The Second World War is the biggest and perhaps the most violent conflict in the world’s history. This war started in 1939 and ended in 1945 leaving losses running into billions of dollars and millions of lives lost. What makes the Second World War unique is in involve the fight between great powers trying to take control of the world’s geopolitics. On one side was the United States, France, and their allies while on the other side was Germany and Soviet Union (Gilbert & Mayes, 1989). Over the years Germany and Soviet Union had annexed various parts of Europe and placed them under their control. However, the invasion of Poland by Germany on September 1, 1939, marked the beginning of the war that would later change the global politics and put the United States at the apex of power. After the invasion of Germany in Poland, the United States and France also launched their attacks in Germany bringing the brutal Nazism to an end after series of defeats from various fronts they had previously occupied. The war was fought on all fronts, from the air, water, and land involving millions of military personals and deployment of new technology that had not been used in previous wars. In fact, some of the aircraft developed during this crisis would later be used by the US Air Force during the Vietnam War. Apparently, the war also involved the Soviet Union on one side and the United States on the other side. It was more of a proxy war between the two powers with Vietnam government and rebels acting as proxies.
Even though the war only lasted five years, it resulted in massive losses and change in military tactics across the globe. It is approximated that 60 million people lost their lives during the war, out of which 20 million were military personnel, though the figures vary from different historians (Holcomb, Stansbury, Champion, Wade, & Bellamy, 2006). The civilian casualties were primarily due to intentional massacres, genocides, starvation and mass bombings. The Soviet Union suffered the highest casualties losing nearly 27 million people, 8.7 Million soldiers, and 19 million civilians. The Russian ethnics perhaps had the highest loss among the soldiers losing close to 5.7 million. In summary, 85 percent of the casualties were on the allies side (mostly Soviets and Chinese) while the Axis side (France and the United States) had only 15 percent loss (Holcomb, Stansbury, Champion, Wade, & Bellamy, 2006). The axis loss was primarily due to war crimes by Germany and Japanese. Additionally, the war continues to draw the interests of both the historians and military scholars including its veterans. Topics interests on the conflicts include its political, economic and military implications.
Understanding the underlying factors that resulted in the war is highly relevant today considering the rising tension between the United States and her allies, France and the United Kingdom, and Russia over the recent bombing Syria. Russia had promised to retaliate on any attack in Syria and it is not certain whether they will hit back or not. Just recently the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the country has made a missile that can reach any part of the globe without detection or interception. Moreover, North Korea has been carrying out a test on the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (IBM) with nuclear warhead capability. The United States’ President Donald Trump has promised to hit the ‘nuclear man’ if he continues with nuclear programs. In other words, the world is slowly finding its way back to the pre-World War II situation. The only difference is that currently we do not an active invasion like then but only acts of aggression and disrespect of the sovereignty of various countries as opposed to the United Nation’s convention.
Additionally, the study of the war enables the current generation of historians and military scholars to understand the arms profession and the military preparedness, combined operations, fight against fascism and global strategy. The United States Army has participated in commemoration anniversary to celebrate the victory over the war. The commemoration often includes publication of materials for public education and celebration of the war veterans. These acts primarily focus on renewing the national pride on the Army and inspire the young soldiers.
The preparation for the war started far much earlier before the intervention day. War is not an instant affair and the ability to win does not depend only on the size and strength of the military but also their preparedness and sustainability. The Second World War went for nearly five years meaning the governments involved in the conflict had to ensure there is a stable supply of military equipment, support for the military on the ground and ferrying back the injured soldiers for medical care. All these factors play an essential role in when it comes to winning the battle, especially the long protracted one like the World War II.
Even though the World War II officially started on September 1, 1945, the United States became an active participant in on December 7, 1941, when it launched its first airstrike against Pearl Harbor (Taylor, 1996). The United States Participation in the covers its attack against the Germany, Italy, Japan and the ultimate strike on the Soviet Union. In the first two years of the war, the country maintained relative neutrality, even though was actively supplying Britain, China, and the Soviet Union with military equipment through the Lend-Lease Act. Additionally, it deployed some of her militaries to replace the British soldiers at Iceland. The country also had her military personnel involved actively in the Pacific theater, even though it was not official. These early unofficial combat signs by the raises the question whether the country was sincerely neutral as it portrayed herself during the first two years. Besides, the country had also issued economic sanctions against Japan, a country that actively involved the conflict as early as 1937 (Taylor, 1996). The sanctions primarily focused on crippling the country economically thus making it unable to sustain the war and also stop their Asian aggression. In fact, it is arguable that them taking sides in 1941 was not a surprise at all since they had shown early signs of taking sides.
Perhaps to understand the United States’ preparation for the war, we have to look into the number of soldiers that took an active role during the three years. 16 million soldiers from the country’s army were used in the war; they consisted of the Airforce, Army and Navy soldiers. As noted earlier, the war was fought on all fronts, land, sea, and water. Out of the 16 million, the country lost only 405399 while 671278 others were wounded (Lewis, 5013). Supporting 16 million troops required a huge preparation and going by the relatively low casualties, compared to other countries like Russia (then the Soviet Union) that lost over 5 million soldiers. Additionally, the country suffered 130201 war prisoners out of which 1161629 returned home after the war.
The key players in the mobilization and supply of resources during the three years included the then Secretary of War (currently Department of Defense) Henry Stimson and William Leahy the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These supplies were made to various commanders on the ground. The army was under the command of Gen. George Marshall, Hap Arnold for the Airforce and Frank Knox for the Navy. During the supplies, the on the German front was given the first priority even though the first attack was launched on Japan’s Pearl Harbor.
In their early preparation before the launch of the strike, the army chiefs identified the need to have different command centers for the various fronts. The fight on each front had it independent command center to enhance communication and improve the overall efficiency of the fight. For example, the Hawaiian based Chester Nimitz was put in charge of the Pacific front that involved the fight against Japan and the German front was through the military support to Britain. Perhaps the option to support Britain against Germany was one way of reducing the cost and minimizes direct casualties among the US soldiers.
Chester Nimitz led one of the most famous naval battles against Japan on the Pacific front where he was the leader. At the beginning of the battle, Japan’s Imperial Navy had an advantage as they conquered the Philippines, part of Britain, Dutch and even threatening Britain. However, their conquest was dealt a blow in 1942 when the United States sunk their carriers were blown during the Midway Battle allowing the US army to seize the initiative. The victory over the carriers gave the US an advantage allowing them to move their air bases on the Australian Islands as they inch closer to Japan. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was in charge of the Australian base and moved steadily to the Japan Islands through the Philippines. By late 1945, the US forces finally conquered the Japanese Islands. During this final conquest, the United States Forces sunk the fleets to Japan denying it the gasoline and fuel. Consequently, their forces became weakened allowing the US Navy to capture Islands within the bombing range of the mainland.
On the Germany front, the United States supplied Britain and her allies with ammunition and other military equipment to help weaken their armies. The Soviet Union also received support as they were also fighting against the German on another front. Perhaps the biggest mistake Hitler made during this war was to open so many battle fronts that left his country exposed to many enemies. There is no doubt Germany had a strong army and would have won their battles suppose they did not open so many fronts. Moreover, the uncontrolled conquest of other territories made Germany have so many enemies that were willing to stand against them
The tactic to supply the military equipment to Germany’s opponents was one of the genius moves by the United States’ military since it weakened the German’s forces before the final invasion. During these military aids, the US army also incorporated her forces among those of their allies like the Britain and Italy. By 1943-45, the US forces constituted nearly a third of all the forces fighting on the German front. However, the progress to defeating Germany had a blow after the Italian forces withdrew. Both the British Royal Air Force and the US Air Force continued with their attacks on the German cities and targeting the transport infrastructure that linked them. On the other hand, the Soviet Union was advancing on the East and by May 1945 Germany surrendered after the killing of her leader Adolf Hitler.
In June 1944 the invasion force had reached France’s. The invasion force had 23 cruisers, 9 battleships, 71 large landing craft and 104 destroyers. It also included transport troops, mine merchantmen and mine sweepers in nearly over 5000 ships, the largest armada in any war history. The forces started their naval bombardment at 0550 in the morning by detonating the minefield at the shoreline. Subsequent bombardment followed that ensured the enemy’s defense system was destroyed. Over 100000 soldiers then moved ashore to start their assault.
The nature of the assault on France from the coast shows meticulous planning that had taken place several months before the final attack. In fact, the plan started in 1940 when US forces asked the British Forces to withdraw from France during the overwhelming onslaught by the Hitler’s Germany. However, the withdrawal of the British forces only gave the US forces and her allies time to plan on the next onslaught. Additionally, by the British forces not being present in France at the time of attack means that there would be minimal chances of friendly fires, Britain and the US were allies during the war.
Before the attack on France and other parts of Europe, the United States and British Royal Army selected Admiral Lord Lois Mountbatten, the Chief of Staff in Britain, together with his team with the responsibility of examining the feasibility of operation in European territory through the water. As pointed out earlier, the attack in France occurred from the sea, Normand Coast. Therefore, it was necessary for both governments to ensure the operation would have minimum casualties. The other amphibious operation on the Japan front experienced difficulties due to the strength of Japan Imperial Navy. Similar experience on the European would have proved costly to the United States and her allies. Just before the raid by the United Forces at Nomad coast, the then British Prime Minister had advised Admiral to include landing crafts among other techniques in his troop. In fact, this advice by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would later be incorporated by the United States’ raid. The forces had landing crafts, cruisers, destroyers and over 5000 ships among other military assortments.
The formal cooperation between America planners and Britain began in December 1941, immediately after the attack on the Japanese Pearl Harbor and the declaration by Germany and Italy on the war against the United States. These two allies then had an agreement to first focus on destroying Germany before confronting other threats. At the time, Germany had the strongest army and perhaps the onslaught in France that resulted in the withdrawal of the British Forces in the country made it the prime target. Winning war the primarily depended on first successfully containing Germany and stopping their aggression. Additionally, the two countries targeted Italy which was German ally thus opening the war on two fronts. Fighting the battle on two fronts against two string enemies in the United States and Britain was an uphill task against Germany considering Italy did not a very strong army. Furthermore, Italy was already fighting Japan on one side and opening new war front with the US and Britain on another would be unsustainable. In fact, this became evident when it became the first country to surrender.
Besides the corporation, the British independently developed a proposal with a code name ROUNDUP for the attack into France. However, the attack was only to occur after campaigns across Europe, Balkans, Scandinavia, Mediterranean and Soviet Union. The roundup exercise was primarily to make it difficult for Germany to amass power. The roundup was to only start after the enemy weakened by successive bombings and any partisan uprising suppressed.
Apart from planning, the Allied Air Force carried out a reconnaissance visit to the area and took over 3200 photos of the Normandy coast. The Air Force planes took the photos at a low attitude to ensure that they were very clear and indicated the invader’s terrain. The photos were critical in the planning of the assault since they provided the commanders with exact nature of the terrain and possible hideout for the enemies. Low attitude photos identified possible obstacle to the operation and any defensive system in place. It is these defense structures that became the first targets during the invasion before the ground troops would invade the beach. Destroying the defense structure made it impossible for the enemy to fight back thus allowing the United States’ Army and that of their allies chance to capture the beach. However, the Allied forces took a lot of precaution during the exercise and it was limited to only the European coastline to avoid alerting the German forces. It was meant to be a surprise attack catching the Hitler lead forces unaware thus neutralizing any of their attempts.
The photographs also captured infrastructural facilities like bridges, buildings troop emplacements, and inland terrains. Destroying the bridges and other critical installations was an important aspect of making the enemy immobile. Bridges and roads are essential infrastructures during the war as they provide supply routes to the soldiers on the ground. More often than note, the ground soldiers need to replenish their stocks, both military equipment, and other assortments, that are necessary to sustain the fight. Bringing down the bridges means the supply is cut off thus making the troops on the ground vulnerable. The photographing of these infrastructures was taken at various angles with precision to help guide the Air Force team during air strikes. Taking the photos at different angles provided the planners with the opportunity to identify the best angle to hit the structures for maximum impact. Besides, the members of the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties came up with the harbor routes and the depth of each sounding.
The Allied forces were also involved in information gathering across Europe through pictures of holidays taken along at Normandy coast and postcards. BBC was instrumental in helping the United States and her ally Britain to collect the information from unsuspecting citizens. After the announcement, the broadcaster over ten million items which included even the information on the France resistance. Information on France resistance particularly proved important as it provides the intelligence on the nature of operation of the Axis troop. Additionally, the intelligence team learned German’s construction technique in their defensive installations.
Information gathering also involved encoding the radio messages from the Germans’ communication systems. The encoding was through the Enigma Machine and other enciphering techniques. Codebreakers at Bletchley Park played an important role in ensuring they broke the codes as fast possible considering they often changed (Harrison, 1988). Breaking the codes provided the planners with the information on the movement of the German troops and their plans. Understanding the movement was specifically important as it played in developing the attack plan. The Allied force had a window on when and how to attack considering they knew the German’s plans and possible targets. British intelligence named the information from the Germany communication system as Ultra-intelligence and only provided to the top commanders of the operation. Providing the information to top commanders ensured it was secure and protected from landing on the hands of the wrong audience.
The disastrous at Dieppe provided the United States’ Army and her allies with the vital lessons on the importance of having the technology. Technology lapses were the primary cause of the failure in the Dieppe Rad since the enemy’s proved to be superior. The ground troops that were to invade the Normandy coast had to receive aerial support from the air forces. The first in taking over the coast was preliminary offshore and aerial bombing. However, this was not enough and the aircrafts had to be fitted with artillery and anti-tank guns. The latter was not only good for protecting the soldiers in the aircraft but also fight back in case there is a ground attack. The aircraft would also come in handy where the ground troops came under intense fire from the enemy.
However, the Allies’ made the decision not to make an immediate attack on the French piers that were heavily guarded. The two artificial piers were designed by COSSAC planners and included floating outer breakwaters, blockships shelters, and Phoenix breakwaters. The Continental allies further build “Pipeline Under the Ocean (PLUTO).” The pipes had a 3-inch diameter and were to pass through the Channel to Cherbourg from the Isle of Wight. These underground pipeline systems were to ensure there is a continuous supply of oil to the soldiers.
In conclusion, the United States and her allies made meticulous planning before the invasion of Normandy coast. The planning involved incorporating technology to prevent any disaster like in the case of Dieppe Raid. Additionally, the allied forces build pipelines to ensure a continuous supply of oil after the invasion. The incorporation of military intelligence in information gathering enabled the planners to have adequate information on the structure of the German defense systems, the movement of their troops among other information. There is no doubt the adequate plan contributed immensely to the success of the war that brought down the Adolf Hitler’s reign and stops the spread of Nazism.
Gilbert, M., & Mayes, B. (1989). The Second World War: A Complete History (p. 295). H. Holt.
Harrison, M. (1988). Resource mobilization for World War II: the USA, UK, USSR, and Germany, 1938‐1945. The Economic History Review, 41(2), , 171-192.
Holcomb, J., Stansbury, L. G., Champion, H. R., Wade, C., & Bellamy, R. F. (2006). Understanding combat casualty care statistics. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 60(2),, 397-401.
Lewis, A. (5013). The American culture of war: A history of US military force from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom. Routledge .
Taylor, A. J. (1996). Origin Of The Second World War. Simon and Schuster.