On wars, old and new

June 16, 2013
U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-3 "Dauntless" ...

U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-3 “Dauntless” dive bombers from scouting squadron VS-8 from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) approaching the burning Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma to make the third set of attacks on her, during the Battle of Midway, 6 June 1942. Mikuma had been hit earlier by strikes from Hornet and USS Enterprise (CV-6), leaving her dead in the water and fatally damaged. Note bombs hung beneath the SBDs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Sherwood Brooks, program director, www.ConservativeNationRadio.org.


On my internet radio show last week, I was honored to interview Jon Parshall, who, along with Anthony Tully, published Shattered Sword: The untold story of the Battle of Midway, the definitive study of the most decisive naval battle in modern history.  The book sets the record straight on several key points that historians had taken for granted these last 70 years.

Jon is a scholar’s scholar and understands every factor in the battle; I’ve been reading about Midway since 1968 and thought I had a serviceable knowledge of the pivotal naval battle, until I read his book and interviewed him on the air.

Perhaps inspired by the fact that my father flew Corsairs in the Marines (but wasn’t commissioned as a naval combat aviator at Pensacola until almost a year after the battle), I have always been drawn to Midway.  In a nutshell, the Japanese planned to attack and invest Midway, a small atoll 1,300nm WNW of Oahu, in June, 1942.  They sent 4 carriers and hundreds of other ships of the Imperial Combined Fleet to do the job, mounting a simultaneous diversionary attack on the Aleutians.  We broke their codes and knew they were coming.  Adm. Nimitz sent his only three carriers to wait in silent ambush northeast of Midway at the optimistically named “Point Luck.”

As Jon said on the air last Wednesday night, “We just wanted the victory more than they did.”  Granted, we had some good luck and Admiral Nagumo had some bad luck, but we sent all 4 of their carriers to the bottom, losing only one of ours, the Yorktown.  It was an utterly decisive and thoroughly lopsided victory.  Outnumbered, the U.S. Navy fought as hard as it ever did, and, as a result, Japan’s carrier force was permanently gutted and they never won a battle thereafter.

The Bulge is interesting; so is Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Normandy and dozens of other American victories from World War Two.  But Midway is compelling because of the stark contrast between its outcome and what passes for “victory” today.

To be sure, no American sailors, airmen or Marines were overconfident going into the fight; the Japanese were, but that’s not the point.  Beyond that, the cultural sensitivities of the enemy were never taken into account (Adm. Halsey once famously, and publicly, said, “The only good Jap is a Jap that’s been dead for 6 months.”), and the idea of “proportional response” would have been dismissed by everyone from FDR and Adm. King to the most junior airedale  as “fifth column work.”

And rightly so.  As Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said, “In war, there is no substitute for victory.”  Although he was a flawed commander, he was obviously right in  that assessment.  Today’s definition of ‘victory’ is…well, what is it?  First, one never hears anyone in Washington or the military use that word anymore.  And what might be called ‘victory’ today would have been laughed at by George S. Patton.

When was the last time America could point to a military operation and call it an unqualified success?  It wasn’t in Afghanistan or Bosnia…when was the last time we really beat the living dog-snot out of the enemy and didn’t care who the hell knew it?  Everyone now knows that we never lost a single engagement against Charlie, but Ho Chi Minh knew the softened American youth, combined with a media and academe that was completely in his thrall would eventually deliver to him what he wanted.

Modern American ‘leadership’ is more concerned with not offending the enemy than with vanquishing him.  How this infection got into our body politic is a separate study (and one that would never even acknowledge U.S. domination of World War Two), but, if we want to survive as a nation-state, let alone a superpower, we ought to do what’s necessary to exorcise it.

I’ve often publicly advocated the use of nuclear weapons against the Taliban and al-qaeda; the right response after the 9-11 attacks would have involved the atomic destruction of Kabul and Kandahar.  And who would have blamed us?  The left, that’s who.  They would have gone out of their tiny little minds and made the focus of their sympathies the “innocent Afghans,” while immediately ignoring the worst and most treacherous act of war against America in history.  To the typical professor and news reporter, America is the bad guy, unless we’re fighting a uniformed army with a swastika flag up front.  The infectious left rationalizes and identifies with the motives of everyone else, and cheers them on under the guise of “bring the troops home.”  The so-called “doctrine of proportional response” puts the ball in the enemy’s court and allows them to determine the level of conflict and, therefore, the ultimate outcome.  Note that we gleefully now handcuff ourselves with that nonsense, but we haven’t won a war, or the respect of anybody else, since it’s been in effect.

Since the  liberal “mind” wallows in a miasma of emotions, feelings, theories and “wouldn’t it be nice” objectives,  America won’t win any armed conflict as long as they’re in power…but I suppose that’s their agenda.  They’re only happy when we lose or forfeit.

That’s the difference between Midway and modern America.  It’s not the doing of our armed forces; they only get into trouble when they treat the enemy the way he treated us.  But in the 71 years since the U.S. Navy crushed the First Air Fleet, we’ve allowed ourselves to accept the idea that victory doesn’t really exist.

But of course, as was proven near the International Date Line on June 4th, 1942, it does.

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