World War II

World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a worldwide military conflict; the amalgamation of two separate conflicts, one beginning in Asia, 1937, as the w:Second Sino-Japanese War and the other beginning in Europe, 1939, with the invasion of Poland. It is regarded as the historical successor to World War I.

This global conflict split a majority of the world's nations into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. Spanning much of the globe, World War II resulted in the deaths of over 70 million people, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.

Origins of the War

1933

  • Du bist nichts; Dein Volk ist alles.
    • Translated: You are nothing; your people is everything.
    • German Nazi Führer (Leader) Adolf Hitler.
  • I shall live only a country where civil liberty, tolerance, and equality of all citizens before the law prevail.
    • Albert Einstein, developer of the theory of relativity, on leaving National Socialist (Nazi) Germany for the United States.

1936

  • The National Socialist regime in Germany is based on a program of ruthless force, which program has for its aim, first, the enslavement of the German population to a National Socialist social and political program, and then to use the force of these 67 million people for the extension of German political and economic sovereignty over South-Eastern Europe — thus putting it into a position to dominate Europe completely.
    • George Messersmith.

1938

  • Peace in our time.
    • Announcement by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, on returning from talks with Hitler at Munich, saying that the Czechoslovak crisis and the threat of war was over.
  • I believe there is sincerity and good will on both sides. My main purpose has been to work for the pacification of Europe.... The question of Czechoslovakia is the latest and perhaps the most dangerous [problem]. Now that we have got past it I feel that it may be possible to make further progress along the road to sanity.
    • Prime Minister Chamberlain, defending his actions — including giving German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia to Germany -- at the Munich Conference (October 3, 1938).
  • Many people, no doubt, honestly believe that they are only giving away the interests of Czechoslovakia, whereas I fear we shall find that we have deeply compromised, and perhaps fatally endangered, the safety and even the independence of Great Britain and France....
    I foresee and foretell that the policy of submission will carry with it restrictions upon the freedom of speech and debate in Parliament, on public platforms, and discussions in the Press.
    • Winston Churchill, speech in Parliament attacking Prime Minister Chamberlain's policy of appeasing Hitler.

1939

  • Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard... leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned to a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the administration.....
    In the course of the last four months it has been made... possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power... would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
    This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable — though much less certain — that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove too heavy for transportation by air...
    In view of this situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America.
    • Letter dated August 2 (one month before the start of World War II) from physicist Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt, warning him of the danger that Nazi Germany could develop an atomic bomb. This led to two later developments:
      (1) Roosevelt’s efforts to aid all countries at war with Nazi Germany, to help them defeat Germany before it could develop an atomic bomb, and
      (2) the top-secret "Manhattan Project" in which the government did in fact work together with "the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America" to develop an atomic bomb.

Start of the War

1939

  • Blitzkrieg.
    • German for "lightning war": tanks, infantry (foot soldiers), artillery, air aircraft, all controlled by radio, moved faster than their enemies could react. German blitzkrieg methods successfully defeated Poland in September 1939 and then were turned against Denmark and Norway in April 1940, and against the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in May 1940. France, which held out against Germany for four years (1914-1918) and defeated it in World War I, was overrun and defeated by the Germans in 6 weeks in the Spring of 1940. Only Great Britain, led by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, held out in the West (until Nazi Germany attacked Communist Russia in June 1941).

1940

  • We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."
    • British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on June 10, 1940, following the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk, France.
  • I followed the German Army into Paris that June... and on June 19 got wind of where Hitler was going to lay down his terms for the armistice.... It was to be on the same spot where the German Empire had capitulated to France and her allies on November 11, 1918: in the little clearing in the woods of Compiègne. There the Nazi warlord would get his revenge.... Late on the afternoon of June 19 I drove out there and found German Army engineers... pulling the [railroad] car [where the war ended in 1918] out to the tracks in the center of the clearing on the exact spot, they said, where it had stood at 5 A.M. on November, 1918, when at the dictation of [French Marshal Ferdinand] Foch the German emissaries put their signatures to the armistice.
    And so was that on the afternoon of June 21 I stood by the edge of the forest at Compiègne to observe the latest and greatest of Hitler’s triumphs....
    I look at the expression in Hitler’s face. I am but fifty yards from him and see him through my glasses as though he were directly in front of me. I have seen that face many times at the great moments of his life. But today! It is afire with scorn, anger, hate, revenge, triumph.
    • American war correspondent William L. Shirer, in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960).
  • Hitler is striking with all the terrible force at his command. His is a desperate gamble, and the stakes are nothing less than domination of the whole human race.
    If Hitler wins in Europe -- the strength of the British and French armies and navies is forever broken — the United States will find itself alone in a barbaric world — a world ruled by Nazis, with ‘spheres of influence’ assigned to their totalitarian allies. However different the dictatorships may be, racially, they all agree on one primary objective: ‘Democracy must be wiped from the face of the earth.’...
    There is nothing shameful in our desire to stay out of war, to save our youth from the dive bombers and the flame throwing tanks in the unutterable hell of modern warfare.
    But is there not an evidence of suicidal insanity in our failure to help those who now stand between us and the creators of this hell?
    • Newspaper advertisement from the Committee to Defend America, whose ideas were identical with those of President Roosevelt.
  • All aid to the Allies short of war.
    • President Roosevelt's redefinition of neutrality.
  • We must be the great arsenal of democracy.
    • President Roosevelt, on the need to provide weapons to the British after the Germans defeated France in May-June 1940.
  • First they were too cowardly to take part. now they are in a hurry so they can share the spoils.
    • Hitler on the Italian decleration of war on France and Great Britain, June 10th, 1940.-Martin Gilber, the Secnod World war pg. 90
  • On this tenth day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger, has struck it into the back of its neighbor.
    • Franklin Roosevelt on the Italian decleration of war on France and Britain, June 10th, 1940.-Martin Gilber, the Secnod World war pg. 90
  • I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.
    • Statement by President Roosevelt during his re-election campaign.
  • The butchering may continue as it will, it shall remain the historical guilt of the Western powers that they did not promptly provide the sharpest preventative measures against the continued attack-politics Germany undertook. Possibilities existed for this, but no measures were seized upon.

1941

  • The Lend-Lease policy, translated into legislative form, stunned a Congress and a nation wholly sympathetic to Great Britain. The Kaiser’s blank check to Austria-Hungary in the First World War was a piker compared to the Roosevelt blank check of World War II. It warranted my worst fears for the future of America, and it definitely stamps the president as war-minded....
    Never before have the American people been asked or compelled to give... so completely of their tax dollars to any foreign nation. Never before has the Congress of the United States been asked by any President to violate international law. Never before has this nation resorted to duplicity in the conduct of its foreign affairs. Never before has the United States given to one man the power to strip this nation of its defenses....
    Approval of this legislation means war, open and complete warfare. I, therefore, ask the American people before they supinely accept it — Was the last World War worthwhile?
    If it were, then we should lend and lease war materials. If it were, then we should lend and lease American boys. President Roosevelt has said we would be repaid by England. We will be.... Our boys will be returned — returned in caskets, maybe; returned with bodies maimed; returned with minds warped and twisted by sights of horrors and the scream and shriek of high-powered shells.
    • Senator Burton K. Wheeler, opposing the Lend-Lease Act.
  • I know I will be severely criticized by the interventionists in America when I say we should not enter a war unless we have a reasonable chance of winning.... We are no better prepared today than France was when the interventionists persuaded her to attack the Siegfried Line....
    It is not only our right but it is our obligation as American citizens to look at this war objectively and to weigh our chances for success if we should enter it. I have attempted to do this, especially from the standpoint of aviation; and I have been forced to the conclusion that we cannot win this war for England, regardless of how much assistance we extend.
  • Joint declaration of the President of United States and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty’s government in the United Kingdom....
    First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other.
    Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.
    Third, they respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.
    Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment of all states, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world.
    Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field....
    Sixth, after the final destruction of Nazi Germany, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries....
    Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance.
    Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force.... They believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential.”
    • The Atlantic Charter, written by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, meeting on two warships off Newfoundland in August 1941.

Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor

1927

  • In the future if we want to control China, we must first crush the United States just as in the past we had to fight in the Russo-Japanese War. But in order to conquer China we must first conquer Manchuria and Mongolia. In order to conquer the world, we must first conquer China. If we succeed in conquering China the rest of the Asiatic countries and the South Sea countries will fear us and surrender to us. Then the world will realize that Eastern Asia is ours and will not dare to violate our rights. This is the plan left to us by Emperor Meiji, the success of which is essential to our national existence.
    • The Tanaka Memorial (July 27, 1927), the long-term strategic plan of Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Gi-ichi.

1941

  • It has been 20 years since the Navy signed the humiliating Washington Naval Treaty. During [that] time we have whetted our swords to stab [the] US.
    • A Japanese officer.
  • The Empire will... crush America, British, and Dutch strongholds in East Asia and the Western Pacific... and secure major resource areas and lines of communication in order to prepare a posture of long term self-sufficiency. All available methods will be exerted to lure out the main elements of the US fleet at an appropriate time to attack and destroy them.
    • Tai Bei-Ei-Ran-Shou Senso Shumatsu Sokushin-ni Kansuru Fukuan (A Plan for Completion of the War Against the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Chiang Kai-Shek [of Nationalist China]), action plan adopted at a meeting of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and the Cabinet (November 1941).
  • Nii Taka Yama Nobore 1208. (Execute the Hawaii operation on December 8 [Japanese time]).
    • Message sent by Japanese Imperial Navy Headquarters to the carrier fleet approaching Pearl Harbor (2 December 1941).
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!
    • (Translated: Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!'); signal at 0730 (local time), 7 December 1941 from Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, leading the first wave of the attack, to the carrier fleet that his "tigers" succeeded in their surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.
  • Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
    The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost....
    As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
    Always we will remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it my take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again....
    With confidence in our armed forces — with the unbounded determination of our people — we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.
    I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
    • President Roosevelt’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Dec. 8, 1941.
  • Both America and Britain... have aggravated the disturbances in East Asia.... These two powers, inducing other countries to follow suit, increased military preparations on all sides of Our Empire.... They have obstructed by every means Our peaceful commerce, and finally resorted to a direct severance of economic relations....
    Patently We waited and long have We endured, in hope that Our Government might retrieve the situation in peace. But Our adversaries, showing not the least spirit of conciliation, have unduly delayed a settlement.... Our Empire for its existence and delf-defense has no other recourse but to appeal to arms and to crush every obstacle in its path.
    • Japanese Emperor Hirohito, stating Japan’s reasons for attacking the United States and Great Britain (December 8, 1941).

The United States Fights Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy

1941

  • America is half Judaized and the other half Negrified.
    • German Leader Adolf Hitler, speech to the German Reichstag (Parliament) declaring war on the United States (December 11, 1941).

1942

  • Germany first.
    • Slogan for American strategy for fighting the war: send most forces against Nazi Germany, then turn to Japan after the defeat of Germany.
  • Why am I fighting?
    Not, certainly, ‘just because I was drafted’ — the cynical, easy retort of the half-believer. I was a draftee, yes — because circumstances prevented me from joining up when I should have liked. I envy and honor the boys who enlisted — the ones who, seeing their country’s need, acted upon it without waiting to be called — or compelled.
    Not just because of Pearl Harbor. That’s an immediate reason, yes,... [b]ut Pearl Harbor, or some other harbor, would have come sooner or later; indeed, might have come too late....
    Not to “force our ideas on the rest of the world”.... I am fighting for the right of peoples to say how they shall be governed. If they like our form of government, fine. If not, let them have another — but let the choice be theirs, not something handed down to them by a self-styled “Leader” — or a yoke laid on them by an invader....
    For what, exactly, are we fighting?...
    Well, it goes a long way back.
    It goes back to the taproots of America. Back beyond the World War, with its simple slogan of fighting to make the world safe for democracy. Back beyond ‘98, when we fought to set Cuba free. Back beyond the Civil War when we fought to make and keep America a nation of freemen. Back beyond 1812, when our cry was freedom of the seas. Back even beyond the Revolution that saw our forefathers pledge ‘their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor’ that the colonies might be freed from the yoke of the Hanoverian king. Back to the Bill of Rights, back, back to the Magna Carta seven hundred years ago — that first great landmark pf man’s history-long effort to be politically free.... Freedom of the individual to rule himself, to make his laws, to have his say in council, to set his course and follow his star!
    Fine words you say; but what do they have to do with fighting a Germany whose chief concern was Europe, a Japan whose ambitions were — perhaps — only Oriental?
    I say they have a lot to do with Japan and Germany.... Nazism dominant in Europe and Asia would result... In the emergence and ultimate dominance of the Nazi principle in American life.
    Men (some, not all — but alas! Enough) would have looked at each other in confusion and alarm and doubt. They would have said, fearingly, ‘Democracy has failed in Europe. We thought it was the best way, but how can it be, if it is so weak? Maybe the Nazis have something. Maybe... maybe...’ So the whispers would have started....
    That’s why I am fighting.... I’m trying to kill Fascism now, before it has a chance to eat in its ugly way at the American vitals.... I’m fighting because the world, like our own America, ‘cannot exist half slave and half free.’ I’m fighting because I think China has a right to live as a nation, not exist as a vast puppet state....
    I’m fighting because I want to be able to look my children in the face some day and say to them that America wasn’t afraid to fight once again for an ideal, the ideals that have made America great. I love peace, but I hate war for the shocking waste of everything that it is; but even war is preferable to supine acquiescence in international murder, not merely of the body, but of the spirit.
    • Sgt. Henry C. Nelson, “To Be Able to Look My Children in the Face,” in Why I Fight, published by the U.S. Army.
  • Wolf packs.
    • Groups of German submarines that conducted coordinated attacks against Allied merchant ship convoys crossing the Atlantic.
  • G.I.
    • Government-issue (distributed) supplies, clothing, weapons, and anything used by soldiers, who came to be called “G.I.s” (a term that is still used at times).
  • The mightiest bomber ever built.
    • A description of the B-17 Flying Fortress, flown to England to participate in Eighth Air Force bombing attacks on German industrial targets.

1943

  • It is difficult to go anywhere in London without having the feeling that Britain is now Occupied Territory.
  • They’re overfed, overpaid, overdressed... and over here.
    • Common complaint of British people, as American troops were shipped to Britain to prepare for the invasion of German-occupied Europe.
  • We are out to win the war in the quickest and most economical way.
    • Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff.
  • In the magazines war seemed romantic and exciting, full of heroics and vitality.... I saw instead men... suffering and wishing they were somewhere else.
    • War correspondent Ernie Pyle.

1944

  • People of Western Europe: A landing was made this morning on the coast of France by troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force. This landing is part of the concerted United Nations plan for the liberation of Europe, made in conjunction with our great Russian allies.... I call upon those who love freedom to stand with us now. Together we shall achieve victory.
    • Radio address by U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander of allied forces, on "D-Day", the start of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, beginning with the landing in France on June 6. Note: “D-Day” is the term used in military planning that specifies the date that an amphibious (ship-to-shore) invasion occurs.
  • We saw the bomb explosions causing fires that illuminated clouds in the otherwise dark sky. We were twelve miles offshore as we climbed into our seat assignments on the LCAs [amphibious landing craft] and were lowered into the heavy sea from davits. The navy hadn’t begun its firing because it was still dark. We couldn’t see the armada but we knew it was there.
    Prior to loading, friends said their so longs and good lucks.... All of us had a letter signed by the Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, saying that we were about to embark upon a great crusade. A few of my cohorts autographed it an I carried it in my wallet throughout the war.
    The Channel was extremely rough, and it wasn’t long before we had to help the craft’s pumps by bailing with our helmets. The cold spray blew in and soon we were soaking wet....
    As the sky lightened, the armada became visible. The smoking and burning French shoreline also became more defined. At 0600, the huge guns of the Allied navies opened up with must have been one of the greatest artillery barrages ever.... I could see the [battleship] Texas firing broadside into the coastline.
    Bomm-ba-ba-boom-ba-ba-boom! Within minutes, giant swells from the recoil of those guns nearly swamped us and added to the seasickness and misery. But one could also see the two-thousand-pound missiles tumbling on their targets. Twin fuselaged P-38 fighter-bombers were also overhead protecting us from the Luftwaffe [German Air Force] and giving us a false sense of security. This should be a piece of cake....
    A few thousand yards from shore we rescued three or four survivors from a craft that had been swamped and sunk....
    About two or three hundred yards from shore we encountered artillery fire. Near misses sent seawater skyward and then it rained back on us....
    About 150 yards from shore, I raised my head despite the warning, ‘Keep your head down.’ I saw the boat on our right taking a terrific licking from small arms. Tracer bullets were bouncing and skipping off the ramp and sides as the enemy zeroed in on the boat which had beached a few minutes before us. Had we not delayed a few minutes to pick up the survivors of the sunken craft, we might have taken that concentration of fire.
    Great plumes of water from enemy artillery and mortars sprouted close by. We knew then this was not going to be a walk-in. No one thought the enemy would give us this kind of opposition at the water’s edge. We expected A and B Companies to have the beach secured by the time we landed. In reality no one had set foot in our sector. The coxswain [boat driver] had missed the Vierville church steeple, our point to guide on, and the tides also helped pull us two hundred yards east.
    The location didn’t make much difference. We could hear the ‘p-r-r-r-r, p-r-r-r-r’ of enemy machine guns to our right, towards the west. It was obvious someone was... getting chewed up where we had been supposed to come in.
    The ramp went down while shells exploded on land and in the water. Unseen snipers were shooting down from the cliffs, but the most havoc came from automatic weapons....
    When I did get out, I was in the water. It was very difficult to shed sixty pounds of equipment, and if one were a weak swimmer he could drown.... Many were in the water, and drowned, good swimmers or not. There were dead men floating in the water, and live men acting dead, letting the tide take them in....
    I crouched down to chin deep in the water as shells fell at the water’s edge. Small arms fire kicked up sand. I noticed a GI running, trying to get across the beach. He was weighed down with equipment and having difficulty moving. An enemy gunner shot him. He screamed for a medic. An aidman moved quickly to help him and he was also shot. I’ll never forget seeing that medic lying next to that wounded soldier, both of them screaming. They died in minutes.
    Boys were turned into men. Some would be very brave men; others would soon be very dead men, but any who survived would be frightened men. Some wet their pants, others cried unashamedly. Many just had to find within themselves the strength to get the job done. Discipline and training took over....
    I took off my assault jacket and spread out my raincoat so I could clean my rifle. It was then I saw bullet holes in my jacket and raincoat. I lit my first cigarette; I had to rest and compose myself because I became weak in the knees.”
    • Bob Slaughter, 29th Infantry Division, who landed on Omaha Beach at Normandy, where 3,500 Americans and 700 Germans were killed on June 6, 1944, in the battle of the beachhead.
  • [The assault units] were disorganized, had suffered heavy casualties and were handicapped by losses of valuable equipment.... They were pinned down along the beach by intense enemy fire.... Personnel and equipment were being piled ashore... where congested groups afforded food targets for the enemy.
    • An American officer at the landing beach at Normandy, June 6, 1944.
  • Sure, we all want to get home. We want to get this thing over with. But the quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards. The quicker they’re whipped, the quicker we go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin.
  • And there’s one thing you’ll be able to say when you get home. When you’re sitting around your fireside, with your brat on your knee, and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you won’t have to say you shoveled shit in Louisiana.
    • General George S. Patton, Jr., speech to his Third Army before it was sent to join in the Battle of France (July 1944).
  • Any commander who fails to obtain his objective, and who is not dead or seriously wounded, has not done his full duty.
    • Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., instructions to the Third Army.

1945

  • Austin White — Chicago, Ill. — 1918
    Austin White — Chicago, Ill. — 1945
    This is the last time I want to write my name here.
    • Inscription found near Verdun, France by a reporter for Yank magazine (a magazine for the soldiers).
  • The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 3 a.m., local time, May 7, 1945.
    • Message from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, SCAEF (Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force) to the Combined Chiefs of Staff (the command of British and American forces), on the signing of the surrender by German delegates at Eisenhower’s headquarters at Rheims, France.

The War in Europe: The Holocaust

1944

  • When we got off the cattle truck, they ordered, ‘Men right; women, left.’... I went with my father. My little sister, Esther, she went with my mother. Esther was only eleven. She was holding my mother’s hand. When they made a selection of the women, Esther clung to my mother. My mother wouldn’t give her up.... They went straight to the gas chamber.
    • Account of Moritz Vegh, sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp with his family at age 13. He worked as a slave laborer and was the only survivor from his family.

1945

  • In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die.... I could see their ribs through their thin shirts.
    • CBS news correspondent Edward R. Morrow, reporting from a Nazi concentration camp, (April 16, 1945).
  • I want every American unit not actually in the front lines to see this place.... We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.
    • Comment of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, after visiting a Nazi extermination camp, where bodies were stacked in the barracks the smell of burnt bodies came from crematoria.
  • For months, for years we had one wish only: the wish that some of us would escape alive, in order to tell the world what the Nazi convict prisons were like..... There was the systematic... urge to use human beings as slaves and to kill them when they could work no more.
    • Concentration camp survivor Marie Valliant, in testimony at the Nürnberg War Crimes Trials.
  • What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. They are living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power.
    • U. S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, serving as a judge at the Nürnberg Trials of surviving Nazi leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The United States Fights Imperial Japan

1941

  • While you may have your initial success, due to timing and surprise, the time will come when you too will have your losses, but there will be this great difference. You will not only be unable to make up your losses, but will grow weaker as time grows on, while on the other hand we will not only make up our losses but will grow stronger as time goes on. It is inevitable that we will crush you before we are through with you.
    • Admiral Harold Stark, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, speaking to the Japanese ambassador before the war.
  • If I am ordered to fight against US, I will make a good job for half [year] or year. But I cannot do it for a few years.
    • Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, planner of the attack on Pearl Harbor, to Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe.
  • Tenno Haika banzai! (May the Emperor live ten thousand years!)
    • Shout made by Imperial Japanese troops in the attack.

Japan on the Offensive: The Fall of the Philippines (December 1941- May 1942)

1942

  • We're the battling bastards of Bataan;
    No papa, no mama, no Uncle Sam;
    No aunts, no uncles, no nieces;
    No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces....
    And nobody gives a damn.
    • Sung by soldiers defending the Bataan peninsula, on the northwest of Manila Bay, the last major force holding out against Japanese invaders of the Philippines.
  • Suppose you’re a sergeant machine-gunner, and your army is retreating and the enemy advancing. The captain takes you to a machine gun covering the road. ‘You’re to stay here and hold this position,’ he tells you. ‘For how long?’ you ask. ‘Never mind,’ he answers, ‘just hold it.’ Then you know you’re expendable. In a way anything can be expendable — money or gasoline or equipment or most usually men. They are expending you and that machine gun to get time.
    • William L. White, They Were Expendable, his account of the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese in early 1942.
  • The sun beat down upon my throbbing hear.... Along the road the jungle was a misty green haze, swimming before my sweat-filled eyes.
    The hours dragged by, and a great number of prisoners reached the end of their endurance. The drop-outs became more numerous. The fell by the hundreds in the road....
    There was the crack of a pistol and the shot rang out across the jungle. There was another shot, and more shots, and I knew that, straggling along behind us, was a clean-up squad of Japanese, killing their helpless victims on the white dusty road.... The shots continued, goading us on. I gritted my teeth. 'Oh, God, I've got to keep going. I can’t stop. I can’t die like that'.
    • Sergeant Sidney Stewart, a survivor of the Bataan Death March of April 1942, when the Japanese sent 70,000 American and Filipino prisoners 60 miles from the Bataan Peninsula to their prison camps. About 10,000 prisoners were killed by gunshot, bayonet, or starvation during the march.
  • The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan, a primary objective of which is the relief of the Philippines.
    I came through and I shall return.
    • General Douglas MacArthur, remarks to reporters in Australia after he had been ordered by Pres. Roosevelt to leave the fortress on the island of Corregidor in Manila Bay before it fell to the Japanese (March 30, 1942).
  • God have mercy on us!
    • General MacArthur, on learning of the state of Australia’s lack of preparedness to meet an attack by the Japanese. What he didn't realise was that Australia had five militia divisions, and five high quality regular army divisions on the way home from the Middle East, while the Americans had only one division on the way from San Fransisco.

Japan’s Offensive Halted: The Battle of Midway (June 1942)

1942

  • [The Doolittle Air Raid on Tokyo in April 1942] ended the debate... as to whether Midway was to be attacked.
    • Admiral Yamamoto, Commander, Japanese Fleet.
  • There is no choice but to force a decisive fleet encounter. If we set out from here to do that and we go to the bottom of the Pacific in a double suicide, things will be peaceful on the high seas for some time.
    • Admiral Yamamoto to the Japanese Naval General Staff before Operation Mi, the attack on Midway Island.
  • Surprise was paramount because we believed that the Japanese did not know of the presence of our carriers.
    • Commander Joseph Worthington, Commanding Officer of the destroyer USS Benham, on the US Navy’s planning for the Battle of Midway, which relied on the breaking of the Japanese code.
  • Within five minutes all her [Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi's] planes would be launched. Five minutes! Who would have dreamed that the tide of battle would shift completely in that brief interval of time?... The first Zero fighter gathered speed and whizzed of the deck. At that instant a lookout screamed, 'Hell divers [U.S. Navy dive bombers]!' I looked up to see three black enemy planes plummeting toward our ship. Bombs! Down they came straight toward me!
    • Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, a Japanese officer on the Akagi, in Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan. In the Battle of Midway (June 3-6, 1942), the U.S. Navy stopped the Japanese advance on Hawaii and sunk four of the enemy’s aircraft carriers. The U.S. forces would advance without letup in the next years of the war in the Pacific.

Turning the Tide in the Pacific

1942

  • [My forces are] unable to control the sea in the Guadalcanal area.... The situation is not hopeless but it is certainly critical.
    • Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, commanding U. S. Naval forces in the Guadalcanal Campaign (November 1942).

1943

  • I look upon the Guadalcanal and Tulagi operations as the turning point from offensive to defensive, and the cause of our setback there was our inability to increase our forces at the same speed as you.
    • Japanese Admiral Osami Nagano, Chief of Naval Staff, to American officers after the war.

America's Amphibious Advance in the Pacific

1939

  • A landing on a foreign coast in the face of hostile troops has always been one of the most difficult operations of war. It has now become much more difficult , almost impossible, because of the vulnerable target which a convoy of transports offers to the defenders’ air force. Even more vulnerable is the process of disembarkation in open boats.
    • British military writer Captain B. H. Liddell Hart, in The Defense of Britain (1939).

1943-1945

  • The outstanding achievement of this war in the field of joint undertakings was the perfection of amphibious operations, the most difficult of all operations in modern warfare.
    • Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, in The War Reports of General of the Army George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, General of the Army H. H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander-in-Chief, US Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations (1947).

1943

  • Island hopping.
    • The strategy advanced by General Douglas MacArthur to advance against the Japanese in the Pacific, bypassing as many strongly-held enemy islands as possible, only landing to fight it out on islands needed to build air bases to support the next landing.

1944

  • [The campaign objective is to obtain] positions from which the ultimate surrender of JAPAN can be forced by intensive air bombardment , by sea and air blockade, and by invasion if necessary.
    • Commander in Chief Pacific Ocean Areas (Admiral Nimitz), Campaign Plan Granite (January 15, 1944).
  • If Saipan is lost, air raids on Tokyo will take place often.
    • Message sent by Emperor Hirohito to encourage the Japanese forces defending Saipan.
  • Our ships have been salvaged and are retiring at high speed toward the Japanese fleet.
    • Admiral William F. (“Bull”) Halsey, radio message following Japanese propaganda broadcasts about most of his Third Fleet had been lost on the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 1944).
  • People of the Philippines, I have returned!
    By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil.... Rally to me!
    • General Douglas MacArthur, radio broadcast after he landed ashore at Leyte (October 20, 1944).

1945

  • The Navajo Code Talkers have proved to be excellent Marines, intelligent, industrious, efficient.
    Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.
    • Comments about the "Code Talkers", Navajo Indian soldiers and Marines, who communicated on radio using their native language, which could not be understood by any Japanese who were listening.
  • To be avoided, and if necessary ignored, were gung-ho platoon leaders who drew enemy fire by ordering spectacular charges. Ground wasn’t gained that way; it was won by small groups of men, five or six in a cluster, who moved warily forward in a kind of autohypnosis, advancing in a mysterious concert with similar groups on their flanks.
    • Sgt. William Manchester, USMC, reflections on ground combat in the Battle of Okinawa, in his personal history of the Pacific War, Goodbye Darkness.
  • Aboard a Fast Carrier in the Forward Pacific Area, May 11 (Special-Delayed) -- Two Japanese suicide planes carrying 1,000 pounds of bombs plunged into the flight deck of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s own flagship today,... transforming one of our greatest flat-tops (aircraft carriers) into a floating torch, with flames soaring nearly 1,000 feet into the sky.
    For eight seemingly interminable hours that followed the ship and her crew fought as tense and terrifying a battle for survival as had ever been witnessed in the Pacific, but when dusk closed in, the U.S.S. Bunker Hill — horribly crippled and still filmed by wisps of smoke and steam from her smoldering embers — was plowing along under her own power on the distant horizon, safe. Tomorrow she will spend another eight terrible hours burying at sea men who died to save her.
    From the deck of a neighboring carrier a few hundred yards distant I watched the Bunker Hill burn. It is hard to believe that men could survive those flames or that metal could withstand such heat.
    One minute our task force was cruising in lazy circles about 60 miles off Okinawa without a care in the world and apparently without a thought of an enemy plane. The next the Bunker Hill was a pillar of flame. It was as quick as that — like summer lightning....
    For the first time in a week, our own ship had secured from general quarters an hour or two before... and those men not on regular watch were permitted to relax from the deadly sixteen-hour vigil they had put in at battle stations every day since we had entered the battle area.
    So it was on the Bunker Hill. Exhausted men not on watch were catching a catnap. Aft, on the flight deck, 34 planes were waiting to take off. Their tanks were filled to the last drop with highly volatile aviation gasoline. Their guns were loaded to the last possible round of ammunition....
    Just appearing over the horizon were the planes returning form an early mission.... Then it was that a man aboard our ship caught the first glimpse of three enemy planes and cried a warning. But before general quarters could be sounded on this ship, and before half a dozen shots could be fired by the Bunker Hill, the first kamikaze had dropped his 550-pound bomb on the ship and plunged his plane squarely into the 34 waiting planes in a shower of burning gasoline....
    But before a move could be made to fight the flames, another kamikaze came whining out of the clouds, straight into the deadly anti-aircraft guns of the ship....
    Minutes later a third Jap suicider zoomed down to finish the job. Ignoring the flames and the smoke that swept around them, the men in the Bunker Hill’s gun galleries stuck to their posts.... It was a neighboring destroyer, which finally scored a direct hit on the Jap and sent him splashing harmlessly into the sea....
    For more than an hour there was no visible abatement in the fury of the flames.... Crippled as she was she plowed ahead at top speed, and the wind that swept her decks blew the flames and smoke astern over the fantail, preventing the blaze from spreading forward on the flight deck.... Trapped on the fantail itself, men faced the flames and fought grimly on; with... no way of knowing how much of the ship remained on the other side of that fiery wall....
    After nearly three hours of almost hopeless fighting, she had brought the fires under control, and though it was many more hours before they were completely extinguished, the battle was won and the ship was saved.
    A goodly thick book could not record all the acts of heroism that were performed aboard that valiant ship today....
    [A]t the cost of three pilots and three planes today the enemy killed a probable total of 392 of our men, wounded 264 others, destroyed about 70 planes and wrecked a fine and famous ship. The flight deck of that ship tonight looks like the crater of a volcano.... But the ship has not been sunk.... As it is the Bunker Hill will steam back to Bremerton Navy Yard under her own power and there will be repaired.... But within a few weeks she will be back again, sinking more ships, downing more planes, and bombing out more Japanese air fields.
    Perhaps her next task will be to cover the invasion of Tokyo itself!
    • Phelps Adams, "Kamikazes: An Eyewitness Account", from Masterpieces of War Reporting: Great Moments of World War II, ed. Louis Snyder (1962), pp. 487-494. The "Kamikaze"or "Divine wind" in Japanese: referred to suicide pilots who would fly their bomb-laden planes into American naval ships. The USS Bunker Hill was repaired in Bremerton, Washington and returned to the Pacific Fleet in September. The ship remained in the Navy until it was sold for scrap in 1973.

Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

1945

  • Please, for God's sake, stop sending our finest youth to be murdered in places like Iwo Jima.... Why can't objectives be accomplished some other way?
    • Letter written to the Secretary of the Navy.
  • National Resistance Program.
    • Japanese plan for using all males, ages 15 to 60, and females, ages 17 to 40, in combat roles in the expected Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands, planned to begin with Operation Olympic on 1 November 1945. Postwar analysis of Japanese documents showed that "sacrificing 20 million Japanese lives" was expected.
  • [Japanese defenses threatened] to grow to [the] point where we attack on a ratio of one (1) to one (1) which is not a recipe for victory.
    • Major General Charles Willoughby, G-2 (chief of intelligence) on General MacArthur’s staff, on the buildup of Japanese forces in the zone of the planned Operation Olympic assault.
  • When I saw a very strong light, a flash, I put my arms over my face unconsciously.... The whole city was destroyed and burning. There was no place to go.
    • Michiko Yamaoka, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945).
  • Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT....
    With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces....
    It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East....
    Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.
    We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.
    • President Harry S Truman, radio address to the American people, following the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan (August 6).
  • You think of the lives which would have been lost in an invasion of Japan’s main islands — a staggering number of Americans, but millions more of Japanese — and you thank God for the atomic bomb.
    • Comment of one Marine in the Pacific.
  • Would it not be wondrous for this whole nation to be destroyed like a beautiful flower.
    • General Anami, Japanese War Minister, at a meeting of Japan’s Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (August 9, 1945).
  • We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war.
    • Koichi Kido, aide of Emperor Hirohito.
  • [The atomic bombings were a] gift from heaven.
    • Mitsumasa Yonai, Japanese Navy Minister, who argued that the bombings caused the collapse of the power of leaders who favored continuing the war.
  • The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war.
    • Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief cabinet secretary in 1945.
  • We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandisement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone -- the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
    • Surrender speech of Emperor Hirohito (August 15, 1945). This was the first occasion in which common Japanese heard the voice of their emperor.
  • Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death... men everywhere walk upright in sunlight. The entire world lies quietly at peace. The holy mission has been completed. And in reporting this to you, the people, I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles and the beaches and in the deep waters of the Pacific which marked the way....
    As I look back on the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that He has given us the faith, the courage, and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exaltation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.
    • General Douglas MacArthur, commander of allied forces in the Pacific, radio address on V-J Day, September 2, 1945, when Japanese representatives signed the surrender agreement on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay.

War Aims and the Diplomacy of War

1943

  • America must choose one of three courses after this war: narrow nationalism, which inevitably means the ultimate loss of our own liberty; international imperialism, which means the sacrifice of some other nation’s liberty; or the creation of a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and every nation. I am convinced the American people will choose, by overwhelming majority, the last of these courses. To make this choice effective, we must win not only the war but also the peace, and we must start winning it now.
    To win this peace three things seem to me necessary — first, we must plan now for peace on a worldwide basis; second, the world must be free, politically and economically, for nations and for men, that peace may exist in it; third, America must play an active, constructive part in freeing it and keeping its peace....
    This cannot be accomplished by mere declarations of our leaders, as in an Atlantic Charter. Its accomplishment depends primarily upon acceptance by the peoples of the world.... The Four Freedoms will not be accomplished by those momentarily in power. They will become real only if the people of the world forge them into actuality.
    • Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican candidate for president, in One World.

1943

  • Before this year is out, it will be made known to the world — in actions rather than in words — that the Casablanca Conference produced plenty of news; and it will be bad news for the Germans and Italians — and the Japanese....
    In an attempt to ward off the inevitable disaster, the Axis propagandists are trying all of their old tricks in order to divide the United Nations. They seek to create the idea that if we win this war, Russia, England, China, and the United States, are going to get into a cat-and-dog fight....
    To these panicky attempts to escape the consequences to their crimes we say — all the United Nations say — that the only terms on which we shall deal with any Axis government or any Axis factions are the terms proclaimed at Casablanca: ‘Unconditional Surrender.’ In our uncompromising policy we mean no harm to the common people of the Axis nations. But we do mean to impose punishment and retribution in full upon their guilty, barbaric leaders.
    • President Roosevelt, fireside chat after returning from the Casablanca Conference with Prime Minister Churchill.

1943

  • Big Three
  • Term referring to the United States, United Kingdom (Great Britain) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Russia): the three main countries at war with Nazi Germany. They held several “summit conferences” where their leaders (Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Josef Stalin) met together to plan wartime strategy.

1945

  • The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of Nazism and Fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice.
  • State Department report on the Yalta Conference, in which the Big Three met in February 1945 at a resort in southern Russia, to finalize plans to defeat Nazi Germany and to begin the reconstruction of Europe.

The War at Home

1941

  • [The attack on Pearl Harbor showed] the seriousness of the challenge confronting us and our very souls became so inflamed with righteous wrath, so fired with patriotism, that our differences and divisions and hates melted into a unity never before witnessed in this country.
  • Rep. John Flannagan of Virginia.

1942

  • Loose lips sink ships
  • Wartime slogan that urged people to keep quiet because spies could always be listening.

1942

  • Manhattan Project
  • Secret code word for the immense scientific and engineering project to build an atomic bomb before the Germans or Japanese.

1942

  • Eat more corn, oats, and rye products — fish and poultry — fruits, vegetables and potatoes. Baked, boiled and broiled foods.
  • Eat less wheat, meat, sugar and fats to save for the army and our allies
  • Text of a wartime conservation poster.

1942

  • The need is urgent — War in the Pacific has greatly reduced our supply of vegetable fats from the Far East. It is necessary to find substitutes for them. Fat makes glycerine. And glycerine makes explosives for us and our Allies — explosives to down Axis planes, stop their tanks, and sink their ships. We need millions of pounds of glycerine and you housewives can supply it.
    Don’t throw away a single drop of used cooking fat, meat drippings, fry fats — every kind you use. After you’ve got all the cooking good from them, pour them through a kitchen strainer into a clean, wide-mouthed can. Keep it in a cool dark place....
    Take them to your meat dealer when you’ve saved a pound or more. He is cooperating patriotically. He will pay you for your waste fats and get them started on their way to war industries.
    • Federal Government pamphlet getting civilians involved in the war effort.

1943

  • Dr. New Deal... [has been replaced by] Dr. Win the War.... The overwhelming first emphasis should be on winning the war.
    • President Roosevelt, on the change in the priorities of the Federal Government.

1943

  • The honest-minded liberal will admit that the common man is getting a better break [now] than he did under the New Deal.
    • A New Deal administrator.

1943

  • To harden home-front morale, the military services have adopted a new policy of letting civilians see photographically what warfare does to men who fight.
  • Newsweek magazine on the War Department’s policy of letting photos of American troop casualties be shown in order to reverse the public’s overconfidence.

Women in the War

1942

  • Days and nights were an endless nightmare, until it seemed we couldn’t stand it any longer. Patients came in by the hundreds, and the doctors and nurses worked continuously under the tents amid the flies and heat and dust. We had from eight to nine hundred victims a day.
  • Eunice Hatchitt, Army nurse serving on Bataan in the Philippines.

1943

  • To be doing something towards winning the war, to be making some money, to learn a trade, men and women have been pouring into the city [of Mobile, Alabama] for more than a year now.
  • Observation of novelist John Dos Passos.

1943

  • I was an eager learner, and I soon became an outstanding riveter. At Rohr I worked riveting to boom doors on P-38s.... The war really created opportunities for women. It was the first time we got a chance to show that we could do a lot of things that only men had done before.
  • Winona Espinosa, an aircraft worker.

1943

  • Something is happening that Adolf Hitler does not understand..... It is the miracle of production.
  • Time magazine, on American industry’s production of immense numbers of planes, ships, and tanks. Actually, German military intelligence DID correctly estimate what the U.S. could manufacture, but Hitler chose to ignore the report and declared war on the U.S.

1943

  • Instead of cutting a cake, this woman is cutting a pattern of aircraft parts. Instead of baking a cake, this woman is cooking gears to reduce the tension in the gears after use.
  • Narrative in a news video showing women working in an aircraft factory.

1944

  • There is nothing in the training to prepare you for the excruciating noise you get down in the ship. Any who were not heart-and-soul determined to stick it out would fade out right away.... And it isn’t only your muscles that must harden. It’s your nerve, too.
  • Woman shipyard worker.

1944

  • You had better be careful how you talk to me ‘cause I have developed a big muscle in my right arm and a good strong one in my left, so take it easy, kid.
  • Margaret Hooper, age 20, in a letter to a friend in the Pacific Fleet. Margaret was working as an incoming materials inspector at an aircraft plant in San Pedro, California.

1944

  • “Rosie the Riveter”
  • Name of the tough, patriotic, fictional woman cartoon character made to rally women support and help during the war.

1945

  • It gave me a good start in life. I decided that if I could learn to weld like a man, I could do anything it took to make a living.
  • Nova Lee Holbrook, on how her experience in war work was invaluable.

The War at Home: Japanese-Americans

1942

  • The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that action will be taken.
    • War Department report on Japanese migrants and Japanese-Americans on the West Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

1942

  • Despite the color of our hair and skin, despite the shape of our eyes, the U.S. was our country. I remember how my parents reminded us of that fact. Just before our family was evacuated, my father... said, "No matter what happens, this is your home."
    • U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, taken as a child to an internment camp.

1942

  • During the bleak spring of 1942, the Japanese and Japanese-Americans who lived on the West Coast of the United States were taken into custody and removed into camps in the interior. More than 100,000 men, women, and children were thus exiled and imprisoned. More than two-thirds of them were American citizens.
  • These people were taken into custody as a military measure on the ground that espionage and sabotage were especially to be feared from persons of Japanese blood. The whole group was removed from the West Coast because the military authorities thought it would take too long to conduct individual investigations on the spot. They were arrested without warrants and were held without indictment or a statement of charges.... Despite the good intention of the chief relocation officers, the centers were little better than concentration camps.
  • If the evacuees were found ‘loyal,’ they were released only if they could find a job and a place to live, in a community where no hoodlums would come out at night to chalk-up anti-Japanese slogans, break windows, or threaten riot. If found ‘disloyal’ in their attitude to the war, they were kept in the camps indefinitely — although sympathy with the enemy is no crime in the United States (for white people at least) so long as it is not translated into deeds or the visible threat of deeds.
    • Eugene V. Rostow, in Harper’s, 1945

1942

  • There were no lights, stoves, or window panes.... We slept on army cots with our clothes on. ... The barbed wire fence which surrounded the camp was visible against the background of the snow-covered Sierra mountain range.
    • Karl Yoneda on conditions at the internment camp for Japanese migrants and Japanese-Americans at Manzanar, California.

1944

  • After all those years, having worked his whole life to build a dream — having it all taken away.... He died a broken man.
    • Peter Ota, whose family was interned at a camp in Colorado.

1944

  • We must accord great respect and consideration to the judgments of the military authorities who are on the scene and who have full knowledge of the military facts.... At the same time, however, it is essential that there be definite limits to military discretion.... Individuals must not be left impoverished of their constitutional rights on plea of military necessity that has neither substance nor support.
    • Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Murphy, one of three justices dissenting in Korematsu v. United States. The Court’s six-judge majority supported the interning of Japanese and Japanese-Americans.

The War at Home: African-Americans

1942

  • This is a war to keep men free. The struggle to broaden and lengthen the road of freedom — our freedom — here in America — will come later. That this private, intra-American war will be carried on and won is the only real reason we Negroes have to fight. We must keep the road open....
    The very fact that I, a Negro, can fight against the evils in America is worth fighting for. This open fighting against the wrongs one hates is the mark and the hope of democratic freedom.
    • From J. Saunders Redding, “A Negro Looks at This War,” American Mercury (November 1942), pp. 585-592.

1942

  • My own opinion was that blacks could best overcome racist attitudes through their achievements, even though these had to take place within the hateful environment of segregation....
    The... war represented a golden opportunity....
    We owned a fighter squadron — something that would have been unthinkable only a short time earlier. It was all ours.... Furthermore, we would be required to analyze our own problems and solve them with our own skills.
    • General Benjamin O. Davis, the first African American general in the Air Force, and commanding officer of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

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Last modified on 15 September 2008, at 00:41