The Power of Words in Wartime

Introduction

Winston Churchill delivered a famous speech to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940 stating thus, ‘…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....’ The above quote aptly captures the spirit of World War II. While the war was fought with guns, grenades, ships and planes, the place of rousing speeches by political speeches on both sides of the divide cannot be underestimated (Russet, 20180). As the war began on 1st September 1939 it was not quite clear which side would win the war, not until 2nd September 1945 when the Allied Powers prevailed over the Axis Powers. The success of the Allied Powers or the failure of the Axis Powers can be attributed to myriads of reasons as shall be the gist of this paper going forward.

Industrial Capacity

Until 1941, the Axis Powers held an advantage over the Allied powers, Germany was a rising power and there was a good relationship between Stalin and Hitler. However, in 1941 things changed and the advantage began to slowly vanish after the Nazi attacked the Soviet Union sending it towards the Allied powers (Lyons, 2016). To make things much worse, Japan had attacked Pearl Harbour drawing the United States deeper into the war. The end result is that the Allied powers ended up with a massive industrial capacity compared to the Axis powers. For instance, the US was capable of manufacturing more war materials than the entire Axis combined, Britain could manufacture tanks eight fold the number Japanese could make and the Soviets could make ten thousand additional aircraft than Germany. Notably, studies show that of all manufactured goods produced in the world in 1945 at least half can be attributed to the US manufacturing industry, the Axis powers had no chance in this front.

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Access to Raw Materials

Access to raw materials is key to winning any war and WWII was no different. Indeed the Axis powers possessed important raw materials to the disadvantage of the Allies, but that was not enough. Italy was leading supplier or mercury in the world and Germany a leading manufacturer of potash. Apart from these, the Allied powers had a better access to raw materials especially during the war. They controlled large amounts of raw materials within their borders including coal, lead, copper, sulphur, zinc and nickel. The US alone accounted for two thirds of the world’s gasoline yet this was an indispensable commodity for almost all machines used in the war (Black, 2004). Therefore, the oil bargain was already lopsided at the beginning of the war and it would later worsen as the war came to an end in 1945.

Technological Advancement

The Allies had more engineers, money and safer working facilities which created a serene atmosphere for technological advancement. As a result they were able to achieve dominance radar, aeronautics, sonar, medicine, ballistics, and radio transmission technologies. Despite Germany making important strides in technological breakthroughs, it was dragged back by the culture of individual genius as opposed to teamwork. In fact, there was very few documented cases of direct engagement between Nazi field commanders and scientists. The Nazi were secretive and did not coordinate with engineers to solve technical problems with their war machines. On the contrary, the Allied powers like the Americans and British involved their engineers in the research of military equipment with an aim of improving its operational performance (Silverlight, 1970). For instance, during the iconic Battle of Britain, the RAF Spitfires used by the Allied powers had a boosted performance of up to 25 per cent throughout their operation, thanks to an American invention of one hundred-octane gasoline.

Population

As at 1939, numbers meant a lot in wars, although the same cannot be said about economic power. The Allied powers had a larger population both in uniform and civilians. In particular, Allied forces were three times the number of Axis forces in uniform while Allied civilians were five times the number of Axis civilians (Russet, 2018). As a consequence, Allied forces were able replace injured or dead soldiers in the battlefield faster that the Axis could; allied forces could also place a large number of people into the manufacture of goods to be used in the war. Specially, the Allies were well placed to deal with war attrition even if it had gone for over 10 years because at the end of the war, the Allied powers lost twice as much as the Axis.

Intelligence

In war, knowledge is power for without it a blind army is as good as dead. The superiority of the Allied powers can best be summarised by the fact that in 1970, the Allied forces announce that they had actually been able to break the Axis codes. Coding was a major advantage that the United States had during the war and used it break codes from the Japanese thus intercepting naval and diplomatic information relating to the war. Equally, the British, with the help of Poland and France, were able to decode and decipher loads of communication between the Germans. In spite of the advanced and complex coding used by both the Japanese and Germans, the British and Americans were able to fabricate these machines and intercept important pieces of information (Reynolds, 2000). For instance, a planned Japanese attack was thwarted and the chief commander ambushed and killed along the way. That is how much power information could grant any power in the war.

Geography

The location of different countries in the war played a major role in the likelihood of them being attacked and the defence strategies to be employed. China and the Soviet Union shared one advantage over other countries in the war; they had large and vast land which could easily be relinquished by moving people away from those areas. Essentially, these countries had the option of advancing inwards and avoiding a fight to death. Great Britain and Japan held the advantage of being islands surrounded by vast waterbodies (Plesch, 2010). This made it quite difficult for either of these countries to be invaded during the war, however, this made them dependent on their naval capabilities. For Great Britain, the US came in handy to assist both in naval and air attack, Japan was not very lucky in getting assistance from other Axis powers who in any case were far away. Germany appeared to be the most vulnerable to invasion considering that it was surrounded by Allied powers in most fronts. Contrastingly, the US benefitted greatly from its geographical placement since it was surrounded by two large water bodies and two agreeable neighbours (Overy and Overy, 1997). This allowed the US to focus on its industrial activities including the manufacture of war materials which turned out to be the largest in the war.

Inter-service rivalries

While internal discord between factions in the military is a common phenomenon, the difference is whether leaders can deal with them effectively to bring servicemen together for the greater good (Murrey and Millet, 2009). The Allied powers were never immune from internal dissonance but they were able to quell them effective communication and leadership. For the Axis powers, the major source of their woes originated from the manner in which aircrafts were to be handled. Under the leadership of Benito Mussolini and Herman Goring, air forces of Italy and Germany respectively exercised massive control of the aircrafts and the army or navy were never really involved in any decisions regarding aircrafts. On the other hand, the US adopted a different policy that involved both the navy and army and each unit had their own combat aircrafts to be used as the situation would require (Lukacs, 1989). This secrecy and distrust amongst the Axis powers had far-reaching consequences including failure to share important intelligence information. A case in point is the Japanese military where the different branches conducted their own work on intelligence and development of key technologies but did not share such information with the others.

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Coordination

The Axis powers was formed partly because of a heavy strain of propaganda employed by both powers. The three pillars of the Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, shared very little in common even from a historical perspective. It more of a marriage of convenience than a real union to begin with. In 1939, whereas Japan was busy engaging the Soviets in unabated battles in along the Manchuria- Mongolian border, the Nazi had signed a pact with the same Soviet Union (Lewin, 1984). Similarly, Japan signed a pact with the Soviets barely weeks before Hitler decided to invade the Soviet Union. More disturbingly, Japan did not participate in the signing of a mutual assistance agreement in 1939 between Italy and Germany (Keegan, 2010). Fairly, the Allies also had disagreements in their camps but their approaches made the difference as can be seen from the numerous travels by Winston Churchill to different states to deliberate with other leaders. The lack of coordination between the Axis powers resulted into divisive issues and various actions came as a surprise to the other and advantage to the Allied.

War objectives

As the war began, the Allied powers had but one goal, to achieve the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy and Japan. It was rather simple on paper, because all they had to do is defeat these countries in battle and the war have been won, done and dusted. This forced the Axis powers, who were not ready to surrender unconditionally to fight to the finish (Johstone, 2000). For the Allied forces, it gave them more reason to fight harder and win the war knowing that the end would only be an unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. In contrast, the Axis powers had an uphill task of fighting at least thirty countries in order to win the war. One of the Axis powers, the Japanese had developed alarming appetite for conquering new territories. Under its mantra of unity under one monarch, Japan first targeted China and Manchuria, then enhanced the list to incorporate Burma, the Philippines, Indochina and many others (Infield and Anfield, 1974). This was a country that had lost direction in terms of its objectives in the war. At first Hitler made his people believe that he only wanted to elevate the Germans but later on began the conquer of almost all his neighbours and eventually, he wanted the whole world.

American Power

The Allied powers benefited largely from American support due to its material and logistical strength which was unmatched by any other power. As at 1939 America was considered to be the world’s largest industrial economy, and it was able to transition swiftly from peace to war and still attain material superiority. The United States an advantage of high levels of engineering skill, unique industrial capitalism and tough minded entrepreneurs (Harrison, 2000). When they transition to manufacturing for war, they had a massive unemployed population to take up the various roles unlike Germany which had a low unemployment rate in the run-up to the war. US Army Air Force developed into formidable military that was unmatched by neither the Japanese or Germany air forces. They employed calculated strategies like long range and independent assault on military and economic infrastructure of the Axis powers thus dealing the, major blows and setbacks (Black, 2004). A combined effort of the British and US forces created a greater force with military resources that was by far better than all the three Axis powers combined.

Conclusion

There are many factors which explain why the Allies won the Second World War which cannot be covered in this paper. Despite the defeat of the Axis powers, it is notable that Germany, Italy and Japan were formidable forces to reckon with and it took the intervention of several powerful states including the US, France and Great Britain to bring the war to an end but not after several casualties on both sides. A lot of reasons for the defeat of the Allied powers is attributed to German errors and miscalculations because it was the strongest of the three countries. This was a war that could have been won by the Allied powers had it not been for Hitler’s underestimation of the American power among other factors mentioned above.

References

Black, J. (2004). World War Two: a military history. Routledge.

Harrison, M. (Ed.). (2000). The economics of World War II: six great powers in international comparison. Cambridge University Press.

Infield, G. B., & Anfield, G. (1974). Big Week: The Classic Story of the Crucial Air Battle of WWII. Brasseyʼs (US).

Johnston, P. (2000). Tactical air power controversies in Normandy: a question of doctrine. Canadian Military History, 9(2), 5.

Keegan, J. (2010). The Battle for History: Refighting World War Two. Random House.

Lewin, R. (1984). Hitler's mistakes. Cooper.

Lukacs, J. (1989). The Coming of the Second World War. Foreign Affairs, 68(4), 165-174.

Lyons, M. J. (2016). World War II: A short history. Routledge.

Murray, W., & Millett, A. R. (2009). A war to be won: Fighting the Second World War. Harvard University Press.

Overy, R., & Overy, R. J. (1997). Why the Allies won. WW Norton & Company.

Plesch, D. (2010). America, Hitler and the UN: How the Allies Won World War II and Forged a Peace. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Reynolds, L. C. (2000). Home Waters MTBs & MGBs at War, 1939-1945. Sutton.

Russett, B. M. (2018). No clear and present danger: a skeptical view of the United States entry into World War II. Routledge.

Silverlight, J. (1970). The victors' dilemma: allied intervention in the Russian Civil War.


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