Reading Eagle (February 20, 1942)
The fall of Singapore and the manner of its fall will have repercussions beyond even the loss of Britain’s strongest outpost in the East. With it a blow is delivered to the prestige of the British and to the prestige of the white man throughout the whole of Asia. It will have repercussions in India, in all the Indies and in China. By one of those enormous ironies of history, the Nazis who started the world war under the slogan of Nordic supremacy have put into motion forces which may wipe out of history that doctrine of white supremacy which has been unchallenged in most white minds from Kipling to Hitler.
Fortunately, it is not an American slogan, and the sooner we stop talking about the “little yellow men” – and usually the last word is not “men” – the better for us. The Chinese, some of our people seem to forget, also belong to the yellow race. We are either fighting for world liberation or we are fighting for no known purpose except pure and simple survival. We are, in very fact, fighting for that, too.
But whether one calls it “prestige” or just “confidence,” the whole story of Singapore is a story of complacency, lack of preparedness, wishful thinking and, finally, “unconditional surrender.” My first thought in reading that the surrender took place in the Ford plant was to wonder why the Ford plant was still standing – to fall into Japanese hands. Yet it is not our business to attack the British. It is our business to improve ourselves.
There are times in history when it is better to fight until the last dog is hanged; to fight until the last officer has perished, than to surrender at all. The British and Chinese soldiers in Singapore were as heroic an army as ever fought against hopeless odds. Out of such hopeless but heroic battles, a new heroism is born; they become part of the sagas that go on throughout history recreating nations. Thus, the defense of Warsaw was hopeless, and from any logical standpoint, silly. But the defense of Warsaw proved for unborn generations of Poles that Poland is a nation. A few thousand people died in order that unborn millions should remember.
MacArthur knows this. I am sure, watching that struggle, that he counts on perishing himself, rather than to surrender. I think he would say that no one man is indispensable; what is always indispensable in great and tragic moments is the supreme example. MacArthur’s stand is justifying something; it is justifying the Americans in the Philippines – defending Filipinos whom we were prepared to set free. Thus MacArthur makes history.
I think the Dutch are going to make history, too. They will fight in Sumatra, but the showdown will come in Java. Borneo, the Celebes and Sumatra could not, or cannot be held. All activities there are delaying actions. But there is no smugness or complacency about the Dutch. A people who will blockade their own passionately beloved land, occupied by the Germans, are not going to relinquish the Indies where they have governed in an exemplary manner – not without a fight equal to MacArthur’s. They are prepared. They are, above all, prepared in their mind.
As long as the Philippines and Java hold, the battle of the Indian Ocean and the Far East is not lost. The weakness is aircraft. Over and over again aircraft.
What resources of aircraft we have with which we can reinforce the Philippines and Java are not known to me. But what is certain is that for MacArthur and Java, we should be audacious and take risks – risks equal to their own. And if the workers in aircraft factories really knew how much of the future of their children hung upon their day-to-day efforts, they would perform miracles.