In December of 1941 The United States was attacked by The Japanese Military at Pearl Harbor. The country responded to the attack with unity. At the time of the attack wars were being fought in both Europe and The Pacific. The United States was isolated from both conflicts by both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The people did not want to fight another war for another country. Their war was their problem, World War I was still fresh on people’s minds. We were at peace and we wanted it to stay that way.
Industry had already started producing military supplies that were being sent to Europe. That process was then intensified. The country had been at peace with a very downgraded military. In 1940 the military manpower of the United States was 458,300. In 1945 it had grown to 11,858,500.
From 1935 to September 1941 Boeing produced 134 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. After the United States entered the war Ford Motor Company built a plant to build the B-24 Liberator bomber. The plant turned out one bomber every 55 minutes. By the end of the war 12,731 B-24s were produced.
World War II gave birth to “Rosie The Riveter.” Women were brought into the work force to supplement the increased production and replace the men that were inducted into the service.
The people had to do without as raw materials were used for the war effort and not civilian products. Steel cut back the automobile production. Sugar and meat were rationed. Women had to do without nylon stockings. The Japanese had seized the rubber plantations. Gasoline was rationed.
“Merrill’s Marauders” named after its leader, Brigadier General Frank Merrill. In early 1944 the Unit was sent into the Burma jungles to harass the enemy and destroy supply and communications lines.
All of the Marauders were volunteers, some were recruits that were trained in the Caribbean, some were from General MacArthur’s battle trained ranks and some came from the stockades in the Pacific. After preliminary training, The Marauders began the long march up the Ledo Road and through the dense jungle and over the outlying ranges of the Himalayan Mountains into Burma. Pack mules were used to carry their equipment and supplies. They were re-supplied by airdrops. Seriously wounded were evacuated by the small Piper Cub Evac-Planes. A small landing strip was hacked out of the jungle. The Evac-Plane stripped of all equipment except a compass, had room for the pilot and one stretcher.
In five major and thirty minor engagements, they defeated the veteran soldiers of the Japanese 18th Division who vastly outnumbered them. The Marauders were 3,000 men who volunteered for the duty and in August after five months of fighting, advancing over mountains of Asia and through the dense jungle, their mission completed, they were disbanded. At that time only 200 of the original group were still with the unit. The Marauders were the predecessors of today’s Army Rangers.
Guadalcanal was the first major offense by the Allied Forces against the Japanese. The island is located in the Solomon Sea in the South Pacific. It is ninety miles long on a northwest-southeast axis and averages twenty-five miles wide. The terrain is mountains and dormant volcanoes up to eight thousand feet high, steep ravines and deep streams, and a generally even coastline with no natural harbors. The south shores are protected by miles of coral reefs, only the north central coast presented suitable invasion beaches. There the invading Japanese forces had landed in July and the Americans would follow.
After six months victory on Guadalcanal brought important strategic gains to the Americans and their Pacific allies but at high cost. Success in the Solomons turned back the Japanese drive toward Australia and gave the allies a strong base from which to continue attacks against Japanese forces.
The Allied Forces had 7,100 men killed in action Japan lost 31,000 men. Four allied troops were captured, 1,000 Japanese troops were captured. The Allies lost 29 ships, Japan lost 38. Aircraft losses; Allies 615, Japan 680 to 880. Japanese troops gave the American military an introduction to the character of the Japanese soldier: willing to fight to the death rather than surrender.
D-Day, June 6, 1944. On this date more than 160,000 Allied troops landed on a 50 mile stretch the beaches of Normandy, France. More than 5,000 ships, and 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion. At the end of the day more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded. The troops not only landed from ships but some were parachuted in from aircraft just after midnight, six and one-half hours before the invasion started. The landing was coordinated with the French Resistance. The Resistance was to carry out the tasks of: sabotaging the rail system, destroying electrical facilities and cutting underground communication cables.
D-Day or the Normandy Invasion gave the Allies a foothold in France with which to attack the invading German Army. It would be another year of fighting before Germany surrendered.
The Battle of the Bulge. After the D-Day landing, the Allied troops broke out of the landing area in mid August. In late 1944 it appeared that the Allies were going to win the war quickly. On December 16, 1944 the German army launched a counteroffensive that was intended to split the Allied forces using the German armored divisions hoping that might turn the war to Hitler’s favor. The attack was flawed, the plan was flawed. The Allies controlled the air. The tanks ran on fuel, the Allies had destroyed Germany’s refineries and depots.
The Battle of the Bulge was the largest battle fought by the Americans in World War II, 600,000 American troops were involved in the battle. The Americans lost 81,000 men killed, wounded or captured while the Germans lost 100,000 killed, wounded or captured.
After The War: The United States took control of the rebuilding of the infrastructure and the government of both Germany and Japan. Both countries have democratic governments and stable economies.
Today: About two weeks ago, September 18, 2013, the Joint Chiefs met with the House Armed Services Committee. They testified on the impact of sequestration on military budgets and operations in fiscal year 2014. During his testimony, General Odierno said that 85% of military forces would not be ready to deploy to a conflict by the end of 2014 if automatic-spending cuts remained in place.
Tomorrow: Knowing and understanding what it took to win World War II.
Will the President and Congress involve us in a large-scale war that the people will be able to justify the losses? That men and women will volunteer for service in the military?
Understanding what it took to win World War II, if we had to, do we still have what it takes?