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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Another Time

Total losses in combat were 292,131. Another 115,185 were killed in non-combat situations. There were 671,801 wounded. Additionally, an estimated 11,200 civilians lost their lives, with more missing or wounded. The war, technically, lasted 5 years. It was one of the most expensive wars in terms of American life. In terms of money, the war cost $288 billion, or $412,926 billion in today's dollars. This was no little war in terms of lives lost or economic impact.

Our first official involvement in this war was a battle that cost the lives of 2388, including civilian deaths, and included 12 ships sunk, and 164 aircraft destroyed. But America wasn't to be trifled with. We went to war.

As the Japanese returned from their victorious attack on Pearl Harbor, they overran Wake Island. The American forces there put up a valiant fight, but in the end all of the military personnel and 70 civilians were killed. Later, in October, 1943, the Japanese executed captured American contract workers who had been doing forced labor.

The next target was the Philippines. The Japanese managed to destroy the bulk of the American aircraft on the ground. They landed 100,000 troos on Luzon and overran the island, forcing the surrender of American troops in May, 1942. The result was the Bataan Death March where 76,000 prisoners including 12,000 Americans were forced to march with hands tied behind their backs and no food or water for 60 miles to the prison camp. More than 5,000 Americans died in that march.

In 1942, General Dolittle led 16 B-25 bombers in an attack on Tokyo. The damage was minimal, and all aircraft were lost, along with 11 crewmembers. The Japanese search for the crews in China cost the lives of an estimated 250,000 Chinese. Dolittle expected to be court martialed upon his return to the U.S., but the boost to American morale instead earned him the Medal of Honor.

In May, 1942, the U.S. Navy engaged the Japanese Navy in the Battle of the Coral Sea. America lost one of the two aircraft carriers in the battle group, the USS Lexington. The USS Yorktown was also severely damaged, but managed to survive. While the American force managed to sink two Japanese carriers, 540 Americans died in the battle. (The Yorktown was later sunk in the Battle of Midway.)

The list goes on. While the American public was fed a steady diet of "good news on the front", Americans were dying at an alarming rate. In 1944, when the invasion began to take back Europe, the attack was a ludicrous nightmare. Prior to the invasion, 12,000 troops and 2,000 aircraft were lost in preparation. Nighttime troop drops prior to the morning landings were almost hopelessly disarrayed. Most of the beach landings were miles off their expected location. Enemy guns that were supposed to be silenced were in full operation. Total Allied casualties on that one day are estimated at 10,000. Twenty-four warships and 35 merchant ships were lost. In the subsequent Battle of Normandy, the Allies suffered 209,000 casualties including 125,847 American soldiers.

How, do you suppose, would the Americans of the 1940's have responded if they had this information up to the minute like we do today? Do you think they would have called for an end to Americans fighting in Germany and the Pacific? Would they have complained that the price was too high in lives and dollars and we shouldn't be there? If the American media of the 1940's had portrayed American involvement in World War II in the same light that they portray American involvement in Iraq today, would the Americans of the 40's call for a withdrawal, or would they have insisted on staying in the fight? I don't know the answer. I suspect the Americans of the 40's weren't the same as today's Americans, but I suppose I'll never know.

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