EXCERPT FROM THIS ARTICLE: But it turned out that many of the planes couldn’t even take off. The best mechanics had left the service for higher-paying and easier civilian jobs after the war ended, leaving SAC’s planes in woeful condition. Of the planes that could get to Dayton, not one was able to hit the target. Not one. For obvious reasons, the results were kept classified……..The Dayton lesson serves as a cautionary tale. The next time some unforeseen event threatens the mainland as the U.S. is slashing its military budget, this country won’t have the luxury of time to rebuild what it will no doubt need.
It was simply called the “Dayton Exercise” and for obvious reasons it was kept secret for decades. It was also one of the clearest examples of the trouble the United States encounters when it decides to precipitously draw back its military in a troubled world.
At the end of World War II, the U.S. had the most modern and best-equipped military on earth. No one else came close. It had taken the entire war to build it, and at great sacrifice.
U.S. troops fought at a distinct disadvantage until 1944 because of an earlier self-imposed disarmament. But when the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing the Japanese surrender and preventing a land invasion of the Japanese islands, the U.S. abruptly demobilized again. It had done the same thing 27 years earlier, after World War I.
In the Army Air Forces alone (there was no independent Air Force until 1947), the number of men dropped to just over 300,000 in 1947 from 2.4 million in 1945. On the day the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, there were 218 combat groups in the Army Air Force and 70,000 planes. One year later, there were 52 groups—only two of which were considered combat-ready. The airplanes that American factories had churned out were parked end-to-end in the desert, sold to other countries or junked.
Never in history had one nation held such a strategic advantage over the rest of the world as the U.S. did in 1945, and never had a country been so reluctant to wield it. To many, the well-earned peace dividend appeared incontrovertible. Intelligence estimates assured the West that the Soviets would not be able to develop their own atomic weapon for at least 10 years. But a series of events quickly changed the strategic map.
Associated PressAn Allied war correspondent stands amid the ruins of Hiroshima. (more…)