For Chanukah Debbie gave me the Ken Burns documentary “The War” on DVD. I can not recommend it highly enough. Burns brings a depth and a reality to the history of WW II that is poetic.

In the first year of the war 78,000 American surrendered at Bataan. 41 American torpedo planes attacked Japanese carriers at Midway; none hit their targets and 35 were shot down.

8 months after Pearl Harbor we invaded Guadalcanal. After our troops were ashore, the Japanese destroyed our fleet supplying them in one of our worst naval defeats. Our troops would have starved if not for the Japanese rice storage they found. Casualties were so high (7,100) the news was kept from the American public for fear of demoralizing them.

In North Africa our green troops were routed by Rommel. Our tanks were nicknamed Ronsons after the cigarette lighter because they “lit first time every time” whenever the superior German tanks with their 88s hit them. The British referred to the GIs as “their Italians”. We lost 6,000 men in 2 weeks and another 3,000 surrendered.

We won because defeat was never an option. Early on our fleet was being sunk faster than we could build them. This changed and our industrial might quickly revved up to deliver tanks and boats faster than they could be destroyed. Everyone bought war bonds and recycled and forewent consumption. Less than 200 cars were produced for the public during the war.

We quickly learned from our defeats, another underestimated American trait, and defeated the enemy at Midway, Guadalcanal, and North Africa, and everywhere else.

But we forget how ill prepared, poorly trained, and often poorly led our troops were and how grim our prospects were during the 12 months following Pearl Harbor. Yet no Senator stood up and announced, “This war is lost.”

It never was.