George Bush: 'Victory in WWII was not a foregone conclusion'

From a speech by the President of the United States, at the National World War II memorial in Washington DC

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In the history books, the Second World War can appear as a series of crises and conflicts, following an inevitable course - from Pearl Harbor to the coast of Normandy to the deck of the
Missouri. Yet, on the day the war began, and on many hard days that followed, the outcome was far from certain.

In the history books, the Second World War can appear as a series of crises and conflicts, following an inevitable course - from Pearl Harbor to the coast of Normandy to the deck of the Missouri. Yet, on the day the war began, and on many hard days that followed, the outcome was far from certain.

There was a time, in the years before the war, when many earnest and educated people believed that democracy was finished. Men who considered themselves learned and civilised came to believe that free institutions must give way to the severe doctrines and stern discipline of a regimented society. Ideas first whispered in the secret councils of a remote empire, or shouted in the beer halls of Munich, became mass movements. And those movements became armies. And those armies moved mercilessly forward - until the world saw Hitler strutting in Paris, and US Navy ships burning in their own port. Across the world, from a hiding place in Holland to prison camps of Luzon, the captives awaited their liberators.

Those liberators would come, but the enterprise would require the commitment and effort of our entire nation. As the Second World War began, after a decade of economic depression, the United States was not a rich country. Far from being a great power, we had only the 17th largest army in the world.

To fight and win on two fronts, Americans had to work and save and ration and sacrifice as never before. As Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby said, "This was a people's war, and everyone was in it."

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