War In the Pacific


By ELBERT D. THOMAS, United States Senator from Utah

Broadcast over the National Broadcasting Company, March 9, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 411-412.

I HAVE been asked to talk about the war in the Pacific. I want to talk with moderation but that is hard because my feelings, like those of all Americans, are tense. Still I will approach my subject with moderation and I hope thought fulness. We can't win the war by defensive methods.

When I was asked to write an article for the current American Magazine on this subject, I chose as my title these words "LET'S BOMB JAPAN NOW." I wrote that article with all the conviction of a 35-year acquaintance with Japan and its people.

What I tried to say in that article was this: Japan must be beaten on her home grounds. She must be hit, and hit hard.

I am not criticizing our army and navy leaders. I have complete confidence in them, and they share with me the confidence that the American people now realize that our war with Japan is no second-class combat, but an all-out battle that is going to take every ounce of effort and initiative we can give it.

If we could drop a thousand bombs tomorrow on munition factories, we would save the lives of 50,000 American soldiers and sailors.

A few such bombings would paralyze the heart of industrial Japan. And the heart of Japan is the place we must attack.

I was listening the other night to a speaker with a booming voice and an air of great authority. He was comparing Japan to a giant octopus. Its arms, he said, were reaching down across the mis-named PACIFIC Ocean, toward a group of islands that are the prized possessions of England, Holland, China and America.

He went into considerable detail as to what these arms had been doing lately. Also what the United Nations had been doing to the arms.

His comparison of Japan to an octopus was interesting and appropriate. But I was much disturbed by his calm statement that the strategy of the Allies for fighting this octopus was to attack the arms and fingers, one by one, here and there, helter skelter.

It happened that beside me at the time was a retired naval officer who is an octopus hunter. He has fished for octopuses in many parts of the world.

"Not by a long shot!" he replied. "Manicuring his finger nails won't bother an octopus and the fisherman is likely to suffer more than the octopus. No—if you're fighting an octopus, you've got to get him where he lives. You've got to hit the heart and head of the beast. Your job is to find that—and give him the works!"

Well, that octopus hunter expresses my feelings about Japan. And those feelings are based on many years of intensive study of the country, its strength and its weakness.

Most Americans have strange ideas about Japan and its inhabitants. These strange ideas are drawn from newspaper cartoons, humorous literature, and the tales of ordinary travelers.

I was 24 years old when I went to Japan as a missionary in 1907. My first job was to learn the language well enough to preach and teach. That took me two or three years. Butmy course of study was not in the silence of a school room: it was through colloquial contact with real people.

In those days, Japan was as free to the traveler as any part of the United States. I came and went of my own free will. I made friends with Japanese students, educators and officials who knew enough English to be helpful to me in getting a start. Then, as I became somewhat proficient in the conversational vocabulary, I began to venture out on my own, among the common people. I talked with factory workers, farmers, trades people and the professional classes.

My period of residence in Japan was a time when the country was laying the foundations for what has happened in the past ten years. The motivating force behind this movement was an intensive nationalistic sentiment. Everybody in Japan was determined to make it the greatest country in the world.

There was universal education and universal military service. These two objectives have a lot to do with Japan's present preparedness.

Universal education has been carried forward without pause or hesitation for forty years, until today Japan has no illiterate people.

Universal military training has been carried out with equal thoroughness, until today Japan has no able-bodied men who are not trained soldiers.

I was greatly disturbed before December 7 by the American tendency to underestimate the Japanese. Why did Americans for years persist in thinking of them as an inferior race—ignorant, superstitious and semi-civilized?

How many of my listeners now know that Japan has more electric light bulbs per capita than the United States? How many listeners realize that its NEWSPAPERS surpass our newspapers in circulation and intensity of readership?

How many people here are aware of the fact that Japanese BOOKSTORES are much bigger, busier and more numerous than ours? That the average Japanese citizen has more schooling than ours, at least in many of our states? That the Japanese people are tougher and more prolific than ours? That Japan's racial unity is complete and absolute, while our nation is still a melting pot with many racial problems to be solved?

On the military side, I am glad we no longer hear their soldiers rated as inferior troops or inferior fighters. Napoleon once said that the easiest way to lose a battle is to underestimate an enemy.

Japanese soldiers are tough and capable. Their leadership is excellent.

Remember that the Japanese army has not had to rely on text books and mock warfare for its training. It has had actual warfare—against tough and hard-hitting enemies. . . . Japan has given its army a real war every ten years since 1894. The major part of the personnel of the Japanese army are veterans of real battlefields, not textbook soldiers.

If anybody wants to know how clever their staff work is, let him take a look at what they did on the opening day of the war. Consider the tremendous scope of their operations on that opening day. Nowhere in history has any nation done anything like it. Never have armies opened a war instantaneously and simultaneously on such a vast stage.

That stage extended the full width of the Pacific Ocean, from Pearl Harbor and Wake Island to the peaks and headlands of the Philippines. The Japanese struck in every direction with impressive force, at the same moment. They hit at mighty strongpoints in the whole outer circle of their enemies.

Their actions on that day violated all the moral codes. History cannot possibly condone them. But in all the annals of traitorous behavior, this is the most magnificent, the most stupendous effort. And from the over-all military standpoint, it must be marked down as highly successful.

Japan is filled with high confidence about this war. There is nothing phony about the bragging statements which her Prime Minister makes to his parliament. He believes it when he says that Japan is marching on to victory.

The only thing Japan dreads is this—that war may somehow land on her own doors and production centers. Surrounded as she is by the Americas, the British commonwealths, the Dutch Empire, India, China, and ultimately Russia, she knows she must fight at great distances in order to keep her own precious little islands from becoming a battlefield.

Her navy, like England's, is her first line of defense. If the war is a long one, her navy is her very life line, for only with ships can Japan hold her Empire together.

If we can wipe out the Japanese Navy, we shall have won the war.

Let me repeat that sentence. If we can wipe out the Japanese Navy, we shall have won the war.

But that's a big job, and some people think it is an impossible one.

So, in any discussion of this situation, I always come back to my overwhelming belief that the quickest and most economical way for us to deal with Japan is to start bombing her. We ought to be bombing her industrial centers right NOW.

The purpose of such bombings will NOT be psychological. You can't defeat the Japanese people by scaring them to death. They are used to the kind of disasters that flatten cities. In fact, the so-called "famous things" of Tokyo are earthquakes, tidal waves, and fires that burn cities.

No, we can't scare them to death. Our bombings must be directed against military objectives—factories and shipyards, arsenals and storehouses.

On my desk in the Senate office building here in Washington is a map of Japan, drawn some years ago by a skillful Chinese map-maker. On it I have marked all the cities and towns that I know personally, and I have surrounded the important munitions centers of the island with a redheart. This is the heart which I hope we shall soon begin to pound with unrelenting explosive.

If you will glance at the map which accompanies my article in the current American Magazine, you will understand very clearly, I think, the war that we have got to fight during the coming months.

Japan's industrial centers are built along two great roads. One road runs north and south, the other runs east and west. At the junction of the two roads, is Tokyo. This is the nerve center of Japan. It is the railway and industrial center. Here all things meet.

Blast that center and end the war!

Blast that center, and the reign of the present new rich and military clique of rulers will end. They are drunken with dreams of conquest, and the sooner the world is rid of them, the better. (There are plenty of decent people in Japan to take their place, but we can talk about that when the time comes.)

For the moment, our whole attention and energy must be devoted to getting rid of the leaders who have climbed upon the backs of the Japanese people and are driving them to blind aggression and destruction.

This war is more than a contest in military skill and ability. It is a contest between two kinds of human beings, and two different ways of life.

We are stronger in resources than Japan, and we have greater man power. But our superiority is not overwhelming enough to assure victory. We shall have to exert ourselves to the utmost to win.

Actually Japan has the strength of the weak, and America has the weakness of strength. Our weakness is very dangerous, and very difficult to overcome.

In the past, we have underestimated the Japanese, and that was a great mistake, for which we have already paid a pretty heavy price.

We shall win this war against Japan. The greatest factor on our side is that our ideals are better. Japan is hopelessly linked to the backward cult of Emperor worship, which means the suppression of the individual.

Our ideals are rooted in our concept of God, of the state, and of the individual citizen. The God whom we worship is no mere personalization of the state.

Our ideals are obviously so superior, so much more civilized, so much wider in their promise of happiness and fulfillment for every individual, that we are shocked to see them seriously challenged.

As a nation of united individuals, I am convinced that the future is ours. But we must not forget that word UNITED!