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Who Won World War II?

You think that American soldiers defeated the evil Nazis and brought democracy to Europe? Think again, says British historian Norman Davies: Militarily, the Allies contributed less than the Soviets to the defeat of Germany. About 80 percent of German forces were lost on the Eastern Front.

The Soviets won the war in Europe in terms of replacing political systems with their own. More at Dialog International.

The Soviets also had huge casualties, which still has an influence on Russian policies: David A. Bell, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in the Los Angeles Times (and discussed on the Atlantic Review post Responding to "Al-Qaeda's Revival"):  

Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.

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twoparameters on :

That the Soviets contributed more to the Nazi defeat than the other allies is clear to any student of history. This view of World War II is exactly what I was taught in high school and university in the United States. Similarly I have never been taught the part about democracy being 'brought' to Europe by the Americans. Democracy had been part of European history long before the Nazis. Certainly, the western allies played a significant role in restoring democracy to parts of Europe after the war but democracy was nothing new on the continent. A German historian I know put this issue in perspective for me a few years ago. He said, "The Americans may not have saved Europe from the Nazis but they DID save Europe from the Soviets." As someone with family and friends who suffered behind the Iron Curtain I can relate to his statement. I lived in Japan for three years and encountered this sentiment many times. Japanese, including the very vocal leftists, who are old enough to remember the post-war years frequently mention that they were 'saved' from the Soviets by the Americans. To this day there are many older Japanese in Hokkaido who have U.S. flags in front of their homes in defiance of the Russians who the Japanese believe are illegally occupying Japanese territory in the north.

quo vadis on :

The Russians would have suffered a lot fewer causalities had Stalin been somewhat less delusional and less brutal toward his own people. As for WW2, Europeans seem to forget that there was a whole other war going on at the time. A war that involved the two greatest naval powers in the world: The US and Imperial Japan. Remember Japan? The country that stormed through China and most of the far east and Pacific, threatened Australia and the US and sent the various European imperial powers home in disgrace? The country with the fight-to-the-death, take-no-prisoners Samurai legacy? Our European friends were too busy squabbling amongst themselves to lend us a hand there.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

Would that be the same Imperial Japanese who used "liberation from the longnoses" rhetoric to turn the "colonials" against the colonists, only to afford a continuation of colonial policies in return to the "liberated" locals? As was notably the case in oil-rich Indonesia? "Liberation" of the Philippines at the turn of the previous century, anyone?

Don S on :

Arguably the USSR would have suffered a LOT fewer casulties had Stalin not purged the brilliant leadership of the Red Army of all it's top officers between 1935-39 and installed politically 'safe' nincompoops as replacements. The Red army had good equipment and decent manpower in 1941. The leadership is virtually completely responsible for the collapse and deep penetration by the Wehrmacht into the USSR. Stalin can be directly held responsible for perhaps 80 million deaths in the USSR during WWII (not mentioning the deaths his agricultural 'reforms' caused during the 30's).

Pat Patterson on :

The crux of this tempest is that US students are somehow indoctinated into believing that the US won the war singlehandedly, just Audie Murphy and John Basilone. But the reality is that like my 9th and 10th grade social studies classes, who just finished the units leading up to World War II and the beginning of the Cold War before the Spring Break receive a fairly well-balanced presentation of the war. None of the claims of either directly by Dialog International or obliquely by Prof. Bell have any relation to reality. The text and the adjunct material used in class is quite clear that the bulk of the ground war was fought by the Soviets, with detailed comparisons of casualty rates(though for the amount of time the US was in Europe they killed a higher number of German servicemen per day then the soviets did in the previous 3 years. But the Soviets, without argument, inflicted massive damage on the troops of Germany but with a staggering amount of military assistance from the US(who was not compensated) and building equipment, medicine and food stuffs(which where paid back). 14,000+ aircraft, 7,000 tanks, 51,000 jeeps, 375,000+ plus of the most famous truck ever, the Dodge 3/4 ton 4x4(often with the Dodge markings removed), 35,000+ motorcycles(copies of the BMW shaft driven opposing two-cylinder), which the Soviets illegally copied and exported after the war as the URAL), 11,000 rail cars and over $11,000,000 in food and medicine. Plus one of my students was able to interview a neighbor that had served in the Merchant Marine and survived being torpedoed twice and machine gunned by a U-Boat once on covoy duty to Murmansk. He also talked about seeing German soldiers still in their summer uniforms unloading the American supplies in the dead of winter. Unlike all those German POWs in the US being forced to live in Arizona and California. Maybe actually checking what the students are learning rather than wild surmises would show a much more balanced approach to history then assumed off of no research. Especially considering the rather tired and self-pitying references to Hiroshima, Nagasaki or Dresden. In a slave state the slaves and the slave masters suffer. And frankly for the latter I really don't care.

John in Michigan, USA on :

It's true, not since our civil war have Americans shed blood as freely as was the case in Europe, Russia, or Asia during World War II. And even our civil war lacked the large scale, institutionalized genocide[b]s[/b] of the 20th century. I guess we really are a backwards and uncivilized people.

franchie on :

"The Americans may not have saved Europe from the Nazis but they DID save Europe from the Soviets" I think that was the major fear they had in mind, that is why they finally decided the D day ; they didn't like the idea of having frenchs habours with soviet submarines ready to sink their ships. Though, another raison why the US intervened, is also that they lost their healthy business partners in Europe, that represented myriads of dollars : France under Vichy was exhausted, Germany had not anymore the financial ability to buy americans goods, Italy was in the same state... they need Europe to survive, to assure their own employement. That was also the dilemne France had with the loss of Algeria as a colony : that represented an amont of business money to give up, and thousands jobs were therefore lost.

Pat Patterson on :

The US was still coming out of the Depression and the increasing employment rate had more to do with sales to Britain and Russia, well France too until they turned the Renault and Hotchkiss factories into highly efficient sources of Tiger tanks and 88's. Between 1939 and 1941 most American owned businesses in Germany and France had been seized by the Todt Organization and certainly did not send dividends to the US. American destroyers and frigates, Navy and Coast Guard, as early as the spring of 1940 were already patrolling the North Atlantic and the South Pacific with Britain and the rump French navy under the control of DeGaulle, both to sink German naval vessels, interdict shipping and blockade runners from dozens of neutral nations. The idea that the US waited two years before "intervening," never mind Pearl Harbor or Hitler's declaration of war against the US, seems fantastic and ill-informed.

Don S on :

"I think that was the major fear they had in mind, that is why they finally decided the D day ; they didn't like the idea of having frenchs habours with soviet submarines ready to sink their ships." I agree completely. The US could not possibly have been concerned by french harbors being inhabited by submarines from the Third Reich, a country the US was at war with and which had preyed upon US shipping in the Atlantic - that is FAR too simplistic an explanation. No, the real concern obviously was with the submarines which and ally (the USSR) might possibly run out of French harbors some years in the future, submarines which did not even exist yet. What a trenchant analysis of the geopolitical situation circa 1944. The US invaded the Third Reich in order to get at the USSR! Well that explains why they call us fascists I suppose. On the surface the US was at war with the Third Reich and Italy and allied with the USSR, but the actuality as propounded by sophisticated French thinkers is that the US was allied with the Third Reich and at war with the USSR! Wonderful, simply wonderful!

franchie on :

Mr Don the intelligent, you seem not to know that the major players in the resistance were also our communists, had the US not came, they'had join the URSS alliance, idem Italy Pat paterson, I was told that Bush ancestry made businesses with the nazys

Don S on :

Yes I'm aware of this fact, Franchie. But you may not be aware that the US in 1043/44 was not the America of Joe McCarthy. It was the America where Alger Hiss held a high post in the State Department, where Franklin Roosevelt was President, and where Henry Wallace (the noted Russophile) was Vice President. Wallace was one hearbeat from the Presidency, and Roosevelt was not a healthly man, and proved his ill health by dropping dead 2 years later! Not to mention that it's rather doubtful that if the US and UK had made peace with Hitler that Stalin would have gotten one foot west of Poland - particularly if Lend-Lease had been terminated. So I think the french school of thought who maintain that the US invaded France to forstall Stalin are being rather too clever by half. An ingenious theory but it completely ignores the facts freely avaialbale - that the US was out to get Hilter and Nazi Germany where they lived and regarded and treated Stalin's Russia as an ally.

franchie on :

though, Don, Churchill had a hard time to convince Roosvelt to intervene, not talking of de Gaulle ; impossible. The real evenement that changed his mind was Pearl Harbour Do you know how many jew lifes would have been spared if he had decided to help us earlier ? I know that I have been pushing the button a bit too far, that's, as you say my mastering in BS ; when the frenchs are implicated with the americans in discussion, often there isn't enough window for our perspective ; I had to emphasize it ; if we want to be fair, all the perspectives were in mind, yours and mines ; the goal was to get rid of an evil power and empech another one to replace it, as so to reenable the conditions for businesses (plan Marshall)

franchie on :

from individual documents, army archives and german sources, 4 videos that retrace the war from 1941 to 1944. very impressive. The commentor is french : [url=http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x26osq_ils-ont-filme-la-guerre-en-couleur_politics]They filmed the war in colors[/url]

franchie on :

It is funny to notice that the only obsession that have our american friends, it to "put the Blame on France"... "put the blame on me..." yeah, we are such poor people, with nothing in our cupboards, I tell ya, we still live in huttes... like our ancestry, we love that, rolling in the mud like pigs, drink our costful beverages, ya know, we call them the angel part, or the gods'nectar... we are overwelmed by lefty welfare debts, I assure you, we eat potatoes though, like the Germans, though, we cook them with many more variations, that's, I am afraid because of our twisted mind yeah, they love France... without the frenchs

Joe Noory on :

Actually I think this is a case of self absorption. A quick use of the "find" tool tells me that the first 6 references to France were from you. The "blame" you're looking for was Don's short response. As for the notion of seeking blame, In the French media it's everywhere and up front, and it's always, always, always about the US or the UK. It's been that way for the past 3 decades, and it always carries the self-flattering superior air of the "lesson giver". It's persistent, obsessive, ubiquitous, and when anybody tried to point it out, many practicioners of it statrt banging their spoons on their highchairs about the comparatively minute negative caracterization of France or Europeans in general in American pop culture. You have to remember that these are the same people who don't think that there are Americans can find Europe on a map, yet somehow they accused of also expending all their energy on slandering Europe. This isn't a problem of logic or continuity, it's a psychiatric problem. Americans don't exist to manage their self-esteem problems. I'm waiting for the day that the revisionist start trying to say that the US was not involved in World War II at all, or perhaps that the US doesn't even exist - that those people you run into here and there are actually Canadian, etc.

franchie on :

Joe, I like you intervention in any cases, though I think you came at the end of the battle, see you soon :lol:

Pat Patterson on :

Yes, agreed the US and Britain were very concerned that a large number of the resistance groups in France sprang from the pre-war Communist trade unions after 1941. But they, the Allies, still provided money, weapons, radios and the like in spite of these misgivings and the fear that these weapons would be used against them after the war. Plus it should be noted that on direct orders from the Comintern the Communists sat on their butts for two years moaning about this fascist and imperialist war, cooperating with the Vichy government and the German authorities, until Russia was invaded in the Spring of 1941, whereupon the Communist groups recovered their patriotism. Being told something, unless on tablets from Mt Sinai or a burning bush in the desert, is hardly the substitute for actually researching controversial points. Many people and businesses had interests and actual factories and offices in Germany prior to World War II. All of these were seized by the Germans and some of the difficulties faced by Germany and to a lesser extent France was either returning these properties or compensating the original owners for their losses. A plant taken from Ford that made tractors and then converted into making tanks does not make Ford a collaborator.

franchie on :

"Plus it should be noted that on direct orders from the Comintern the Communists sat on their butts for two years moaning about this fascist and imperialist war, cooperating with the Vichy government and the German authorities, until Russia was invaded in the Spring of 1941, whereupon the Communist groups recovered their patriotism". Stalin recognized De Gaulle as the "true" representant of the "free France" 2 years before than Roosvelt did ; so far the American administration considerated that the geopolitical partage of Europe was a reality they could deal with, till Urss start to gain more territories on the east front

franchie on :

" We didn't come to Europe to save the the French, either in 1917 or in 1944. We didn't come to to Europe to do anyone any favors. We came to Europe because we in America were threatened by a hostile, aggressive and very dangerous power. In this war, France fell in June of 1940. We didn't invade Europe until June of 1944. We didn't even think of "saving the French" through military action until after Pearl Harbor - after the Germans declared war on us. We came to Europe, in two wars, because it was better to fight our enemy in Europe than in America. Would it have been smarter to fight the Battle of the Bulge in Ohio? Would it have been smarter if D-Day had meant a hop across the Atlantic Ocean, instead of the English Channel, in order to get at an enemy sending rocket bombs into our homes? Would it have been smart to wait in America until V bombs, buzz bombs, rocket bombs, and - perhaps - atomic bombs had made shambles of our cities? Even the kids in Germany sang this song: "Today Germany, tomorrow the world." We were a part of that world. We were marked for conquest. When France fell, our last defense on the Continent was gone. France was the "keystone of freedom" on land from the Mediterranean to the North Sea; it was a bulwark against German aggression. France guarded the Atlantic, and the bases the Germans needed on the Atlantic for submarine and air warfare. American security and American foreign policy have always rested on this hard fact: we cannot permit a hostile power on the Atlantic Ocean. We can not be secure if we are threatened on the Atlantic. That's why we went to war in 1917; that's why we had to fight in 1944. And that's why, as a matter of common sense and the national interest, President Roosevelt declared (November 11, 1941): "The defense of any territory under the control of the French Volunteer Forces (the Free French) is vital to the defense of the United States." [url=http://www.112gripes.com/index.html]an edifiant bookletedited by the american office of informations[/url]

Pat Patterson on :

I would hate to make any judgments on France's foreign policy on a booklet issued to its troops, or say the Foreign Legion, dealing with the prickly locals.

franchie on :

yeah, that means you lead the opinion of course, the Etat Major is ment to deal with sheep I wonder wich percentage of american opinion you do represent actually, uh 30 % ?

Pat Patterson on :

The French Foreign Legion are sheep? Plus I noticed that the response has gotten to the fact free statements. So like fat free whip cream, easy to the eye, low in fat and utterly devoid of anything that advances the original argument.

franchie on :

then gimme your "infaillible" sources

franchie on :

[url]http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3460246.html[/url] amid the sheep, the legionnaires aren't the alone forces, check : there are also "albinos", "new-zeeland", "autralians", "prés-salés", "poitou", "UK" (?) all different colored sort of muttons : [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_France]Military of France[/url] (I am afraid, Wikipedia, yeah, I am getting lazy)

Zyme on :

From what I have read on this war, I found the conclusion most convincing that the western Allies have been deciding in this war at a specific point. I am not talking about the amphibious landing in France in 1944, by which I would say the result of the war was already clear, despite german counterattack in late 1944. Instead I consider mid-1943 the turning point. While at this time the Allies had started massive bombing raids on the Reich, they also sustained massive losses. In the meantime the battle of Kursk raged, with Germany moving to counterattack the Soviets. Considering the air superiority, the number of tanks and the experience of the crews, Germany actually had the upper hand at the beginning of the battle. Then the western Allies landed at Southern Italy, a situation of great concern to Hitler. Immediately a large number of troops were withdrawn from the Eastern Front and relocated to Italy. This marked the result of the Battle of Kursk - and enabled to Soviets to withstand this attack. Otherwise they may have lost and Stalingrad might have just been a horrible blow to german invasion, followed by a successful breakthrough at Kursk and fear spreading among the Soviets again. So without the western Allies landing in Sicily, I think we would have had a good chance of turning the tide in the East. Russia had been defeated in WW1 as well, it might well have worked again.

Don S on :

I largely agree with your conclusion but not completely, Zyme. I don't think Russia could have overcome Germany if the US/UK had made peace, but after Stalingrad I'm pretty certain Germany would not have overcome the USSR either. I do agree that the invasion of Sicily was a turning-point however, more so than D-Day was. Germany knew that D-Day was coming, where and when were the only major questions.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Ironically, under the absurd standards in place today, many would complain that US/UK participation in the Sicily campaign was illegal. After all, the Italians "never attacked us".

franchie on :

why are you saying "US/UK participation in Sicilly" and not the "Allies", the North African bataillons did participate too : [url=http://tadrart.com/tessalit/indigenes/home_gb.html]Indigenes[/url] . After all, the Italians "never attacked us". no though they were part of your so called "evik axis" did the mafiosi spare you some crack ?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Wow. Frenchie, will you calm down? Have a drink and relax. I didn't mean to ignore the Free French, the N. African battalions, or any other Allied Forces that participated in the Sicily campaign. My point what about the silliness of today. Saddam at times allied himself with groups who attacked us (just like Italy did), and who repeatedly attacked coalition aircraft, and committed other casus belli (as did Italy). And yet in 2003 before the invasion and even today, critics who should know better have apparently convinced themselves that the invasion was illegal because Iraq "never attacked" us.

Don S on :

I think the reasoning is a little more circular 'The invasion was illegal because the invasion was illegal'. Or perhaps something a little more Catch-22 like 'The invasion is legal unless you actually invade, whereupon it becomes illegal'.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

If the author's intent is to highlight that WWII also had an Eastern front, with a staggering death toll warranting the term "war of extermination" (as still surviving in the term Great Patriotic War) then yeah, I have no trouble acknowledging that. But to try and find a singular "winner" is, I'm sorry to say, reminiscing of the "superior sports" topic: largely pointless, somewhat amusing, and incidentally injurious to the sane mind when taken too far. The US didn't become involved as a warring party until December 1941. By that time, the Nazis had already been occupying Poland for well over two years, and were [i]six[/i] months deep into the aftermath of Operation Barbarossa: the Eastern Front. Japan had invaded Manchuria almost a [i]decade[/i] earlier; was at full war with China for over four years; had waged war with the Soviet Union for almost two years and concluded that with a Neutrality Pact in force for eight months; and signed the Tripartite Pact with Hitler and some Italian guy, well over a year before. In other words, the rather late direct involvement of the US suggests a strategic calculation, something which dovetails with the enormous domestic reluctance to get embroiled [i]again[/i] in a "Great War" remake (and its political costly capital spent by the Wilson administration, then also waiting for the optimal timing). Given the tremendous amounts of aid provided previously by the industrial giant that was the US -- through subsequent cash and carry and lend-lease agreements, and the series of Acts of Neutrality right through 1941 (!) -- it stands to reason to declare it a tie: after Stalin had significantly soaked up Nazi war power, Roosevelt's declaration of war got its very serious leverage. I'm not too sure what the point of these whizzing contests in hindsight have to do with the dimension of the enormous scale of WWII and its toll. Sixty million dead people hardly justify speaking of a "winner". About twenty-seven million alone died in the Soviet Union. An in the Western world hardly recognized other twenty million died in China. Interestingly, I read not too long ago that about 85% of casualties of WWII fell on the [i]Allied[/i] side, and "only" 15% on the Axis side. Any winners here? I believe this kind of what-if games hardly does the importance of understanding what went wrong (and how to avoid repetitions) any meaningful service.

Don S on :

"Interestingly, I read not too long ago that about 85% of casualties of WWII fell on the Allied side, and "only" 15% on the Axis side." That 'feels' instinctively true if one considers where the battlegrounds were. France, Egypt/North Africa, mainland China, Poland, and above all Russia. All of which can be considered 'Allied' territory. When a war is fought on one's territory almost all of the civilian losses will be taken by one's civilians. Germany became a battleground late in the war and of course the Russians made an effort to 'punish' the German populace for what had been done in Russia by the Wehrmacht, but I suspect even those efforts fell far short of the impact on the Russian population - the Allied invasion of Germany didn't last that long before the Third Reich collapsed. After that it was an 'occupation', which isn't a battleground. "Sixty million dead people hardly justify speaking of a "winner"." True. I can't think of the USSR as the 'winner' of anything but a Pyrric victory - the cost was too great. It would be appropriate to assert that Russia bore the burden of the war and that the Stalingrad, Kursk, and Polish campaigns mortally wounded the Nazi war machine. Actually killing the Wehrmacht was a shared burden between the USSR and the Western allies, although the bulk of the cost was borne by the people of the USSR. But I doubt if Russia could have won a decisive victory without the Western Allies invasions of Italy and France to divide the German's strategic attention. It would have been a bloody stalemate in the East without the US/UK.

Pazar on :

Its funny to hear such arguments coming from people. Here are some points to consider about the allied war effort. 1) The USSR bought its causalties on itself. It knowingly became Nazi Germany's ally from the Nazi-soviet nonaggression pact while the critical battles for Poland and France raged on. These battles were the best bet for the USSR to contain Germany, but Stalin like everyone else in the world thought that the French would bleed Germany dry. Well tough shit, your dictator miscalculated and millions of Soviet died. In the case of Poland, the Soviets behavior directly contributed to Polish defeat by direct Soviet invasion. 2) The USSR was a one dimensional power. IT could not fight the full spectrum of world wide warfare like the US did. The US industrial might allowed the US to fight in far flung regions of the world with separate enemies of different nature. For example, America simultaneously conducted an allied air offensive in Europe (tying up all Luftwaffe strength away from the Soviet Front) while fighting the largest series of naval battles in history in the Pacific. The Soviet just fought more or less on a continuous land front against Germany. 3) Soviet mechanized forces were based on US lend lease supplies. Critical statistics included more than 2/3 of Soviet trucks came from the US. There is also an general underestimation on the contribution of lend lease on the Soviet War effort b/c of the secretive nature of those years. For example, food stuff when the most productive Soviet agricultural lands were occupied by the Germans. In conclusion, Nazi Germany was a paradox in modern history because at least in the beginning of WWII, it surpassed its combined potential enemies by absurd margins leading to lopsided victories everywhere. Thus, Nazi Germany required the unique strengths of all the allied powers in those critical years to defeat it. And for any power to try to monopolize victory is beyond absurd.

carl bailey on :

really? the ussr brought its horrific casualties on iteself? is that like the victim being responsible for the rape? blaming stalin's inability to think beyond his paranoia over who was seeking to replace him upon the people who bore the brunt of this savage war is a little, oh, say, ignorant? 95% of american war effort went into europe. japan's own commander of forces, yamamoto, only figured on six months of battle capability against america. they had to achieve their objectives and negotiate a peace quickly or they were done for. perhaps they over-achieved since it took 3 3/4 years for america to beat them. by the by the atomic bombs were dropped to scare stalin, not to save american lives from invasion casualties. japan would have surrendered without making the people glow in the dark. as for one dimensional, the soviets had an incredibly formidable airforce by '43, all of them were their own design. how many american aces reached fifty kills? hell, how many western aces achieved that? the germans, soviets, and japanese all had fighter aces with more than one hundred, some were closing in on two hundred. germany's best were on the eastern front fighting the soviet best and losing. all we did was disrupt production a lttle and interfere with shipping. as far as never re-paying, does a man in a fight against a right bastard say no to assistance? if he has to pay for it he might. but they did not get our top of the line fighters and they knew that. so they did what they also did with the american armour they received. which brings me to your third point. i was completely unaware that americans were building t-34's, is-1's and 2's. those puppies could go toe to toe with the german tigers, panthers, and king tigers. what did the americans have? the pershing? no wonder they used aircraft. my silly belief was the soviets took american grants and shermans, popped a driver and a gunner into them and put them at the front of an aromoured assault so the germans would waste their, oh, so precious ammo blowing up what the soviets, as the british had so aptly described them, as rolling crematoriums. much as they did with the second-rate obsolete fighter aicraft we sent them. guess i shouldn't read de-classified documents in my history classes, eh? hogan's heroes is so much more accurate.

Aardvark EF-111B on :

there is no doubt that WWII in europe become a unpresendented brutal confrontation between Nazi German Regime & Soviet System which absorbed the majority of destruction & human casualities in the WWII (no to include the half century struggle for control of china coming across WWII events) never the less i find the argument about the marginal contribution of the USA to the outcome of war in europe very narrow-sighted not to mention the impact of the full envolvement of the US production capacities in the war, the horrors of strategic bombardment, sacrifices of the battle of the atlantic. without the resilient commitment of the USA, stalin would have been the only (Liberator) of europe, the eastern communist bloc would have expanded far to the atlantic shores, the whole post-war western capitalist economic system would never be there & the consequence on the world development could not be imagined actually since the turn of fortunes on the eastern front after the devastating winter of 1942/43, ther been undeclared race to conquer nazi-occupied europe between USA & the soviets BTW, there is no point in comparing the WWII rate of casualities & level of action on the eastern front with the war against al-qaeda ... they are totally different subjects

jpg on :

Regrettably, I arrive after the discution but I wish all the same, because everybody speaks about it here, to give my point of view onto the role of France during the second world war. Each one knows the extent of the military and political disaster which marked the year 1940. This major historical fact is at the origin of significant fractures within the French society, which left still sensitive traces today. Indeed, in hardly more than six weeks, the French Army will break down and know the fullest defeat of its history. The German soldiers then will break on our country, while the rout will launch on the roads of civil thrown into a panic. The French, deafened by the destruction of an army which in 1918, had triumphed over the German Empire and was considered by all the best of the world, believe, for the majority, with a final victory of Germany; they form nothing any more but one wish: that one stops, as quickly as possible, the dramatic spectacle of the fall of their country. Indeed, at the beginning of the conflict, the British utilize only some divisions, their contribution being primarily maritime, the Americans miss, the Soviets signed a non-aggression pact with the Nazi Germany. France is thus alone. As Mr. Pierre Miquel could say, "the Occident counts on the French to hold the Maginot line". Consequently, the destiny of our country is stopped; it will be "the sacrificed sentinel of the Atlantic world". Rejecting the third République, on which they blame the responsibility for the defeat, the majority of the French sees, in the Marshal Pétain, the only personality likely to be able to put an end to the disaster. In addition, because of the traumatizing shock caused by these tragic events, our compatriots, deeply disorientated, will adopt a resigned attitude, consolidated by the collaboration of State preached by the Vichy government, and which one called "the wait-and-see policy". Obviously, many French, simply to survive, must reluctantly accept the compromises which generate any occupation. As says Henri Michel "… great was the number of undecided…". Contrary to a largely spread idea, the combats of 1940 were very fatal. During the few six weeks which these engagements last, one counts 92 000 dead among the French soldiers, that is to say losses largely higher than the average of the monthly losses of the First World War. Indeed, in 1940, 92 000 soldiers died in a little less than one month and half of engagements, while during the First World War the French Army underwent monthly losses almost three times lower (34 000 soldiers on average). One can thus assert that, when the conditions allow them, the soldiers of 1940 fight with courage and determination. However, France is not ready to face a new war. First on a psychological level, as much the shedded blood of 1914-1918 (a million five hundred and thousand dead) deeply marked the spirits. The maintenance of the peace at all costs, becomes an objective then to which many French adhere. Then on the political level. The third République is a weak regime; the governments follow one another without really being able to print their mark to the internal and external events. In addition, France is politically torn. The left-right cleavage corresponds to a true fracture which highlights as well the demonstrations of February 1934 as the arrival in power of the Popular Front in 1936. Moreover, part of the right as well as the left, feel a sharp sympathy to various regimes set up since the end of the First World War in certain countries of Europe. Also, from the economic and demographic point of view. In these fields, the position of France has for a long time weakened. Finally and especially, on the military level. The insufficiencies of the military designs of the French staff are, indeed such, that they ineluctably lead our country to the defeat. In addition to the existence of an often decayed or too rare armament, the strategic choices on which depend the nature and the use of the equipment are unsuited. They privilege a war of position of the type of that of 1914-1918, whereas the Second World War is a mobile warfare based on the massive use of tanks and planes. In spite of the warnings inspired by Charles de Gaulle who recommends the constitution of armoured regiments, the French staff will have only few planes and tanks, all disseminated in various bodies of infantry, to oppose to the German army. Consequently, after the collapse of the front in the Ardennes and submitted to the impossibility of rectifying a situation which has become disastrous, the dislocated elements of the French Army do not have other possibilities than to give up the fight on the metropolitan territory. Thus will leave towards the German camps, the tragic procession of more than one million five hundred and thousand prisoners of war, who, for 940 000 of them, will wait five years before finding freedom. It is necessary to know at first that in this time, the French people were educated in the hatred of the Germans. So, almost totality of the French people during this period was anti German. Besides, the French people, since the 1st world war, had a big respect and a big affection for the Marshal Pétain, the winner of Verdun. From then on, they relied on him, in 1940, to save what could be saved. But everybody knows it, Philippe Pétain betrayed this trust by collaborating with the Germans. Montoire was a major turning point for the French people. From this moment, they began to turn away from the policy of Vichy (unpopularity of Darlan and Laval), even if many of them kept, curiously, their affection to the old marshal. Philippe Pétain's speech, on August 12th, 1941, is going to prove it to you: « My fellow Frenchmen, I have serious things to say to you. I have felt for a few weeks a bad gulf coming from certain areas of France. Concern gains the spirits, doubt seizes the hearts. The authority of my government is discussed. The commands are often badly carried out. A long time will be necessary to overcome the resistance of all these adversaries of the new command, but it is necessary for us, as of now, to break their companies by decimating their chiefs ". So of my statement, I consider necessary to make a distinction between two notions: "Pétainisme or vychisme" and "maréchalisme". The "pétainisme", it is the policy of the government of Vichy (national revolution, collaboration with the Germans). The French people fast went away from it. The "maréchalisme", it is the cult of the marshal, the affection which we have to Pétain. In that case, many French people were faithful for a long time to this faith. This explains, partially, the cheers during the journey of the marshal in 1944 which, contrary to what was said, gathered much fewer French people (200 000 to 300 000 persons) than the triumphal march of the general de Gaulle who gathers more than a million persons. What also explains the success of the journey of Pétain, it is that it took place in Paris occupied, which had not seen French head of state, surrounded with French flags, since 1940. A lot of people cried. Consequently how could it be that at the time of the liberation of the territory, the principles embodied by the General de Gaulle and resistance are shared by a very wide majority of the French? Is this an opportunist attitude which, day after day, would have allowed this spectacular reversal of the opinion? No. In fact, many factors since the origin, caused with time a change of the state of mind of the population. Hunger, misery from which the French suffer, the obligation to work in enemy country (S.T.O.), military setbacks that the "Reich" since 1943 undergoes, question the belief in its invincibility, the organized plundering of the country by the Germans, the exactions, the deportations, the executions, the collapse of a "French State" which not having any more army, marine, territories where its authority would be exerted freely, is inserted unrelentingly in a shameful collaboration, the rebirth of a French government in Algiers (C.F.L.N.), which gathers around it all the colonial empire and the return in the fight of an important French army, remarkably allows it to take again its place among the allies, are as many elements which, throughout these black years, will open the eyes of the French population. However, in this progressive evolution of the public opinion, which will cause, each year more, and especially since 1943, what Robert Aron called a new mobilization against the occupant and the mode of Vichy, the resistance, consolidated by the radio of London, will play a paramount and capital part. By the various actions which it undertakes, by its clandestine press, which touches an increasingly large audience, the resistance will be opposed to the propaganda of Vichy and the Germans, by informing the French on the real nature of the events and by designating the persons in charge for acts of treason. Little by little, the atmosphere will not be any more that of the period of June and July 1940, when after the full powers given to Philippe Pétain by a majority of members of Parliament, the quasi totality of the French trusted the very popular "winner of Verdun". The authoritative mode founded by the Marshal, "the French State", will indeed undergo a disaffection that nothing from now on will be able to stop. However, the "marechalist" myth which aims at making Philippe Pétain, the saver and the guard of the French, will keep for quite some time his person from the rejection, yet final, of his policy and his government.

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