A sleeping giant

OperationForagerAt the end of the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora” (1970 film about the Dec 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), Admiral Isoroku Yamamato comments, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” It is a great line, prescient in nature, but… Although the quotation may well have encapsulated many of his real feelings about the attack, there is no printed evidence to prove Yamamoto made this statement or wrote it down. William Safire traces its origins to the phrase dubiously attributed to Napoleon, “China is a sickly, sleeping giant. But when she awakes the world will tremble”. But the metaphor of the awakened sleeping giant was apt – and may well have been in Yamamoto’s mind. The admiral had studied, served and traveled in the United States and was well aware of its extensive industrial capability – as were a number of key Japanese military leaders of the day.If you are interested in such things, writer Arthur Hermann’s work “Freedom’s Forge” is the story of how the ingenuity and energy of the American private sector was turned loose to equip the US and British armies with the equipment needed to supply and resupply armies, navies, marines, and air combat units to fight a global war. For example, the US started the war with 32 submarines. By the war’s end there were 283 submarines that had made war patrols in the Pacific – the results of which was a devastating loss of raw materials and fuel for the Japanese war efforts. Pick you area: airplanes, ships, rifles, k-rations, pencils – US industry produced it in numbers that were unimaginable on Dec 8, 1942.

On the morning of June 6th, 1944 as allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, President Roosevelt offered a simple prayer on the radio the “…with Thy Blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy force of our enemy.” This was only two days after allied forces had liberated Rome following the January 1944 landing in Anzio, Italy. Even as the Normandy landings were underway and the amazing logistics capability of the country supported these two major undertakings (as well as supply England, Canada and Russia) – Operation Forager was already launched in the Pacific to capture the Mariana (Guam, Saipan, Tinian) and Palau Islands. The Normandy invasion had to cover 27 miles of the English Channel with air support from land based planes in England with a vast network of supply depots in ready reserve. Operation Forager crossed 4,000 miles of ocean. It consisted of more than 600 ships, 300,000 men, 15 aircraft carriers, 7 battleships, 11 cruisers, 86 destroyers and over 900 planes. In addition there were 59 troopships and 64 LSTs could land three divisions’ worth of men and equipment on an island and equip them for 90 days. If they needed it, they brought it

All of this ongoing in the month of June 1944. “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Just because Yamamoto did not say it, does not mean it wasn’t true.

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