World War II
The opening strategy of the U.S. in the war was to stop the Japanese advance in the Pacific Basin. The first few months, the news from the front was all bad. Guam, Wake island, the Gilbert Islands and Hong Kong all fell. The Burma Road was cut off, and General McArthur was forced to abandon Manila in the Philippines. He retreated to Corregidor, but was forced off that island also. When American forces surrendered Corregidor, the Japanese controlled the entire Pacific island from Burma through the Dutch Indies.
Upon abandoning the Philippines (and leaving the Filipinos to deal with the Japanese the best they could), McArthur said to them: "I shall return." It is hard to imagine that the Filipinos took any comfort from this statement; although later historians have used it as justification of McArthur’s resolve. It is doubtful that the people he abandoned would agree.The Japanese planned to isolate Australia and also strike Hawaii again. They hoped to draw out and destroy the American navy before the American war machine back home could become fully operational. Here, there failure to completely destroy Pearl Harbor proved telling. Most of the ships damaged at Pearl Harbor were repaired, and the ground facilities were largely intact.
April 18, 1942, B-25 Bombers under the command of Adm. Eddie Rickenbaker flew in under radar and bombed Tokyo itself. The damage done was minimal, but it was a huge morale lifter; that even the Japanese islands themselves were not impregnable.
Two major battle halted the Japanese advance into the South Pacific:
·The Battle of Coral Sea: A Japanese troop transport headed toward New Guinea (just off the coast of Australia) was stopped. Participating American ships included the Yorktown and the Lexington. Americans suffered greater losses, including the Lexington, but the battle stopped the advance on Australia.
To this day, people of Australia have a great affinity for Americans because it was the American sacrifice at Coral Sea that stopped the Japanese advance. Japanese bombers had bombed Darwin on the Indian Ocean Coast; and Australia was quite vulnerable. Since that time, Australians have been among America’s staunchest allies.
·The Battle of Midway Island: Adm. Yamamoto planned to intercept the American fleet there and destroy it, thereby rendering Hawaii helpless. He headed for Midway with every ship under his command. This time, it was his turn to be surprised. Americans had broken the Japanese code, and knew Yamamoto’s plans. Adm. Chester Nimitz reinforced the garrison at Midway, and was ready for Yamamoto when he got there. The Japanese lost four Aircraft carriers, and were forced to retreat. The Battle of Midway is the turning point of the War in the Pacific.
Originally, the news on the Atlantic front was bad also. German "wolfpack" submarine fleets appeared off the coast of America and sank 400 ships in American waters, before they could be stopped. After escort vessels were added and a convoy system adopted, losses became negligible.
Mobilization at HomePearl Harbor ended, in minutes, the debate over isolationism. It also effectively ended the Great Depression. The war effort required mobilization of all of America’s resources, and full employment of the workforce. Although many liberal historians would place gratitude at Roosevelt’s feet for ending the Depression, it was World War II; NOT the New Deal, that ended the Great Depression.
Mobilization for War was much further along than had been the case in World War I. Conscription had been in effect for over a year, and the Army had 1.4 million men by July, 1941. In the war, all men between 18-45 were subject to be drafted. More than 15 million would serve in the war.
The economy was also partially mobilized. In 1942, the War Production Board (WPB) was created to direct industrial conversion to war production. Tanks replace automobiles on the assembly line and munitions rather than refrigerators and typewriters.
Conservation also became important. The slogan of the day was: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." Production for the war effort raised the GNP from $100 Billion in 1940 to $214 Billion in 1945 – an increase of 114%.
Roosevelt wanted to raise taxes to pay for the war rather than borrow. Said he, "I would rather pay one hundred per cent of taxes now than push the burden of this war onto the shoulders of my grandchildren." Congress was dominated by conservatives, however, and refused to go along. He got only half his wish. About 45% of the governments 1939-1946 revenues were paid with tax revenues.
Compare this with 30% during World War I and 23% during the Civil War.
The balance was paid for by Bond sales. War bond drives collected $150 Billion. This, of course, increased the federal debt to $260 Billion, six times the amount before Pearl Harbor.Recovery from the Depression converted many to Keynesian economics: massive government spending was the way to end the Depression. Some economic controls were put in place. Cars, washing machines, and nondefense housing were no longer manufactured. In 1942, Congress authorized the Office of Price Administration to set price ceilings. Frozen prices resulted in short supplies. Government ration coupons (many people called them "stamps") were issued to rati0on sugar, coffee, gasoline, tires, and meat.
Wage and price controls were also implemented. If unions threatened to strike rather than follow wage controls, the government sometimes seized industries. Railroads and mines were seized briefly under government authority.At one point, the government briefly seized the Montgomery-Ward Company. The Chairman refused to leave, so he was carried out bodily. Shortages did not bode well with the voting public. In 1942 Congressional elections, Republicans gained 46 seats in the House and nine in the Senate, chiefly from farm states. Only the South remained solidly Democratic; which strengthened the position of Southerners within the Democratic Party. This was considered a vote against the New Deal, and the new congress abrogated many New Deal programs. Among the programs abolished: The WPA and CCC.
Organized labor also suffered. Congress passed the Smith-Connally War Labor Disputes Act authorizing the government to seize plants useful to the war. Many states adopted "right to work" laws that outlawed closed shops. (A closed shop requires all employees to be union members.)
Social Effects of the WarWestern states saw huge population growth as people moved there to work in defense industries. Phoenix and Albuquerque had been small towns, but suddenly became booming metropolises. San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego all grew fast; San Diego grew 147 % between 1941-45.
A large number of those who moved west for defense jobs were Black. During the War, Seattle Washington’s black population grew from 4,000 to 48,000. Portland, Oregon grew from 2,000 to 15,000.
Sex roles also changed. Nearly 200,000 women served in the services; either in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES. Also, 6 million women entered the workforce; an increase of over 50%; an increase in manufacturing of over 110%. Bu 1940, 15% of married women worked outside the home. Attitudes of women working changed also. In the depression, 80% opposed women working outside the home; by 1942, 60% favored hiring married women in defense industries.The government launched a campaign for women to work in defense industries used a figure known as "Rosie the Riveter. One ad read, "Do your part, free a man for service." One million African Americans served in the military during the war, most in segregated units. The most famous group were the Tuskegee Airmen, trained at a separate flight school in Tuskegee, Alabama. War industries were also had limited opportunities for blacks, although on the surface, the government appeared to oppose discrimination.
Hispanics were openly sought to work in the fields to replace American workers who were fighting in the war. By far the minority that supported the war effort the most were Native Americans. Almost 1/3 of eligible Native American men fought in the war. For many, they considered the homeland threatened; others saw it as a revival of the old warrior image; by far, the most common sentiment was patriotism, to defend their homeland.
Unlike African Americans, Native Americans were integrated into regular units. The most distinctive service of Native Americans was as "Code Talkers," who delivered coded messages by radio. The Japanese never mastered Native American language. Many used double codes: For instance: "iron fish," (submarine); "shooting turtle,’ (tank); and "fast shooter," (machine gun.)This was necessary because there were no equivalent words in Native American language. Navajo for Machine Gun is Machine Gun. Japanese Americans: Over 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent were ordered to "War Relocation Camps," by virtue of Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 of February 19, 1942. More than 60% were American citizens, many natural born; and precious few were disloyal; yet all were subjected to racial prejudice. The German and Italian Americans never suffered this indignity; the issue appears to have been entirely one of race. Many lost their homes, businesses, and jobs as a result. It remains one of the blackest chapters of mid twentieth century American history.
Many bitterly resented the reference to "Japs" when they were first and last Americans. One barbershop hung out a sign which advertised: "Free shaves for Japs; not responsible for accidents." Most Americans of Japanese ancestry supported the U.S. effort unreservedly. In one particular instance, an elderly gentleman born in Japan was asked by an interrogator, "whom do you want to win the war? " His reply was: "When your mother and father are fighting, you don’t want anyone to win; you just want them to stop fighting." His remarks did not save him from internment.
The War In Europe
Following word that the Japanese advance had been stopped in the Pacific, plans were made to defeat Germany first. This priority was because:
·Germany represented a more direct threat to the Western Hemisphere.
·German war potential was greater.
·German science was much more likely to come up with a new devastating weapon.
Said General George Marshall: Lose in the Atlantic and you lose everywhere.Despite the war plan, more Americans fought directly in the Pacific Campaign against the Japanese than in Europe.
Sir Winston Churchill came to Washington quickly after Pearl Harbor for consultations with Roosevelt. The result was an Anglo-American partnership that was at best, a "marriage of convenience." Said Churchill: "The only thing worse than fighting with Allies is fighting without them."Churchill was invited to a number of social functions while in Washington. On one occasion, dinner faire was chicken. He asked for a piece of breast, and his hostess rather crisply informed him that in America, the proper phrase was "white meat." Properly chastised, Sir Winston apologized. Several days later, the hostess received from Churchill a thank you note along with an Orchid. In the note, he said that he would be honored if she would wear the Orchid on her white meat. Although Churchill and Roosevelt liked each other personally, neither man trusted the other, and both pursued the interests of his own country at the expense of the alliance. Each deceived the other and, on occasion, even lied to one another. Roosevelt worried that Churchill drank too much. Churchill was troubled by Roosevelt’s faith in Stalin’s integrity, which Churchill considered naïve. In the end, Churchill was correct: Stalin was not to be trusted. American and British troops often fought together and coordinated war plans. The Soviets fought alone on the eastern front. It’s only cooperation was coordination of the timing of several major offensives.
January 1, 1942, representatives of 26 governments at war with the Axis signed the Charter of the United Nations, affirming the principles of the Atlantic Charter and promising not to make a separate peace with their common enemies.
The North Africa Campaign: November 8, 1942, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower landed at Casablanca, and surprised French forces under the Vichy government. Later, Gen. Bernard Montgomery, the British commander, confronted Gen. Erwin Rommel and forced him back across Libya. By May, 1943, all of North Africa was in Allied hands.Roosevelt and Churchill thereafter met at Casablanca to plan strategy. Stalin did not attend. Churchill’s plan to attack the "soft underbelly of the Axis" by invading Sicily was adopted. Meanwhile, MacArthur was dispatched to begin an offensive against the Japanese on the Pacific Islands. Roosevelt and Churchill announced before leaving Casablanca that the war would end only with the "unconditional surrender" of all enemies. Many scholars have criticized this statement, saying it only stiffened the resolve of the Germans and Japanese; and that neither surrender was totally unconditional. A bigger, and more serious consequence, was that it forced (or more appropriately "allowed") the Russians to pursue German troops all the way to Berlin. As they liberated the countries of Eastern Europe from Nazi control, they imposed communist control over them.
Turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic came when the British seized a German Enigma Machine and secretly decoded German messages. This allowed them to locate German submarine wolfpacks, and thereby avoid being sunk.
After North Africa, the Allies attacked Sicily. The Italian army, which never had much stomach for the fight, fell rapidly, and King Victor Emmanuel III notified Mussolini that he was no longer premier. The new regime offered not only to surrender, but also to switch sides. Mussolini was rescued by Hitler, and set up a puppet government in Northern Italy. Allied forces ultimately captured Naples and on June 4, 1944, entered Rome. Prior to the fall of Rome, fighting on the Italian peninsula had been miserable and muddy, in cold weather.
Early 1943, Americans launched their first raid on Germany itself. American planes bombed by day and the Royal Air Force by night. This kept the Germans on their toes, day and night. It did not, however, break German production of war materials; in fact it increased.
Earlier in the war, Germany had bombed civilian targets in England. Whether intentional or not, it had caused unprecedented horror, and the Allies returned the favor in kind. Churchill said that Germany was reaping the whirlwind it had started.
Notwithstanding the bombing of cities, American military leaders were aware of the priceless treasures of history located in German cities. Great care was taken to avoid striking them. When Cologne was bombed, American bombers dropped their bomb load when they were directly over the Great Cathedral (the tallest church in the World, over 1000 years old) knowing that the wind would carry the bombs away from the Cathedral. As a result, it was spared.
Gates visited the Cathedral and Cologne, and saw many structures still bearing marks of the bombing. The remains of several bombed churches are still standing, intentionally left unrepaired as a memorial – and reminder – of the horrors of war. More ironic—and moving—were memorials to German war dead in numerous cities, including Cologne, Hamburg, and Berlin. Those who died fighting for the German side had families also.
Fall, 1943, Roosevelt met with Churchill and Stalin at Teheran. England and the U.S. promised Stalin that a cross-Channel Invasion was coming, and the Soviets promised to enter the war against Japan as soon as Germany was defeated.
All three met with General Chiang Kai-shek in Cairo. The result was the Declaration of Cairo which said that war against Japan would continue until Japan’s unconditional surrender and all Chinese territories taken by Japan were restored to China. Also, Japan would lose the islands of the Pacific acquired after 1941, and "in due course, Korea shall become free and independent."
The invasion of France was planned at Teheran. Stalin promised to enter the war against Japan, and all three agreed to create an international organization to maintain peace after the war.
The planned cross-Channel crossing: Operation Overlord, was planned for June, 1944. The Germans anticipated the invasion, and had sowed the beaches with 4 million land mines, barbed wire, and antitank hedgehogs. Concrete blockhouses were set up to protect artillery and trenches, and camouflaged machine gun nests.
Eisenhower had serious doubts about the success of the operation’s success. His chief of staff predicted the possibility of success at no better than 50-50. Eisenhower kept in his pocket a press announcement in the event of failure: "My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone."
The invasion took place on June 6, 1944 – D Day. It did succeed, primarily due to the element of surprise. Allied intelligence agents had planted false reports that the invasion would take place at Pas de Calais, near the Belgian border, and the narrowest point in the English Channel. In fact, it was at Normandy, 200 miles south.
When Hitler learned of the invasion, he boasted: "the news couldn’t be better. As long as they were in Britain, we couldn’t get at them. Now we have them where we can destroy them.
The invasion almost failed. Several mistakes were made due to cloud cover and antiaircraft fire. Paratroopers missed landing sites and landing craft delivered troops to the wrong locations. Rough sees made many soldiers seasick and several craft capsized. Over a thousand men drowned. At Omaha Beach, bombers had failed to take out German defense mechanisms, and American hit water that was heavily mined. In one company, 197 out of 205 men were killed or wounded within ten minutes. By nightfall, the Allies had suffered 5,000 killed or wounded.
German losses were worse. Operation Overlord was the greatest military invasion in the history of warfare, and became the climactic battle of World War II.
As the Americans advanced, the German command suggested a strategic retreat to regroup, but Hitler refused, and ordered them to fight for every inch of ground. Gen. Rommel was convinced that all was lost and intrigued with others for a separate peace.
Rommel was one of several conspirators who hatched a scheme to assassinate Hitler. The plan was to place a brief case with a bomb under the table near Hitler. The bomb was delivered by a Col. Von Stauffenburg, a veteran who had lost an eye and arm in combat. He placed the brief case under the table, and excused himself to make a phone call. He then slipped away. When outside the gate, he heard the explosion, and called headquarters to tell them Hitler was dead. In Berlin, other conspirators seized the government and attempted to arrest government leaders.
Sadly, the plan had not worked. When Hitler sat at the table, a soldier moved the brief case because it was in the way. It was placed in a position so that the heavy support from the table blocked it from Hitler. When the bomb detonated, it killed the man seated nearest, and blew Hitler’s pants off, but he received only minor injuries. Von Stauffenburg only learned that Hitler was not dead when he heard Hitler on the radio describing the attempt on his life. He called his wife, and told her goodbye, as he knew he was dead. Rommel, who was home with his wife, was taken away by car and given the choice of suicide; which he took. He shot himself within five minutes of leaving his house. Other conspirators were hung on meat hooks and tied with piano wire. Films were made of their agonizing writhing, and the films were shown at Nazi parties.American troops liberated Paris on August 25, and the Nazi forces retreated toward Germany. By mid-September, most of France and Belgium were cleared of enemy troops. The battle moved much more quickly than expected. Gen. George Patton wanted to move toward Berlin, but Eisenhower decided against it. He was afraid a narrow movement of troops could be isolated and cut off, and ordered an advance across a wide front.
War in the PacificAmerican and Australian forces under Gen. MacArthur pushed the Japanese out of position on the coast of New Guinea. The Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington agreed that Macarthur should move west toward the Philippines and ultimately Tokyo. There was some disagreement, and they also implemented portions of a second plan proposed by Chester Nimitz. The decision was, sadly, a politically correct one. Both men had towering egos, and it was decided that neither should be slighted. C’est le guerre.
Allied forces began a campaign known as "leapfrogging," taking one Japanese stronghold at a time, and moving on. This was the most effective strategy of the war. Later, in April, 1943, American fighter planes shot down a plane that code breakers knew was carrying Admiral Yamamoto. He was deliberately targeted. His death was a shattering blow to Japanese morale.
A series of fierce battles in the Pacific islands followed. After the loss of the Marianas islands, General Tojo knew the war was lost; he and his entire cabinet resigned on July 18, 1944. General Kuniaki Koiso became premier.
MacArthur retook the Philippines next, landing on the Island of Leyte. He waded ashore behind the first landing and issued an announcement: "People of the Philippines: I have returned… . Rally to me… . Let no heart be faint." The Japanese fought fiercely, as the loss of the Philippines would cut them off from oil and other resources in the East Indies. They brought in fleets from three directions. The three encounters became collectively known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and was the largest naval engagement in history. It was also the first use of Kamikaze pilots against American carriers.Centuries before, the Japanese had been saved from an invasion by the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan when a hurricane blew his fleet off course. This hurricane became known as the "Kamikaze" – divine wind. This was the name given to the pilots who flew planes into American ships with the intent of sinking them. To qualify as a Kamikaze, one had to be single. He must write a letter to his parents, and also write his own funeral oration. After a ceremony with his friends, he took off with enough fuel to get his plane to his target, but not enough to return. The plane was loaded with explosives to inflict maximum damage.
To be selected as a Kamikaze was considered a great honor. One Japanese pilot volunteered but was turned down because he was married and had three children. He expressed his disappointment to his wife who then drowned herself and the three children so that he could qualify.
Meanwhile, back home, 1944 was an election year. Republicans nominated Thomas E. Dewey, the New York governor and crime fighter. A fight developed within the Democratic party over who would be Roosevelt’s running mate. The former Vice President, Henry Wallace, had angered southerners and northern city bosses because he was closely tied to organized labor. Roosevelt ultimately settled on Sen. Harry S. Truman of Missouri.
Dewey argued that younger men should take over and replace the tired blood left over from the New Deal. Roosevelt did appear ill and exhausted, but carried on, and won the election, and a fourth term in office, by an electoral vote of 432 to 99. He won the popular vote by a margin of 25.6 million to 22 million…….relatively close.
The Germans mounted a surprise counteroffensive in the Ardennes forest in late 1944, at the point where Allied lines were the thinnest. They established a fifty-mile bulge in Belgium and Luxembourg –hence The Battle of the Bulge. They stalled at Bastogne. On December 22, while surrounded by German forces, Gen. "Tony" McAuliffe received a message from the German commander offering terms of surrender. McAuliffe replied with a one word message: "nuts." The German major didn’t understand the message, and asked an American officer to translate, who said: "It’s the same as ‘Go to Hell.’ And I will tell you something else – if you continue to attack, we will kill every g.d. German that tries to break into this city. The forces remained isolated until December 26, when American forces broke through.
The Battle of the Bulge had destroyed Hitler’s last reserve units, and the Russians were advancing on the Eastern front. By March, they were on the banks of the Rhine, and on March 6, took Cologne. The next day, they seized the bride at Remagen before the Germans could blow it up. They then encircled the Ruhr valley, trapped 400,000 German soldiers, and pounded them into submission.
British and American troops were racing across Germany and the Soviets were moving in from the East. The question then became, who would get to Berlin first. Churchill didn’t trust Stalin, and was afraid if the Russians got there first, Stalin would have a dangerous advantage in determining how the map of Europe would look after the war. He told Eisenhower this, and urged him to get to Berlin first. Eisenhower refused, saying he didn’t want to mix politics with military strategy, and said that Berlin was of no military significance. Churchill appealed to Roosevelt, but Roosevelt was seriously ill at this point, and left the decision up to Eisenhower.
Eisenhower asked Gen. Omar Bradley the cost of taking Berlin, and Bradley estimated 100,000 casualties. He described this as a "pretty stiff price to pay for a prestigious objective." Eisenhower agreed, and left Berlin to the Soviets. This proved to be a fateful decision that would affect world politics and history for years to come.
The Yalta Conference: Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill met at Yalta, on the Crimean Peninsula February 4-11, 1945. Meeting place was the Czar’s Palace. The aim of this meeting was to shape the post-war world. Roosevelt wanted to ensure that the Soviets would enter the war against Japan, and to call a conference to plan a world organization to be held in the U.S. (Roosevelt now considered the failure of the U.S. to join the League of Nations to be a mistake, which might have precluded the present war.) The Yalta Conference decided that the new organization, the United Nations, would have five permanent members on a Security Council: The U.S., Britain, the Soviet Union, France, and China.
It was also decided that postwar Germany would be occupied by the Allied Powers: The Soviets in the East, and the West jointly by France, Great Britain, and the U.S. The Soviets requested reparations of $20 Billion. There was never agreement on this amount; however when they occupied East Germany, the Soviets appropriated that amount and more of machinery and equipment.
In a trip to formerly East Germany in 1993, Gates learned that he Soviets had even pulled up Railroad lines for the iron. The railroad system was left in tatters for many years. No improvements were made on buildings; structures bombed during the war were left in shambles. Anything that might have been used to rebuild the East was shipped to Moscow.
The Soviets also demonstrated their true colors in Poland. Originally, they had been part of a secret pact with Hitler to divide Poland, and had invaded from the East when he had invaded from the West. IN 1940, the Soviets had executed over 14,000 captured Polish officers. Now when they re-entered Poland for the second time in 1944, they established a provision government, the Committee for National Liberation at Lublin. An underground resistance erupted against the Nazi regime, which might also have resisted the Soviets, so they Soviets simply stopped their offensive, and waited two months while the Nazi’s slaughtered Poles by the thousand who might have otherwise been potential rivals. They then marched through unopposed, and the puppet Government at Lublin was unchallenged. This was an ironic and cruel twist of fate. Great Britain and France had gone to war to protect Poland, and now the country was abandoned to the Soviets.
Shi: "The optimism about postwar cooperation could survive such events was a triumph of hope over experience."
The failure of the Allies to stall the Soviets was reminiscent of Wilson’s attempts to win support for the League of Nations. He had conceded far more than he should in order to win support from the allies, including their demands upon Germany. Now, Roosevelt conceded far more than he should in order to secure Russian cooperation in the war against Japan. It is also quite possible that his ill health came into play.
The Yalta Declaration of Liberated Europe restated the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the United Nations; but proved to be of no effect whatsoever. The Soviets suppressed any opposition in occupied territories, set up their own puppet governments, and were, says Shi, "not acting under the Yalta accords, but in violation of them."
One of the biggest mistakes of Yalta was made in plans for the Far East. These plans were not made public until after the war. At the time, the Japanese were still fighting, and it was estimated that the war would last another 18 months. As a condition of entering the war against Japan, Stalin demanded Soviet control of Outer Mongolia (he planned to set up a puppet government, the Peoples Republic); the Kurile Islands (taken by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905) and other territory lost by Japan.
Roosevelt was thoroughly ill after the conference. His illness at that time, his eagerness to bring the Soviets into the War against Japan, and his belief that Stalin could be trusted led him to make concessions that in the wisdom of hindsight were grave errors. (It appears that Churchill’s belief that Roosevelt’s trust of Stalin was naïve were in fact correct.) He traveled to his home in Warm Springs, Georgia to rest. While there, he sat for a portrait to be painted. While talking to the artist, he suddenly fell from the chair to the floor. He had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke) and died. The date was April 12, 1945. He never lived to see the surrender of Germany, which came only a few weeks later.
Vice President Harry S. Truman was playing cards when he learned of Roosevelt’s death. When he received the phone call, he exclaimed "Jesus Christ and General Jackson!" He was sworn in almost immediately, and then went to the White House to offer his condolences to Roosevelt’s widow. Upon seeing her, he said, "Mrs. Roosevelt, is there anything we can do for you?" Her reply was, "No, Mr. President, is there anything WE can do for YOU. You are the one in trouble now."
Allied forces met Soviet Forces at the Elbe River in Germany on April 25. Three days later, Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and killed. (He and his mistress were shot, dragged through the streets, and their bodies hanged by their ankles from a garage door for the world to see.) Hitler, in the Führerbunker, married his mistress and then committed suicide with her. On May 2, Berlin fell to the Soviets, and German forces in Germany surrendered. Hitler’s successor, Adm. Karl Doernitz, attempted to surrender to Eisenhower, but Eisenhower would not act accept in concert with the Soviets. On May 7, Gen. Alfred Jodl, Chief of Staff of German armed forces, signed an instrument of unconditional surrender. The Thousand Year Reich had lasted just over twelve years.)
May 8, 1945 became known as V-E day. The celebration was tempered by the death of Roosevelt, and the discovery of the horrors of the Holocaust. Although rumors of persecution of Jews had surfaced, no one conceived of the unspeakable tragedy of the "final solution to the Jewish question." All in all, over six million Jews had been persecuted.Gates’ good friend, Ernest G. Lion, was incarcerated at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, two of the worst camps. He miraculously escaped from a death march, and survived the ovens several times by sheer luck. His wife was not so fortunate. She was taken from the trains directly to the ovens. His story is told in his book, The Fountain at the Crossroads. I highly recommend it for any student of the holocaust for an unvarnished first person account of the true horrors of the camps. The war in the Pacific raged on, where the Japanese resistance was fierce. AT Iwo Jima, needed for fighter escorts over Japan, six weeks were required to secure the island. Over 7,000 Americans were killed. The fighting for Okinawa was even fiercer. It could be used as a staging area for an attack on Japan. Japanese resistance was unusually ferocious, including Kamikaze attacks by the hundreds. In the end, the remnants of the Japanese Navy were destroyed. By the end of the fighting, over 140,000 Japanese and 42 000 Okinawans were dead. Cultural attitudes towards fighting and surrender among the Japanese were misunderstood by Americans. The Japanese had not lost a war in over 5,000 years, and defeat was almost not in their vocabulary. To the Japanese, death was infinitely more desirable than surrender, which was considered an unspeakable disgrace. Japanese soldiers did not weigh the odds; they just fought. Only those who were too weak to resist were captured as POW’s. This fact made the fighting unbelievably fierce, as the Japanese would fight to the last man for the last inch of soil. The Japanese also did not understand how Americans would surrender, who wanted to live because of family back home. For this reason, they considered Americans who surrendered to have disgraced themselves, and treated them with severe cruelty. During the Bataan death march, American POW’s who stumbled or could no longer march were shot on the spot. In the invasion of one of the islands (Okinawa, I think), thousands of women and children plus elderly people jumped from a cliff and committed suicide rather than accept surrender.
When Okinawa fell, the emperor instructed the new Premier to seek peace terms. Washington intercepted the message, but interpreted it to be either a stall or an effort to avoid unconditional surrender.The Bomb
President Truman had learned of the first successful test of an A-Bomb in the summer of 1945. Work had been underway for several years, but as Vice President, he had been kept out of the loop. In one of the supreme ironies of history, the Germans were ahead of the U.S. A scientific journal in 1939 revealed that the Germans had split a Uranium atom and experiments were continuing. However, Nazi bigotry towards the Jews forced most of the scientists working on the experiment (who were Jewish) into exile. On October 11, 1939, Roosevelt had received a letter from Albert Einstein explaining the potential of a nuclear bomb, and said that the Germans were close to developing the bomb, in fact they might develop it before the U.S. As a result of this info, Roosevelt had diverted $2 Billion in funds to the Manhattan Project, which was top secret.
The first test of the bomb was on July 16, 1945 at Los Alamos, New Mexico, under the direction of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer said that, in the observation bunker, "a few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent." Many people congratulated him on his accomplishments. Perhaps the most telling comment was when one said to him, "Oppie, now we’re all S.O.B.’s.
Some consideration was given to setting off the bomb in a remote area as a scare technique. This idea was abandoned, because there were only two bombs, and they might misfire. Four cities were considered as likely targets. Kyoto was eliminated as it was the center of many Japanese national and religious treasures. Finally, Hiroshima was selected, because it was a major assembly center for war materiel. It was also headquarters of the Second General Army and command center for homeland defenses. Truman had written that only military installations and personnel were to be targeted. Said he, "no women and children." No one, including Truman, had any idea of the potential damage the bomb could cause.
There has been much debate that Truman’s use of the bomb was not so much to end the war quickly as to demonstrate to Stalin and the Soviets of U.S. power. He was not the trusting soul that FDR had been. In fact, there is a DBQ on this very issue.
Truman met at Potsdam, Germany with Churchill and Stalin on July 25, 1945 at which time they issued the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, which said that Japan must surrender, or suffer "prompt and utter destruction."Truman demonstrated his true nature at Potsdam. While being driven back to his quarters from the meetings, he saw an American G.I walking, and ordered his driver to stop and offer the soldier a ride. The soldier was understandably impressed that the Commander in Chief would do this. In the midst of polite conversation in the car, the soldier told Truman, "I’ve been here a while, and know my way around pretty well. If there’s anything you want, maybe a woman…." That was the wrong thing to say to Truman. He ordered the car stopped and told the soldier to get out and walk….in no uncertain terms.
Gates visited the Potsdam Conference center when in Berlin in 1993. It is not an impressive building; what was impressive was the huge red star formed by flowers on the front lawn, and a sign in Russian, German, and English on how the star was present, and well represented, at the Conference. The star, of course, was the symbol of the Communist government.There had been intense debate in the U.S. over the use of the bomb, but Truman had never once considered not using it. He later said, "Let there be no mistake about it. I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it would be used." The bomb was an alternative to an invasion of the Japanese Islands, which would result in the Japanese fighting "like savages, ruthless and fanatic." The fact they would fight so ferociously had been demonstrated in the fighting of Okinawa. Plans were underway for an amphibious invasion of Japan to begin on November 1, 1945. It was estimated that the invasion would cost 250,000 American lives, plus the 100,000 American POW’s in Japan would be executed as soon as the invasion began. Even more Japanese would die.
Use of the bomb was considered the next logical step. The Japanese navy had been destroyed, and American forces roamed the Japanese coastline and attacked targets at will. Major cities, including Tokyo and Nagoya were firebombed frequently. Since many structures in the cities were made of wood, the devastation was unbelievable. In a single night in March, 1945, a raid on Tokyo killed over 100,000 civilians and left over 1 million people homeless. By July, more than 500,000 people had been killed, and over 13 million were homeless.
At this stage, the bombing of cities and killing of civilians as a result was considered an acceptable risk. The Nazi’s had started this when they bombed London, so Allies had bombed German cities with abandon. Even so, no one dreamed of the utter devastation the bomb would wreak. Estimates had been that 20,000 people would be killed.
"It’s like a Peek into Hell:" August 6, 1945, Col. Paul W. Tibbetts left Tinian Island at 2 a.m. aboard the Enola Gay, A B-29 Bomber named for his mother. The bomb, nicknamed "little boy," was dropped at 8:15 a.m. from 31,600 ft over Hiroshima. He turned sharply to avoid the blast; and the bomb detonated 43 seconds later at 1,900 feet altitude. The force was equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. The resultant fireball was over 40,000 feet in height. Said the Enola Gay’s tail gunner: "It’s like bubbling molasses out there…the mushroom is spreading out…fires are springing up everywhere…it’s like a peek into hell."
Over 80,000 people were killed instantly. Most were vaporized. The blast was so intense that the shadows of people walking to work were burned into the sidewalk. The shadows, eerily accurate representations of human beings, are still present today. Many survivors were so painfully burned that skin peeled in strips from their bodies. By the end of the year, 140,000 people died. For the next 50 years, survivors of the blast died from radiation induced illness, a result of the bomb. Seventy thousand buildings were destroyed. Four square miles of the city were flattened.
Americans were at first elated by news of the blast, as it promised an end to the war. Said the Omaha World Herald, "No tears of sympathy will be shed in America for the Japanese people. Had they possessed a comparable weapon at Pearl Harbor, would they have hesitated to use it?" More pensive were the remarks of Hanson Baldwin in the New York Times: "We clinched victory in the Pacific, but we sowed the whirlwind."
Two days later, the Russians, anxious to share in the spoils, quickly entered the war against Japan. On August 8, the second bomb exploded over Nagasaki, killing 356,000 people. Ironically, at the time the Japanese Cabinet had been meeting to consider terms of surrender. Their only condition—that the Emperor remain sovereign—was ultimately accepted. The war could have ended sooner had the Allies understood the sacred reverence in which Hirohito was held by the Japanese people.
The night of the Nagasaki bombing, Hirohito told his people they must "bear the unbearable" and surrender, on the sole condition that he remain sovereign. The U.S. accepted this condition, provided he serve under the authority of the Allied Supreme Commander. Finally, on August 14, 1945, the Emperor addressed his people be radio (unprecedented in Japanese history) to inform them of the surrender. Even so, a last ditch attempt to overthrow him had to be crushed.
On September 2, 1945, representatives of the Japanese Government surrendered to Gen. Douglas MacArthur aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor, after which MacArthur assumed military command of Japan from the Imperial Palace.The surrender ceremony, which lasted only a few minutes, is preserved on film. The representatives of the Japanese government appeared in formal dress, signifying the profundity of the occasion. MacArthur didn’t even wear a tie. He was in uniform with his collar open, and never removed his sunglasses. Perhaps he wished to lord it over the Japanese. Perhaps he was simply being the conceited, self-centered power-hungry, imperialistic scoundrel that Gates will always consider him to be. It seems that at this moment, when a people who had not known defeat in 5,000 years faced a moment none hoped they would live to see, he might have been more gracious in victory. It is most likely that he was already beginning his run for the White House….or more appropriately, his plans to run the country by whatever means. What a jerk!!
The Ledger of the War
World War II had been the deadliest war in human history. It is estimated that over 70 million people fought in the war, with over 25 million military dead, and 24 million civilian dead. Military expenditures were over $1 trillion; property losses twice that amount. The greatest losses were by the Soviets: 13 million military and 7 million civilian deaths, 25 million homeless.
The war was also the costliest for the U.S. than any other foreign war: 292,000 battlefield deaths, 114,000 related deaths. In proportion to population, the U.S. suffered a far smaller loss than any of the Allies, and other than Pearl Harbor, no American territory was devastated.
American life and society was never the same after the war. The War had ended the great depression, and started an era of unprecedented growth and prosperity. New technology: radar, computers, plastics, synthetics, jet engines, atomic energy, all found uses in the private sector. New opportunities for blacks and women emerged which would culminate in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and the feminist movement of the 1970’s.
The Democrats gained control of the White House and Congress. Presidential power and prestige increased enormously, and Isolationism was relegated to the trash heap of history: the U.S. was now a global power with global responsibilities.
The U.S. was left as the strongest power on earth, militarily and economically. However, the Soviet Union also emerged as a great power; the greatest in Eurasia with huge expanses of territory under its control.
Shi: "Just a little over a century after Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville had predicted that western Europe would come to be overshadowed by the power of the United States and Russia, his prophecy had come to pass."