyte Gulf. The escort carriers, converted from merchant ship hulls, have speeds of only about twenty knots and guns of 5-inch caliber, and hence are unable to run from enemy men-of-war or to fight them with gunfire. Their safety lies in staying out of gun range and in using their planes. But on that crucial morning the carriers were under gunfire from an enemy who was rapidly closing the range, and their planes were not in the air. And this little group of escort carriers, screened by some seven destroyers and destroyer escorts, were the only combat ships between the main enemy force and Leyte Gulf. Four out of the original five Japanese battleships,[iii] seven cruisers with 6- and 8-inch guns, and some nine destroyers, were steaming hard for the south; and at more than fifteen-mile-range the Japanese were already straddling the carriers. Emergency messages to Admiral Kinkaid from Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague in command of Admiral Kinkaid's escort carriers, and from Admiral Kinkaid to Admiral Halsey, went out over the air. This was an hour of decision.

The Japanese came on, chasing the carriers, closing the range, and now beginning to score. Several carriers were ablaze; 6- and 8-inch shells, 14- and 16-inch shells plunged into unarmored sides and flight decks. Pilots struggling desperately with their planes went into the air while Japanese salvoes landed on either side of their ships. Planes on Leyte took off in a mad scramble from fields so hazardous "each man deserved a medal of honor." One carrier was hit hard and limped behind. She was screened by a destroyer escort and two destroyers, but the Japanese fleet, pounding toward the south and Leyte Gulf, was now within 8,000 yards of this lame duck.

Here was one of those moments that live in American history, the decisive moment, perhaps, in the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea. Gallantly the little "DE" laid a smoke screen around the crippled carrier. Gallantly, with a bone in their teeth and the white wake of the bow waves curling away aft in the morning light, the two destroyers charged the might of the Japanese Navy. They were smothered in a hail of gunfire. All four ships disappeared, never to be seen again. But the destroyers had driven home their "tin fish;" our crippled force had won time. The rest of the escort carriers got off their planes; other planes came out from land to join them. Some planes, without torpedoes, magnificently made passes at the Japanese ships simply to attract their antiaircraft fire and to strafe. More destroyers charged the Japanese ships. Two of the enemy cruisers and one or two destroyers were sunk. Suddenly the Japanese ships turned north. David had defeated Goliath.

It was not until well after the repulse that planes from a task group of Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet, sent south in answer to the urgent calls for aid, joined in the scrimmage and inflicted more damage on the Japanese ships. Attacked and harried, these ships fled through San Bernardino Strait that night "in a badly damaged condition." The enemy force had come close to its objective. It missed through a combination of American courage in a tight spot and a lack of Japanese resolution. Planes played the major rôle in our triumph but, had the enemy commander kept heading south despite the early damage to his ships, the planes and ships then available could scarcely have turned him back before he had penetrated Leyte Gulf and done great execution to our non-combat vessels.[iv]

In the meantime, Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet and the Japanese northern task force had clashed. Some land-based enemy planes attacked the ships of the Third Fleet as they headed north in what American sailors hoped would be the showdown battle but what appears to have been a feint to draw our covering forces away from Leyte Gulf. The attacks were ineffective, however, and our carrier aircraft caught the enemy carriers with their planes on deck or en route from land bases to the carriers. The result was catastrophe for the Japanese. Four of their carriers were sunk; the two battleship-carriers in the group were apparently badly hurt; cruisers and destroyers were sunk or damaged.

The sum total of these separate actions was a very considerable American victory. Officially, we claim to have sunk 24 Japanese warships: four carriers, two battleships, six heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, three small cruisers or large destroyers, and six destroyers. Our announced losses through sinkings are the U.S.S. Princeton, two escort carriers, two destroyers and one destroyer-escort. Many other Japanese ships and a considerable number of our own were damaged.

The Second Battle of the Philippine Sea shattered the daring Japanese attempt to repulse our Philippine invasion, and reduced and probably crippled the Japanese Fleet so badly that, at least for some months, it will be chiefly a fleet "in being." But the Japanese Fleet was not annihilated and it is a factor of potential importance in the war. Its losses may not have been so great as originally reported. Early communiqués have always tended to exaggerate the enemy's losses.

IV

The fleet action demonstrated the Japanese intention of making a major fight for the Philippines. The by-passing of Mindanao apparently took them by surprise but they recovered quickly. On October 29, General MacArthur announced that "all organized resistance in Leyte Valley has ceased . . . we now control roughly two-thirds of the island of Leyte, an area of approximately 1,800 square miles . . . the coast land now in our hands stretches 212 miles from Carigara in the north to include Panaon Island in the south . . . on Samar the small garrisons are helpless and can be destroyed at will . . . the liberation of a million and a half Filipino people on the islands of Leyte and Samar virtually is accomplished." But these were optimistic and premature statements. Japanese reënforcements were sent into Leyte under cover of the naval battle, and each night thereafter the enemy attempted to strengthen his battered Leyte forces by barges and by transports. Typhoons grounded our air power and handicapped the construction of airfields, and General MacArthur later explained that by November 12 all of the Japanese losses on Leyte, which he had previously estimated at 35,000 (too large a figure in this observer's opinion), had been more than replaced, and that elements of five Japanese divisions, organized as the Thirty-fifth Army, were in action on Leyte or in process of being transferred there. General Yamashita, the conqueror of Malaya, was put in charge of the Japanese forces. The Philippine campaign seemed to be slowing down into something like the pattern of the Guadalcanal-Solomons operations.

Subsequently, we interfered damagingly but not decisively with Japanese attempts at reënforcement across the narrow straits separating Cebu and Mindanao from Leyte. Our land-based air power was still weak, and to bolster it Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet carriers had to be retained in the area far longer than most observers had expected.

At the end of November the Japanese still held the Ormoc "corridor" in western Leyte. At this time our destroyers commenced to interfere with the enemy's seaborne reënforcements and it seemed probable that the crisis in Leyte was past. But Japanese plane attacks continued to be heavy and persistent and our own toll of loss and damage mounted. And in the meantime Luzon, the citadel-island of the Philippines, already garrisoned by about 150,000 Japanese at the time of our initial invasion of Leyte, was reënforced and strengthened. The battle for "The Islands" promised to be long and hard.

On the heels of the realization that our next step toward the enemy mainland might be delayed came a dramatic piece of news from China. General Joseph W. Stilwell was relieved of his command at Chiang Kai-shek's personal request. The complex issue was bigger than personalities, however; the issue embraced the entire problem of leadership, administration and morale in China. China's weaknesses are now beginning to be understood in America. The China-Burma-India theater was split into two parts, with Major-General A. C. Wedemeyer, a brilliant young officer, in command in China, and Lieutenant-General Daniel I. Sultan (under Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten) in charge in northern Burma and in command of all American troops in Burma and India. The operations for reopening the Burma Road and linking it with the Ledo Road hold some promise of success, and are continuing despite Stilwell's relief. But it now seems probable that amphibious strategy will be followed in the attack upon Japan and that China's east coast may be by-passed.

V

The fighting of October and November in western Europe showed that the German Army was not broken. The sweep across France during August and early September netted more than 600,000 German prisoners, and total German casualties in the west since D-Day had been boosted to an estimated 1,000,000 or more by November 1. But the bulk of the best German armored divisions escaped and formed the cadres of new units. The majority of the prisoners taken in France were from second-class and rear-area outfits.

The Twenty-first Army Group of British, Canadian and other Allied forces was bolstered by American troops during the fall, partly because Canadian replacements were slow in coming, partly because the fighting in this flooded region was particularly difficult but offered important prizes. Two American airborne divisions, the 82nd and the 101st, took part in operations with British forces in Holland in September, all as part of Lieutenant-General Lewis H. Brereton's new Airborne Army. They spanned three of the four water lines which barred the British Second Army's advance to the north, but the Germans held along the Lek.

Throughout the fall, problems of weather and supply were stiff. Antwerp was not wrecked by the Germans, but its channel approaches were mined and silted, and in November the Germans claimed that their new V-2 rocket bombs were falling in the port. By the end of November, however, Antwerp was at least partially open to shipping and some of our acute supply problems were solved. The freeing of the approaches to Antwerp of German garrisons and batteries, and the combined Second Army-Airborne advance to the Lek, south of Arnhem, were direct prefaces to the great Allied winter offensive, which started with a limited offensive by the Third Army on November 8, and was in full swing along most of a 400-mile front by November 16.

The Third Army commenced an operation to pinch off the fortified position of Metz. This was followed by a drive by the Seventh Army and the French First Army toward Strasbourg and Belfort. These southern thrusts, from east of the Moselle to Belfort, met quick success. The Germans had withdrawn many of their troops from these areas, and the enemy offered stout but chiefly delaying action as he withdrew his main line of resistance to the Rhine and to frontiers of Germany along the Saar.

But the main Allied effort -- and the area where decision would be won -- was in the Cologne plain, east and north of Aachen which we had taken in a local offensive on October 20. Here, three Allied armies -- the British Second, the newly organized American Ninth, Lieutenant-General William H. Simpson, commanding, and the American First -- concentrated on a relatively narrow front in an attempt to smash the defending German armies and break through into the Ruhr. The first three weeks of the battle showed that the going was bitter and more bloody than the "hedgerow war" in Normandy, where our casualties were very high. At writing, the British have closed up to but have not yet crossed the Meuse between Venlo and Geilenkirchen, and the Americans have reached but have not yet crossed the Roer. The Germans are fighting with fanaticism and skill, and since September they have shown a remarkable recuperative power. The enemy is creating additional new divisions rapidly; his V-1 and V-2 weapons are being used with more and more frequency against our army supply lines immediately behind our fronts, and there is every indication of slow, grinding, bitter progress, hampered by weather as well as by the enemy.

Bad weather also handicapped our air power during the fall months. Heavy and continuous raids were made, but most of the bombing was done blind. From August 1942 to October 31, 1944, the Eighth Air Force, based in Britain, and the Fifteenth, in Italy, had together dropped 330,000 tons on targets in Germany and a grand total of 638,880 tons on objectives throughout Europe. The high-priority targets were synthetic oil plants; the German aircraft industry is now so dispersed that it is no longer a very profitable objective. The Germans are producing 1,200 to 1,500 planes a month and the Luftwaffe has not been completely knocked out; but it is not greatly influencing the course of the war.[v]

In Italy, the fall and winter rains caught our troops still in the mountains on the edge of the Po Valley. The Allied divisions had too little numerical superiority for a break-through. Casualties for limited gains continued high, and conditions of fighting and living were miserable.

The enemy has lost the war but we have not yet won it.

[i] Army: killed, 88,245; wounded, 254,283; missing, 56,442; prisoners, 55,210. Navy: killed, 29,208; wounded, 31,574; missing, 9,347; prisoners, 4,486 (all figures to November 7, 1944).

[ii] This is a hybrid class, encountered for the first time in this war. Flight decks have replaced turrets on the sterns of the old Ise-class battleships.

[iii] One of the new Musashi-class battleships was apparently badly damaged by the previous day's air attacks. Some of the enemy's destroyers also had been damaged.

[iv] The official Navy account states that "the Japanese admiral, with a costly local victory in sight, received word of the destruction of the southern force in Surigao Strait and the utter rout of the northern force with the destruction of its carriers." But the Navy communiqués about this battle have been far from frank, and the timing of these three separate actions indicates that the Japanese commander probably could not have known about the fight in the north when he turned back.

[v] The German jet fighters remain a source of danger; they are the fastest in the skies.

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  • HANSON W. BALDWIN, military and naval correspondent of the New York Times; author of "The Caissons Roll," "Strategy for Victory" and other works
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