Today, we celebrate the victory of the United States Navy over the forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was a stunning victory for US forces and would change the course of the war in the pacific leading to ultimate victory for the allied forces. But there is one aspect of the victory the history books and scholars overlook at times, the resolve of Americans.
This is not something you can see, weigh or measure. It can’t be taught in the schools or universities. The military doesn’t have it in their training doctrines because it is an unquantifiable quality. It is something we are born with and is carried in our DNA.
The IJN effectively destroyed our fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. While they were for the most part, WW1 battleships that were destroyed, they were still considered the backbone of the navy for there were many who still held on to the belief that battleships were the queens of the seas and they alone would win any naval battle. For the forward thinking, Midway would finally convince the hold-outs how wrong they were.
The IJN Navy dwarfed the US navy in carriers at the beginning of 1942. They had twelve while the US could only muster eight with inexperienced crews. Remember, the Japs had been fighting and training for six years prior to attacking Pearl. We would lose Lexington at Coral Sea, Yorktown at Midway, and Hornet off of Guadalcanal. The Japanese would lose four at Midway reducing the numbers respectively. The count is now 8 to 5. Both sides would suffer horrendous losses of pilots and planes. Midway became the Pearl Harbor for Japan. But unlike the US, Japan and their military leaders dithered away their advantage in questioning how this could have happened. Yamamoto knew Japan couldn’t win a protracted war with the US because of our untapped industrial might. He also recognized we were a very proud people; he just didn’t know how proud. This, was a major miscalculation! Hitler made the same mistake when he declared war on the United States in support of his ally. This would be one of his major un-doings for his Thousand Year Reich.
Yes, when we got into the fight, our forces were not prepared for war. The tactics of WW1, Spanish American War and even the Civil War were now outmoded and dated. This was a new military with new tactics and weapons many were not familiar with. The men were trained as best they could be but they wouldn’t know if what they’d be trained for would actually translate onto the battlefield. Midway showed that.
No torpedo plane pilot would enter a battle without fighter escort. They knew they were slow and ponderous and took nerves of steel to line up with a ship and drop a torpedo without protection, but they did. Imagine watching all of your buddy’s planes exploding in a fireball or crashing into the water without delivering their payload. Despite the carnage surrounding them, they pressed on knowing they must defeat the enemy at all costs. You see this in both movies about Midway. The dive-bomber pilots were no different. They arrived over the Japanese fleet without escort and pressed home their attacks with excellent results.
It was a fantastic victory and showed the world, that the Japanese could be beaten at their own game. But what it really showed was the resolve of America as a whole. Our men and women didn’t look at the tally sheets of what the Japanese still had in their arsenal. They didn’t care. They knew one thing, Japan, Italy and Germany must be defeated at all costs. It wasn’t an option. It didn’t matter that these countries had trained and fought for years. It didn’t matter how many victories they had wracked up over the previous years. It didn’t matter how much land they swallowed up and added to their empires. What mattered is that it must stop and stop now!
Yes, we could out produce our enemies on a scale the world had never seen, but it would take brave men and women to man these machines and implement and incorporate them in the coming battles. Ours was not a professional military as were our opponents. While our country is steeped in military campaigns and history, it wasn’t the preferred career of the day. Farming, agriculture and raising livestock was the way most made their living and survived. While education was important, milking the cows, feeding the chickens, planting and harvesting crops were the priority. Those in the cities sought work in the factories of Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, GM, US Steel, Textile mills or the oilfields of Rockefeller, Gilcrease, Phillips and Warren. While education was important, survival was paramount!
It was this generation that survived the droughts, the dust bowl, the depression the factories and the farms that would take up the call to arms to defend the last major bastion of democracy that was not only capable of taking on its foes, but knowing, before they ever enlisted, that they would and could defeat any enemy that threatened their way of life and those of like minded countries, no matter the cost. They knew it wouldn’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile is.
In the current Midway movie, Nagumo is watching a crippled B-26 heading for the bridge of Akagi. If it strikes it, the carrier would more than likely be put out of action for an indefinite amount of time if not sunk. When an officer asked him if the plane was trying to ram the ship, he stated, “The Americans aren’t that brave.” He couldn’t have been more wrong! He, like most of our enemies, never took into account the most important attribute they would have to battle, American Resolve!
It can’t be measured, weighed or quantified. It can’t be taught in a book. It is what separates our country from any other when it comes to fighting. We don’t look at the odds against, we look at the evil that threatens our way of life. We aren’t worried about what we don’t have, we make use of what is available. We don’t dwell on how desperate a situation appears to be, only how to adapt, overcome and defeat it. That is American Resolve! Without the bravery of our forces, and the instilled American Resolve each and everyone carried with them that fateful day, seventy-nine years ago the results could have been very different.
So, as you go about your daily tasks and errands today, take a moment to remember, reflect and honor those who went up against unimaginable odds, sacrificing everything they possessed in hopes they could stem the tide and ensure that the United States would not only be victorious on this day, but would let our enemies, present and future know, that if you test American Resolve, be willingly to pay a very high price.
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