Saturday, 13 March 2010

whip our weight in wildcats

The episode of the Ken Burns documentary on America in WWII, The War, which we watched this evening well after the fact, had a quote from Ernie Pile on a defeat in North Africa. I found the extract, and longer, on this blog posting.

“You folks at home must have been disappointed at what happened to our American troops in those Tunisian battles. So were we over here. Our predicament was damned humiliating, as General Joe Stilwell said about getting kicked out of Burma the year before. We lost a great deal of equipment, many American lives, and valuable time and territory — to say nothing of face.
“The fundamental cause of our trouble over here lay in two things: we had too little to work with, as usual, and we underestimated Rommel’s strength and especially his audacity.
“Both military men and correspondents knew we were too thinly spread in our sector to hold if the Germans were really to launch a big-scale attack. Where everybody was wrong was in believing they didn’t have the stuff to do it with.
“Personally, I feel that some such setback as that — tragic though it was for many Americans, for whom it would always be too late — was not entirely a bad thing. It was all right to have a good opinion of ourselves, but we Americans were so smug with our cockiness. We somehow felt that just because we were Americans we could whip our weight in wildcats. And we had got it into our heads that production alone would win the war."