The Observer's lead story (5) is about Japan's continuing advance in Burma. It's very hard to work out what exactly is going on based on the summary report: there are at least three fronts, their relation to each other is not stated, and the map provided is too small-scale to be of much use. The analysis by the Observer's military correspondent is much more helpful:
The Japanese are practising the advantages of mobility which they enjoyed in Malaya, and getting full benefit of the lead which it gives them over our more cumbersomely equipped forces. They have been switching their attack from the east to the west and back again to the east, looking all the time for our weak spots. They found one at Taunggyi, ninety-five miles south-east of Mandalay, and they are now throwing their heavy forces into this railway terminus, which gives them a valuable springboard for the decisive attack on Mandalay.
And after Mandalay, Lashio, where supplies bound for China have been building up for three months. But the Japanese need to hurry, as the monsoon season is only a week away. It is argued here that Japan's objective in Burma is essentially defensive, to forestall an Allied offensive 'against the Malayan and Indo-Chinese bulge on which all their Southern Pacific offensive action depends'.
The raids on Germany and the American raid on the Philippines must have added to the Japanese determination to remove the threat even at great cost.
There doesn't seem to be much else going on in the war against Japan: a Japanese raid on Port Moresby yesterday by low-flying fighters, an Allied raid on Lae, 'artillery duels continue at Corregidor'.
On page 4, G. M. Young responds to a recent call by Sir John Wardlaw-Milne MP for an inquiry into the fall of Singapore. Young is sympathetic, saying that 'the present war has seen an accumulation of unexplained reverses, Norway, Dakar, Crete, culminating in a stupendous disaster' (i.e. Singapore) which might indicate some systemic failure in the way Britain is conducting its war. His own preliminary conclusion is that Singapore was sacrificed for Russia:
We are left therefore with the conclusion that the defence of Malaya was postponed to the more urgent necessity of sustaining the Russian Front. Not having sufficient aircraft for all the fields of war, we decided, in agreement with one another, to run the risk of losing our main supply of rubber -- and theirs -- in order to keep the Russian line unbroken [...] The only alternative is to suppose that after two years of war, after all that had happened in every field from Poland to Pearl Harbour [sic], the vital significance, offensive and defensive, of air-power was still not recognised.
He doesn't dismiss this alternative but does find it hard to believe, as 'the whole experience of the war should have taught us that an army sent without its proper concomitant of aircraft was being sent to its destruction'.
The Observer's leading article today begins by noting that the world is waiting to see where Japan will strike next 'after four months of spectacular achievement [...] India, Australia, China, and Russia may each and all become the scene of determined military action in the next few weeks, for Japan's resources are still most formidable and she can strike where she wills'. But it argues that this a secondary theatre: 'It is not, however, in Asia that our future will be determined'.
The issue of the war, let us have no doubt about it, will be settled by events in Europe, and during the present war. With that power of concentration on the chosen goal which her strategists have always displayed, Germany has been producing, organising, training and planning throughout the winter months to make an end of Russian military power. She must achieve this in 1942 if she is to achieve it at all [...]
The new German offensive will come within four or five weeks. As the Soviet Union is now much better prepared than it was last year, Germany may aim to cripple rather than to destroy:
To do that Germany must isolate Russia by cutting the northern routes which bring her reinforcement from her Allies and also the southern routes which connect her military centre with the Caucasian sources of oil. Japan may well attempt to complete the isolation by blocking the Far Eastern gates of the vast Russian world.
Apart from providing the best hope for Allied victory, according to 'an air correspondent' the Russians have also prevented a renewal of the Blitz (6):
It is evident from Britain's immunity from heavy air attacks since the Nazis became embroiled with Russia that the Luftwaffe is not big enough to carry on two full-scale offensives simultaneously.
This appears to be due to lack of aircrew rather than aircraft. The unnamed writer estimates that the Luftwaffe has lost 35,000 aircraft from all causes in the war to date ('A modest estimate'), with aircrew losses at 90,000 ('a conservative estimate'). But it is 'doubtful' whether Germany can train more than 20,000 pilots a year (nb. pilots, not aircrew). Germany has recently claimed to have destroyed no more 8,612 British aircraft so far ('it would be exceptional for Goebbels to be accurate') and the Air Ministry claims that there are more than replacements for RAF aircrew losses; indeed, 'we have trained crews for which aircraft cannot at present be provided'. Most of these are trained in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme, where year-round flying is possible and there are no blackouts or enemies to endanger novice flyers.
It may well be that the Empire Scheme will prove the decisive factor in the air war, giving us an overwhelming strength over the enemy, and allowing the combined forces of the British Empire and the United States to sweep the air menace of Germany, Japan, and Italy from the skies.
On Friday night Bomber Command again attacked Rostock. It was still burning from the previous raid; 'the pall of smoke was so dense that searchlights could not penetrate it' (5). Over the two nights the city received 400 tons of bombs.
The Nazi war industry has been badly dislocated by these two raids. Workmen's dwellings and public utility undertakings have been put out of action and the enemy use of this port interrupted for some time to come.
A Reuter message from Berlin contains a German admission of this second raid, and claims that one British bomber was destroyed, adding that 'the attack, which was directed against residential districts, caused damage to houses. There were dead and wounded among the civilian population.
Finally, the Observer reports on recent German air raids on Britain. It provides some further details on the 'south-west town' bombed early yesterday morning: a German communique claim this was Exeter. Casualties don't sound very heavy: two dead, two seriously wounded, two with light wounds; four houses destroyed. However, there are seven people 'believed to be missing'. As on Friday, just after dawn yesterday there was a dramatic low-level attack 'on a south coast town' by German fighters bombing and strafing. This time the damage sounds much worse: 'Ten people are known to have been killed. Streets in thickly populated areas were heavily damaged [...] Numerous small business premises were reduced to ruins. Humble homes were wrecked and it is feared that loss of life and casualties in this district may be high'. At least ten people are reported to have been killed; 'Evacuated school teachers' are among the wounded.
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