The Battle of Midway was fought 72 years ago, from June 4, 1942 to June 7, 1942. Air strikes from U.S. aircraft carriers maimed beyond repair the four Japanese aircraft carriers. The Japanese fleet, and Japan, never recovered.
Less than six months earlier, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack swept across the Pacific. Franklin Roosevelt, in his “Day of Infamy” speech, told the damage:
“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…. The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area.”
Less than six months later, over a course of a few minutes, three of the four Japanese aircraft carriers were sinking. A fourth Japanese carrier was irreparably injured soon after. All four gargled then sank to the ocean floor.
The Battle of Midway is an important moment in history. What happened, of course, stands on its own. It is also good to remind ourselves the course of history can change fast. Some historians, by no means all, contend the Japanese lost the war within those five or six minutes when aircraft from the USS Enterprise, USS Yorktown, and USS Hornet commenced their fatal attack on the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu.
The contention, which is supported by evidence, describes the impossibility of the Japanese industrial capacity to compete with American steel, tank, aircraft, and ship construction. (Within five miles of where I grew up, between 1942 and 1945, one shipyard built 92 battleships, aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, and destroyers. Five miles to the south, between 1942 and 1945, another shipyard built over 250 naval ships.)
The argument of a decisive Japanese loss is well received by minds trained in the twentieth century. But, it does not weigh human potentiality. It is true the Japanese fleet never again held supremacy, if supremacy, it was: the Battle of Midway showed that military supremacy over the oceans now was in the air, not on ships. Today, maybe, we are to be menaced by the Age of Drones, which would be a short hop from the Death of the Age of Economists.
It is true Japanese industry did not measure up to American production. But to stop here is to abide by the economic, deterministic, GDP-worshipping, data junkyard that ignores history. It died, and Marxism died, at the Battle of the Marne, when not one worker of the world crossed lines to fight alongside his German or British contemporary. In an important book, The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism, written in 1933 and published in 1939, Peter Drucker wrote the lowest floor sweeper at Rolls-Royce joined with the owners to fight the against the workers of the Kaiser. Economic man was finished; always a fantasy, it ignored the rise of Nationalism as the most potent nineteenth-century evolution.
The Battle of Midway teaches the wish must be met by the will. The speed at which the U.S. fleet was resurrected at Pearl Harbor is still astonishing to contemplate. Another example was the enormous aircraft production in Germany in 1944 and 1945. Figures are not at hand, but German cities were ashen cemeteries at the same time German workers (not many young, or even middle-aged, men) built aircraft at such at a tremendous pace. This production was a demonstration of will. Perhaps – only perhaps – the wish was not accompanied by the will in Japanese production, starting in 1942.
The senior Japanese naval leaders misjudged the American naval forces approaching off Midway Atoll. The Japanese leaders’ calculations were by no means unsophisticated. They were wrong. We can say with a high degree of assurance no Japanese naval leader, in preparation for battle, stated he was “100% sure” of the outcome. We can say, with a slightly lower degree of assurance, if a Japanese naval leader had made such a claim, he would have been launched as the first Kamikaze missionary upon the USS Yorktown.
Other than the Emperor and a few senior military leaders, the Japanese people believed they had won a great military victory at Midway. What happened when the Japanese people found out otherwise, of Midway and much else? They had been lied to, used, violated, lost their homes, marriages, and careers, when they had been drawn into a nationalistic fervor, believing their leaders and they were of a piece?
Today, across the globe, the wish our so-called leaders are not lying to us, will be 100% correct over events of which they are “100% sure,” will be regarded, in time, as a catastrophic miscalculation by the human race. In the instant of recognition: what price gold?
As a footnote, the death of Winston Churchill’s daughter, Lady Soames (Mary Churchill), on May 31, 2014, who was a friend, can at least be remembered here with Churchill’s instruction, in 1939, that every graduate of the British Officers’ Candidate School be given a copy of Peter Drucker’s book,The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (packaged with a copy of Alice in Wonderland). Drucker could not find a publisher until that year, even though he wrote it when Herr Hitler took charge in 1933. In Drucker’s 1969 words, “[i]t was far too ‘extreme’ in its conclusions: that Hitler’s anti-Semitism would be propelled by its inner logic towards the ‘ultimate solution’ of killing all the Jews; that the huge armies of Western Europe would not offer effective resistance to the Germans; or that Stalin would end up signing a pact with Hitler.”
Drucker wrote in a 1994 “Introduction” that, even in the 1970s, “the book was pointedly ignored by the scholarly community.” It remains one of Drucker’s least-known books. Academics would still ignore the book today, if they knew about it. Some may think it remarkable, some may know it is always the case, a book that could so penetrate the mind of 1933, explaining the process by which minds evolved over the next few years, would have no audience with academia, regressed, as it has, to a state of infantilism, in 2014.
In one of Winston Churchill’s best-remembered speeches, he stated: “If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.” That speech was delivered in 1940, a year after Churchill ordered every British officer’s kit include Drucker’s book, no doubt intending they understood what they were defending and against what they were fighting. (No, it wasn’t the British Empire.)
Churchill’s foresight of a “new Dark Age,” made “moresinister,” and “more protracted,” by the “lights of perverted science” can be seen in letters he wrote in the 1890s. Peering ahead at such an age may be why he understood so early the danger of Hitler to Europe, and to the human race. He might not be surprised at the anti-human Age of Drones or by the dreary Age of Economists.
I doubt Mary Soames knew to what extent her world was being twisted by perverted policymakers who pretend they control six billion souls through a mathematical model. One can only estimate how any human being may react upon learning the workings of sinister minds, but, may I hazard: it may have killed her.
Frederick J. Sheehan is the author of Panderer to Power: The Untold Story of How Alan Greenspan Enriched Wall Street and Left a Legacy of Recession (McGraw-Hill, 2009), which was translated and republished in Chinese (2014). He is researching a book about Ben Bernanke.