Jeanette Strong: A grand peace for all
“Despite the best that has been done by everyone…the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage … We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.” Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s surrender speech, Aug. 15, 1945
Aug. 15 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. World War II began on Sept. 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Britain issued an ultimatum to Germany to withdraw. Germany ignored the ultimatum. On Sept. 3, France and Britain declared war on Germany, followed by Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. World War II had begun in Europe.
The United States stayed out of the war for a variety of reasons. Many Americans were isolationists, pushing an “America first” agenda. Other Americans admired Hitler’s accomplishments in making Germany great again. They believed America should stay out of the conflict and not interfere in Germany’s internal politics.
However, all that changed on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked America at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The next day, Dec. 8, we declared war on Japan. On Dec. 11, Germany declared war on America, and we had entered World War II.
Once we were officially in the war, President Franklin Roosevelt called on all Americans to work together to defeat our enemies. Millions enlisted in the military, and others worked in defense industries, building the weapons needed to prosecute the war.
People started victory gardens, so commercially produced food could be sent to the troops. There were scrap metal drives and even drives to collect bacon fat, which was then used to make bombs. People were issued ration books, which limited purchases of many necessities.
Civilian daily life became very restricted. All of this was necessary so we could put our full efforts into making sure our military had the tools and supplies it needed. I’m sure there was grumbling, but very few Americans would have said this was some kind of plot devised to ruin their lives.
Now imagine if, after Pearl Harbor was attacked and Congress had declared war, President Roosevelt had said, “The federal government will support the governors of the various states, but they will be responsible for building the airplanes, battle ships, aircraft carriers, bombs, weapons, ammunition, and whatever else they need to fight the Japanese and Germans. They will have to figure out how to get food and supplies to the troops from their individual states. And we encourage Americans to go on living their lives as they have, with no changes or sacrifices.”
How long would it have taken us to win the war with this piece-meal effort, even with the Allies fighting alongside? With whom would Allied leaders have consulted, with 48 governors running the war? What if Roosevelt had told the Allies we wouldn’t work with them unless they met certain arbitrary conditions?
Of course, that didn’t happen. Roosevelt put the full force of the federal government behind the war effort. He had a long-term plan, worked out with his military advisers. He cooperated with the other Allies, so everyone knew what they were supposed to do. Everyone knew what the end goal was, and they made long-term plans to achieve that goal.
For example, planning for D-Day began in August 1943, nearly a year ahead. General Dwight Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander, working with other Allied leaders, creating a unified battle plan. Without careful planning, D-Day would have failed, at an unimaginable cost to the world.
Because experienced, competent people began planning years in advance, the war in Europe ended in early May 1945. Because of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb under federal authority, the war in the Pacific ended on Aug. 15, 1945.
Without coordinated action from every aspect of government and without the cooperation of the American people, none of this would have happened. If a group of citizens had claimed the Pearl Harbor attack was a “hoax,” created to give extra power to the federal government, and had worked to impede any united action, we might be speaking Japanese or German today.
The official peace was signed on Sept. 2, exactly six years after hostilities first broke out in Europe. America and the Allies defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan 75 years ago with planning and cooperation. As Emperor Hirohito said, this set the stage for “a grand peace.” When people work together with intelligence and competence, amazing results will follow.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.