Even though bases were seen as secondary instruments in the postwar American defense of the region, they were nevertheless critical support elements for the United States’ mobile forces in the postwar Pacific. Because American bases in Micronesia rapidly became a subordinate line of defense during the Cold War as the United States projected its power toward mainland east Asia from Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines, it is easy to forget to what extent American planners during and immediately after the war perceived the western Pacific Islands as the first line of postwar defense and to what extent they believed they could turn wartime American bases into permanent postwar bastions supporting the mobile defense of the region.
Postwar plans from the mid-to late 1940s illustrate that military officials and officers initially wanted to blanket the entire Pacific Basin with American bases, even as they began to realize that the United States could not afford that option without compromising the mobile defense of the postwar Pacific. These plans also document that planners’ ideas changed after 1947 when it came to determining where to establish the bases that were to support mobile forces in the region. A significant post-1947 retreat from south Pacific positions and a general downsizing in forces throughout the Basin, in fact, became the order of the day because of changing strategic considerations in US east Asian policy and stringent budgetary conditions within the United States government itself. These changing conditions were accepted by policymakers and planners but were nevertheless greeted with reluctance and ambiguity because of the United States’ wartime experiences.