*Authors Note: As I post this according to the news the last units are being pulled out of Iraq and should be home for the holidays. I just want to express my heartfelt gratitude to every person who has served in the military and particularly to you men and women who have done multiple tours 'over there'. Merry Christmas to you all and Brava Zulu for a job well done.
Thank a Veteran: http://www.veteransforum.us/
The United States entered WWII only after the massive Japanese attack on our bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The war in Europe had begun over six years before the attack on Pearl Harbor and yet the United States had remained neutral. Our economy languished in a state of depression with unprecedented levels of unemployment. Between 1929 and 1939, the American unemployment rate averaged 13.3 percent (calculated from "Corrected BLS" figures in Darby, 1976, 8). December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked us and when the dust settled from the attack 2,390 Americans were dead. The attack has been considered one of the most successful military actions in history until it was finally eclipsed by Al Qaeda terrorists September 11, 2001.
The War mobilization effort was immense and involved not only the government but also the people. The entire country was behind the troops and wanted victory. Nearly every man, woman, and child would contribute to the war effort. Able bodied men and women would join service and see action in every theater of the war. Those who remained contributed by entering employment with the war machine building aircraft, tanks, and other necessities in the war movement. Children often helped out by gathering every bit of scrap metal they could find for the war. Factories that had been producing household appliances began producing vital equipment for battle. The textile industry shifted large resources and workforce from making civil clothing to making uniforms and even parachutes. The American economy that was so depressed before the war was suddenly booming. Unemployment rates dropped to their lowest in decades.
It was not all roses for America during this time though the lives lost in this war would break all records:
*406,000 killed (including 6,000 merchant marine civilians)
*5,600 American civilians where killed in this war, mostly of them Merchant Marine Sailors that died in convoy wars, and ammo accidents.
These numbers more than the dollars and the percentages tell a solemn message that fighting evil has a price and that the cliché, freedom is not free will always be true.
A snapshot of the American economy during World War II.
Nominal GDP Federal Spending Defense Spending
Year total $ % increase total $ % increase % of GDP total $ % increase % of GDP % of federal spending
1940 101.4 9.47 9.34% 1.66 1.64% 17.53%
1941 120.67 19.00% 13.00 37.28% 10.77% 6.13 269.28% 5.08% 47.15%
1942 139.06 15.24% 30.18 132.15% 21.70% 22.05 259.71% 15.86% 73.06%
1943 136.44 -1.88% 63.57 110.64% 46.59% 43.98 99.46% 32.23% 69.18%
1944 174.84 28.14% 72.62 14.24% 41.54% 62.95 43. 13% 36.00% 86.68%
1945 173.52 -0.75% 72.11 -0.70% 41.56% 64.53 2.51% 37.19% 89.49%
September 11, 2001 a deceptively simple terror attack took the lives of 2,740 Americans, mostly civilians. This beat the previous Japanese record by 350 lives. As in World War II, the United States had remained a largely neutral player in the War on Terror until 9/11. We had received numerous smaller attacks in previous years, hijacked airliners, car bombs, embassy bombings, a car bomb in the World Trade Center, and even attacks on military targets such as the U.S.S Cole and the military barracks at Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.*
Unlike World War II America did not enter the Terror War in a state of economic depression. The mid and late nineties saw the rise of the internet and e-trade. American commerce was booming as a myriad of new technologies enticed and employed the American people. In spite of the incredible economic growth President Clinton would spend his term slashing spending on defense believing that the Post Cold War world didn't need the massive military that had been growing for the last thirty years.
The Gulf War had been brief and was considered a success. In my opinion the U.S. simply became complacent believing that we were going to be the last great superpower and immune from attack. We were wrong. In the days leading to 9/11 the country experienced a minor recession partly because of the implosion of several over inflated dot.com companies. We had new technology but were still learning how to harness that capability make money responsibly. Government spending during the War on Terror would rapidly eclipsed World War II spending.
Our weapons today are vastly more expensive than the state of the art in World War II. By way of an example most powerful bomber in World War II was the B-29 Superfortress, it costs $639,000. The best bomber we have nowadays is the B-2 stealth bomber; it costs an estimated 2.1 billion dollars (exact numbers are classified).
The next table shows spending during the first few years of the War on Terror.
As in World War II the United States must pay another cost, the cost of human lives.
In Iraq 3,123 killed as of Feb. 2007
In Iraq 45,798 wounded as of Feb. 2007
In Afghanistan 357 killed as of Jan. 2007
In Afghanistan 1,071 wounded as of Jan. 2007
Total killed in the War on Terror 4,194
Total wounded in the War on Terror 46,869
These numbers when compared to World War II are infinitesimal. I can think of no better way to contrast the numbers than to quote the D-day museum regarding the battle at Normandy on D-day:
"Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded. The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners."
The economics of fighting evil are simple; throw every resource you can get your hands on into the fight. Our grandparents understood this, when will we?