Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943

By Richard M. Leighton; Robert W. Coakley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
Improvisation in the Pacific

The United States had plunged into a war in what was, for the Army, a new, strange, and distant theater. Since mid 1941planning for this theater had been curiously back-handed, resting on the premise that defenses in the Far East could be built to such impressive strength before Japan was ready to strike that she would not attempt to overcome them. Supply planning and operations, geared to this hope, had all been directed toward a rapid build-up of equipment and supplies in the Philippines, and little thought had been given to the problem of continuous logistical support from the United States to forces in the Far East. The Japanese attack in December 1941 entirely upset these calculations. As long as the Japanese retained the initiative, both American strategy in the Pacific and its logistical support were necessarily shaped by shortterm considerations. Supply plans and operations had to dispense with methodical calculations -- the logisticians' stock-intrade -- and it proved impossible to develop a stable pattern of supply organization until after the initial force of the Japanese drive had waned.

The most pressing need in the Pacific was for bases that could be held against the initial Japanese onslaught and eventually used to mount counteroffensives. The first effort to develop such bases stemmed from the immediate need to forward supplies to the Philippines and the Netherlands Indies. This effort failed but it did determine the direction of logistical effort in the Pacific. With the collapse of Allied defenses, first in the Indies and then in the Philippines, the embryonic American bases in Australia and the chain of islands in the South Pacific leading to them became the natural line of defense and communications, one that had to be strengthened and held if the far Pacific were not to be abandoned altogether.


The Australian Base

The decision in Washington in mid-December 1941 to establish a supply base in Australia grew out of the determination not to abandon the Philippines. In General Eisenhower's plan of 17 December, Australia was to serve as the rear base for logistical support of the Philippine battle front.1 In the days following, the General Staff hastily worked out the details of the Australian project. Plan "X," completed by G-4 on 20 December, set forth in general terms the intended method of building up supplies in Australia and the Philippines. The plan established sixty days of supply as the tentative objective for accumulation of stocks of all items, including ammunition, in both areas. Material and equipment required to build up these reserves were to be shipped to Australia, without requisition, as rapidly as available shipping and supplies permitted. To relieve pressure on scarce shipping, General

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1
See above, Ch. VI.

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