Pacific Battle Line
By Foster Hailey


The United States has been waging in the Pacific the most difficult war in history. And the least understood. The battleground is the world’s greatest ocean, with its tens of thousands of islands. The battle line is a great arc extending 7,000 miles from the tropical regions of northern Australia to the bleak, fog-covered Aleutian Islands on the rim of the Bering Sea.

It is a warfare that is principally amphibious, a type of conflict our armed forces never had fought before and in which they had little training.

It is war on an animal level, a war of no mercy, a war with a foe whose ideals are as foreign to most of us as the names of the islands on an around which it has been fought, and as repugnant. It began with treachery and has been waged with a foulness which most Americans find difficulty in understanding.

For various reasons the full story of the war against Japan, or, rather, Japan’s war on the United States, could be told only in part at the time. Even now it can be only a half-told tale. But time has much information valueless to the enemy.

This book is an attempt to correlate the first two years of the Pacific war, to put events in their proper proportion in the world picture, to explain what has been done and why more could not have been done.

It is too early to make any broad evaluation of our strategy, even if anyone were capable at this time of doing that. Events are too near, we do not know the full effect on the enemy of certain actions, too many personalities are involved, to make that feasible at present.

The effort has been made to present the picture as it was, not as we might have wished that it was or as the American public generally may have evalued it on the basis of news stories that were allowed to pass the strict censorship.

Much of the material contained was gathered first-hand, as a correspondent for the New York Times, at sea and ashore with the Navy, the marines, and the army, from Christmas Day, 1941 to the conclusion of the Aleutian campaign in August, 1943. All areas except the Philippines, the East Indies, and New Guinea were visited during those twenty months.

Where events portrayed were not actually participated in, the information has been gleaned from official records or from conversations with the men who took part in them.

No effort has been made to present this war as anything but what it is, the ultimate insanity of civilization. All of war is hard work, much of it boring, a fact to which any man will attest who has taken part in one. But the exigencies of war also bring out in many men traits you would not know they had—patience under pressure, cheerfulness under great difficulty, stoicism under pain, raw courage in the face of terrible danger. An effort has been made to tell that, too.

Here then is the record as one reporter saw it, a record written in blood and sweat, of the first two years of the war in the Pacific.

There are many reasons, of course, for writing a book. The principal reason for writing this one is this: that the men with whom I share some of the hardships and some of the dangers deserve to have their story told, and told as objectively and factually as I can tell it. If they believe that I have made an honest effort to do that and have achieved some success, that will be satisfaction enough for “the correspondent from the Times.” (continued)

Little Neck, New York
December 15, 1943