Myths of World War II
- "The reporting of the Sino-Japanese War had created a dangerous myth. This was that the Chinese peasant armies, under . . . Chiang Kai-shek, and his wife, the beautiful American-educated Madame Chiang Kai-shek, had fought the Japanese to a standstill and that, given American money and military supplies, they could actually defeat them." (Knightley p. 276) - BUT Chiang had no real army, was not winning battles but losing them, was more concerned with stockpiling American aid to fight Mao Tse-tung rather than risk defeat fighting Japan, was leader of a "corrupt political clique that combines some of the worst features of Tammany Hall and the Spanish Inquisition." (Theodore White in Life, May 1, 1944)
- Pearl Harbor
- "The belief that Pearl Harbor instantly inflamed all Americans to support the war unanimously and wholeheartedly is a myth." (Maslowski, p. 78) - BUT the truth of Pearl Harbor disaster was kept secret and censored. Also, 30% Americans disagreed with FDR's policy of no compromise with the enemy after Pearl Harbor; many Americans were passive and unwilling to sacrifice.
- The myth that "Singapore was an impregnable fortress and that the Japanese were incapable of efficiently waging war with Western inventions like batleships, tanks, submarines, and aircraft" and the "soothing nonsense" of Leonard Mosley in the Daily Sketch that "Singapore, nerve-centre of Britain's defensive system in the East, is sharpening her teeth, giant guns guard the jungle-infested shores, Australian, British, and Indian troops in the hot fly-infested shores are ready for anything, while clouds of planes daily patrol over neighboring islands." (Knightley p. 286) - BUT "The truth was that Singapore was virtually defenseless, no one sounded the air raid sirens, street lights kept blazing, defense building was delayed 10 days over how to pay the coolies, British troops retreated and disobeyed orders to counterattack, and surrendered to a Japanese force one-third the size of the British defenders.
- General Douglas MacArthur was "the best general that the United Nations possess" in 1942 and escaped to Australia from the Philippines to lead "a mighty American army assembling in Australia to drive the Japanese back to Tokyo." (Knightley p. 279) BUT MacArthur had failed to prepare for the Japanese attack on Clark Field, "spent so much time underground in the fortress on Corregidor that he became known as 'Dug-out Doug'." (Knightley p. 280). There was no great army in Australia, only 2 of the 11 Australian divisions were ready for combat, he used his public relations staff to promote his brilliance. His announcement on his arrival in Melbourne "I have come through and I will return" was improved by his staff to the famous "I shall return." He imposed strict press censorship in Australia, ordered his personal photographer to always take pictures of him at his best profile and hard at work. He did not originate the leap-frog strategy of skipping strong points, but followed the strategy already developed by the Navy.
- Coral Sea
- The battle of May 2, 1942 "was presented as a major American victory and the saving of Australia." (Knightley p. 282) BUT Japan did not intend at that time to invade Australia, only to reinforce its outpost at Port Moresby, and was instead focusing on the attack at Midway June 4-6, 1942, a battle that was censored out of the American press of 18 days, except for the leaked report to the Chicago Tribune by Stanley Johnston.
- Orde Wingate and his Chindits defeated the Japanese in the jungles of Burma, was a heroic figure like Lawrence of Arabia, showing his "mastery of the jungle" in an "unforgetable adventure" BUT his guerilla-type mission had no strategic value, and the British were driven out of Burma . (Knightley p. 289)
- Gen Joseph Stilwell led attack on the "Back Door to Tokyo" (March of Time, June 1944)
- Desert War
- "The Desert Fox" Rommel and "Monty" fought a self-contained war in the North African desert, playing "Lilli Marlene," against a brave and chivalrous enemy, BUT Alan Moorehead wrote "we never saw a battle in the desert." only "dust, noise and confusion." There was no such thing as an Alamein Line, and few stories about looting.
- Air War
- Churchill believed Bomber Command held the secret of victory, was convinced that raids of sufficient intensity sould destroy Germany's morale (Knightley p. 311) BUT it was all a delusion, Germany production increased, German morale became even more determined. The dam-busters' raid May 16-17, 1943, "was a conjuring trick, virtually devoid of military significance, the skipping bomb just a gimmick, and the real story of the raid was one of sloppy planning, narrow-minded enthusiasm, and misdirected courage." (Knightley p. 312) Dresden was not a military target, but the result of "the long-awaited decision to adopt deliberate terror bombings of German population centers as a ruthless expedient of hastening Hitler's doom." (Knightley p. 314)
- Doherty, Thomas. Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture and World War II. NY: Columbia University Press, 1993.
- Knightley, Phillip. The First Casualty; From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker. NY: Harcourt, 1975, Chapters 10-13
- Maslowski, Peter. Armed with Cameras: the American Military Photographers of World War II. New York: Free Press, 1993.
- Roeder, George, Jr. Censored War: American Visual Experience During World War II. Yale University Press, 1993.
- "B-29s Rule Jap Skies," Universal 17-356 newsreel 12/18/44, on DVD54
- "Air Smashes Devastate Germany," Universal 18-380 newsreel 3/12/45, on DVD55
- "Nazi Murder Mills" Universal 18-393 newsreel 4/26/45, on DVD56
- "Back Door to Tokyo" March of Time, June 1944
- "Combat Cameramen," National Geographic, 1991