The Tanaka Memorial – Real or Imagined? Part 2

Part Two:

Admiral Taussig. Yes, Senator. Shall I proceed with my statement?

The Chairman. Proceed.

Admiral Taussig. In spite of our desires to remain aloof from international problems, we cannot do so. The world has shrunk too much. Can we look on a development in the Far East such as out lined above with detached interest, as a matter of no immediate concern to us as a nation? I do not believe that we can. If this world is to be a decent place in which to live, there must be a regard and observance of the rights of others, and of the amenities of civilization which have been built up during the past centuries.

It is believed by some that the present war in China will tax the resources of Japan to a degree that will require many years for her to recover, and that even if successful in occupying most of the Chinese territory, the organization and development of this area will absorb her energies and capital for years to come. It is doubtful if this will be the case. The lack of any natural defensive frontiers of the occupied territory will be an urge to further expansion. The occupied territory fails to supply many vital raw materials such as oil, rubber, tin, lumber, and so forth. The Japanese Navy, which has always been opposed to the Army plans of mainland expansion will assert itself and urge the southward expansion to the Philippines and Netherlands Indies, which it has always favored.

The former theories of economists that lack of money will hamper the expansion of a nation inbounded with imperialistic aims seem open to question. How has Germany, in about 15 years, entirely bankrupt at the start, been able to recruit, train, and equip an army, air force, and navy which disrupted the peace of Europe?  Italy, a poverty- stricken country, has in the same length of time created a great army, a great air force, a formidable navy, and has carried on a costly war in Abyssinia. Three years ago Japan was reported by the economists to be in a bad financial situation. Since then she has carried on a costly war for 30 months with a million men under arms, shows no signs of breaking, and is organizing companies involving billions of yen of capital for the exploitation of China. Spain, another poverty- stricken country, carried on a bloody, destructive civil war for 3 years.

An expansion of the power of the Japanese Empire, such as outlined above, is a dangerous threat to the United States and the great question is whether from the point of view of our national safety, we can acquiesce in such a development without definite opposition.

We have certain very definite domestic and foreign policies.

We believe strongly in our own form of democratic government and will resist any attempt from within or without to change it.

On the other hand, we are not particularly interested in the form of domestic government any other country chooses to adopt for itself.

We believe in the sanctity of treaties, equal opportunity in trade, and in peaceful means of settling disputes between nations.

We have no desires for territorial aggrandizement.

Our Government and our people are not believers in war as a solution of international differences.

They will go to war, however, when our national interests are definitely threatened, and all peaceful efforts at solution have failed.

In the Far East, a situation has arisen which definitely threatens our national interests.

The independence of the Chinese Nation is in imminent danger due to the warlike actions of Japan.

A stable, independent China is the greatest factor for peace in the Far East.

The United States has realized this fact and has lent sympathetic support to the efforts of the Chinese people to establish such a government.

We have signed treaties guaranteeing the integrity of China.

It is obvious at the present time that our treaties, trade, cultural institutions, and influence in China are in process of being eliminated.

The consequences are of such vital importance to us as a Nation, that we are warranted to take steps, economic, financial, and if necessary, use of force, to preserve the independence and integrity of China.

Such steps, naturally, should not be taken without full consideration of the consequences. Modern war has far reaching and unforeseen results on nations employing it. The cost in lives and treasure, and the disruption of the routine of a peaceful existence, may even lead to the overthrow of our form of government which we rightly guard so jealously.

Yet, when there are nations who believe only in the sword to obtain what they want from others, and are anxious to use it, peaceably inclined nations must go to war to defend themselves, or accept domination. Such a situation exists today, and I cannot see how we can escape being forced into eventual war by the present trend of events.

The great problem confronting the State, War, and Navy Departments, in the event of our going to war, is to see that the steps taken before and during the war will carry it through to victory with the least burden on the Nation.

We are all familiar with unparalleled expenditures and prodigious waste on our part in the World War. This should not happen again. The after effects of the war must receive serious consideration from the start.

With respect to a war in the Far East, there are two basic principles upon which all plans should rest.

First, owing to our lack of impregnable bases in the Philippines and Guam, such a war could be successfully undertaken only in con junction with Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands.

These nations have greater interests in the Far East than we have, and we should not be placed in a position of having to carry on a war singlehanded against Japan so long as we must rely on the bases, harbors, and inland waters of these nations which are indispensable to us in such a war. However, should we build impregnable bases and maintain our fleet at the 5 to 3 ratio, it not only would be practicable to operate in the Far East without the assistance of these other nations, but by this action we would probably insure that peace is maintained and therefor no war action would become necessary.

Second, the war should be a naval war. We can never carry on land warfare against Japan. Conversely, Japan can never invade the United States mainland or Hawaii as long as the fleet is in existence. However, unless we have impregnable bases, Japan can and some day will invade the Philippines. This we should not permit.

In such a war we will be dealing with a first class navy. Japanese officers and enlisted men are well trained and efficient. They work steadily and persistently at their profession.

Their ships are designed with the idea of giving them greater gun power and protection than that of similar foreign vessels. They shop abroad for all naval appurtenances such as fire control, and so forth, and embody the best of these in their ships. They have a small army of agents and inspectors abroad on this duty. Their training is carried on in the stormy waters around Japan. Judging by their work around Shanghai and in the Yangtze, they are good ship handlers and seamen.

For the task assigned them of conducting a defensive campaign in far eastern waters, their navy is well balanced. They have large numbers of destroyers, submarines, mine layers, mine sweepers, a formidable air force, and thousands of auxiliary vessels such as trawlers, landing boats, and so forth. They also have that indispensable arm of the navy which we lack — a merchant marine.

In regard to our national policy in regard to the Far East, my personal views are — and I wish to emphasize “personal” —

First. If we are to remain at peace, it is essential that we be strong enough to make Japan afraid to involve us in war.

Second. In order to be strong enough, we must not only continue to maintain a fleet superior to Japan in the ratio of 5 to 3 or greater, but must also build an impregnable base in the Philippines and fortify Guam sufficiently to make its capture impossible; and improve our merchant marine.

Third.  In view of our lack of knowledge concerning Japan’s building programs, the only way we can be certain of maintaining the 5 to 3 ratio in fleet strength is to continue building battleships, which vessels should be bigger and better than any which Japan may be building.

Fourth. Make an agreement with Great Britain, France, and Holland that will insure cooperation in the maintenance of the status quo in the area to the southward of Formosa.

Senator Johnson. You have given us quite a program there, have you not?

Admiral Taussig. I am trying to keep us out of war. I am trying to keep up with the program of the Senate. My whole idea is to keep us out of war.

Senator Johnson. That is my whole idea in all this discussion, too. Whether we will be able to do that is very doubtful. Some of us will try until the end, and we have been fighting along that line a very long time. That is another question, however. That is another story, as Mr. Kipling says.

Now, you spoke of impregnable bases. You recall, do you not, that you used that term several times?

Admiral Taussig. Yes, sir.

Senator Johnson. Where would you put them?

Admiral Taussig. We now have a wonderful base at Manila, in Manila Bay. It is not impregnable; it is open to capture in case of war by Japan because we have not made sufficient provision to protect it and the outlying country. It would not prevent a Japanese landing force from capturing it.

Senator Johnson. You omit that, then, as an impregnable base. Is there any other locality where you consider we could have an impregnable base?

Admiral Taussig. Yes, sir. The Philippines Independence Act requires the Army to get out of the Philippines in toto. It authorizes the President to designate a naval base in any place in the Philippine Islands that has a population of less than 10,000 inhabitants. This 10,000 inhabitants feature means, of course, that we must get out of Manila Bay, and yet Manila Bay is by far the best place. There are a number of places in the Philippines that could be made impregnable, but they would all cost a great deal of money, much more so than if we continued to hold Manila as the main base.

Senator Johnson. You said we must maintain our merchant marine. You, of course, like all Navy men, like my colleagues and my self, are for a merchant marine that would be an auxiliary to the Navy. Well, if you are selling your ships to foreign countries, or if, on the pretense of neutrality, you are not permitting any American ships to sail the seas, you are not going to preserve the merchant marine, are you?

Admiral Taussig. I think not, Senator.

Senator Johnson. The program that you propose there by which we may keep at peace is a tremendous one, is it not, with almost insuperable obstacles?

Admiral Tatoskj- I think not, Senator. I think it would depend on our national policy in regard to the Far East, which I, of course, am not in a position to lay down.

Later in the hearing:

The CHAIRMAN. The witness was invited here to give a picture of the situation in the Far East. If there are no further questions on the policy in the Far East, I will proceed to two or three other questions and then I will call another witness.

First, has the airplane made surface craft, including battleships, obsolete?

Admiral TAUSSIG. Decidedly not.

The CHAIRMAN. In your opinion, should the United States rely on air power alone for its defense?

Admiral TAUSSIG. Decidedly not.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you consider it essential that the United States maintain a two ocean navy?

Admiral TAUSSIG. I think it is impossible. If it were possible, yes; but to my mind it is impossible for us to achieve a two ocean navy. As I understand it, a two ocean navy means a navy in the Atlantic at least equal to that of Great Britain, and a navy in the Pacific proportioned to Japan in the 5-5-3 ratio, which means a navy double the size of the present navy. We cannot bear the expense; we cannot build it; and we could not keep up with competition if we started.

The CHAIRMAN. What, in your opinion, are the principles upon which our national defense should be based?

Admiral Taussig. Our principles are that the ramparts we watch should be watched carefully in the two oceans that we should be prepared sufficiently to make any prospective enemy afraid to undertake us in a war.


Rear Admiral Taussig was forced to retire in September 1941 due to his age, despite his petition to continue on active duty with the impending international crisis. He was promoted to vice admiral on 22 October 1941 due to his service in the Boxer Rebellion. He had testified to the Senate committee on naval affairs in April 1940 that war with Japan over the Philippines was inevitable without a change in policy. His testimony included accurate predictions on the coming war in the Pacific. According to a May 9, 1940 article by Drew Pearson, Taussig was forced into retirement due to his public prediction that war with Japan was inevitable. In a June 9, 1940 article authored by Drew Pearson and Robert S. Allen, Taussig was referred to as “the star scholar and strategist of the navy.”

On 8 December 1941, President Roosevelt ordered the reprimand removed from Taussig’s personnel file, after his son, Ensign Joseph K. Taussig Jr. was severely wounded and lost his leg, earning a Navy Cross while serving on the Nevada during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Taussig’s request to return to active duty was ultimately granted in 1943 and he served in the office of the Secretary of the Navy on the Naval Clemency and Prison Inspection Board, the Naval Discipline Policy Review Board, and the Procurement and Retirement Board, until 1 June 1947, only a few months before his death.

Mister Mac

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