Year 1942

1942 – America enters War.

The year 1942 is characterized by the entry of the USA into WW2.

early US war poster

This early US war poster puts the industrial worker on a par with the soldier.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 destroyed the illusion of US neutrality, which had shaped the war up to this day – Roosevelt’s ‘date that will live in infamy’.

Within a few days, the industrial power and the military potential of the strongest nation on earth were opposed not only to Japan, but also to Germany and Italy. And Japan’s intended decisive blow proved just to be a short-term setback for the Allies.

Despite the prevailing deterioration in diplomatic and economic relations between the US and Japan, most objective observers believed that the leaders of Japan had no need to engage in a war with America. The rich British, French and Dutch possessions in the Far East lay more or less unprotected at their doorstep, while the German Operation Barbarossa offered similar opportunities for expansion in Eastern Siberia and the Far East of Russia.

They did not, however, reckon with the boundless arrogance, the political naiveté, and the sheer stupidity of the military clique led by General Tojo, who in October 1941 had attained absolute control over the Japanese government. As well, they had not taken into consideration the prominent vanities of the Japanese naval commander.

Admiral Yamamoto had for many years been heavily involved in the development of the aircraft carrier. In November 1941, he was able to deploy six fast and large aircraft carriers that could accommodate more than 350 modern and powerful aircraft, many of which were armed with the new ‘Taranto type’ torpedoes designed to be dropped even in shallow water. In addition were armor-piercing bombs for the carrier-based dive-bombers available. Even more impressive were the A6M2 Zero, the first carrier-based fighters which were superior to their counterparts from land bases.

But despite the seemingly unrestrained enthusiasm for these new weapons, Yamamoto remained a traditionalist in his heart. He missed searching and destroying the three US fleet carriers that were on sea outside of Pearl Harbor that day. Satisfied with the sinking of five battleships and the destruction of 188 aircraft, Yamamoto was convinced that the later following decisive battle in the open sea between the ‘remains’ of the US Navy and the Japanese Combined Fleet with the support of his great new flagship, the super-battleship Yamato, and the other 10 battleships, would decide the day.
Yamamoto stubbornly clung to his secret passion for the mighty battleships, and six months later, these unfounded and contradictory ideas in the Battle of Midway were to contribute significantly to the defeat of the Japanese ‘Combined Fleet’.

Since the Japanese had consciously decided to attack a key position of one of the world’s greatest powers, they would have been well advised to inflict the greatest damage. Before the turnaround, the Japanese carrier task force should at least have launched a third wave of aircraft that would have destroyed the still undamaged installations and stockpiles, including the long-accumulated, almost irreplaceable fuel reserves.
Thus, Yamamoto’s attack on Pearl, despite all catastrophic short-term effects, became a glorified raid only. When it was over, the Japanese fleet secretly retreated into the vast, empty space of the North Pacific as quickly as it had come.

A question can not be left unanswered. Would Yamamoto really have to attack Pear Harbor at all on that fateful Sunday? Would not it have been better to play a waiting game instead?
Many experts have pointed out that if the Japanese had only carried out the rest of their complex offensive strategy, including the invasion of the American Philippines, the US Pacific Fleet would have been forced to leave Pearl Harbor and went on a long journey to the West Pacific. There they would have encountered the Japanese practically in their home waters, where they could have used their powerful bomber force from land bases, like the fate of British battleships HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse.

Not only were Tojo and Yamamoto responsible for commanding an incomplete attack at the wrong time, but they also showed an astonishing lack of political understanding. By this only ‘notorious, cowardly’ action, the Japanese leaders had turned a reluctant, disunited, political opponent into a purposeful deadly enemy, in which the desire for revenge related to all conceivable military possibilities.

Hitler’s declaration of war to the US on December 11 was another turning point.
Between September 1939 and December 1941, it became clear that the gradual increase in American material and moral support for the oppressed British, and the inevitable involvement of the US Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic, would sooner or later result in a war between America and Germany.
Roosevelt himself would like to fight since a long time against Hitler, but Congress and public opinion did not allow this. In the US, there was a strong feeling to regard the war in the Pacific as ‘our war‘ and the European theatre as ‘their war’ and to concentrate all efforts against Japan.

Under the leadership of Roosevelt, however, America committed itself to a ‘Germany-first policy’, which was to determine the course and result of WW2. In 1940 America, the ‘great arsenal of democracy’, produced only limited quantities of military equipment. Three years later US armament production exceeded that of Germany, Italy and Japan together. Until to 1945, 15 million Americans have served in the US armed forces.

Related Reports:

Diary July 20, 1942

British 4.5in howitzer is firing

WW2 War Diary for Monday, July 20, 1942: Air War Arctic: Russian planes bomb airfields in North Norway. Western Europa: 200 Spitfire V fighters strafe ‘targets of opportunity’ over Northern France (1 aircraft collides with a tree). learn more

Diary July 19, 1942

Lunch break at a Russian fighter squadron

WW2 War Diary for Sunday, July 19, 1942: Air War Eastern Front: Captain Antonio Lavat, commander of Esquadra Azul (‘Blue Squadron’) – Spanish volunteer fighter unit in Russia – killed in action. learn more

Diary July 18, 1942

Me 262 V3 lands after its first flight

WW2 War Diary for Saturday, July 18, 1942: Home Fronts Germany: First flight of Me 262 V3, prototype jet fighter, at Leipheim, near Ulm. Air War Germany: Lancaster bombers fly daylight mission to the Ruhr and bomb Duisburg. learn more

Diary July 17, 1942

German pontoon bridge across the river Donets

WW2 War Diary for Friday, July 17, 1942: Eastern Front Ukraine: Germans capture Voroshilovgrad, chief town of Donets coalfield. learn more

Diary July 16, 1942

APC SdKfz 251 is loaded

WW2 War Diary for Thursday, July 16, 1942: Sea War Mediterranean: Turkish tanker Antares torpedoed by Italian submarine Alagi and beached on Lebanon coast. learn more

Diary July 15, 1942

Formation of Spitfire Vb's

WW2 War Diary for Wednesday, July 15, 1942: Air War Western Europa: 200 Spitfire Mk Vs carry out offensive sweep over Northern France. Wing Commander ‘Paddy’ Finucane – 21-year-old ‘ace’ (32 victories) – shot down and killed by machine gun… learn more

Diary July 14, 1942

commander of the 7th Bersaglieri Regiment of the Italian XXI Corps goes into captivity

WW2 War Diary for Tuesday, July 14, 1942: Occupied Territories France: Free French movement is renamed La France Combattante. Home Fronts India: Congress Party Working Committee calls for ending of British rule and campaign of ‘civil disobedience’. learn more

Diary July 13, 1942

Japanese submarine

WW2 War Diary for Monday, July 13, 1942: Sea War Pacific: 3 Japanese submarines operate off Sydney (5 ships sunk in July to August). Secret War USA: Roosevelt creates Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to replace COI; names Donovan as… learn more

Diary July 12, 1942

Advance of German infantry through the southern Russian steppes

WW2 War Diary for Sunday, July 12, 1942: Eastern Front Stalingrad: ‘Stalingrad Front’ army group established to defend city. Home Fronts USA: Stern Park Gardens, near Joliet (Illinois), renamed ‘Lidice’ in honour of the martyred Czech village. learn more

Diary July 11, 1942

Knocked out Italian M14/41 tank

WW2 War Diary for Saturday, July 11, 1942: Air War Europe: Lancaster bombers raid Schichau U-boat yards at Danzig in thunderstorm (longest daylight raid to date); several aircraft stray over west Sweden and Swedish fighters are scrambled. Sea War Mediterranean:… learn more

Diary July 10, 1942

submarines are supplied by a U-tanker

WW2 War Diary for Friday, July 10, 1942: Sea War Atlantic: German U-boats U-160 and U-66 commence successful operations around Trinidad (15 ships sunk in 2 months). learn more

Diary July 9, 1942

Anne Frank in October 1942

WW2 War Diary for Thursday, July 9, 1942: Occupied Territories Holland: Anne Frank and family (Dutch Jews) go into hiding in the Prinsengacacht, a large building in centre of Amsterdam. Here they remain for next 2 years until betrayed to… learn more

Diary July 8, 1942

British Artillery Forward Observation Officer correcting fire

WW2 War Diary for Wednesday, July 8, 1942: Occupied Territories France: Death of Marshal Franchet d’Esperey, hero of the Salonika Campaign, where he crushed the German-Bulgarian forces in 10 days (September 1918). Aged 86. learn more

Diary July 7, 1942

German tank regiment advancing

WW2 War Diary for Tuesday, July 7, 1942: Eastern Front Ukraine: German troops capture Voronezh on river Don, 300 miles northwest of Stalingrad. Sea War Baltic: Russian marines attempt to seize Someri Island in Gulf of Finland, but are routed… learn more

Diary July 7, 1917

bombs on a Gotha bomber.

World War One Diary for Saturday, July 7, 1917: Air War Britain: 22 Gotha bombers (2 lost including 1 shot down, 3 written off in crash landings on return) attack London with 4.3t bombs on City and East End (roof… learn more

Diary July 6, 1942

merchant ship is sunk

WW2 War Diary for Monday, July 6, 1942: Sea War Atlantic: U-boat U-132 attacks convoy in Gulf of St Lawrence and sinks 3 ships. Air War Britain: Incendiary raid on Middlesbrough (night July 6-7). learn more

Diary July 5, 1942

First Battle of El Alamein': a Stuart 'Honey' tank

WW2 War Diary for Sunday, July 5, 1942: Eastern Front Ukraine: Germans reach river Don, near Voronezh. Sea War Pacific: 4 Japanese destroyers torpedoed by US submarines off Aleutian Islands. Arare and Nenohi sunk; Kasumi and Shiranuhi damaged. learn more

Diary July 4, 1942

estroyer and a merchant ship under the attack of German aircraft

WW2 War Diary for Saturday, July 4, 1942: Sea War Arctic: DESTRUCTION OF ARCTIC CONVOY PQ.17. Following damaging attacks by German torpedo planes and U-boats and threatening movements by battleship Tirpitz with heavy cruisers Admiral Scheer and Lützow, convoy is… learn more

Diary July 3, 1942

destroyed gun turrets of the Fort Maxim Gorky

WW2 War Diary for Friday, July 3, 1942: Eastern Front Crimea: SIEGE SEBASTOPOL ENDS. Politics Egypt: Axis Powers promise the country complete independence and national sovereignty. Air War Germany: 263 RAF bombers attacking Bremen and dropping 511t of bombs. learn more

Diary July 2, 1942

Air strike of German aircraft on a Russian Black Sea port

WW2 War Diary for Thursday, July 2, 1942: Eastern Front Black Sea: German Luftwaffe bombs Russian warships at Novorossisk. Politics Wheat Agreement between GB, USA, Argentina, Australia and Canada. learn more