The "American Century": What Was Really Behind It?

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The "American Century"

What Was Really Behind It?

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In the history of the world, never has a nation come into power, wealth and world influence as rapidly as the United States in the 20th century. The "American Century," as some historians have labeled it, saw a union of states that had almost split apart in the 1860s rise to world power status and levels of wealth unimagined in the 19th century.

But was it merely American will and energy and luck, combined with a republican form of government, that allowed this to happen? Or is there another reason we can point to that turned a nation of immigrants into the powerhouse it became?

The background most don't realize

The biblical patriarch Abraham is acknowledged as the father of the Jewish and Arab peoples today. But what most do not realize is that he was also the father of the Anglo-Saxon peoples of the British Commonwealth and the United States.

The Good News explored that little-known history in our January-February 2010 issue. For the full story, we invite you to review it and also to request or download our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy, the fascinating but true account of American and British national ancestry.

Suffice it to say here that God passed the national promises made to Abraham on to his grandson Jacob. When old and near death, Jacob conferred these promises to his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh.

Let's follow the scene in Genesis 48. Jacob's son Joseph presented his own sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to their grandfather. Jacob then laid his hands on Joseph's sons to transfer the blessings to them. Crossing his arms so that Ephraim, the younger, would receive the greater blessing, Jacob pronounced the future of these lads, a future that stretched out thousands of years from that time.

Jacob said of the descendants of the two boys: "He [Manasseh] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations" (Genesis 48:19 Genesis 48:19And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
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Notice also that Abraham's descendants were to number into the hundreds of millions! God promised him, "Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south" (Genesis 28:14 Genesis 28:14And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
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These promises were never fulfilled in biblical times. While they experienced some significant periods of national wealth and power, Abraham's descendants, the Israelites, did not then rise to the level of greatness and dominion that had been foretold. Eventually they were carried away into national captivity at the hands of the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires in the eighth and sixth centuries B.C., respectively.

If the promises made to Abraham and passed down to Ephraim and Manasseh were ever fulfilled, it would have to have been later—much later, in our day! As we will see, the promise of a large population was a key to American achievements and the fulfillment of some of the other promises of national greatness in the 20th century.

The amazing truth is that the people of the United States are descended in large part from Manasseh (while Britain and other nations of British heritage are descended from Ephraim).

The national commitment of World War II

Except for its two-year intervention on the side of Great Britain and France in World War I, the first 40 years of the 20th century were peaceful for the United States. This long period of peace allowed tremendous expansion in power and wealth.

American industrial might blossomed. By the late 1920s, the United States had surpassed Great Britain and Germany as the world's leading coal, steel and iron producer. Its manufacturing ability transformed the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. By 1940, most American families owned an automobile, a refrigerator and most of the other accoutrements of modern life.

But the peaceful life Americans enjoyed in 1940 was soon to change as the nation watched the growing Nazi storm in Europe and Japanese imperial expansion in Asia. Isolation, the belief that this was not America's war, evaporated on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese launched a preemptive strike at the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The United States entered World War II with the solid backing of the majority of Americans and a commitment to the all-out national effort needed for victory.

Among the blessings promised to Joseph's descendants were "blessings of the breasts and of the womb" (Genesis 49:25 Genesis 49:25Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
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). The early 20th century saw the fulfillment of that prophecy among the descendants of Manasseh, when from 1900 to 1940 the U.S. population doubled to more than 130 million, fueled by a high birthrate and immigration.

An advanced and mechanized agricultural system, combined with efficient transportation based on the world's leading railway system, also made it one of the world's healthiest populations. After Pearl Harbor, millions of healthy young men—and women—volunteered for the armed forces. The United States was ultimately able to field some 16 million in uniform.

World War II saw the use of mechanized war machinery on a scale unprecedented in the history of warfare. Fighting in both Europe and the Pacific required a vast output of guns, tanks, aircraft and ships. American industry quickly converted from producing consumer goods to producing goods for the war effort.

At Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Ford Motor Company's gigantic Willow Run plant began turning out B-24 bombers by the hundreds, then thousands. At its peak in August 1944 the Willow Run plant produced 14 B-24s every day. Those bombers were crucial in systematically demolishing the industrial capacity of Germany and Japan, reducing their capacity to wage war.

All these war goods and the millions of troops had to be delivered to the fronts. America's railroads provided an efficient way to move troops and war material to America's ports. By 1940 the U.S. merchant fleet had become one of the world's two largest, along with Great Britain's. This vast fleet of thousands of ships was needed to transport troops and war materiel to Europe and the Pacific.

Sudden mastery of the seas

But with the outbreak of war on two fronts, American shipping needs grew. Henry Kaiser was one of America's leading industrialists. A master of manufacturing efficiency, he contracted with the U.S. government to produce "liberty ships"—slow-moving freighters designed to do one thing: transport lots of armaments and supplies efficiently. Kaiser streamlined production techniques at his shipyards, eventually launching a new liberty ship every 10 days.

Victory in the Second World War required mastery of the seas. Between them, the United States and British Commonwealth controlled most of the major sea gates—such as the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Strait of Hormuz and the English Channel—that could be used as choke points for shipping. Notice that God told Abraham that his descendants would "possess the gate of their enemies" (Genesis 22:17 Genesis 22:17That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
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The Royal Navy controlled shipping in the English Channel and Suez Canal. America used the Panama Canal to save weeks of transit time for cargoes from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific. Without control of these passages, victory would have been much more difficult.

The beginning of the end for Nazi Germany probably was the German defeat at Stalingrad in December 1942. But ultimate defeat for Hitler's dream of a Nazi empire accelerated in June 1944 when thousands of American and British forces landed on D-Day at Normandy, on the French coast.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, as commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, agonized on the date to launch the invasion. Several days of bad weather made aircraft reconnaissance impossible and seas too rough for the landing craft.

But a break in the weather was forecast for June 6. Early that morning, German defenders on bluffs overlooking the beaches were stunned to peer out over the English Channel and see nearly 5,000 ships. Many felt the hand of God was involved in providing the crucial weather break needed to launch the invasion.

Some of the fiercest fighting of the war took place over the 11 months that followed, leading to Germany's surrender in early May 1945. Trapped in Berlin, Hitler committed suicide. The nightmare of Nazi oppression was past. But a defiant Japan still had to be dealt with.

Several millennia earlier, God had described to ancient Israel the blessings that would follow if they honored and obeyed Him: "You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight" (Leviticus 26:7-8 Leviticus 26:7-8 [7] And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. [8] And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
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Except to some degree during the time of Joshua and a few times under David and Solomon, this prophecy likewise was never fulfilled. Yet a development occurred toward the end of World War II that could be deemed a latter-day fulfillment of that prophecy.

It provided America, a nation that comprised only 5 percent of the world's population, with the power to militarily control the other 95 percent. For the short time that the United States was the sole possessor of nuclear weapons, it made the United States the undisputed military leader of the world.

The Manhattan Project

Despite its advantages in manpower, industrial capacity and wealth, America realized that its war effort could be trumped if the Axis powers successfully developed a long-rumored "secret weapon."

By the late 1930s, several of the world's leading physicists, such as Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Albert Einstein in the United States, and Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann and Werner Heisenberg in Germany, had concluded that the tremendous, almost unimaginable energy locked in the nucleus of the atom could be released to create a weapon so destructive that the first nation to possess it would be assured of victory.

In Germany, Adolf Hitler was aware of this and ordered a research and development project to produce an atomic bomb.

As America began its rapid mobilization to enter the war in early 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt had also been informed about the destructive potential of nuclear energy. Historians acknowledge that America's decision to pursue a nuclear weapon stemmed largely from fears that Nazi Germany was already at work on one.

In the United States, Oppenheimer and Einstein, the latter a brilliant Jewish physicist who fled Germany in 1937, had worked out the theoretical framework for the bomb. Einstein wrote several letters to Roosevelt, urging action before Germany could take the lead. But it would take a vast national commitment of resources to support the research and development to get from theory to actually having a weapon to deliver.

Roosevelt appointed Oppenheimer to head up a research group to study the feasibility of using nuclear fission, the splitting of the atomic nucleus, as the basis of the weapon.

In the fall of 1942, with Germany in control of Europe and Allied forces reeling in the Pacific, Roosevelt gave the Manhattan Project the green light. Production of the bomb would require uranium-235, the addition of plutonium (an extremely rare element produced from uranium) and a site for final production of the weapon.

It was decided that these activities would be carried on, in utmost secrecy, at three laboratories that were established in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; in Los Alamos, New Mexico; and in Richland, Washington. Later in the war a research site was established in Canada at Chalk River, Ontario, where scientists and engineers from Britain, Canada, New Zealand and other nations carried on additional research.

The main requirement was the production of enriched uranium-235, which would require a remote location where secrecy could be maintained. So in late 1942, with utmost secrecy, the U.S. government purchased a 60,000-acre tract of secluded, wooded land in Anderson County, Tennessee, about 30 miles west of Knoxville. So tight was the secrecy that even Tennessee's governor at the time had little awareness of Oak Ridge's real purpose.

Production of plutonium required a large nuclear reactor. The Hanford site near Richland, Washington, was chosen for its location near the Columbia River, a source that could supply water to cool the reactors required for plutonium production.

On a bleak mesa in New Mexico, the government created the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In addition to being the main "think tank," Los Alamos was responsible for final assembly of the bombs, mainly from materials and components produced at Oak Ridge. It was at Los Alamos that final bomb manufacturing took place—where casings, explosive lenses and enriched uranium were assembled into the actual weapons.

Early on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, a trio of B-29 bombers took off from a base at Tinian Island, about 1,800 miles from Japan. Col. Paul Tibbets commanded the lead plane, the Enola Gay, which carried the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare.

The target city, Hiroshima, was deemed to have considerable industrial and military significance. At 8:15 a.m. Tibbets released the bomb, "Little Boy." The resulting blast was brighter than the sun. It produced temperatures greater than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and a shock wave that approached 700 miles per hour.

On Aug. 9 a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, an important port city and industrial center in the south of Japan. Between them, the two bombings resulted in unbelievable destruction.

On Aug. 15 millions of Japanese citizens huddled around their radios to hear an important announcement by their revered emperor. Hirohito told his people of his decision to accept the Allied terms of surrender. To fail to do so, he told them, would "result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation." World War II, in which some 60 million people had died, was now over.

Putting a man on the moon

Victory by the Allied forces in World War II left the United States as the world's undisputed supreme power. But within a few years, the Soviet Union also had atomic weapons. And in the next decade, these two powers would square off in another race for world prestige—the space race.

Victory in Europe at the close of World War II brought an unexpected and, at the time, unrealized benefit to the United States. A virtually unknown band of 118 German scientists and engineers decided to surrender to the U.S. Army rather than fall into the hands of the Soviet Red Army.

Their young leader, the brilliant and charismatic Wernher von Braun, had led Germany's efforts to develop the V-2 liquid-propelled rockets that rained by the hundreds on England late in the war. Fortunately for England, the V-2's crude guidance system caused most of the rockets, armed with deadly one-ton explosive warheads, to miss their marks.

But Von Braun had proven the viability of liquid-fueled rockets, and the V-2 would prove the developmental grandparent of America's Saturn V, the giant rocket that less than 25 years later would launch men to the moon.

Amid the chaos of the end of the war, the U.S. Army gathered up all the V-2 parts and pieces they could find and sent them with the Von Braun team to the U.S. military base at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Under U.S. Army direction, Von Braun and his group continued the research and development of rockets. Aided by a growing team of American scientists and engineers who would soon take the forefront, V-2s achieved higher and higher altitudes—up to 244 miles in 1949.

The term rocket soon gave way to a new term: guided missile, a large rocket, directed in flight by a sophisticated guidance system, that could travel up to thousands of miles to deliver a warhead—even a nuclear one. But Von Braun had always dreamed of space travel. From his earliest years, he knew that rockets could carry human beings into space.

The Russian launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 caught America off guard. Development of rockets to carry human beings accelerated, and early in 1961 America was able to launch Alan Shepard into a suborbital flight. Shortly afterward John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

By the late 1950s, the United States was involved in the space race, but it was not a national commitment. Congress decided by 1958 to make space exploration a civilian function, and that year created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA would soon become an acronym well-known to the average American.

The elections of 1960 produced a new, energetic young president. John F. Kennedy was a believer in space exploration and saw it as a cause, a national project, on which to focus the nation's attention. In a speech before Congress in May 1961, Kennedy issued the challenge: "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

Kennedy's electrifying announcement gave rise to the Apollo-Saturn program, the national effort to put a man on the moon. In Huntsville, Alabama, NASA established the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, devoted to the development of large rockets whose sole mission was to lift not weapons of mass destruction, but human and scientific payloads into space.

With Von Braun at the helm of these efforts, the United States developed the Saturn series of ever-larger and more powerful booster rockets, culminating with the gigantic Saturn V.

American TV viewers thrilled to the sight of the July 1969 launch of Apollo 11, the mission to the moon. As the Saturn V lifted off from Florida's Cape Kennedy, with a 500-foot shaft of flame and a rumble like that of an earthquake, Americans knew that three brave men were taking the ride of their lives.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were on their way to the moon. When the lunar lander successfully touched down on the moon's surface, Armstrong radioed to earth: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." America had beaten the Soviet Union to the moon. In the 40 years since, only a handful of Americans, and no one from other countries, have set foot on the moon.

Apollo 11 excited the American people as few other events in the nation's history. Many saw the hand of God in the American triumph as a Christian nation beat the atheistic, communist Soviet Union in a supreme effort of national will and commitment of resources.

Promises fulfilled—now what?

God Almighty keeps His Word, and there can be little doubt that the promises made to Abraham have been fulfilled. The British Commonwealth and the United States became the multitude of nations and the great nation promised in Genesis 35:11 Genesis 35:11And God said to him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins;
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and 48:19. But God also told ancient Israel that the promises could be taken away. Read Deuteronomy 28 and 29 to see what God said would befall His people if they rejected His way and turned their back on Him.

Notice also Leviticus 26:19 Leviticus 26:19And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
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: "I will break the pride of your power," God warned. At the beginning of the 21st century the United States is still, militarily, the world's leading power. But the nation is bogged down in bloody and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States is still leader of the free world, but cannot seem to stop rogue nations like Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. America wrestles with the problem of militant Islam, and many wonder if the Muslim conquests of the seventh century will be repeated. The nation's law enforcement agencies must constantly guard against a devastating terrorist attack that could come at any time and in any place.

Economically, the United States has been transformed from the world's leading lending nation to its greatest debtor. And in Europe, an economic bloc is rising whose combined output easily surpasses the United States. In Asia, the ancient nation of China is rising rapidly as another major competing economic force.

Blessings can be given, and blessings can be taken away. America has been richly blessed, enabling great national achievements such as those we've noted. And we could easily name many more.

But it is time for Americans to realize their place in the world, wake up to what is really going on and soberly pay attention to what the Creator says is in store for the nation if its people do not turn their hearts and mend their ways.  GN