The first thing to know about World War II is that it was a big war, a war that lasted 2,174 days and claimed an average of 27,600 lives every day, or 1,150 an hour, or 19 a minute, or one death every three seconds. One, two, three, snap. One, two, three, snap.
In an effort to get our arms around this greatest calamity in human history, let's examine 10 things every American ought to know about the role of the U.S. Army in WWII.
The U.S. Army was a weakling when the European war began in earnest on Sept. 1, 1939, with the German invasion of Poland. The U.S. Army ranked 17th among armies in size and combat power, just behind Romania. It numbered 190,000 soldiers. It would grow to nearly 8.5 million by 1945.
When mobilization began in 1940, the Army had only 14,000 professional officers. The senior ranks were dominated by political hacks of certifiable military incompetence. Not a single officer on duty in 1941 had commanded a unit as large as a division in World War I. The Army's cavalry chief assured Congress that four well-spaced horsemen could charge and destroy an enemy machine-gun nest without sustaining a scratch.
The U.S. Army for a long time after we entered the war was not very good. Part of the WWII mythology is that all the brothers were valiant and all the sisters were virtuous. War is the most human of enterprises, and it reveals every human foible and frailty, as well as human virtues: cowardice and tomfoolery, as well as courage and sacrifice. The Greatest Generation appellation is nonsense.
In the first couple years of American involvement the Army was burdened with clearly inferior equipment and commanders. Those first couple years of war required a sifting out, an evaluation at all levels within the Army of the competent from the incompetent, the physically fit from the unfit.
It has sometimes been argued that in an even fight, when you matched one American battalion or regiment against a German battalion or regiment, the Germans tended to be superior, the better fighters. But who said anything about an even fight? Global war is a clash of systems. What matters is which system can generate the combat power needed to prevail, whether it's in the form of the 13,000 Allied warplanes available on D-day; the 10:1 American advantage in artillery ammunition often enjoyed against the Germans; or the ability to design, build and detonate an atomic bomb. What matters is which system can produce the men capable of organizing the shipping, the rail and truck transportation, the stupendous logistical demands of global war.
Germany could not cross the English Channel, which is only 21 miles wide, to invade Britain. The United States projected power across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific and into Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Power-projection, adaptability, versatility, ingenuity, preponderancethese are salient characteristics of the U.S. Army in WWII.
This is an important essay penned by Rick Atkinson for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Every young American whose mind has been mismanaged with great liberal skill needs to understand a few facts about her own nation. Please take a few minutes of your post-modernist attention span, and give Atkinson's full essay a chance to sink into your slippery post-American sensibilities. Our brave young men and women who died in WWII as well as other conflicts in which the nation stood battle deserve your consideration. Let's not continue to confuse the cold harsh reality as demonstrated by Dick Cheney this week with the rose-colored wishful thinking of President Obama.
We are now engaged in another war with an enemy just as pernicious as Nazi Germany. We must again stand firm and undivided against our enemies and produce this victory over a totalitarian machine. But like in those early days of WWII, America begins from a weak position, a position that the Islamic enemy exploits with well-honed strategic genius.
America this time staggers from a system whose industrial base has been abandoned in favor of an argumentative human resource and legal infrastructure that has been allowed to deteriorate. This war is not about silly romantic notions of relative values or moral egotism. This is about defeating an enemy that that been quite outspoken on the one hand that it wants to conquer, enslave, or annihilate the sorry House of the West, while on the other hand sends in its oil-rich infiltrators with manipulating claims of being either stealth allies and trading partners of the West, as well as relentlessly demanding victims of Western hospitality at every twist and turn in playing the system of political correctness to its own dualistic endgame.
Stand up. Be counted. Liberty must be defended, or it WILL be lost.