The Coup in the Kremlin
How Putin and the Security Services Captured the Russian State
Napoleon's remark that the "moral is to the physical as three to one" again received the affirmation of history in the spring of 1945 when German resistance collapsed suddenly and the war in Europe ended after five years and eight months of unprecedented struggle.
The exact date of the ending of the war against Germany may long be a matter of debate among historians. The first surrender agreement was signed at Reims, France, on May 7; this was "countersigned" in Berlin May 8-9, and all hostilities were scheduled to end 12:01 a.m. May 9. Actually some German troops were still fighting the Russians on May 13. But for all intents and purposes the war ended in April with the great American sweep to the Elbe and the Russian drive into Berlin. At that time, there seemed a real possibility that the German resistance in pockets throughout Europe from the Ægean Islands to Norway might be bitter and perhaps protracted; indeed, this was expected, for high SHAEF officials had told correspondents that the "campaign of the pockets" might continue throughout the summer. German fanaticism and will to fight had already extended the war -- despite the hopelessness of the German position and the tremendous superiority of the Allies -- long beyond the expected ending. In the spring of 1945, then, the Allies tended to be justifiably cautious in their predictions. But the sweep to the Elbe, the drive into Berlin, and, above all, the Nazi announcement of Adolf Hitler's death on May 1 snapped the thread of German morale. Wholesale surrenders were also touched off by the Nazi collapse in Italy. The "campaign of the pockets" was never fought.
The announcement of Hitler's death seems to have been coupled with the assumption of power by the German military. But that did not end the power of the Nazi Party. The Nazi announcement was that Hitler had died in the Berlin Chancellery, then under attack by the Russians. Hitler probably is dead, though no proof of this may ever be available. We may never know how he died. All this is as expected, and contributes materially to the "Hitler myth," which -- unless we are careful -- may become part and parcel of German folk history. Hitler is not "dead" and will not be as long as his spirit roams the world.
At long last, therefore, another conqueror's attempt to dominate the entire Continent of Europe has been blocked, and the dangerous philosophy that the end justifies any means has again been invalidated by the indignation of the peoples of the earth. The war against Hitler was perhaps the most successful coalition war of modern times, and the coördination between the war efforts of the United States and the British Empire was better than in any previous great war by allies. Two tremendous factors operated to bring about Germany's defeat: British courage in adversity, when "the few" of the air turned back "the many"; and Russian manpower and the vastness of Russian distances. But the cornerstone of victory was the American machine. The mass industrial output of America provided the sinews of conflict for all the Allies. Without it victory would have been impossible and Germany's will to fight would never have been undermined and her armies defeated.
The war ended with Germany perhaps the most devastated and thoroughly beaten nation since Carthage. But it was a costly victory. The United States alone suffered more than 800,000 casualties, including more than 155,000 killed. Alone it spent between 150 and 200 billion dollars. And Europe, in the guise man had known it in modern times, was gone forever.
"Victory" is an unsatisfactory term so long as we are faced with the problems that the physical struggle left in its wake. They are gigantic, far more complex than those of battle. Politically and economically, morally and psychologically, Europe is a wasted land. Even that stark reality, however, is no guarantee that the ravening urge for dominion of men over other men has ended; even before the fires of war had died, there were disquieting signs in eastern Europe and in the Balkans that the "self-determination of peoples" might be merely a phrase. The rejoicing on V-E Day, therefore, was tempered throughout the United States by the awareness of the immense difficulties that remain, by the fear of our people that the "Four Horsemen" may again ride through Europe, and particularly by the knowledge that there is still a war -- tremendous in its dimensions -- to be won in the Pacific.
The final defeat of Germany is seen in retrospect to have been clearly a product of the Allied invasion of western Europe. Whether Germany could have been defeated without that invasion is problematical; in any case the war would certainly have lasted far longer. The invasion in the west, the sweep across France, the drive to the Westwall, the attrition struggle along that fortified zone, the push to the Rhine, the drive across, and the capture of the Saar and the Ruhr stretched German resistance to the breaking-point.
The fruits of these operations were immense -- about 2,100,000 German prisoners in the west from D-Day, June 6, 1944, until the end of fighting in the Ruhr pocket, April 19, 1945 -- plus the unreckoned total of German killed, wounded and missing. In that period, too, the Allied advances were so important that Germany's strategical position became hopeless; she had been deprived of most of her industrial areas; she no longer possessed strategic barriers or a continuous line in the west; and our intensive bombings had crippled the mobility of the German Army and was bleeding the Third Reich white.
The direct antecedents of the final campaigns against Germany go back to the "Battle of the Bulge" in December and January, when in the bitter Ardennes winter the last great German blow in the west [i] was beaten back. We now know from the statements of the captured German commander at the time, Field Marshal von Rundstedt, that the Nazi objective was to relieve Allied pressure in the Cologne Plain area, and if possible to reach Liege and the line of the Meuse, thus disrupting many of the Allied supply lines through Belgium. This offensive failed in its maximum objective, but succeeded in its minimum one -- to relieve the Cologne pressure and to win time. But the German successes, which were temporary, were immediately imperiled by the great Russian offensive of January, which swept from the Vistula to the Oder. The Germans drew some 20 divisions away from the western front to reënforce the east. At the same time, we belatedly strained every nerve to give our ground forces that ratio of superiority which is essential if battles are to be won. We sent to Europe at least two divisions that had been earmarked for the Pacific, and hurriedly built up the strength of our ground army in the west. The last new division to reach Europe entered the fighting only a month before the end.
The marked weakening of the German forces, the marked strengthening of our own, plus the better weather of February, March and April which permitted us to use our air superiority to the full, explain in some measure the rapidity of our final successes. But good leadership and flexible tactics, plus the skill and determination of the American Army, contributed materially to victory; the Army of Europe ended its career of blood and glory the best fighting machine the United States ever has sent abroad.
The final campaign in Germany was prefaced by the fighting in February west of the Rhine. The capture of the dams controlling the level of the Roer River by the First Army did not come in time to prevent flooding of that valley by the retreating Germans. As a result, the Ninth Army offensive across the Roer toward Düsseldorf and Muenchen-Gladbach, originally timed to coincide with the Canadian and British drive toward Cleve and Emmerich, had to be delayed until late February. When it started, however, on February 23, it went with a rush. The Ninth Army, despite the flood waters in the Roer, spanned that river rapidly and drove northwest to meet the British and Canadians coming down from the north. The junction was soon made, and by March 6 the Ninth Army -- operating at the time as part of Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery's Twenty-first Army Group -- had reached the Rhine, except in the north, where German paratroopers tenaciously held a bridgehead on the west bank at Wesel.
Enemy casualties for this part of the operation alone totalled about 52,000 captured (for the Twenty-first Army Group) and an estimated 60,000 killed and wounded. Simultaneous with the Ninth Army's crossing of the Roer, the First American Army -- "workhorse" of the American armies in Europe -- drove eastward toward Cologne and Bonn. It then turned southeastward to join spearheads with the Third American Army, which had sent its "galloping" tanks of the famous 4th Armored Division on a deep drive from the captured road junction of Pruem into Coblenz.
Then occurred one of those historic incidents which, though it did not change the course of the war, perhaps shortened it and surely lessened our casualties. The 9th Armored Division of the First Army reached a railroad bridge across the Rhine at Remagen after the Germans had damaged it but before they could destroy it. A platoon leader alive to his opportunities sent his men across and was quickly followed by other forces. On General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal orders, Lieutenant-General Courtney Hodges of the First Army hurriedly pushed at least five divisions over the Rhine, and by March 24 we had a firm, deep and wide bridgehead on the east bank. The Remagen bridge subsequently collapsed from cumulative damage, but as Lieutenant-General Walter B. Smith, General Eisenhower's chief of staff, said, "It did not last long, but while it did it was worth its weight in gold."
While the First Army was developing and expanding its bridgehead and clearing out pockets along its front west of the Rhine, General George C. Patton's Third Army seized Coblenz and cleaned out German troops west of the Moselle River. It then crossed the Moselle at several points (two of the principal crossings were south of Coblenz and near Trier) and drove southeast toward Mannheim to cut off the Saar and the German forces defending it. At the same time, the Seventh American Army, Lieutenant-General Alexander Patch commanding, drove through the Westwall defenses in the Saar and acted as the anvil to the First Army's hammer. These converging operations badly mauled the German First and Seventh Armies, netted great bags of prisoners and equipment, and completed the rout of the enemy west of the Rhine. At the same time, the Wesel bridgehead in the north was wiped out by the Twenty-first Army Group after tough fighting, and by March 24, one month after the Roer crossing, all German positions west of the Rhine (except for a small bridgehead west of Karlsruhe) had been liquidated. A considerable number of German troops escaped to the east bank, however. When the effort to break across the river started on March 24, the Allies were faced by the remnants of perhaps seven German armies, among them the Twenty-fifth Army, First Parachute Army, Fifteenth Army, Fifth Panzer Army, Seventh Army, First Army and Nineteenth Army. But this was a more impressive list on paper than in action; we probably enjoyed a superiority in combat effectives of between two and three to one.
The great value of the Remagen bridgehead now showed itself. The strategical mobility of the German Army was greatly reduced, and at this period its tactical mobility was terrifically impaired by our well-planned interdiction bombing: it was exceedingly difficult for the Germans to shift what few reserves they had. The Remagen bridgehead had forced them to weaken their forces in the north, opposite Field Marshal Montgomery's Twenty-first Army Group, and they had built up a strong front on the east bank of the Rhine south of Cologne to protect the Ruhr. But instead of striking due north from the bridgehead through the heavily built-up areas of the Ruhr, the First Army struck south to connect up with the Third near Frankfurt-am-Main, and then east and north to encircle the Ruhr. The advance out of the Remagen bridgehead was accompanied by a general crossing of the Rhine along most of its length from Arnhem to Karlsruhe. The main effort originally had been scheduled for the favorable terrain of the Westphalian Plain in the north, where Field Marshal Montgomery's First Canadian and Second British Armies, reënforced by the Ninth American Army, had been expected to make the main Rhine crossing. The Germans correctly diagnosed this as a point of danger, but apparently did not expect -- or did not have enough reserves to meet -- the eastward lunge of the First Army and the crossing of the Rhine by the Third Army north of Mannheim.
The British crossings in the north, aided and eased by naval landing craft, and by troops of the U. S. 17th Airborne Division and British paratroopers of the First Allied Airborne Army who were landed in the enemy's rear after the ground troops had started their offensive, were made with remarkable ease. It soon became evident that the Rhine was too lightly defended, the German Army's mobility too greatly circumscribed, for the river to be made an effective barrier. By April 8 the battle of the Rhine was a memory; the American Ninth and the British Second in the north had crossed the Ems and the Weser Rivers; the Third had crossed the Weser in the south; the Seventh Army was past Wuerzburg; and the French First Army had crossed the Rhine north of Karlsruhe.
More important, the First Army and the Ninth Army had linked at Paderborn, so that the Ruhr, last of Germany's great industrial areas, was encircled. This, like the forging of the Remagen bridgehead, was a decisive stroke. General Smith called the Ruhr encirclement the "largest double envelopment of military history," and while this may be a slight exaggeration, it was certainly the greatest single pocket ever created by American troops. Some 317,000 Germans were captured by April 19, when the Ruhr pocket was finally wiped out, and the greater part of two to three German armies were destroyed. From then on, there was never a continuous front in the west: the fighting was fluid, a battle of "pockets" against isolated German elements, some dispirited, some fanatical.
The Ninth Army rejoined General Omar Bradley's Twelfth Army Group after the Ruhr encirclement. With the Ninth, First, Third and Fifteenth Armies [ii] under his command in the last phase of the war against Germany, General Bradley controlled the greatest field force ever led by an American general. The First and Ninth, after cleaning up the Ruhr, drove northeastward deep into Germany, while the British and Canadians turned to the north against the German ports. The Ninth reached the Elbe near Magdeburg on April 11, and pushed one bridgehead across the river north of the city. This bridgehead was smashed by a German counterattack, but another bridgehead was made good and was being developed when General Eisenhower ordered the Ninth and First Armies to halt along the Elbe and await the advancing Russians.
This decision probably was not made at the Yalta Conference, and may have been taken by General Eisenhower as a result of the field situation. The Russians had started a push from their Oder positions in late April, shortly before we reached the Elbe. They unquestionably wished the prestige of entering Berlin first. The communication lines of the First and Ninth Armies were extended and supplies were being delivered by air; only weak spearheads had crossed the Elbe, and the Germans had sizeable forces east of that river. Moreover, even though the supply difficulties could have been solved in a few days -- considering the disorganized state of German resistance -- a continued Allied push into the corridor between the Elbe and the Oder would have risked a head-on meeting with the Russians, mistakes in identifications of units, and possible casualties and incidents. And an Allied attempt to take Berlin from the west would have complicated the siege, for we have never had any coördinated command with the Russians. Probably it would have cost the Americans very heavily in casualties. This last factor doubtless was a governing one in General Eisenhower's decision.
Juncture with the Russians was made near Torgau by units of the First American Army on April 25, to the accompaniment of much vodka drinking and wassail, and Germany was split in half. Meanwhile, the Third American Army, which captured Frankfurt after crossing the Rhine and formed a juncture with the right flank of the First, pushed to the northeast toward Kassel and Erfurt. It reached the border of Czechoslovakia on April 18; then this powerful army swung abruptly 90 degrees to the southeast and joined the American Seventh -- which had been fighting through Nuremberg against bitter resistance -- and the French First, in a drive to smash the German southern citadel.
How long the Germans in this region, as well as those in Norway and in other pockets throughout Europe, could have held out we shall never know. For from April 21 on, when the Russians first entered Berlin, events moved fast. The Russians had captured Vienna on April 13, and our great victories in the west had paved the way for the final curtain. The collapse started in Italy. On May 2 the Allied High Command there announced the unconditional surrender -- signed April 29, after a long period of negotiations -- of all Nazi and Italian Fascist forces in Italy. The capitulation followed a blitz campaign of less than a month, in which the weary veterans of the Apennines came down at last out of the mountains into the "promised land" of the Po Valley and swept on northward to the Alps. The surrender in Italy exposed the southern flank of the so-called Nazi redoubt.
But even before the surrender was announced more important events had occurred. The death of Adolf Hitler in Berlin was broadcast by the Nazi radio on May 1, and Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, plainly named to execute the capitulation, took over. Every soldier of the Third Reich had been sworn to personal loyalty to Hitler, and the whole Army was "inspired" by one man as few armies have been since Napoleon's Grand Army. Hitler's disappearance released the German troops from the oath of fealty; the house of cards collapsed. While negotiations with the Doenitz régime went on, forces in the field surrendered piecemeal in the west -- first the Germans in northern Germany and Denmark, then those in Holland, then those in southern Germany and Austria. The end came in the dark of the morning at Reims: one of the German representatives wept, but another -- Colonel-General Jodl, haughty to the last -- demanded that the German people be treated "with generosity."
So the curtain fell in Europe on the greatest tragedy in the history of that old and weary Continent. As it fell, the spotlight of history was playing upon some 67 American divisions, the greatest army ever sent across any sea. Here is the battle order of the American ground forces that won victory in Europe, according to the data now available:
Twelfth: General Omar N. Bradley
Sixth: General Jacob L. Devers
First: General Courtney H. Hodges
Third: General George S. Patton, Jr.
Seventh: Lieutenant-General Alexander M. Patch, Jr.
Ninth: Lieutenant-General William H. Simpson
Fifteenth: Lieutenant-General Leonard T. Gerow
First Allied Airborne (largely U.S.): Lieutenant-General Lewis H. Brereton
Third: Major-General James A. Van Fleet
Fifth: Major-General Clarence R. Huebner
Sixth: Major-General Edward H. Brooks
Seventh: Lieutenant-General J. Lawton Collins
Eighth: Major-General Troy H. Middleton
Twelfth: Major-General Manton S. Eddy
Thirteenth: Major-General Alvan C. Gillem, Jr.
Fifteenth: Lieutenant-General Wade H. Haislip
Sixteenth: Major-General Hugh J. Gaffey
Eighteenth Airborne: Major-General Matthew B. Ridgway
Nineteenth: Major-General Raymond S. McLain
Twentieth: Lieutenant-General Walton H. Walker
Twenty-first: Major-General Frank W. Milburn
2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th,14th and 20th
17th, 82nd and 101st
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 26th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 35th,36th, 42nd, 44th, 45th, 63rd, 65th, 66th, 69th, 70th, 71st, 75th,76th, 78th, 79th, 80th, 83rd, 84th, 86th, 87th, 89th, 90th, 94th,95th, 97th, 99th, 100th, 102nd, 103rd, 104th and 106th
Fifteenth: General Mark W. Clark
Fifth: Lieutenant-General Lucian Truscott, Jr.
Second: Lieutenant-General Geoffrey Keyes
Fourth: Major-General Willis D. Crittenberger
Infantry Divisions 1
0th (Mountain), 34th, 85th, 88th, 91st and 92nd
No reference to the end of the war in Europe would be complete without a tribute to the magnificent men of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces in western Europe and of the Twelfth and Fifteenth in the Mediterranean. These men played a major part in the victory. American air power alone could not defeat Germany, but without it victory either would have been impossible or far more costly. Air power crippled the strategic mobility of the German Army. In decisive stages of the ground campaign -- notably the Rhine crossings -- it tremendously hampered German tactical mobility, greatly curtailed the enemy's supply of oil, cut down the supply of ball bearings, reduced the supply of munitions, forced the shift of the bulk of the German Air Force from Russia to the west (thus relieving Russia) and later eliminated the German Air Force as a major factor in the war. Air power prevented the German V-weapons from achieving definitive success, wrecked German communications so that distribution of anything at all became a problem, forced the Germans to earmark perhaps 2,000,000 men for defense against air attack, and clamped an "internal blockade" upon the Reich which added tremendously to manpower shortages and to the unbearable strain of attrition war.
The direct damage done to enemy communications is perhaps the most impressive achievement of Allied air power, though a study of the evidence in all fields will have to be made before final conclusions can be reached. The isolation of the Ruhr is an example of the tremendous effectiveness of air power against communications: bombing smashed the canal-river system connecting the Ruhr with central Germany, destroyed 16 out of 18 railway viaducts and bridges, and blocked 20 out of 25 freight yards serving the area.
The strategic bombing campaign, as such, ended before the German surrender. The Allied ground armies had compressed the German armies to such an extent that in the last days of the war the major efforts of the Allied Air Forces were concentrated against German communications and against Germany's ground strength. The jet planes of the enemy, which appeared in the skies over Europe long before ours were ready, were the final German threat to our supremacy in the air. The threat failed because the jet planes did not get into action in volume: fuel was scarce, pilots were few and ill-trained, the factories producing the jet planes were repeatedly bombed, and airfields and experimental grounds were made virtually unusable.
The coup de grâce was delivered to the German Air Force in late March and early April when German planes were crowded into the few remaining serviceable fields in central Germany, without adequate warning systems, short of fuel, short of everything. In eight days ending April 18, almost 2,000 of these "refugee" planes were destroyed on the ground by Eighth Air Force fighters alone -- a slaughter unparalleled in aerial war. The comments of Field Marshal von Rundstedt and other captured German generals as to the primary importance of air power in the Allied victory testify to the skill of the brave men who won the European skies. The statistics of the air war against Germany are staggering. For every ton of explosive hurled on Britain -- by plane or V-weapon -- the Germans received 315 tons in return. From the beginning of the war to May 1, 1945, American and British planes combined dropped 2,453,595 tons of explosives on Germany and German-occupied targets in other European countries. American planes operating from Britain, Mediterranean bases and the Continent dropped 1,453,595 tons. Some 8,001, about half the total Allied (British and American) bombers sent into action, were lost, as were 7,165 U. S. fighters. The German Air Force lost an estimated 20,574 planes in the air and 12,337 more on the ground to the American Air Force. Nearly 5,000 of these were destroyed in the clean-up month of April.
Here is a battle order of the principal units of the American Air Forces in Europe on V-E Day:
Eighth(England): Lieutenant-General James H. Doolittle
Ninth(Continent): Lieutenant-General Hoyt S. Vandenberg
Twelfth (Italy): Major-General Benjamin W. Chidlaw
Fifteenth(Italy): Major-General Nathan F. Twining
And now Japan!
In the excitement of the victory in Europe Americans are apt to forget that the hardest task of logistics and the stiffest problem of morale in our history -- redeployment to the Pacific for the war against Japan -- still lie ahead of us. That redeployment started on a small scale even before the fighting ended in Europe; within a few weeks it will swell in volume until it becomes the greatest overseas transport movement ever made. Under the plans now prevailing (but subject to some change), the Army will be reduced in overall size by about 1,300,000 men during the next year. The Navy and Marine Corps will retain their present strength during the war against Japan. The Fifteenth Army and an Air Force -- from 450,000 to 1,000,000 men -- will remain in Europe to occupy southern Germany, part of Austria and, for the time being, the Saar, the Rhine Valley and the western part of the Ruhr; the rest of the American forces will be sent to the Pacific or used in this country to back up the Pacific war. Marseille, Havre, Cherbourg and Antwerp will be the ports of embarkation in Europe; the American occupying forces in Germany eventually will be supplied through Bremen and Bremerhaven. The Philippines, Hawaii, the Marianas, Okinawa, India, Burma and perhaps eventually China will be the staging and disembarkation areas in the Pacific. The combat forces that fought in Europe will receive instruction pointed specifically against Japanese tactics and methods, in this country or in the Pacific, or both.
As this vast array of military might is being brought to bear, Japan has already lost the war in the Pacific, though we have not yet won it. Japanese cities are being devastated by American fire bombs; Japanese plane production has been reduced by American bombing; Japanese shipping is a fraction of its prewar total; and in Okinawa and Iwo Jima we are camped on Japan's doorstep. The Japanese Navy and the Japanese Air Force, though still capable of hard fighting, have been checkmated, and the close blockade of Japan is starting. But we have not yet encountered the full strength of the Japanese Army. The Pacific enemy is a fanatical, crafty foe, still possessed of large military potential and still willing to die. If he chooses to fight to the end he can make the Pacific war a long and terrible struggle.
Since the conquest of Iwo Jima in March -- the hardest-won and perhaps the most gallant victory in the history of the Marine Corps -- the chief event in the Pacific has been the invasion of Okinawa in the strategic Ryukyus. These islands, administered as part of the Japanese homeland, form natural steppingstones from Kyushu to Formosa, and close off entry by sea to the coast of China. The invasion of the island of Okinawa, largest of the Ryukyus and only some 325 miles from the southernmost main island of Japan -- Kyushu -- was preceded on March 26 by invasion of the Kerama group, near Okinawa. The 77th Division, Major-General Andrew D. Bruce commanding, performed this operation with but little opposition.
The Kerama and Okinawa invasions -- the latter starting on April 1 -- were conducted by the newly-announced Tenth U. S. Army, Lieutenant-General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., commanding. It consists of one Army Corps, the Twenty-fourth, under Major-General John R. Hodge, and one Marine Corps, the Third Amphibious, under Major-General Roy S. Geiger. The Army Corps, with an extra division, consisted of the 7th, 27th, 96th and 77th Divisions; and the Marine Corps consisted of the 1st, 2nd and 6th Marine Divisions. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, commanding the Fifth Fleet, with Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner as amphibious commander, were in overall charge of the whole operation, under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.
The initial landing on Okinawa was virtually unopposed, and the three Marine divisions turned north from the beachhead near Yontan and quickly cleaned up the entire northern part of the island. The Army divisions faced to the south, and after driving the Japanese back for some distance came up against the main Japanese line of defense, covering the cities of Naha -- the island's capital -- Shuri and Yonabaru. There followed week after week of costly and relentless fighting, in which the gains were measured by yards. In early May two Marine divisions joined two Army divisions in line, and by May 14 the Marines on the western flank had pushed into the outskirts of Naha. Bitter fighting against the remnants of a Japanese garrison originally estimated at 50,000 to 100,000 [iv] was still going on as these lines are written, but Okinawa, strategically, is ours. A route of entry to the China coast has been forced; Japan will soon be subject to great air attacks from Okinawa's potentially capacious airfields; and Formosa has been neutralized and by-passed. More important, as events in early May showed, the invasion of Okinawa marked the beginning of a close air, sea and sub-sea blockade of Japan. The vital sea routes across the Straits of Tsushima and Korea were attacked repeatedly by American planes. And all Japanese sea routes to the south were now virtually severed.
Iwo Jima has been developed as a staging base for B-29's and for long-range fighter planes which now accompany the big bombers on their raids over Japan. These attacks -- particularly the low-level fire raids -- have risen to very major and damaging proportions: an attack on Nagoya on May 13 was made by 500 B-29's. Repeated carrier raids by 700 to 1,000 American planes were made on the Inland Sea area, Tokyo and Kyushu, during the spring months. In April the second of Japan's new battleships, the Yamato, and many accompanying lighter units, were sunk by carrier planes off Kyushu. Another important event of the period was the appointment of Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur as joint commanders for the war against Japan.
Further south, the Philippine campaign was pressed during March, April and May to a relentless conclusion. After the successful invasion of Luzon and the conquest of Luzon's central plain, the outcome of the Philippine campaign was certain. The mop-up on Luzon, particularly in the north around Baguio, and at Balete Pass and Ipo, was difficult; and at the time of writing a large Japanese concentration in the Cagayan Valley is still fighting strongly. But the conquest of the Visayas was rapid, and virtually all the islands have been overrun except Mindanao.
Tarakan, off Borneo, was invaded by the Australians, aided by some Dutch contingents and with American naval and air support, on May 1. And in Burma, the British Fourteenth Army and other contingents virtually completed the conquest of Burma, capturing Rangoon on May 3. The American Mars Task Force, only American ground combat troops in Burma, had no part in the final phase of the fighting south of Meiktila. Apparently these troops, and the Chinese forces with whom they worked in north Burma, have been transferred to China, where they may be heard from in the near future. However, American air power played a major rôle in Burma throughout the campaign, and the combat cargo and troop carrier commands of the Tenth Air Force (not to be confused with the Air Transport Command) wrote military history in supplying the British Army almost entirely by air in the last stages of its operations in Burma.
China was still a divided country, but behind the scenes the combat strength of the Americans and Chinese was growing. The fighting ahead will be hard. The high number of our casualties on Okinawa, and the yard-by-yard advance, suggest the nature of the task. Moreover, the Japanese suicide-plane attacks on our shipping did heavy damage during the Okinawa campaign, sinking numerous light vessels. Since the invasion of the Philippines our toll of damaged ships has been higher than in any period of comparable length in the Pacific war.
The defeat of Germany spells the eventual doom of Japan. Yet it is well at this hour to stress the word "eventual." It is quite probable that Japan will attempt to negotiate a peace. She will not do so immediately, but will wait until she feels that the effects of the letdown of morale in America, incident to the ending of the European war, have reached their peak and that we are ready to accept terms that will leave her in possession of some of the fruits of aggression. If the Japanese choose to make a last-ditch defense, and can hold to the decision, they can protract the war in the Pacific for many years. We can best turn them from such a course by making plain that the United States will carry on the attack with resolute determination, and that such a last-ditch defense is not only militarily hopeless but means total ruin for Japan. The duration of the Japanese war depends fundamentally upon the unity and morale of the people of the United States.
[i] But a similar and perhaps even larger counteroffensive was launched by the Germans against the Russians in the Budapest area. It won considerable but incomplete successes. Later, another but abortive counteroffensive was launched around Vienna.
[ii] The Fifteenth Army, Lieutenant-General Leonard T. Gerow commanding, was activated only a short time before the final campaign and its exact part in that campaign has not yet been explained. The formation of this Army was announced only on March 9. The Fifteenth has been earmarked for the occupation of Germany.
[iv] Japanese casualties on Okinawa from April 1 to May 17 were 48,103 dead; American casualties, both Army and Navy, were 30,526, including 8,310 killed.