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Naming World War II: A Study in Government Efficiency

Written by Gary North on September 23, 2014

Dr. Greg Bradsher is the Senior Archivist at the National Archives. He has inadvertently written one of the great comedic lines in official U.S. government history.

Background: Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. That was late spring. Summer began on June 21. On August 9, Japan surrendered.

Here is Dr. Bradsher’s sentence:

During the summer of 1945 the War Department determined that it needed to expeditiously come up with an official name for the war the United States was fighting at the time.

The word that makes this a comedic masterpiece is this: expeditiously.

Dr. Bradsher’s description of what led up to this decision, if not slap-your-leg funny, is surely chortle-deep-down-inside funny.

The Operations Division of the War Department was tasked with making a recommendation regarding a name designation for the war. After undertaking some research and consulting with other elements of the War Department, Brigadier General Thomas North, Chief, Current Group, writing for the Acting Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations Division, War Department, on August 1, 1945, wrote to the commanding generals of the Army Service Forces, the Army Ground Forces, and the Army Air Force, regarding the “Official Designation of Present War.”

Time was of the essence. Within a week, the U.S. government dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Gen. North was not privy to this decision, but he knew that time was running out. They needed a name for the war before it ended.

Sadly, they did not meet the deadline.

On September 11, a little over a month after the surrender of Japan, the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, sent a letter to B. R. Kennedy, Director, Division of the Federal Register, National Archives.

The President on 11 September 1945 approved the enclosed letter of 10 September 1945 signed jointly by the Secretaries of War and the navy recommending that the term ‘World War II’ be officially designated as the name for the present war covering all theaters and the entire period of hostilities. Further, it was recommended that the title ‘World War II’ be published in the Federal Register as the official name of the present war.

The peace treaty had been signed on the U.S.S. Missouri on September 2. There was no “present war.”

Making it official:

Paragraph No. I of War Department General Orders No. 80, dated September 19, 1945, provided “The war in which the United States has been engaged since 8 December 1941 will hereafter be designated in all official communications and publications as ‘World War II.’”

Not a moment too soon.

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4 thoughts on “Naming World War II: A Study in Government Efficiency

  1. Phillip the Bruce says:

    Remember the words of Will Rogers. "Don't complain about government inefficiency. Be thankful you're not getting all the government you're paying for."

  2. So what ? Now we are in so many permanent War's we don't even know where they are, or for how long they have been running, and we start a new 'Phase' and Locale' every third day, that even includes weekend's for the one's that they really don't want anyone to know about ! I imagine that in the Oval Office our fearless leader start's his day asking, "Who did we bomb yesterday ? " I am sure he has forgotten most of them by 10:00 a.m.

  3. Your assuming this POS gives a shit. He is only engaged because his base is being killed and THEY are demanding he DO SOMETHING! Sorry Bastard is not doing anything that will WIN! F*** him and the donkey he's ridin till ti's on the verge of colapse.

  4. Actually,seems to me a tribute to the largely pragmatic character of that generation of leaders. Naming the war was the least of their problems before the summer of 1945. They won the war first, and *then* tackled the naming. Hardly inefficient.