The Mighty Endeavor by Charles B. MacDonald Read Online (FREE)
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Chapter One – The Path to Decision
It was not in the American image to plan for war when there was no war.
Spontaneity and improvisation, the record would show, were virtues in the American way of waging war. Not longer ago than 1915, when responsible officials in the War Department had dared to plan for the possibility of war with Germany and let word of it reach the press, President Woodrow Wilson, “trembling and white with passion,” had threatened to relieve and order out of Washington every officer of the General Staff.
Hiding behind the illusion that the world had seen the last of warfare on a grand scale, Americans in the twenties and much of the thirties had comfortably donned the blinders of isolationism. They read their Sinclair Lewis, their Dreiser, their Fitzgerald, their Civil War romances. They idolized a new species of talking, singing film stars; persecuted and then lamented Saeeo and Vanzetti; made a millionaire out of Henry Ford, a demigod of Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. They rode in the rumble seat; outlawed the liquor they drank; applauded the naval limitation conferences and the Kellogg-Briand Pact while reserving the League of Nations for the immoral European states that needed it. Having added one teetering building block after another to their economy until it inevitably came tumbling down, they drove Hoover carts, played Monopoly, and went to bank night at the movies. Half in desperation, to set their little insular world right again, they unwittingly voted in a kind of socialism they earlier had disdained.
As for a military establishment, that was a necessary evil, good for an honor guard, for chasing bonus marchers off the Anacostia flats, or for an occasional headline, as when airman Billy Mitchell, who claimed to have had a vision that would dispense with warfare on ground and sea, challenged the traditionalists — and to hell with the consequences! Yet in general the sign reputedly found in a Texas café caught the prevailing mood:
DOGS AND SOLDIERS NOT ALLOWED
The Navy, of course, was different, made up as it was of a composite Dick Powell-Fred Astaire who came crooning and dancing into port to an Irving Berlin score into the waiting aims of Ruby Keeler-Ginger Rogers. Nor was there concern, in view of the restrictions imposed by the naval conferences with Great Britain and Japan, that the Navy might grow so large as to invite war. In 1933 the Navy had only 91,000 men and 1,186,000 tons of ships.
As for the Army, the National Defense Act of 1920 had decreed that at maximum strength it should be a hard, lean force of 280,000. It was actually a neglected, spavined, meager force of only 135,000, little more than the Versailles Treaty allowed defeated Germany. That left it in seventeenth place among the armies of the world.
Incredible that within those skeletal and impoverished organizations, and with the scorn in which they were held, there were men who could do more than play at the game of soldier or sailor. More remarkable still, in view of the national determination to outlaw war by ignoring war, there were men in those establishments who had the heart to plan for war. Yet there were such men. There was, too, the apparatus by means of which they could engage in strategic planning, however theoretical, even abstract.