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Walter Jason

The War in the Far East

(21 May 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 21, 21 May 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Soon after Russia denounced its neutrality pact with Japan, Washington imposed a radio and press censorship on the subject of Russia’s role in the Pacific war. Viewed in that context the article on China by Harold Isaacs in a recent issue of Newsweek assumes a significant as well as sensational character. For every diplomat in Washington knows that both the timing of its appearance as well as its contents were approved by the War Department.

The timing coincided with the expected arrival of Molotov, just before the San Francisco Conference. The content of the article speaks for itself. The fact that the War Department permits publication of an article by a newspaperman whose views are well known in Chungking and Moscow serves to emphasize the attention it is expected to attract.

When the article outlines China’s “bitter fiasco,” it is not news to the well-informed. “December 7, 1941, was China’s Armistice Day with Japan” is a worn-out cliché in American military circles.

But when the article breaks through the silence imposed on the Russian question in the Pacific and States baldly, “If the Russians, entering the China picture, decide to back the Communists, the stage is set for the first obscure battles of the next world war,” this is sensational. For it is the War Department speaking its warning, Moscow knows that, just as it knows who permitted earlier articles in the Army and Navy Journal needling Russia on the eastern front stalemate of a few months ago.

Pacific Realpolitik

The question of realpolitik in the Pacific is posed likewise. “Will the United States undertake to send a major expeditionary force of its own into China or will it leave the fighting there to the Russians?” More accurately, the question is: Will we have to go through with the grandiose plans for the Pacific which everyone – certainly the Russians – knows we are beginning?

“The target now is the Japanese homeland itself," writes Isaacs. An open secret. But that doesn’t end the war, or rather, doesn’t complete American plans in the Pacific. It only begins them. Admiral Halsey’s article in the current Collier’s outlines them – as well as indicating the contempt for civilian government expressed therein.

Here is how the strategic picture stacks up in the Pacific, the explanation as to the “why” of the sudden discussion on Russia in the Pacific war only two weeks after the censorship was clamped down.

The war against Japan enters its fourth year with everything in America’s favor. The tremendous gains against the Japanese are bringing the war to its climax. This, with only a partial employment of American military power against Japan. No need to recount the gains achieved. The last major preliminary for the knockout blows is the Okinawa operation. This campaign reveals fully the glaring weakness of Japan’s war machine. Last week Admiral Nimitz announced around 9,500 Japanese killed as against a total of 8,500 or so American casualties, the implication being that the cost in the future battles against Japan would be so great that fullest war effort, vast manpower requirements, etc., were necessary. The “line” is one of pessimism.

Japanese Losses

But a more careful reading of the casualty statistics tells a different story. The American casualties included Navy looses. The Japanese casualties were those of its land forces alone. Subsequently Nimitz, announced 100 Japanese ships were sunk in the “Okinawa period” and over 2,500 planes were destroyed. Take these total losses and compare them to total American losses and the figures are nearer 25,000 Japanese to 8,500 Americans. In military terms, this is a stupendous loss for Japan. Ordinarily, an invader loses two to one. Two conclusions follow: American military communiqués are presented primarily for political effect, not as accurate military appraisals. Secondly, an invasion of the homeland is assured of victory.

The explanation, of course, rests in the quantitative and qualitative differences between the war machines, each reflecting the industrial potential of the country. In simplest military language, Japan’s fantastic losses are caused by the devastatingly superior firepower of its opponent. Only one of America’s Pacific fleets and a small portion of its land forces are winning a battle whose strategic importance can hardly be over-estimated. Meanwhile, of course, other fleets and forces rehearse the D-Day of the Pacific.

Japan’s use of “suicide squads” in the air and on the sea is not an indication of strength. Rather, it shows that Japan is down to its last resources. Japanese sea power is broken. It retains a diversionary power, but it is totally discounted as a major factor. Japanese air power will soon face the same doom. In six months 1,000-plane daily raids on Japanese home islands and key centers will be routine. Even, now, each large B-29 raid has the same weight as 1,000 B-17’s!

In land fighting, Japan has achieved its Cassinos, as, for example, at Iwo, and on land in Okinawa. But, even here, losses are in reverse of the ordinary military calculations. Two to one for the defender instead of for the invader. In large-scale battles, even Cassinos aren’t possible, as demonstrated in the Philippine campaign.

On the Japanese homeland, full employment of armored forces, artillery, tactical air forces, as well as strategic bombing, doom Japan to a disastrous military defeat, greater even than that of Germany. The Japanese air force is not the Luftwaffe in any respect. Nor is its army comparable to the Wehrmacht.

Russia’s Role

Put in terms of statistics, as the military does, a cost of 500,000 American casualties guarantees the total defeat of Japan. Such a loss is the maximum required to exterminate the Japanese military machine. This figure might be much lower. Already Japan has suffered over 100,000 casualties on its mainland from the bombings.

A figure of 1,000,000 Japanese killed in the next six months by wiping out their cities is not too high. The blood bath in the Pacific is going to be sickening.

Therefore, the big question in the Pacific, in the calculations of the military, Is Russia. The publication of the Isaacs article is a diplomatic way for the world to be informed of it.

While Isaacs only poses certain questions, some answers can be indicated. Russia is already backing the Chinese Communists. The jockeying for position in the next world war has already begun, as is evidenced by the Polish controversy. Naturally, there will be a Yalta for the Pacific as there was for Europe. How else can “public opinion” be satisfied? It will mean no more for the Pacific than it does in Europe today.

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