1942 — The Year That Tested the United States

It is good for us Americans to remember who we are when we face difficult challenges — for the record, the entire Corona Virus thing is a huge head fake and will turn out just fine, but we are unable to be calm these days, so it may be useful to revisit exactly who we are.

In 1942, we were reeling from the Japs destroying the American fleet at Pearl Harbor — 2,403 Americans KIA, 1,143 WIA, 18 ships sunk, 5 battleships sunk. We were now at war with Japan and Germany and our Army had been 189,000 men in 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland. By the end of 1939, the Germans would have 6,000,000 men under arms.

By the end of World War II, the US military would number more than 12,000,000 (more than 17,000,000 would serve), but it would take three and a half years to get there.

We would suffer 407,000 KIA and 671,000 WIA plus another 6,000 Merchant Marine KIAs. We would accept the unconditional surrender of every one of the Axis countries — Germany and Japan chief amongst them.

1942 was a hard year

America was at war. We would ultimately draft 11,535,000 men and would absorb 6,332,000 volunteers.

The Japs were on the march in the Pacific bombing Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and invading the Philippines driving the Americans and the Philippines out during the Battle for Bataan which would end with the capture of the island of Corregidor and the retreat of General Douglas MacArthur to Australia.

The Japs threatened Australia and captured Burma, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), Singapore, Guam, and Wake Island.

The Japs would invade the Aleutian Islands, capturing them.

The Japs held a place called Guadacanal that would become a touchstone in American folklore and define for all time the toughness of the US Marine Corps.

A German sub, U-123, would sink a Norweigen oil tanker off Long Island and enter New York Harbor to sink a British tanker right off Sandy Hook. It would burn in clear sight of New Jersey and New York.

Another submarine, a Japanese sub, I-17, would surface and shell an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California.

Another Jap sub would bombard Fort Stevens, Oregon.

A jumpy Los Angeles would fire 1,400 anti-aircraft rounds at unidentified targets, killing six people.

The US would capture and execute six German saboteurs (Operation Pastorius) who were caught in New Jersey.

Gasoline and food rationing began. The entire auto industry stops making cars and converts to making war material.

The US would imprison all Japanese in the US in internment camps.

The road back

The United States began to grow its army and would have 4,000,000 under arms by the end of December 1942. A VMI graduate named George Catlett Marshal would run the show.

The arsenal of American might would be converted to making war material and by the end of the war would be producing more than 50,000 planes per month.

The Doolittle Raid struck Tokyo in the middle of April 1942 with sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers sending the first message to the Japanese homeland that the Americans were coming for them. It was a huge morale boost to the United States.

In June 1942, the American Navy would repel a Japanese invasion of Midway Island leaving the Japanese with four dead aircraft carriers, the loss of 300 planes, and 3,000 sailors KIA. The Navy put the USS Yorktown back to sea with more than 1,400 workers repairing the ship which had sustained damage in the Battle of the Coral Sea in less than 48 hours.

In August 1942, the Marines landed on Guadacanal and put the Japanese defenders on notice that the US Marine Corps had marked the limit of Japanese expansion in the Pacific. It took until February 1943, but the Marines took and held Guadacanal and began to unravel the Japanese footprint that would ultimately take them to Okinawa.

The Manhattan Project created the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction that would end up producing the bombs that would level Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The way things were in 1942

The cost of a new house was $3,770

The average workman made $1,880

Gasoline cost $0.15/gallon

A rented home cost $35/month

A coke cost $0.05

A new car cost $920

We made it through 1942. We will make it through the Corona Virus. We are a tough, hard, good people and we’ve done this shit before.

Now, stop feeling fearful and get back to work. Plus, the whole Corona Virus will be gone in less than a year.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good, y’all.