Archive for WWII

…you think America won the Second World War.

Posted in All, Dumb Catchphrases, Faux Elitism, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2012 by oooranje

This Cold War misconception is so laughable I barely want to spend time on it, but for the sake of setting the record straight, I will.

The United States entered the Second World War at the end of 1941 – nearly six months after Germany invaded Russia.  The United States did not fight a major battle until Midway, six months after that, and did not fight a major land battle until Guadalcanal, a year later, in November 1942.

In the meantime, Russia had absorbed the full brunt of the German advance, retreating deep into its country and losing millions of men.  The Siege of Leningrad started September 1941 (three months before Pearl Harbor), and was not lifted until the January 1944.  Stalingrad – the decisive battle of the war, and one of the most horrific episodes of bloodshed in human history – began in August of 1942 and raged on for six months until February of the next year.  When it ended, the Soviets had lost a million men – but captured or killed an entire Wehrmacht Army Group.

The war may not have been over just then, but Germany never recovered.  Yes, the Allies (not just America!) re-opened second and third fronts in Italy and Normandy, and yes, these clearly helped to hasten the end. But the reality is this – the Allied invasions only worked once Soviet Forces had neutralized a significant portion of the German forces, and weakened the defenders on the Western and Southern frontiers.

It is telling that England does not claim to have won the war.  As one of its first entrants, they would be in a unique position to claim the honor.  But, from their front-row view, it was only too clear who had turned the tide. My grandparents in Holland still fondly recall the playing of the Communist anthem, The Internationale, upon liberation, despite having a profound distaste for Stalinism and left-wing politics.

So, finally, let me state this one statistic: the Soviet Army under General Zhukov suffered nearly as many casualties in the three-day Battle of Berlin as the United States lost men in the entire war.  The scope of the two operations is barely comparable. And further, because I don’t think the history books are clear on this – the Soviets took Berlin alone, without allied help, taking on the full force of the remaining German defenders on their own. This is why West Berlin became an island of the West in the middle of East Germany – and why, later on, the Berlin Airlift became necessary.

If you want to claim that the United States won the Pacific Theater, you might have greater claim to that, but then you’d have to admit the atomic bomb saved lives and was in the end a relatively speaking humane end to the war.  As for Europe – thank the Russians / Soviets (I’m aware I’ve used the terms interchangeably here.  Oh well. Deal with it).

What the United States did do in Europe, however, is win the Peace by restructuring; the Marshall Plan remains one of the greatest achievements and policy decisions of the 20th century. But winning the peace doesn’t sound quite so sexy, does it?

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