Pacific War, What did we
Be Prepared to
Fight with What You Have.
WW2 started in a different era. Raiders could cruise the seas and
attack merchant ships. Fleets could travel invisibly if unseen by human
eye. Radar was under development. Voice radio was
line of sight and long range required Morris code.
Aircraft carriers were equipped with 8" guns for ship to ship combat.
Aircraft had limited range. Aircraft carriers had to
ferry planes across the oceans. The Pan Am Clipper had just entered
service. Top line fighters were the Army P-40 Warhawk and Navy F4F Wildcat.
The Wildcat required the pilot to hand crank his wheels up.
The four engine heavy bomber, B-17, was just entering service as a coast defense weapon.
Biplanes were still in service. Horse cavalry still existed and not just
in Poland where lances were used to attack tanks, but the last US cavalry charge
took place against Japanese troops invading the Philippines.
The issue rifle was still the Springfield bolt action.
Armies had more horses than trucks.
There were still farm boys to become men able to hit a beach and shoot.
A point about combat is that you fight with what you have now.
Typically, the aggressor has a head start in development of equipment, of training,
and of technology.
The attacked nation looses heavily in the initial assault
and can retain only a portion of an under strength defensive capability, with peacetime levels of training, and obsolescent technology.
What are the key elements here?
- In War I, the United States had four years to observe Europe at war and to
upgrade American war making capability.
- In War II, we had two years to observe blitzkrieg, four years to observe Japan,
and correctly started expanding, arming and updating our forces, but were still shocked by
the force and speed of enemy attacks.
[Seven battleships of the "two-ocean navy" buildup authorized
17July40 after the fall of France were never built, whereas of the ten authorized
in 1934, only two were completed and on shakedown cruise by 7Dec41.]
- Witness the near defeat in Korea, twice. The ROK/US force was pushed back to the
Pusan Perimeter by a third rate power until US/UN forces could be mobilized and,
then again, the strongest nation on earth was pushed back from the Chosen Reservoir.
- Vietnam took many years to build up to a maximum effort.
- Kuwait was captured in a day. Desert Shield took over five months to arm sufficiently
to push them back with Desert Storm.
- Attacks come with little warning.
- WWI - "The trains are moving", "Keep the right wing strong."
- WW2 - Poland and France had reason for caution, but
were overwhelmed and fell within days. China,
England and Russia teetered and would have fallen without
US aid. We observed war for two years in Europe, four years in China and
still came close to losing the Pacific, and Europe was a hard fight.
- Pearl Harbor, Korea, Vietnam and Kuwait were sneak attacks with no warning.
- The US has been fortunate to enter wars after other nations had taken the brunt
of the attacks and been occupied. We had time to prepare and still were still shocked,
thrown back, and subjected to great damage. The best trained men and most experience have been
known to fall in the initial defense. Think of the torpedo bomber crews at Midway.
- War is not rational, it happens by surprise with great violence.
Later we can review and see the signs that war was a
possibility and cast blame, but that is no comfort.
- The US has always had time to prepare itself militarily and emotionally for war.
- Emotionally, the US has stopped fighting without victory in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.
- The territory of the United States has never been occupied since incursions in the War
of 1812 and of some small islands in the Pacific War; the nation does not have
the experience to know what it is like have civilians
suffer frontline warfare. Certain southern states retain remnants of an empathy
with the risks of conquest. A once occupied people
have greater cause to hate war than do those to whom warfare and rumors of war
are considered not nice. Mankind and nations have
fought throughout all of recorded history and probably before.
- The next big one can not be predicted. That is the nature of a sneak attack.
It will be largely a come-as-your-are, surprise party. It will be best if we are
reasonably prepared with modern equipment and training and sufficiency men and arms.
In every war, the initial losses are blamed on having prepared to fight the
last war. Yet much of each war, and all wars, have common elements. Zeppelin
attacks shocked London. Super torpedoes destroyed our capital
ships in the Pacific. What is the technology of future war? Larger and
fast airplanes as the logical extension of the last war. Include outer space?
Certainly for surveillance and communication. Bacterial or viral attack? Look what
hoof and mouth disease did in Europe.
Might economic warfare extend beyond the simple counterfeiting of pound notes?
Are we exposed with electronic banking? Internet commerce? Destruction of just
those electronic financial transactions in process at any particular instant
could cause loss of billions of wealth to an attacked nation. Follow this with
shutting down all electronic activity
and we have a successful sneak attack crippling a part of our nation and a
challenge to its security and existence that may only be resolved by hand to
hand, bloody combat. The treats to a nation are so many, only hindsight
will show that the ones used by a successful foe are the ones for which we should
have been preparing.
The precedence runs through history and is equally true of the villager of
the Pax Romana who was unprepared, untrained, unequipped in sword and spear
when confronted with the cavalry of Genghis Kahn. Did
they have anti-weapon legislation back then, too, along with a make peace, not
war sentimentality? Cold comfort to the dead. War is not a
gentleman's duel in which parties meet at an announced time, place, with
specified weapons, and fight fairly before referees. Duels have been successfully
banned: how do we outlaw war?
War is more like being mugged on the street with some of your family killed, you
injured and hoping to fight back. With what? Eternal
vigilance is the price for peace. Speak softly, but carry
a big stick. Use moderation in all things. The sages imply being
prudently prepared in all areas.
Return to: WW2 Menu
About this page: Be Prepared - You can fight with only what you have.
Last updated on July 4, 2000