RESEARCHING THE NEWS
February 27, 1944
We are often asked for our opinion on the War and when it will end. Now, a civilian’s opinion is not likely to be of much value because there are so many military details which must be kept secret. However, there is a great similarity between the reports from the fighting fronts and the process of a research problem.
Research, as it is understood, is a system of doing a new job or producing a better result. Since we have to do this without much previous experience or knowledge of the particular problem at hand, a reasonable procedure or program is made out and then some practical way is always found to start the work. Like the War, there are so many unknowns that we have to rely upon our judgment and experience as we go along. This War has put us all on a research basis as far as planning is concerned. Many things are subject to quick change, for War is always filled with uncertainty, but this War is entirely different from any other we have fought.
Now in research work we do not try to give a running account of each day’s work, but we do take stock at definite times by answering such general questions as these: First, in the light of the present information was it a mistake to have started this project? Second, has progress been made on the job, say in the last six months? Have any new facts been discovered which have lessened the importance of the problem or reduced the chances for success? Then there is always the final one -- how long will it take to finish the job?
Let’s take a look at the War in this same way and answer some of these questions. Almost everyone of us, I believe, sill thinks we should have gone into the War. Japan forced us into it and we certainly have made a great deal of progress in the last six months. Both Germany and Japan used the blitz method and they relied on the Allies’ unpreparedness as a guarantee of success. Germany almost won at Dunkirk, at Moscow, at Stallingrad and in North Africa, and similar close-calls are well known in the Pacific War. Some day we should soberly review this situation and then resolve never to let our country get into such a dangerous position again.
Now, if these aggressors were not strong enough to deliver a knock-out blow in the beginning, don’t you think their chances are much less now? If the enemies were to examine their position with this same kind of questions, their answers would not be very encouraging, Germany has lost most of her Navy, the effectiveness of her submarines has been greatly reduced, many of her cities have been bombed out of the War, North Africa is gone, the Mediterranean is under the control of the Allies, and Russia has regained most of her great territorial losses. Japan has suffered in a similar way as recent reports will bear out. Yet, we often hear that we are not as far along as we should be -- our timetable has been upset -- so what is wrong?
Before we draw any conclusions, we should all take stock in what has been done here at home, how each one of us has had a part in this work of helping our military and industrial leaders do their great job. They had to start with almost nothing, and in a little over two years an Army of ten million men has been organized and equipped with the latest and best weapons. Our Navy has done an equally spectacular job and is now fighting on all the Seven Seas.
Our Air Forces are the largest and best in the world. Our Merchant Marine has been provided with ships and more ships. Our scientific and industrial engineers have almost completed the great synthetic rubber and aviation gasoline programs, and there are hundreds of other amazing accomplishments. All these are proven facts -- this is history.
So we must not let any single news item of gain or loss in any one day or week influence us too much, and yet we should not minimize any unfinished part of the job. Some final details often take a lot of time. Maybe we don’t know enough about the progress of the War overseas to give an opinion as to when it will end, but we can do much to hasten the time every one of us continues to devote every bit of our energy to the jobs which we do know a lot about, and not get worried by a few arm-chair strategists who will continue to tell us how poor we are here at home and where the High Command is wrong abroad.