[lit-ideas] Gathering the Ships

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <Lit-Ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 6 May 2008 09:04:47 -0700


I've started Rick Atkinson's An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa,


How ill-prepared we were to fight World War II, at least in the European
theater: "Two years, three months, and seven days had passed since the
invasion of Poland, and the United States had needed every minute of that
grace period to prepare for war.  Churchill's chief military representative
in Washington, Field Marshal Sir John Dill, told London that,
notwithstanding the long prelude, American forces 'are more unready for war
than it is possible to imagine.'


"In September 1939, the U.S. Army had ranked seventeenth in the world in
size and combat power, just behind Romania.  When those 136 German divisions
conquered western Europe nine months later, the War Department reported that
it could field just five divisions.  Even the homeland was vulnerable: some
coastal defense guns had not been test-fired in twenty years, and the Army
lacked enough anti-aircraft guns to protect even a single American city.
The building of the armed forces was likened to 'the reconstruction of a
dinosaur around an ulna and three vertebrae.'"


And the raw material that would eventually make up the invincible American
Army?  "A Gallup poll of October 1940 found a prevailing view of American
youth as 'a flabby, pacifistic, yellow, cynical, discouraged, and leftist


Despite the lack of an adequate army, as soon as war was declared against
us, American Generals wanted to invade France and go after the Germans
immediately.  That, the consensus of historical opinion seems to be from
what I've read, would have been a colossal blunder.  We may have been able
to put warm bodies in the field, but they were no match for the Germans.
Churchill talked Roosevelt out of operation "Sledgehammer," not merely
because he felt the Americans were not ready to tackle the Germans right
away, but also because the Germans had recently chased the British out of
Europe, and Churchill felt that if the British, even if accompanied by the
Americans, were to cross the channel to soon, it would be more of the same.


Atkinson writes, "The American military had been animated mostly by can-do
zeal and a desire to win expeditiously; these traits eventually would help
carry the day, but only when tempered with battle experience and strategic
sensibility."  That battle experience and strategic sensibility would begin
development in North Africa in 1942.


Lawrence Helm

San Jacinto



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