We live in a different world today than the one of 70 years ago.
Contrast the observations of two Pulitzer Prize winning authors.
Just before America entered World War II the nation was woefully unprepared. President Franklin Roosevelt was afraid to get too far ahead of public opinion. In a nation recovering from the Great Depression manufacturing was geared to automobiles and washing machines. Tanks, ships and airplanes were a tiny fraction of the budget as was the trained manpower to operate them.
Isolationist calls for impeachment followed a Roosevelt speech in 1937 calling for a more aggressive approach to foreign policy.
“It’s a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead — and find no one there,” said Roosevelt to an aide.
In her book “No Ordinary Time – Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II” author Doris Kearns Goodwin outlines the standing of the United States military in stark relief.
…in 1940 the U.S. Army stood only eighteenth in the world, trailing not only Germany, France, Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan and China but also Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. With the fall of Holland, the United States would rise to seventeenth!
Seventy years later the United States is beyond the other end of the list.
In his 2012 book “Red Ink – Inside The High-Stakes Politics Of The Federal Budget” author Author David Wessel contrasts where we stand today.
It took the United States nine long months to mount a significant offensive operation in the Pacific after Japanese bombs rained on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The U.S. defense budget is greater than the combined defense budgets of the next seventeen largest spenders.
The United States spends about $700 billion a year on its military. That’s more than the combined military budgets of China, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, India, Italy, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, and Israel.
Wars are won with boots on the ground and this would be the first of many obscure beachheads in the world that Americans would leave their footprints and blood.
The map on the front page didn’t even show the location of the Solomon Islands. The map had been engraved to show recent Japanese attacks in New Guinea.
The Solomons threatened supply routes between the U.S., New Zealand and Australia.
U.S. Marines landed August 8 and three days later headlines confirmed the battle had been taken to the enemy.
In the conclusion of his statement the commander in chief of the U.S. fleet, Admiral Ernest King left no doubt that the task would be arduous.
“It should be understood that the operation now underway is one of the most complicated and difficult in warfare. Considerable losses such as are inherent in any offensive operation, must be expected as the price to be paid for the hard won experience which is essential to the attainment of far reaching results.”
The 1st Marine Division came ashore at Guadalcanal and four other islands under cover of bad weather. Initially surprised and unopposed, Japanese resistance quickly mounted as the they tried to take back an airfield under construction.
Would this turn the tide of the Japanese offensive in the Pacific? Only time would tell.
In other news of the week, San Luis Obispo county housewives protested that they needed more sugar for canning. Rationing had restricted sugar to a 15-pound maximum per household with one pound for every four quarts of finished fruit.
Also on August 8, 1942 six German agents were sent to the electric chair. They had landed on Long Island and Florida via submarine but were quickly apprehended by the F.B.I. Two others were given lighter sentences for cooperation with authorities. The Telegram-Tribune headline gloated, then sounded a warning:
SIX GERMAN SABOTEURS GO TO HEIL!
Wake Up America! We Could Lose!
The sheriff was moving to a new jail facility at the top of the courthouse on Osos Street. The new facility held 110 prisoners and had separated cells for women, men and juveniles as well as drunk tanks.
The Los Angles unit of Women’s Ambulance and Defense Corps was slated to train at Camp Roberts. Several of the Hollywood based group had movie acting credits including Gale Sondergaard, Elaine Barry, Marsha Hunt, Ida Lupino and Irene Rich.