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Massachusetts Institute of Technology Defense and Arms Control Studies Program

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Annual rept.

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War is still very much on our agenda and that of the nation. We search for the path to peace by trying to understand war - how it starts, how it is fought, and how its memory lingers in the minds of the participants, shaping future policy. War can be avoided, but one must know both the steps to take and the price to pay. This being the 50th anniversary of the climactic battles of the Second World War, it is not surprising that we would spend some time reflecting on the lessons of the past. Several of us were participants in the series of Technology Day panels that marked MITs remembrance of the Second World War. It was a war that had a huge impact on MIT. bringing research resources and policy responsibilities that were unparalleled in the Institutions history. More important, of course, it was the war that brought the United States permanently onto the world stage and taught the nation how to acquire tremendous military might. And best of all, it was a war that vanquished two truly evil empires. Everyone at the celebration thought the war necessary, with unchallengeable justifications and a wonderful outcome. Yet, it is striking to recall how difficult it was to get the United States to enter the conflict. The world was in flames for more than two years before Pearl Harbor. Most of Europe had been conquered. Russia by that time had been attacked. Britain, our closest ally, was mortally threatened. Large pieces of China had been seized. Jews and others were being enslaved and killed. Nevertheless, it took a direct attack on our territory by Japan and a declaration of war against us by Germany for the United States to fight. Apparently, even the really good wars look unappealing close up. One planned Second World War battle did not take place the invasion of Japan scheduled for Fall 1945. Instead, Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 after our second atomic bomb attack.

Subject Categories:

  • Defense Systems
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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