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

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