BOOK REVIEW

FREEDOM FROM FEAR
By
David M. Kennedy

(Part 2: World War II)

FUTURECASTS online magazine
www.futurecasts.com
Vol. 3, No. 2, 2/1/01.

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 Sloppy scholarship:

   Grossly sloppy scholarship is the only appropriate verdict for the first few chapters - covering the market crash of 1929 and the first two years of the Great Depression - of this important segment of The Oxford History of the United States.
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  For Part I of this Book Review, covering portrayal of The Great Depression, See Freedom from Fear I.
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  Depression era scholarship must be able to navigate the mine fields of the advocacy scholarship of twentieth century ideologues like John Kenneth Galbraith - who has admitted a lifetime effort to support his socialist proclivities with intentionally twisted scholarship. (Paul Krugman refers to him as a primary example of the academic "policy entrepreneur.")
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  David Kennedy clearly lacks the competence in economics
to cover this subject. His acceptance of the various left wing ideological myths about the causes of the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression are supported by scholarship that can only be described as grossly sloppy.
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    Much better is Kennedy's coverage of Hoover Administration and New Deal responses to the Great Depression, and the years immediately preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor.
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 More sloppy scholarship:
   However, grossly sloppy scholarship is the only appropriate verdict for the coverage of World War II in the second half of this important segment of The Oxford History of the United States.
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   World War II scholarship must include an understanding of the realities of the WW-II battlefield, and at least a familiarity with the commonly known events of the conflict.
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  David Kennedy clearly lacks the competence in military history or the understanding of WW-II tactics and battlefield strategy needed to cover this subject. His efforts at military analysis are simplistic - one sided - and sometimes ludicrous. His ignorance of commonly known facts is disconcerting.

  Indeed, the numerous inconsistencies between the factual presentation and the periodic expressions of criticism or opinion leaves the impression that this history was written by a committee - with none of the various contributors bothering to read what the others have written.

World War II

 More sloppy scholarship:
  Unfortunately, there is more sloppy scholarship as soon as Kennedy tries to provide an account of the actual conflict. He is clearly as much out of his depth with respect to military history as he is with economic history.
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German saboteurs in the United States:

 

 

 

Blatantly sloppy scholarship:

   Lets start with an obvious error.
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  Referring to a failed German effort to infiltrate two small groups of saboteurs into the U.S. by submarine, Kennedy asserts:

  "A lone Coast Guardsman stumbled onto the first group burying their uniforms --- and took them into custody."

  This is blatantly wrong. Although just a minor incident, it is revealing because it is so well known that nobody actually conversant with WW-II could make such an error. The Coast Guardsman stumbled on one of the saboteurs walking on the beach, and he DIDN'T take any of them into custody. They were rounded up later when one of their members had a change of heart and turned them all in.
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  For years, this event has been a regular, frequently repeated feature of Discovery Channel and History Channel television accounts of WW-II.

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Stalin's courage and tactical shrewdness:

 

 

 

 

 

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  Acceptance of long-discredited left wing propaganda about the courage and tactical shrewdness displayed by Stalin in the first days of the German offensive against Russia is especially typical of Kennedy's predilections.
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   Kennedy discusses the strategic decision faced by Japan after Germany invaded Russia. They could either strike south to gain the essential oil and other resources of Southeast Asia, or strike north, joining Germany's assault on Russia to eliminate Russia as a dangerous threat to their ambitions on the Asian mainland.
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  Kennedy asserts:

  "Stalin's daring decision not to shift his Siberian garrisons to the defense of Moscow, along with evidence of stiffening Soviet resistance against the Germans, robbed [Japan] of their 'golden opportunity' [to eliminate the Russian threat]."

 More sloppy scholarship - and an incredible willingness to accept long-discredited left wing propaganda myths:

   This effort to credit Stalin with courage and shrewd tactical insight has a few obvious weaknesses. In fact, Stalin's conduct during these first days of the conflict was anything but courageous or shrewd.

  • The Japanese decision came on July 2, 1941, as Kennedy himself sets forth. At that date - just days after Hitler's June 22 surprise attack - the entire Russian front was in a state of collapse, and there was no sign of "stiffening" resistance anywhere.

  • Stalin's delay in shifting his Siberian garrisons was NOT due to courage or tactical shrewdness. Stalin simply couldn't make any decisions during this critical time. Stalin spent many of these days in seclusion in his room - frozen in fear and indecision. It wasn't until July 3, 1941, that he could even bestir himself enough to address the Russian people about the war that was hurtling through them.

  • It was clearly FDR's courage and tactical shrewdness in cutting off Japan's oil and other essential supplies that played the predominant role in convincing the Japanese that they had to attack south against the United States and England to secure the resources that they needed from Southeast Asia. They obviously could not engage in war in Russia - or anywhere else - without oil.

  Stalin later did, indeed, demonstrate considerable courage and determination - and tactical ruthlessness in his willingness to expend profligately of Russia's vast manpower resources. In the Russian war effort, there were seldom any indications of tactical shrewdness - designed to allow the Russian Army to gain its military objectives at a lesser cost in men and material.

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 Performance of the Cactus Air Force:

 

 

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   Kennedy totally dismisses the accomplishments of the "Cactus Air Force" - American airmen flying out of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal during that pivotal campaign - to which Kennedy rightly gives extensive coverage - Kennedy asserts:

  "In any event, the Zeros that accompanied the [Japanese] bombers still easily outclassed the Wildcats in speed and maneuverability and routinely shooed the marine fliers from the sky."

 Very sloppy scholarship - and a crass slur on the courageous and effective pilots of the Cactus Air Force.

   This is a crass slur on the courageous and effective pilots of the Cactus Air Force. This evaluation was true earlier at Midway, and in the first weeks beginning at the end of August, 1942, at Guadalcanal. However, the American pilots were flexible and inventive and learned quickly.
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  Like Clair Chenault with the Flying Tigers in China, they devised creative tactics to make up for the deficiencies of their inferior airplanes and their inferiority in numbers and experience. Basically, they used "dive and climb" tactics to attack straight through the Japanese formations relying on their superior 50 caliber armament and sturdier airframes, concentrated on the bombers, and tried to avoid dogfights with the nimble Zeros.
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  The superbly skilled Japanese pilots fought as they had been taught, and never developed a counter to these tactics. They were expended profligately - according to usual Japanese military doctrine.
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  The Japanese lost about 75 % more aircraft in aerial combat than the U.S. during the Guadalcanal campaign. However, they lost around three times as many pilots because about 60 % of downed American pilots were recovered and returned to duty, while only about 20 % of downed Japanese pilots were recovered. The Americans lost more aircraft on the ground and on stricken carriers, and in operational mishaps on the rough airstrips of Guadalcanal, but these losses caused few pilot losses.
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  Logically, Kennedy should have realized this, since he himself points out that replacement and reinforcement of pilots and aircraft in the South Pacific was just a trickle at that stage in the war. Heavy losses would have quickly resulted in a wipeout of American airmen - and marines, too - at Guadalcanal.
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  Even as it was, there were times when the Cactus Air Force could muster less than a dozen Wildcat fighters. Yet they never hesitated to rise heroically to confront their superior Japanese adversaries during that initial nerve wracking two months tour - during which they were in constant combat without replacements and just a trickle of reinforcements. Although on a much smaller scale, their achievement was similar to that of the celebrated airmen who won the Battle of Britain for England - a fact that Kennedy remains oblivious to.
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 A tendency towards shoot from the hip derogatory comments - and more sloppy scholarship:

   When referring to the air combat during the Bouganville Campaign in November, 1943, Kennedy continues this error.
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  He asserts:

  "[The] landings also occasioned ferocious air battles that further winnowed the steadily deteriorating pool of first rate Japanese pilots."

  This is partially true, but largely misleading. Attrition of Japan's superb veteran fighter pilots was largely completed by the Cactus Air Force and the carrier fighters and antiaircraft gunners during the Guadalcanal campaign.
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  Japan lost half of its superb veteran naval fighter pilots in the Battles of The Coral Sea and Midway. They lost almost half of the rest during two fleet carrier engagements and in combat with the Cactus Air Force around Guadalcanal.
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  Japan's two remaining fleet carriers were forced to retire to Japan because they no longer had flight crews to fly off their decks. By November, 1942, these carriers had returned to Japan to train new flight crews, and thus could play no role in the pivotal November naval battle. (One of these carriers also had bomb damage to repair.)
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  Japan's skilled veteran Army pilots suffered a similar fate.

  • As early as the end of September, 1942, the Japanese were generally confined to ineffective nighttime air raids.
  • Daylight raids were resumed with some effectiveness in the middle of October in connection with the battleship bombardment of Henderson Field - but by the last week in October, Japanese Army Air Force losses totaled about 33 percent during October alone.
  • By the end of October, Japanese losses of skilled pilots enabled the Cactus Air Force to resume dogfights with the nimble Zeros.
  • By the end of November, 1942, the Cactus Air Force was virtually unchallenged in the skies over Guadalcanal. As Kennedy somewhat inconsistently concedes, during the November battles, "American pilots and antiaircraft gunners also took a fearsome toll of Japanese fliers, further eroding Japan's already tenuous air superiority."
  • By the end of December, the Cactus Air Force had taken the offensive and forced the Japanese to end operations at their new advance air base at Munda. Japanese air superiority was obviously gone due to the inferiority of replacement pilots.

  Most of these accomplishments go unmentioned by Kennedy. His dismissive attitude towards the Cactus Air Force obviously reflects his tendency for shoot from the hip derogatory comments - and more sloppy scholarship.

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 The prewar U.S. Navy:

Despite Pearl Harbor, and ineffective equipment, the prewar U.S. Navy fought the Imperial Navy to a standstill during 1942.

  The success of the prewar U.S. Navy escapes Kennedy's attention - as one might expect. Despite its initial losses at Pearl Harbor -- and despite having to fight with inferior aircraft and dysfunctional torpedoes (they ran much too deep - and even when they hit, they often didn't explode - and they had just 60 percent of the range and speed of the Japanese torpedoes) -- the prewar U.S. Navy succeeded in fighting the Japanese Navy to a mutually exhausting standstill within the first year of the conflict.
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  It was only afterwards, during 1943, that the tide of expanding U.S. wartime construction would flow over the remnants of the Imperial Navy.
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     Neither side had any combat ready fleet aircraft carriers available for a short while after the carrier battle of the Santa Cruz Islands at the end of October, 1942. In the event, the U.S. was able to repair the physical damage to Enterprise and Saratoga much more quickly than the Japanese were able to replace their losses among their superb veteran naval air crews. Two Japanese battleships sunk in Iron Bottom Sound balanced the permanent battleship losses at Pearl Harbor.

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The "so called" Naval Battle of Guadalcanal: 

 

Unforgivably sloppy scholarship:

   Most unforgivable, Kennedy completely screws up the pivotal November, 1942, naval engagement - slighting thereby some true American heroes. He inexplicably gives primary credit for the victory to the pilots of the carrier Enterprise, who had played such vital roles in earlier engagements. Kennedy deprecatingly calls the engagement a "so-called Naval Battle of Guadalcanal," implying that the "big gun" naval ships - the destroyers, cruisers and battleships - played only a subsidiary role to the carrier pilots.
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  How could that be?

  • Doesn't Kennedy know that these were night engagements, and there were no planes in those days that could fight at night except - with considerable difficulty - during periods of full moonlight and perfect conditions?
  • Doesn't he know that Admiral Halsey had ordered the Enterprise to stay out of combat range of Guadalcanal?
  • Doesn't he know that Enterprise planes would thus not have been able to join in the daylight portions of the battle if they couldn't refuel and rearm at Henderson Field at Guadalcanal?
  • Doesn't he know that the battle thus depended on the ability of the much maligned "big gun" ships of the U.S. Navy to prevent the Japanese battleships from bombarding Henderson Field at night?
  • Doesn't he know that the role of the Cactus Air Force and the Enterprise contingent was thus restricted to mopping up? Only with a functioning Henderson Field could the fliers attack those Japanese warships that had been too damaged by U.S. Navy gunfire to get away before dawn - and destroy the defenseless Japanese troop transports.

  Apparently, he knows nothing of these facts. This is unforgivably sloppy scholarship.

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 The "big gun" Naval Battle of Guadalcanal:

    The Navy had already lost two of its four remaining fleet carriers in the dangerous seas around Guadalcanal, including the Wasp by submarine torpedo. The other two had been damaged in those dangerous waters, including Saratoga by submarine torpedo. The new battleship North Carolina had also been disabled by a submarine torpedo in those dangerous waters. Submarine torpedoes had also sunk the disabled Yorktown at Midway.
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  Halsey couldn't afford to lose any more carriers by sending them to within combat striking distance of Guadalcanal - no matter how much the marines might need them.
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 The "unsinkable aircraft carrier" was immobile - and a terribly vulnerable target for the big guns of the Japanese battleships.

  The heavy bombardment of Henderson Field on the night of October 13, 1942, is mentioned by Kennedy, but without further elaboration. There had been frequent bombardments by Japanese submarines, destroyers and cruisers. Although causing damage and casualties, these could not seriously restrict operations at Henderson Airfield - dubbed "The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier."
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  However, when two Japanese battleships showed up one night in October, they demonstrated that Henderson Field had a profound weakness. The "unsinkable aircraft carrier" was also an "immobile aircraft carrier." The big shells of the battleships ripped the field and its facilities apart, churned up the runway, destroyed most of the aircraft widely dispersed in their revetments about the airfield, and inflicted several dozen casualties amongst the marines sheltering in their trenches.
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  Henderson Field was practically out of action for three days, and took a week to fully recover. For a short but significant period - until some operations could resume at Henderson Airfield - Japanese troopships were able to land reinforcements in broad daylight.
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 The first night of the battle was a modern naval version of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

  Now, in November, there were 11 Japanese troopships, loaded with men and supplies, heading for Guadalcanal. They needed only a repeat of that October bombardment to successfully reach Guadalcanal and offload their precious cargo for Japan's biggest ever Guadalcanal offensive.
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  The only American naval forces in the area were the cruiser and destroyer escorts for Admiral Richmond K. Turner's supply convoys. These were commanded by Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan and Admiral Norman Scott. When informed that the Japanese battleship bombardment force was sailing down the Slot towards Guadalcanal, Turner detached his escorts with orders to prevent the bombardment.
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  Fragile destroyers (fighting with dysfunctional torpedoes) and lightly armored cruisers ("eggshells wielding sledgehammers") sailed to confront two Japanese battleships and accompanying cruisers and destroyers. There was not a single gun in the American fleet that could pierce the main armor shielding the Japanese battleships. It would be a modern naval version of the Charge of the Light Brigade - fought against great odds with outstanding courage but questionable tactics.
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  Up through Lengo Channel, past Lunga Point and Henderson Field and into Iron Bottom Sound they sailed. They had two advantages - a few ships equipped with crude radar - and surprise. But the Japanese were equipped with significantly superior night vision optics.
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  The Japanese didn't expect them, and had only high explosive bombardment shells ready for firing rather than the armor piercing shells used for naval engagements. The American column was able to drive right in among the Japanese ships before a shot was fired.
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  In the chaos and confusion of a night engagement, large caliber naval guns quickly dealt out dreadful destruction at point blank range - and Japanese torpedoes repeatedly found their mark with devastating effect. Unlike the Light Brigade, however, the escort fleets of Admirals Callaghan and Scott achieved their objective.
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  The Japanese fleet was scattered and sent scurrying back north, leaving behind a crippled battleship. It suffered a fate similar to that which befell the Bismark. With its steering unluckily crippled and its antiaircraft armament practically wiped out by a deluge of American shells, it was a sitting duck for target practice by the airmen flying out of the still functioning Henderson Field. They pounded it all the next day - but it didn't sink until the Japanese scuttled it that evening and escaped on a destroyer.
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  But Callaghan and Scott paid for their victory with the destruction of most of their command -- and the loss of their lives.

  This was no mere "so called" naval battle.
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  Nobody who truly understands the Guadalcanal Campaign would credit the Enterprise with the victory - and omit Callaghan and Scott and their lightly armored ships - or be so dismissive of their courageous achievement as to conclude, without further comment: "Despite their forewarning, American ships fared badly in the first encounters, ---"

 The battleship duel:
   The next morning, the Japanese on Guadalcanal could see sinking and disabled American ships all over Iron Bottom Sound. That night, a Japanese cruiser task force bombarded Henderson Field without opposition - but the airfield remained in operation.
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   Trusting that Henderson Field had been put temporarily out of action by the bombardment, the Japanese troop ships and their destroyer escorts headed for Guadalcanal. The Cactus Air Force, reinforced by planes from Enterprise, were able to do terrible execution among the defenseless Japanese troop ships.
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  However, the American Navy seemed to have shot its bolt. So the Japanese battleship bombardment force - now with just one battleship but reinforced with additional cruisers and destroyers - was sent back in the next night. The remnants of the troop convoy again ran in towards Guadalcanal.
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   Halsey would still not risk the Enterprise. However, the carrier was escorted by two new fast battleships, equipped with the latest radar, and accompanied by four destroyers (still condemned to fight with defective torpedoes). These ships were detached from the Enterprise, so that the battleships could interpose their more imposing presence in defense of Henderson Field.
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  Again they got close to their adversaries before battle commenced. Again, large caliber naval guns dealt devastation at point blank range amidst the confusion and chaos of a night engagement. And yet again, as in so many - too many - naval engagements during the first 18 months of the war, American destroyers fell like clay pigeons to the Japanese torpedoes without being able to make any effective response.
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  The South Dakota was hit 27 times by heavy caliber shells. However, being a battleship, she suffered less than 100 casualties and, after refitting in the United States, lived to fight through many additional campaigns - minus the use of her rear turret. (This was the battle dramatized in "Too Young The Hero," about a South Dakota seaman who had enlisted at age fourteen.)
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  But Admiral Willis A. Lee had maneuvered the Washington off to one side where he and his gunners could clearly see the Japanese battleship pounding South Dakota. The Washington's broadsides quickly reduced the Japanese battleship to a helpless floating hulk. That night, the Japanese scuttled their ship, embarked on a destroyer, and fled North.
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   This, too, was no mere "so-called" naval battle.
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  Again, Henderson Field remained in operation, thanks to the strenuous efforts and sacrifices of the much maligned "big gun" ships of the American Navy. Again, the Cactus Air Force, with a major contingent from the Enterprise, was thus able to mop up wounded Japanese ships that were unable to sail out of range before dawn. They were also again able to do terrible execution among the four remaining Japanese troop ships that had been desperately grounded on Guadalcanal beaches.
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  Japan's November offensive had been blunted. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of marine casualties had been avoided. Despite heavy U.S. losses, the sinking of two Japanese battleships and assorted smaller warships meant that this was a clear but dearly bought victory for the "big gun" ships of the U.S. Navy.

  How could Kennedy blow this dramatic and pivotal episode of the Guadalcanal Campaign? It reveals a complete lack of familiarity with WW-II military history - a dismissive attitude towards martial gallantry  -- and more sloppy scholarship.
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  Then Kennedy relates one of the most unfortunate snafus of the war - but in a deplorably misleading manner.

 The Juneau:

   Kennedy asserts:

  "[The cruiser Juneau's] spectacular explosion claimed 683 lives, including the five Sullivan brothers ---. As the battle raged on around them, Juneau's unrescued seamen drifted for days under the tropical sun without food or water. [Sharks] chewed off terrified survivors clinging to the nets on the sides of the life rafts."

 

   With this statement, Kennedy gives the impression that the marines and naval personnel on Guadalcanal left a hundred sailors adrift on Iron Bottom Sound to be attacked by sharks. The truth is, of course, that the Navy had PT boats and myriad other small craft that carefully combed Iron Bottom Sound to pick up survivors - Japanese as well as American - after every sea battle.
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  In fact, the Juneau was not sunk in Iron Bottom Sound. The Juneau, though severely damaged by one of those superior Japanese torpedoes, was one of a handful of American ships still seaworthy after the initial battle. It joined this group of variously damaged survivors, limping at just 18 knots south into the open seas away from Guadalcanal. These seas were heavily patrolled by Japanese submarines. One of those superior Japanese torpedoes blew up the Juneau. The rest of the ships in the flotilla were unable to stop to pick up survivors for fear of being sunk themselves (which undoubtedly would have been the case).
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  Radio messages about the incident were sent, but in one of the inevitable and tragic snafu's of the war, the message was mishandled and the appropriate rescue effort was not sent out until after the slow flotilla of damaged ships arrived in port. However, there was no "battle [that] raged on around them" while they were left adrift in the water.

 The "curdling" success of the U.S. Marines:

 

 

 

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   Then, Kennedy gives us this curious sentence about the success of U.S. Marine operations in WW-II.

  "One hundred fifteen Americans died during this [Guadalcanal] landing phase, in a curdling preview of the loss ratios of nearly ten to one, Japanese to American, that would characterize the entire Pacific war."

  "Curdling?"

  Would Kennedy have been more pleased if the marines had been less effective and thus had suffered greater losses?
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 At Guadalcanal - courage, superior fighting qualities and tactics - not material superiority - provided the margin of victory.

    It was the Japanese who had the advantages of quantity and quality in naval and air support at Guadalcanal - something that Kennedy elsewhere notes.
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  Heavens forbid that Kennedy should express the obvious - that at Guadalcanal, the superiority of Marine and Cactus Air Force fighting qualities and tactics provided the margins of victory. At Guadalcanal, the courage of the poorly equipped American naval forces and pilots, and the superiority of their antiaircraft gunnery, provided the necessary support.
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  What Kennedy should find "curdling" was that - at Guadalcanal and thereafter - the marines were responsible for far fewer Japanese casualties than were caused by Japanese military doctrine - with its contempt for adequate logistical support - its profligate expenditure of manpower - and its fanatic refusal of surrender when beaten.

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 Leyte Gulf:
   Again demonstrating a disregard for martial gallantry, Kennedy relates the climactic moments of the Battle of Leyte Gulf but unforgivably fails to mention the marine pilots who attacked the Japanese battleships, cruisers and destroyers - usually without armor piercing ordinance. Without this fact, the decision of Admiral Takeo Kurita to break off the final attack seems inexplicable - and it is thus presented by Kennedy.
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 Incredibly, Kennedy omits the courageous and effective defensive efforts of the marine pilots who saved the Leyte  Gulf invasion fleet.

 

 

 

 

 

   The marine pilots from the small imperiled escort carriers attacked furiously with 500 pound high explosive bombs designed for ground support missions - and often with much less than that. These bombs could not disable battleships, but they could do significant damage to superstructure and anti aircraft armament. However, the marine pilots actually succeeded in sinking several Japanese cruisers and causing heavy damage to many of the other lightly armored ships - an accomplishment incredibly omitted by Kennedy. They frequently forced the smaller Japanese ships to maneuver radically to avoid these attacks - critically slowing their pursuit of the small fleeing escort carriers  and widely dispersing the Japanese fleet.
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  Having sunk two escort carriers, Admiral Kurita turned to gather his dispersed fleet. Due to the fog of battle, smokescreens and the scores of aggressive marine aircraft attacking from two other groups of escort carriers that he couldn't see, Kurita mistakenly believed he was engaging large fleet carriers. He also could expect to encounter larger ships along the way, which made it vital to have his fleet in proper formation. However, he was dissuaded from renewing his attack by the constant and effective attacks of the marine aircraft. This was undoubtedly a mistake - but no longer inexplicable. Those gallant marine pilots provided the explanation - and clearly saved the entire invasion fleet.

  Kennedy seems genuinely distressed at having to relate instances of martial gallantry and tactical proficiency - a vital aspect of any military history - and does so only in those few instances - as at Iwo Jima - where totally unavoidable.

 Pointe du Hoc:

 

 

 

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  Kennedy's shoot from the hip tendency to toss in critical comments demonstrating his ignorance of military matters is typified in his evaluation of the Rangers' D-Day attack to capture the empty artillery emplacements on Pointe du Hoc. According to Kennedy, the attack was "brave" but "futile."
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  Whether or not occupied by artillery emplacements - capturing and holding the high ground dominating a battlefield is NEVER a "futile" act. It was just as important to deny Pointe du Hoc to German artillery spotters as to deny it to German artillery pieces. In the event, the Rangers did succeed in taking and holding the high ground and some important inland approaches to the beaches, and destroyed a battery of German heavy field artillery just inland from Point du Hoc

Critical Military Analysis

  If Kennedy is weak on military history, when he attempts to assume the role of critical military analyst, he is frequently one sided and sometimes ludicrous.

 Criticism of Admiral Yamamoto:
   The tendency to shoot from the hip with shallow critical analysis - frequently contradicted by facts presented in other pages of his book - is evident in Kennedy's criticism of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's strategic decision to seek a decisive engagement with American carriers at the Battle of Midway.
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The American victory was ultimately due to "five minutes of incredible, gratuitous favor from the gods of battle."

   Many have questioned Yamamoto's tactical scheme, which divided his command in favor of a small diversionary thrust in the Aleutian Islands. This was typical of Japanese naval tactics throughout the war, and was almost invariably successful in diverting American offensive efforts away from the main Japanese strike forces. However, Kennedy offers no opinion about Yamamoto's tactics.
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  Instead - with the certitude of 20/20 hindsight and the comforting assurance of Yamamoto's ultimate defeat - Kennedy cannot resist the opportunity for an attack on the Japanese Admiral, asserting:

  "[I]t demonstrated that even this prudent planner was not immune to the incautious recklessness induced by victory disease."

  However, just seven pages later - at the end of his portrayal of the battle - Kennedy himself accepts the widespread view that the American victory was ultimately due to "five minutes of incredible, gratuitous favor from the gods of battle."
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 Yamamoto's plans failed - but clearly not because of "incautious recklessness" or "victory disease."

   Kennedy nowhere questions - as he cannot - Yamamoto's absolute strategic need to force the American carriers into a decisive battle as soon as possible - while Japan's naval forces retained their substantial qualitative and quantitative advantages. Kennedy suggests no better method available to Yamamoto for that purpose than the attack on Midway.
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  Without forewarning by the Magic code breakers - which Yamamoto had no way of suspecting - Yamamoto's plans might well have succeeded. Even as it was - as Kennedy clearly sets forth - only incredible good fortune delayed Japanese discovery of the American carriers and permitted the Americans to get in the decisive first strike minutes before a massive Japanese strike could be launched against them. Only by incredible good fortune did the ineffective American torpedo bombers arrive first - luring down the defending Zero fighters and leaving the skies clear for the American dive bombers.
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  Yamamoto's plans failed - but clearly not because of "incautious recklessness" or "victory disease."

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 Criticism of Admiral Fletcher:

 

Fletcher commanded during the only two American Naval victories of the first 10 months of the war.

   Admiral Frank J. Fletcher's decision to hastily depart with his carriers before completion of the marine landings on Guadalcanal is attributed by Kennedy to a failure of courage.
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  Fletcher was the victor at the Battle of Midway, and the victor in the subsequent Battle of the Eastern Solomons - the only two Allied naval victories against Japan in the first ten months of the war. However, Lexington and Yorktown had been lost while under his command. He was well aware of the deadly superiority of Japanese torpedoes and naval aircraft, and suspected the imminent arrival in that area of Japanese torpedo planes and submarines. He had already lost a large percentage of his outmatched Wildcat fighters in efforts to cover the landings at Guadalcanal.
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   In the event, Japanese cruisers surprised the poorly led Allied "big gun" covering fleet the night after Fletcher withdrew, with devastating impact.
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  Kennedy declares that this was "ineptitude that verged on cowardice," and asserts:

  "But whatever allowance he might be granted [for concern over the safety of his three carriers], the fact remains that Fletcher displayed highly questionable judgment and conspicuous want of courage."

  Kennedy further asserts:

  "Fletcher, fleeing south to safety during the night, was out of range to pursue Mikawa's force up the Slot the next day."

  Is Kennedy crazy?
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  Does Kennedy really suggest that Fletcher - having already had a substantial proportion of his Wildcat fighters downed or damaged - and by this time undoubtedly aware of the superiority of Japanese zero fighters and torpedo bombers - should have risked his precious aircraft carriers chasing a bunch of Japanese cruisers deeper into the airspace dominated by the Japanese air force stationed at Rabaul?
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 One sided analysis:

  Criticism of Fletcher's decision is certainly reasonable, and a topic of hot debate to this day. Unfortunately, Kennedy omits several basic factors.

  • The carriers could not have provided cover at night. In those days, aircraft carriers were useless at night. Only the "big gun" ships could cover the landing fleet at night. Even if the carriers had stayed, the supply ships would have had to prematurely depart as they did the next evening for lack of "big gun" ships to provide cover at night.
  • It was unlikely that Fletcher could have caught the rapidly retiring Japanese strike force the next day. As the Japanese would prove over and over again, they could sail down the Slot during the 12 hour long nights at that latitude, engage in combat operations near Guadalcanal, and escape north out of flight range before dawn, except for any ships seriously crippled in combat. Risking his carriers in pursuit of the Japanese cruisers through those dangerous waters would have been the height of recklessness.
  • Four Japanese submarines were in fact assigned to those waters the next day.
  • Later, in the dangerous waters around Guadalcanal, the Wasp was sunk, and the Saratoga damaged and temporarily put out of action, as was the battleship North Carolina, by Japanese submarine torpedoes.
  • When Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey took command, he pursued a more aggressive strategy with his carriers -- for just two weeks. In that short time, the Hornet was lost and the Enterprise was nearly lost and was put temporarily out of action. As a result of this disastrous defeat - which Kennedy does not deign to mention - the U.S., for a short while, had NO operational fleet aircraft carriers left in operation, and lost most of the advantage it had gained at Midway.
  •  Halsey thereafter ordered the hastily repaired Enterprise to stay out of combat range of Guadalcanal. Thus Enterprise played only a limited role during the critical naval battles of November, 1942, which, as stated above, were thus fought primarily by the surface "big gun" ships of the Navy. Nobody ever accused Halsey of lacking in either aggressiveness or courage. However, his reckless exposure of his only two fleet carriers in October, 1942, has led to considerable question of his judgment - but not by Kennedy.

A cheap shot at a brave and effective admiral:

  Then, Kennedy can't resist taking a cheap shot. Kennedy insinuates that Fletcher's decision to withdraw his carriers at Guadalcanal might have been due to more than the reasonable fear that further carrier losses would risk reversing the gains of Midway. Kennedy can't resist insinuating that it might also have been due to his fear of the "clinching [of] Fletcher's reputation as the man who could not keep his capital ships afloat."
 &
  There is not the slightest evidence to support this insinuation. Opposed by highly skilled opponents flying clearly superior aircraft wielding clearly superior torpedoes, Fletcher's carriers had always fought with surprising effectiveness, hitting hard at the Japanese carriers and knocking scores of attacking aircraft out of the skies. The punishment that the Yorktown had absorbed before being abandoned by its gallant crew is the stuff of military legend.

&

 Criticism of Gen. MacArthur:

 

 

  Gen. Douglas MacArthur is not a favorite of current Politically Correct scholars. Kennedy continues the modern intellectual tradition of emphasizing every failure - and minimizing or even ignoring all the many successes - of this General's long career.
 &
  There is, in fact, much to criticize in MacArthur's strategy, which at times was apparently influenced by political aspirations. However, Kennedy's criticism ranges from the unconvincing to the ridiculous.
 &

 

   Kennedy criticizes MacArthur for "reckless wastage of his troops, hurled against strong Japanese defenses without adequate air, artillery, or armored support," in successfully pressing the early campaign to take Buna and Gona on the New Guinea north coast.
 &
  What Kennedy ignores is that this was during the height of the Guadalcanal campaign. The Japanese were already diverting substantial forces from New Guinea to throw against the beleaguered marines on Guadalcanal, as Kennedy elsewhere mentions. What was MacArthur supposed to do - twiddle his thumbs while the Japanese diverted even more strength against Guadalcanal? At such a time, he would certainly - justifiably - have been faulted if he had failed to put maximum pressure on the enemy to his front.
 &
  Kennedy is apparently oblivious to the strategic importance of Buna. This objective was strategically essential for further operations against New Britain, Rabaul, and up the northern coast of New Guinea to threaten the flank of Japan's vital new southern conquests - their "Southern Resources Area."

  • Apparently, Kennedy is unaware that the Japanese considered the loss of Buna more important than the loss of Guadalcanal.
  • Apparently, he is unaware that MacArthur's attack led to an immediate shift in Japanese emphasis away from Guadalcanal and back to New Guinea - resulting in diversions of first a brigade and some smaller units, and then a division, previously intended for use on Guadalcanal.
  • Apparently, he is unaware that MacArthur's attack caused the diversion of Japanese units from many other theaters, as well.
  • MacArthur's losses - including about 1,600 dead - were certainly heavy for the units involved, but not out of line either with subsequent American loss rates when assaulting fixed Japanese positions or when considering the size of the Japanese forces he was attacking.
  • Most important, Kennedy is apparently unaware that it was the attack on Buna that initiated Japanese consideration of the necessity of retreat from Guadalcanal to concentrate on opposing MacArthur.

Philippines Campaign:

   Kennedy is critical of MacArthur's campaign to free the Philippines. He implies that MacArthur was permitted to continue this campaign merely to placate his political supporters in the states.
 &
   Kennedy asserts:

  "[Reports of Japanese atrocities spurred MacArthur] to intensify his campaign to liberate Philippine territory, a costly operation that had little direct bearing by this time on Japan's ultimate defeat."

 More one sided analysis:

  First, there was the political importance of the Philippines campaign. General Eisenhower, soon after Pearl Harbor - as Kennedy notes - emphasized that:

  "The people of China, of the Philippines, of the Dutch East Indies will be watching us. They may excuse failure but they will not excuse abandonment."

  Second, any impression that MacArthur was heedless of casualties is obviously false. In fact - taken as a whole - the multi-year campaign to retake the Philippines is remarkable in military history for the low levels of casualties experienced by MacArthur's forces, despite numerous invasions of hostile shores. The widely acknowledged brilliance of this campaign is totally ignored by Kennedy. That MacArthur defeated over a third of a million Japanese in well prepared and provisioned defensive positions in the Philippines also goes unmentioned.
 &
  Third, it is noteworthy that Kennedy does not criticize
any of the far more costly battles fought in both Europe and the Pacific by other commanders. Apparently, these military leaders do not arouse the ire of the Politically Correct. 
 &

    Of course, there was also the minor matters of the early liberation of U.S. and Philippine prisoners of war - and of the Philippine peoples themselves. Should they have been left to suffer for another year or more - the likely period of the war in the absence of the atom bomb? What would the "casualties" of that decision have been?

&

 Strategic bombing:
   The strategic bombing effort that visited vast destruction on German and Japanese cities and their civilian populations, receives considerable criticism from Kennedy - as one might expect.
 &

 Galbraith, yet again:

 

Ridiculous analysis:

 

It is inconsistent with Kennedy's own conclusion that, by the end of 1943, the Americans had only "mounted a few foolhardy forays in the skies over Europe."

   He repeats a U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey conclusion. This survey was conducted after the war by teams of economists and psychologists, at least some of whom - like John Kenneth Galbraith who played a role in it - were committed pacifists. They hated strategic bombing, and considered it their obligation to twist their research to suit their ideological ends.
 &
  Kennedy reports:

  "German economic output had actually trebled between 1941 and 1944, despite heavy bombing. Only when air attacks were concentrated on oil and transportation did they produce dramatic results, and because that targeting scheme was introduced only late in the war, its effects were difficult to separate from the impact of ground invasion."

  This incredible Strategic Bombing Survey conclusion is set forth uncritically at the end of the account of the war in Europe -- without reference to the ample material set forth in earlier pages demonstrating the stupidity of that conclusion.
 &
  It is also inconsistent with Kennedy's own conclusion elsewhere in the book that - by the end of 1943 - the Americans had only "mounted a few foolhardy forays in the skies over Europe."
 &

 Allied daylight bombing raids into Germany were sporadic and only rarely effective until the February, 1944, arrival of the long range Mustang fighters.

 

Over three quarters of American strategic bombing tonnage fell after D-Day.

 

The bombers forced the German Air Force to rise in defense of their cities, so the escorting Allied fighters could clear them out of the skies before D-Day.

   Kennedy elsewhere concedes:

  "By the end of 1944 the bombers had wreaked immense devastation."

  He accurately points out that twenty percent of the German industrial labor force was tied down in removal of ruble and the production and manning of antiaircraft weapons. All this despite the fact that allied daylight bombing raids into Germany were sporadic and only rarely effective until February, 1944, when the arrival of the long range Mustang fighters provided cover for the bombers all the way into Germany. British nighttime raids were notoriously inaccurate and were aimed at Germany's cities rather than at its industrial plants.
 &
  Kennedy also points out that these raids were quickly interrupted in the middle of April, 1944, by the tactical needs of the Normandy invasion, and didn't commence again until well into that summer. Over three quarters of American strategic bombing tonnage fell after D-Day.
 &
  Even more important, as Kennedy points out, in February and March, 1944, the bombers forced the German Air Force to rise in defense of their cities - enabling the escorting Allied fighters to clear them out of the skies before D-Day.
 &
  Kennedy recognizes the massive impact of strategic bombing on Germany's oil output and transportation facilities. He notes that by January, 1945 - just six months after the resumption of strategic bombing - the German munitions minister, Albert Speer, informed Hitler that "the war was over in the area of heavy industry and armaments."
 &
  Albert Speer had no doubts about the impact of Allied strategic bombing - two months before Allied troops crossed the Rhine.
 &

 

   Some of the most important impacts of these raids  are left unstated by Kennedy.

  • They tied down a significant number of Germany's best pilots and airplanes, that otherwise would have been used against the Allies in Italy or against the Russians.
  • They similarly tied down numerous antiaircraft batteries - the famous "88s" - that happened to also be the most effective field artillery and antitank guns of the war. These would have made a big impact in either Russia or Italy.
  • They struck at the widespread armaments and support facilities typically scattered through every major city of the major WW-II adversaries. Japanese industry - heavily dependent on small machine shops scattered throughout their industrial cities - was heavily impacted by just a few months of firebomb raids. Symbolically, Japan's only tiny nuclear research laboratory was destroyed in a Tokyo firebomb raid.
  • And perhaps most important, the city busting air raids left no German or Japanese civilians in any doubt that they had really lost the war. There could be no "stab in the back" myth with respect to Axis defeat in WW-II.
  • Ultimately, it was only the city busting air raids - with incendiaries and with atomic bombs - that forced Japan to surrender. They thus prevented millions of additional casualties - both Allied and Japanese - and ended the war before Russia could occupy more of the Japanese Islands or South Korea - an achievement that would grow in importance during the Cold War that would follow.

&

 The delay of the second front:
     Kennedy gives credence to the possibility that the Cold War split between the Soviet Union and the West was precipitated by Soviet suspicions that the West intentionally delayed the D-Day invasion - inexcusably leaving Russia to bear the brunt of the European war.
 &

Kennedy gives credence to the left wing myth that the second front delay caused the Cold War:

  Kennedy asserts:

  "---[S]ome historians have discerned the first shadows of the Cold War, ---. Certainly, the Soviets at this point [August, 1942], had ample reason to doubt their Western partners."

  Stalin's aggressive ambitions could have been modified by an earlier second front effort by the Allies - or anything else the Allies could have done? This is ridiculous.

 Incredibly ridiculous analysis:

  The Soviets "certainly" had "reason to doubt?" This obvious left wing mythology is clearly absurd.
 &
   Stalin's character, attitudes and ambitions are elsewhere accurately portrayed by Kennedy. Kennedy accurately notes at another point Stalin's expressed intention of imposing "his own social system as far as his army can reach." It is ridiculous in the extreme to even suggest that anything the Allies could have done (other than surrender to all of Stalin's ambitions in Europe) would have prevented the Cold War.
 &
  Only Stalin caused the "gaping chasm separating the Western allies from their Russian comrades-in-arms." Only Stalin could have prevented it. Yet once again, Kennedy exhibits a child-like willingness  to suspend disbelief with respect to even the most absurd left wing propaganda myths.
 &

 

   The notion of a 1942 invasion of Europe - even a "limited" invasion - is ludicrous,

  • without landing craft, Mulberry harbors, and all the other special equipment used for the invasion;
  • without control of the air over Europe;
  • with U-boats still dominating the supply route across the North Atlantic;
  • with American production not yet really hitting its stride, and certainly not yet having accumulated the resources needed for a campaign in Europe;
  • with only eight American divisions in the entire European theater as late as the first quarter of 1943, and large English and Commonwealth forces tied down in North Africa until the second quarter of 1943;
  • with Hitler still victorious almost everywhere;
  • with the German Army in the west as yet not weakened by the need to divert additional forces to North Africa and Italy - or Russia;
  • with the Allies as yet not profiting from all the lessons they would learn from the foul ups of their easier Mediterranean invasion efforts.

  If not an outright disaster, an early limited invasion of Europe would at best have been a larger version of Anzio - easily contained by the Germans, but a severe drain on Allied resources and morale that would have adversely impacted the more profitable efforts in the Mediterranean - and perhaps even the buildup for the Normandy invasion.
 &

 Kennedy repeatedly returns to this theme - displaying a preternatural concern for the desires of Russia's bloody despot.

  Many of these weaknesses continued throughout 1943 and even well into 1944.
 &
  It wasn't until March of 1944 - as Kennedy points out - that dominance in the air over Europe was achieved by Allied air forces.
 &
  Even as late as the spring of 1944
- as Kennedy points out - Eisenhower feared that he had too few landing craft for the invasion. Even on D-Day, there were less than 40 American, English and other divisions in England.
 &
  Stalin certainly had reason to "desire"
a second front in 1942 or 1943 - both to divert German forces from his front, and to drain his Allies who would ultimately be his adversaries. However, this is far different from viewing the lack of a second front as "reason to doubt" the sincerity of U.S. and English efforts.
 &
  Yet Kennedy repeatedly returns to this theme - displaying a preternatural concern for the desires of Russia's bloody despot.

&

 Criticism of Churchill's Mediterranean strategy:

 

Attacking a powerful empire at its most vulnerable points around its periphery is the approved practice set forth in every book on military strategy.

  Kennedy is harshly critical of Churchill's efforts to initially attack the Axis Empire at its periphery - in the Mediterranean. Kennedy seems oblivious to the fact that this approach - attacking a powerful empire at its most vulnerable points around its periphery - is the approved practice set forth in every book on military strategy.
 &
  Where else could a second front have been more profitably initiated in 1942? Where else in 1943?
 &
  Kennedy - the harsh critic of the immeasurably smaller casualty rates experienced by MacArthur - appears to be suggesting that the Allies should have humored Stalin at the expense of huge losses and the possible defeat of a landing effort in France before 1944. Aside from mentioning Churchill's fears, Kennedy fails to offer a single word estimating the likely costs and probable outcome of such a premature invasion effort.
 &

 The extent of the "second front" in 1943:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kennedy adopts a pervasively dismissive attitude towards Allied efforts in the Mediterranean, in Asia, and elsewhere during 1942 and 1943.

 

 

 

Germany lost 157,000 men in the African campaign - had to pour 16 additional divisions into the defense of Italy - employed substantial air force and other resources defending against Allied bombing raids - and could hope for no help from Japan in its war against Russia.

   Actually, it is inaccurate to speak of a lack of a second front at any time during these years. By posing threats all around the periphery of the German empire, England alone - and later with the United States - was tying down vast German forces. Kennedy at various points indicates the substantial German forces tied down in Western Europe in defensive and occupation efforts, and in the Mediterranean theater.

  • North Africa cost Germany about 157,000 men, as well as the almost 200,000 Italians lost to the Axis and the costs of an active war front far from home.
  • There were 60 German divisions, including 11 Panzer divisions, in France.
  • There were 11 German divisions in Norway.
  • The Italian campaign tied down 20 German divisions, including their only elite airborne forces, and imposed the costs of an active war front and the loss of Germany's only substantial European ally.
  • Additional substantial German forces were tied down in Denmark, the Balkans, Greece and Crete.
  • Substantial air forces, anti aircraft artillery units, and labor were tied down in defense of German cities.
  • Of course, the Allies bore the brunt of the Battle of the Atlantic - through which supplies flowed to both England and Russia. Britain also provided invaluable intelligence assistance by means of its Ultra program that broke Germany's unbreakable Enigma cipher machine.
  • Finally, by "provoking" Japan, and forcing Japan to strike against Pearl Harbor and the Philippines on its way south to secure the oil and other resources of the Dutch East Indies, the United States may have prevented Japan from striking north to join Germany in knocking Russia out of the war. The elimination of Russia as a threat in Asia was a high priority for the Japanese military, which had for some time been planning just such an attack.

  Nevertheless, Kennedy adopts a pervasively dismissive attitude towards Allied efforts in the Mediterranean, in Asia, and elsewhere during 1942 and 1943 that leads to some obvious inconsistencies and absurdities.

  • Kennedy dismissively notes that Rommel employed just three German divisions in his African campaign. This may have been true at the very beginning, but elsewhere we learn that Germany lost 157,000 men in the African campaign - not an insignificant accomplishment by any standards. The logistical demands for this distant battlefield, and the losses in shipping and aircraft, were also not an inconsequential burden on the Axis war effort.
  • Kennedy is dismissive of the impact of the Italian campaign on the German war effort, but is forced to relate that Hitler had to immediately pour 16 additional divisions into Italy. He defensively and stupidly asserts that these were not diverted from the Eastern Front. However, this does not mean that they could not have been subsequently employed as a significant reinforcement for the Eastern Front. It also ignores the possibility that their alternative availability for duty on the Northern Coast of France would have proven a major difficulty for the Normandy invasion forces.
  • Kennedy relates the failure of the Allied strategic bombing campaign in 1943, but fails to mention the German air force and much of the other resources tied down in defending against these attacks.
  • Kennedy deplores the war with Japan in the Pacific as unnecessary and possibly avoidable. However, he fails to explain how the United States could have even entered the war in Europe without the attack on Pearl Harbor. He also fails to explain what the impact on Russia might have been had Japan not been subject to American "provocation," and had decided to attack north against Russia instead of south against England and the United States on their way to the oil and other resources of the Dutch East Indies. FDR, himself, at Teheran, expressed doubts whether it would have even been possible for the United States to enter the war in Europe if Japan had not attacked Pearl Harbor.

 It is perfectly fair and reasonable to recognize the Soviet Union as the primary contributor to the victory over Hitler.

   The Soviet Union - as a major continental land power - inevitably bore the brunt of the land war in Europe. It is perfectly fair and reasonable to recognize it as the primary contributor to the victory over Hitler. However, all told, the German forces elsewhere tied down were substantial even when compared with the 210 German divisions active on the Russian front. Also, the elimination of Japan as a threat to Siberia permitted Stalin to draw heavily on his veteran Siberian forces.
 &
  Generals Marshall and Eisenhower performed splendidly in WW-II, but they should have thanked their lucky stars that Churchill diverted them towards the Mediterranean in November, 1942 - and during 1943 as well. Their fear that Russia might be knocked out of the war in 1942 was understandable, and undoubtedly colored their judgment.
 &
  One other point is usually left unsaid on this "second front" debate.

  If Stalin had wanted a second front, he could have created it himself - in the first six months of the war - instead of providing material assistance to Germany during its attack into France.

&

Economic superiority:
   Kennedy reduces the American victory in WW-II to the simplistic half truth that the U.S. threw more tanks over the hill and more aircraft into the sky than our adversaries. Of course, it ultimately also produced the atom bomb.
 &

 A dismissive view of all the military factors that contributed to victory in WW-II:

   WW-II victory was just a result of the vast industrial capacity of the U.S., according to Kennedy. All that was required was that Russia and England should hold out until 1943, when American industrial might would overwhelm the Axis forces.
 &
  There is no need to discuss anything else - such as tactics and strategy and courage and martial skills. Some of this he thus mentions just in passing - and much of it he omits altogether.
 &
  Heavens forbid that he should explain the immense debt of gratitude that we - and all the peoples of the Allied nations - and the peoples of the conquered Axis nations as well - will never be able to repay to the Allied fighting men who risked everything and frequently sacrificed their lives on our behalf.
 &
  If Kennedy's simplistic assertion was true, then the small Greek Army could never have defeated the Italians in the Balkans, Germany could never have defeated the larger French Army in 1940, the marines would have lost at Guadalcanal, and the post WW-II French and American defeats in Vietnam were an illusion. Obviously, there is much more to military victory than just material superiority - as important as that undoubtedly is.
 &

 Because of their evident virtues - imperfect though they undoubtedly were - England and the U.S. found allies everywhere - large and small - some of them of immense value.

 

The fighting qualities of American soldiers, especially elite units like the marines who assaulted one heavily defended beach after another, and the airborne troops thrown hastily into Bastogne, is unforgivably slighted by Kennedy.

 

Magnanimous treatment of defeated adversaries made stalwart Cold War allies of our WW-II foes. Our unthreatening foreign policy limited the number of our foes and enabled us to gain valuable alliances and accommodations among non aggressive states - democratic and autocratic alike - both during WW-II and during the Cold War thereafter.

   Many interesting factors - some vital and some minor - are thus slighted or go totally unmentioned.

  • The "terms of engagement" were those of an "unlimited" war - fought after a Congressional Declaration of War that gave the President the full powers of the Commander in Chief and the unquestioning support of the American people. Only the modest restraints of the Geneva Convention limited the application of force, and a few of these were not always scrupulously complied with.
  • The pivotal role played by leadership:
    • The excellence of the German professional military leadership was a huge factor in Hitler's early successes. The incompetence of his political leadership and strategic concepts played a major role in his ultimate defeat.
    • With the exception of Gen. Mark Clark, Gen. Marshall was highly effective in assuring competent professional military leadership for America's armed forces right from the beginning. It took Pres. Lincoln two years to find competent professional military leadership - Generals Grant, Thomas, and Sherman - during the Civil War, and England suffered from incompetent professional military leadership in many theaters for the first two years of WW-II - in both cases accompanied by the consequent military defeats and heavy casualties. Of course, WW-I is synonymous with gross leadership incompetence - and the costs thereof.
  • The rewards of "virtue" and the weaknesses of "evil" were never more clearly demonstrated than in WW-II. (Ooops! Excuse me! I forgot that "sophisticated intellectuals" subscribe to the "moral relativism" idiocy, and avoid discussing such factors.)
    • Germany and Japan were condemned by their evident evil to fight their separate battles alone or with unreliable allies. Because of their evident virtues - imperfect though they undoubtedly were - England and the U.S. found allies everywhere - large and small - some of them of immense value. Some examples: Poland supplied the vital keys to the German Enigma cipher machines, and also supplied ten percent of the pilots who fought off the Germans in the Battle of Britain. Greece's little army defeated the Italians in the Balkans and imposed on Germany the need to divert major forces from - and delay by as much as six vital weeks - until June 22 - their assault on Russia. Illiterate Solomon Island natives assisted downed Allied pilots and aided the Allied coast watchers who played such a vital role in the Guadalcanal campaign. Fortunately ignorant of "moral relativism" concepts, they somehow seemed to know who the "good guys" were. Most notably, the British Empire and Commonwealth held together and once again came powerfully to the aid of Great Britain -- and the alliance with Communist Russia held up throughout the war.
    • Germany and Japan were weakened by their victories - which exposed long flanks to attack - imposed occupation burdens - and created threats in their rear. The Allies were always strengthened by their victories, obtaining additional resources and new ground from which to launch further attacks and, sometimes, adding military units as well. Allied generals, like Patton, could attack in reckless disregard for any possible threats to their flanks or rear.
  • Concern for the lives of their soldiers paid off big for England and the U.S., especially with respect to fighter pilots. Until the last months of the war, all major participants had no trouble replacing lost aircraft, but it took up to two years to replace each veteran naval fighter pilot. The callous expenditure of veteran airmen and soldiers of all kinds quickly undermined Axis fighting capabilities.
  • Humane treatment of prisoners of war - despite some inevitable lapses due to wartime passions - paid off in Europe. Italy was anxious to surrender, forcing Germany to bear alone the burdens of the occupation of Italy and the Italian campaign. At the end, German units - one in multiple division strength - fought heroic and bloody campaigns for the sole objective of reaching and surrendering to English and American forces. Many German scientists and other valuable personnel made their way to Western Germany at the end of the war.
  • The fighting qualities of American soldiers - especially elite units like the marines who assaulted one heavily defended beach after another - and the airborne troops thrown hastily into Bastogne - is frequently and unforgivably slighted by Kennedy. He repeatedly reminds us of how frightened these men were, but seems to regard the courage and martial skills with which they overcame their understandable fears and their formidable adversaries as unworthy of more than occasional grudging mention. Only with respect to Iwo Jima and a few other instances in the Pacific is this courage even mentioned. Omaha Beach was taken merely by "the sheer weight of newly arriving troops." (Gee - that tactic never seemed to work during WW-I.)
  • The courage and martial skills displayed during the first 18 months of the war by American airmen fighting with aircraft inferior in quality and numbers - sailors fighting with inferior and defective torpedoes - and merchant mariners facing death in the frigid North Atlantic with inadequate covering forces - are largely ignored by Kennedy. The Germans were undoubtedly, man for man, the most formidable soldiers on the battlefield - and the Japanese were the toughest. However, Americans excelled in mobility - because of their familiarity with vehicles as much as because of the number of their vehicles - and, as always, marksmanship - because so many of them were familiar with guns. Kennedy mentions only the unparalleled accuracy of American antiaircraft fire during the early carrier engagements in the Pacific. American combat leadership was consistently marked by unmatched tactical flexibility and creativity - especially noticeable when overcoming the handicaps of inferior equipment. Their elite units proved themselves among the best of the war.
  • Magnanimous treatment of defeated adversaries made stalwart Cold War allies of our WW-II foes. Our unthreatening foreign policy limited the number of our foes and enabled us to gain valuable alliances and accommodations among non aggressive states - democratic and autocratic alike - both during WW-II and during the Cold War thereafter.
  Material superiority would have been for naught without such factors as these.

Kennedy's Attack on the "Good War" and "Just War" Myth

Unwarranted pride:

   In his Epilogue, Kennedy attacks America's pride in its war effort.
 &
  The belief that America was engaged in a "good war" - a "just war" - is obviously intolerable to him. That service in the American military - at considerable risk to life and limb, and involving the vast destructive effort to defeat the Axis powers - is considered both "good" and "just" apparently goes against his Vietnam era sensibilities. He asserts that these beliefs are mere "national myths." He provides a 13 point Bill of Particulars outlining American transgressions supposedly rendering these beliefs invalid.
 &

 The left wing "Perfect Society" propaganda ploy:
   Several of these points are obvious non sequiturs, and several are plainly ridiculous. The rest simply amount to the usual "Perfect Society" propaganda ploy so beloved of left wing critics of capitalism and capitalist America. Apparently, Kennedy believes that - until America has perfected its societal arrangements and is able to avoid all moral transgressions - Americans are not entitled to pride in any historic accomplishments.
 &

 Shame:
   The perceived weaknesses and moral faults are carefully listed by Kennedy. Although Kennedy contradicts himself by noting the several faults on this list that have since been corrected, he asserts that Americans are not prone to remember past mistakes. He states that Americans might reflect "with some discomfort" on the following:
 &

 Two long recognized policy mistakes:

   1) How slowly they had awakened to the menace of Hitler in the isolationist 1930s.

  True! However, disillusionment with the imperial aspirations and vindictiveness of England and France after WW-I played no small role in American isolationism. Nor did the Communist and other left wing pacifist propaganda of the day.

  2) How callously they had barred the door to those seeking to flee from Hitler's Europe.

  True! However, there were few nations on earth before WW-II that were not prone to prejudicial attitudes towards minorities and immigrants. Whatever its limitations, America's immigration policies have always been among the world's most liberal.
 &
  These two policy mistakes were widely recognized - and corrected - even before Kennedy was born.

 

Obviously ridiculous:

 

It  was almost as important to keep China in the war against Japan as it was to keep Russia in the war against Germany.

 

There was no way that Japanese aggression - either to the north or south - could have failed to seriously affect the war in Europe or involve the United States.

   3) How heedlessly they had provoked Japan into a probably avoidable war in a region where few American interests were at stake. Kennedy argues that "a little appeasement [is] another name for diplomacy."

  Apparently anxious not to miss any possible criticism of American WW-II conduct, Kennedy earlier labels American failure to support League of Nations efforts to restrain Japan in 1932 as "timid," and its effects on the League as "debilitating."
 &
  As Kennedy elsewhere points out, appeasement of Japan in 1940 and 1941 would have dismayed China and was strongly opposed by Churchill - who was no fan of early engagement in Asia.
 &
  Failure to confront Japan in 1941 would certainly have been "timid," and undoubtedly even "debilitating" for those nations already at war with the Axis powers. It might even have forced China to accept Japanese terms - immediately releasing hundreds of thousands of Japan's best soldiers for duty elsewhere - perhaps against Russia. It  was almost as important to keep China in the war against Japan as it was to keep Russia in the war against Germany.
 &
  As related in "The extent of the 'second front' in 1943," above, the U.S. "provocation" of Japan was probably the primary factor in Japan's decision to attack south rather than attack north to knock Russia out of the war.
 &
  The apparent separation of the Pacific and European wars was an obvious illusion. In the event, there was no way that Japanese aggression - either to the north or south - could have failed to seriously affect the war in Europe or involve the United States.  
 &
  The attack on Pearl Harbor demonstrated the unforgivable lack of military preparedness of the U.S. However, it enabled FDR to at last bring the American people to accept war against the Axis powers - and to accept the necessity of assuming the leadership of the free world.

 Incredibly ridiculous:

 

 

 

Kennedy apparently asserts that we should feel guilt for not bleeding our armies in the same bloody-minded fashion as Stalin.

   4) How they had largely fought with America's money and machines and with Russia's men.

  Kennedy here ignores the large numbers of British and American merchant mariners who died in the North Atlantic before the middle of 1943, and the heavy casualties among Allied bomber crews before the arrival of the long range Mustang fighters in February of 1944. He ignores the fact that the war against Japan was entirely (with China) an English and American effort. Considering that England's involvement in WW-II was more than two years longer than that of the United States, American casualty rates were roughly equivalent to those of Great Britain.
 &
  Most of Russia's losses occurred before the end of 1943, for which Stalin was entirely to blame - due to Stalin's conspicuous LACK of courage and tactical shrewdness.
 &
  Kennedy here ignores the tactical choices made by Stalin and his generals. With his usual complete disregard for the value of the lives of his people (typical of all the autocratic powers in the war), Stalin relied heavily on "human wave" and other manpower dependent tactics. Now, Kennedy apparently asserts that we should feel guilt for not bleeding our armies in the same bloody-minded fashion.

 More ridiculousness:

 

American communists - acting under orders from Moscow - were as adamant and effective as any other group in keeping the United States disarmed and unready for war - and unable to quickly mount an attack in Europe.

   5) How they had fought in Europe "late in the day, against a foe mortally weakened by three years of brutal warfare in the East."

  Kennedy repeatedly infers that the U.S. was remiss in not launching an invasion of France before 1944, but offers no convincing argument - indeed he offers not a word - as to how that might have been accomplished with any prospect of success.
 &
  As stated in "The extent of the 'second front' in 1943," above, the British and Americans played a not negligible role in that weakening of Germany, and assisted Russia with substantial material and intelligence support.
 &
  As mentioned elsewhere by Kennedy, the American communists - acting under orders from Moscow - were as adamant and effective as any other group in keeping the United States disarmed and unready for war before Hitler attacked Russia. If the United States could not mount a credible invasion of France before 1944, Moscow was as much to blame as we. In a sense, there is here an element of poetic justice - on a bloodily epic scale.

 

   6) How we had fought in the Pacific "with a bestiality they did not care to admit."

  Sorry, David, but the "bestiality" of the Pacific conflict was in fact widely acknowledged - and widely accepted - and expected - by the American public - given the fanaticism and intentional bestiality of the Japanese military.
 &
  Unlike Kennedy, the American people were not anxious to suffer - and would not have accepted - vast numbers of additional American casualties just to ease the losses of a fanatic and unrepentant adversary. They were in no mood to respond to intentional Axis bestiality with Politically Correct sensibilities.
 &
  Even given the fierceness of the fighting, Americans tried immeasurably harder to take prisoners - were immeasurably more willing to accept any who surrendered - and treated those that were captured immeasurably better - than the Japanese. Except for Leyte Gulf, Kennedy neglects to mention the scores of Japanese seamen pulled against their will from the waters of Iron Bottom Sound and other watery battlegrounds and taken into captivity after their ships sank.
 &
  Most of the "bestiality" imposed on the Japanese soldiers and civilians was imposed by their own government and military - which made a religion of sacrifice and stoic suffering - ignored logistical needs - and continuously employed manpower dependent tactics like banzai charges and kamikaze attacks. Kennedy himself mentions Japan's brutal and profligate wastage of manpower.

 An obvious non sequitur:

   7) How they had profaned their constitution by interning tens of thousands of citizens largely because of their race.

  True! However, how does this obvious and admitted societal failure make the military effort against Hitler and Tojo less "just" or "good?"
 &
  It should be noted that the fear of sabotage was not a chimera. During WW-I, a single German saboteur working the New York docks slipped incendiary devices into the cargo holds of about two dozen cargo ships that were subsequently lost due to fires at sea. A major munitions depot in New Jersey opposite Staten Island was spectacularly blown up.
 &
  Kennedy apparently has no quibble with FDR's unlawful violations of the nation's neutrality statutes before Pearl Harbor. This included unlawful efforts to assist and funnel supplies to England that Kennedy mentions as having "stretched [presidential] prerogatives to their outermost boundaries." It also included permission for the British Secret Intelligence Service to run its Western Hemisphere headquarters - involving thousands of employees and agents - out of two full floors of Rockefeller Center - something that Kennedy neglects to mention.
 &
  Perhaps, FDR should have been impeached.

Another obvious non sequitur:

   8) How they had denied most black Americans a chance to fight for their country.

  True! Such prejudices were the way of the whole world during those days, and America was unfortunately not immune. However, this, too, in no way diminishes the "justness" or the "goodness" of the war effort.

 Total responsibility obviously rests with Hitler and Tojo and their henchmen, who began this terrible war, chose terror as a primary weapon, and then rejected surrender in favor of suicidal opposition to the end.

   9) How they had sullied their nation's moral standards with terror bombing in the closing months of the war.

  (This has been covered in "Strategic bombing," above.)
 &
  In addition, Kennedy ignores the indisputable fact that it was the two major Axis powers that decided to rely heavily on terror as a weapon of war. He ignores the widespread support for these tactics among their people - who were widely delighted with their status as conquerors and with the early victories facilitated by air raids against the cities of vulnerable nations such as Spain, Poland and China. The strafing of refugee columns to create panic on the roads was a standard Nazi tactic, as was the shooting of hostages to quell guerrilla attacks in occupied territory.
 &
  Total responsibility obviously rests with Hitler and Tojo and their henchmen, who began this terrible war, chose terror as a primary weapon, and then rejected surrender in favor of suicidal opposition to the end.

 Credulous acceptance of another left wing propaganda myth:

  10) How the "stubborn insistence" on unconditional surrender led to the incineration of hundreds of thousands of already defeated Japanese.

  This is yet another left wing propaganda myth uncritically accepted by Kennedy.
 &
  Actually, the insistence on unconditional surrender helped in many ways.

  • It ultimately convinced the Japanese military that the "inviolability of the Imperial House" was the only surrender condition they could insist upon with any chance of success.
  • It was essential to occupy Japan under unconditional surrender terms to eliminate the rule of the militarists and to prevent Japan from being ultimately revived as a military threat - as had happened in Germany after WW-I.
  • It made possible the enlightened occupation of the defeated Japan - under the much maligned Gen. MacArthur. This was the best thing that ever happened to the Japanese people - something widely recognized in Japan to this day - but something that Kennedy conveniently neglects to mention.
  • It was designed to appease the suspicious Stalin - to assure him that there would be no separate peace.

  The primary obstacle to early surrender was the fanaticism of the Japanese Army - not the demand for unconditional surrender. No Japanese civilian authorities could credibly discuss surrender. To this day, there is not a shred of evidence that the Japanese Army would have countenanced surrender if Japan were not suffering the incineration of hundreds of thousands of its citizens.
 &
   Even the tentative civilian peace feelers in May, 1945, still included insistence on keeping conquered territory like Manchuria, Formosa, and Korea - rejected occupation - and rejected surrender of war criminals. By June, they had still not progressed beyond being willing to evacuate Manchuria and Formosa. These negotiations - such as they were - were secretive because the Japanese military would have considered them treasonous.

 An obvious non sequitur:

   11) How poorly FDR prepared for the postwar era, how foolishly he banked on goodwill and personal charm to deal with Stalin and the conflicting interests of nations, and "how little he had taken his countrymen into his confidence, even misled them, about the nature of the peace that was to come."

  Here, again, Kennedy does not let mere inconsistency get in the way of some flip criticism. "Goodwill" and "charm" was all that FDR had with which to try to temper Stalin's ruthless occupation of Eastern Europe - as Kennedy elsewhere accurately notes. He accurately portrays Stalin's realization of the advantages of his military situation - and his ruthless determination to cash in on it.
 &
  As for the rest - it is likely that FDR had other things on his mind - like winning WW-II, as quickly and with as little loss in life and treasure as possible. Inducing Stalin to attack Japan was an important part of that strategy. Occupying as much of Germany and Japan as possible was all that could be done at that time in preparation for a potential future conflict with Russia - and worrying the public about that potential conflict would have amounted to tactical stupidity.
 &
  Besides which, these leadership mistakes - if that is what they were - in no way reflect on the war effort. Inevitably, there are many leadership mistakes in war, for many of which brave men must pay with their blood. None of these particular decisions adversely impacted the U.S. military effort in WW-II.

 Another non sequitur - and breathtaking left wing dogma:

 

 

 

 

 

To Kennedy, an entitlement welfare state promoting widespread public dependence on government is clearly preferable to a growing economy that facilitates widespread public independence from government.

   12) How "they had abandoned the reforming agenda of the New Deal years to chase in wartime after the sirens of consumerism."

  "Consumerism?"
 &
  The desire for a Levittown house with a Chevy in the garage and kids well dressed and fed and going to a decent school was "consumerism?" Does Kennedy suggest that the American people should have been satisfied with government dependency and a cramped apartment in one of those huge impersonal post WW-II government housing developments that were such instant disasters?
 &
  Material prosperity is now pejoratively labeled "consumerism" and considered a vice by the Politically Correct. Kennedy's disdain for the modest material aspirations of the American people during the 1940s strips away his pretense at objectivity and starkly reveals his left wing intellectual elitist biases.
 &
  The 12 percent wartime increase in civilian consumption noted by Kennedy - starting from Depression levels - is hardly a sign of extensive high living.
 &
  In fact, it was a blessing that Congress refused to follow FDR down a command economy and entitlement welfare state road that would have led to widespread public dependence on the tender mercies of government bureaucracy - and a permanently crippled economy. Indeed, rejection of this New Deal "reforming agenda" was clearly the basis for American economic and Cold War success in the last half of the 20th century.

 Yet another non sequitur - and utterly ridiculous, as well:

   13) How America alone had prospered much and suffered less than any of the other major combatants.

  Kennedy, obviously, feels strongly aggrieved that America did not bankrupt itself and suffer millions of casualties in the war. Somehow, it is likely that the vast majority of Americans will continue to disagree with him on this ridiculous point.
 &
  Freed from its trade war entanglements, the post WW-II capitalist system has yet again perversely refused to crumble according to left wing ideological expectations.
 &
  Moreover, the peoples of the rest of the world can be thankful for American economic and military success and strength. If America had suffered sharply higher casualties and been impoverished by the conflict - or permitted itself to be economically strangled by left wing command economy policies - the postwar world would have been a far more brutal place. American leadership in opposing the Evil Empire, and encouraging the spread of political and economic freedom around the world, might again - as after WW-I - not have been forthcoming.

  David Kennedy is a Politically Correct scholar, who strives to make sure that no perceived weakness in American policy or popular attitudes is left unexplored, and no American strengths and achievements are unduly celebrated. Of all his conclusions, the one he studiously omits is the most obvious one - that America's achievements remain unprecedented in human history. The United States - with its wide array of allies - has saved the world from some of the most awful despotisms in history and spread the flames of political and economic freedom and individual liberty broadly about the world.
 &
  The evident virtues of America and the American people - flawed though they undoubtedly were, are, and will always be - clearly justify the great pride and self satisfaction that Kennedy determinedly attacks.
 &
 
  For all its many faults, mistakes and tactical compromises - no other nation in the history of the world has made more magnanimous peace arrangements after long and costly conflicts with nations that fought under the banners of more odious despotisms - both after WW-II and the Cold War.
 &
  For all its many faults, mistakes and tactical compromises - no other world power in the history of the world has adopted a more enlightened foreign policy than that of the U.S. during and after WW-II.
 &
  For all its many faults, only those Americans who are hopeless ideologues could fail to take pride in such historic accomplishments.
 &
  The author's obviously biased presentation of this segment of American history - accompanied by sloppy scholarship and one sided, sometimes ludicrous, analysis - has been adjudged worthy of a Pulitzer Prize for History. It appears that the Pulitzer Prize for History is currently being awarded to sloppy scholarship and half-truths, and oversimplified Politically Correct commentaries.

  For Part I of this Book Review, covering portrayal of The Great Depression, See Freedom from Fear I.

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Copyright 2001 Daniel Blatt