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America at War: Three Bad Months

The wreckage of the USS Arizona ablaze after the attack.

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. Southward it was menacing Australia. In the West, the Anglo-American "life line" to Britain and Iceland had been safeguarded and strengthened; but Germany had commenced long-range submarine raiding operations in our coastal waters. All over the world, ship sinkings were increasing to totals which approximated those of the war's worst months, and freight storage yards at American seacoast cities were clogged with products of the "Arsenal of Democracy" awaiting merchant shipping which could transport them to the fighting fronts.

Thus in less than 90 days the strategic picture of the war had been considerably altered. The United Nations had suffered their worst defeats since the fall of France. As spring approached, the short-range prospects were grim. From the long-range viewpoint, however, the basic factors which have been the strength as well as the weakness of the United States have not in every case been modified by the events of its first three months of participation in a shooting war. We still possess many advantages.

Until December 7, 1941, the military struggle which had been in progress could be described in the truest sense as a battle for the domination of Europe. For more than two years the headlines had been telling of its progress. The Nazi legions had swept across country after country, raising the swastika from the North Cape to the Acropolis. Even the battles in Africa had been, strategically speaking, part of the struggle for

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