The Domino Logic of the Darkest Moment

The Fall of Singapore, the Atlantic Echo Chamber, and ‘Chinese Penetration’ in u.s. Cold War Policy toward Southeast Asia

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations
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This essay argues that Anglo-American memories of Japan’s victory in Singapore in 1942, which British Prime Minister Winston Churchill labeled Britain’s “darkest moment” in World War II, soon would underpin the domino logic within u.s. Cold War strategy. For both American and British policymakers, Japan’s war machine had fused together in interconnected insecurity the bastions of Euro-American colonial power. In Southeast Asia, it had imposed the condition that one state’s vulnerabilities impinged upon the stability of its neighbor. This vision of Southeast Asia’s interconnected insecurity was central to the domino logic within u.s. Cold War policy. u.s. policymakers’ preoccupation with containing communism in Vietnam arose significantly from how Japan had torn into Southeast Asia from Indochina. After World War II, u.s. and British policymakers perceived Southeast Asian insecurity through both the prism of Japanese imperialism and their fears of an older “Yellow Peril"—China and Southeast Asia’s Chinese diaspora. Indeed, u.s. and British officials anticipated, as well as echoed and confirmed, each other’s suspicions that China and its diaspora would collaborate to reprise Japan’s campaign.

The Domino Logic of the Darkest Moment

The Fall of Singapore, the Atlantic Echo Chamber, and ‘Chinese Penetration’ in u.s. Cold War Policy toward Southeast Asia

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations

References

1

Frank L. Kluckhohn“Guam Bombed; Army Ship is Sunk,” New York Times [hereafter ny Times] 8 December 1941 p. 1; “u.s. and Japs at War” Chicago Daily Tribune [hereafter Chicago Tribune] 8 December 1941 1; John Burton Fortnight of Infamy: The Collapse of Allied Airpower West of Pearl Harbor (Annapolis md: Naval Institute Publishing 2006) 91 324 n4. John Burton states that in 1941 Hawaiian time was thirty minutes behind its current setting. Thus midnight on 8 December 1941 for Malaya and Singapore would have been 5:30 a.m. on 7 December in Hawaii. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time.

11

Larry Rue“Shall We Save Burma or Java? British Problem. Danger to Australia and China Admitted,” Chicago Tribune18 February 1942 p. 3; “Battles in Pacific Believed Nearing” ny Times 2 May 1942 p. 4; Alexander D. Noyes “Market Falls on Corregidor Surrender” ny Times 11 May 1942 p. 23.

12

DowerWar Without Mercy308–11.

14

Fredrik LogevallEmbers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (New York: Random House2012) 223.

15

Frank NinkovichModernity and Power: A History of the Domino Theory in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press1994).

16

Ibid. pp. 59–60 65 68 192–3 272 276.

18

RotterPath To Vietnam p. 120.

25

Memorandum 24 December 1941Annex 1 to abc-4 and jccss-1: Washington War Conference American-British Strategy 5 compiled volume “Arcadia” box 1 Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference Proceedings 1941–5 Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library (hereafter ddel) Abilene ks.

38

Larry Rue“Shall We Save Burma or Java? British Problem. Danger to Australia and China Admitted,” Chicago Tribune18 February 1942 p. 3.

44

Memorandum 18 August 1943Appreciation and Plan for the Defeat of Japan 155–61 and Minutes 1st Meeting of the President and Prime Minister with the Combined chiefs of Staff 19 August 1943 402 compiled volume “Quadrant Conference August 1943” box 2 Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference Proceedings 1941–5 ddel.

45

Summary Notes 18 August 1943Appendix: Appreciation and Outline Plan for the Defeat of Japan 166 169 compiled volume “Quadrant Conference August 1943” box 2 Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference Proceedings 1941–5 ddel.

50

Directive 20 July 1945Combined Chiefs of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (Southeast Asia) 176–8 compiled volume “Terminal Conference July 1945” box 3 Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference Proceedings 1941–5 ddel.

52

DowerWar Without Mercy p. 310.

67

Memorandum of Conversation“Oral Report by Ambassador-at-Large Philip C. Jessup upon his return from the East” pp. 69–71; Ambassador in Thailand (Stanton) Telegram to the Secretary of State 27 February 1950 frus1950 6 p. 29. For the same expression “weak Thailand” see for example F. Tillman Durdin “Tokyo Tanks Roll in Malay Jungle” 13 December 1941 ny Times p. 1.

72

DowerWar Without Mercy pp. 9 10–11 29 72–3.

74

DowerWar Without Mercy p. 5; Memorandum of Conversation “Oral Report by Ambassador-at-Large Philip C. Jessup upon his return from the East” 3 April 1950 pp. 70–71.

76

Lake and ReynoldsDrawing the Global Color Line pp. 9–10. Chapter 1 provides excellent coverage of Chinese immigration to the United States and the interconnected construction and inspiration for white solidarity between the United States Australia and other white settler nations. See also Erika Lee At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era 1882–1943 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 2003); Alexander Saxton The Indispensable Enemy: Labor Immigration and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press 1971).

79

Memorandum of Conversation“Oral Report by Ambassador-at-Large Philip C. Jessup upon his return from the East” pp. 70–71.

81

LogevallEmbers of War p. 223.

87

Ibid. p. 1.

106

LogevallEmbers of War p. 263; Michael James “De Lattre of Rhine Danube and Tonkin” 26 August 1951 ny Times pp. sm11–12.

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