America Takes the Offensive
WHERE DO WE STAND?
By LIEUTENANT-GENERAL HENRY H. ARNOLD, Chief of United States Army Air Forces
Commencement address delivered at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, in celebration of Iowa-Wesley an College's Centennial Anniversary, June 8, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 642-645.
LAST week I was in London. I was conferring with our Allies on our new aerial front in Europe. This J week I am on the home front. Both are equally important in winning this war.
On the home front, we train our men. We make guns, equipment and planes for them to fight with. But most important of all, here on the home front we cherish those ideals of democracy that Americans live for, and if need be—die for.
I come here today not only as a soldier of the Armies of the U. S. but also as an American citizen—the same as you—interested in the future of our country, our ideals and those fundamental principles which have made us what we are today.
Today, Iowa Wesleyan is having an important birthday—celebrating its first century of service to the state and to the Nation. I congratulate the faculty, the students, the graduates of this college on its completion of a hundred years of growth and progress. I hope your second century will be as distinguished as your first!
For your college to have reached this centennial date has been no easy task, but you have done it! You have done it despite wars and depressions. You have done it without vast outlays of money. I am informed that most of your students, through the years, have come from families of ministers, farmers, business men, lawyers, and doctors. None have much money to spare. I know, for I also came from a doctor's family.
Your institution puts something rare and wonderful into the minds and hearts of your students. The small college does this. Our country's Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson, who went to a small colonial college, William and Mary. That bulwark of our liberties, the Constitution, was formulated in large measure by James
Madison, of Princeton, and Alexander Hamilton, of Kings College—now Columbia University.
Those colleges were small in size, but they turned out great men.
Iowa Wesleyan has given its share of great men who have helped build America. These people followed the teachings of John Wesley himself. They never asked, "What's in it for me?". Rather, they asked, "What can I do?" or "How can I serve?".
Here today we have no ordinary college anniversary. We are at war.
In peace-time, it would be a fine occasion for planning programs for the future, for discussing ways and means for your graduates to make a livelihood. But when the Nation is in a bloody, heart-breaking struggle for its very existence, we must face the fact that unless we win this war, there will be no future, your graduates will need to make no plans, for some one else will dictate our future for us.
We did not want this war. We did everything we could to avoid it. But Hitler didn't care whether we wanted a war or not—he was determined to rule the world, regardless of the rights and principles of others.
Hitler knew how we'd hate to give up our professions, leave our families, put aside our work, and go to war. He knew how reluctantly we would yield these things. He didn't think we'd fight for such a "small thing" as free speech. But to us free speech and free thought are not just words. To us they stand for America itself. They mean, for example:—
— That an Iowa Wesleyan teacher can speak the truth in his classroom, as he sees fit.
— That our glee clubs can sing "America" and not the Nazi Horst Wessel song.
— That a minister of the gospel can preach in our chapels and not be put in prison.
— That students can talk freely of politics and government, and not be imprisoned for so doing.
— That our citizens can vote, and have their votes mean something.
— That editors can put their thoughts in writing for hundreds of thousands to read without fear of punishment.
Hitler didn't think we believed these things worth fighting for, or—yes—dying for—and that's where Hitler was wrong!
Why? Because we have learned from the conquered countries of Europe that it is not "somebody else's war."
For centuries the movement of armies has been limited to the ground and that of navies to the seas. The theater of war was limited to earthborne travel, but the great leaders today face a far different situation, for the airplane has destroyed the boundaries of time and space. In the universal ocean of the air, there is no longer an Atlantic, a Pacific, or high mountain ranges to "protect" us. War in the air is everywhere.
We can no longer stand by, gazing on the ruins of free men's homes in Europe. We can no longer merely offer jobs to refugee teachers from ruined universities abroad. We can no longer turn our faces away from the sight of ruined churches, and their courageous pastors in front of firing squads—because now, these men are our brothers-in-arms. We must all fight together.
How many of us really appreciate what a terrible creature of destruction the airplane can be?
Here we are, in the heart of the United States. Yet there are enemy bombers which might leave an airplane carrier out on the ocean, and reach this Iowa community with many tons of bombs. It would require only a relatively few bombers to do to this town of Mt. Pleasant what the Germans did to Coventry, or what the Allies did to Cologne. In 60 seconds, the cumulative effort of a hundred years can be destroyed, just as it was destroyed in Europe and the Far East.
To my friends assembled under these quiet green trees, I say this destruction can happen to this country. It will happen here, unless we do everything in our power to prevent it—NOW.
There is a war front on this campus, down these shady peaceful streets, just as there is a war front in Libya, China, India, the Malay Barrier, those Pacific Isles, and Russia. Yes, war in the air is war everywhere.
You are proud of your college and rightly so, and like other institutions it has contributed greatly to the upbuilding of this wonderful country of ours. Such institutions are worth fighting for. They are the heart of America, they are keystones of the American way of life.
This past week, as I was flying homeward over the Atlantic, I thought of an Army officer who taught us military strategy at West Point. He would often say in the middle of a problem, "But do you know where you stand?" He drilled into us that to win, we must know at all times what resources our enemy had and what the enemy might do, and what we had and what we might do.
In that spirit I speak today. In the war effort, in the struggle to preserve our way of life, just how far have we progressed on the rough road to victory? Let us see where we stand.
Just what must we do to guarantee another hundred years of Iowa Wesleyan, another hundred years of free speech, another hundred years of democracy?
Let us think back. Where did we stand, as a nation, on December 7th?
The strategic problem we faced was world-wide, but did we appreciate its danger?
Before December 7th, the Nation had thought in terms of a continental United States. But for some time, however, your Army leaders had looked farther into military technique and procedure. For years, we had worked and planned, despite "starvation" budgets, to find ways and means of meeting the all-out destructiveness that accompanies modern war machines. When war came, they were ready with the plans on which we had labored—labored while America slept in the complacency of a mistaken security afforded by broad oceans.
1. Our first job was to move troops and implements of war to distant outposts, in the Pacific to the ill-fated Philippines, to Alaska, to Australia, to Iceland, to South America.
Yes, within a few weeks after December 7th, we successfully moved over half a million American armed men to our outer defenses in accordance with established plans, despite enemy submarines, planes and warcraft. We established garrisons which could defend us and become spearheads of offensive attack. No—not at first—for a treacherous enemy, without even the semblance of the warning usually given by civilized nations, using numbers far in excess of those available to our forces, struck with degraded savagery. Hence, although from the very first our plans called for offensive action, while we built up our strength, we were limited to defensive measures. Our concentrations of men and material are not designed to defend ourselves against attack, but to insure our delivering knockout blows when we have made suitable and proper dispositions.
2. In the first six months of war, the Army Air Forces, although lacking adequate numbers of planes, made successful attacks upon the enemy in the Pacific. We have successfully bombed Japanese ships at sea on many occasions. We have damaged their warehouses and supply centers on land. Our score of destruction thus far (June 8th) by air power is: 33 Jap warcraft bombed and sunk.
44 Jap transports, freighters and tankers bombed and sunk.
Over 300 Japanese fighters and bombers destroyed in air combat.
Over 200 Japanese fighters and bombers destroyed on the ground.
From recent papers you know that the Army Airmen, uniting with the Navy, have quite recently sunk several more of the warcraft that the Japs will need so badly to carry on the war.
How many thousands of Japanese troops have been drowned when the transports were sunk I will not estimate. But since each transport carries almost as many soldiers aboard as there are people in this audience—and dozens of such transports have been sunk—you can do your own arithmetic. Furthermore, the number of their soldiers and ships is not unlimited. There are not millions more Japanese soldiers where these came from. Japan has paid in blood for every inch of Philippine, British, Dutch and Chinese soil it has overrun.
We take just pride in what our fliers with few planes— against great odds—have done. But we must not rest on our laurels, we must think of it only in terms of the gigantic struggle ahead.
One great myth has completely disappeared during the first six months of our war—the myth that the Japanese are fanatic super-fighters, on the ground or in the air. They are tough, well-trained and well-equipped, but are not supermen. Give our fliers anything approaching equality of numbers in the air, and they blast the Japanese out of the sky.
So far, our record is about 4 to 1. For every one of our planes shot down, the Japs have lost 4.
The day of reckoning is not as far off as some people think.
I am telling Tokyo, that we have thousands more Colin Kellys and Butch O'Hares and Jimmy Doolittles on the way. This is just the dawn of a day of wrath!
3. Our third great task, in the first six months of war, was building a well-rounded air force.
Air power does not merely mean having 60,000 or 125,000 planes. Air power depends on the first-line combat planes, those in reserve to replace those lost, the training, cargo, and transport planes, the gliders . . . well-equipped bases, supply depots in strategic locations . . . our productive capacity of new planes . . . our facilities for training pilots and mechanics—those are the factors which measure the effectiveness of an air force and give a nation air power.
We have always insisted that our fliers have the best equipment American money, ingenuity and skill can provide. We have also insisted that American fliers in training get more hours of actual flying than the men of any other nation. They are still getting them today.
In 1938 the Air Corps had but 1800 officers and 20,000 men. By the end of this year the Army Air Forces will have over 60,000 officers and close to a million men. By June, of next year, if it becomes necessary, we will double that.
When Germany began building her air force in 1934, the U. S. Army Air Forces had 1,450 planes. Four years later we had only 1,773 planes. In April, 1939, Congress authorized 5,500 planes. A few months ago, President Roosevelt called for 60,000 planes this year. Our schedule for producing those 60,000 planes is being met.
Combat operations require many different kinds of planes. No one aircraft will do everything.
Not long ago a friend of mine showed me a model airplane he has built. He said it had the fighter plane's blinding speed and could carry heavy bombs as well. I said, "I hope you are right, but nobody has ever bred a horse that could pull an ice-wagon and also win the Kentucky Derby."
4. Let me tell you how these American planes are doing in combat.
How good is the "Flying Fortress?" I'll tell you. It has no peer in its field today.
Captain George Schaetzal, who was recently given the Distinguished Flying Cross, flew a B-17-E, our newest model 'Flying Fortress," in a successful bombing mission over Davao, in the Philippines. In spite of the facts that antiaircraft shells pounded his plane and enemy fighters killed his rear gunner, and destroyed one of his engines, he led his bullet-ridden plane, with hundreds of holes which made it look like a sieve, back to his home airport, over a thousand miles of open ocean.
Lt. Alvin Mueller, also decorated, received over 100 hits from anti-aircraft guns and enemy fighters on his plane, but he brought that B-17 back home. Captain Hewitt Wheless bombed Jap transports in the Philippines, shot down at least six attackers, and returned home in a B-17, with one engine shot away, one put out of commission, a gas tank hit, the radio destroyed, some of his control cables shot away, the rear landing wheel blown off, and both front tires riddled with bullets! He was such a tough nut to crack that after all of his gunners were incapacitated and the attacking Jap Zero fighters had used up all of their ammunition, they flew alongside of his plane to see what kept it in the air!
The ability of the B-17 to batter its way through enemy fighters and knock out its objective should make all Americans proud, and the Japanese bewildered.
Our B-25C medium bombers can go farther, faster, andcarry more bombs than the best ships of our enemies. Gen. Ralph Royce led a successful expedition, which he described as a "picnic," 2,000 miles from Australia to the Philippines— and back again.
5. How do our men stand, as fighters? I'll give you an example.
There was a Jap raid on Darwin, Australia. The Japs had seventy-two planes. Our fighters took to the air. In the battle was Lt. Robert McMahon. Bullets whipped through his fuselage. His motor cut out. He had a choice to make: Should he bail out, or glide to safety? He took neither—because his guns still worked. A Jap Zero fighter swooped down on him, McMahon shot him down. Another Jap fighter came at him, and McMahon fired his guns. That Jap went down. McMahon's motor was now ablaze, but when a Jap dive bomber swept under him, he again let go with his guns—and destroyed it. McMahon then jumped, and landed, safe-and-sound.
This is how they fight—these young Americans that Hitler called "soft!" We have the best young pilots in the world and they are proving their superiority in combat.
But let us not underestimated the enemy!
No matter how brave our men are, no matter how fast their individual planes—we must have overwhelming air superiority to win this war. Any land or sea forces which start out without air superiority are doomed to disaster. That force which has air superiority is already on the high road—or the sky road—to victory.
6. Now, to answer the question, "When are we going to take the offensive?"
I did not fly to London to go on the defensive!
I said we have always planned in terms of offensive action. You have read in your papers of activities in the Pacific that tell you that we are fighting offensively now. As more and more planes roll from the assembly lines, our offensive striking-power will become annihilating to the enemy.
Raids like those on Cologne and Essen were just starters to those which are to follow when U. S. and R. A. F. fighters and bombers ride the skies as a team.
Let me say this: In the first days of the war, we had to conserve the precious few planes we had. Now, volume production is under way. American planes in large numbers are being flown constantly by our Ferrying Command to areas where they will do the most good now: To Britain, Russia, the Middle East, China and Australia.
I have always thought it an overstatement to say Hitler was a "master of timing" but he does watch the clock. I am sure the Axis knows that the next six months will spell victory or defeat for their forces.
We must meet the drives of a desperate enemy now.
Nearly five million men and women from all Europe have been forced to work in Germany in the factories and on the farms. Are these five million building hospitals, feeding the poor, repairing the ravages of war? They are not. At blitz speed, they are making guns, producing munitions and planes —to kill you and me.
We must show the enemy that free men and women can produce more than slaves. We must grow more food and produce more guns, munitions and planes than the enemy, yes—exceed their production ten to one!
—It doesn't matter who we are.
—It doesn't matter just where we live.
—It doesn't matter what work we do—we're all in the Army now, and we're in it to win.
And in the plain words of an Army flier, Boyd Wagner, "We've got more to fight for, than anyone else on earth."
Not only must we out-produce the enemy, but other adjustments will take place in our lives. I hear a great deal of
fearful talk about a "changed world." This should hold no fear for us. It's always been a changing world. Your college here has survived, so has the Nation. Of what should we be afraid? As President Hutchins of the University of Chicago says, "The liberally educated man is prepared for any world that comes.
We must learn how to defend the freedom that education thrives on. Your young people must study more geography, languages, physics, and military science, if we are to maintain freedom, when we win it.
The country needs young men and women of liberal education, in combat and at home. Many of you seniors will join the war effort. We know not what the war will cost, but we will make it worth that price in what we do with peace thereafter.
This afternoon I will return to Washington. You willgo to your respective tasks. As we all return to our jobs, determined to press on to victory, I hope you will remember this story.
Not long ago there was an Allied military conference abroad. One officer asked, "Where will we put the vast numbers of American troops when they arrive?" Another officer replied, "Let's have no nonsense about that. If we don't find a place for the American troops, we can be sure Hitler will find a place to put his troops!"
Let us likewise face the facts.
We must fight to our utmost, or die.
Either we go down in defeat, or we triumph over the forces of oppression, to make the world a decent place for decent men to live in. Into this heroic struggle, to uphold the principles we all hold dear, I welcome you, as fellow soldiers.