Friday, February 23, 2007

On The Other Hand: What Could Have Been

Sunday, December 27, 1942
By Combined Wire Services

WASHINGTON – While U.S. casualties continue to increase across the Pacific, and with a ground offensive recently initiated against Nazi-held North Africa, the president’s war plan to halt Germany's and Japan’s ambitions is under scrutiny by a skeptical Congress, with some members saying that President Roosevelt deliberately provoked a needless war against the two countries.

Nearly 13 months after the most damaging military attack on U.S. soil, the strike against Pearl Harbor, on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, is now under Congressional investigation. In some quarters of Congress, there are concerns that the President may have either previously known about Japan’s plans to attack the U.S. base – or deliberately and clandestinely provoked a war with Japan, which forced Germany to declare war against the United States.

Worse, Roosevelt’s critics say, once he knew of Japan’s plans to strike Pearl Harbor, he refused to alert his military commanders, so U.S. forces in the Pacific would be caught by surprise. This would then gain U.S. public support for America’s entry into World War II, the president’s Congressional critics say.

Prior to the attack, the Gallup opinion poll said there was little domestic support for fighting either Japan or Germany. After Pearl Harbor, public opinion shifted drastically in favor of fighting both countries.

“If you look at FDR’s actions between 1940 and 1941,” said U.S. Rep. Martin Sweeney (D-OH), “he was trying to find a way to have Japan and Germany fight the United States.”

Shortly after the attack, Congress formed a joint Senate and House committee to investigate its causes as well as the administration’s policies toward Japan prior to the attack.

“We’ve come across a very interesting memo,” said U.S. Sen. Alben Barkley, (D-KY), who chairs the committee investigating the surprise attack. “It appears to confirm some concerns that the administration may have been overly aggressive in its approach to Japan” before it attacked Pearl Harbor.

The Senator would give few details about the note but described it as “written by a naval officer who appears to have great knowledge of the Japanese.”

The War Department would neither confirm nor deny the memo’s existence.

Congressional support for the Roosevelt Administration’s war policies is weakening, critics say, because of heavy U.S. military losses.

The Army and the Marines, battling Japanese troops on the Pacific Islands of New Guinea and Guadalcanal, have suffered thousands of casualties. In addition, the Navy has lost a number of ships, including five aircraft carriers, to the Japanese, this year.

Congressional critics say the United States, unprepared for war against Japan, was forced to surrender some of its most strategic Pacific possessions, including Wake and Guam Islands as well as the Philippines.

“Had our military commanders been better led by the President,” said U.S. Sen. Homer Ferguson, (R-MI), “there’s a good chance we would not have been forced to give up our strategic outposts in the Pacific.”

The loss of the Philippines was particularly devastating because 76,000 U.S. troops, the largest U.S. military force to ever capitulate in the country’s history, surrendered to the Japanese. Coincidentally, the troops surrendered on the 77th anniversary of the day that Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered his army to lay down its arms to forces led by Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, which ended the Civil War.

While the Navy stopped the Japanese at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May and again, in June, at the Battle of Midway, an archipelago just north of Hawaii, the losses for these two victories were costly, including hundreds of planes and two aircraft carriers. The other three U.S. aircraft carriers were lost during other Pacific battles against the Japanese.

Japan’s losses at the Battle of Midway, Navy intelligence says, were even higher, including four aircraft carriers, two cruisers, three destroyers and some small boats. Japan's losses have not been confirmed by Tokyo.

Another military success against Japan, although limited in its effect, included the bombing of Japan. Many of the operation’s details remain secret.

On the ground, however, the fighting situation is quite different. U.S. soldiers and Marines find themselves bogged down battling an entrenched enemy. U.S. losses on New Guinea and Guadalcanal are heavy – into the thousands – because Japanese troops, military commanders say, often fight to the death rather than surrender.

“I’m afraid a lot of people think the Jap is a ‘pushover,’” said Army Air Force Lt. Gen. George Kenney, who heads up the Allied Air Forces in the southwest Pacific. “We will have to call on all our patriotism, stamina, guts, and maybe some crusading spirit or religious fervor thrown in, to beat him.

“No amateur team will take this boy out. You take on Notre Dame, every time you play,” the general said.

Shortly after the mid-term elections, the Army landed troops in Algeria and Morocco to liberate North Africa from German occupation. The operation, under the command of Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, if it is successful, will allow the Allies to move more freely around the Mediterranean Sea.

Prior to Germany’s declaration of war against the United States, diplomatic relations between the two countries had reached a stand-off, with the United States closing 24 German consulates across the country, saying they were havens for Nazi spies.

In addition, the United States loaned Great Britain 50 destroyers in exchange for 99-year leases on certain British Naval Bases, including those in Newfoundland, Bermuda and the West Indies.

“The destroyer trade was an ‘out-right declaration of war’,” said U.S. Sen. Gerald Nye, (R-ND). “It was a belligerent act that weakened our defenses.”

Seven months prior to the outbreak of war with Germany, the Navy started engaging the Third Reich’s submarines while escorting merchant ships sailing between the United States and Great Britain.

The United States even started supplying Great Britain with materiel it needed to survive Germany’s onslaught. The President defended U.S actions by saying, “If your neighbor’s house is on fire, you lend him your garden hose so your house is safe.”

“We were fighting Germany before the war even happened,” said Senator Ferguson. “It’s becoming quite clear that the President acted without Congressional authority to do that.”

(Writer’s note: This account is entirely fictional. Some of the information is accurate. This article is intended to be thought-provoking. Is it possible for anyone to understand the action’s any country takes during wartime? Are there any similarities between President Roosevelt’s actions, in his attempt to defeat fascism, and those of President George W. Bush, in his attempt to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? Could World War II have ended differently?)

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