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For many years, Hanson Baldwin served as the military editor of the New York Times. Throughout World War II, he filed dispatches to Foreign Affairs that took the long view of the war. These selections offer a vivid, compact, and real-time accounting of events -- both in their uncertainty and triumph.
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THE history of our first three months at war must be painted in somber colors. The United States Navy suffered the worst losses in its history. Guam and Wake were captured by Japan. In quick succession the enemy overran most of the Philippines, seized Hong Kong, swept over Singapore, principal bastion and base of the United Nations in the Far East, and reduced various strategic points in the Netherlands East Indies one by one. As these lines were written, the surging tide of conquest was nearing Rangoon, entry port for the Burma Road, and was imperiling India.
THE spring months brought the war towards a crisis. Since December 7 the strategic situation of the United Nations had deteriorated steadily; and as these words are being written the Axis Powers are mustering their forces for the summer offensives. The decisive months of what is probably the critical year of combat are at hand, with the future course of world history at stake.
THIS has been a year of hope deferred, of tragedy, of the most acute danger this nation has ever faced, a year of great defeats and great victories, a year in which the United States has found its soul, mustered its strength, organized its armies, and commenced its long, hard forward march to victory. It has been a year of crisis, but of crisis met, endured and passed. It has seen, probably, the turning point of the war.
THE history of the last six months of conflict has been, in general, a history of Allied success. The victories have been indecisive and preliminary, it is true, but they have been victories nevertheless. And Tunisia and Attu will stand with the Russian winter campaign in the Don bend and the Ukraine and with the continuing air attacks upon Germany as representative of the first important offensive victories yet achieved by the United Nations in this war.
THE summer just past marked the beginning of the decline of Axis power in Europe. President Roosevelt termed the conquest of Sicily and the opening of the Mediterranean the "beginning of the end for the Axis." . . . But only the beginning. For Germany, as autumn sets in, is still very strong. Gigantic air raids, the Russian Army and the Anglo-American campaign in the Mediterranean have weakened but have not broken her. And as the ring of retribution closes about her she is forging new political blades with which to defend herself.
THE United States ended two years of war confident that the last phase of the struggle in Europe was starting. The protracted retreat of the German Army on the eastern front, the increasing tempo of Allied air raids on the Reich, the continuing failure of the German submarine war, the invasion and collapse of Italy, and particularly the Moscow conference justified that assumption. The Moscow Declaration that Britain, Russia and the United States would fight the war to unconditional surrender weakened Germany's hope of retrieving victory from defeat by political means.
FOR the American forces in Europe the winter just past was a time of dogged though indecisive fighting, but even more a time of preparation, a preface to the great campaigns of 1944. In the Pacific, the major strategic offensive by the United States which started with our move into the Gilbert Islands in November recorded its first great advance in February with the capture of the Marshall Islands, an operation which will long be studied as a model of amphibious action.
THE spring of 1944 has been a time of preparation. Now the preparations are to be put to the test. The invasion of western Europe, an operation of such size and peculiar complexity that there is probably no analogy to it in military history, is imminent as these lines are written. By the time they are published, the Allies may be engaged in the furious battles which will decide at the minimum the duration of the war, at the maximum its outcome.
IN the summer of 1944 the American Army came of age. The successful invasion of Normandy and the quick capture of Cherbourg in June meant the negation, in a strategic sense, of all Hitler's hopes and marked the beginning of the end for Germany. In rapid succession, in late July and August, the forces of the Allies broke out from the Cotentin peninsula, smashed much of the German Seventh Army, overran Brittany, captured Paris and reached the Meuse at Sedan. Simultaneously, they invaded southern France.
THE three-power Conference in the Crimea, the Russian sweep from the Vistula across the Oder, and the American return to Luzon and invasion of Iwo in the Volcano Islands, 750 miles from Tokyo, were the principal milestones of the sixth winter of the war -- the fourth of American participation.
NAPOLEON'S remark that the "moral is to the physical as three to one" again received the affirmation of history in the spring of 1945 when German resistance collapsed suddenly and the war in Europe ended after five years and eight months of unprecedented struggle.
AUGUST 6, 1945, will remain forever a milestone in human annals. On that date the world's first atomic fission bomb was dropped upon Japan. The action may have been necessary for the purpose of saving American lives. But it was not merely another episode in the long history of man's inhumanity to man; and it was even more portentous than the final victory over Japan which quickly followed. For it marked the first harnessing of the sun's power on a large scale, with all the untold consequences for good and evil implicit in the achievement.
THE Second World War was a war of mass, but not, like the First, of massed manpower; it was a war of massed machines. In view of this, American production and construction, which reached Wellsian proportions, can be said to have been directly responsible for the victory over Germany and Japan. Such a statement, though true in a strictly military sense, is of course only part of the story. This article, summarizing the record of American industrial production and analyzing the merits and defects of certain of the weapons which it turned out, purports to tell only that part.