August 6th, 2007

World War II in real time

[This is a repeat of a post that first appeared here on June 10, 2006. I thought in light of the post I wrote today, it could bear repeating.]

I was rummaging around the house where I’m staying, looking for something to read, when I encountered an old favorite from my childhood, choreographer Agnes De Mille’s memoir And Promenade Home.

While skimming through it, I came across a passage in which De Mille, a newlywed whose husband has gone off to fight World War II (he was to remain abroad for the two remaining years of the war but returned unharmed), describes some of the conversations she endured at social events during her long wait:

For dark, personal reasons, many people could not resist this chance at cruelty. There were the intellectuals who demanded aggressively if we believed in war and asked across our dinner tables did we relish the idea of being the widows of dead heroes? There were men of peace who fulminated against destruction and argued that no idea was worth fighting for that leveled Casino or Dresden….There were the newscasters who, after the fourth Martini, swore with something akin to professional pride that the war would last another eight years….

And this was World War II, the Good War. Interesting, no?

25 Responses to “World War II in real time”

  1. Patrick Bryant Says:

    The belief that WW2 was a war which untied the nation with good feeling has always been ludicrous. People simply enjoy being on the “winning side” and therefore tended to drop their objections after the fact. Aside from which, th upper reaches of power did tend to be more united and communcations less constant.

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    Humans will be humans, Neo. The one great constant in an ever changing world.

  3. ted Says:

    “And this was World War II, the Good War. Interesting, no?”

    So just imagine what kind of pariah the BushCo supporter will become. You want be able to show your face again. Oh wait a minute. You don’t show your face. Coward!

  4. Lee Says:

    So, where can we see your picture, “ted”?

  5. ted Says:


    Neo can’t show her face and name because she does not have “one” face and name. She is a fictitious blogger created by a really lame right wing propaganda machine.

  6. ted Says:

    “Interesting, no?”

    Interesting? No. Look around Neos. Your fellow fascists are disserting you. This blog is dead. See you in another couple months. If this lame propaganda blog still exists.

  7. Lee Says:

    Don’t worry, “ted”,

    We’ll still be here after your release from jail. What was it this time? Posession? FTA? Public indecency?

  8. Mark Says:

    It’s said that hindsight is 20/20, but that’s only true for those who prefer the truth to their fantasies. For the others, it doesn’t matter if history is lived forwards or backwards; they’ll find a ‘good reason’ to remain fools. Problem is, the rest of us pay the price for them.

  9. Danny Lemieux Says:

    OOOOoo…a Lefty calling a conservative (pro-small government, pro-free market, pro-individual versus collective rights) of being a “fascist”. A classic case of projection, don’t you think?

  10. Trimegistus Says:

    So, “Ted” — have you murdered any innocent Iraqis today? Killed any Americans? Blown up any British buildings?

    No? You chickenjihadi.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    See you in another couple months.

    That’s the amount of time he needs to go into therapy.

    Your fellow fascists are disserting you.

    The blog trolls back in the blogspot days were never friends of Neo. Were they who you were refering to?

  12. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Paul Fussell, in his “Thank God for The Atomic Bomb” referred to the post-war phenomenon of even veterans of the war thinking the nuking of two Japanese cities was wrong.

    He looked at the more prominent critics and found something interesting. They had had important jobs as high-ranking officers–although they were generally not regulars–during the war. But they were not in combat units.

    Fussell concludes their views on the bomb were to make the point that they were superior to those grunts–dumb grunts–who were going to be invading the Home Islands to the tune of 250,000 US deaths. They were not going to die of no nukes. It was a way of asserting moral and social superiority without actually sneering at the dogfaces.

    Which, it should go without saying, a regular officer would never do.

  13. Bugs Says:

    A more likely reason is that most of the high-ranking officers never actually fought the Japanese. They may have made command decisions, but how many of them had to repel banzai charges, watch helplessly while their buddies were killed by unseen machine-gunners, or endure kamikaze attacks? I have a feeling a lot of the grunts would say the Japanese got off easy.

  14. Cappy Says:

    The antiwar guys sound like they had the same objectives in the 1940’s that they do now.

  15. Jimmy J. Says:

    I was a teen during WWII.

    A few observations:

    In our small town of 1500 people there were no males of military age. Those who weren’t physically qualified for the military all left to take jobs in war plants. (The money was good.)

    Food, gasoline, tires, and some clothes were rationed. Some people complained, but it wasn’t a huge burden.

    We collected paper, bacon grease, scrap metal, tin foil, and more all to support the war effort. Our town had a B-17 named after it because we collected enough scrap metal to produce one.

    There were a few who, just like now, were against the war. They were mainly isolationists or German sympathizers (Chas Lindbergh was an example.). The socialists and communists supported the war because we were allied with the Soviet Union.

    One local marine came home wounded. After the war a man told my family that the man had shot himself to get out of being shipped over seas. Don’t know if it was true, but I do know there was some of that in all branches.

    The news reels shown in the movie theatres were very graphic in showing war violence and they were all very pro U.S. No one cared if kids saw the carnage. Everyone felt we needed to know what war was all about.

    There were two families in our town who lost sons. They displayed gold stars in their windows. I knew there was great sadness in those homes and each time I saw those stars they reminded me of that.

    All the movies were very pro American and very anti the Axis. My view was that the Germans and Japanese were blood-thirsty thugs. Shortly after the Korean War when I had leave in Japan, I was surprised to find that the Japanese seemed pretty much like us.

    There were draft dodgers, malingerers, and anti- war activists, but they were in the minority and got no press to speak of. Some people made big profits and some people worked hard in factories and saved their money. Those who worked and saved were able to do very well economically in the post-war years.

    Very few were gung ho for the war. It was just a necessary evil that had to be endured. People just kept doing the things that needed to be done. People complained and then went out and bought war bonds or joined in a scrap metal drive.

  16. douglas Says:

    “A more likely reason is that most of the high-ranking officers never actually fought the Japanese. They may have made command decisions, but how many of them had to repel banzai charges, watch helplessly while their buddies were killed by unseen machine-gunners, or endure kamikaze attacks?”

    Well, what do you mean by high ranking? Clearly, Kamikaze attacks would likely often be targeting the higher ranking officers in the bridge, would they not? Everyone on a ship gets attacked by a Kamikaze, there’s no ‘safe’ zone.

    Or how about then Lt.Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, who was forced to surrender Corregidor to the Japanese, and subsequently was a POW for years. I’d say he saw all he needed to.

    I think perhaps your statement was a bit overly general. But there’s a kernel of truth there.

  17. douglas Says:

    One more thought- I’ve always bristled a bit at the sort of standard criticisms of Officers. I think it’s because I always wondered what it would be like to take the responsibility of ordering men to their possible, even likely, deaths, on one’s shoulders. Not an enviable position, if you ask me. In thinking about it, I feel it’s almost easier to be the Private getting the orders.

    Any thoughts?

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    The responsibility of command is important. That is why people should never be promoted beyond their ability or through to some political deal.

    And those with careers in the medical branch or the quartermaster corps or the intel branch can have an O-n rank but command ranks are far harder to get compared to say an equivalent rank in the Military Intel.

    Well, what do you mean by high ranking?

    The article I read was talking about the high ranking military officers who were not in charge of infantry or divisions in Operation Olympus.

  19. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Douglas. My father was an Infantry officer and he said, if he’d had it to do over, he’d have stayed a private. We had guys in my OCS company who dropped out for no reason that was obvious. Good grades, good performance in the field, no discipline issues. But they didn’t want to be the one deciding who dies today–or how many.

    High-ranking officers in the Navy had risks, if they were aboard ship. Not so much in the ground forces.

    What people forget is that the forces ramped up by many, many times. From several hundred thousand in the Thirties to about 15 million. Many of the mid-level officers were commissioned in the National Guard in the Thirties, some in “social” or “white glove” units (Hugh Carey, once governor of New York, for example) and transferred their commissions to the active Army in wartime, starting out at, say, major.

    Many of them wouldn’t see combat, since most of the forces didn’t. Teeth-to-tail ratios. As the Army expanded, majors went to lieutenant colonels and so forth as necessary without necessarily being as good as they should have been.

    The point that Fussell was making was that some of the post-war objectors were making the subtle point that, by objecting to the use of the atomic bomb, they were not of those who would have risked and lost in the invasion of the Home Islands. Which means they were of a superior social status from before the war. Fussell thinks their objection is a backhanded way of telling everybody about it. And, in the process, getting in with the right sort, the socially successful liberals. They would not, in their futures, be hanging at the VFW hall talking with guys who knew the bomb saved their lives.

  20. MAJ Arkay Says:

    “And those with careers in the medical branch or the quartermaster corps or the intel branch can have an O-n rank but command ranks are far harder to get compared to say an equivalent rank in the Military Intel.”

    That’s a tad obtuse. Just to clarify, the Military Intelligence Corps is a professional branch of the Army. The other services also have an MI equivalent. We’re all collectively known as “the intel branch” or the Military Intelligence Community, and we’re all part and parcel of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

    Within the Army, we have MI companies, battalions, brigades and groups, a center and fort, and a major Army command. There are lots of command positions, and lots of opportunities for MI officers to reach 3-star level.

    DIA, NSA, and the Army G-2 are all 3-star billets, and there are lots of other general officer positions requiring MI qualifications.

    Most MI commands are with maneuver units, by the way. MI personnel very much see the enemy’s face, up close and personal. The key is we’re supposed to talk to them, not just shoot.

    Raises the pucker factor a bit…

  21. douglas Says:

    Thanks, Rich. Thought that might be the case for Officers. Understandably so.

    Oh, and I got Fussell’s point, alright. ‘white glove’ units. Perfect.

    MI- the ten percent! (My dad was MI). Thanks for the details, Major.

  22. ChrisG Says:

    I will back Maj Arkay up. I was enlisted and went ROTC in the dark years of the 1990s. I commanded a Tank Platoon (1AD), rode staff from BN to BDE (1ID) commanded a CAV Troop (16th CAV), and am now a Major in Aquisitions (and even more deployable).

    There is no “front line”. I doubt there ever will be for a long time. I served in Iraq right next to the US PVTs with the M4s, the Iraq Soldier with the AKM, and the Aussie “Digger” with his Steyer AUG.

    Command is a HUGE responsibility. It also has great rewards internally to the Commander. If you are in it for external rewards, you picked the wrong line of work. If you are a slug, you gain nothing, but if you are not (and a vast majority of US Military Commanders are good), you earn respect and loyalty of your Soldiers/Marines.

    I got slammed by my CO every time “Joe” screwed up (or even seemed to screw up). If the kid did wrong, like drugs or a domestic, I came down hard on him during the ART-15. But if the kid was not at fault, I stood up for him. Nothing is as satisfying as seeing a kid, who made a mistake and got busted, re-boresight and fight his way up to NCO (I got a hard-luck transfere who did just this. Even more so, nothing is as good as silently listening to Soldiers from different units talk and hear the other unit’s guy say “I wish I had your LT since he will stand up for you”. There are bad stories also; the kid who threw everything away because of past gang ties he renewed, the one who would not mature into an E-5 and took an easy way out, and a few others that still make me sad.

    Command is a HUGE weight. The Japanese had a saying, “Duty is as heavy as a mountain; Death as light as a feather.” This applies even today.

    I have also had the chance to work with other armies’ officers and Soldiers. In dealing with “non-Western” armies, it becomes all too apparent what a lack of a professional NCO Corps and the implementation of a “political/social” officer vice professional Officer Corps does to an army. These armies do not hold a candle next to the professionalism of the US Army and US Marine Corps.

  23. ChrisG Says:

    zombietime.comtime.comAs for WWII not being a great unifier, I agree fully.

    “Innovation in The Interwar Years”

    This is a required book in CGSC (Command and General Staff College). Part of the book, and it is a dry read, speaks to the politics of the interwar period.

    Page 9-10. Liddell Hart suggested a policy of “Limited Liability” which sounds a lot like the “victory from the air” of the 1990s. As was the case then, this approach was flawed, but it promised an antiseptic war as compared to 9 million casualties from WWI.

    In addition, the “elites” and “academics” of the era seem to have the same mindset and spout the same rhetoric they do now. In the UK, the (in)famous Oxford Resolution of 1933 declared that the signers would not ever fight for “king or country”. This was done even as Hitler took power and began to reform Germany into a National SOCIALIST state.

    Sound familiar? Enemies are openly forming around us. Dictators (Islamofascists/N. Korea/Afghan Warlords/the Fascist-Stalinist ‘utopia’ of Chavez) openly stand against what the “progressives” SAY they stand for (freedom, equality, diversity). Yet the “progressives” will not stand up to these people and stab those who will in the back and call US “fascists” while they hold up anti-Semitic/pro-socialist signs. Projection at its finest.

    In 1937, Chamberlain made the call that the UK Army would NEVER fight a war in Europe. His quote on Page 10 also sounds familiar. In short, rely on allies and never need to have a large land force or costly commitments for a war in Europe as it will never come. Two short years later and Britain was alone.

    Even with the devastation from AXIS aggression, there were still anti-war (peace at any cost or what have you) journals in Britton through the end of the war.

    Other books are available and I would recommend older texts on WWII as newer ones seem to gloss over the anti-war sediment in countries besides the Axis powers and the USSR.

    In the USA, the population was also anti-war and isolationist even into the 1940s. There was such an anti-war at any cost base that the US Congress almost DISBANDED the Armed Forces in the 1930s as the AXIS openly armed itself and Imperial Japan expanded its power. As it was, the budget for the Armed Forces was dismal and we paid for it during the initial years of US participation in WWII.

    In the USA, we had the openly pro-NAZI “American Bund” which tied itself to other anti-Semitic groups and also “peace activists”. The antics of the Bund seem starkly similar to ANSWER and ACT “anti-war” activities as seen on . These groups in both eras blame the Jews for everything and both promote socialism (NAZIs were just communists of a different strip) through any means.

    We even had traitors who went to our enemies countries and did broadcasts from them in support of our enemies. “B.B.B Program” (Best Berlin Broadcast) was hosted by Robert Best and called for a militant anti-war movement to be formed inside the USA. He also went into how to steal votes and subvert democracy.

    Others include Seward Collins, publisher of “The American Review” until it closed in 1937; The “American Führer”, Fritz Kuhn of the German-American Bund; and Joe McWilliams AKA “Mr McNAZI” in a TIME magazine article of 1940. In fact, a rather disturbingly large number of “intellectual elites” openly flirted with fascism before WWII.

    Time Article:,9171,801966-1,00.html

    In addition, there were true pacifist groups and isolationists who opposed WWII on “moral grounds”. Though I can not see how one can morally refuse to defend ones own freedom and refuse to free others from tyranny but my ancestors ran Underground Rail Road stations. They were less organized than groups today and they also had few allies in government or the media. Thus, these groups did not get the attention others do now.

    Finally, the quotes from the “elites” of society in Neos post sound strangely familiar to those of today.

  24. Oldflyer Says:

    The reference to WWII as the “Good War” is a modern construct.

    No one referred to it as a “Good War” when it was in progress. Certainly not that I heard. It was simply a war that had to be fought.

    Modern Americans, even those who remember the Viet Nam era, can not fathom the impact of WWII across the entire population of the United States. There was no family that I know of that was expempt.

    I commented on the atomic bomb in another post. I will simply repeat that any second thoughts about employing the bomb came from a very small segment of the population; and most of them emerged well after peace had been restored.

    Regarding Command of fighting units. I have no experience with the infantry (see my nickname) but if you read the histories, you will see that attrition among Senior Infantry Commanders, especially divsion and corps commanders, was quite high. Not from injury or death, although there were some, but because many did not measure up. Command in battle proved extremely demanding and unforgiving.

    Of course, Naval Commanders faced the same dangers as every other sailor. Many of the senior air commanders moved quickly from active combat into command roles, so they well knew the danger.

  25. The Draft: A Villainous Company topic « Sake White Says:

    […] is popular at times, because they don’t remember hearing what the Left and isolationists said during WWII. Or perhaps Americans, Leftists or not, no longer believe that “ultimate […]

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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