"Japan's Asiatic Fortress"


By COL. WARREN J. CLEAR, Former U. S. Military Observer with Japanese Army

Delivered before the Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco, Cal., December 22, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 381-384.

SAN FRANCISCO has done a great job. The rear echelon of MacArthur's army is back here in the factories of the Bay Area and the Port of San Francisco. This Port has shipped more materials than the Port of New York during all of World War One.

Now three of the most useless things in this world are conjecture, speculation and guesswork. American business methods are winning this war because they adhere to facts. Let me just do a bit of factual reporting. You can do your own editing and draw your own conclusions. You may think the picture pretty bleak in spots but facts can be bleak. There is still an unrealistic naivete prevailing in the country at large regarding the war with Japan. Optimism is our natural habit and too much optimism about the early defeat of our enemies is a weapon in their hands. Workers are leaving war production for jobs in factories making civilian goods. They are dropping their tools while our soldiers on the battle line are fighting for their lives. They are thinking of their post-war pay and future when all the post-war future for thousands of our fighters, your sons, your brothers, may be six feet of sod in a foreign land.

Let it be said at the outset that the war with Japan might he said to be not yet begun. We are jockeying for position. We haven't got set to throw a punch at the Japanese Army.

Now let us look at the facts. Geography is a fact. So are time and distance. And they are facts we have to face. We can't turn our backs on them as the American public likes to do. They seem to be allergic to facts. There are seventy million square miles of waste water in the Pacific, and between us and Japan you could float twenty-three land masses, each the size of the United States.

Now the Japanese know we are going to have to carry the war to them.

The Japanese military position is strong. The planners of the greater East Asia War very astutely based their strategy on geography so as to make the vast land and water areas in the Far East fight for them—be their allies.

Her strategy, after three years of war, has showed itself to be sound. It provides for:

1. The continued massing of strong armies in China and Japan.

2. Continued concentration of airpower within the Fortress of the Inner Zone.

3. A neutralization of, and, finally, seizure of the U. S. airbases in China.

4. A "sealing off" of the Coast of China.

5. The cutting in two of China and the building of overland lines of communication to ease the strain on shipping.

6. The building up of great strength in Honan Province.

7. Preparations for a slow, bitterly-fought withdrawal over a period of years across 2,000 miles of Asia to the outer ramparts of the Inner Zone.

In the overall strategy of Japan can be discerned her two Principal pre-occupations. First, to keep her enemies at a safe distance from her industrial heart, and second, to protect her southern holdings and the communications thereto.

I have referred to the Fortress of the Inner Zone. This includes Japan's vital area extending southward from Tokyo to northern Kyushu. This is the industrial heart of Japan, the great center of her war-making effort, and its complex of closely related industrial centers is closely tied to the raw materials sources and basic industries of Korea and Southern Manchuria.

This entire area may be encompassed in the space of a circle centered on Tsushima Strait roughly 600 miles in radius.

Japan assures the integration of this industrial complex by her thus far undisputed control of the adjacent land and sea areas.

The great island fortress of Tsushima and the main Japanese fleet guard the intervening sea lanes. And Japanese armies in Northern Korea, Manchukuo, China and Formosa guard the perimeter of the Fortress of the Inner Zone.

It must be noted that today, after three years of war, Japan holds this line in undiminished strength.

We are now bombing Tokyo from a single field on tiny Saipan but, as General Arnold said, the distance makes it comparable to a round trip bombing of London from New York.

Japan's vulnerability to air attack has been greatly exaggerated. It will take a long, continuous, concentrated pounding of a widely decentralized, cleverly camouflaged wartime industrial empire before Japanese war production is seriously impaired.

We know from experience, bombing, however destructive, merely slows down, without paralyzing, the ability of a people to make war.

Furthermore, a force of 200 B-29's consumes 100 R.R. tank cars of aviation gas on an average mission.

When we speak of bombing Japan out of the war we should remember that there are 80 to 90 million Japanese exercising sovereignty over 400 million rather docile people. That number is three times the population of the United States. It is almost impossible to bomb out armies. It is less practicable to bomb out the peoples that Japan has enslaved.

How about her war industries? Can they be bombed out? We have been bombing Japan's extensive shipyards and steel plants for over two years with our great B-29's. But the major part of Japan's war industries are spread through thousands upon thousands of civilian homes.

The home of the working man is frequently a small subcontractor's shop, so that an assembly line in Japan will spread literally through thousands of homes. Such dispersal of targets militates against the theory that Japan can be injured as fully as Germany. All arms of the service must cooperate in final and full defeat. The doughboy, the para* trooper, the flier, the supply and logistical troops, the Navy and Marine Corps must all do its share in our present conception of how Japan is to be whipped.

According to available figures, 64 percent of all industrial workers in Japan were in factories with less than five employees. These little places turned out toys and novelties which were used to flood the United States in days gone by. Now they are in war work. Tokyo alone has 42,000 employees in 4,500 metal shops.

"Can Japan be starved out?" is a common question. The answer to that from our Army's experts on Japan is definitely "No." These people can live normally on a little rice and fish. Anything else is luxury. Their armies live off the land in China. The Japanese islands hold the the world's largest fishing fleet.

Besides that, extensive bombing operations mean enormous attrition and fantastic quantities of supplies. We have lost 40,000 planes over Germany and dropped over a million tons of bombs on her and she is still fighting. We dropped thousands of tons of bombs and fired over 300,000 shells of 105 mm. into the town of Aachen alone and even then the infantry had to take it with the bayonet.

If 500 American heavy bombers attack a group of enemy targets, they will ordinarily represent less than half the total operational force at the Command's disposal—approximately 750 bombers being held either in reserve or under repair. Each of these 1,250 bombers has its combat crew of ten men and its ground crew of five mechanics. Each station participating in the attack also has its corps of specialists—radio experts, armorers, refueling teams, ordnance and armament men and engineering officers—who work directly on the flying equipment. This specialist group, for a force of 1,250 planes, might represent another 24,000 officers and men. Thus the 500 bombers over the target are immediately dependent on an army of more than 30,000 highly trained specialists.

But this attack must be planned, co-ordinated, and controlled, the combat crews must be briefed, the resultant damage assessed, and the bases from which the planes fly must be administered, defended, and supplied. Weather officers and truck drivers, cooks and clerks, parachute packers and turret experts, flight controllers and photographic technicians, chaplains and dentists and doctors, signal officers and interrogators, security officers and bombsight repairmen, welders, and transportation experts, trial judges and public-relations representatives, military police—all these workers perform services essential to the success of the ultimate task, the bombing of the Nazi target. This secondary army numbers 32,500. The labor and skills of some 75,000 officers and men are thus joined in the effort necessary to put 500 heavy bombers over an enemy target.

The fields we just lost in China took over two years in the building. This week we lost our last field in China and Chi na was cut in two, giving the Japanese an overland rail route all the way from Singapore, through Indo-China to Manchuria.

The loss of these fields practically pushes us back to India as far as heavy bombardment offensives against Japan is concerned and Calcutta is 4,000 miles from Tokyo. Now! Why did we lose those fields? For one reason, pure and simple. We lost them because we had no large American ground forces there to protect them.

If our bases are vulnerable to attack by the Japanese ground forces we cannot expect to hold them.

We've got to land in China to get enough close-in fields for our heavy bombing squadrons. The Philippines are 2,000 miles away from the targets we want to hit—that's too far.

The landing of massive armies in China means the greatest amphibian effort in the history of warfare.

You can operate one squadron of twelve heavy bomber to a field which means it takes forty heavy bomber fields for a minimum striking force of 480 bombers.

The Japanese know better than our own people the task that confronts us in attempting to retake the coast of China from Japanese forces of occupation numbering over two million.

They know it will take a bridge of ten million truck-loads to land the initial supplies for an adequate American Army in China. That's a column of trucks ten trucks wide stretching bumper to bumper 3,000 miles from New York to San Francisco. By initial supplies I mean only what each soldier takes with him in the field—supplies for three days.

They know that sea and overland communications are still the basic routes of supply and air transport is only a supplement to them. For example, it would take 10,000 of our largest cargo planes to carry what 40 surface vessels carry.

They know that mileage, in modern war, quickly translates itself into days, months and years. Distance becomes time. Time, in turn, favors the Japanese.

They know that we are 8,000 miles from our main supply sources while they are, at the farthest, only 2,000 miles from theirs.

The length of the Pacific voyage requires that we use three to four times the number of vessels we needed to transport a similar quantity of supplies across the Pacific. That means we have to have four times as much shipping. Actually, we require five or six times as much shipping as our men require more of everything than does the primitive Japanese soldier.

From Boston to Australia is 11,000 miles and most of our heavy ammunitions are made in the eastern United States,

The bullet that hits a Jap at point-blank range on New Guinea has gone 12,000 miles.

From Australia to Leyte, where MacArthur is now fighting, is another 3,000 miles. A ship carrying supplies to Australia from Boston or New York has practically made a circumnavigation of the globe before it returns to New York.

A ship leaving San Francisco tonight for Australia may be back by St. Patrick's Day. It may make two such trips a year and start back on a third. The turn-around of one ship is a matter of months instead of days.

There's a ship leaving Boston tonight with aviation gas. Three months from now this ship will deliver that gas to a bomber-squadron in the Philippines. The bombers have probably not yet been built but you've got to give the gasoline a three-months' head start to get there. In two months' fighting in France we used up 47 million gallons of high test gas.

The Japanese know it will take 2,000 ships, two round trips each to deliver the initial supplies for our Army in Asia. To put it another way, it will take 30,000 ship months, including turn around time, to deliver those initial supplies.

They know it took us a couple of years to build the necessary 200 bomber fields in Britain. It took us ten months to build our first base in Britain.

The invasion of continental Europe and the softening up process by aerial bombardment was greatly facilitated by the immense resources in military installations and manpower which we found upon our arrival in the British Isles on January, 1942.

In Britain we had the fundamentals already there: A military ally, a friendly people. When we arrived we found

already available to us, food, water, railroads, roads, telephone and telegraph, warehouses and other storage facilities, refrigeration for millions of tons of meat and other foodstuffs, hospitals, and recreation and morale facilities.

In China, after we land, we shall find no water, no food, no telephone and telegraph, no warehouse, or storage facilities, no refrigeration.

In Britain we had the great military assets of a well-organized arterial system of highways to supply fighter and bomber fields, as well as adequate railway facilities.

Along the China Coast we will find no roads. What roads there were have been completely dug out by the Chinese themselves and turned into rice-paddies. Now, rice-paddies are the most scientific and deadly barriers to mechanized and motorized equipment ever constructed. Their banks or dykes won't support vehicles and the paddies themselves can be flooded at any time. The whole country back of the coast is cut up by east-west rivers, successions of mountain chains and enormous areas under mud as much as nine feet deep. Air strips sink out of sight in it.

The Japanese armies in Asia have been organized and equipped to fight efficiently in just such terrain and conditions. Take all the vehicles away from a Japanese regiment and what happens? Nothing! They transport supplies by animal pack-train and peasantry. We have a Japanese combat film showing operations in Shansi and not a single wheeled vehicle appears in the whole 45-minute film.

As for railroads, there is a stretch of a thousand miles along the China Coast where there are none at all. And from Amoy to Hongkong there is one mile of railroad.

In this comparison of the advantages we found in Britain with the difficulties that will confront us in China I forgot to point out that at one period the British maintained 5,000 night-fighter planes to protect our air installations from retaliatory attacks by the Luftwaffe.

Above all, we had 3,000 docks available to our shipping, all connected by rail and arterial highways with our air and ground-force installations. In Asia we will have none—what few ports there are have not been developed.

It took years to transport the men and supplies to Europe that make up our huge striking force there. It will take longer to move similar forces to Asia.

It must be remembered at all times that the speed with which we are able to lick Japan is based upon the speed of our supply ships. The bullet that kills a Japanese on Leyte took over three months to reach him.

When we land in Asia we will come face to face with four million Japanese troops. Someplace, eventually, we've got to meet them. We've got to fight armies—not land or islands.

Someone asked me an hour ago why our Fleet does not go in and bombard Tokyo. Well, first of all, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe and the other great industrial cities of Japan are fifty to one hundred miles up estuaries protected by massive fortifications far stronger than Helgoland which the combined Allied fleets have been unable to pass. Secondly, if the U. S. battle fleet could anchor off the coast of Japan tomorrow it would be of little advantage unless we could put huge forces ashore.

Our difficulties will grow as we press closer to Japan. The time is coming when we can no longer hope to enjoy the superiority of numbers, sometimes twenty to one, that we have been able to fling against their suicide battalions on their outer perimeter. And whenever we meet him we will find the Japanese soldier struggling on dourly, holding ground to the last extremity, and showing himself a most enterprising foe with whom it is never possible to take the slightest liberty. Our men have to pitch-fork him out with the bayonet or pull him out with a corkscrew.

There is nothing in our intelligence reports to suggest any falling-off in the extremely high quality of the Japanese soldier. He has fought, and is fighting, as well as ever—as well as three years ago when he achieved his tremendous victories. The sacrificial quality of the Japanese soldiers' battle zeal and determination is shown most strikingly by the fact that after three years of warfare United States forces have captured a couple of thousand Japanese military prisoners.

The same intense nationalism and fanatical devotion to their god Emperor that has characterized the Japanese soldier also prevails on the Japanese home front.

The Japanese traditionally are a close knit family whose broad characteristics are a toughness of fiber and singleness of purpose.

The Japanese are tough. Their whole people have been hardened to war for centuries.

All insular peoples are tough. Didn't Queen Victoria once say: "I'm Empress of 400 million people and my Prime Minister can't get a handful of Irish to surrender."

The first lesson learned in the war in the Far East is that the Japanese General Staff work is extremely dynamic, bold, ingenious and precise. It will gamble daringly, even recklessly, but it will back its gambling with extraordinary skill.

The Japanese General Staff is smart, in a military sense, too. The Japanese put 10,000 men on Attu and for 18 months that small force tied up, or contained, an American Army of over half a million men building roads, airfields, fortifications and manning defenses. That was one of the smartest moves in military history.

I have just said they are audacious. What assurance have we that Germany has not given the Japanese the robot-bomb? What assurance have we that they will not use the robot against the Panama Canal?

The Japanese know that we have not yet taken one inch of territory from Japan that is vital to her plans. Our recent operations in the Southwest Pacific—no matter how dramatically headlined are only minor operations compared with the job ahead. Headlines don't win wars.

The Japanese hope to make that job so tough for us—so costly in blood and treasure that we will chuck it. They hope to win by default. They do not believe that we've got the will and determination to see it through. They hope to make it so tough, so long, so bloody, that we'll quit.

I have already kept you too long but you represent important groups and I want to take one more minute to tell you the most important thing of all—important to the American businessman, but most of all important to the American working-man.

Japan can never beat us in the field but if she prevails, either through an inconclusive war, or by peace machinations she will pull down the American standard of living to, or below, her own, and it won't be a lowering by decimal points—decimal point!

The Japanese soldier gets a monthly pay of about $2.20; the American, $50. The Japanese farmhand makes around 25 cents a day; the American, $4 at least. In the most progressive Japanese industry, the cotton textile, the worker earns 35 cents daily; the American, $4. The member of the Japanese Parliament receives an annual stipend of about $200; the member of U. S. Congress, $10,000 plus over $7,000 for clerical help and allowances.

These comparative figures for four vital fields of endeavor—military, agriculture, industry, government service—show the sharp difference in the standard of living between the United States and Japan, the most industrially advanced country in the Orient.

Japan's formula of production consists of a high technological efficiency, a skill-labor wage times lower than ours, controlled raw materials, unlimited common labor at slave wages, and a vertical integration of management, financing, transport and distribution. With that formula she can produce from 1/5th to 1/10th of the cost of a manufactured article in the United States. That's why I saw her selling bicycles in Algiers (France's own bicycle market) for $4.50; watches by the pound in Geneva; beer by the thousands of cases in Berlin and Munich; cotton textiles within sight of the British mills in Lancaster; and American flags to the American Legion.

Well, what does it all add up to? It adds up to this—that the American working man, businessman and soldier must smash Japan for keeps. Or accept a slave wage-scale and a coolie economy. This is a war to the death. It can still be lost. We cannot win it by sending our soldiers out alone to fight it, We've all got to fight it!

The day of Pearl Harbor there was a terrific unity in this country, born of the realization of a common danger. Everyone was asking, "What can I do to help? We must recapture that unity. We must, all of us, bring to this fight the courage, resolution and stark determination which our soldiers brought to the breaking of the West Wall.

I have just seen a magnificently equipped American Army, flushed with victory, sweeping all before it, because it had the stuff to do with. Two and a half years ago I saw another American Army fighting for its life on Bataan. It had no giant masses of equipment then, no stupendous power of guns, no swarms of tanks, no clouds of planes by the thousands. During those first six months, America, now the world's master producer of armament, had to depend on the raw courage of naked American flesh—on the mereheart of its fighting men, many of them from Salinas and other California towns. These men stood against heart-breaking odds. For six months they fought on in a jungle heat of 115 degrees and a humidity of 95, living and fighting on a few scraps of mule meat and a cup of rice a day. I can still see their faces, unkempt, tired, worn, serious. I have seen the crack professional battalions of many nations parade in all the panoply and glamor of the parade ground. But I have never been moved as I was by the the sight of these Americans on Bataan. For there was in the faces of these haggard men a grave, determined look that made the set, immobile faces of mercenaries on parade seem mean and paltry.

A few weeks ago I saw the faces of other American soldiers in France. When they were stopped by enemy gunfire their faces, too, showed a resignation of life itself as they got up to go on. You could see in each face an awareness that the wings of their lives were pinioned with the feathers of death.

Those Americans on Bataan were not made the soldiers they were by the regulations and military routine to which they conformed, but by the purpose which they lived. It was the purpose of Bunker Hill and Valley Forge, to live and die free men. They knew that they were fighting a hopeless fight ten thousand miles from home. They knew that each day was hurrying them towards a desperate finality. Behind them, if they chose to quit, was life, and all that life means to men. Ahead of them was only duty and death—but they stayed faced to the front. They fought on, knowing that they themselves had no hope. This is the very heart of courage, transcending all other acts of which men are capable. Their capacity to fight for, and their willingness to die for things which they themselves could never hope to enjoy, was a sublime demonstration of man's essential nobility. There was the fighting heart of America speaking!

Behind the bloody horizons of the present still stand the misty ramparts of an implacable and deadly foe. But the resolve of our men to get on with the job and get done with it, is far more dangerous to the enemy than his animallike ferocity and fanaticism is to us. Fanaticism will always go down before a sober determination to finish what has begun. The war out there is a very personal war to our fighters. They don't think in terms of time. As one Sergeant told me, "This war will be over when we've licked these bastards."

We have a hatred of force. We have an abhorrence of war. Our habit of civilization, our instinct to use our material resources for the enrichment of human life rather than for the fashioning of weapons of war, are all virtues of our democratic system. They could be disastrous weaknesses, could encompass our destruction, if we did not stand to the task in hand, and see it through!

For what other reason have we made ourselves a mighty people, if not to validate our way of life when it is threatened with destruction. Today we are face to face with the testing of our 200 years of building; to the proving of all we are. This is our rendezvous with destiny!

This war is a stark thing of blood and agony in which the stakes are survival or annihilation. It must be fought to the last ditch that stands between us and victory, and it must be fought by all of us!

We are all Americans by heritage. We must all be Americans in devotion to the needs and duties of the desperate days ahead of us.

Ours is the power. Let us see that ours is the glory, too!