August 2, 2010

Washington Society for Churchill

Alexandria, Virginia. Sunday, August 1, 2010


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Exploring military control and strategy in the Pacific theater during World War II, Naval Academy historian Craig Symonds described for a Virginia audience the often bitter Army-Navy competition for President Roosevelt’s support. Noting that the British were able to play only a minor role in that part of the war after the loss of numerous Royal Navy ships in 1941-42, Symonds used slides and often gripping language to show how U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Chester Nimitz battled each other for overall strategic control of the American effort against the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. He was particularly effective imagining what each man probably thought on the occasion of their mid-1944 planning meeting at Hawaii, by which time the two military leaders each commanded assets in excess of what Japan could put up against them.


Symonds pointed out that four-fifths of the Japanese army-and their best men-had not yet been committed in the Pacific war as they were fighting in mainland China. How to effectively deal with that nearly 3-million man force was a vital aspect of wartime planning that is often forgotten today.


The audience attending the annual summer picnic event of the Washington Society for Churchill was enthralled-and asked many excellent questions afterwards.


Symonds taught at Annapolis for three decades, rising to chair the history department before his 2005 retirement. He has authored more than a dozen books and is writing one about the landmark mid-1942 battle of Midway.


Chris Sterling


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