Chapter VII:
The Malay Barrier

Defensive warfare, therefore, does not consist of waiting idly for things to happen.

CLAUSEWITZ, Principles of War

Though the program to reinforce the Philippines and establish an American base in Australia developed almost accidentally from the improvisations of the first day of the war, it clearly foreshadowed the direction of American strategy in the Pacific. But no clear statement of this strategy, let alone specific plans to put it into effect, existed when the program was adopted. Before either could be developed it would be necessary to correlate American and Allied strategy in the Pacific and to develop a program of action against the common enemy.

Allied Strategy

When General MacArthur told Marshall on 10 December that what Japan feared most was Soviet entry into the war, he emphasized a fact well understood in Washington. That did not mean, however, that military authorities were unanimously in favor of Soviet participation. Admiral Stark, for example, seriously questioned the advisability of such a move because of the effect it would have on the war in Europe. General Marshall agreed fully that any move that would weaken Soviet resistance on the eastern front would be disastrous to the Allied cause. But it was undeniable, he pointed out, that a Soviet attack against Japan would improve America's position in the Pacific. The fact that Japan had not attacked the Maritime Provinces seemed to him significant. "If immediate fighting in the Manchukuo front is disadvantageous to Japan," Marshall declared, "it is, for that reason, immediately advantageous to us."1

But participation by the Soviet Union in the war against Japan was not the only way that nation could aid the Allied cause in the Far East. In the Maritime Provinces were bases that lay within bombing distance of the industrial heart of Japan. In the hands of American forces, these bases would constitute a formidable threat to the Japanese enemy. The possibility that the Soviet Union would allow the United States to base its forces in the Maritime Provinces was a specter that haunted the Japanese and was always a factor in their planning. The Americans had considered this possibility in their prewar plans and estimates,


and had sought to make the necessary arrangements with the Soviet Union. These efforts had been unsuccessful, but as late as November 1941, General Marshall was still optimistic and confided to a group of newsmen that "arrangements are being made to provide landing fields for flying fortresses in Vladivostok" and that the Philippine-based B-17's would shuttle between Clark Field and Vladivostok in the event of war, dropping their bombs en route on the "paper cities of Japan."2

The Pearl Harbor attack gave impetus to the efforts to complete arrangements with the Soviet Union for American use of the Maritime Provinces. On the day after the attack Secretary Hull sounded out Maxim Litvinov, the Soviet Ambassador, on this question and Marshall raised it in military conference. But Litvinov, on instructions from his government, quickly put an end to such hopes. To the President, during a visit to the White House, and to Mr. Hull later, he made it perfectly clear that the USSR would have to maintain a neutral position in the Far East. His country, Litvinov explained, was too heavily committed in the war against Germany and "could not risk an attack by Japan."3

Stalin's reluctance to engage in discussions dealing with the Far East was in marked contrast to Chiang Kai-shek's eagerness for concerted action. China had not been included in the prewar discussions of strategy and no plans had been made for the use of Chinese bases or troops in the event of war with Japan. The first suggestion that China become an active partner in such a war came from Chiang who, when he heard of the Pearl Harbor attack, summoned the American and Soviet ambassadors and told them of his hopes for a military alliance of all the anti-Axis nations under American leadership. This thought the Ambassadors passed on to their governments, but it was not until the 11th that the Generalissimo formally proposed such an alliance, as well as the preparation of comprehensive plans for concerted action against Japan and the formation of a military mission headed by an American, with headquarters at Chungking.4

In Washington, the desirability of international military collaboration was fully recognized and plans for a meeting were already being made. Chiang's suggestions, therefore, though they were not entirely in accord with American views, were readily accepted by Roosevelt, but with the proviso that several conferences, not one, be held to co-ordinate the efforts of the Allies. All together there would be three: one in Chungking, one in Singapore, and one in Moscow, and invitations went out immediately. Chiang quickly agreed, as did the British, who were scheduled to meet separately with the Americans in Washington later in the month. But Stalin asked that his country not be pressed into any action against Japan, and Roosevelt's invitation


for a meeting in Moscow trailed off in a series of inconclusive messages.5

Preparations for the other two meetings, to be held concurrently and to consider ways to halt the Japanese, were quickly completed. Representing the United States at Chungking would be Generals Brett, then in India, and Magruder, head of the mission to China. Lt. Col. Francis G. Brink, military observer in Singapore and an old hand in the Far East, would attend the meeting there. The results of these conferences, Roosevelt stipulated, were to be forwarded to Washington by 20 December so that they could be used in the forthcoming meeting with Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff, scheduled for 22 December.

When the Chungking Conference convened on 17 December neither Lt. Gen. Sir Archibald Wavell, the British delegate, nor Brett was present. Nevertheless the Generalissimo took the opportunity to present his plans for the formation of an Allied general staff at Chungking, and for the prosecution of the war against Japan. On the 22d, Brett, who had just received orders to go to Australia and take command of U.S. Army forces there, arrived with Wavell and the conversations with the Chinese began in earnest. Brett's instructions from Washington were to join with the others in seeking ways to take advantage of Japan's "present over-extension" -- MacArthur's thesis -- and to reassure the Chinese that the United States was not abandoning the Philippines or its partners in Asia. After considerable discussion, a plan that placed control in Washington and called for only limited operations in Asia was evolved by the delegates and sent to Washington. The Generalissimo thought it unsatisfactory and sent his own. Neither contained any concrete suggestions on command or logistics, two problems that would plague the Allies in China for the next three years. The conference ended on the 23d, having produced, one of the planners wrote, "very little in the way of concrete results."6

The Singapore Conference (18-20 December), though it produced no plan to halt the Japanese drive, was more fruitful, for from it came the first concrete proposal for an Allied command in the Southwest Pacific. Colonel Brink's instructions were to present MacArthur's views on Far East strategy, which General Marshall summarized for him as follows:

American, Australian, and Dutch air and naval forces should cooperate to keep open line of communications from Australia to Philippines. Successful defense of Philippines considered essential to maintenance of Allied defensive structure in the Western Pacific. Plans for immediate Philippine reinforcement definitely dependent for success upon establishment of air traffic between Philippines and bases south. Every effort should be made to supplement air supply by re-establishment of limited sea communications between Australia and Philippines.

These views, Marshall added "are generally concurred in by the President." At the same time he informed MacArthur


of the forthcoming meetings and of his instructions to the American delegates, adding the suggestion that he correspond directly with them "if practicable from the viewpoint of secrecy."7

With these instructions and with the additional statement from MacArthur and Hart, couched in MacArthurian language, that "the Far East area is now the dominant locus of the war," Colonel Brink presented to the Singapore conferees the American view of the importance of the Philippines and the necessity for keeping open the lines of communication. But the British view of the importance of Singapore predominated. The report of the conferees, therefore, while it called for large reinforcements to the Southwest Pacific and adopted all of MacArthur's suggestions for the protection of the air and sea lanes between Malaya and the Philippines, gave second place to the defense of the Philippines. Japanese conquest of Singapore, the conferees thought, would be a disaster of the first order. Not only would it make certain the loss of the Netherlands Indies with is vast resources in oil and rubber, but it would also place the enemy in position to isolate Australia and New Zealand and to separate the British and American fleets in the Far East. The importance of the Philippines was limited, in the report of the Singapore Conference, to its use "as an advanced and flanking base for offensive action against Japanese lines of communication."8

The most important result of the Singapore meeting was the proposal made by Brink for a unified command. The conference, he told the Chief of Staff, "dearly indicated the need for one supreme head over a combined allied staff" to co-ordinate the efforts of the American, British, Australian, and Dutch forces in the area and to make plans for the future. The "unofficial opinions" of the conferees, he added, indicated that the appointment of an American familiar with the Pacific area to this post "would not only be acceptable but desirable." If such an appointment were made and a headquarters established, Brink suggested that it be located in Java. But he did not fail to point out that the majority of the delegates believed the major base of Allied operations in the Southwest Pacific should be in Australia, with an advance base in the Indies.9

Brink's suggestion was quickly picked up in Washington. In the Army War Plans Division, where it went first for comment, the idea of a unified command in the Far East was described as "an absolute essential for the successful prosecution of the war effort in this theater," and a matter that ought to be discussed with the British. Action in the division ended with the note, "This matter is being considered by the Chief of Staff. It has been discussed at the White House."10


By the time the reports of the Singapore and Chungking Conferences reached the War Department, Churchill and his Chiefs of Staff had arrived in Washington for the first of the many wartime conferences which marked the most successful military alliance in the history of warfare. This meeting, which lasted from 22 December 1941 to 14 January 1942 and is known by the code name ARCADIA, was in many respects the most important of the conferences held during the war. It established an organization for the conduct of coalition warfare that survived all the stresses and strains of conflicting national interests; reaffirmed the basic decision to make the major effort in Europe at a time when the American people had not yet recovered from the shock of Pearl Harbor and when disaster threatened in the Pacific and Asia; established the first Allied command of the war; and laid down a broad program for the future as well as a plan for immediate action.11

The divergence between British and American views, which had been plainly evident at the ABC meetings early in 1941, was again apparent at the ARCADIA conference. The Americans believed that their national interests would best be served and the security of the United States best assured by the early defeat of Germany and Japan. This objective they put ahead of all others and made the measuring rod for every problem put before them. The British, too, sought the early defeat of the enemy, but they differed with the Americans on how to do it. Further, their national interests encompassed the security and future of a far-flung empire with its long lines of communication. Their task was more complex than that of the Americans and their path to victory more circuitous. For them, the Middle East, Singapore, Malaya, Australia, India -- all held an importance the Americans could not grant on purely military grounds. The British pressed hard for the allocation of Allied resources to the defense of these positions, not only at ARCADIA but at the conferences that followed, while the Americans pushed single-mindedly for those operations that would bring about the defeat of the enemy. But determination to agree and good will on both sides overcame all differences.

About one thing, the major objective of Allied strategy, there was no disagreement. The principals subscribed to a basic statement of war aims that served as the strategic objective for the year 1942 and the basis for the division of the resources of the two nations. "Much has happened since February last," the conferees noted, "but notwithstanding the entry of Japan into the War, our view remains that Germany is still the prime enemy. and her defeat is the key to victory. Once Germany is defeated the collapse of Italy and the defeat of Japan must follow."12 It was agreed therefore, as "a cardinal principle" of American and British strategy, "that only the minimum of force necessary for the safeguarding of vital interests in other theaters


should be diverted from operations against Germany."

In terms of the existing situation, this "cardinal principle" meant that the production of armaments would have to be stepped up; that essential positions would have to be defended; that the vital lines of communication would have to be held; and that, by a combination of bombing, blockade, and propaganda, German resistance would have to be reduced so that the Allies could land on the Continent in 1943. But the principle of minimum force in the Pacific was one that could be interpreted variously and usually was, depending on the situation. There were always those who could justify additional forces for the Pacific on the ground that they were required to safeguard vital interests there. This was the Navy's position, argued forcefully and consistently by Admiral King.

In the Pacific and Far East, the Americans and the British Chiefs of Staff agreed, it would be necessary to maintain the security of Australia, New Zealand, and India; to support China; and to gain "points of vantage" from which an offensive against Japan could "eventually be developed." These were long-range objectives; the "immediate object" was to hold Hawaii, Alaska, Singapore, the Malay Barrier, the Philippines, Rangoon, and the route to China.

As a general statement of strategy, the objectives outlined by the U.S. and British Chiefs of Staff had little relevance to the immediate emergency in the Far East where the Japanese were advancing rapidly on every front. What was needed was agreement on the apportionment of the resources of both nations to that area, and, specifically, the amount to be assigned each of the vital positions still in Allied hands but defended by a variety of national forces and independent commanders. Both sides were apparently reluctant to enter into detailed discussions of this subject, but they agreed that the planners should study the question of the disposition of the forces in and en route to the Southwest Pacific. This study, the Chiefs stipulated, should be based on three alternative assumptions; first, that the Allies would hold both the Philippines and Singapore; second, that they would hold Singapore and the Netherlands Indies but lose the Philippines; and third, that they would lose Singapore and the Philippines.

The planners went to work on the problem immediately and quickly produced a report the Chiefs approved on the last day of the year. Recognizing that the forces then in the area could not hold the positions prescribed and that immediate reinforcements would have to be provided, the planners framed the following statement of Allied aims:

  1. Hold the Malay Barrier, that is the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, and the islands stretching eastward to northwest Australia, "as the basic defensive position"; and Burma and Australia "as essential supporting positions."

  2. Re-establish communications with the Philippines and support the garrison there, while maintaining communications to Burma and Australia and within the Far East area.

Appended to the report were lists of the forces already in the theater and scheduled to arrive by 1 February. These the planners recommended be deployed "as now arranged," if the Philippines and Singapore held, If they did not, the


reinforcements should be used to defend the Malay Barrier, Burma, and Australia, with American troops being used on the east side of the barrier (Australia), British and Commonwealth forces on the west (Burma and India). Should the Philippines alone fall to the Japanese -- an admission the Americans were not yet willing to make to the British who firmly believed that Singapore would hold -- then U.S. reinforcements would be employed along the barrier and the lines of communication to the east.13

By the time this study was approved, the Chiefs of Staff had already decided to set up a unified American command in the Far East. The dangers and disadvantages of command by co-operation had been made abundantly clear by the disaster at Pearl Harbor, and Marshall felt very strongly that unity of command was perhaps even more important than the allocation of resources or the assignment of troops. On the 25th, after he had Brink's report on the Singapore Conference, he raised the problem with his American and British colleagues. "The matters being settled here," he told them, "are mere details which will continuously reoccur unless settled in a broader way. . . . I am convinced that there must be one man in command of the entire theater. . . . If we make a plan for unified command now, it will solve nine-tenths of our troubles." Without minimizing the difficulties of establishing such a command over the forces of four nations, Marshall believed that it could be done and was willing "to go the limit" to achieve it. "A man with good judgment and unity of command," he said, "has a distinct advantage over a man with brilliant judgment who must rely on cooperation." But the consensus of the meeting was not in Marshall's favor and the subject was dropped after polite comment.14

The next day Mr. Roosevelt, apparently after discussion with Marshall and King, raised the question of a unified command in the Far East at a White House meeting with Churchill and others. The Prime Minister, like his military advisers, did not favor the idea and there the matter rested for the moment. But neither the President nor General Marshall abandoned their fight and both privately did their utmost to change Churchill's mind.15 In this they were successful so far as the principle of unified command was concerned but agreement on the officer who would exercise such a command and the limits of his authority was not so easily reached. Oddly enough, the British wanted an American and the Americans favored a British officer, specifically General Wavell, then Commander-in-Chief, India, for the post. Finally on 28 December, Churchill agreed to the American proposal and Wavell was alerted to his coming appointment. It was decided also that Wavell, when he assumed command, would report to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, then being established, and that his headquarters would be located in Java.

Meanwhile U.S. Army planners had been working on a directive designed


primarily to show whether one could be drawn "which would leave the Supreme Commander with enough power to improve the situation and still not give him power to destroy national interests or to exploit one theater without due consideration to another."16 The task was a difficult one and the results were not entirely satisfactory, the British Chiefs objecting on the ground that the limitations placed on the commander were too heavy. It was sent to the Allied planners, therefore, for further study and a revised draft was prepared. This one, with slight modifications, proved acceptable and was finally approved, though with some reluctance, by all the governments involved on 10 January 1942.17

The new command Wavell was to head was to be known as ABDACOM, for the initials of the national forces involved (American, British, Dutch, and Australian) and included Burma, Malaya, the Netherlands Indies, and the Philippines. The inclusion of the Philippines in Wavell's command was a formal gesture and one Wavell himself wished to avoid.18 Significantly, neither China nor Australia was included in the ABDA area. (Map 2) As much for political as military reasons the former was organized as a separate theater commanded by Chiang Kai-shek, but independent of Allied control. The Australians, though they protested their omission from the discussions in Washington and their lack of representation in the Combined Chiefs of Staff, accepted the terms of the directive and permitted their troops in the ABDA area to become a part of Wavell's command. USAFIA (U.S. Army Forces in Australia), however, was not included in the new command on the ground that its primary responsibility was to MacArthur and its main task to support the defense of the Philippines. Soon after Wavell assumed command, when it became apparent that only limited aid could be sent to the Philippines, the mission of USAFIA was broadened to include the support of operations in the ABDA area. And the northwest portion of Australia was also added to ABDACOM at General Wavell's request.19

The staff of the new command, it was understood, would represent all the nations concerned. The American and British Chiefs of Staff did not attempt to name Wavell's staff, but they did seek to guard against the preponderance of one nationality in his headquarters. Thus, they stipulated that his deputy and the commander of the naval forces would be Americans, and that a British officer would command the air forces and a Dutch officer the ground forces.

The problem of protecting the interests of each nation represented in ABDACOM without unduly restricting the commander was resolved by limiting Wavell's authority to the "effective coordination of forces." He was given command of all forces "afloat, ashore,




and in the air," but was permitted to exercise that control only through subordinate commanders whom he could not relieve and who had the right to appeal to their governments if they considered their orders and national interests to be in conflict. Though he could assign missions to his forces, form task forces for specific operations, and appoint their commanders, he was prohibited from altering the tactical organization of the national forces in his command, using their supplies, or controlling their communications with the home government. And in matters of logistics and administration he could exercise only the most general control.

The severe limitations placed on General Wavell's authority were in marked contrast to the heavy responsibilities laid upon him by the chiefs in Washington. Not only was he given the task of maintaining "as many key positions as possible" under the strategic objectives already outlined (that is, to hold the Malay Barrier, Burma, and Australia), a formidable enough undertaking in itself, but he was also enjoined "to take the offensive at the earliest opportunity and ultimately to conduct an all-out offensive against Japan." "The first essential," the Chiefs told him, "is to gain general air superiority at the earliest possible moment." With the lesson of the first Japanese successes still fresh in mind, they cautioned Wavell against dispersing his air forces or using them in piecemeal fashion.20

These instructions, with their emphasis on offensive operations, were probably motivated by an understandable reluctance in Washington to dedicate a command to defensive action, but there was a clear realization that the forces in the theater were then and for some time would be hard pressed even to hold their own. And even as these instructions were being written the enemy was moving swiftly and in force toward those "key positions" Wavell was to hold.

Having established the ABDA area and appointed General Wavell its commander, the American and British staffs in Washington had still to settle the problem of reinforcements to the Southwest Pacific, for it was obvious with each passing day that the situation there was rapidly worsening. This problem brought the assembled planners up against the hard fact, which was to plague them throughout the war, that there were not enough ships to do all the jobs required. They had earlier in the conference agreed 'that American troops would be sent to Iceland and northern Ireland, and that landings might be made in North Africa later in the year. The shipping requirements for these operations alone were so great that the North Atlantic sailings were approved only on the understanding that they would be discontinued "if other considerations intervened."21 The necessity for speeding up the schedule of reinforcements to the Southwest Pacific created an additional and immediate demand for the ships already allocated to the North Atlantic projects and led to a re-examination of the entire shipping shortage.

The debate over Atlantic versus Pacific priority on shipping was precipitated


by Admiral Stark, who, on 11 January, a day after General Wavell arrived in Batavia but before he assumed command, reviewed the critical situation in the Far East and raised the question of diverting ships from the less critical North Atlantic route to the Pacific. In this he had the support of General Marshall and Admiral King, but the British, in the belief that Singapore would hold and anxious for the Americans to relieve then in Iceland and Ireland, sought other ways to find the ships. The matter was finally referred to the shipping experts who reported the next day that by delaying the North Atlantic sailings one month, which would have the effect also of delaying the proposed North African operation, and by reducing lend-lease shipments to the Soviet Union, it would be possible to send aircraft, gasoline, artillery, and about 22,000 men across the Pacific on 20 January and an additional 23,300 British troops shortly after. The Chiefs accepted this solution, as did the President and Prime Minister when Mr. Hopkins assured them that ships would be found to keep supplies moving to the Soviet Union.22 The minimum force principle for allocation of resources to the Pacific had now been stretched so far as to justify the postponement of troop movements to Iceland and northern Ireland and, in part at least, the delay of the North African landings. In the days to come it. was to be stretched even further.

The conference scored one other major achievement before its close on 14 January. Last on the agenda the British had submitted before the meeting was an item calling for the establishment of "joint machinery" for collaboration. Just what the British had in mind was not clear, but in preparation for the coming discussion the Americans studied the matter and decided they would seek as their solution to the problem of collaboration the establishment of a Supreme Allied War Council, patterned on the World War I model, and of two committees to support the council -- a Military Joint Planning Committee and a Joint Supply Committee.23

The idea of a Supreme Allied War Council came up early in the conference. It quickly became apparent that the World War I model would hardly meet the requirements of a global war, and action was deferred until the more urgent problems were disposed of. Finally, on the 13th, the British returned to the subject of the organization of the alliance. By this time the ABDA command had been created and Admiral Sir Dudley Pound suggested that the same pattern be followed on a global scale. This was entirely agreeable to the Americans, as was the British suggestion to avoid confusion between Allied and national activities by adopting a standard nomenclature. Joint was to be used for interservice collaboration of one nation; combined, for collaboration between two or more nations.24

One further matter remained to be settled -- the location of the Allied command post. The British, naturally,


wanted it in London; the Americans, in Washington. There had been some consideration earlier in the conference of a dual system operating out of both capitals, but this idea was quickly discarded. By the 13th it had been virtually decided that the headquarters of the alliance would be in Washington. The British therefore proposed to leave in the American capital Field Marshal Sir John Dill to represent Mr. Churchill on the highest levels, and the heads of the Joint Staff Mission, the organization established after the ABC-1 meetings in March 1940, to represent the Chiefs of Staff. Similarly, the Americans were to designate their own officials to represent the President and the Chiefs of Staff in London.

The Americans did not favor this solution. Though they did not object to Sir John Dill's appointment and even preferred him to anyone else, they felt that British representation in Washington should be limited to the level of the Chiefs of Staff. The assignment of a high-ranking British officer in Washington with access to the President would, they believed, create many problems. The proposal also seemed to them to suggest the dual command post concept. To General Marshall, "there could be no question of having any duplication of the Combined Chiefs of Staff organization in Washington and London." Though he had no objection to parallel subordinate committees, "there could be," he asserted, "only one Combined Chiefs of Staff who would give broad directions on the allocation of materiel."25

The final details for U.S.-British collaboration were settled at the last meeting of the conference. On the evening of the 13th the Americans prepared a draft of the arrangements already agreed upon, which with some modifications was accepted by the British and became the basis for the organization of the Combined Chiefs of Staff during the war.26 As defined by the conferees, the Combined Chiefs of Staff consisted of the British Chiefs of Staff or their representatives in Washington, and the U.S. Chiefs, who, in the accepted terminology, were designated as the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Combined chiefs were to sit in Washington only and to meet weekly, or more often if necessary. They were to have a secretariat to maintain their records and prepare and distribute their papers, and a staff of planners designated the Combined Staff Planners (consisting of the chief American planners and their British opposite numbers). This latter group was "to make such studies, draft such plans, and perform such other work" as directed by the Chiefs.

The authority granted to the Combined Chiefs was broad. They were to "develop and submit recommendations" for the ABDA area and for the other areas "in which the United Nations may decide to act in concert . . . modified as necessary to meet the particular circumstances." To perform these functions, they were given responsibility for recommending to their political superiors "a broad program" of the requirements for implementing strategic decisions and for preparing general directives establishing policy governing the distribution of the weapons of war. Such weapons and war equipment were to be allocated "in accordance


with strategical needs" through appropriate groups in Washington and London under the authority of the Combined Chiefs. Finally, the Combined Chiefs were given responsibility to settle the broad issues of priority for overseas military movements.

The combined organization established at the ARCADIA Conference, though it stemmed in large measure from the efforts to meet the crisis in the Southwest Pacific, was patterned on the ABC-1 arrangements and on British practice. Under the former, an effective and well-manned British Joint Staff Mission had been established in Washington, and it was this body that provided the basis for a Combined Chiefs of Staff organization in the American capital. British experience with committee organization provided the other key to the combined system established at ARCADIA. Thus, the Combined Chiefs were responsible to the President and Prime Minister in much the same way as the British Chiefs were already responsible to Churchill in his dual capacity as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.27 And the organization of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff that emerged during the months after the ARCADIA Conference was shaped in large degree by the necessity for providing American counterparts to the highly developed system of committees and secretariats under the British Chiefs and the War Cabinet.

The ABDACOM Interlude

While the American and British heads of state with their military staffs were in Washington establishing the strategic basis and the organization for the conduct of the war, the Japanese Army and Navy had continued their drive into Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific with unabated vigor. Operations during the first phase of their plan for seizing the southern area had been remarkably successful and in the first week of January 1942 they opened the second phase. The objectives of this phase of the plan included the seizure of the Bismarck Archipelago and Malay Peninsula; the capture of Singapore; and, in preparation for the final assault on Java, heart of the Indies, the acquisition of air and naval bases in southern Sumatra, Dutch Borneo, the Celebes, Amboina, and Timor. The occupation of Java itself and of northern Sumatra was scheduled for the third phase, after which the Japanese would complete their operations in Burma and consolidate their position in the conquered area. All these operations were to be completed by the end of April, in time to meet possible attack from the Soviet Union, which, the Japanese believed, would come in the spring, if it came at all that year.

In Malaya there was no clear demarcation between the first and second phase. There the Japanese, driving in two columns down the east and west coasts of the peninsula, continued to advance without halt. Combining amphibious encirclement with frontal assault, General Yamashita was able to force the stubborn British defenders back time after time until by 10 January he stood at the gates of Kuala Lumpur, on the west coast of Malaya, which his 5th Division captured the next day. His eastern column meanwhile had advanced to within 100 miles of Singapore. By the middle of the month, he had united his


GENERAL TER POORTEN Greets General Wavell (left) on his arrival at Batavia.

two columns and was preparing to attack the single line the gallant defenders had formed before the plain which constitutes the southern tip of the peninsula.28

So rapidly had their forces moved and so light had been resistance that even before the end of the year Japanese commanders in the field were urging their superiors in Tokyo to speed the timetable of conquest. In the last week of December, Field Marshal Hisaichi Terauchi, commander of the Southern Army, and Vice Adm. Nobutake Kondo, 2d Fleet commander, jointly recommended advancing the schedule of operations against Sumatra and Borneo, thus making possible the invasion of Java a month earlier than planned. At Imperial General Headquarters the Terauchi-Kondo proposal met a favorable reception, for it would not only speed operations in the south and keep the enemy off balance but it would also make available at an earlier date the troops needed in Manchuria if the Soviet Union should enter the war -- a danger that continued to haunt the Japanese. Early in January, therefore, Imperial General Headquarters approved the recommendation and advanced the timetable for the seizure of the southern area.29

The first signs of the increased tempo of Japanese operations in the Netherlands Indies came very quickly. Late in December the Japanese had gained control of British Borneo and the South China Sea approaches to the Malay Barrier. Now, in the first week of January, the 16th Army, which had been given the 38th Division to accelerate its drive into the Indies, completed its preparations for the advance. At Davao in the southern Philippines it organized two task forces, one to take the important oil center of Tarakan in northern Borneo, and the other Menado in the Celebes. Both left Davao at the same time, 9 January. The first landed at Tarakan on 11 January and, after overcoming slight resistance from the Dutch defenders aided by American B-17's based near Surabaya, took that town the same day. The second force, reinforced by about 330 naval paratroopers and supported by the seaplane tenders Chitose and Mizuho and three heavy cruisers, took Menado at the same time.


The seizure of these two points completed the Japanese control of the Celebes Sea and the northern approaches to Makassar Strait. Through that strait lay one of the routes to Java.30

It was at this juncture, on 10 January, that General Wavell reached Batavia, capital of the Netherlands Indies, located on the northwest coast of Java. Already there or soon to arrive were his deputy, General Brett, and the commanders of his ground and naval force, Lt. Gen. H. ter Poorten and Admiral Hart. In the absence of Air Marshal Sir Richard E. C. Peirse, General Brereton was appointed deputy commander of the air forces. On the 15th, General Wavell formally assumed command of the ABDA area (ABDACOM) with headquarters at Lembang, inland from the capital and about ten miles north of Bandoeng.31 (Chart 2)

From the start it was apparent that the defense of the ABDA area, even in the unlikely event that the promised reinforcements arrived in time, had little chance of success. Already the Japanese had taken Hong Kong, isolated the Philippines, landed in Borneo and the Celebes, and were making rapid progress down the Malay Peninsula. To oppose their advance Wavell had, in addition to the British forces fighting a losing battle in Malaya and the American forces in the Philippines, two Dutch divisions in Java and small Dutch garrisons elsewhere in the Indies; a naval force -- including the U.S. Asiatic Fleet -- of heavy and 8 light cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 36 submarines; and an air force of 4 fighter and 6 bomber squadrons, including the remnants of the Far East Air Force, plus 250 more planes in Burma and Malaya. With these meager forces General Wavell could only try to hold back the Japanese tide while waiting for reinforcements which never came.32

The urgent need for reinforcements was only one of Wavell's problems. Keeping the peace within his own small international headquarters, unraveling the confused command relationships between his forces, and reconciling conflicting national interests and strategic concepts were others almost as serious. Even so minor a matter as the location of the headquarters could not be settled amicably and it was only after he had overridden the strong objections of his naval commanders that Wavell established his headquarters at Lembang.33

The relationship between Wavell and MacArthur, though it created no difficulties, illustrated the confused situation in ABDACOM. In addition to the task of holding the Malay Barrier, Wavell had also been instructed to re-establish communications with Luzon and to support the Philippine garrison. Before assuming command, he objected to this assignment and proposed that the islands be excluded from the ABDA area. President Roosevelt, without consulting his military advisers, approved this suggestion to avoid any delay in Wavell's assumption of command. When General Marshall learned of this action he saw




ABDA COMMAND meeting with General Wavell for the first time. Seated around the table, from left: Admirals Layton, Helfrich, and Hart, General ter Poorten, Colonel Kengen, Royal Netherlands Army (at head of table), and Generals Wavell, Brett, and Brereton.

that it might well have an adverse effect upon morale in the Philippines and was contrary to the ABDA agreement. An important reason for the establishment of Wavell's command had been the desire to co-ordinate the efforts of the Allies in the Far East, and the United States had allocated to the defense of ABDA aircraft which had been under MacArthur's command or sent out originally for his use. With King's support, therefore, Marshall recommended to the President that he rescind his earlier message. The President saw the point immediately, and Wavell was told the day after he assumed command that the Philippines would remain in his area.34

The establishment of the ABDA area made necessary also a reshuffling of the U.S. Army commands already in existence in the Southwest Pacific and Southeast Asia. Although MacArthur was assured by the War Department that the establishment of ABDACOM would not alter his position or affect his forces, he actually lost a part of his command. The U.S. Army Forces in Australia were then a part of USAFFE (U.S. Army Forces, Far East) and under MacArthur's direction. Now he was told that these forces would be formed into a separate command on a level with USAFFE and placed under General Brereton, who had been selected because of his "intimate knowledge of your situation and needs." The reason for this move was that the Japanese advance into the Indies had made control by MacArthur of the forces in Australia and the Netherlands


Indies impractical. But, he was assured, "when satisfactory communications with the Philippines have once been reestablished your resumption of actual command of all American Army forces in the Far East will be easily accomplished."35

Other than the paper changes in command, the establishment of ABDACOM had no effect on operations in the Philippines. MacArthur reported formally by radio to his new superior and sent representatives from Mindanao to Java to solicit what aid they could, but the relationship between the two headquarters was never more than nominal.

General Brereton's assignment as air commander in the ABDA area, pending the arrival of Air Marshal Pierse, complicated an already confusing situation. Brereton was also commander of U.S. Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), a post General Brett had held before him, and in this capacity also came under Wavell's control. But this control was only partial, for, as the War Department explained to Brereton, "U.S. troops in Australian territory come under the control of General Wavell only when specifically allotted for service in the ABDA area."36

The physical difficulties of exercising command simultaneously over USAFIA, a logistical and administrative headquarters in Australia, and over ABDAIR, an operational headquarters in Java, as well as the conflicting missions of the two, made it imperative to clarify Brereton's status. On the 16th, therefore, a day after he assumed command, General Wavell, at Brereton's request, asked Marshall to relieve Brereton of his responsibilities in Australia so that he could concentrate on the full-time job of directing his air forces. This was quickly done, and General Barnes, who had in effect been directing the activities of USAFIA since the 12th, was authorized to assume command of base facilities in Australia.37

Barnes himself seems to have been somewhat confused about his status and responsibilities for he was never formally designated as a commander of USAFIA and Brereton continued to receive messages addressed to him with that title. Moreover, when Brereton had difficulty getting logistical support from Australia that he wanted, he complained to the War Department, which promptly informed Barnes that he was to provide that support as best he could. At the same time, the War Department made it clear to Barnes that he was not under Brereton's but Wavell's command, and that General Brett, as Wavell's deputy, could issue orders to him. So far as the War Department was concerned this ended the matter, but General Barnes, even at the end of January, was apparently not clear on his relationship to ABDACOM "in general" and to General Brett "in particular regarding troops and supplies in Australia."38

Not only was there confusion over command in the ABDA area, but national commanders differed with one


another and with the Supreme Commander over the conduct of operations and the allocation of resources. To the American, Dutch, and Australian officers, it seemed that General Wavell was devoting far too much attention, as well as a disproportionate share of Allied resources, to the defense of Malaya, Singapore, and Burma, an attitude that seemed to them to reflect British rather than Allied interests. The American commanders, Admiral Hart and General Brereton, free from any territorial interest in the area, wished to protect the lines of communication and air and naval bases along the Malay Barrier, which they believed essential links in defensive structure of the Southwest Pacific and the starting points for offensive operations. The Dutch desired above all else to concentrate Allied resources on the defense of their territories. And the Australians, concerned over the defense of the homeland, continually pressed for a greater share of the theater's resources on the east. If General Wavell made any effort to reconcile these views, the records do not show it. Despite the representations of the national commanders to their governments -- in Washington Brett's were refuted by the Army planners, as was his proposal to break up the new theater -- Wavell continued to act on the assumption that the security of the Netherlands Indies and Australia depended on the defense of Malaya and Singapore.39

These difficulties were brought out sharply in the discussion of naval reinforcements. Most of the British and Dutch vessels in the area were assigned to convoy duty, leaving only the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, based on Surabaya, free for operations. The Dutch, whose naval forces were under the operational control of the British, were none too happy over this assignment, preferring to employ their vessels in the defense of Dutch territory. Their irritation was further increased by the British announcement of the transfer of some of their cruisers and destroyers to the Indian Ocean and American refusal to provide naval reinforcements for convoy duty. Ultimately the Australians were persuaded to send additional vessels into the area, but the damage had been done and the Dutch resentment persisted.40

The Dutch were displeased also with the way naval operations were being conducted. Admiral Hart, they felt, had his forces too far back and was showing more concern over Darwin and the supply routes to Australia than over the progress of the enemy through Makassar Strait and the Molucca Sea. They were disappointed, too, over their failure to gain command of the naval elements in ABDA. Their interests, they felt, were predominant and their knowledge of the area greater than that of the Americans. This attitude, which Dutch naval officers made little effort to conceal, added to Hart's already considerable burdens and complicated his task enormously.

By the end of January, relations between Admiral Hart and the Dutch naval commander had become so strained that they could no longer be ignored. It was then that General Wavell suggested to the Prime Minister that Hart


be relieved on account of his age and that a Dutch officer, or, if the United States would send naval reinforcements to the ABDA area, a younger American be given command. The suggestion was passed on to Washington and finally to Hart himself who replied that he did not consider himself too old to discharge his duties and did not wish to be relieved. Though both Admirals King and Stark supported the Asiatic Fleet commander, the President decided to adopt Wavell's suggestion. His decision was influenced largely by the fact that the United States had refused to send naval reinforcements to the area and by the hope that the Dutch would assume a more active role in the naval defense of ABDA. There was never any feeling, Admirals King and Stark later recalled, that Hart had proved unfit or that he was too old to exercise command. After the President had made his decision Hart had no recourse but to step down, which he did on the 5th by asking to be relieved on account of ill health, a course Admiral Stark had recommended to him. Six days later the Secretary of the Navy ordered him home.41 His place was taken by Vice Adm. Conrad E. L. Helfrich, Dutch naval commander.


With the relief of Admiral Hart, ABDACOM lost its last American force commander. Air Marshall Pierse had taken over from General Brereton on 28 January, as originally intended, and the Dutch continued to command the ground forces. The U.S. Chiefs, anxious to secure direction of one of the major elements in ABDACOM in the interests of "homeland support," put forward Brett's name as commander of the Allied air forces. Both the President and the Prime Minister supported the nomination, but Brett seems to have had larger ambitions and argued that such a "drastic change" would be unsettling. The matter was dropped.42

While the Allies sought to solve the problem of command and bring reinforcements into the area, the Japanese continued to advance almost without interruption. In Malaya General Yamashita forced the British back from line after line until on 27 January Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival, the British commander in Malaya, withdrew his forces to Singapore. The causeway connecting the fortress to the mainland was blown on 31 January. Only the waters of Johore Strait lay between Yamashita and his goal. For a week, while the Singapore garrison


desperately prepared its defenses, Japanese aircraft and artillery paved the way for the final assault. Shortly before midnight of 8 February, under cover of an extremely heavy artillery bombardment, the Japanese began to cross the straits. By the morning of the 9th, they had established a firm position on the island and were pouring reinforcements into the lodgment area. From there the Japanese spread over the island, infiltrating the defender's lines and isolating them into small pockets of resistance. On the 15th General Percival, with his water, food, and ammunition gone, decided that further resistance was impossible. That afternoon, he met Yamashita at the Ford Motor Factory and formally surrendered his command, an act which symbolized the end of British imperial power in the Far East.43

The loss of Singapore was a major blow to the Allied cause in the Far East and a disaster of the first magnitude for the British who had long regarded it as an impregnable fortress and the key to the defense of Australia, New Zealand, and India. Fortunately, the British estimate of the importance of Singapore to the security of the Dominions proved incorrect, but that did not lessen the immediate shock or minimize the seriousness of the blow to the British Far Eastern Fleet, which had already suffered the loss of the Prince of Wales and Repulse. With its base gone, the British Navy now had to retire to Sydney in Australia and to Ceylon, and when Ceylon was threatened briefly in April, to the east coast of Africa.

For ABDACOM, which had been established only a month before, the fall of Singapore was a crushing blow. In anticipation of this disaster, General Wavell had warned the Chiefs of Staff on the 13th that a drastic change in plans might soon be necessary. It was doubtful, he wrote, that Sumatra, obviously the next Japanese objective, could be held, and if it were not, then Java would fall. Though he told the Chiefs he intended to continue his present plans for the defense of Java "until situation enforces changes," it was apparent by the 15th that he had no real hope for success, a view that was reinforced by his recommendation to divert reinforcements, two Australian divisions, already en route from the Middle East to Java, to Australia or Burma, preferably the latter.44

The Dutch took violent exception to Wavell's estimate. They insisted that Java must be defended, regardless of the fate of Sumatra. To them and to the Netherlands Government-in-exile Java had an even greater political, moral, and sentimental significance than Singapore had for the British. Wavell's proposal seemed to them an abandonment by their Allies and confirmed their worst fears that ABDACOM was a device to use Allied resources for the defense of Singapore and of British interests in the Far East.

Unpalatable as it was to the Dutch, Wavell's estimate had to be accepted for not only was Singapore about to fall into Japanese hands, but Java was clearly threatened from three directions -- the South China Sea, Makassar Strait, and Molucca Sea. Following up the Borneo


landings of late December and early January, the Japanese, moving by water through Makassar Strait, had landed at Balikpapan on the 24th. The landings had been made only after a battle with U.S. naval forces -- their first of the war -- in which the American destroyers won a tactical victory but failed to stop the enemy. The Japanese took Balikpapan easily but failed to capture the oil refineries there. These, the Dutch had already gutted.

From Balikpapan, the Japanese moved on to Bandjermasin, along the southeast coast of Borneo, which they took on 10 February. Only a day before, another Japanese force had sailed through the Molucca Sea to land at Makassar on the southwest tip of Celebes Island, facing Makassar Strait. By 10 February that strait and the north shore of the Java Sea were under Japanese control.

The Molucca Sea approach to the Malay Barrier fell into Japanese hands as a result of amphibious hops and naval-air engagements in which the Allies fought a desperate but losing battle. From Menado, which they had taken on 11 January, the Japanese moved on to Kendari on the 24th, the same day they landed at Balikpapan. Amboina Island was occupied a week later by a strong force which overcame the small Dutch and Australian garrison with little difficulty. By the end of the month the Japanese controlled the Molucca Sea and were in position to cut the line between Java and Australia and to breach the east flank of the Malay Barrier.

On the western flank of the barrier, the Japanese had early secured the South China Sea approaches and on g February, without waiting for the fall of Singapore, launched their attack on southern Sumatra. From Camranh Bay in Indochina came a strong naval force to support the transports headed for Palembang with its airfield and oil refinery. On the 14th about 700 paratroopers were dropped in the Palembang area, but achieved only a limited success against the Dutch and British defenders. At the end of the day Allied troops were still in control, but next morning, when the main Japanese force landed upshore and began to move toward Palembang, they withdrew. Two days later, the Japanese were in control of southern Sumatra, leaving the northern part of the island to the conquerors of Singapore. Only the Straits of Sunda now separated the Japanese from their main objective, Java.45

By 16 February, three days after Wavell had told the Combined Chiefs in Washington that he might not be able to hold Sumatra, the situation in the ABDA area had rapidly worsened. There was no longer any chance of holding Java, Wavell now told the Chiefs. Its loss would be serious, he asserted, and would deprive the Allies of their only base in the South China Sea. But, he pointed out, the fall of Java would not be fatal to the Allied cause. Burma and Australia, not Java, he declared, were the "absolutely vital" positions in the war against Japan. He therefore recommended again that the two Australian divisions be diverted to Burma, with


Americans providing reinforcements for Australia.46

Washington agreed with Wavell's estimate of the probable loss of Java. Reinforcement was evidently futile and the wisest course, the Combined Chiefs thought, would be to send at least one of the Australian divisions to Burma and the other to Australia. It was clear also that the fall of Java would split the ABDA area and make a co-ordinated defense of its eastern and western extremities impossible. The British therefore suggested that Burma be taken out of ABDACOM and transferred to their command in India, a proposal that the U.S. Chiefs and General Wavell, who had always believed Burma was an integral part of the Indian command, readily accepted. This was accomplished formally on 21 February.47 The plan for sending the Australian divisions to Burma, however, came to naught. Concerned over the defense of their own country, the Australians persistently refused, despite strong appeals from Churchill and Roosevelt, to permit the diversion of these divisions to Burma, and finally, on 23 February, they were ordered home.48

Though the loss of Java was conceded by all except the Dutch, there was a reluctance to act on this assumption. To do so would create the impression that the Americans and British were deserting their Dutch allies. On the 20th, therefore, the Combined Chiefs, asserting that "every day gained is of importance," directed Wavell to defend Java "with the utmost resolution" and not to withdraw or surrender any of the troops there. To minimize the loss of Allied troops in Java, the Chiefs specifically prohibited Wavell from reinforcing that island further, but did give him discretion to use his naval forces and American planes in Australia as he thought best.49

Even as these fresh instructions were being received at ABDACOM, the Japanese were making their execution impossible. On the 19th, they landed on the southern tip of Bali, immediately to the east of Java. Next day they landed on Timor, half of which was Dutch and half Portuguese. Control of these islands, lying between Java and northwest Australia, completed the isolation of Java, placed Japanese land-based fighters within bombing range of the Dutch base at Surabaya, and made further reinforcements from Australia impossible.

With the Japanese making ready for the final assault on Java, General Wavell turned to his superiors for new instructions. Their orders were to transfer command of Java to the Dutch and withdraw, but to maintain ABDACOM and keep his headquarters intact. When and where he would go was left to him. Ground forces "for whom there are arms" were to remain and continue the fight, but air forces that could operate from bases outside Java and other troops "who cannot contribute to defense" were to be withdrawn, the Americans and Australians to go to Australia. General Brett was to return to Australia, when


released by Wavell, to command the U.S. forces there.50

The ABDA commander did not agree with the program. What he wanted was the dissolution of ABDACOM, all reason for its existence having disappeared. Burma, he pointed out, had already been separated from the ABDA theater and Java's defense was a local problem, best handled by the Dutch themselves. If the Philippines, which had never really been under his control, were taken over by the Americans again and northwest Australia by the Australians, he told the Chiefs, he could turn over his remaining forces to the Dutch and leave the area by 25 February.51

This recommendation was in line with the solution being proposed by the British Chiefs of Staff for the establishment of two areas in the Far East, one to be under American control and to include Australia; the other a British area encompassing India and the Indian Ocean. The Dutch opposed such a solution for fear it would mean the end of Allied assistance in the Netherlands Indies. 'For God's sake,' wrote the Dutch governor-general to Marshall, "take the strong and active decisions and don't stop sending materials and men."52

Still anxious to avoid the appearance of abandoning their allies, the U.S. Chiefs continued to oppose the dissolution of ABDACOM. But in recognition of the fact that Wavell had lost the confidence of the Dutch and obviously wanted to pull out, they agreed to the dissolution of his headquarters and his transfer to India, leaving control of the ABDA area to the Dutch. And lest the Dutch should think that the Americans had made this arrangement to shirk their commitments, Marshall assured the Dutch governor that the forces then assembling in Australia were "seeking opportunity to enter the ABDA battle" and would "continue their full support of the Dutch commanders in their magnificent fight."53

On the 25th General Wavell turned over command to the Dutch and left for India where General Brereton had already gone to organize an American air force. This move placed MacArthur technically under the Dutch, but he had already been told that "because of your special situation all procedures in your case remain as heretofore."54 The burden of defending Java was now squarely on the Dutch. Their forces, with the exception of minor ground units (including an American artillery battalion), American and British naval units, and a small U.S.-Australian fighter force, composed the entire command.

There was still a chance that fighters could be brought in by sea, though the air ferry route had been closed by the Japanese seizure of Timor. To this task was assigned the aircraft tender Langley, which on 23 February had been ordered to Tjilatjap, on the south coast of Java,


with its cargo of thirty-two assembled P-40's and their pilots. On the 27th, almost within sight of Java, it was spotted by Japanese patrol planes and sunk. The freighter Seawitch with 27 P-40's in her hold had left Fremantle at the same time, but sailed separately and made its way successfully to Java. It arrived there on the eve of invasion and the P-40's, still crated, were dumped into the sea to prevent their capture.55

Meanwhile the Japanese had completed their preparations for the invasion of Java. D-day was set for 28 February. Supporting the invasion was the largest force of warships the Japanese had yet assembled for an amphibious operation. In it were four battleships, led by Admiral Kondo, a carrier group led by Admiral Nagumo of Pearl Harbor fame, and the two attack forces, each now considerably reinforced.

The approach of the Japanese was carefully traced by the Allies, and Admiral Helfrich, Hart's successor as Allied naval commander, estimated that the convoys would reach Javanese waters early on the 27th. Hurriedly he made his plans to meet the attack with a woefully inferior naval force led by Rear Adm. K. W. F. M. Doorman. All Doorman had were 2 heavy cruisers, one of them the USS Houston, 3 light cruisers, and 11 destroyers. Contact between the opposing forces came shortly after 1500 of the 27th, and the fight that began then raged throughout the afternoon and into the night. By the time the battle of the Java Sea was over the Allies had lost half their ships, including the flagship and Admiral Doorman. The Japanese had not lost a single vessel.56

During the next few days the Japanese completed their control of the air and sea approaches to Java. From their circle of bases surrounding the island patrol planes kept constant watch while bombers completed the destruction of Allied airfields and military installations. At the same time the powerful battle fleet ranged the waters of the Java Sea to hunt down the remnants of the Allied fleet which were split between Surabaya and Batavia, seeking some way to make their escape into the Indian Ocean. The last fight began on the night of 28 February when the heavy cruisers USS Houston and H.M.S. Exeter, accompanied by the light cruisers H.M.A.S. Perth and two destroyers, tried to slip through Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra. The Japanese had already closed the strait and the Allied warships sailed into a trap. That night, in a vigorous battle which lasted past midnight, the Houston and Perth went down. Next day, March, the Exeter was sunk off the coast of Borneo.

Meanwhile the Japanese convoys had come in for the landing. On the way the convoy was attacked by three submarines and the remaining planes of the Allied air force, about ten light bombers and fifteen fighters, and suffered some damage. But the landing was accomplished without serious difficulty, and by morning of the 1st the Japanese were consolidating their positions and rapidly expanding the beachheads.


Though the Dutch had concentrated their remaining ground forces in Java, mostly in the western portion of the island, the issue was never in doubt. The Japanese moved inland rapidly, splitting the Dutch Army on the island and isolating the defenders into small groups. Batavia fell on the 2d without a struggle, after the government moved inland to Bandoeng. It was not safe even there, for the Japanese closed in on this mountain retreat and by the 8th were in position to attack the remnants of the Dutch Army defending it. The next morning the Dutch surrendered and the fight for Java was over.57

For the Japanese, the conquest of the Indies was the crowning achievement of the war. It realized their long-cherished dream of empire. The rich resources of Southeast Asia, the oil, rubber, and manganese needed for war and for the control of Asia, were now in their possession. And all this had been won in three months.

For the Allies the fall of Java marked the loss of the Malay Barrier, "the basic defensive position" in the Far East. The strategic significance of this loss was enormous. Not only did the Allies lose the resources of the Indies and their lines of communications northward, but they found themselves in a perilous position, split into two areas and threatened by invasion. The gateway to the Indian Ocean lay open and Australia and India were in dire danger. And the Allies could ill afford to lose the ships, planes, and men that went down in the heroic defense of Malaya, Singapore, and the Indies.

The defeat of ABDACOM was, in a sense, the inevitable outcome of Allied weakness. There was no time to assemble in an area so remote from the sources of supply sufficient aircraft to contest Japanese domination of the air. Although reinforcements adequate for this task were allocated by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, only a trickle, barely enough to replace losses, reached its destination. The warships that might have challenged the invaders were engaged in other tasks, and when they were finally organized into a combined striking force it was already too late. In the six weeks of its existence ABDACOM never had a chance to test the validity of General Marshall's contention that a unified command would "solve nine-tenths of our troubles." But important lessons about Allied command could be learned from the disagreements and differences which marked the brief existence of ABDACOM and these were not lost when the time came to establish other commands later in the war.

While the campaign for Java was in progress, the Japanese had pushed on to take northern Sumatra and central Burma, thus consolidating their control of the southern area and cutting China off from its Allies. From Singapore, ten days after that fortress had fallen, came the troops to take northern Sumatra. With their arrival the defenders of the island fled to Java in time to join the fight there, and eventually to surrender. Burma was to have been seized in two phases and its occupation completed only after operations to the south were over. But early in January the schedule had been speeded up and before the end of the month the 15th Army had pushed across the Thai-Burma border and seized


Moulmein. On 8 March, after the battle of Sittang Bridge where the Japanese destroyed two Indian brigades, they captured Rangoon, southern terminus of the supply line to China and the port of entry for lend-lease supplies. Pushing on to the north, they had by mid-March reached the Toungoo-Prome line in central Burma, and though they did not finally gain victory there until early in May they had effectively blockaded China by the time the Indies had fallen.58 By the end of March, the vast area of sea and land from New Guinea and northwest Australia to central Burma, which had formed ABDACOM, was under Japanese control. Only to the north, in the Philippines, where American and Filipino troops still stood fast, had the Japanese failed to meet their timetable of conquest.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter [6] ** Next Chapter [8]


1. Memos, Gerow for Marshall, 176 Dec 41, sub: Memo for President (not used); Stark for President, 3 Dec 41, no sub, both in WPD 4557.

2. Notes on mtg of newspaper correspondents with Gen Marshall, 15 Nov 41. The notes were made by the correspondents, one of whom supplied the author with his copy.

3. Hull, Memoirs, II, 1111; Mins, CofS Mtg, 10 Dec 41, WSCSA Conf II.

4. Telg, U.S. Ambassador, Chungking, 8 Dec 41, WPD 4389-42; Memo, Laughlin Currie for Pres, 11 Dec 41, WPD 4389-46; Rad, Magruder to Secy War, No. 95, 11 Dec 41, WPD Msg File. For full story of this incident, see Charles F. Romanus and Riley Sunderland, Stilwell's Mission to China, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1953), ch. II.

5. Rads, Roosevelt to Chiang, 12 and 14 Dec 41; to Stalin, 13 Dec 41; Stimson to Magruder, 13 Dec 41; Stalin to Chiang, 12 Dec 41, OPD Exec Files; Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell's Mission to China, pp. 50-52.

6. Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell's Missions to China, p. 57; Rads, Marshall to Brett, no. 71, 15 Dec 41, and Brett to Marshall, 27 Dec 41, WPD 4389-54 and 58, and other related papers in this file.

7. Rads, Marshall to Brink, No. 59, 15 Dec 41; Marshall to MacArthur, same date, both in WPD 4544-31.

8. Rad, Brink to Marl, 21 Dec 41, OCS 18136-179; Ltr, Brink to Marshall, 25 Dec 41, sub: Singapore Conf, WPD 4544-31; Rad, Duff Cooper, British Chairman of the Conf, no addressee, 20 Dec 41, WPD 4402-137.

9. Rad, Brink to Marshall, 21 Dec 41, OCS 18136-179; comments by Brink on Singapore Conf, attached to Rpt of Conf, WPD 4544-31.

10. Memo, Maj Elmer J. Rogers, jr., for ACofS WPD, 22 Dec 41, sub: Rpt of Singapore Conf, WPD 4544-31.

11. The minutes of the ARCADIA conference are bound separately and, with the records of the conference, are filed in ABC 337, ARCADIA. For accounts of the work of the conference, see Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planing 1941-42, ch. V; Hayes, The War Against Japan, ch. I, pp. 45-72; Winston S. Churchill, The Grand Alliance (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950), chs. 15-17; Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, ch. XX.

12. ABC-4/CS1, 31 Dec 41. The original British version of the final phrase reads "must speedily follow."

13. ABC-4/3, 31 Dec 41; JPC Rpt, 28 Dec 41, sub: Supporting Measures for SWP, ABC-4.3; Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, 1 Jan 42, WPD 4639.

14. Mins, ARCADIA Mtg, 25 Dec 41; Memo for File by Eisenhower, 28 Dec 41, sub: Noted of Chiefs of Staff Conf, 25 Dec 41, WPD 4639.

15. Gerow, notes on White House Conf, 26 Dec 41, OPD Exec Files; mins of White House Conf, 26 Dec 41, WDSCA Conf I; Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 457.

16. Mins, ARCADIA, 27 Dec 41.

17. ABC-4/5, Directive to Supreme Comdr in ABDA Area, 10 Jan 42. An earlier version of the directive can be found in the 30 December meeting of the conference, and the directive actually issued to Wavell is dated 2 January, the day after the President and Prime Minister approved it.

18. Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, No. 930, 12 Jan 42, WPD 4639-14. For additional papers on this subject, see WPD 4639-19.

19. Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell's Mission to China, pp. 61-63; Rads, Marshall to Barnes, Nos. 206 and 223, 27 and 30 Jan 42, both in WPD 4628-25; CCS 8, 24 Jan 42, sub: Inclusion of Darwin in ABDA, ABC 323.31 POA (1-29-42).

20. ABC-4/5, Directive for the Supreme Commander, 2 Jan 42. A copy is printed in general Wavell's account entitled "ABDACOM," app. A, copy in OCMH.

21. Notes on White House Mtg, 1 Jan 42, WDCSA 334 Mtgs and Confs.

22. Mins, ARCADIA, 11 and 12 Jan 42; ann. 1 to 10th Mtg, 12 Jan 42; CofS Conf, 12 Jan 42, ABC 3376 ARCADIA; White House Conf, same date, OPD Reg. Docs.

23. JB 325, ser 729. For a full discussion of this subject, see Vernon E. Davis, Origins of the Joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff, vol. I, Organizational Development, ch. V, History of the JCS in World War II.

24. Mins, ARCADIA Mtg. 13 Jan 42; Post ARCADIA Collaboration, 10 Jan 42, an. Mins, ARCADIA, 10 Jun 42.

25. Mins, ARCADIA Mtg. 13 Jan 42.

26. ABC-4/CS 4, 14 Jan 42, sub: Post-ARCADIA Collaboration; Mins, ARCADIA Mtg, 14 Jan 42, an. 2.

27. Davis, Origins of Joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff, I, p. 269.

28. 25th Army Opns in Malaya, Japanese Studies in World War II, 85; Despatch by Lt Gen A.E. Percival, Opns of Malaya Command, 8 Dec 41-15 Feb 42, Supplement to the London Gazette, February 20, 1948; Kirby,, The Loss of Singapore, chs. XIV, XVII.

29. Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ (rev. ed.), Japanese Studies in World War II, 72, pp. 42-43.

30. Hist of Southern Army, Japanese Studies in World War II, 24, pp. 16, 19; Naval Opns in Invasion of NEI, Japanese Studies in World War II, 17, pp. 18-20; Morison, The Rising Sun in the Pacific, pp. 280-281; Crave and Cate, AAF I, p. 380. The tenders were later converted into light carriers.

31. Rads, Marshall to MacArthur, No. 930, 12 Jan 42; to Brereton, No. 52, same date, both in WPD Msg File; Wavell, "ABDACOM," pp. 1-2.

32. Wavell, "ABDACOM," pp. 16-18.

33. Narrative of Events, Asiatic Fleet, Leading up to War, 8 Dec 41 to 15 Feb 42, pp. 54-55, OCMH.

34. Rad, Wavell to British Chiefs of Staff, ABDA 48, 14 Jan 42; Memo, WPD for U.S. Secy CCS, 16 Jan 42, both in WPD 4619; Ltr, U.S. Secy CCS to Brig V. Dykes, 16 Jan 42, sub: Responsibility of Supreme Commander ABDA, ABC 381 SWPA (1-12-42).

35. Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, No. 930, 11 Jan 42, WPD 4639-14.

36. Rad, WD to Brereton, No. 52, 12 Jan 42, WPD 4628-20; Marshall to MacArthur, No. 930, same date, WPD 4639-14.

37. Rads, Brett to Marshall, ABDA 7 and 12, 15 and 16 Jan 42, WPD Msg File; Wavell to Marshall, ABDA 71, 16 Jan 42; Marshall to Wavell, No. 25, same date; both in WPD 4639-19.

38. Rads, Barnes to Marshall, No. 130, 29 Jan 42; No. 138, 31 Jan 42, WPD Msg File; Marshall to Barnes, No. 206 and 223, 27 and 30 Jan 42; Marshall to Brett, No. 48, 27 Jan 42, all in WPD 4628-25.

39. Hart, Narrative of Events, Passim; Lewis H. Brereton, The Brereton Diaries (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1946), pp. 88-89; Memo, WPD for TAG, 17 Jan 42, sub: Comd in ABDA, WPD 4639-29; Rad, Brett to Marshall, ABDA 95, OPD Exec Files.

40. Hayes, The War Against Japan, ch. III, pp. 17-20.

41. Ibid., pp. 20-22; Hart, Narrative of Events; Mins, CCS Mtg, 10 Feb 42.

42. Rads, Marshall to Brett, No. 73, 4 Feb 42, WPD 4628-27; Brett to Marshall, 3 Feb 42, AB 371 (2-3-42).

43. Percival, Opns in Malaya; 25th Army Opns in Malaya, Japanese Studies in World War II, 85, pp. 58-110; Wavell, "ABDACOM," pp. 32-42; Kirby,, The Loss of Singapore, ch. XXIV.

44. Rads, Wavell to CCS, 13 Feb 42, CCOS 7; Wavell to CCS, 15 Feb 42, CCOS 8, OPD ABDA Msg File.

45. For accounts of these operations, see Wavell, "ABDACOM," pp. 52-67; Morison The Rising Sun in the Pacific, pp.. 280-311; Craven and Cate, AAF, ch. I, ch X; Hist of Southern Army, Japanese Studies in World War II, 24, pp. 16, 19; Naval Opns in Invasion of NEI, Japanese Studies in World War II, 17, pp. 18-20, 22-23, 26-27; Ambon and Timor Invasions, Japanese Studies in World War II, 30, pp. 1-15.

46. Rad, Wavell to Prime Minister and Dill, 16 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

47. Mins, CCS Mtg, 17 Feb 42; Rads, CCS to ABDACOM, 17 and 21 Feb 42; ABDACOM to CCS, 19 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

48. For a full discussion of this matter, see Lionel Wigmore, The Japanese Thrust, ser. I, vol. 4 "Australia in the War of 1939-1945" (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1957), pp. 442-65. Churchill's account of this incident is somewhat different. Winston S. Churchill, The Hinge of Fate (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950), pp. 155-66.

49. Rad, CCS to ABDACOM, DBA 19, 20 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

50. Rads, CCS to ABDACOM, DBA 20 and 22, 21 and 22 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File; Marshall to Brett, No. 185, 21 Feb 42, WPD 4639-48; Mins, CCS Mtg, 21 Feb 42.

51. Rads, ABDACOM to CCS, COS 19 and 20, 22 and 23 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

52. Rad, H.J. Van Mook to Marshall, 22 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

53. Rad, Marshall to Van Mook, 24 Feb 42, WPD 4639-55; British COS to Joint Staff Mission, No. 76, 23 Feb 42, ABC 323.31 POA; Mins, CCS Mtg, 23 Feb 42; CCS to ABDACOM, DBA 23, 23 Feb 42, OPD ABDA Msg File.

54. Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, No. 1083, 24 Feb 42, WPD 4639-54.

55. Morison, The Rising Sun in the Pacific, pp. 359-63; Craven and Cate, AAF I, pp. 396-98.

56. For an exciting account of the battle, see Morison, The Rising Sun in the Pacific, pp. 342-59. An analysis of the battle is contained in Rear Adm William A. Glassford, Narrative of Events in the SW Pacific, 14 Feb-5 Apr 42, WDCSA 210.72 (5-20-42) SPA.

57. Invasion of the NEI, Japanese Studies in World War II, 16; Morison, The Rising Sun in the Pacific, pp. 363-75; Craven and Cate, AAF I, pp. 397-98.

58. For an account of the campaign in Burma, see Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell's Mission to China, chs. III and IV.

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