General Omar Bradley stated that “However desperate the situation, a senior commander must always exude confidence in the presence of his subordinates. For anxiety, topside, can spread like a cancer down through the command.” In the opening months of World War II desperate situations abounded. The Axis power of Germany had spread throughout Holland, Belgium, and France.Within the German Reich, bitter hatred of non-Germanic people was giving birth to concentration camps and mass race extermination. Speaking from the White House, President Roosevelt stated, “Adolph Hitler never considered the domination of Europe as an end in itself. European conquest was but a step toward ultimate goals in all the other continents. It is unmistakably apparent to all of us that, unless the advance of Hitlerism is forcibly checked now, the Western Hemisphere will be within range of the Nazi weapons of destruction.” Less than a month later German expansion continued with operation Barbarossa, which thrust three million German soldiers and 3300 tanks into the heart of Russia.
Within the nation of Japan an air of unbeatable superiority permeated the nation, after their successful attacks on Pearl Harbor, Guam, Wake Island and now the imminent collapse of Corregidor, the last American stronghold in the Philippines. Corregidor a small rocky island west of Manila was running out of ammunition, food, and water. The American forces simply could not withstand the onslaught of the forces of Japan. In a letter to General MacArthur, Jonathan Wainwright, the commanding general of the Philippines, wrote, “As I write this we are being subjected to terrific air and artillery bombardment and it is unreasonable to expect that we can hold out for long. We have done our best, both here and on Bataan, and although we are beaten we are still unashamed.” Days later, Corregidor surrendered, leaving thousands of Americans and Filipinos behind as prisoners of war.
It was in these very real situations that our military leaders found themselves in the early days of 1942. They were in the middle of a world war that less than two years earlier a full 74% of Americans were opposed to. But now war was here. It was time to set America’s military on a course not of surrender but of unconditional victory!
“We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”
General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff