From Light to Heavy Duty
Watching a newsreel or flipping through an illustrated magazine at the beginning of the American war, you were likely to encounter a memorable image: the newly invented jeep, an elegant, slim-barrelled 37-mm gun in tow, leaping over a hillock. Going very fast and looking as cute as Bambi, it flies into the air, and behind, the little gun bounces high off the ground on its springy tires. This graceful duo conveyed the firm impression of purposeful, resourceful intelligence going somewhere significant, and going there with speed, agility, and delicacy--almost wit.
That image suggests the general Allied understanding of the war at its outset. Perhaps ("with God's help") quickness, dexterity, and style, a certain skill in feinting and dodging, would suffice to defeat pure force. Perhaps civilized restraint and New World decency could overcome brutality and evil. "Meet the Jeep," said the Scientific American in January, 1942. "The United States Army's Answer," it went on without irony, "to Schickelgruber's Panzer Divisions."
At first everyone hoped, and many believed, that the war would be fast-moving, mechanized, remote-controlled, and perhaps even rather easy. In 1940 Colonel William J. Donovan, later head of the American Office of Strategic Services, was persuaded, as he wrote in a pamphlet Should Men of Fifty Fight Our Wars?, that "Instead of marching to war, today's soldier rides to war on wheels." For this reason, he conjectured, older men could easily fight the coming war, this time sparing the young. Still hidden in the future were Bataan and Guadalcanal, Saipan and Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Dieppe, Normandy, Cassino, and the virtual trench warfare of the European winter of 1944-45. This optimistic vision of Donovan's is especially curious in light of his having won the Congressional