Imagine if we’d reported and opined on WWII the way we do now.
by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
I think Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Henry Stimson, and George Marshall conducted the Second World War brilliantly, despite “thousands of mistakes.” But I can also envision how our present intelligentsia and punditocracy would have sized up their sometimes less than perfect efforts or applied their own reporting to the struggle against Japan and Germany. So imagine something like the following op-ed appearing, say, around May 1, 1945.
The Present Debacle
May 21, 1945 — After the debacles of February and March at Iwo Jima, and now the ongoing quagmire on Okinawa, we are asked to accept recent losses that are reaching 20,000 dead brave American soldiers and yet another 50,000 wounded in these near criminally incompetent campaigns euphemistically dubbed “island hopping.”
Meanwhile, we are no closer to victory over Japan. Instead, we are hearing of secret plans of invasion of the Japanese mainland slated for 1946 or even 1947 that may well make Okinawa seem like a cake walk and cost us a million casualties and perhaps involve a half-century of occupation. The extent of the current Kamikaze threat, once written off as the work of a “bunch of dead-enders,” was totally unforeseen, even though such suicidal zealots are in the process of inflicting the worst casualties on the U.S. Navy in its entire history.
Worse still, our sources in the intelligence community speak of a billion-dollar boondoggle now underway in the American southwest. This improbable “super-weapon” (with the patently absurd name “Manhattan Project” — in the midst of a desert no less!) promises in one fell swoop to erase our mistakes and give us instant deliverance from our blunders — no concern, of course, for the thousands of innocents who would be vaporized if such a monstrous fantasy bomb were ever actually to work.
We are only now coming off even more terrible losses in Europe, after being surprised by a supposedly defeated enemy in the Ardennes where another 20,000 Americans were killed and another 60,000 wounded or missing — again, due to our continued strategic incompetence and abject intelligence failures. Macabre reports of American bazooka shells bouncing off German Tiger tanks and our Shermans ablaze like Ronson lighters have only now come to light as we plow the Belgium countryside for yet another new American war cemetery. Tragically, this is not the first, but the fourth year of this war, when victory rather than endless bloodshed has been long promised.
A number of issues arise. Why is Henry Stimson (“Gentlemen do not read each other's mail”) still Secretary of War? After the debacles at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines tragedy, the Kasserine Pass disaster, the unforeseen bocage in Normandy, the Falaise Gap escape, the Anzio mess, the fatal detour to Rome, the surprise at the Bulge, the bloodbath at Tarawa, and now the Iwo Jima and Okinawa nightmares, is not five years of his incompetence and arrogance enough? A number of our retired generals seems to agree, who have recently bravely come forward to remind us that Sec. Stimson long ago tried to dismantle key elements of our intelligence services, attempted to curtail the operational command of our Army Air Corps generals in conducting bombings of Europe, and has on more than one occasion intervened to remove targets from Gen. LeMay’s campaign over Japan.
As we see thousands of Americans dying and our enemies still in power after four years of war, it is also legitimate to question the stewardship of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall. The Sherman tank tragedy, the daylight bombing fiasco, the absence of even minimally suitable anti-tank weapons and torpedoes — all these lapses came on his watch, and the man at the top must take full responsibility for mistakes that have now cost thousands of American lives. Indeed, it is not just that America has worse tanks and guns than our German enemies, but they are inferior even to the rockets and armor of our Soviet allies. The recent publication of “The Sherman Tank Scandal” follows other revelations published in “Asleep at the Philippines,” “The Flight of Gen. MacArthur,” “Gen. Patton and the Atrocities on Sicily,” “Do Americans Execute P.O.Ws?” “Torture on Guadalcanal,” “Incinerating Women and Children?” and “Civilian Massacres in Germany” — publications in their totality that suggest a military out of control as often as it is incompetent.
Continues in the Comments Section