Tank obstacles and double-apron fence entanglements, above
Actually, the American and British staffs in
Washington had already agreed upon the strategy for the Far East: to
hold the Malay Barrier from the Malay Peninsula through Sumatra and Java
to Australia. This line was considered the basic Allied defensive
position in the Far East, and the retention of its east and west
anchors, Australia and Burma, was therefore regarded as essential. The
latter had additional strategic importance because it was essential to
the support of China and the defense of India. The Allies were agreed
that land, sea, and air forces should operate as far forward of the
barrier as possible in order to halt the Japanese advance southward. The
support of the Philippine garrison and the re-establishment of the line
of communications through the Netherlands Indies to Luzon apparently
came after the more important task of holding Australia and Burma.
During the first week in January the War Plans
Division of the General Staff, which had been studying the possibility
of sending an expedition to the relief of the Philippine garrison, came
to the conclusion that the forces required could not be placed in the
Far East in time. While this reason was probably the overriding
consideration in its recommendation that operations to relieve the
Philippines not be undertaken, the War Plans Division went on to point
out that the dispatch of so large a force would constitute "an entirely
unjustifiable diversion of forces from the principal theater-the
Atlantic." The greatest effort which could be justified on strategic
grounds was to hold the Malay Barrier while projecting operations as far
north as possible to provide maximum defense in depth. This view was
essentially that already agreed upon by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
The War Plans Division therefore recommended that, "for the present,"
operations in the Far East should be limited to these objectives.