Editorial: Wake up – It’s a long war! (6-24-42)

The Pittsburgh Press (June 24, 1942)

Wake up – It’s a long war!

Last night we felt so cheerful – but this morning we feel awful.

For several weeks, this country has been on a sort of optimistic jag, induced by mixing a dash of victory news with several jiggers of hopeful forecasts.

There’d be a second front in 1942 – perhaps three or four.

The battles of Coral Sea and Midway had removed the threat to Hawaii and the Pacific Coast. As for Japs in the Aleutians – we’ll knock ‘em out when the fog lifts.

Raids by a thousand planes a night on German cities were only forerunners of bigger raids to come – by two, three and even five thousand planes.

This might break the German people – their morale showed signs of cracking and European unrest bordered on revolt.

The Russians were holding and counterattacking.

The British had numerical and equipment superiority in Libya.

Maybe it would be a short war, after all!

In this rosy glow, the stings and aches of Pearl Harbor and Guam, Malaya and Singapore, Manila and Bataan, Java and Burma, Makassar Strait and the Atlantic sinkings somehow faded.

Amid defeat, we had become grim and united and hard – ready to sacrifice profits, give up strikes, observe rationing and buckle down in many unpleasant ways for a long and painful struggle.

Defeat awakened us, but the sedative of a little progress and much wishful thinking made us sleepy again.

Some of those with big money started again to waste it. Read the article in the current Life Magazine which begins:

Last week, as some Americans were gambling their lives to smash the Japs at Midway, other Americans were busy gambling millions of dollars at race tracks.

Belmont’s greatest season… $27,773,297 for the mutuel machines in 24 racing days… $385,042 wagered on a single race… tracks near Washington and Chicago reporting the lushest days in 15 years… a new $2-million track near Camden built with labor lured from defense plants by premium wages and vast quantities of steel diverted from guns and tanks and planes… special trains for fans…. Roads thronged with cars burning up priceless rubber, and gasoline paid for with seamen’s lives.

A new epidemic of strikes broke out – mostly small and scattered, but rapidly increasing. A wildcat strike in a steel mill… a slowdown in a shell plant… here a “work holiday” and there a walkout… dues picketing… food rotting on tracks because truckers wouldn’t take it through a picket line… disputes over higher wages and overtime… demands for longer vacations… conciliators working desperately to avert a growing number of conflicts.

Politics stirred and became active. Don’t complete the tax bill before the election. Don’t cut the draft age until after November. Damn Henderson – he won’t let the senators control his appointments. Pay a dollar an ounce for silver we can’t use when you can’t get tin we must have. Don’t talk about withholding taxes or compulsory savings till the returns are in. Discount the rubber crisis be cause the folks back home don’t like rationing.

The public got careless. Maybe the rubber shortage wasn’t so bad – somebody will invent something. Drive ‘em while you got ‘em. And, so, from Rocky Mountain resorts came stories of a thriving tourist business, some places enjoying the best trade in years. Folks driving from the rationed seaboard out to Colorado… don’t worry, somehow one can get back.

And now, the morning after.

Tobruk taken and the British driven from Libya.

Egypt and the Suez menaced by Rommel’s armored forces and a great army of paratroops in Crete.

Gallant men and women fighting to the death in the outskirts of Sevastopol.

The oil of the Caucasus and Near East gravely threatened.

Japanese encamped on another Aleutian island.

China’s back to the wall.

General Emmons warning non-residents out of Hawaii, because:

The outcome of the Battle of Midway has given many people a false sense of security.

Japan strengthening her outposts toward Australia and threatening Siberia.

Shells falling on Pacific Coast soil.

India seething with unrest and potential revolt.

It wasn’t as good as it seemed yesterday, and probably isn’t as bad as it looks today.

One big trouble is that we haven’t had enough unvarnished news.

Too few facts and, in their place, too much speculation and prediction.

This isn’t a good diet for a people which has been used to more news than any other in the world. Naturally, out of the speculation and prediction they easily become overly-optimistic if those in high places – the ones supposedly “in the know” – emphasize the bright aside, as happened so frequently during the last few weeks.

This country needs facts; it needs truth – no matter how unpalatable. It needs the bad along with the good.

It needs to know that the war won’t end this year: that the future is still very dark; that the agony and privations of war are only beginning.

To know this finally; to steel ourselves against the worst; to stop the psychological ups and downs of recent months; to dig in and quit our wasting, striking, politicking, grasping and griping; this is the basic training for victory on the home front.

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