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Guns, tanks, and bombs were the principal weapons of World War II, but there were other, more subtle forms of warfare as well. Words, posters, and films waged a constant battle for the hearts and minds of the American citizenry just as surely as military weapons engaged the enemy. Persuading the American public became a wartime industry, almost as important as the manufacturing of bullets and planes. The Government launched an aggressive propaganda campaign with clearly articulated goals and strategies to galvanize public support, and it recruited some of the nation's foremost intellectuals, artists, and filmmakers to wage the war on that front. Posters are the focus of this online exhibit, based on a more extensive exhibit that was presented in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, from May 1994 to February 1995. It explores the strategies of persuasion as evidenced in the form and content of World War II posters. Quotes from official manuals and public leaders articulate how the Government sought to rally public opinion in support of the war's aims; quotes from popular songs and sayings attest to the success of the campaign that helped to sustain the war effort throughout the world-shaking events of World War II.
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President Roosevelt was a gifted communicator. On January 6, 1941, he addressed Congress, delivering the historic "Four Freedoms" speech. At a time when Western Europe lay under Nazi domination, Roosevelt presented a vision in which the American ideals of individual liberties were extended throughout the world. Alerting Congress and the nation to the necessity of war, Roosevelt articulated the ideological aims of the conflict. Eloquently, he appealed to Americans' most profound beliefs about freedom. The speech so inspired illustrator Norman Rockwell that he created a series of paintings on the "Four Freedoms" theme. In the series, he translated abstract concepts of freedom into four scenes of everyday American life. Although the Government initially rejected Rockwell's offer to create paintings on the "Four Freedoms" theme, the images were publicly circulated when The Saturday Evening Post, one of the nation's most popular magazines, commissioned and reproduced the paintings. After winning public approval, the paintings served as the centerpiece of a massive U.S. war bond drive and were put into service to help explain the war's aims.
The German war plan called for the swiftest possible capture of Paris, hoping to knock France out of the war before Russia could fully mobilize its large but low-tech military. The fastest route to the French capital happens to run through Belgium, so the first battle of the war was a German attack on the Belgian city of Liège. Belgium was not part of any pre-war alliances and attempted to stay neutral in the war. The attack on Belgium brought the British Empire into the war, with British politicians citing their country's obligation to uphold Belgian neutrality. This was a risky move on Germany's part, but German war-planning long regarded a quick, decisive blow against France as the best possible hope of winning a two-front war. Right from the outset things did not go Germany's way. Liège (and other Belgian towns and fortifications near the Meuse River) fell, but the Belgians' determination to resist in the face of impossible odds did delay Germany's operations against France substantially, giving France and Britain critical extra days to prepare the defense of Paris.
Great Britain was the world's preeminent naval power in the early 20th century, but in the years before World War I, Germany constructed a formidable navy of its own. On May 31, 1916, the two navies had their biggest clash of the war when about 150 British ships confronted almost 100 German ships in the North Sea off the coast of Jutland, Denmark. The Germans knew the entire British fleet was too powerful to challenge directly, but they hoped to lure a portion of the British fleet commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty into a battle with a larger number of German ships. When Beatty encountered the German fleet, he turned his ships around and raced toward the rest of the British Grand Fleet commanded by Admiral John Jellicoe with the German ships in hot pursuit. The British wound up losing more ships and sailors from these engagements than the Germans did. But those losses weren't sufficient to break the British Navy's hold over the North Sea. Germany avoided this kind of large-scale naval battle for the rest of the war, keeping its surface fleet in safe ports and focusing instead on submarine attacks.
If Biden intends to pursue a free-world strategy, his first task is to clarify what, exactly, the United States opposes. The answer is not autocracy per se, given that Washington must work with some illiberal regimes to check others. What the United States opposes is the marriage of tyranny, power, and hostility: those authoritarian regimes that have the intent and the ability to fundamentally challenge the existing international system, by exporting the violence and illiberalism they practice at home to the world.
This behavior can take the form of outright territorial aggression, whether blatant or subtle; it can involve economic and political coercion meant to distort the foreign policies and domestic politics of other nations. It can involve meddling and subversion that impairs the functioning of democratic societies, transnational repression that can chill basic liberties globally, or efforts to weaponize new technologies in ways that could drastically shift the balance of power or the balance of freedom and oppression. Different behaviors will, of course, merit different responses. But it is this combination of autocracy, capability, and aggressive conduct that the free world must organize itself to meet.
A free-world strategy can thus be principled without being absolutist or self-defeating. It offers a plausible rationale for working with some autocrats against others. And it packs a strategic punch: a free-world coalition can allow the United States and its friends to marshal a decisive superiority on critical issues. Nonetheless, challenges abound.
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Both Japan and the United States had sought a final, decisive battle for control of the Pacific Ocean. When the Japanese unleashed their MI Sakusen plan to capture Midway Island in June 1942, the U.S. Navy was more than happy to meet them.
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Day by day Paul trusts the Son. Day by day he casts his cares on God, frees his life from guilt and fear and greed, and is borne along by the Spirit. How, then, do we walk by the Spirit? The answer is plain. We stop trying to fill the emptiness of our lives with a hundred pieces of the world, and put our souls at rest in God. The Spirit will work the miracle of renewal in your life when you start meditating on his unspeakable promises day and night and resting in them. (See also Romans 15:13; 2 Peter 1:4; and Isaiah 64:4.)
The widespread protest movements of 2019, which had signaled the popular desire for good governance the world over, often collided with increased repression in 2020. While successful protests in countries such as Chile and Sudan led to democratic improvements, there were many more examples in which demonstrators succumbed to crackdowns, with oppressive regimes benefiting from a distracted and divided international community. Nearly two dozen countries and territories that experienced major protests in 2019 suffered a net decline in freedom the following year.
Everyone benefits when the United States serves as a positive model, and the country itself reaps ample returns from a more democratic world. Such a world generates more trade and fairer markets for US goods and services, as well as more reliable allies for collective defense. A global environment where freedom flourishes is more friendly, stable, and secure, with fewer military conflicts and less displacement of refugees and asylum seekers. It also serves as an effective check against authoritarian actors who are only too happy to fill the void.
Democracy today is beleaguered but not defeated. Its enduring popularity in a more hostile world and its perseverance after a devastating year are signals of resilience that bode well for the future of freedom.
The observation that military establishments in peacetime generally prepare to fight their last war has acquired the status of a cliche. Whatever the merit of this generalization, it should not suggest that, in the wake of hostilities, military professionals should foreswear changes and adjustments designed to make their forces more proficient on future battlefields. Indeed, military forces that have just suffered a costly defeat often manifest a greater readiness to initiate military reforms than those that have experienced a decisive victory. One will recall, for example, that following 1763, some of the most original thinking on military reform, organization, and tactics came out of France, a country that had paid dearly for its loss in the just-completed Seven Years' War. A case in point more familiar to today's U.S. officer corps is the reorientation of their Army's military doctrine in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Dr. George Gawrych reminds us of another instance in his Leavenworth Paper, The 1973 Arab-Israeli War: The Albatross of Decisive Victory-the example of the Egyptian armed forces, who following Egypt's humiliation in the 1967 Six-Day War, made significant changes to their force structure and tactics. The Egyptians may have been preparing for something like their last war, but given a chance to refight it, they prepared for a different outcome.