World War II: Getting Americans Home (1939-42)

Figure 1.--The outbreak of World War II meant that it was important to get americns hime, first Americans in Europe and than in Asia. Pearl Harbor (December 1942) and than the Japanese seizure of Burma (February 1942) put India in jepordy. Getting hime, however, involved a perilous ocean journey. And unlike 1939, a very large German U-boat fleet was operating in the Atlantic and coducting attacks along he East Coast. This is Ralph Korteling who returned from India and just reached New York. The press caption read, "Sleepy Head: Sleepy little Ralph Korteling, from Madras, India, is unexcited about his arrival in New York, March 23, aboard an American vessel. The five year old lad is on his way to Chicago." We believe his family was doing missionary work in the Punganur area of India and with the Allied debacle in Burma sent Ralph home. It probably would have been safer in India. At the time the German U-boat Operation Drumbeat was in full swing. His parents seem to have stayed in India and because of the War were able to pursue Jeep evangelism and reach far more people than was the case before the War.

Traveling abroad was not nearly as common before World War II as it is today. There were no cheap airfares. People traveled by ship. It was more expensive and it took much more time. There were some Ameicans abroad, byr compared to the situation today, the number was very small. They were mostly fairly afflent people that could aford foreign travel as well as students from families that could support them abroad. In addition to the well-to-do there were also Americans falling into three main groups: busnessmen, diplomats, and missionaries. With the outbreak of the War, these people needed to get home. Unlike World War I, World War II came as no great suprise. Families had much more time to prepare for moving and getting home. The process was aided by the fact that America was neutral. Thus there was no difficulty getting out of Germany or German occupied Europe. The major problem was trans-Atlantic air travel was in its infancy. Getting home had to be done by ship and the Battle of the Atlantic made Atlantic crossings difficult. The Pacific War came as more of a surprise. The tensions were well known, but most people just did not belive that Japan given the industial power od the Unted States would attack America. Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of the Pacific War created the need to getting Americans in Asia home. The horific experience of Americans and other Westeners in Japanese captivity undescored the need to get home. Some Americans did come home as relations with Japan began to deteriorate. Many like the American military did not fully understand the military power that Japan had ammased while the United States severly limuted defense spending. Americans in China and the Philippines after Pearl Harbor were trapped. Americans in India could get home. The most direct route was east across the Pacific. The Japanese closed off this route, so getting home meant a trip around the Cape of Good Hope and thriugh the U-boat infested waters of the Atlantic.


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Created: 12:00 AM 11/14/2017
Last updated: 12:00 AM 11/14/2017