American Home Front

American Home Front

     During World War II, the American home front was nearly as important as the actual military fronts in the various theaters of combat.  If it were not for the home front and all the work in the factories, the military would not have been able to conduct the war as it had, or as successfully.  It is common sense that a soldier that isn’t well equipped can’t do his job properly.  The home front was one of the most integral parts of the successful Allied armies.

When America entered World War II in December 1941, it was totally unprepared.  Public opinion was almost universally opposed to entering the war until the attack on Pearl Harbor, and this stance of isolationism made it very difficult for President Roosevelt to prepare the nation for the impending conflict ahead of time.  His attempts to develop the American armaments industry went slowly and he could not get legislation for a standby draft passed until 1940. This sluggishness in being prepared for conflict is a direct result of the denial that almost all Americans were under, ignoring the fact that events in the world would affect them.  Being so far removed from all the effects of the war, and the bombings, lulled the Americans into the conviction that they could not be touched and that if they just kept out of the war, the war would leave them alone.  This sense of safety kept the American public from viewing the war objectively, and consequently, they acted as if it did not matter.

Then they were attacked.  The shock of the attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed the feeling of security felt by Americans even while the smoke was still clearing from the bomb blasts on Battleship Row.  The war had come to America, and suddenly, the giant that was America, was awake and bent on defending itself.  With the realization that safety was no longer a given came the understanding of America’s responsibility to face its enemies and defend itself against aggressors, as well as helping others to do the same.

Once war was declared, the United States began to mobilize the entire economy.  More than 12 million men were brought into the armed forces to conduct military operations, and the industrial capacity of the United States was revived to become the most formidable production machine ever known.  The population was mobilized like never before, with paper drives and victory gardens.  A ration card system was instituted.  People were encouraged to conserve on everything from gasoline to dairy products, sugar, oil, and many other commodities as well.  Tin and other metals were collected and melted for use.  War bond rallies were also used to help finance the war in ever increasing measures.  This was the first total war and complete mobilization that the entire country had ever known.

tank assembly line Cleveland

            The mobilized United States economy was a formidable machine that produced vast amounts of material.  The American arms industry literally buried the Axis powers in tanks, planes and ships.  For example, during the war, America produced 274, 979 aircraft between 1939 and 1944.  Germany, which was proud of its fine air force, built only 110,202 aircraft, and Japan only 67,757 during the same period.  These numbers are deceiving as well.  America built massive numbers of heavy bombers, which means that by weight, the United States built triple the amount of pounds of aircraft than both Germany and Japan combined. This is but one example of the way that American industry outstripped all of the other powers in dramatic ways during the war. b-24 Liberator factory

             The incredible response of the American citizenry and the economy, to the declaration of war, and the war effort at home, is typical in American history.  Americans rise to the task set before them.  A brief overview of American history will show that Americans will sacrifice for something that is considered worthwhile.  In the Revolutionary War, Independence was considered worthwhile, and the sacrifices required of the colonies by that conflict were considerable for almost all, and tremendous for many.  Nevertheless, Americans sacrificed and won freedom.  The Civil War is another example.  Rightly or wrongly, the sacrifices made by the Southern States to gain what they considered to be worthwhile almost defy belief.  The colonization of the West is another example.  Those who went west for a new life were greeted with the prospect of nothing but a life of hard toil.  Nevertheless, people flooded west.  What is important to the American people is that they see the benefit to be gained by the trials they are going through.  No one sacrifices for the sake of sacrificing.

-Wyatt Fairlead

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C.S. Lewis Broadcast.

I thought this was neat. I had never heard his voice before. He just has a way of thinking whether you agree with everything that he says or not, that makes you want to listen.  I thought this was interesting as it was broadcast during World War II.  I dare say a lot of Londoners had prayer on their minds at this time.

-Wyatt Fairlead

World War II

World War II

D-Day, 1944

            World War II is the single greatest war in the history of the world.  Spanning four continents and three oceans, involving every major power, and dozens of smaller ones, World War II truly was a world war.  Few events could be listed that even come close to changing the way the world both looks and operates as much as this conflict did.  During this conflict great advances were made technologically.  Geographic changes also occurred, as decolonization was a major result of this war.  Furthermore, it saw the rise of two new superpowers, which eclipsed all the old guard of Europe; the United States and the Soviet Union.  All this change from one cataclysmic conflict, and the world has never been the same.

The world was completely destabilized after World War I.  Two massive empires whose rule stretched back for centuries had come to a sudden end.  Numerous small states were now forming, and Germany, the dominant political and industrial power of Central Europe, was on its knees.  Following quickly on the heels of this major war was the Great Depression, which caused financial crisis in Europe and the United States, further adding to the destabilization.  It is with this backdrop that Hitler came to power in Germany, promising the suffering German people relief and eventual prosperity under a new socialist government.  After gaining power, Hitler made bold moves, rebuilding German heavy industry and the military, particularly the air force, all of which were directly prohibited by the Versailles Accords.  When no response or reprimand was given by the victorious powers, he went a step further and reoccupied the Rhineland.  The apathetic victorious powers just looked on.  Hitler continued to take step after step, first Austria, then Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, and then finally, the joint invasion of Poland with Russia.

b-17 flying fortress

When Poland was invaded, Britain and France were forced to declare war on Germany.  Both had treaties with Poland.  Germany had gone too far.  The war had begun.  With characteristic planning and proficiency, the Germans executed the most textbook example of blitzkrieg tactics in its invasion and subjugation of France, hurling the British Expeditionary Force back across the channel.

It was to this dark and ominous backdrop that America entered the stage of World War II.  America entered in December 1941.  The British were contained in their island fortress and under siege from the Luftwaffe and the German navy.  The British Forces in North Africa were hard pressed by “the Desert Fox,” Erwin Rommel, and France was under Germany’s thumb, ruled by the puppet Vichy government.  Russia was suffering greatly as Operation Barbarossa was advancing swiftly into the heart of the Soviet Union’s most productive territory.

America’s entrance into World War II, at such a bleak time for the Allies, serves only to magnify the change that such action was able to achieve.  At the beginning of the war, America was actively opposed to entering the war.  The last thing America wanted to do was to save Europe from itself again. This isolationism may have had a great deal to do with the fact that at the opening of the war, the Great Depression still held the American economy in its grip.  The last thing Americans wanted to do was fix Europe’s problems when there were still problems that needed fixing here.  All this changed, however, on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

The day that lives in infamy was the day America woke up to the reality of the war.  Eventually, it would come to America.  The question was whether we would wait, or whether we would confront it.  Congress’s declaration of war on Japan, and the subsequent declaration of war on America by Germany, officially involved America in World War II and created the industrial base necessary to win the war for the Allies.

America’s effect on World War II was multifaceted.  Among the most obvious is the fact that once mobilized, American industry was unmatched worldwide.  The amount of war material produced in U.S. factories literally buried the Axis powers. America became the “arsenal of democracy”.  America also provided enormous amounts of manpower to the allied effort in Europe, and conducted the war in the Pacific theater almost single handedly.  This fresh blood was necessary in a war weary Europe, already two and a half years into the hostilities and not yet fully recovered from the Great War.  In addition to this, American entrance into the war was a boost for Allied morale and to any German general contemplating the consequences, a significant blow to the chances of Germany being able to successfully win the war.  In this way, even barring all the material and manpower considerations, having an ally that was not being forced back onto itself, as Russia was, and was not surrounded by prowling submarines and being pushed back in Africa, as the British were, significantly improved the Allies’ will to continue fighting.  It gave them hope of relief.

iwo_jima

In conclusion, America’s entrance to World War II was hugely significant, and had a direct impact on turning the war in the Allies’ favor.  While America’s entrance was late, as seems to be its want, the affect it had was still decisive and important.  World War II not only changed the world, but it changed America.  It made America the preeminent power in the world and forced Americans to realize that they could not hide away.  It was their turn to lead.

Wyatt Fairlead

The Great War

The Great War

 

World War I, commonly known in Europe as the Great War, was truly the greatest war the world had know up to that time.  In terms of material cost, manpower, loss of life, number of nations involved, and sheer scope, this war dwarfed everything else the world had experienced.  Despite it’s magnitude and clear effect on the development of Europe as we know it today, there is considerable controversy over why it ever happened.  It is clear that very little effort was made to prevent it from occurring.  What is even more abundantly clear is that, in the beginning, neither side had any concept of the war would become.

World War I is a confusing mass of European power politics and treaties.  While the true cause and motivations of the individual nations is in many cases unclear, or at least controversial, there is no doubt that the assassination of the Archduke of the Austro-Hungarian empire and his wife, by a Bosnian Serb extremist, created the spark that ignited the blaze.  Through an intricate web of treaties and promises, almost all the great powers in the world of the time became involved, falling into the two baskets of the allied and central powers.  The allies, led by Great Britain, France and the Russian Empire, known as the triple Entente, also included Italy, Japan, Belgium, Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania and the Czechoslovak regions.  Opposed to the Triple Entente, were the Central powers comprised of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, as well as the Kingdom of Bulgaria.

While the First World War was predominantly fought in Europe, and not globally like World War II, the empires that were controlled by the warring powers covered a vast majority of the world.  In this sense, most of the world was involved in the Great War, if only vicariously through the colonizing nation.  Furthermore, with the exception of America early on in the war (America joined the fray in April 1917), all of the global powers were represented in some fashion.  In this way, World War I was very much a war that encompassed the world.

Perhaps it could not have been called a World War before America entered the war on the side of the Allies, but with America’s belated entrance in 1917, every major world power became represented.  America’s late entrance into the war was a by-product of American sense of independence.  Since the War of 1812, America had been free of direct European influence.  All interaction with Europe had been voluntary, and the view prevailed that events “over there across the ocean” had little to no effect on America.  When European rumblings and smoldering finally ignited into a blaze, sentiment in America was to stay out of it.  It was not our responsibility. America simply declared neutrality and continued to trade with both sides.  This trade gradually, however, began to favor the allied cause more than the Central powers, and German U-boats began to conduct unrestricted warfare.  Now that United States sovereignty was threatened, America decided that action was necessary.

By the time America entered the war, Continental Europe had turned itself into an inferno.  Trenches stretched from the North Sea to Switzerland.  Campaign after bloody campaign had pushed hundreds of thousands of men to their deaths somewhere in the no man’s land between the trenches.  In the five-month Battle of the Somme, which started on July 1 and ended November 25, 1916, the casualties combined casualties topped 1,300,000, and in the first day alone, the British suffered 60,000 casualties, 19,000 of whom were killed. On top of the carnage of battle, disease and horrendous conditions in the trenches also caused problems for the combatants.  For the allies, the French suffered significantly during the war endured a horrifying 1.3 million dead and 4.2 million wounded during the war.

No Man's Land

Bitterness caused by the appalling mathematics of war, played out in four short years, made recriminations against the central powers, after their defeat (Germany in effect, as the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman empire’s ceased to exist), equally as vengeful.  The terms placed upon Germany in the Versailles Accords were so punitive that the German economy would never be able to recover under them.  Germany was required to pay massive reparations to the allies, which would cripple the economy.  On top of this, German territory was significantly reduced and its industrial capacity nearly eliminated.  During the Great Depression that followed, the suffering of the average German was tremendous.  The German State had to either revive and shake itself free from the debilitating requirements of the Versailles Accords, or sink into obscurity.

In conclusion, the punitive peace of World War 1 was as much the cause of World War II as any other factor.  Germany’s inability to live under the Versailles Accords, meant another war must follow; a war even more terrible than the first.  The Great War, “the war to end all wars,” fell prey to itself and caused it’s own demise.  Far from preventing war, it set the stage for the worst conflict ever known.

Wyatt Fairlead

The Splendid Little War

This is a short little essay I had to do discussing what I thought Ambassador hays meant when he referred to the Spanish American War as a “ splendid little war.”  I personally thought this was rather a silly topic to write on, as his meaning seems quite clear if you know anything about the war, but it gave me a good opportunity to give a brief synopsis of the war for anyone who doesn’t know about this minor war.

The Splendid Little War

            The famous quote by American Ambassador John Hay that the Spanish American War was a “splendid little war,” was a comprehensive statement.  In our day and age such a statement might be looked on with some disdain, as it seems to revel in a bloody conflict, as all wars are.  But whether this phrase was truly a statement of enjoyment or merely a statement of fact, it was from an American perspective, entirely accurate.  All of America’s stated political objectives were met, and it received several colonies in addition.  In this essay, Ambassador Hay’s words will be treated as a statement of fact.

A brief summary of the events of the Spanish American War will help us to illustrate exactly what the Ambassador meant by his exuberant quote.  The explosion of the battleship Maine on February 15, 1898, was merely the catalyst that pushed Americans over the brink to declare war on the Spanish.  The Spanish colony of Cuba had long been the soft spot for the American sensibilities of independence and freedom from oppression.  Beyond this, however, were added economic considerations.  Continued Cuban rebellions against their oppressive Spanish masters was bad for American business there, and the Americans had much interest in the island for this reason as well.  Now, with the sinking of the Maine as a rallying cry, public sentiment at last was empowered and overcame the reluctant President McKinley.  America declared war on Spain.

           USS Maine

The American Navy was the first branch to take action, quickly blockading Cuba.   The Asiatic squadron under the command of Commodore Dewey also sailed for Manila Bay to attack the Spanish fleet there.  This battle of Manila Bay was the first example of the “splendid little war.”  The Spanish fleet was utterly destroyed and the American fleet only suffered nine casualties.  A more ideal outcome to a naval conflict could hardly be imagined.  It was certainly “splendid” news for the nervous President.  Back in the East, the Navy once again had a Spanish Fleet trapped in a harbor.  The Spanish Admiral Cervera had sailed his ships from the Cape Verde Islands to Santiago, where he was summarily confined by Rear Admiral William Sampson.  The army was somewhat slower, but by mid-June, Major General William Shafter had 17,000 men ready to sail for Cuba.  When they arrived, however, the disembarkation of the troops and supplies was anything but ideal.  It took four days before all the men were ashore.  If part of the war wasn’t providing “splendid” news it was the army’s logistical troubles and miscommunications with the Navy.  But even here, while the operations weren’t going smoothly, neither were they being opposed by the enemy, which is certainly “splendid news to any commander who is having difficulty getting his men deployed and his supplies ashore.

With his troops ashore, Shafter marched on Santiago and soon forced the Spanish back to their inner defenses.  With the Americans approaching by land, Admiral Cervera decided to brave the American blockade on 3 July and attempted to break out of the harbor.  Once again the American fleet devastated the Spanish, taking even fewer casualties than they had in the Battle of Manila Bay.  The Spanish garrison soon surrendered the city and Cuba came under American control.  On July 25, General Miles landed on Puerto Rico and advanced across the island with almost no opposition.  Peace came before the capture of San Juan could even be made.

 Roosevelt's Rough Riders

In conclusion, the Spanish American war was indeed “a splendid little war” for America.  From the opening shots at Manila Bay, to the end of hostilities, the Spanish American War lasted just over three months.  All the political objectives that were decided upon were accomplished.  The extra bonus of additional territories was above and beyond the political expectations for the war.  The war could not have been more successful.