7 October 1940
Memorandum for the
Subject: Estimate of the situation in the Pacific and
recommendations for action by the United States.
1. The United States today finds herself confronted by a
hostile Germany and Italy in Europe and by an equally hostile Japan
in the Orient. Russia, the great land link between these two groups
of hostile powers, is at present neutral, but in all probability
favorably inclined towards the Axis Powers, and her favorable
attitude towards these powers may be expected to increase in direct
proportion to increasing success in their prosecution of the war in
Europe. Germany and Italy have been successful in war on the
continent of Europe and all of Europe is either under their military
control or has been forced into subservience. Only the British
Empire s actively opposing by war the growing world dominance of
Germany and Italy and their satellites.
2. The United States at first remained coolly aloof from the
conflict in Europe and there is considerable evidence to support the
view that Germany and Italy attempted by every method within their
power to foster a continuation of American indifference to the
outcome of the struggle in Europe. Paradoxically, every success of
German and Italian arms has led to further increases in United
States sympathy for and material support of the British Empire,
until at the present time the United States Government stands
committed to a policy of rendering every support short of war with
the chances rapidly increasing that the United States will become a
full fledged ally of the British Empire in the very near future.
The final failure of
German and Italian diplomacy to keep the United States in the role
of a disinterested spectator has forced them to adopt the policy of
developing threats to U.S. security in other spheres of the world,
notably by the threat of revolutions in South and Central America by
Axis-dominated groups and by the stimulation of Japan to further
aggressions and threats in the Far East in the hope that by these
means the United States would become so confused in thought and
fearful of her own immediate security as to cause her to become so
preoccupied in purely defensive preparations as to virtually
preclude U.S. aid to Great Britain in any form.
As a result of this
policy, Germany and Italy have lately concluded a military alliance
with Japan directed against the United States. If the published
terms of this treaty and the pointed utterances of German, Italian
and Japanese leaders can be believed, and there seems no ground on
which to doubt either, the three totalitarian powers agree to make
war on the United States, should she come to the assistance of
England, or should she attempt to forcibly interfere with Japan's
aims in the Orient and, furthermore, Germany and Italy expressly
reserve the right to determine whether American aid to Britain,
short of war, is a cause for war or not after they have succeeded in
defeating England. In other words, after England has been disposed
of her enemies will decide whether or not to immediately proceed
with an attack on the United States.
Due to geographic
conditions, neither Germany nor Italy are in a position to offer any
material aid to Japan. Japan, on the contrary, can be of much help
to both Germany and Italy by threatening and possibly even attacking
British dominions and supply routes from Australia, India and the
Dutch East Indies, thus materially weakening Britain's position in
opposition to the Asix Powers in Europe. In exchange for this
service, Japan receives a free hand to seize all of Asia that she
can find it possible to grab, with the added promise that Germany
and Italy will do all in their power to keep U.S. attention so
attracted as to prevent the United States from taking positive
aggressive action against Japan.
Here again we have
another example of the Axis-Japanese diplomacy which is aimed at
keeping American power immobilized, and by threats and alarms to so
confuse American thought as to preclude prompt decisive action by
the United States in either sphere of action. It cannot be
emphasized too strongly that the last thing desired by either the
Axis Powers in Europe or by Japan in the Far East is prompt, warlike
action by the United States in either theater of operations.
3. An examination of the situation in Europe leads to the
conclusion that there is little that we can do now, immediately, to
help Britain that is not already being done. We have no trained army
to send to the assistance of England, nor will we have for at least
a year. We are now trying to increase the flow of materials to
England and to bolster the defense of England in every practicable
way and this aid will undoubtedly be increased. On the other hand,
there is little that Germany or Italy can do against us as long as
England continues in the war and her navy maintains control of the
The one danger to our
position lies in the possible early defeat of the British Empire
with the British Fleet falling intact into the hands of the Axis
Powers. The possibility of such an event occurring would be
materially lessened were we actually allied in war with the British
or at the very least were taking active measures to relieve the
pressure on Britain in other spheres of action. To sum up: the
threat to our security in the Atlantic remains small so long as the
British Fleet remains dominant in that ocean and friendly to the
4. In the Pacific, Japan by virtue of her alliance with
Germany and Italy is a definite threat to the security of the
British Empire and once the British Empire is gone the power of
Japan-Germany and Italy is to be directed against the United States.
A powerful land attack by Germany and Italy through the Balkans and
North Africa against the Suez Canal with a Japanese threat or attack
on Singapore would have very serious results for the British Empire.
Could Japan be diverted
or neutralized, the fruits of a successful attack on the Suez Canal
could not be as far reaching and beneficial to the Axis Powers as if
such a success was also accompanied by the virtual elimination of
British sea power from the Indian Ocean, thus opening up a European
supply route for Japan and a sea route for Eastern raw materials to
reach Germany and Italy. Japan must be diverted if the British and
American blockade of Europe and possibly Japan (?) is to remain even
partially in effect.
5. While as pointed out in paragraph (3) there is little that
the United States can do to immediately retrieve the situation in
Europe, the United States is able to effectively nullify Japanese
aggressive action, and do it without lessening U.S. material
assistance to Great Britain.
6. An examination of Japan's present position as opposed to
the United States reveals a situation as follows:
1. Geographically strong position of Japanese Islands.
2. A highly centralized strong capable government.
3. Rigid control of economy on a war basis.
4. A people inured to hardship and war.
5. A powerful army.
6. A skillful Navy about 2/3 the strength of the U.S. Navy.
7. Some stocks of raw materials.
8. Weather until April rendering direct sea operations in the
vicinity of Japan difficult.
1. A million and a half men engaged in an exhausting war on the
2. Domestic economy and food supply severely straightened.
3. A serious lack of sources of raw materials for war. Notably
oil, iron and cotton.
4.Totally cut off from supplies from Europe.
5. Dependent upon distant overseas routes for essential
6. Incapable of increasing manufacture and supply of War
Materials without free access to U.S. or European markets.
7. Major cities and industrial centers extremely vulnerable to
7. In the Pacific
the United States possesses a very strong defensive position and a
Navy and Naval Air Force at present in that ocean capable of long
distance offensive operation. There are certain other factors which
at the present time are strongly in our favor, viz:
Islands still held by the United States.
possibly allied government in control of the Dutch East
hold Hong Kong and Singapore and are favorable to us.
Chinese armies are still in the field in China against
A small U.S.
Naval Force capable of seriously threatening Japan's
southern supply routes already in the theater of operations.
Dutch naval force is in the Orient that would be of value if
allied to U.S.
consideration of the foregoing leads to the conclusion that prompt
aggressive naval action against Japan by the United States would
render Japan incapable of affording any help to Germany and Italy in
their attack on England and that Japan itself would be faced with a
situation in which her navy could be forced to fight on most
unfavorable terms or accept fairly early collapse of the country
through the force of blockade.
A prompt and early
declaration of war after entering into suitable arrangements with
England and Holland, would be most effective in bringing about the
early collapse of Japans and thus eleiminating (sic) our enemy in
the Pacific before Germany and Italy could strike at us effectively.
Furthermore, elimination of Japan must surely strengthen Britain's
position against Germany and Italy and, in addition, such action
would increase the confidence and support of all nations who tend to
be friendly towards us.
9. It is not believed that in the present state of political
opinion the United States government is capable of declaring war
against Japan without more ado; and it is barely possible that
vigorous action on our part might lead the Japanese to modify their
attitude. Therefore, the following course of action is suggested:
arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the
Pacific, particularly Singapore.
arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and
acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies.
possible aid to the Chinese Government of Chiang-Kai-Shek.
Send a division
of long range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or
divisions of submarines to the Orient.
Keep the main
strength of the U.S. Fleet now in the Pacific in the
vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.
Insist that the
Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic
concessions, particularly oil.
embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a
similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.
10. If by these means
Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the
better. At all events we must be fully prepared to accept the threat
1. The United States
is faced by a hostile combination of powers in both the Atlantic
and the Pacific.
2. British naval control of the Atlantic prevents hostile action
against the United States in this area.
3. Japan's growing hostility presages an attempt to open sea
communications between Japan and the Mediterranean by an attack
on the British Lines of communication in the Indian Ocean.
4. Japan must be diverted if British opposition in Europe is to
5. The United States naval forces now in the Pacific are capable
of so containing and harassing Japan as to nullify her
assistance to Germany and Italy.
6. It is to the interest of the United States to eliminate
Japan's threat in the Pacific at the earliest opportunity by
taking prompt and aggressive action against Japan.
7. In the absence of United States ability to take the political
offensive, additional naval forces should be sent to the orient
and agreements entered into with Holland and England that would
serve as an effective check against Japanese encroachments in
Comment by CAPTAIN
It is unquestionably to out (sic) general interest that Britain be
not licked - just now she has a stalemate and probably cant (sic) do
better. We ought to make it certain that she at least gets a
stalemate. For this she will probably need from us substantial
further destroyers and air rienforcements (sic) to England. We
should not precipitate anything in the Orient that would hamper our
ability to do this - so long as probability continues.
If England remains stable, Japan will be cautious in the Orient.
Hence our assistance to England in the Atlantic is also protection
to her and us in the Orient.
However, I concur in your courses of action we must be ready on both
sides and probably strong enough to care for both.
Re your #6: - No reason for battleships not visiting west coast in