Winter of Disaster
Within a month after the announcement that the great coalition had been formed, there were alarming evidences that it was about to be knocked to pieces by the blows delivered by the reinforced Germans in Africa and the staggering procession of Japanese conquests southward and westward. The manifold accomplishments of the Arcadia Conference appeared to be so many melancholy scraps of paper and the relationship of Roosevelt and Churchill was subjected to strains which would have overtaxed to the breaking point the patience of smaller men. The accumulation of calamities provided a severe test in adversity for the American people—and, be it said, they met it admirably. For the British, the ordeal was far worse. This was their third wartime winter: in the first, they had been lulled by the illusions of the Phony War—in the second, they had been inspired to endure the Blitz by the glory of fighting alone—and now, with 750 million Russian, American and Chinese allies fighting on their side, they were compelled to confront some of the most humiliating and inexplicable disasters in their entire history. Similarly, the Chinese had been fighting alone against Japan for four and a half years—and now the sudden acquisition of powerful Allies put them in much worse peril than ever.
The underrated Japanese forces shattered all previous Allied appraisals and calculations, and did so with such bewildering speed that the pins on the walls of the map rooms in Washington and London were usually far out of date. Reinforcements would be rushed to some threatened point but even the radio messages to the isolated commanders announcing that reinforcements were on the way failed to arrive before the enemy did.
The area of Japanese conquest in the months following Pearl Harbor was an opened fan, with its handle in Tokyo, its radii more than three thousand miles in length, spreading eastward to the mid-Pacific, south