A place to play with my world view. A space to pontificate, ruminate, and cogitate. A home for words that somehow escaped my mind.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Industrial Espionage in World War II
This morning I got to contemplating World War II and how the world changed at that point in history. The United States became perhaps the greatest economic power in the world at that point, largely be default. The war was massive, global in scale, and demanded a lot of resources. Being distant from the fields of battle, and being an advanced industrial nation, we were in a position to become the supplier of wartime goods to the rest of the beleaguered world.
I got to thinking on the strategies necessary to defeat the United States under those circumstances. Germany was its own source of production, drawing on the resources of conquered lands. However, the industries of Germany were in constant danger, as that nation was quite in the middle of the fighting. They may have established the fronts far from home, but air warfare eventually brought the battles home.
Japan was isolated, being an island nation, and so able to remain distant from most of the fighting. England less so, being within striking distance of missiles and aircraft. Japan, however, had little ready access to resources and so had attenuated supply lines, making that nation vulnerable.
Our own isolation was more significant. Nobody was within easy striking distance, and as a nation we were huge. We had a lot of resources within our own nation. Industries were spread out and not easy targets. So, how to attack the United States? Large scale industrial espionage. Slow, stop or destroy the industrial infrastructure to halt the production and distribution of war materials.
The Germans had established groups of people in the United States who were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Some of them did, indeed, act as agents of destruction and committed acts of espionage. Since I am only recently entered into this line of thought I do not yet know the degree of their success.
The other threat was the body of Japanese in America. More recently come to the United States than the Germans, and more easily identified, they were suspect as a people. Their culture in America was also a factor. Not having assimilated yet in large numbers they remained in clannish groups, huddled in identifiable Japanese neighborhoods. The prejudices of those already established worked against the Japanese in America in many ways.
Additionally, it was a practice of many Japanese families who could afford to do so to send their children back to Japan for part of their education. This at least implied an incomplete loyalty to the United States of America. How many of those children might have been indoctrinated and trained to perform organized espionage in the United States?
Now, if I can come to this conclusion so many years later, what might the intelligence community of the United States waging a war of undetermined outcome have concluded? That they rounded up the Japanese in America and isolated them might more easily be understood in this light. It certainly changed my perspective.
That does not make it any less terrible, taking people from their homes and confiscating their property. It was not, however, without precedent. Look at the Trail of Tears. In retrospect, some policies enacted by the United States have been far from ideal. Had the German people in America been less assimilated and more easily identified, a similar policy may have fallen on them, as well.
I was born slightly after the end of World War II. The United States had been less damaged by the trial, and perhaps made stronger for the discipline of wartime production. As the only industrial nation of significance still standing we had the advantage. I have enjoyed growing up in a rather prosperous era in a nation of great wealth and opportunity.
Many made sacrifices over the years to create that prosperity. Many were sacrificed, to include Negro slaves, displaced Native Americans, and displaced Japanese Americans. I am grateful to all who contributed to the freedom and prosperity I have experienced, whether they gave willingly or unwillingly.
I am not faced with the circumstances that led the decision makers in the United States to rob citizens and resident aliens of their freedom to protect the nation from industrial espionage. However, after contemplating the matter, I am perhaps a bit less inclined to judge them for their actions. Halting a likely enemy from committing an act of war is not a bad decision in times of war.
I am currently 62 years old. At present I am a retired correctional officer with 20 years of service. (My real job these days is being a Grandpa.)
I am married to my long-suffering wife, Linda. I have three children; Matthew, Beth, and Jon. I currently have six grandchildren; Alexandra, Madelyn, Wyatt, Lucas, Abigail and Landon.