Early in the century a young American accurately predicted Japan’s imperialism and China’s and Russia’s rise. Then he set out to become China’s soldier leader.
In October 1941 Clare Boothe Luce, the playwright, journalist, politician, and wife of the magazine tycoon Henry Luce, had dinner with half a dozen army officers in their quarters on top of an ancient Spanish fort beside the harbor of Manila. The main topic of conversation was the threat of war with Japan. Everyone assumed that if hostilities began, the Philippines would be target No. 1 of the Japanese war machine.
Col. Charles A. Willoughby, who would go on to glory of sorts as one of Douglas MacArthur’s most devoted staff officers, drew a map of Luzon on the tablecloth and traced arrows at Lingayen Gulf and Polillo Bight pointing toward Manila. “The main attacks will probably come here,” he said.
“You’re not giving away military secrets?” Mrs. Luce asked.
Willoughby laughed. “No. Just quoting military gospel—according to Homer Lea.”
Mrs. Luce was not the sort of woman who liked to admit any gaps in her knowledge. But she was forced to ask, “Who is Homer Lea?”
Willoughby said he was a self-appointed “general” who had written a book in 1909 predicting a war between America and Japan—a war that America could lose because of chronic unpreparedness. Lea had described with meticulous detail exactly how the Japanese would capture the Philippines and, if they were sufficiently audacious, Hawaii and the entire West Coast of the United States.