The Decline and Rebirth of the American Military
November 12, 1918 to December 6, 1941
Because the United States military undertook its first World War II offensive operations in the Pacific within only eight months of Pearl Harbor, most historians and readers of the war’s history depict and perceive the quick transition in 1942 from defensive war to offensive war as a miracle.
In the miraculous narrative Americans have written for themselves, the peace-loving and ill-prepared sleeping giant, the United States, is suddenly struck by enemies who use her peace-loving ways against her, while a mere sprinkling of gallant, dedicated soldiers, sailors, and airmen fight overwhelming odds to barely hold the line against an unremitting backdrop of tearful defeats. Meanwhile, U.S. industry suddenly—instantly—becomes a magical “Arsenal of Democracy” that produces uncountable tanks and ships and guns, not to mention trained soldiers, sailors, and airmen in their legions, fleets, and air armadas that will smash the wiliest and most powerful enemies ever before confronted. The appearance of all that materiel, and all those battle-ready young men so soon after the Pearl Harbor attack, looks exactly like a miracle.
There was no miracle.
Celebrated military historian Eric Hammel’s cool appraisal of the facts reveals that America's stunning and overwhelming moral response to German and Japanese aggression in the mid- and late 1930s, a response that eventually brought a huge portion of the globe within its embrace, was far less a miracle than an inexorable force of nature. America was a sleeping giant. But the decision to turn the entire force and will of a hard-working, innovative nation to arming for war was not made in the wake of Pearl Harbor. By Pearl Harbor, an alliance of the American government, American industry, and the American military community was already close to complete preparedness. The real story of America’s preparations for World War II had begun in mid-November 1938.
The Forge was previously published as How America Saved the World.
Events overtook the plan, however, when Pearl Harbor was bombed before the Lanikai could get underway. When Bataan and Corregidor fell, she was ordered to set sail for Australia and became one of the few U.S. naval vessels to escape the Philippines. In this book Tolley tells the saga of her great adventure during these grim, early days of the war and makes history come alive as he regales the reader with details of the operation and an explanation of President Roosevelt's order. Tolley's description of their escape in Japanese warship-infested waters ranks with the best of sea tales, and few will be able to forget the Lanikai's 4,000-mile, three-month odyssey.
Ten leading military historians ask these and other questions in this fascinating book. The war with Japan was rife with difficult choices and battles that could have gone either way. These fact-based alternate scenarios offer intriguing insights into what might have happened in the Pacific during World War II, and what the consequences would have been for America.
Included are Admiral William S. Sullivan's account of the problems involved in clearing Manila Harbor of some five hundred wrecked vessels left by the departing Japanese and Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid's description of the communications breakdown at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. There are also the very personal recollections of humor and horror told by the unknown actors in the war: the hospital corpsman, the coxswain, and the machinist's mate. Originally published in 1986, this volume is an unusual and lasting tribute to the ingenuity and teamwork demonstrated by America's forces in the Pacific as well as a celebration of the human spirit
The story of the immortal heroic defence of the American outpost on Wake Island by a handful of marines and civilians against an overwhelming forces of the Japanese.
“During December 1941, the stubborn defense of Wake by less than 450 Marines galvanized not only the American public but their comrades in arms. In days of disaster then, as of uncertainty later, the thought of Wake and its defenders encouraged Marines to hang on longer, and to fight more resolutely. Small in time and numbers though the action was by comparison with Guadalcanal or the other great battles to come, Wake will never be forgotten.
“To my mind, in addition to the obvious military lessons which may be drawn from any battle, be it victory or defeat, the defense of Wake points up two soldierly characteristics which may well be remembered by Marines. These are military adaptability, and the realization that, first and always one must be prepared to face ultimate close ground combat with the enemy.
“The officers and men of the 1st Defense Battalion on Wake were artillerymen of a highly specialized type; those of VMF-211 were aviation technicians. neither group let its specialized training or background prevent it from fighting courageously and well as basic infantry when the chips were down. Despite its specialization, each group did the best it could with what it had.
“These capabilities and attributes, I submit, should characterize Marines now as they characterized those Marines on Wake, who, though they were outnumbers and eventually overwhelmed, were never outfought.-A.A. VANDEGRIFT, General, U.S. Marine Corps”