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A Brief History of the U.S. Army in World War II - The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II

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Even before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American military chiefs had agreed on a common strategy with Great Britain: Germany, the most powerful and dangerous of the Axis powers, must be defeated first. Only enough military resources would be devoted to the Pacific to hold the Japanese west of an Alaska-Hawaii-Panama defensive line.

Competition for limited resources between the Allied commanders of the European and Pacific theaters was actually less intense than might have been expected. The Pacific was a naval war, and little U.S. offensive naval power was required in the Atlantic besides landing craft. Aside from the U-boats, the Germans posed no threat in Atlantic waters. U-boat defense primarily required many small, fast escort vessels. Then too, almost the entire British Navy was deployed in the Atlantic. Thus, American offensive naval power—especially the fast carrier task forces—could be committed to the Pacific war.

More than distance separated the two wars; they differed fundamentally in strategy and command and in the character of the fighting. In Europe the war was planned and conducted in combination with powerful Allies. Strategic decisions had to be argued and agreed to by the American and British chiefs of staff, and, on occasion, even by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Operational planning was conducted, at least at the higher levels, by combined Anglo-American staffs. In the Pacific the United States also had Allies—Australia and New Zealand. Yet the ratio of U.S. to Allied forces was much higher there than in Europe, and in consequence strategy and planning were almost wholly in American hands.

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