chapter  8
15 Pages

A pivotal campaign in a peripheral theatre: Guadalcanal and World War II in the Pacific BRADFORD A . LEE

On 23 February 1942, the 210th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered one of his most celebrated “fireside chats.” As his national and world-wide audiences were acutely aware, the United States had suffered a series of military setbacks since Japanese carrier planes had launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, but the American president reminded those audiences that George Washington and his compatriots had overcome “formidable odds and recurring defeats” on the road to securing the independence of the United States in a war of eight years. Roosevelt was able, with remarkable prescience, to point out the path to victory for the United States and its allies in the ongoing war-a victory that he defined in terms of “the destruction of the militarism of Japan and Germany” and a war that he characterized as a “new kind” of global conflict, “not only in its methods and weapons but also in its geography.”2 President Roosevelt, having earlier asked his listeners to have at hand “a map of the whole earth” for the broadcast, explained how important it was to defend sea lines of communications (SLOCs) to distant allies and “to the world-encircling battle lines of this war.” Executing this task of strategic defense would require control of “many strategic bases along those routes.” Operating from such bases, aircraft and ground troops would enable the United States to “keep on striking our enemies whenever and wherever we can meet them, even if, for a while, we have to yield ground.” The combination of “a process of attrition against Japan” and a build-up of American power would produce a “turn of the tide”: “Soon, we, and not our enemies, will have the offensive; we, not they, will win the final battles; and we, not they, will make the final peace.”3