Consider the dark days of World War II. Seventy-five years ago, 1942 started out as an awful year. The United States and the British were still reeling from the December 1941 Japanese surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Singapore would fall in February 1942 in an ignominious defeat; and the American bastion at Corregidor surrendered in May.
For the first four months of the war, Japan had run wild. Or as two Japanese analysts, Masatake Okuymiya and Jiro Horikoshi, put it: “Japan took more territory over a greater area than any country in history and did not lose a single ship.” By June, the Japanese Empire stretched from the Aleutian Islands to the Indian Ocean, and from Wake Island to the Russian-Manchurian border—the most expansive Asian Empire in world history.
Things were no better for the Allies in the European theater. In August 1942, German soldiers climbed Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in the Caucasus, as the German army neared the shores of the Caspian Sea, and one of the richest oil fields in the world. The vast Third Reich stretched from the English Channel to the Volga River and from the Arctic Circle southward to the Sahara by the summer of 1942.
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