Big Yank victory at Truk indicated by Adm. McCain (2-18-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (February 18, 1944)

Big Yank victory at Truk indicated by Adm. McCain

Naval air officer says day will be ‘memorable’ in U.S. history when facts are made known
By Sandor S. Klein, United Press staff writer

Washington –
Powerful elements of the Jap fleet, probably including battleships, were believed today to have been caught in the smashing U.S. Navy air assault on Truk, the enemy’s “Pearl Harbor.”

The full results of the attack were still unknown, but a high-ranking naval official, who may have had a part in planning it, hinted that the U.S. Pacific Fleet had scored a great triumph at Truk, the enemy’s big base in the Caroline Islands.

VAdm. John S. McCain, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air who just returned from a visit to newly-won U.S. positions in the Marshalls, expressed confidence that when the results are made known, the day of the raid will be “memorable in our country’s history.”

Adm. McCain, Allied air commander during the early and crucial phases of the Solomons Islands campaign and first air officer on the Navy’s High Command, said in a radio address last night that the attack was no surprise to those who knew of the tremendous increase in American manpower and materiel.

He said:

It means that for a change we are carrying on warfare with enough instead of too little, too late. It means that we now have suitable bases from which to mount these strikes ever closer to the heart of the enemy.

Naval experts here were confident that important units of the Jap fleet were blasted by U.S. fliers at Truk. They said it was doubtful that the Truk operation would have been undertaken unless enough of the enemy fleet was present to warrant the risk.

Have big home fleet

However, they warned that destruction of the great Jap base, and even of the fleet stationed there, would not mean the end of the enemy’s sea power. The Japs also have a powerful fleet operating from bases in the homeland.

The attack on Truk, it was said, does not necessarily mean that the United States will launch a land invasion against the Carolines, as was done in the Marshalls and Gilberts. Instead, it may seek to neutralize Truk with steady bombings and then bypass it with a thrust farther west in the direction of the Philippines and ultimately, to the south coast of China.

May lose South Pacific

At any rate, these analysts said, if Truk is neutralized, Japan may be forced to pull its fleet out of the South Pacific for lack of a major naval base. This, of course, would mean evacuation of New Britain, New Ireland and other Southwest Pacific islands the Japs now occupy. These garrisons could not survive without seaborne transportation and supply.

More important in strategic considerations, however, was that Truk’s loss as a naval base to the Japs would give the U.S. Fleet a freer hand in the Central Pacific.

Seek to delay showdown

Adm. McCain told a press conference that the Jap fleet intended to delay a showdown as long as it could, but implied that the U.S. Navy was determined to force the decision.

He said:

They don’t want to fight us. They’ll delay it just as long as they can, but, of course, in the end they’ll have to do it. They’ve been licked in every department. Why should they fight us? They’ve been licked at night; they’ve been licked by lesser vessels; they’ve been licked all over the ocean – I don’t see why they should want to fight us.

1 Like