20 MARCH 1942, Page 1


THE whole war in the Pacific up to now has been a race against time on the part of the Japanese, whose aim has been to overwhelm Allied bases before heavy reinforcements of all arms could arrive to give equal battle. At last the moment which may represent the turn in the tide has come. Strong units of the United States Army, with air and ground troops in con- siderable numbers, are now on Australian soil, and more are on their way. What was lacking in Malaya and Java for a powerful offensive-defensive is not absent in Australia. No such force was available for the defence of Java. It was only last Saturday that the Admiralty issued the full story of the courageous attempt of a mixed Allied fleet, consisting of British, American, and Dutch vessels, to break up the far more powerful Japanese force which was supporting the invasion of Java. It was a desperate fight against overwhelming odds, which will count among the most memorable feats of heroism of this grim war. Outnumbered, outgunned, and with a hopeless disparity in destroyer support, thirteen Allied vessels fought on, first together, then separately, till they were destroyed, but not before they had inflicted losses on the enemy which, when the full truth is known, may turn out to be not much less than their own. Their annihila- tion left the path open to the invading convoy, and Java fell. But since then the character of the fighting has changed. The Japanese secured Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea, with their airfields, proposing to push on to Port Moresby, their projected base for the invasion of the Australian mainland. But at last the Allies had air strength with which to hit back. Rabaul, Lae, and Salamaua were heavily bombed, and no fewer than twenty- three Japanese warships and transports were destroyed or damaged. For the first time in the Pacific war the enemy find triemselves opposed by formidable though not yet equal air strength. That they are concentrating their forces for the Invasion of Australia is beyond doubt, but a substantial and resolute opposition faces them.