Chapter XXIX
Prospects for the Future

In battle there are not more than two methods of attack -- the direct and indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.... Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?


By the end of the year 1943, the first aim of Allied strategy, set in July 1942, had been achieved. In comparison to the enormous territorial gains of the Japanese during the opening months of the war, the accomplishments of the Allies did not seem impressive. But appearances were deceptive. Every Allied advance had been bitterly contested and the way from Buna and Guadalcanal to the Bismarck barrier, from Hawaii and Midway, to Tarawa, was littered with the remnants of Japanese air and naval power. The Japanese were far from defeated; their military machine was still powerful and capable of inflicting great damage. But they could never again attain their earlier material superiority. Allied factories and shipyards were going at full speed, producing ships, planes, munitions, and supplies at a rate the Japanese could never hope to match.

But the Allies had paid dearly in human lives for their success. American battle casualties alone, not including those of the Allies in the Pacific -- the Dutch, the Australians, the British, and the Filipinos -- during the first two years of the war totaled over 75,000. (Tables 11 and 12) More than half of these casualties were suffered by the Army; the Navy lost about 18,000 men and the Marine Corps over 12,000. Total deaths during this period were 35,888 -- 20,022 for the Army; 11,793, Navy; and 4,073 marines. The largest single loss for the Army came during the Philippine Campaign in 1942; for the Navy and marines, during the six months of the Guadalcanal Campaign. One hopeful sign for the future was the decline in casualties for 1943 as compared to the first year of the war; another was the remarkable number of wounded men returned to duty -- a tribute to the medical aid men and advances in military medicine.

The Allies had come a long way since Pearl Harbor, not in distance, but in power, and confidence in the use of that power. The distances to be traversed before they came within striking range of the enemy's inner zone -- Japan, Korea, Formosa, Sakhalin, Manchuria, and north China -- were great, but the Allies had the means now and the experience to move more rapidly and with longer strides. The accomplishments of 1942 and 1943 had been notable; those for


Table 11--Army (and AAF) Battle Casualties, Pacific Areas
December 1941--December 1943
Date Total
December 1941
December 1943
47,213 20,022 6,429 10,337 497 27,104 16,996 3,343

1941, December 1,078 489 464 558 20 23 5 33

1942 35,188 15,619 3,033 2,588 153 26,964 16,957 2,603
    January 810 507 478 282 23 48 5 2
    February 993 385 290 172 10 524 83 7
    March 205 133 116 65 3 13 4 11
    April 1,146 1,040 377 99 30 636 609 34
    May 28,648 11,995 536 160 38 25,697 10,225 2,255
    June 75 57 49 13 1 5 3 8
    July 127 106 65 18 4 15 9 29
    August 141 101 44 23 2 5 5 69
    September 144 90 61 36 3 3 3 44
    October 145 98 68 50 4 3 3 24
    November 1,024 453 574 581 17 0 0 69
    December 1,730 654 575 1,089 28 15 8 51

1943 10,947 3,914 2,932 7,191 324 117 34 707
    January 1,782 667 555 1,152 53 15 6 60
    February 276 141 62 121 7 11 3 82
    March 203 98 72 106 5 4 0 21
    April 200 92 79 110 7 5 3 6
    May 204 98 45 93 4 17 2 49
    June 305 181 129 119 5 8 0 49
    July 3,620 990 793 2,735 128 4 3 88
    August 1,561 440 328 1,176 60 5 2 52
    September 740 242 182 496 19 16 2 46
    October 377 199 151 160 5 12 2 54
    November 1,120 474 380 651 10 7 4 82
    December 559 292 156 727 21 13 7 118

1944 and 1945 promised to be even more so. (Map 14)

The Pattern of Pacific Warfare

As the war in the Pacific moved into its third year, the pattern of future operations could be clearly discerned. There would be no more frontal attacks against a strongly entrenched enemy if they could be avoided, no inch-by-inch trek through the jungle or island-by-island advance across an ocean dotted with myriad atoll and island groups. Instead,


Table 12--Battle Casualties, Navy and Marine Corps
December 1941--December 1943
Service Total Returned
Total, All Battles Navy
Total 30,463 13,028 14,264 406 1,196 1,569
Pearl Harbor
7 Dec 41
Total 2,554 643 1,843 19 2 47
7 Dec 41-6 May 42
Total 1,585 110 426 2 1,043 4
Netherlands East Indies
Dec 41-Mar 42
94 7
Total 1,951 139 1,692 12 101 7
Early Raids
Dec 41-July 42
Total 76 29 40 1 4 2
Coral Sea
May 42
Total 705 129 556 8 1 11
June 42
165 301
Total 547 181 340 9 1 16
7 Aug 42-Jan 43
Total 10,696 4,904 5,017 151 16 608
Central & Northern
Feb 43-Dec 43
Total 6,081 3,453 2,027 124 26 451
Nov 43
Total 4,119 2,175 1,674 37 --- 233
New Britain
Dec 43
Total 1,803 1,112 470 42 2 177
Aleutians Area Navy
Total 346 153 179 1 --- 13


Allied forces would advance by "kangaroo leaps" limited only by the range of land-based air cover or carrier-borne aircraft, seeking always to deceive and surprise the enemy by striking first in the Central Pacific and then in the Southwest. By following two paths, the Allies would keep the Japanese off balance and divided. Trying to defend everywhere at once, the Japanese would be unable to concentrate anywhere, their bypassed garrisons doomed to "wither on the vine," isolated and strategically impotent.

In the South-Southwest Pacific, the central fact controlling operations was the range of fighter aircraft. This fact provides the clue to the selection of objectives, to the timetable, and to the limits of the advance. Aircraft carriers could have overcome this limitation, but MacArthur had none and Halsey had them only briefly. And even if they had been available it is doubtful that they would have been used in mid-1943, for current naval doctrine did not encourage their employment in an area and against objectives such as those presented in the South and Southwest Pacific.

Atoll warfare in the Central Pacific presented problems distinctly different from those encountered in the Solomons and New Guinea. The distances to be covered were greater and the objectives were tiny islands surrounded by fringing coral reefs. The assault forces would therefore have to venture far beyond the limits of land-based air cover, exposed to enemy air and surface attack, to seize strongly defended islands too small for maneuver or for mass assault. Such operations would have to be conducted swiftly, and would require air and naval forces strong enough to establish air and naval supremacy and even take on the main body of the Japanese fleet if need be. Also, because of the distance from


Map 14: Progress and Prospects, 31 December 1943


rear bases and the duration of the operation these forces would have to be logistically self-contained, that is, they would have to carry with them all the supplies and facilities necessary to support the assault troops during and after the landing, maintain and service the fleet, garrison the island after it was taken, and, finally, convert it into an Allied base in time for the next operation.

Whether operations conducted under the conditions existing in the Central Pacific could be carried out at all had still been a question in mid-1943. Experience in the Solomons and New Guinea was valuable but not always relevant to the problems faced by Admiral Nimitz. Not once had MacArthur or Halsey ventured far from land-based air support and never did they have to face the possibility of engaging the main strength of the Combined Fleet. In their progressive step-by-step advance, they had always had bases near the front where they could keep reserves of manpower and supplies. If necessary, they could fall back on these bases. But the Gilberts lay more than 700 miles from the nearest Allied airfield in the Ellice Islands and more than 2,000 from the main base in Hawaii. The geography of the two areas differed also, and this fact had a marked effect on the nature of operations in each. The South-Southwest Pacific Areas consisted of seas and straits enclosed by New Guinea, itself a subcontinent, and the numerous islands of the Solomons chain and the Bismarck Archipelago. The Central Pacific Area, by contrast, consisted largely of open ocean, dotted with tiny islands. It was a region particularly suited for naval operations on a grand scale.

By the end of 1943, the problems posed by operations in the Central Pacific had been largely solved. As in the Solomons and New Guinea, the concerted and coordinated action of ground, sea, and air forces under a single commander was the essential ingredient of success in the Central Pacific Area. But though the ingredients were the same, the proportions were different. The decisive combat element in the Central Pacific was the large aircraft carrier. The great lesson of the Gilbert Islands campaign in the fall of 1943 was the demonstration that aircraft carriers, in groups but not singly, could venture deep into the territory of the enemy, within range of his air and naval forces without land-based air cover. This fact alone made possible the great forward strides that marked the progress of the war in the Central Pacific.

The second decisive element of Central Pacific warfare was the floating supply base. Consisting of oilers, tenders, repair and salvage ships, tugs, hospital ships, and a large variety of miscellaneous vessels, the mobile base was capable of supporting and defending itself while providing the supplies and services required for extended operations far from the home base. In short, it was the logistical companion of the fast carrier force, the "seven-league boots" of the Pacific Fleet. Clear also in the pattern of Pacific warfare was the large role assigned to naval gunfire and close air support before and during the landing, and to the amphibious tractor, the indispensable vehicle for carrying troops across fringing coral reefs and strongly defended beaches.

The technique of amphibious operations that emerged from experience in the Pacific in 1942 and 1943 remained virtually unchanged throughout the rest of the year. First, the objective was isolated


and its defenses softened by air and naval operations in which the fast carrier forces played a major role when the objective was beyond range of land-based fighter aircraft. Simultaneously, other targets were attacked to deceive the enemy as to the true objective. The approach of the assault force signaled the opening of an air-naval bombardment of the area in which the landing was to be made. Then the landing force moved from the ship to shore under cover of air and naval gunfire. The landing itself was made in waves or echelons, with rocket-firing landing craft in the lead, followed by amphibian tanks carrying the assault troops directly from the water on to the beaches and then inland. Finally, came the landing craft with more infantry, artillery, and supporting troops. Whenever possible, small neighboring islands were occupied in advance to provide sites for the emplacement of artillery, as in New Georgia. Supplies followed the assault troops closely and, while the beachhead area was staked out, the advance inland proceeded without pause, air and naval forces providing support when necessary, until the objective was finally secured.

The Prospects for Japan

While the Allies were fighting their way closer to the absolute national defense line, the Japanese were desperately reorganizing their forces in preparation for the impending assault on their vital stronghold to the south and east.1 Late in December 1943, as it became apparent that the goals set at the Imperial Conference of 30 September would not be realized, Imperial General Headquarters had taken a fresh look at Japan's situation. Of the five possible courses the Japanese assumed were open to the Allies,2 they attached greatest importance to the Allied offensives in the Pacific and in Burma. The latter they viewed seriously not because of any great Allied successes in that area but rather because Thailand and French Indochina were politically the weakest links in the Japanese defense system. The Allies, they therefore assumed, would take advantage of this weakness to break through the absolute national defense line in Southeast Asia, a move that would greatly strengthen the Nationalist regime in China.

It was the Allied offensive in the Pacific that worried the Japanese most. The effects of MacArthur's and Halsey's operations were serious enough, but Nimitz' invasion of the Gilberts had added a new dimension to the Pacific war. Heretofore, Allied advances had been limited by the range of land-based fighters; with the introduction of the carrier striking force of the Central Pacific, there was virtually no limit to the extent of an Allied advance. Theoretically, the Americans could land anywhere that the carriers could go. This was a lesson the Japanese grasped immediately and to


which they gave due weight in their plans for defense.

Despite their concern over the Central Pacific area, the Japanese planners believed that the Allied offensive to the south posed a greater threat in the immediate future. This conclusion stemmed from their estimate that the Allies would seek control of the Philippines-Formosa area before invading the home islands, and that of the two routes to the Philippines -- the Central and the Southwest Pacific -- the Allies would probably take the southern route because it involved fewer risks. Thus, the Philippines became for the Japanese the key to the defense of the home islands; northwest New Guinea the final battleground for control of the vital road to the inner empire.

To meet the challenge in the Southern Area, Imperial General Headquarters began in December to consider a plan to reorganize and consolidate the forces in western New Guinea and the Philippines. The principal feature of this plan was to place all operations in this region under the single control of Field Marshal Terauchi, commander in chief of the Southern Army. With headquarters in Manila, Terauchi would, in addition to the forces in Southeast Asia, command the 2d Area Army, which had been established under General Anami as a separate theater only a few months earlier, the 14th Army in the Philippines, and the 3d and 4th Air Armies. This move, the planners at General Headquarters believed, would shift Terauchi's attention from the Asiatic mainland to the Pacific, now considered the more important theater, and at the same time insure the most effective use of the limited air and shipping resources of the empire. Also, by placing the air forces under the direct control of Southern Army and restricting 14th and 2d Area Army to army troops, Imperial General Headquarters hoped to strengthen the ground defenses of this critical sector.3 This was the plan, but before it could be put into effect events in the Central Pacific during January and February focused attention on that area. Thus, when the reorganization did come in March of 1944, it was accompanied by a new and unified command in the Central Pacific Area that greatly resembled the American command.

For the Japanese, the Allied successes in the Pacific during the fall and winter of 1943 meant the end of all hopes for a great counteroffensive the following spring. With MacArthur and Nimitz through the outer defenses of the absolute national defense line, it was doubtful if that vital line could be held. How far the Japanese position had deteriorated may be judged from an Imperial General Headquarters estimate late in December that it would probably be impossible, even under the most favorable circumstances, to mount an offensive against the Allies before 1946.4 For the first time also, Imperial General Headquarters accepted the possibility of an Allied penetration of the absolute national defense line and began to plan for the expected attack against the Philippines. It was there, thought the Japanese planners in common with General MacArthur and many Allied planners, that the decisive battle of the war would be fought.


Long-Range Plans for the Defeat of Japan

The question of the Philippines was but one of a number of problems, and by no means the most urgent, that faced the President and his military advisers aboard the battleship Iowa on their way to Cairo and Tehran for what proved to be perhaps the most important of the wartime conferences and the last in which military considerations dominated political and postwar problems.5 It was at this conference, during the meetings with Stalin at Tehran, that agreement was finally reached to launch the long-deferred cross-Channel invasion (OVERLORD) the following May, in coordination with a Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front, and a landing in southern France (ANVIL). Operations in the Mediterranean were to be limited to an advance in Italy to the Pisa-Rimini line, and the projected campaign to clear all of Burma was deferred indefinitely by canceling its amphibious phase in order to secure landing craft for ANVIL.6

For President Roosevelt and his advisers, the Cairo Conference marked a turning point in the role reserved for China in the struggle against Japan. By deferring the campaign to clear Burma, the Allies tacitly admitted that operations on the mainland of Asia were no longer considered decisive and, in effect, consigned the Generalissimo to a secondary role.7 The emergence of this view, due partly at least to the recent successes won in the Pacific and the prospect of even greater gains in the future, coincided with the growing conviction that the main effort against Japan should be made in the Pacific, a view that received formal approval of the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Cairo.8 The cancellation of operations in Southeast Asia was a heavy blow to those who had fought hard for it. But to balance this loss and the declining importance of China, they could now look forward to Soviet assistance in Asia, for at Tehran Stalin had given his assurance that he would join the Allies in their war against Japan after Germany had been defeated.

It was at Cairo also that the war aims of the powers allied against Japan were defined. Known as the Cairo Declaration, these aims held out little promise for an early peace with Japan, whose aggression the Allies pledged themselves to punish. The territory Japan had unlawfully annexed was to be returned to its rightful owners. Manchuria and Formosa were to go to China, Korea was to receive its independence, and the Pacific islands the Japanese had seized since 1941 were to be restored to their former status.


Considerable progress was made at the Cairo-Tehran Conference on plans for the Pacific, though this achievement has been obscured by the agreements reached on OVERLORD and ANVIL and the differences with the British and Chinese. Two major problems relating to the Pacific had still to be settled when the planners boarded the Iowa on 13 November -- (1) final decision on the specific objectives set for the coming year, and (2) approval of a plan for the ultimate defeat of Japan.9 Work on a long-range plan for the defeat of Japan had begun in August 1942 and by May 1943 had produced a number of studies and a plan which considered the alternate routes to Japan and the means by which she might be brought to her knees -- invasion, blockade, and aerial bombardment. In the view of the Combined Chiefs, who considered it during the Washington Conference in May (TRIDENT),this plan, though a promising start, still needed a good deal of work.10 During the next three months, a team of American and British planners working together first in London and then Washington, produced a 103-page document -- "The Mile of Pink," it was called -- entitled Appreciation and Plan for the Defeat of Japan.11

This latest effort represented a considerable advance over the plan presented in May. The planners had faced realistically the objective of the war with Japan and discarded the announced aim of unconditional surrender. The Japanese, they held, would never surrender until the home islands were invaded and every last-ditch defender driven from his place. The difficulties of mounting such an operation would be formidable and the cost prohibitive. A more reasonable objective, the planners believed, would be "the destruction of Japanese capacity to resist," but they recognized that to accomplish this it might well prove necessary to invade.

Invasion was a last resort. There were two other ways by which Japan might be defeated -- naval blockade and air bombardment. Of these, the planners seemed to place more hope on the latter, which, in any case, was a necessary prelude to invasion. Since the most desirable bases from which to bomb Japan lay in China and Formosa, that area described as the northern littoral of the South China Sea therefore became in their judgment the main intermediate objective short of Japan. There were various routes by which this area could be reached -- across the Central Pacific (or along the New Guinea -- Philippines axis) and into the South China Sea by way of the Celebes and Sulu Seas or across the northern tip of Luzon; from the west through the Straits of Malacca (including the capture of Singapore) and up through the Indies; or overland across China. Of these, the planners thought the Central Pacific approach most promising. The other routes offered advantages and should not be neglected, but the main effort in the east when it came should be made from


Cairo Conference. Generalissimo Chiang Kai shek sits with President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Madame Chiang. Standing, from left: General Shang Chen, Lt. Gen. Lin Wei, Generals Somervell, Stilwell, and Arnold, Field Marshal Dill, Lord Louis Mountbatten, and Lt. Gen. Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart.

the Central Pacific. The schedule set by the combined planners would have placed Allied forces in the intermediate objective area in 1946, with the invasion of Japan, if that proved necessary, to begin in 1947 or later.

Though there were several unresolved differences between the American and British planners, the plan in abbreviated form (including a statement of the differences) was submitted to the Combined Chiefs when they met at Quebec (QUADRANT) in August 1943. The U.S. Chiefs met separately to discuss the plan and added their own comments.12 Thus, when the matter was finally considered by the Combined Chiefs most of the criticisms had already been put forward. No one was happy about the length of time it would take to reach Japan, and there was no unanimity on the relative weight attached to the various lines of advance, the British arguing strongly for the capture of Singapore and the opening of the Malacca Straits. To speed up the tempo of operations, the Americans proposed that the plan be keyed to the European war with the objective of defeating Japan within twelve months after the collapse of Germany. The British


Tehran Conference. In the front row: Marshal Stalin, President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill. Standing, from the left: Harry Hopkins, Foreign Minster Molotov, W. Averell Harriman, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, Ambassador to the USSR, and Anthony Eden, Foreign Secretary.

agreed in principle, but thought the twelve month goal unrealistic and only accepted it on the condition that forces would be deployed in the Pacific as rapidly as the situation in Europe allowed. Thus, the final report of the Conference stated that "operations should be framed to force the defeat of Japan as soon as possible after the defeat of Germany ... on the basis of accomplishing this within twelve months of that event."13 With respect to the plan itself, the Combined Chiefs noted only that they had made a preliminary study of the "Appreciation" but, because the issues were too large and complicated to be discussed in the time remaining for the conference, the points of difference should be examined further by the planners and taken up at the next meeting of the Combined Chiefs.

One other element in the development of a long-range plan for the defeat of Japan introduced at the Quebec Conference was the possibility of employing the 1,500-mile range B-29, expected to be available soon for operations. This possibility was raised, not in the "Appreciation" of the combined planners,


but in a separate study, hastily prepared by the Air Force planners and submitted by General Arnold toward the close of the conference, probably to support the American case for defeating Japan twelve months after Germany's defeat. Briefly, the air plan called for an aerial offensive against Japan that would destroy her ability to resist by the fall of 1945, that is, within twelve months of the estimated date for the defeat of Germany. This result was to be achieved by B-29's based in the Changsha area of China (1,500 miles from the industrial center of Japan), building up from four groups in June 1944 to twenty groups the following May. Though there were obviously many problems to be solved in connection with the plan, especially in the matter of logistics, it opened up fresh possibilities and the Combined Chiefs directed their planners to report on this scheme by 15 September and to have ready a month later a new plan that would accomplish the defeat of Japan twelve months after the fall of Germany.14

The three months intervening between the conference at Quebec and. Cairo were busy ones for the American and British planners engaged in the task of developing the long-range plan. Study of the air plan was completed on the appointed date, and the results submitted to the Combined Chiefs. There were differences in the emphasis placed on various factors by the British and Americans, but no disagreement on the main conclusion that for logistical reasons the air plan was not feasible. The Combined Chiefs therefore decided to abandon the plan but not their efforts to find additional ways in which to utilize the possibilities of air bombardment to bring about the defeat of Japan.15

Meanwhile, another team of planners of the Joint War Plans Committee had been working on the long-range plan designed to produce Japan's downfall a year after Germany's. The first fruits of its work, submitted on 25 October, held out little hope for meeting the assigned deadline. The planners were convinced that the Japanese would not surrender unconditionally without invasion, at least at a reasonably early date. Given the existing schedule of operations, the planners could not see how Allied forces could by the fall of 1945 achieve the prerequisites for invasion -- bases from which to bomb the center of Japan, the elimination of Japanese air and naval power, and the destruction of Japanese shipping. As the planners saw it, there were four possible courses of action:

  1. The invasion of Hokkaido, northernmost of the Japanese home islands, in the summer of 1945 (presumably by forces of the Central Pacific).

  2. The capture of Formosa in the spring of 1945 by way of the Pacific (presumably by forces of the Central Pacific).

  3. The capture of Singapore by the end of 1945, followed by a coordinated assault against Formosa from the Pacific and South China Sea in the winter of 1945-46.

  4. A diversionary assault against northern Sumatra in the Netherlands East Indies in the spring of 1945 (or earlier), followed by the capture of


    Formosa from the Pacific in the winter of 1945-46.

In each case, it was assumed that operations already planned in the Southwest Pacific, Southeast Asia, and China would be carried out as scheduled in order to support the main effort and to maintain pressure on the Japanese.16

Though the first alternative, the invasion of Hokkaido in the summer of 1945, came closest to meeting the requirements set by the Combined Chiefs, the planners preferred the second course, which, they held, combined the promise of Japan's early defeat with minimum risks. Thus, the schedule of operations they presented called for the capture of Formosa in the spring of 1945, or as soon thereafter as possible, followed by the invasion of Hokkaido in the summer of 1946 and of Honshu, the main island of Japan, in the fall. This was the most optimistic forecast the planners would make, but they recognized that any one of a number of factors might alter their calculations -- the speed of current and projected operations in the Southwest and Central Pacific, the effectiveness of submarine operations against Japanese shipping, the possibility of bypassing strongly held Japanese positions such as Truk, and the extent of British and Russian assistance. The planners were aware also that the effectiveness of B--29 operations, which they scheduled for 1944 or early 1945, and carrier-based air attacks against Japan, both as yet untried methods of warfare, might well alter the timetable and make possible the defeat of Japan at an earlier date than the fall of 1946.

As the long-range plan made its way up the echelons of planning committees toward the Chiefs of Staff, criticisms and differences multiplied. Almost all those who read it expressed dissatisfaction with some aspect of the plan, often disagreeing with one another in their objections, but out of this critical examination there emerged a clearer understanding of the problems involved and of the various points of view regarding the final defeat of Japan. First to comment was the senior team of the Joint War Plans Committee. More optimistic than those who had prepared the plan, this group believed that there was a real possibility of defeating Japan by October 1945 and that the plan should be revised to provide for this possibility. It also preferred the first alternative -- the capture of Hokkaido in the summer of 1945-and thought the large role assigned the British Fleet in the Pacific unrealistic. Unless British naval forces were refitted and organized into self-contained and self-supporting units before they were transferred into the Pacific, the senior team of the JWPC held, they would drain off U.S. resources and constitute a liability rather than an asset in the final operations against Japan.17

The Joint Staff Planners, parent body of the War Plans Committee, also took exception to the plan, especially its emphasis on the necessity for invasion. Both the naval and air representatives felt that the role of air bombardment by B-29's and carrier-based aircraft in the final defeat of Japan had been minimized. "When the full weight of our air and naval power is deployed against her (Japan)," said Rear Adm. Bernhard H.


Bieri, "we may find the road much easier than anticipated."18 The joint planners were dubious also about the date set for the invasion of Hokkaido and of the necessity for taking Formosa. And, like the JWPC team, they were skeptical of the effectiveness of British naval forces in the Pacific at any early date, except perhaps in MacArthur's area. The plan, they decided, should be revised to provide for the capture of Hokkaido in the summer of 1945, and, if possible, of Honshu the following spring.19

The task of revising the plan to meet these and other criticisms was accomplished quickly in the Joint War Plans Committee. By 2 November it was in the hands of the Joint Staff Planners who forwarded it to the Joint Chiefs the next day.20 As revised, the plan still maintained that invasion would be necessary and called for the seizure of Hokkaido in 1945 and of Honshu the following spring. Central and Southwest Pacific operations were to continue as scheduled, with MacArthur aiming for the Philippines and Nimitz for the Marianas, where B-29's would be based. In China, first priority would go to the development of airfields for the B-29, and preparations were to be made to occupy the Kurils in the event the Soviet Union came into the war. Elsewhere, operations would continue for the purpose of maintaining pressure on the enemy and securing maximum attrition of his forces and shipping.

The Joint Chiefs, beset with other problems that would come up at the Cairo and Tehran meetings, deferred consideration of the plan, sending it instead to the Joint Strategic Survey Committee for comment. These senior officers found much to criticize in this latest effort of the planners. They thought it cautious and unimaginative, overestimating the capabilities of the Japanese and underestimating the potentialities of Allied power. They doubted that invasion would be necessary and thought Japan could be defeated by a combination of naval blockade and air bombardment. The main effort, they declared flatly, should be made in the Central Pacific; there lay "the key to the early defeat of Japan." The JSSC found further cause for optimism in the belief that German resistance might collapse as early as the spring of 1944 and that Soviet intervention in Asia would follow soon after. A new plan should therefore be made, said the JSSC, one more bold and imaginative that would reflect the bright prospects facing the Allies in Europe and Asia.21

The first chance the Joint Chiefs had to consider the plan for the defeat of Japan was on 15 November, while they were en route to Cairo. They were not enthusiastic. The emphasis on Hokkaido came as a distinct surprise and Admiral King wondered how the planners expected to reach it. Why not go instead to Kyushu, southernmost of the Japanese home islands and closer to objectives already under consideration? Some doubt


was expressed also of the possibility of invading and defeating Japan in a single year. The planners, Marshall felt, had not given enough weight to the vulnerability of Japan's oil resources to the south or to the possibility of bypassing strongly defended bases like Truk.22

Like their senior advisers of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, the Joint Chiefs believed that invasion might not be necessary and that the long-range plan should be based on the assumption that Japan's defeat could be accomplished by blockade and bombardment. It should take into consideration Soviet intervention and provide for the employment of British naval forces in the Pacific. And finally, stipulated the Joint Chiefs, the plan should be flexible and capable of rapid adjustment to meet sudden and unexpected developments, such as the early surrender of Germany or defeat of the Japanese Fleet.

During the next two weeks, while their superiors were meeting at Cairo and Tehran, the planners set about the task of fashioning a new long-range plan. In doing so, they would have to weigh a number of imponderables and reshuffle the factors in an ever-shifting equation -- the date of Germany's defeat, Soviet entry into the war against Japan, the employment of British air and naval forces, the role of China, the effectiveness of B-29 and carrier-based aircraft, whether the main effort should be made in the Central Pacific, which Japanese island should be invaded, or whether, in fact, the invasion of Japan would be necessary at all. There were no clear answers to any of these problems, but the planners were not expected to produce a blueprint worked out to the last detail. All they could do was work out a practical and realistic program that would be flexible enough to take into account the unknowns in the equation. Thus, they started with three assumptions: first, that invasion of Japan might not be necessary but that the plan must be capable of expansion to meet the contingency of invasion; second, that Germany might be defeated as early as the spring of 1944; and third, that the Soviet Union might enter the war against Japan soon after Germany's defeat.

On the assumption that Japan could be defeated by sea and air blockade and intensive air bombardment from progressively advanced bases, the objective of the plan finally drawn up was to obtain positions from which to bomb Japan and, if it should prove necessary, mount an invasion of the home islands. Such positions, the planners believed, could best be achieved by making the main effort in the Pacific, utilizing both the Central and Southwest Pacific routes so as to converge on the Formosa-Luzon-China coast area by the spring of 1945. As between the two lines of advance, they carefully avoided giving one priority over the other and specified that operations along each would be mutually supporting. But they believed also that the Central Pacific route was potentially the more decisive. Thus, in case of conflicts in timing and allocation of resources between MacArthur and Nimitz, "due weight," said the planners, should be given to the fact that operations along the central route promised "a more rapid advance toward Japan and her vital lines of communication; the earlier acquisition of strategic air bases closer to the Japanese homeland; and, of greatest


importance, are more likely to precipitate a decisive engagement with the Japanese Fleet."23 Operations in other areas would be subsidiary to those in the Central and Southwest Pacific, but the planners took note of the possibility that if the Soviet Union entered the war operations in the North Pacific Area might well assume an increased importance. In any case, the schedule of operations was to remain flexible and every preparation made to exploit any opportunity that might develop.

The forces required for the defeat of Japan were carefully considered in the plan. The key was the date of Germany's collapse and the prompt redeployment of forces from Europe to the Pacific. A total of forty divisions, including five Marine divisions, plus supporting troops would ultimately be deployed against Japan, the planners estimated. Aircraft also would be brought over from Europe for the final phase of the Japanese war, but the major strategic air weapon, the B-29, was already scheduled for early shipment to China and the Marianas, when bases were ready. Naval forces, except for the employment of British units, was not a problem, since the largest part of U.S. naval power was incorporated in the Pacific Fleet.

The reaction to the revised plan, which was completed by 2 December, was encouraging. The elder statesmen of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, who had been so critical of the earlier plan, found this one much more to their liking. Only the failure of the planners to establish a clear priority as between the Central and the Southwest Pacific disturbed them. "The history of our discussions with the British concerning the strategic concept for Europe," they pointed out, in a clear reference to the debates over Mediterranean strategy, "clearly demonstrates the continuous difficulties which arise when the primacy of the operations in one part of the theater is not clearly set forth and accepted -- but remains the subject of debate whenever operations are being considered in another part of the same theater." For this reason, they felt, a clear priority should be given to one of the two lines of advance, and, as the foremost champions of the Central Pacific, they had no doubt as to where the primary effort was to be made.24

The Joint Chiefs, when they met to discuss the plan on 3 December, considered the advice of their senior advisers and then asked General Sutherland, who had accompanied the planners to Cairo, for his views. Speaking for MacArthur, Sutherland argued eloquently for the priority of Southwest Pacific operations and for RENO III.25 But the Joint Chiefs were unconvinced by the arguments of either the JSSC or Sutherland. They were not yet ready to commit themselves to any one line of advance or to a single concept for the defeat of Japan, preferring to leave themselves free to exploit any opportunity that might arise. In this respect, the work of the planners had been well done. As General Handy pointed out to Marshall, the planners had considered all viewpoints and, while placing the main effort against Japan in the Pacific, had avoided assigning priority to operations in any one area. This, he observed, was one great advantage of


the plan. It was flexible and allowed the Joint Chiefs "to create a main effort by the commitment of forces to one or the other axis" whenever they chose. "In effect," Handy concluded, "it gives the Joint Chiefs of Staff almost complete liberty of action in the Pacific without reference to the British Chiefs of Staff."26 On this note, the Joint Chiefs accepted the plan and recommended its approval.

The British Chiefs of Staff for different reasons, also favored the plan. By placing the main effort against Japan in the Pacific, the plan provided a strong argument against expanded operations in Burma, which the British had steadfastly opposed. This subject led to further discussions between the U.S. and British Chiefs and resulted in a revision intended to clarify the plan with respect to operations in southeast Burma.27 With this amendment and others of a minor nature, the Combined Chiefs of Staff approved the over-all plan for the defeat of Japan in principle "as a basis for further investigation and preparation."28 Though this was short of unqualified approval, it provided for the first time an approved guide for short-range strategic planning and for long-range objectives.

Operations for 1944

Fixing the schedule of operations in the Pacific for 1944 proved to be less difficult than charting a plan for the defeat of Japan. Since the Quebec Conference in August 1943, at which the Combined Chiefs had approved a program for 1943-1944, there had been considerable discussion of objectives for 1944, both in the theater and in Washington. Finally, on 4 November, General Sutherland had arrived in Washington to persuade the Joint Chiefs of Staff to approve MacArthur's 5-phase plan (RENO III) for placing forces of the Southwest Pacific on Mindanao by 1 February 1945.29

The reaction to Sutherland's arguments had not been favorable. To the joint planners, RENO III seemed to place too great an emphasis on the Southwest Pacific line of advance at the expense of the Central Pacific, and thereby challenged the accepted concept of concurrent and mutually supporting operations along both axes of advance. They therefore proposed a schedule for 1944 that would take MacArthur's forces only as far as the Vogelkop Peninsula, omitting the last two phases of RENO, and Nimitz' forces to the Palaus and perhaps to the Marianas. The question of the Philippines they left open, not because of any doubts about the ability of U.S. forces to undertake such a campaign but because they were unwilling to commit themselves so far in advance. As a matter of fact, they were most optimistic about progress during the coming year. Ground, air, and naval forces in the Pacific, already formidable, would be greatly strengthened during the next twelve months, and shipping, which had been so critical in the first two years of the war, could be expected to become more plentiful. Thus, the joint planners hoped that operations in 1944 would so weaken Japan as to "permit the eventual invasion of Honshu not later than the spring of 1946, in order to force her


unconditional surrender at the earliest practicable date."3

On 15 November, en route to Cairo, the Joint Chiefs considered briefly the plans for operations in 1944. Admiral Leahy immediately asked whether the recommendations of the planners "tie in with the plans for the Southwest Pacific Command."31 The response, furnished by one of the naval planners, indicated that there had been "adjustments" in MacArthur's plans because of a lack of resources, but the extent of these adjustments was not indicated. To General Arnold's query concerning conflicts between the Southwest and Central Pacific, Admiral King replied that "dividends would be greater" in Nimitz' area and that "nothing should interfere" with operations there.32

No decision was reached at the meeting, and the problem was returned to the planners for further consideration in the light of the recently completed long-range plan for the defeat of Japan. By the 17th, when the Joint Chiefs met again to discuss the Pacific, the planners had completed their work. The reference to Honshu was removed as premature, and provision was made for the employment of B--29's scheduled to become available in the near future, to operate from China airfields beginning on 1 May 1944. The reaction of the Joint Chiefs to this revision was, on the whole, favorable. There was some discussion of specific objectives such as Truk and the Palaus, but these did not constitute serious objections. After all, Admiral Cooke reminded the Chiefs, the objectives set out in the plan were not intended as an ironclad schedule but rather as a guide for planning purposes and as a forecast of what could be accomplished during the year. The planners, like their Chiefs, intended to remain flexible and to take advantage of any opportunities that might arise to speed up the war against Japan. Despite these assurances, the Palaus operation was deleted at Admiral King's insistence. Truk and Ponape remained in the plan, though General Marshall, who had raised questions about both, remained doubtful of the necessity for going to either place.33

The B-29 program, which had played so large a part in the development of the long-range plan for the defeat of Japan, also largely affected the selection of at least one of the objectives for 1944. Admiral King had long favored the Marianas, but even in naval circles there had been no great enthusiasm for the early invasion of these islands. The problem of finding adequate bases for the B--29 when it became available altered the picture radically. China was the first choice, but the logisticians doubted that the effort could be supported from China and the planners were skeptical of Chinese ability to hold the bases once they were built. The prospect of basing the B-29's in the Marianas, when it appeared that the islands could be occupied by the end of 1944, was seized upon by the Air Force planners after the Quebec Conference in August 1943. Thereafter, they supported Admiral King strongly whenever the Marianas question arose, arguing


General Marshall at Southwest Pacific headquarters. From left: Unidentified officer, Generals Kenney, Chamberline, Krueger, Marshall, and MacArthur.

that other Central Pacific objectives be bypassed and neutralized in order to advance the date for the occupation of these islands. By October, this idea had won wide support among the Joint Staff Planners, who held that "plans for the acceleration of the defeat of Japan would place emphasis upon the seizure of the Marianas at the earliest possible date, with the establishment of heavy bomber bases as the primary mission."34 Thus, the plans considered by the Joint Chiefs aboard the Iowa called for the "seizure of Guam and the Japanese Marianas" in October 1944.

There was no question now about the desirability of the operation, only about the timing. The sooner the islands were taken, the sooner would the B-29's begin operations. The plan, it is true, called for the B-29's to begin bombing Japan from Chinese fields in May but the logisticians of the Joint Staff Planners were doubtful that this commitment would be met. General Arnold, therefore, insisted that the plan include the statement that B-29 bases in the Marianas would be ready in time to permit very long range bombing of Japan from the Pacific by the end of the year.35

The shipboard discussion of 17 November 1943 was the last consideration by the Joint Chiefs of the proposed schedule against Japan in 1944 before their conference with the British and Chinese. They gave it their approval then, and laid it aside for other matters that would occupy much more of their time during the coming meetings. It was not until 6 December, after the decision on OVERLORD and ANVIL. had been made and the Burma offensive deferred, that the plan for operations in 1944 was formally considered by the Combined Chiefs at Cairo. Already, the long-range plan for the defeat of Japan had been approved, in principle, and there was little discussion. The most controversial part of the plan dealing with operations in Southeast Asia had already been settled, and the British had no disposition to quarrel with the U.S. Chiefs of


Table 13--Specific Operations for the Defeat of Japan, 1944
Date Central Pacific Southwest Pacific China
Southeast Asia
1-31 January Seizure of the Marshalls, including Eniwetok and Kusaie Complete siezure of western New Britain. Continue neutralization of Rabaul  
15 January--
15 March
    Operations in upper Burma, Arakan region, and China
1 February   Siezure of Hansa Bay Area, New Guinea  
20 March   Capture of Kavieng  
20 April   Seizure of Manus in teh Admiralty Islands  
1 May Seizure of Ponape   B-29 operations from China bases against Japanese inner zone
1 June   Seizure of Hollandia and the Humboldt Bay region in New Guinea  
20 July Seizure of the Truk area in the eastern Carolines B-29 operations from Australia against vital targets in the Netherlands Indies  
15 August   Advance westward along north coast of New Guinea to and including the Vogelkop Peninsula  
1 October Seizure of Guam and the Japanese Marianas    
1 November
(end of monsoon)
    Intensification of offensive operations in the Southeast Asia Command
31 December Initiate B-29 bombing from Marianas bases against vital targets in Japanese inner zone    


Staff about a theater the Americans regarded as their own unique responsibility. Approval therefore, was almost perfunctory, and next day the conference ended.36 The President and most of the staff boarded the Iowa for the journey back to Washington, but Generals Marshall and Arnold, accompanied by the chief Army and Navy planners, General Handy and Admiral Cooke, returned home by way of the Pacific.

The plan approved at Cairo set an ambitious program for 1944 and represented a real advance over the plan adopted only five months earlier at Quebec.37 Under the new schedule, MacArthur's forces were to complete the seizure of western New Britain in January, then go on to gain control of the Hansa Bay area and the Bismarck Archipelago by May. From there, they would continue to advance westward along the New Guinea coast as far as the Vogelkop Peninsula.

Nimitz' forces during this same period were to take the Marshalls, Ponape, Truk, and, finally, the Marianas. Thus, by the end of the year, Allied forces in the Pacific would hold a line from the tip of New Guinea to the Marianas, from where B-29's were scheduled to begin operations by 31 December.

In contrast to the accelerated program for the Pacific, the schedule approved at Cairo for Southeast Asia and China was less ambitious than that adopted at Quebec. Operations in Burma, originally set for November 1943, were deferred to early 1944, and the plan to recapture Burma itself was abandoned altogether. Only in the case of B-29 operations was the program for China advanced. Under the new plan, very long range bombing from China bases would begin in May, rather than October 1944, as estimated at Quebec.

These were the exceptions for the coming year, placed in the setting of the larger plan for the final defeat of Japan. Their realization would depend on many factors beyond the control of those who had fashioned the plans -- the reaction of the Japanese, production on the home front, the fortunes of war in Europe and elsewhere, and even the vagaries of wind and weather. Nor would those who had set these goals seek the prize themselves; that was the task of the theater commanders and the men who would lead the air-ground-naval team into battle. What they accomplished and what they believed they could or should do would have a vital bearing on events during the year and on the ultimate defeat of Japan. They had been given a plan corresponding generally with their own views and an accelerated program that would bring U.S. forces within reach of Japan's inner zone. Reality was to exceed even those expectations. Before the year was out MacArthur's forces were firmly established in the central Philippines and preparing to land on Luzon, Marianas-based B-29's were bombing the cities of Japan, the Japanese Navy had been virtually defeated, and carrier forces of the Pacific Fleet had penetrated Japan's inner zone. There was no doubt about Japan's defeat -- only when, how, and under whose command. These were the major questions of strategy still to be decided for the Pacific.


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1. For a description of this line and its role in Japanese strategy, see above, Chapter XXVII. This section is based on the sources cited in note 1 of that chapter.

2. The five courses, or lines of advance, were:

  1. From the Aleutians westward to the Kurils.
  2. Across the Central Pacific toward the Japanese home islands or the Philippines-Formosa area.
  3. North and west to the Philippines by way of New Guinea.
  4. From the Indian Ocean area toward Java and Sumatra.
  5. Toward Malaya and Thailand and Burma.
Imperial GHQ Army High Command Record, Japanese Studies in World War II, 72, p. 115.

3. Hattori, The Greater East Asia War, III, 83; Imperial GHQ Army High Command Record, p. 117.

4. Hattori, The Greater East Asia War, III, 83-85.

5. The conference was conducted in three installments, at Cairo with the British and Chinese representatives between 22 and 26 November, with the British and Russians at Tehran from 28 to 30 November, and again at Cairo with the British alone from 2 to 7 December. The code name for the entire series of meetings is SEXTANT, but the meetings with the Russians at Tehran were given a special code name, EUREKA. Minutes and decisions of the three meetings are bound in th official SEXTANT Conference Book.

6. For a full discussion of these and related decisions, see Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, Gordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1951), pp. 118-27; Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics, 1943-45, chs. XII and XIII; Greenfield, gen. ed., Command Decisions, pp. 182-210, 285-303.

7. Charles F. Romanus and Riley Sunderland, Stilwell's Command Problems, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1956), pp. 79-82; Matloff, Strategic Planning, 1943-45, ch. XVI.

8. CCS 417, 2 Dec 43, sub: Over-all Plan for Defeat of Japan.

9. In the preparation of this section on the development of long-range plans for the defeat of Japan, the author been greatly assisted by an excellent summary of the subject by his colleague, Maj. Henry Morgan, which made the task of unraveling this complicated story much lighter than it would otherwise have been.

10. Mins, CCS Mtg, 20 May 43; JPS 67/4, 28 Apr 43, Strategic Plan for the Defeat of Japan; Mins, JPS Mtg, 19 Aug 42. For a discussion of the plan submitted at TRIDENT, see above, pp. 457-60.

11. CPS 82, 8 Aug 43, Appreciation and Plan for the Defeat of Japan. Background papers on the development of this plan are filed in ABC 381 Japan (8-27-42) sec. 3.

12. These comments and the statement of differences between the British and American planners are contained in CCS 313 and 313/1, 18 and 20 Aug 43, sub: Appreciation and Plan for Defeat of Japan.

13. CCS 319/5, 24 Aug 43, sub: Rpt to President and Prime Minister; Mins, 2d Plenary Session, 23 Aug 43; CCS Mtg, 24 Aug 43. All in QUADRANT Conference Book. See also, Hayes, The War Against Japan, ch. XVIII, and Matloff, Strategic Planning, 1943-1944, ch. X.

14. CCS 323, 20 Aug 43, sub: Air Plan for Defeat of Japan; Mins, CCS Mtg, 21 3; CPS 86/D, 26 Aug 43, sub: Preparation of Studies on Defeat of Japan.

15. Mins, CCS Mtg, 17 Sep 43; JPS Mtg, 15 Sep 43; CPS 86/1, 13 Sep 43, sub: Studies on Defeat of Japan; JPS 271, 11 Sep 43, same sub.

16. CPS 86/2, 25 Oct 43, sub: The Defeat of Japan Within Twelve Months after the Defeat of Germany.

17. JWPC 120, 26 Oct 43, sub: Comments on Defeat of Japan Within Twelve Months After Defeat of Germany. The views of this group and of others who commented on the plan are ably summarized in Hayes, The War Against Japan, II, 114ff.

18. Mins, JPS Mtg, 27 Oct 43.

19. Memo, U.S. Members of CPS, 1 Nov 43, sub: The Defeat of Japan Within Twelve Months After Defeat of Germany, cited in Hayes, The War Against Japan, p. 115.

20.] JWPC 120/2, 2 Nov 43, sub: The Defeat of Japan Within Twelve Months After Defeat of Germany; JCS 564, 4 Nov 43, same sub; Mins, JPS Mtg, 3 Nov 43.

21. JCS 5, 8 Nov 43, sub: Recommended Line of Action at Next U.S.-British Conferences; Memo, Vice Adm Russell Willson for Adm King, 11 Nov 43, sub: Plans for Defeat of Japan, ABC 334; JCS Mins (2-14-42) sec. 5.

22. Mins, JCS Mtg, 15 Nov 43.

23. CCS 417, 2 Dec 43, sub: Over-all Plan for Defeat of Japan.

24. JCS 614, 2 Dec 43, sub: Plan for Defeat of Japan.

25. Mins, JCS Mtg, ann. 3 Dec 43. For a summary of these arguments, see above, pp. 538-42.

26. Memo, Handy for Marshall, 3 Dec 43, no sub, OPD Exec Files.

27. CCS 417/1, 5 Dec 43, sub: Over-all Plan for Defeat of Japan.

28. Mins, CCS Mtg, 6 Dec 43.

29. See above, pp. 536-37.

30. JCS 581, 9 Nov 43, sub: Specific Opns for Defeat of Japan, 1944; JWPC 115/1, 7 Nov 43, same sub.

31. It is doubtful that the Joint Chiefs had actually examined RENO III at this time.

32. Mins, JCS Mtg, 15 Nov 43.

33. Mins, JCS Mtg, 17 Nov 43; JCS 581/1, 16 Nov 43, sub: Specific Opns for Defeat of Japan, 1944.

34. JPS 288, 4 Oct 43, sub: Plans for Defeat of Japan Within Twelve Months After Defeat of Germany; JPS 264, 6 Sep 43, Outline Plan for Seizure of the Marianas, Including Guam. For fuller accounts of the development of the B-29 and its relation to strategy, see Craven and Cate, AAF II, ch. V, pp. 3-33; Arnold, Global Missions,pp. 245, 477 passim; Matloff, Strategic Planning, 1943-44, ch. XVI; Crowl, Campaign in the Marianas, ch. 1.

35. Mins, JCS Mtg, 17 Nov 43; JCS 581/3, Rpt by Joint Logistics Committee, 4 Dec 43, sub: Specific Opns for Defeat of Japan, 1944.

36. Mins, CCS Mtg, 6 Dec 43. The plan finally approved became CCS 397 (rev), 3 Dec 43, sub: Specific Opns for Defeat of Japan, 1944.

37. See above Chapter XXV, for a discussion of the Quebec Conference.

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