How many Canadians will fight Japan?...Where?...How?..Under whose command?...And how will they be chosen?

BLAIR FRASER October 15 1944


How many Canadians will fight Japan?...Where?...How?..Under whose command?...And how will they be chosen?

BLAIR FRASER October 15 1944


How many Canadians will fight Japan?...Where?...How?..Under whose command?...And how will they be chosen?


WHY SHOULD Canada fight the Japanese? Ask that question of the average Canadian and he’ll stare you down. Of course we have to fight “that guilty and greedy nation,” as Winston Churchill called them at Quebec. Didn’t we declare war on them—first of all United Nations to do so? Haven’t they shelled our west coast? Haven’t we the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles to rescue, and Hong Kong to avenge?

True. Yet the same average Canadian takes another assumption equally for granted. He assumes that when Germany folds the real task will be over and we can all rest on our oars. And to a considerable extent he’s right.

President Roosevelt put it succinctly in his talk with reporters after the Quebec conference. The problem, he said, was one of finding room and opportunity. We had plenty of numbers, plenty of men and material, but such a small front—so much sea space and so little land space —that the question was to find points of contact with the enemy.

Obviously this is good news for us, bad news for Japan. Not quite so obviously it implies a fundamental change in the motivation of Canada’s war effort.

We shan’t be fighting the Japs because we have to, in the sense that we had to fight Hitler. We can’t say now, as we said in 1940, that one thin bulwark is defending the whole world’s freedom, and that Canada’s part, however small it might seem in proportion, could well be the margin of victory.

This is 1944. Now, the United States has in the Pacific the largest fleet in the world augmented every day by more fighting ships and more sea-based planes. As soon as the Atlantic is cleared it will be joined in full strength by the second largest, and historically greatest, the Royal Navv. In the air the Americans claim to have not merely the largest force in the

world but the three largest —the Ninth Army Air Force, which was the invasion force in France, the Strategic Bomber Group, and the U. S. Navy Air Force. Fourth, Americans say, is the RAF.

Americans feel that they can beat the Jap singlehanded. Mr. Churchill was smiling, but he wasn’t joking, when he said at Quebec that “some of us felt the United States meant to keep too much of the Pacific war to itself.” Their land forces already number more than the Allies have ships to bear or bases to house in the Pacific, and to these Great Britain is pledged to add “all that the shipping of the world can carry to the scene of action.” So it’s not for dire necessity that Canada will fight.

It’s not for trade either -though we do have trade in the Orient and hope to have more. There are men in Canada’s War Cabinet who have sons in action overseas, and some of those sons have died there. It can be said with no shadow of doubt that those men would not sacrifice a Canadian life for all the wealth of the Indies and Cathay. We re a world power now,

but we’re not an imperialist power, and we do not fight for gain.

“We've Started a Job”

TJ lIT there is a pride here that is more easily felt XX than defined; what Mr. Churchill called “the stern resolve by all parties to assert their right to he in at the death, with forces proportionate to their strength.” We are a Pacific power; the Pacific is part of our show. We’re a neighbor of the United States, needing the friendship and respect of the American nation. We’ve started a job that won’t be finished until the Jap is beaten, and Canadians don’t quit unfinished jobs.

For all these reasons, perhaps for many more, we arc pledged irrevocably to fight to the end. Canadians have known this all along, and made it known through spokesmen high and low. Just a month before the Quebec conference Prime Minister King gave it formal reiteration. “The policy of the Government,” he said in the external affairs debate, “is to see that our appropriate part is taken in the war against Japan to its very close.” But what is our “appropriate” part?

Apparently that will be for us to say. Mr. Churchill, in I hat half serious warning to the United States that “you must share these good things,” added that the Canadians too have “insisted” on their part. No one is demanding anything of us it is we who have demanded our due place, offered an aid which has been accepted. Its size and type are not known yet to anyone outside the Cabinet, perhaps not even decided in any degree of detail. Our key decisions depended on prior decisions of Quebec, so we have had less than a month for assured planning. But there are certain broad lines which, by mere common sense and inference, it’s possible to chart with reasonable confidence.

Land forces, for obvious reasons, are likely to be proportionately the smallest of our three services in t he Far East. Not only is an army relatively immobile, compared to a navy or air force. Not only does it need more ships to move its men, arms and supplies. It also needs special training for war in different localities.

Take jungle warfare. For that it requires at least six months to train an otherwise fully trained soldier. One of many examples is the complex, exacting discipline required to keep off malaria.

First, a special malaria prevention squad must visit a prospective camp site to locate and drain, or spray, every body of stagnant water within a radius of three quarters of a mile, which is the flying range of the malarial mosquito. It must also see that no camp lies within that distance of native villages; for such villages are havens for the insect too.

Then each man must learn and scrupulously observe a boring routine. He must parade for an injection of atabrine every day—never miss one, for atabrine is a merely suppressive treatment. It does not prevent infection, just keeps the symptoms from developing. If soldiers miss a day’s dose, all who have malarial infection will develop the symptoms and become casualties. The tropical soldier must also learn other techniques of prevention, such as covering every square inch of his skin’s surface at certain hours, and sleeping inside a netting without ever, even for a minute, coming out of it from bedtime to reveille.

That’s just one of the special routines. Men must also learn how to fight tropical parasites, how to keep weapons usable in the jungle damp, how to preserve boots and belts and clothes from mildew and rot.

“I would guess,” said an experienced medical man, “that a soldier in the tropics spends half his time just keeping alive. He has the other half left for sleeping, eating and fighting.”

Canada has made some steps toward learning and teaching these techniques. A small number of Canadian officers are attached to American, Australian and Now Zealand forces in the Pacific, and some of them saw action at Guam and Saipan. When the methods are learned many of them can be taught in Canada— we have little variety of climate but tremendous variety of terrain, and can reproduce at least some physical conditions of almost any theatre of war.

It’s not inevitable, of course, that our Pacific force would be jungle fighters. It’s mostly jungle fronts that are open at the moment, but that might change before we could train and move an expedition. General MacArthur might recapture his beloved Philippines, and make them an invasion base for the China coast. Marines might take Formosa, as Admiral King of the U. S. Navy is said to desire, and it too could become a base for operations in relatively temperate regions— perhaps even for a blow at the Japanese homeland. Russia might come in, in which case the logical course for Canada would be to move a force through Alaska to Siberian bases. Then it would be for Arctic not tropical fighting that we’d need special training.

What Size Force?

NOBODY knows what size our land force will be, and if they did know it would be a military secret. But a reasonable guess would put it at not less than a division and not more than a corps of two divisions. Officers think a “token force” in any smaller unit than a division would be too insignificant to make worth while the inconveniences of joint command. More than a corps would be an unreasonably high percentage of our total strength.

Roughly, generalizing from European experience, a division would involve about 25,000 men, in the first instance. That would include the combat force itself, ancillary troops such as service corps, ordnance, signals, medical, and first-line reinforcements. In addition, it would call for reinforcements of from 1,000 to 1,200 a month. If, therefore, we were to send one division, and if the Japanese war were to last one year, Canada would need something in the neighborhood of 37,000 to 40,000 men for land forces. If we were to send a corps, presumably we’d need twice as many, with a possible slight addition for headquarters personnel.

It’s a little easier to guess at the probable size of our Pacific Navy. Canada’s fleet includes two small aircraft carriers, two cruisers, about 20 or more destroyers, the rest frigates and corvettes. Presumably we’d use all our larger ships. Presumably, too, we’d use few of our smallest corvettes. These little boats, which have made such fame for themselves and Canada in the North Atlantic, are undersized for the colossal distances of the Pacific. Even more important, they’re too hot for service in tropical waters— personnel would suffer badly.

On the Atlantic coast more and more corvettes are turning up as training vessels. In the shipyards more and more launchings are frigates. The frigate, a larger version of the corvette, could be a very useful craft among Pacific islands, as American experience has proved. American naval engineers borrowed the general idea of Canada’s corvettes to design a similar though rather larger boat for the island patrols.

Our carriers take 700 men each, including fliers. Cruisers carry 600 each, destroyers probably average

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Our War With Japan

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about. 200 (they vary between 150 and 250) and frigates over 100. Suppose we use our larger craft and maybe 75 frigates against. Japan. That would work out. in round figures to about 15,000 men afloat. Add another 15,000 ashore and you get 30.000 men—just one-third of our total naval strength.

That one-to-one ratio of ship and shore personnel is unusual. Ordinarily it takes more than one man ashore for each man afloat. But. we have no base of our own in the Pacific except Esquimalt, a long haul from any eastern theatre, and therefore we’d rely heavily on British bases in Ceylon and, later, Singapore, or on the several bases in and around Australia.

Our Air Force strength in the Pacific is anybody’s guess, and your guess will vary according to whom you’ve been talking to. Some RCAF people are talking in terms up to 50 Canadian squadrons. This would mean an actual increase of Canadian squadrons overseas.

According to Air Minister Powder’s statement to Parliament, in February, we have 42 RCAF squadrons operating out. of Britain. He said we had “almost unequal number” on operational duties in this hemisphere, but A2 were all we had in a w'ar theatre. Presumably this number includes some squadrons which have been operating for some time already against the Japanese trom bases in Ceylon and eastern India.

However, t he figure is misleading, for far more RCAF fliers are attached to RAF squadrons than are organized in sqpadrons of t heir own. The 42 RCAF squadrons have Canadian ground crews. The other fliers operate with British ground crews and with British squadrons. Indeed, when speaking of actual air crew's operational in combat zones, Mr. Power estimated that between 22 and 25% of all fliers under British tactical command in the Euroj>ean and Mediterranean theatres are Canadians of the RCAF.

If we could get back our fliers attached to the RAF—and to do so has long been one of Mr. Power’s ambitions, his friends think—we’d have plenty of combat air crews. And now that the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan is being wound up we have plenty of trained ground crews available too—many of whom have been chafing for four years for a chance to go overseas.

It wasn’t worth while to send the great majority of Canadian ground crews to Britain, where the British had enough to staff their airfields, but to the Orient ; the ground crews will have to be moved by ship anyway, and we might just as well move Canadians for the Canadian operational squadrons.

Where Shall We Fight?

Next question is, where will these forces be used? Shall we fight with the British in India, Burma and the Indian Ocean? Or shall we go with the Americans, westward and northward through the Pacific islands toward the homeland of Japan?

For the Navy there’s obvious ndvan-

tage in working with the British. We use British plans and specifications, and from destroyers up we use British ships. Most important, we use British tactical methods and operational signals. Combined operations on any large scale are more difficult for two navies than for two armies or air forces —if signals mean different things to different commanders, ships can run into each other and otherwise make hash of a naval operation.

Besides the Royal Canadian Navy is functioning under Admiralty command now and seems to like it. The Navy, far more than either of the other services, gets along fine with its British counterpart. One reason may be the social division in both Navies between regulars and volunteers. Permanent Navy men, British or Canadian, have more in common with each other than they have with their own V.R.’s, whom they regard with an irritation which the V.R.’s heartily reciprocate.

Air Force feelings about where they fight in the Pacific seem to be rather divided. At present it looks as if they, too. would work mainly from British territory. We have an RCAF mission under Air Vice-Marshal L. F. Stevenson at Lord Mountbatten’s headquarters in Ceylon, and a considerable number of RCAF fliers are actually serving in Burma with RAF squadrons.

On the other hand, Aleutian experience proved that the RCAF could work smoothly with American Air Forces too. There’s nothing exclusive about the two ideas. Quite possibly we’ll have airmen in both or all theatres.

What about t he Army?

At Quebec reporters were quick to note that it was President Roosevelt, not Mr. Churchill, who made the longest reference to Canadian aid. And his choice of phrase was significant. Direct quotations aren’t allowed at Roosevelt preas conferences, but his statement ran something like this: Americans have fought alongside Canadians since entering the war, and they would continue to fight alongside Canadians all the way across the Pacific.

If this means our land forces will operate with the Americans through the Pacific islands, most Canadians probably would hail the decision. Emotionally, we feel the islands are our natural theatre. We’d be facing the Jap from our own land, perhaps setting out against him from our own west coast ports, and in any event operating in direct defense of our shores.

However, there is good reason to expect a certain amount of difficulty too. Not all American commanders, surely, would want a Canadian division or corps tacked onto their forces. At the moment there’s even a doubt whether the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps want to tolerate the aid of MacArthur’s Army. Remember the incredible story of the two Generals Smith at the Battle of Saipan, told in the New York Herald Tribune, Sept. 14.

Lieutenant General Smith of the Marines was in charge of a joint force which included an Army division under a Major General Smith. Orthodox Marine landing tactics are to plunge Continued on page 66

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inland a» far as possible without stopping; Army doctrine is to establish a beachhead, then bring up mortars and artillery to lay down a barrage before the infantry ventures farther. Marines think Army tactics overcautious; Army men think Marine tactics reckless and wasteful of lives. But on Saipan, since the Marine general outranked the Army general, Marine tactics had to be accepted as joint.


When the force landed, the Marines on each flank plunged far inland. The Army, in the centre, went farther inland than Army tactics recommend, but still only half as far as the Marines, i Jap counterattackers, feeling for a soft I spot, located the concave salient ih the centre and began to hack up the Marines’ inner flanks.

Whenever before in history this situation has arisen, the result has been failure of the action, withdrawal of the troops, and mutual recrimination in the two generals’ reports and memoirs, an endless argument that no one can settle. This time, though, it was sel tied on the spot. The Army was told to get out of the way. Smith of the Marines told Smith of the Army that he could, if he liked, take his soldiers back to Pearl Harbor for guard duty. He, Smith of the Marines, would attend to Saipan.

And he did. He threw a reserve force of Marines into the soft centre, and very soon the Marines had the situation well in hand. They pushed back the Jap counterattack, established a firm line with the other Marines on either flank. In Washington the reverberations of all this are still echoing clamorously through the endless corridors of the Pentagon Building.

That, of course, is none of our affair. But if a breakdown of those proportions can occur because of tactical differences between two services of the same country, it’s not hard to see why a U. S. commander might have little enthusiasm for bringing in a force from another army.

In Burma and India the British would doubtless welcome whatever aid j we can send. Britain’s manpower pool is strained to the uttermost by war, but it could be almost equally strained in the early years of peace. Her industry is converted to war use on a far greater scale, proportionately, than anywhere on this continent. She has an enormous task of physical reconstruction after German bomb damage. She needs every man and every pound she can I find.

But for Canada war in India and S Burma poses special problems, political as well as military. Canadians set great store by having a force of their I own, and some independence of command. The British, whose military circles have never been overly sympathetic with these aspirations, will be particularly touchy about running their own show in the East. They want no doubt to arise as to who recaptured Singapore, who freed Burma, who resumed sovereignty in Hong Kong. But plenty of Canadians, not all of them in Quebec, will ask why Canadian soldiers should help prop the British ! Raj in India, or die in defense of the i rubber planters of Singapore and j Penang.

IIow Choose the Men?

We shall, of course, go where war’s need calls us, wherever we can help the common cause most effectively. But most Canadians probably would prefer that our aid be levelled as directly as possible toward our enemy Japan, and as little as possible toward resumption of the White Man’s Burden.

In the political field, however, other problems are small beside one that has yet to be mentioned the problem ot selection. Just who is going to do all this fighting? We’re going east with, say, a fifth of our Army, a third of our Navy and maybe half our Air Force. How shall we decide who goes to fight the Jap, and who comes home to get himself a safe civilian job?

Of the three services the Army is on the worst spot. Safe at home for the past four years have been our 70,000 “home defense” conscripts, the socalled Zombies. Overseas, beating Hitler, have been approximately 250,000 volunteers, enlisted for service anywhere in the world. The volunteers are attested for “the duration”— theoretically they could just be loaded on ships and sent off to India or Australia to finish the job. But politically, is this feasible?

Common sense answers “No, it isn’t.” Likeliest plan seems to be that men overseas, or men fit for combat service who are still in Canada, would be asked to volunteer anew for Japan. They wouldn’t need to be reattested, but would simply indicate willingness to stay in the service.

Most people in touch with the situation appear confident that plenty of men would come forward. If these hopes prove false, presumably the deficiency would then be filled by assigning a sufficient number, regardless of their personal desires. There would be no hesitation in doing this if it were necessary, but it’s strongly hoped the necessity won’t arise.

If it did have to be done men would be selected according to discharge priority. Demobilization plans have been drawn up in great detail at Ottawa, with special attention to schemes for determining a man’s priority for discharge. Suggestions have included the “weighted point” system of Britain, by which a man’s priority rating is made up of several factors, including length of service, age and marital status. It appears more likely, though, that Canada will adopt a straight “first in, first out” system, modified slightly by compassionate j considerations or the civil employment factor, and subject always to the overriding “exigencies of the service.”

In any case, although no final choice I has yet been made among several j alternative plans, any one would ' provide machinery for determining a man’s relative right to discharge. And if anyone had to be assigned against his wish to the Japanese war, it would be the low-priority man?

Even if this is done, however, the Far East force will still be composed of volunteers, not conscripts. Government policy on this point is perfectly clear—“not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary.”

Prime Minister King and Defense Minister Ralston have reiterated their intention of using volunteers exclusively for overseas, unless necessity compelled the use of conscripts. And when four fifths of an army is being returned to civil life it can hardly be argued that such a necessity has arisen at last.

Must Revolunteer

Navy people say quite frankly they “must” have a re volunteering system, because of this matter of civilian jobs. They don’t think they ought to keep a man in service against his will while others snap up the good, safe berths, and they won’t if they can help it. They do feel, though, that government policy might be of some help here, if a stated number of government jobs could be reserved deliberately for servicemen returning after the defeat of Japan.

If industry, too, would adopt a similar Scheme they think the problem would be solved.

Meanwhile the Navy has a postwar employment plan of its own—i.e., a bigger peacetime navy. RCN authorized establishment was raised this year to 9,000, and Navy Minister Angus Macdonald has made it pretty clear that he and his advisers think this is still too little. In a press conference just before the Quebec meetings, Mr. Macdonald mentioned 15,000 men as a suitable figure. If the Government were to agree then half of the 30.000-man Pacific force could protect themselves against unemployment simply by fchoosing to stay in the service.

Air Force people are the least worried of the three services about how to Choose a force for the East. They have no doubt at all that they’ll get enough volunteers—“our problem is going to be to get the boys out of the service, not to keep them in.” Theirs are the best paid, best clad, best housed Of all servicemen, and the percentage of commissions to total personnel is vastly higher than on land or sea.

But if the Air Force did have to pick its men without consulting their preference, they have a selection system already in operation. A man is retired from combat service now after a stated “tour” of operations. There’s no particular reason why the same plan shouldn’t continue, if necessary, to operate.

For all services and for the nation, however, the problem of selection is not the only brand-new difficulty we shall face in the Far East. The whole notion of a “limited” war, an effort designedly short of utmost, involves physical and emotional adjustments greater, perhaps, than most of us have foreseen.

Take employment. We’re told that when t he European war ends American war production will be cut 40%. Canadian war production will drop more t han that. We’re manufacturing more for export, proportionately, than the United States, and exports will naturally stop first when war programs diminish. A conservative estimate is t hat our output will be cut in half, and you'll find plenty of people at Munitions and Supply who think the cut will be over 60%.

That will wipe out anywhere from 300.000 to 400,000 jobs. At present we have about 700,000 people in direct, war production, making guns, army planes, war vehicles, etc. No more than half of those will be needed. Nor

will that half be evenly distributed ! across the country—it’s utterly wasteful to keep two plants running at half capacity instead of one at full capacity. Tt won’t make the problem any easier that these 300.000 to 400,000 civilians will be looking for work just as half to three quarters of our servicemen are starting their return to civil life.

Then there’s the matter of casualties. It’s too easy to forget, as you move colored pins around a map and calculate the strength of opposing forces, that those forces are made up of living men, and that even an enemy whose hope is gone can still kill people. In the last war 90% of all American casualties were suffered in the last three months of the war, when the Hun was beaten and knew it. The Jap will kill people too, in thousands and hundreds of thousands.

This will be harder to take when we’ve lost the stimulus of peril and the first pride of victory. Canadians all agree that “we” must fight Japan to the finish, but how many of them face the fact that “we” includes themselves? Do not some of us think of the Far j East as a war which must be fought, yes, but not by our own sons or j brothers? But the sons and brothers I and husbands of some of us must fight it and die in it. There will he double ¡ bitterness for the bereaved in those j casualty lists, coming when thousands of others will be safe home. It won’t | be easy to wage war in a relaxed mood. ¡

Maybe it will help us if we realize j that in some degree this Japanese war I may he setting a pattern of the future— not the future of peace for which we hope, but the future of joint action against aggression which, even at very best, we must stand ready to face. If we do succeed in establishing international law and order on some firmer foundation than pious hopes, and if we do set up some kind of international enforcement agency to which the nations will contribute just shares, then this is the kind of thing we must he prepared, emotionally as well as physically, to endure. We must accept the idea of defending something beyond our immediate interest, of striking before we come into immediate danger. Otherwise we shall, as before, find peace vanishing whenever a single power acquires the wish and means to challenge it.

If we can make the adjustment required of us next year, fully and successfully, perhaps we shall be completing Canada’s development as a mature and responsible nation.