The new Fourth Edition with 44-page Index
The War in Europe. World War I Led to World War II: 1935-1941 Prelude to War in Detailed Tabular Form
Copyright 2012 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
Men and Machinery
The coin of the realm in WW II was called "materiel", favoring the less ambiguous variant derived from the French of the word "material". It was materiel, authorized in the U.S. Lend/Lease programs of WW II, when it arrived at U.S. seaports and was loaded into and onto freighters, which were then formed, ship behind ship in six, eight or ten columns, in convoys stretched across the sea. Steam locomotives and aircraft were lashed to the main decks of many freighters. On arrival at an overseas port, these were just one or two maintenance steps away from service and combat. The U.S. literally drowned its adversaries in materiel. Getting it there was a major effort and will be discussed in important episodes in this story.
The machinery at the heart of this story was called materiel when it was on its way, much of it on railroad flat cars, to the shipbuilding yards of the U.S.. After shaping, assembly and welding, this materiel became ship's hull and machinery. A warship was then launched and commissioned.
Next, a photo and explanation for its 2008 insertion into our 1998 story of pre-World War II events in the United States.
Above, the USS Edison, DD-439, slides 'down the ways' from Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock, Kearny N.J. in Nov. 1940. Note the number on her bow, and count the stars in the flag.
Claud M. "Mickey" Mick III, son of Claud M. Mick Jr., a USS Edison DD-439 shipmate of mine in 1944, [I am Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. author of these website pages and author of the book that tells the complete story] contacted me after viewing a TV broadcast segment, labeled Segment 4, of the Military Channel TV series "Quest for Sunken Ships." The picture above is from a clip that appeared in Segment 4, which dealt with events in the life of the U.S. Navy's World War II destroyer, the USS Murphy, DD-603. During the broadcast, Mick's attention became riveted on the launch scene in the film, and realized the ship being launched was not the Murphy, but his Dad's ship, the Edison. Mick contacted me by e-mail and also contacted the TV producers, who obligingly supplied him a DVD of the Segment 4 broadcast, containing the Edison launch. In his first contact with me, Mickey Mick sent along a digital snapshot of the scene above by stopping his TIVO-stored TV broadcast and shooting the picture he saw n his on his TV. Later, with the DVD in hand, he sent along this better shot from the same clip.
The Edison photos must have been taken from Navy file footage of her launch at the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Kearny NJ. (Murphy was built by Bethlehem on Staten Island.) TV viewers in late 2007 or early 2008 would have found the series in local TV schedules. The Military Channel is related to the Discovery Channel.)
We resume here our 1998 draft narrative of events of late 1940 and early 1941.
Next for the ship and its machinery came an underway "shake down" cruise. Those reservists, draftees and the relatively small cadre of regulars who were aboard for the launch, the commissioning (the commissioning "detail"), and the shakedown could all claim to be called "plank owners". From the time the keel was laid until addition of the ship's armament after commissioning, the ship's personnel complement expanded daily toward full war strength. This small flood of nameless men from 'anytown U.S.A.' became ship's crew. Before their names became known, their identities emerged first as deck seamen, or below decks machinists, water tenders and firemen, or radiomen and radarmen, signalmen and quartermasters, or sonar men or shipfitters, or torpedomen and other members of the ordnance gang including firecontrolmen who had main deck, above deck and below deck stations. The construction of a ship from base metal is a remarkable creation. The evolution of a crew, the bringing together of the right ratings in several disciplines, is an even greater transformation. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For the Edison crew of WW II, and for all who went overseas, word from home and to home meant V-mail, not E-mail.
Air and Sea
Air and sea define continuums, joined at the water's edge by the elements, nature's condition. The elements extend no a priori favors; they have no friend or foe. A new ship has just one formally defined shakedown cruise. The elements conduct repeated shakedowns of the men and their machinery.
A Reluctant Nation
The human condition is beset with conflict. Thirty minutes of media news briefs might convince the just-arrived alien that conflict is the only human condition. After World War I, much of the world went to sleep with the League of Nations, convinced (or wanting to believe) that the killing fields, both on land and at sea in WW I, could never happen again. A strong vein of isolationism held sway in the heartland of the U.S. The country has been re- made periodically from waves of immigrants. The sympathies of those who come are at first rooted in their forbears; these sympathies did not naturally align to present a single counter force to isolationists in the decades following WW I. (My personal feeling after WW II was that no one could get me angry enough to go to war again. I must admit that a number of persons, forces or events since WW II has put me to war-thinking anew.) And so it was on August 12, 1941, 25 years after the U.S. entry into World War I, and by a margin of just one vote, the U.S. House of Representatives extended a hastily revived draft.
Considering the scale of the conflict which came to be known as World War II, the U.S .was even less prepared than it had been for World War I. The War in the Atlantic in 1939, which U.S. leaders wrapped in the term, Neutrality Patrol, began almost as a repeat of the Great War 25 years before. At sea, England and Germany took up where they left off. A re-armed Germany had also developed new capacities for active prosecution of war. Japan sided with the Allies in WW I but between the wars its military had convinced its industrious, unquestioning citizens that Japan's expansion objectives were valid and that these demanded different alliances. After its foray into China, Japan concentrated its WW II efforts on the defeat of Britain and the U.S. Pearl Harbor was a new twist that vaulted the U.S. beyond a Neutrality Patrol.
Politically, most of the nations of the world , including the U.S., had learned little from World War I. A few U.S. individuals who had experienced service in WW I were a small exception. Those who were called upon to serve again in WW II brought valuable experience forward. This was especially true in shipping and shipping protection in the Atlantic. Two men who led the war effort in their respective nations deserve special note in this respect. Both came from naval backgrounds. The two were U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The U.S. military draft and this residual leadership experience from World War I were critical factors in Germany's eventual defeat.
The Protagonists in Focus
'Your men and your machinery' against 'their men and their machinery'? Not always. Sometimes it is your men and machinery against the air and sea. This author was a participant, but this is a first-hand account only of the men and machinery he sailed with and fought with. The enemy is known only through the actions they forced and the losses they inflicted. No first hand account of the enemy will be found here. That, too, is pretty much the case with the elements brewed by the air and sea. Meteorologists often provided early warning, but when weather arrived, the ferocity of the elements at the air and sea boundary always presented a new challenge. When the ship's inclinometer showed a roll of 58 degrees, a young watch officer became transfixed by the reading on that instrument. A more experienced skipper, for his part, kept a stop watch in his hand. The key was that the time duration of the roll was more important than the angle of heel. A roll too slow was the danger signal that she might really go over.
The focus here will be on seamen and machinery. It will be largely a one-sided view. Timewise, any reflections on the precise identity of the "enemy" came most often during the extensive daily photo slide training ritual run by the Recognition Officer. In these daily sessions, a ship or plane pictured in the fraction of a second set for the shutter action on the projector, reached your consciousness first as "friend" or "foe" even before a specific national identity flashed into your mind. Except for these sessions and occasional broadcasts from the BBC, acute awareness of an "enemy" came in fast paced action episodes. There was no shouting from trench to trench as in land warfare. The Captain might try to get into the enemy's mind but everyone else fought based on the 'situation-at-hand'. Getting performance out of men and machinery was the task. Chance controlled the rest.
So in a sequence of episodes, this story will be about putting U.S. men and their machinery, in this case a U.S. destroyer, against challenges to their survival. The intentional threats came from Germany, Italy, and briefly, the Vichy French. The elements took a heavy toll, but differed from the others in that weather's respites could be accepted with less suspicion.
A Backgrounder on Time and Decision (sometimes, indecision)
Hitler began his rise to power in 1933. The abject failure of Neville Chamberlain's diplomacy is encapsulated for all time in the word "Munich". Even that word does not begin to express the loss of the opportunity France and Britain had presented to them for a "Triple Alliance" with Russia before Russia made its deal with Germany in 1939. Winston Churchill, who was not in the British government during the period, later capsuled his country's leadership in one sentence: "Britain's ruling class takes it weekend in the country while Hitler takes his countries in the weekends."
So that this narrative might move more directly to a series of destroyer episodes in 1942-44, I will employ some tabulations. The three tables which follow reflect the inconclusiveness of WW I, which ended with the Armistice of November 11, 1918 followed by the Treaty of Versailles. A latent instability between wars, and a man historians and diplomats would never evaluate, finally swept millions of men and women into the inferno of WW II. Indeed, Adolph Hitler was an early puzzle to the German people, although they could see earlier than the rest of the world that he was capable of complete ruthlessness in the pursuit of his objectives.
The first table, Prelude To War, covers the period 1935-1939, and ends with the beginning of armed hostilities, when Germany, led by Adolph Hitler, invaded Poland. Where specific dates are given in these tables, they are U.S. dates.
Prelude To War
After all Polish military resistance ended, and Germany and Russia took their agreed-upon spoils, a period of nervous waiting ensued during which Hitler prepared his next moves. From his observations of the Chamberlain government of Britain in earlier diplomatic action, Hitler had concluded, incorrectly, that Britain would not act militarily when Germany invaded Poland.
Some revision of Germany's expansion plans had to be made when Britain and France declared war. The relatively ineffective military actions taken by Britain and France in an interregnum of nearly eight months gave Hitler and his generals time to make the necessary revisions.
The next table provides some key events in the period from the first actual hostilities of World War II in 1939 to the announcement of the Tripartite Pact in September 1940. The U.S., whose policies had been greatly influenced by isolationists in the Congress, was in its "waking up" phase.
Diplomacy Fails; Britain and France Go to War
Evacuation of British land forces at Dunquerque, after the British and French forces defending against the Wehrmacht offensive in the west had been split, was both a "low" point and a "high" point for the West in this period. Western Europe was lost, a complete reversal of the result in 1918.
In the shadow of this defeat, the armada of "anything that would sail" that took the defeated British Army off the beaches at Dunquerque and back to England was a near-miracle. It was the pilot light that stayed lighted after the main burners had been extinguished. Not just the scale and make-up of this small boat "spit kit" fleet, but its result, the salvage of thousands of important soldiers for the isle of Britain in its next two years of dogged resistance, turned out to be essential to the final, successful result in 1945.
In addition to the defeat of its land forces, Britain suffered another sobering immediate consequence of Dunkerque. The rescue of forces cost the loss of 10 destroyers sunk and 75 disabled.
Churchill's return to government as Prime Minister and as Minister of Defence on May 10, 1940 meant that the evacuation at Dunquerque and the impending fall of France were unparalleled crises greeting his return to government. Though he had protested most of the decisions of the Chamberlain and Baldwin governments that preceded him, he and Britain were left to deal with the consequences. While Dunquerque was a defeat for Britain and for Churchill, the fight that the British showed in military defeat set the tone for the next two years. The first result was survival and the second was victory. But, a war was still to be fought.
Here is how the U.S.S Edison looked just after commissioning on January 31, 1941. Seaworthy, but no armament.
The third in this series of event-positioning tables establishes U.S. responsibility areas in the Western Atlantic in 1941 and ends with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. In the "short of war" period, the U.S. could escort British ships in its neutrality "zone" and would hand them over to British/Canadian escorts at transit from this new marker of the " Western Hemisphere".
U.S. Neutrality Re-defined to Measured Participation
The "Axis powers" became a full reality just after President Roosevelt's "day that will live in infamy", the day of Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7., 1941. By December 8, the U.S. had declared war on Japan and on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S.. Japan, Germany, and Italy were now at war with the Britain, the U.S., the free French and the Polish units which had escaped the Nazi net in Europe. By November 1941, the U.S. Army had 1.5 million men, in uniform, but not yet adequately armed. The U.S. Navy shipbuilding effort was beginning to show results, particularly in modern destroyers.
The air Battle of Britain had been over almost two years when the first action episode of this story unfolded in August 1942. The Pilotless Bombardment of Britain, as Winston Churchill called it, which became intense in the summer of 1944, was still two years in the future. For the British, it was a very long war. In the preface to Volume 1 of his history of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II covering the period September 1939-May 1943, Samuel Eliot Morison stated, "Thus the Battle of the Atlantic was second to none in its influence on the outcome of the war. Yet the history of it is exceedingly difficult to relate in an acceptable literary form."
In three tables, we have tried to show the interweave of events and the challenges of playing two hands of poker as if they were one against powerful cards in the hands of men who would lead with death, until death.
Hitler was a late convert to the U-Boat, favoring investments in air power and his land armies. Entreaties from then Commodore Doenitz, and Britain's entry into the active war persuaded Hitler to raise U-Boat production in 1939 from just over three per month to 25 per month. The U-Boat fleet swelled from 45 boats in 1939 to 300 boats at sea in 1941 with 800 targeted for 1943.
Several hundred readers have responded with e-mails and letters. These responses have provided the author expanded insights. The nephew of one of those Red Cross nurses plucked from an open lifeboat in the North Atlantic in July of 1941 by the USS Charles F. Hughes has provided a followup on her story. A 457-page paperback incorporating some of those insights is now available in a 4th Edition dated 2009.
Here is the "short list" of WWII ships/units that have been heard from via E-mail: minesweeper USS Pioneer; U.S. destroyers Buck, Benson, Edison, Gleaves, Lansdale, Ludlow, Mayo, Plunkett, Wilkes and Woolsey and from a later destroyer generation, USS Dyess; U.S.cruisers Augusta, Philadelphia, Savannah ,and British cruiser HMS Spartan; troop transports HMTS Rohna, SS Awatea, SS Mallory, SS Santa Elena, SS Santa Margarita, SS Vigrid, U.S. Army Transport Dorchester and USS West Point; supply ship USS Electra; amphibious ship USS Doyen (PA-1); Darby's Rangers. An officer on the staff of Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner has commented favorably.
A new Fourth Edition came out it 2009 with new covers, sharper detail in the photos, and a new 44-page Index developed by a European scholar. Nothing was removed..