0p-16-F-2 ON1 7 October 1940
Memorandum for the Director
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 is actively opposing by
war the growing world dominance of Germany and Italy and their
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 the changes 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
mean the Unites 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 Axis 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 to 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 theatre 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
Atlantic. 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 United States.
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 1. A million and a half men
of Japanese Islands. engaged in an exhausting war
on the Asiatic Continent.
2. A highly centralized strong 2. Domestic economy and food
capable government. supply severely straightened.
3. Rigid control of economy on 3. A serious lack of sources of
a war basis. raw materials for war. Notably
oil, iron and cotton.
4. A people inured to hardship 4. Totally cut off from supplies
and war. from Europe.
5. A powerful army. 5. Dependent upon distant overseas
routes for essential supplies.
6. A skillful navy about 2/3 6. Incapable of increasing
the strength of the U.S. Navy. manufacture and supply of war
materials without free access
to U.S. or European markets.
7. Some stocks of raw materials. 7. Major cities and industrial
centers extremely vulnerable
to air attack.
8. Weather until April rendering
direct sea operations in the
vicinity of Japan difficult.
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:
A. Philippine Islands still held by the United States.
B. Friendly and possibly allied government in control
of the Dutch East Indies.
C. British still hold Hong Kong and Singapore and
are favorable to us.
D. Important Chinese armies are still in the field
in China against Japan.
E. A small U.S. Naval Force capable of seriously
threatening Japan's southern supply routes
already in the theatre of operations.
F. A considerable Dutch naval force is in the
Orient that would be of value if allied to U.S.
8. A 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 Japan and thus eliminating
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:
A. Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of
British bases in the Pacific, particularly
B. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of
base facilities and acquisition of supplies
in the Dutch East Indies.
C. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government
D. Send a division of long range heavy cruisers to
the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.
E. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.
F. Keep the main strength of the U.S. fleet now in
the Pacific in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.
G. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese
demands for undue economic concessions,
H. Completely 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 of war.
A. H. McCollum
0p-16-F-2 ON1 7 October 1940
1. The United States is faced by a hostile combination of
powers in both the Atlantic and Pacific.
2. British naval control of the Atlantic prevents hostile
action against the United States in this area.
3. Japan's growing hostility presents an attempt to open sea
communications between Japan and the Mediterranean by an
attack on the British lines of communication in the
4. Japan must be diverted if British opposition in Europe is
to remain effective.
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 force 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 South-eastern Asia.
Comment by Captain Knox
It is unquestionably to out general interest
that Britain be not licked - just now she has a stalemate
and probably cant 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 reinforcements
to England. We should not precipitate anything in the
Orient that should hamper our ability to do this - so long as
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 bunches.
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