Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
A New Americanism
Why a Nation Needs a National Story
THE three-power Conference in the Crimea, the Russian sweep from the Vistula across the Oder, and the American return to Luzon and invasion of Iwo in the Volcano Islands, 750 miles from Tokyo, were the principal milestones of the sixth winter of the war -- the fourth of American participation.
Military coöperation among the Allies reached a new high at Yalta. The Conference put an end to the German hopes of dividing the Allies and perfected plans for the last stages of the war in Europe. Another topic of discussion, though one not publicized, was the question of Russian participation in the Pacific war. Some agreements, though incomplete, were reached on the political problems of Europe; but where the Russians agreed to concessions, for example in the cases of Poland and Jugoslavia, it remained a question how far the excellent statements of principle would produce results acceptable in the long run either to foreign opinion or to the majority of the populations directly concerned.
In the broad strategic picture, the great Russian winter offensive which commenced on January 12 and quickly spread from the Baltic to the Carpathians compensated for the sharp reverse suffered by the American Armies in the Ardennes at the end of 1944. An attempt has been made by the War Department and by SHAEF to paint the Ardennes reverse as a great American victory. To this writer the attempt seems unnecessary and stupid. The flexibility and efficiency of the American staff work under stress of an unexpected blow, and the indomitable courage and combat efficiency shown by many American divisions, combined to prevent the Germans from succeeding in their maximum objective. The achievement does not call for hyperbole. Yet exaggerated accounts of the battle in the Ardennes have been issued, based apparently on the mistaken idea of too many of our military spokesmen -- that in handling public relations it is best to hide errors and inefficiencies and to make reverses appear as victories in order to "protect" our leaders from the consequences of public reaction to mistakes.
On January 15, for instance, Secretary of War Stimson, in the only official statement yet made of our losses during the German offensive in the Ardennes, estimated the total between December 15 and January 7 at slightly less than 40,000. These figures were characterized as "preliminary" and were obviously released before complete casualty lists were available; yet no corrected total has been made public up to the time of writing nearly two month later. Some 18,000 of the 40,000 American casualties were listed as "missing." At the same time, "estimates" of German losses for the same period were put at 90,000, including 40,000 captured and 50,000 killed and wounded -- a figure which seems excessive. Still greater claims were made later. On February 5, an official SHAEF resume of the Ardennes operations declared that on the whole western front 220,000 Germans had been killed or captured, or were wounded or missing, in December and January (half of these were said to be prisoners). The obvious inference is that the foe's losses in the Ardennes were much greater than our own. Yet closer examination of available but incomplete casualty reports shows that American losses on the whole western front for December and January were 136,750. Obviously most of these occurred in the original German attack and our counterattacks in the Ardennes -- a very different figure indeed from the 40,000 estimate which Mr. Stimson was led to make.
Even these figures cannot properly be compared, however, with our own "guestimates" of German casualties during this period. Later events have already invalidated some of the exaggerated claims made by SHAEF and the War Department. For instance, it was widely reported that the Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies had been so badly mauled in the Ardennes offensive that they were virtually hors de combat; the basis for such reports was the SHAEF official summary of the Ardennes fighting issued on February 5. Yet before the ink had dried on this official claim, the Russians reported the Sixth Panzer Army in action in the east. And on February 15 the 116th Panzer Division and the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, both of them among the units described as very severely mauled in the Ardennes fighting, were found opposing a Canadian offensive at Cleve.
This unfortunate tendency of official and semi-official reports to destroy the enemy on paper was in part responsible for the German success in the Ardennes -- a limited success, but a definite success nevertheless. We were overconfident. We had wrongly interpreted our sweep across France last summer and our big bag of prisoners as marking the end of the German Army. We now know, however, that the Germans had decided to retire from France before the St. Lô break-through of July 25, that the retirement had already started and that in southern France our invasion forces made contact only with German rear guards. The break-through at St. Lô hastened and confused the German retirement, but it did not trap the bulk of Germany's best combat troops in France. Only a minority of the German Seventh Army were caught in the Falaise-Argentan battle. We now know that we never even made contact with the main bodies of the enemy's First and Nineteenth Armies. Nevertheless, in December 1944 the psychological atmosphere on the western front was one of excessive confidence; we discounted too greatly Germany's remaining offensive ability.
Our own winter offensive which started in November had made important though limited gains. This offensive was general and represented a strategy of continuous pressure to wear down the German Army. To have succeeded, such a campaign of attrition would have had to be complemented by at least equal pressure from the Russians in the east. But the great Russian offensive in the east did not start until January 12. Therefore, the strategy in the west in November and December was in a certain sense a failure. The German Army, free of pressure on the eastern front above the Carpathians, was able to replace casualties and create new divisions for the west faster than we could chew them up.
Because our numerical superiority in the west in ground effectives was only about one and a half or one and three-quarters to one, our adoption of a policy of general pressure along the whole front meant that our line was spread out thin. There was some concentration along the Roer River, opposite the Cologne Plain, where the Ninth American Army (Lieutenant-General William H. Simpson, commanding) held a short front. But generally speaking we were dispersed, and in places our line was quite weak. This lack of concentration marked in particular the disposition of our armored divisions, of which there were only two to four to an Army. The Ardennes was looked upon as a quiet sector in which new divisions could be broken in. The region is mountainous and wooded, communications are limited and winter weather there is bad. The fact remains that the Germans had taken this route to victory in the Battle of France in 1940; and in December 1944 they were again to prove that the territory was feasible for mechanized armies.
At the time the German counteroffensive began on December 16 our winter offensive had pushed about to the Roer River opposite Cologne; the Third Army had driven well into the Saar in the south; and the German hold upon the Vosges area had been eliminated except for the Colmar pocket. The stage was being set for an Allied attempt to smash across the Cologne Plain toward the Rhine. At this juncture, to the surprise of the Allied commanders and of most other people also, the Germans struck. Their attack was on a fairly wide front from Monschau to Luxembourg. The Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies, and the Seventh Army, consisting of 20 to 24 divisions, six to ten of them armored (more armored divisions than the western Allies have ever concentrated for any offensive), drove down through the hills toward the Meuse.
SHAEF and other official accounts have indicated that the German offensive was planned by Hitler, with von Rundstedt's coöperation, and that its objective was nothing less than to win the war in the west. Certainly a great deal of "pep-talk" was fed to the German soldiers before the attack. However, SHAEF's contention that the German objective was to capture Antwerp and cut off 38 Allied divisions to the north scarcely stands examination. The shrewd German General Staff could hardly have expected to drive a deep salient into our lines with some 24 divisions and to have held that "corridor" against the attacks of the 38 divisions to the north of it and the many others to the south. The German objective was probably more limited. Strategically, the operation was a "spoiling offensive." The enemy hoped to dislocate Allied strategy, and succeeded. They knew that a Russian offensive was being prepared in the east. They wanted to avoid simultaneous blows in east and west. They knew that the general Allied offensive in the west had reached a stage which would soon make it possible for General Eisenhower to launch his main effort from Aachen to Cleve and in the south through the Wissembourg gap. Their operation was in the nature of a sortie in force from "Festung Germania" to disrupt our communications and our tactical organization, to force revisions in our plans, to inflict casualties and capture supplies.
The Germans succeeded in winning perhaps six to eight weeks of time. Yet they did not achieve what was probably their maximum objective -- the seizure of the line of the Meuse, including Liége, and possibly Dinant, Namur and Sedan. Had the enemy smashed across the Meuse he would have cut the principal communication lines between south and north and overrun large and almost vital supply dumps. Our hard-won gains in the Aachen area probably would have been lost, for the capture of Liége would have threatened the flank and the supply lines of the American Ninth Army and the British Second Army near the Roer. Such a retirement would have postponed our winter offensive indefinitely and might have prolonged the war with Germany as much as six months.[i]
Skilled staff work and the steadfastness of the undaunted "G.I." averted that catastrophe. The Germans immediately overran the 106th Division, which -- new to war -- was holding a long, "quiet" sector of the Ardennes front. This division lost more than two-thirds of its infantry components, most of them captured; and the losses of other American divisions in adjacent positions were heavy. At the start, German progress was rapid. The front of the First American Army was split, because of severed communications, and a revision of command was immediately necessary. Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery assumed command of all forces -- American and British -- north of the bulge, while Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley retained command of the Third American Army and elements of the First Army south of the bulge.
The crisis probably came between December 18 and 21. By these dates the Germans had punched out a salient 50 miles deep and about 50 miles wide at its base. But despite their best efforts they could not widen the salient toward its tip; the "shoulders" were held firmly by the 2nd Division and others. The German torrent was canalized and diverted to the west, away from vital Liége, and then gradually dammed up. In the first days the usual German technique of spreading fear and confusion was employed to the full. Patrols dressed in American uniforms were sent deep behind American lines; parachute troops for sabotage and guerrilla purposes were dropped in large numbers; the dwindling German Air Force was put aloft for close support, despite bad weather; V-bombs and rockets were used in great numbers. One German patrol, dressed in American uniforms, actually penetrated into Liége.
The American 1st Infantry Division held the German 12th SS Armored Division at Bütgenbach; the 7th Armored Division "found itself" at St. Vith; the 101st Airborne Division (whose acting commander replied "Nuts!" to a German demand for surrender) stood off the enemy at Bastogne; and many other units too numerous to enumerate here were instrumental in holding the German offensive short of its major aim. A break in the weather on December 21, which permitted Allied air power to hammer German communication and supply lines, was a major factor in slowing and then stopping the German tide. But in retrospect it seems clear that the work of veteran American divisions on the ground, particularly on December 20, when the Germans made a major effort to break through to Liége, was primarily responsible for our defensive success.
From December 22 onward, almost till February 1, the battle of the Ardennes really resolved itself into an effort to eliminate the bulge that had been pushed into our lines. Nearly all of the Third Army, which gave up its hard-won gains in the Saar and concentrated with energy, spirit and remarkable speed against the southern flank of the bulge, was employed in reducing the German salient. The First Army drove against the enemy from the north, and one British corps was transferred from Holland for brief operations against the salient's tip. The American troops encountered bitter cold and very heavy snow (for which many of them were not properly equipped), bad weather which often limited their air support, and tenacious German resistance. But gradually, fighting with finer drive and spirit than in any previous campaign, they pushed the enemy back and inflicted heavy losses. The process was hastened early in January when the Russian offensive began and the Germans pulled out troops to meet the threat in the east. On January 19, General Bradley resumed command of the entire First Army; the Ninth, which was still deployed along the Roer, remained under Field Marshal Montgomery, together with the Canadian First and British Second Armies.
By the beginning of February the harsh Ardennes fighting was a memory, marked by the graves of the men who had given new examples of American courage. Our schedule had been set back at least six weeks; to meet the emergency we had drawn on troops in rest areas and held in reserve for future operations; and we had used up much-needed replacements of men and material. The front in the west on February 1 was quite different from the front in the west on December 16.
All in all, the net results of the Ardennes fighting probably showed a balance in Germany's favor. The emergency created by the enemy break-through had made us halt our offensive operations elsewhere in the west (including operations against German-held Dunkirk and St. Nazaire, which seem to have been started and then suspended), and we had been forced to transfer troops to the threatened region from all over the western front. As a result of this weakening of our forces elsewhere, the enemy was able to win local bridgeheads in the north, regain the Saar, eliminate our threat to the Wissembourg gap and mount a threat of his own to Strasbourg. This latter danger was not completely removed until February 9 when the French First Army, spearheaded and very materially assisted by the Twenty-first American Corps, finally eliminated the Colmar pocket in the Vosges. The upshot of the Ardennes fighting was that in January and February the enemy felt it safe to reduce his divisions in the west from about 80 to 60 or 65 (the units transferred to the east included the Sixth Panzer Army); and the Allied winter offensive in the west picked up in February about where it had left off on December 16.
The German and then the American successes in the Ardennes, both of them limited and both tempered by failures, were obscured by the sweeping Russian triumphs in the offensive which began on January 12. The Red Army, striking with greater numbers of tanks than had ever before been used in war, and with a superiority in ground effectives as high as from two and a half to four to one, smashed across the Vistula from the Carpathians to the Baltic, overran East Prussia and in a few weeks pushed to the Oder and across it. This changed the complexion of war overnight; Germany was now in dire peril. Yet by mid-February, with the Russians threatening Berlin, Stettin and Dresden, the bitter consequences of the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes still afflicted our arms. For though there evidently was to be a great Allied effort in the west we were not yet able to mount it.
However, by mid-February preliminary Allied gains had been made in the west, and they were considerable. The Allies abandoned their earlier policy of general pressure and concentrated their forces on narrow fronts in an effort to break through to and across the Rhine. The fronts in the Vosges and in the Saar became static after the Colmar pocket had been eliminated. The Third Army extended its flank well north of the Moselle and took the communications junction of Pruem. The First Army, holding a smaller front than in December, drove toward the dams controlling the water level of the Roer River and early in February succeeded in taking or dominating them, though not before the Germans had blown the sluice gates of one dam and flooded the Roer Valley. In the north, Canadians and British mounted a strong drive through difficult and inundated country at Cleve and Goch and reached the Rhine, though at a point where the river was broad and swollen.
This Canadian drive was supplemented later in February by a main effort by the American Ninth and First Armies across the Roer River toward Cologne, Düsseldorf and München-Gladbach. By March 1 the Allied winter offensive -- modified in its concepts -- was in full swing and some 56,000 German prisoners had been captured in the west. All German positions on the west bank of the Rhine between Arnhem and Cologne were threatened and an enforced German retreat to the east bank of the Rhine seemed inevitable.
Despite bad weather, the air operations in Europe during the winter were of almost unbelievable magnitude. During 1944 the American Air Forces dropped almost 1,000,000 tons of bombs in Europe; in January 1945, the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces, based on Britain and Italy, dropped 45,264 tons. The primary targets were communications and the German synthetic oil industry. It was estimated that by December 1944 German production of all types of oil fuels had been reduced to about one-third or one-fourth the April 1944 figure, and many observers believe oil shortages have been a material factor in reducing the mobility of the German Army and hence in facilitating the Russian victories. Nevertheless, this factor can be, and possibly has been, overstated; the Germans apparently found no difficulty in getting enough oil for their counteroffensive in the Ardennes, or for large-scale Panzer counteroffensives near Budapest. An immediate product of the Crimea Conference was the use of Allied heavy bombers against German communications and cities such as Dresden, directly in the rear of the Russian front. Coöperation between Allied air forces and Russian ground forces reached a new high in January.
The German Luftwaffe made a short-lived comeback during the Ardennes operations, staging in particular a New Year's Day low-level attack against Allied airfields in Belgium and France. They lost heavily themselves, but inflicted heavy losses on us also. The enemy tended to use more and more jet fighters, particularly the very fast, rather long-range twin-jet -- the Me-262 -- the fastest plane in European skies. Another German jet plane, the Me-163, had some success in intercepting our Flying Fortresses in January; but probably it has been introduced "too little and too late" to affect the course of the air war materially. The fact remains that the Germans are ahead of us in jets, and their use of them is being watched closely, since there is evidence that they have virtually abandoned production of most other types of aircraft to concentrate upon this one.
Other fronts in Europe played subsidiary parts during the winter. The deep snows and bitter cold of the Apennines stalemated operations in Italy, the more so as our superiority there was limited. The 92nd (Negro) Division of the Fifth Army twice made local advances, only to be counterattacked and thrown back to its original positions with fairly sizeable losses. The new American 10th Mountain Division captured the dominating height of Mt. Belvedere southwest of Bologna. Brazilian troops, about a regimental combat-team in strength, continued to hold a sector of the front. American air power supported British operations in Greece and Allied operations in the Balkans and Hungary.
The vital job of getting supplies to Russia was pushed during the winter, but with new facilities. The Persian Gulf Command, which played such a major rôle in this task in the early, more difficult days, was gradually reduced in size when Turkey gave permission for us to use a new and shorter route into the Black Sea. The Murmansk and Alaskan routes continued to function.
Our control of the Pacific by planes and ships enabled us to plant the American flag on Luzon Island and on Iwo Jima, in the Volcano Islands, during the winter months. The new conquests followed rapidly upon the protracted battle for Leyte in the Philippines which up to December 26 cost the Japanese -- according to General Douglas MacArthur, who is always liberal in his estimates -- 113,221 men.[ii]
The backbone of enemy resistance on Leyte had been broken by the Navy's decisive victory in the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, now officially renamed "The Battle for Leyte Gulf." [iii] Naval control was extended to the western shores of Leyte, and on December 7 an amphibious force was landed at Ormoc. On December 26, almost two months after he had prematurely "freed" Leyte, General MacArthur again declared that the "Leyte-Samar campaign can now be regarded as closed except for minor mopping-up operations." [iv] This time there was good reason for his statement.
In retrospect, the fight for Leyte seems to have constituted the enemy's major attempt to hold the Philippines. He shot his bolt there; and our later Philippine operations by land, sea and air were consequently eased. Even before we had completely broken the Leyte stalemate, imposed by enemy resistance and torrential rains, our troops landed on Mindoro Island and established air strips there within easy fighter plane range of the whole island of Luzon. Subsequently, on January 3, more troops of Lieutenant-General Walter Krueger's Sixth Army, which had won the battle of Leyte, landed on little Marinduque Island, near the Bondoc peninsula on Luzon, while the American troops on Mindoro extended their footholds.
Under cover of the land-based air power thus provided, and heavily protected by escort carriers and combat ships of Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet, the invasion of Luzon was mounted on January 9. The strength of the Japanese forces on Luzon at the time was estimated at 175,000, including a rarity in the Japanese Army -- an armored division. The Japanese deployed sizeable forces in the south, in the Batangas-Tayabas regions, to meet any threat originating from Mindoro or Marinduque Islands. Perhaps they had 4,000 to 9,000 men in Bataan and Corregidor and more than 20,000 in Manila and the vicinity. Another concentration was in the hills east and northeast of Manila. But the larger portion of General Tomoyuki Yamashita's troops was in the north, with large concentrations around the eastern part of Lingayen Gulf in the Damortis-San Fernando-Baguio area. Strange as it may seem, our initial landings, made in the one area of the island where landings were most to be expected, took the enemy by surprise. The Japanese had had three years to fortify Lingayen, yet assault elements of General Krueger's
Sixth Army landed on the southern coast of the Gulf against virtually no opposition and encountered no fortifications of any consequence. The warships of the invading fleet which bombarded the shore for three days prior to D-Day were heavily attacked by Japanese planes, however, which bored in relentlessly despite terrific antiaircraft fire. The Ommaney Bay, an escort carrier, and other vessels were sunk, and many more of our vessels were damaged. (More naval ships have been damaged since the start of the Philippine campaign in October than in any comparable period of the war.) After a few days, however, the air attacks petered out, as Japanese air power, weakened from the Leyte campaign, was blasted from the skies.
General Krueger's progress down the central Luzon plain toward Manila met very limited opposition until the city was reached. The operation had begun with the establishment of a beachhead between San Carlos and Dagupan, which was subsequently extended northward to San Fabian and Damortis. The drive down the central plain was undertaken by Major-General Oscar W. Griswold's Fourteenth Corps, while on the American left flank, the First Corps (Major-General Innis P. Swift, com manding), consisting of the 6th, 25th and 43rd Divisions, tried to push up into the Japanese-held hills to protect the flank of the Manila spearhead. The latter encountered the toughest fighting of the campaign.
The out-manœuvred Japanese commander tried frantically to concentrate his principal forces, split by the landing in the center; and he did succeed in moving some of his troops from the south to the Baguio area. But he frittered away most of the strength of his single armored division (equipped with inferior tanks) [v] in piecemeal attacks, and his threat to our northern flank was never serious. As our northern and eastern flank was slowly extended into the mountains, across Highway Five and eventually across the mountains to Baler on the east coast (reached on February 14), the thrust down the central plain reached Clark Field on January 25. Our entry into the northern part of Manila and the relief of Americans in Santo Tomas internment camp was made on February 4; and two days later General MacArthur jubilantly, but prematurely, announced the capture of the city.
Actually, the toughest fighting of the Luzon campaign commenced with our entry into Manila. General MacArthur's troops, not experienced in the technique of street fighting, had to fight their way from house to house; and the city, devastated by Japanese demolitions, shell fire and planes, was still not wholly in our possession as these lines were written. [vi] Nevertheless, the Japanese position was hopeless. Units of a new Army, the Eighth, led by Lieutenant-General Robert L. Eichelberger, landed on January 29 near Subic Bay, at the base of the Bataan peninsula, cut off the peninsula and probed landwards. The 11th Airborne Division landed on February 2 near Nasugbu, 50 miles southwest of Manila Bay, but north of the main Japanese concentrations further south in the neighborhood of Batangas. With the aid of a parachute landing on a commanding ridge, they drove to the southern outskirts of the capital. There followed repeated bombings and shellings of Corregidor, an amphibious landing at Mariveles near the southern tip of Bataan peninsula and an airborne and seaborne landing on Corregidor which resulted in a tenday conquest of the fortress island.
By February 21, the Japanese had suffered some 92,000 casualties on Luzon according to General MacArthur's estimates, which have never been noted for their conservatism. However, thousands of Japanese are still holed up in the Zambales mountains; and there are large forces in the mountains east of Manila and in the north and south. Strategically, however, although months probably will pass before all organized Japanese resistance is broken, the battle for Luzon has been won. In some six weeks of fighting the Americans have avenged Bataan, hoisted the flag again in Manila, obtained room for great airfields on the Central Luzon plain, and secured Subic and Manila Bays and thereby facilities through which the airfields can be supplied. For strategic reasons we may wish other airfield sites somewhat closer to Formosa, for example in the Cagayan Valley in the north; if so, an amphibious landing near Aparri on the north coast can secure them.
The quick results achieved on Luzon without the great showdown battle that had been expected can be attributed in major measure to overwhelming American superiority, particularly at sea and in the air. This superiority made it possible for us to pick our points of attack, to outflank the Japanese concentrations ashore and to be well informed of the enemy's dispositions while blinding him to our own. Even so, the Japanese defense was remarkably ineffective, considering the large numbers of troops at the disposal of the enemy commanders. General Eichel-berger expressed the common bewilderment when he remarked: "Those Jap generals must have gone crazy. Where in hell are they going to fight?" His comment was provoked by the Japanese failure to defend the Luzon beaches against any of our amphibious landings, despite the fact that any amphibious assault is weakest while it is half ashore and half afloat.
A number of factors can be cited, however, to explain the Japanese failure on Luzon:
(1) Our information about Japanese dispositions was excellent; after enemy airpower was shot out of the air, his knowledge of our dispositions was meagre. Filipino guerrillas and American coast-watchers in Luzon, communicating by radio with our headquarters, were able to supply invaluable information.
(2) The Japanese exerted much of their strength on Leyte, particularly the air and sea strength they had allocated for defense of the Philippines. Control of the sea and air is the key to victory in any island war; when the enemy irretrievably lost that, his defense of Luzon was doomed.
(3) General Yamashita may have expected reënforcements for the Luzon garrison, and Admiral William F. Halsey, in his January sweep through the China Sea, may have actually intercepted such reënforcements, bound northward from French Indo-China. If General Yamashita had decided not to oppose our Lingayen landings seriously until the reënforcements had arrived, his behavior makes more sense.
(4) The Japanese were outguessed. The American strategy was well conceived and well executed. There is not much doubt that the enemy did not expect landings at Lingayen (or those made later) in the exact areas where they occurred. The southern coast of Lingayen often presents difficult surf conditions. Also, the fish ponds and rice paddies which line the shore are major obstacles after a rain; fortunately, most of these were fairly well dried out when we landed. The Japanese apparently expected us to by-pass these obstacles and land further north on Lingayen.
(5) Our overwhelming superiority, not only in the air and at sea, but also on land -- particularly our mechanized superiority -- may have convinced the Japanese commander that his forces would quickly be chopped to pieces on the open Luzon plain. He may therefore have elected to string out the fighting -- even though it seemed futile -- by making his main stand in the jungled mountains, behind the concrete and steel of Corregidor and in the maze of buildings of Manila.
(6) The friction between the Japanese Army and Navy, mounting as Japan nears defeat, may well have been a factor in the defense of Luzon. The Japanese Army probably expected some Japanese naval intervention.
(7) The false reports made by Japanese junior officers to their seniors, which have characterized so many previous actions of this war, may constitute another partial explanation for the failure of the Japanese commander to take earlier and more energetic counter-measures. The Japanese officer is taught from youth that Japan cannot be defeated, that the Japanese cannot be pushed onto the defensive and that any reverse involves loss of face. Accordingly, he rarely reports a reverse or asks for reserves until it is too late. Division and corps commanders often do not know the real battle situation until it is too late to do anything about it. Inadequate and inflexible Japanese leadership is one of the enemy's major weaknesses.
(8) Inadequate training in defensive tactics and in the war of manœuvre is another weakness. The Japanese have always emphasized the offensive and neglected the science of defense.
(9) Limited motor transport, and our overwhelming command of the air, made the Japanese unable to concentrate their forces quickly.
But the most important factor in the Japanese defeat was our overwhelming superiority in numbers. We employed ten divisions on Luzon -- the 1st Cavalry, 6th, 11th Airborne, 24th, 25th, 32nd, 37th, 38th, 40th and 43rd, plus the 158th Regimental Combat Team and 6th Ranger Battalion and many ancillary units. This made it the largest operation of the Pacific war. At the time of writing, a number of Australian divisions apparently scheduled for use had not even been landed. Great credit should be given to our troops and commanders; but it must be remembered that any team, or any commander, appears to advantage when enjoying superiorities as great as we have had on Luzon. [vii]
Indeed, in the light of our difficulties in western Europe a strong case can be made against the use of such large land forces in the southwest Pacific. General MacArthur has had between 20 and 25 divisions -- possibly more -- under his command, including American troops not used in the Luzon campaign, and Australian and New Zealand divisions. The Pacific war has been largely a naval and air war; no large numbers of troops were ever employed by General MacArthur until seven divisions were used on Leyte. Twenty divisions is a very sizeable army, more than one-third as large as all the American forces in western Europe. It is, of course, very desirable to have overwhelming numbers whenever possible, but in a global war the needs of any one theater must be constantly balanced against the needs of other theaters. Events during the winter showed that we lacked a sufficient margin of superiority in ground troops in Europe; four or five of the divisions assigned to General MacArthur could probably have been put to much better use against Germany.[viii]
Before the Luzon campaign was finished, the Navy struck new blows much closer to Tokyo. Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet swept the waters along the China and Indo-China coasts in January to cover the Luzon invasion, after previous strikes against Formosa and against Okinawa in the Ryukyu group. The Formosa-Okinawa operations claimed 111 enemy aircraft and 27 ships destroyed; the raids on Indo-China scattered or sank four enemy convoys and cost Japan an estimated 25 ships, including a Katori-class light cruiser. Combined, these operations cost Japan an estimated 250,000 tons of shipping and about 400 planes, plus other ships and planes damaged.[ix] Following these great strikes, the Third Fleet was inactive for a few weeks, but on February 16 and 17 (East Longitude date) the Fifth Fleet, or major carrier elements of it, under Admiral Raymond A. Spruance and Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, fulfilled the long-cherished ambitions of every Navy man and struck with hundreds of carrier-based planes against the Tokyo area. This protracted air raid destroyed 509 enemy planes and sank at least 13 ships, including three or four men-of-war, according to official claims. Not a ship was damaged. In a later carrier strike on February 25-26 we claimed 158 enemy planes and a number of small craft destroyed. We suffered minor damage to two light fleet units. This raid was complemented by a 200-plane B-29 raid against Tokyo. Heavy damage by the raids was done to Japanese industry.
These operations covered one of the most difficult amphibious assaults which we have attempted -- the invasion of Iwo Island in the Volcano group, 750 miles from Tokyo. This tiny island, five miles long, rugged and honeycombed with gun galleries and caves, was invaded February 19, after a three-day bombardment, by the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions. Some 800 ships were in the invading armada. A long though shallow beachhead was quickly established, but enfilading fire from hidden guns exacted considerable casualties.
By March 1, the Marines, in the hardest battle in their history which had cost them 5,372 casualties up to February 21, had captured more than half of Iwo. Iwo has been an enemy air base,
and Japanese planes taking off from it sometimes raided our B-29 Superfortress bases in Guam, Saipan and Tinian. The capture of the island was in part a defensive measure, but also constituted a direct offensive threat to Tokyo. Fighter planes based on it can accompany our long-range bombers on their raids over Japan. In time we may also be able to develop bomber strips there, from which B-29's or shorter-range Liberators can launch attacks also.
Iwo is thus an important milestone in the development of our bombing campaign against Japan. B-29's based on the Marianas, carrying three to six tons of bombs for unprecedentedly long distances, have been bombing the Japanese mainland frequently ever since November 24. The results are in no sense vital, and it now seems probable that bombing alone will not knock Japan out, just as it has failed to knock out any other major determined nation. But the Japanese aircraft industry, one of the three A1 priority targets in Japan (the others being shipbuilding and ship repair facilities, and Japan's highly combustible cities), has already been hurt: its production of some 1,400 to 1,800 planes a month has been reduced and factories have had to be dispersed.
The war also went well on part of the Asiatic continent during the winter. At long last, the Ledo-Burma Road, the link by land between India and China and the dreamchild of General Joseph W. Stilwell, was opened to at least limited traffic;[x] and in January the Air Transport Command carried some 44,000 tons of supplies over the "hump" to China. With the siege of Mandalay starting, only pockets of the enemy remained near these roads to China. The battle of North Burma had been virtually won. It has been won chiefly by British and Chinese troops with the help of native troops and labor, aided by the American "Mars" task force (Lieutenant-General Daniel I. Sultan commands all troops in north Burma) and American engineering ability and air power.
The situation in China was not as bright as that in Burma, for the enemy widened his land corridor from Manchuria to Singapore in the winter months, extending his hold on the railroads from Canton to Hankow, and also seized isolated American airfields to the east. The Japanese are now filling gaps in the railway system in the area by constructing new lines. Obviously fearful of a landing in China, they also have strengthened their hold on the coastal regions. The domestic situation in the country appears to have improved slightly with the help of Lieutenant-General Albert C. Wedemeyer and our new Ambassador, Major-General Patrick Hurley. More and more, too, the shadow of Russia looms over Manchuria and the Japanese Kwantung Army.
[i] On December 16, the very day the German counteroffensive started, the first Liberty Ship passed through reconstructed Lock Rochemont at Le Havre, some three months after the capture of the port. The volume of supplies passing through it now exceeds 15,000 tons a day. The fact that Le Havre was available in December meant that the capture of Antwerp by the Germans (if that was their intention) would not have been fatal. It would certainly, however, have been a great blow.
[ii] Of this total, only 54,338 were "counted dead;" the rest were estimated losses.
[iii] Cf. the author's article in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, January 1945.
[iv] These "mopping-up operations" cost the Japanese an estimated 19,000 more casualties on Leyte from December 26 to February 19, bringing the estimated total enemy casualties to about 132,000. The estimate is too high, in this observer's opinion, but it suggests the magnitude of "mopping-up operations" in the Pacific.
[v] No American armored division was used on Luzon; indeed, none has yet been used in the Pacific. Tank battalions supported our infantry on Luzon. It would have been interesting to see what an armored division could do to the Japanese -- who apparently are not too well equipped for war of manœuvre -- on the good roads of Luzon.
[vi] The last considerable organized resistance in Manila was crushed in the Intramuros section in the closing days of February, and the city, burned out and devastated by deliberate Japanese demolitions, was virtually ours by March 1, except for small-scale mopping-up operations. The first American supply ship to enter Manila Bay steamed past Corregidor about February 27.
[vii] Announced American casualties in the Luzon operations up to February 21 (presumably Army only) were 12,929, including 2,676 killed. The total has been considerably increased since.
[viii] Part of the trouble in Europe was plainly due to a miscalculation about the date the war would end. Official estimates put V-Day in October. The enemy had different ideas.
[ix] These figures, like MacArthur's, are subject to considerable downward revision. Early reports of enemy combat losses nearly always have been exaggerated in the Pacific.
[x] Editor's Note: See maps in Brigadier-General Horace S. Sewell's article, "The Campaign in Burma," p. 497 and 501.