FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: From the Archives: Dispatches: America at War

America at War: The Second Quarter (March-May 1942)

Courtesy Reuters

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.

Between February and May, Java and Burma were lost to the Japanese; the tragic epic of the Philippines came to its inevitable end; and the war at sea reached a crisis in many ways comparable with some of the worst months of the unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. As I write, the total American and Philippine casualties -- killed, wounded, prisoners and missing -- number between 75,000 and 100,000. We have lost 41 commissioned naval vessels of various types,[i] and probably about 800 to 1,800 planes in combat (plus possibly an equal number in operations, i.e., due to forced landings, crack-ups, etc.). War authorizations and appropriations as of May 10 reached the tremendous sum of $197,267,000,000. Yet war came to the United States less than six months ago and so far we have scarcely begun to fight. There can be no doubt that this war will be by far the most expensive in our history.

The months just passed have witnessed the extension of American power to territories that a few months ago were known in America only to geographers. Army troops are scattered almost literally from pole to pole. Our one-ocean Navy is fighting a seven-ocean war. Our war effort so far is still in the preparatory stage; the enemy still holds the initiative; we are still on the strategic defensive. Our efforts have been devoted to increasing our armed strength to make it adequate to the exigencies of global war, to transporting that strength to far-flung overseas bases and theatres of action -- India, the Middle East, Australia, and the British Isles -- and to helping supply other United Nations, particularly Russia. Our

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