chapter  2
16 Pages

Combat Remembered

Sixteen million Americans served in the armed forces during World War II, and most were in support positions, a necessity given that the American military had to maintain a very long supply line for both the European and Pacifi c theaters. Probably only about 800,000 to 1 million Americans actually saw combat, and of all the diff erences that separated Americans during the war, none was greater than the gulf between those who experienced combat and those who did not.1 Th rough vigorous, even oppressive censorship, the government did its best to maintain this gulf, keeping the public ignorant (in the name of morale) of the appalling realities of combat. Preserving the public’s innocence was easier in America than it was in Europe or Asia because no fi ghting took place on the U.S. mainland, but World War II was too big a catastrophe for any government to totally stage-manage. Th ere was no way to keep the public uninformed of the American dead, or of the wounded that began to appear on American streets in numbers not seen since the Civil War. And while combat reporters and photographers were subject to severe restrictions, the best of them were able to provide Americans with at least a glimpse of the war.