D Day and Europe’s Long Peace

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of D Day. I am always humbled to hear the stories of those men who went ashore that day. They speak of the horror, not of any glory of war, but what that generation was forced to achieve and did so was truly heroic. The first big commemoration I remember was the 40th when I remember the BBC announcer being corrected that all were in their 60s now (some were 58 or 59). Now all are in their late 80s at least. It is also well worth remembering that utterly heroic and monumentally impressive as Overlord and D Day were, Vladamir Putin was not at the commemoration simply to make up the numbers. Operation Bagration, the Russian offensive of summer 1944, was arguably the greatest strategic defeat the Germans suffered in the Second World War. Important as D Day was, the road to Berlin was really more from Moscow via Stalingrad and Kursk.

The D Day commemorations, have, however, revived talk about the way in which Europe has thankfully been saved from a vast war since 1945 (Yugoslavia being a smaller but terrible reminder of the horror of war). Some commentary has focused again on how a major European war has been prevented by the EU. The counter to this has been that actually it is NATO not the EU which has prevented this.

Both these arguments have some merit but do not seem wholly convincing. Rather one might argue the fact that a major European war, at least one in Central and Western Europe has become unthinkable, has facilitated and necessitated the creation of both the EU and NATO.

From at least the Renaissance there have been a number of states which could have attempted or did indeed attempt militarily to rule over much or all of Europe. However, one by one they were serially defeated or declined to the situation we are now in where no one country can begin to consider militarily dominating Europe: they simply do not have the military resources let alone the lack of any inclination to do so.

It is in that context of European countries with very limited military power that the Common Market and later EU were formed. Mutually beneficial trading partnerships and indeed the pooling of military power (along with the USA) in NATO were a consequence not the result of the self evident truth that Germany could not hope to take over France nor vice versa. NATO did not stop another Franco-German conflict; the military weakness of France and Germany did that. The attempts to form an ever closer union or even a United States of Europe are more a consequence of the decline of power in Europe and Europe’s hope to retain prominence in world affairs by pooling its power.

As such those elderly men who once stormed ashore at Normandy and left so many of their friends behind along with their counterparts in the Red Army are, by defeating the last power in Western Europe which was capable of dominating the continent, the ones who created the circumstances for the EU. They, and the circumstances in Europe their heroism produced, and not the faceless bureaucrats of Brussels, nor even the generals of NATO, are the ones who have ensured that there have now been several generations of peace in Western Europe.

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  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    My grandson was there yesterday. His Great Grandfather and two Great Uncles all served, Grandfather dying eventually from complications from his wounds.

  • Barney

    It’s nice to see the soviet contribution recognised something that has been downplayed since 1945 and arguably before that date. The lions share of the fighting and burden of the war was endured by the Soviet Union. The western allies particularly Britain were content to prolong this situation; Churchill was more concerned in protecting the sea corridors to the empire than fighting the Germans. European wealth has always come from empire, morphing from overlord to poodle just changed the cashier.

  • Kevsterino

    My father was aboard a battleship bombarding Omaha beach. Our side really was lucky in a variety of ways that day.

    As far as reasons why Europe uncharacteristically sustained peace in the post WW II era, the presence of hundreds of thousands of yankees might have played a role in that as well.

  • fordprefect

    I, as an Irish Socialist Republican, salute the men that stormed those beaches, they had balls! My own Grandfather fought in both wars for the British Army. Barney, above, makes a good point. The Russians lost more people and soldiers than anyone else in WW2, yet if you watch most documentaries and films, you would think that they were a footnote, and think that the Americans and British were the winners of that war.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    fordprefect,

    That’s interesting. Over here in N.America, well Canada at least, we see lots of programs showing the sacrifices that the Russians made to defeat Nazism.

  • Reader

    Barney: Churchill was more concerned in protecting the sea corridors to the empire than fighting the Germans.
    Those two matters were intimately connected – Britain couldn’t continue to fight without food and oil.
    However, Churchill had access to another option – make a deal with Hitler to give Hitler a free run on the continent. Offered by the Germans, but Churchill never took up that offer.

  • GEF

    The one major barrier for western veterans to join in and commemorate the Russian sacrifice paid in WW2 was the cold war between Russia & the west.

    http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/11/cold-war-start-end/

    Likewise Russia make a huge militaristic commemoration at Red Square every year compared to western allies 50th,60th & 70th commemoration of D Day.
    http://www.great-victory1945.ru

  • GEF

    Notice that during the recent controversy over Crimea & Eastern Ukraine pro Russians all wear the ribbon of St George.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_of_Saint_George

    This is in patriotic memory to the end of WW2 War Victory Medal between Russia & Germany.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Front_(World_War_II)#mediaviewer/File:Za_pobedu_nad_germanie.jpg

  • the rich get richer

    Well done to al those involved and extra well done to the Russians.

  • MYtwocents

    Hitler v Stalin, pretty even on the suffering they inflicted,but add in the countless? victims the rest of the allies (usa/british/france,ect) have caused as they/we marched around the world telling folk, its our way or the high way (death) since the end of WW2 and one has to wonder, (other than its we the victors and not the victims,) what “good” the war did.

    70 years on, and as the folk that fought the war slip away from us, is it now time to have such a debate.

  • tacapall

    Lets not also forget the hidden history like Slapton Sands on 27 April, 1944 or that Churchill conspired with others in actions that ultimately led to America entering the war. The truth hidden in still-closed British intelligence files about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

  • MYtwocents

    “The truth hidden in still-closed British intelligence files ” Hello tacapall, can you get me the same access that you seem to have to these hidden files.

  • tacapall

    Roosevelt, Churchill — The Shocking Truth Revealed (New York: Pocket Books, 1994). – “On the question of Pearl Harbor, it is interesting to note that even as “mainstream” a historian as Warren F. Kimball, editor of the Churchill-Roosevelt correspondence, writes: “Doubts have not yet been laid to rest concerning still-closed British intelligence files about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor”

    Betrayal at Pearl Harbor: How Churchill Lured Roosevelt into World War II (New York: Summit, 1991). – “Kimball complains that, despite written requests from him and other historians, British government files on relations with Japan in late 1941 remain closed.”

  • MYtwocents

    That’s a no then.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks tacapall, for warning us all not to forget to remember that Churchill was not necessarily always the man in the white hat in the movie. And the way that the west, not excepting “decent, honourable, democratic Britain”, has, post war, shown just how much one may learn (and apply) from a defeated enemy staggers belief, as MYtwocents mentions.

  • tacapall

    MYtwocents that’s the thing about history there’s always three versions, your story, their story and the truth which usually emerges years later, a fact people like Dr. Michael Maguire are having to face but if your happy believing what you believe then walt away friend Im not fussed.

    “The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories”

    “‘When Churchill returned to London, he informed the Cabinet of what had been agreed to. Thirty years later, the British documents were released. Here is how the New York Times reported the revelations: Formerly top secret British Government papers made public today said that President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Prime Minister Winston Churchill in August, 1941, that he was looking for an incident to justify opening hostilities against Nazi Germany. . . . On August 19 Churchill reported to the War Cabinet in London on other aspects of the Newfoundland [Atlantic Charter] meeting that were not made public. . . . ‘He [Roosevelt] obviously was determined that they should come in. If he were to put the issue of peace and war to Congress, they would debate it for months,’ the Cabinet minutes added. ‘The President had said he would wage war but not declare it and that he would become more and more provocative. If the Germans did not like it, they could attack American forces. . . . Everything was to be done to force an incident.’ In 1976, the public finally learned the story of William Stephenson, the British agent code named ‘Intrepid,’ sent by Churchill to the United States in 1940. Stephenson set up headquarters in Rockefeller Center, with orders to use any means necessary to help bring the United States into the war. With the full knowledge and cooperation of Roosevelt and the collaboration of federal agencies, Stephenson and his 300 or so agents ‘intercepted mail, tapped wires, cracked safes, kidnapped, . . . rumor mongered”

    Churchill and Roosevelt, Blair and Bush, Cameron and Obama – What has changed in 70 odd years ?

  • RegisterForThisSite

    The Soviets fought for the Soviets, the Allies for the Allies, the reasons for D-Day wasn’t just to defeat Hitler it was also a race to Germany to prevent Soviet expansion, and thoughts were also turning to a coming war with the USSR. Germany was divided between the two sides, and a few other grubby little deals (sorry Poland, sorry 4 million White Russians) and it was pretty much off we go again.

    It was the need to unite Europe against the Soviet threat that has brought several decades of peace and drove the EU forward

    Otherwise today Europe would still be a building site as we argued over who was entitled to funding, there would be Allied parades and marches through German and Italian streets just to annoy the locals, Allied flags on as many lampposts as possible and we would have some arsehole politician in Brussels getting Anne Franks Law passed just to annoy the Germans

  • fordprefect

    Mister_Joe, yes there are quite a few docu’s that mention Russia, but I’ve seen quite a lot that sort of, mention Russia (as a footnote) as if they only came into WW2 towards the end.

  • Reader

    fordprefect: Mister_Joe, yes there are quite a few docu’s that mention Russia, but I’ve seen quite a lot that sort of, mention Russia (as a footnote) as if they only came into WW2 towards the end.
    Well they did miss the first year and a half, and were on the wrong side for part of that.

  • the rich get richer

    Just in the interest of debate.

    How long would it have taken (if ever) the allies minus the Russians to defeat the Germans.

    Surely some independent historians may have done some hypothesising on such a question.

  • Reader

    the rich get richer: How long would it have taken (if ever) the allies minus the Russians to defeat the Germans.
    With or without A bombs?

  • DoppiaVu

    Registerforthisite – very amusing vision of a distopian, ulsterised Europe. Presumably in this vision the Germans want all street signs in France to be in German, Hitler denies any knowledge of what the SS did, and the Nazis are one of the largest political parties in Europe. They’ve not gone away you know

  • the rich get richer

    Reply to Reader.

    The A bomb certainly would have had a major effect.

    Terrible as the A bomb was/is would it have been better if one had been dropped on the Germans circa 1940.

  • Gopher

    Not really sure the Russian contribution has been downplayed since 1945. The British have always produced the greatest and most varied historians since the Roman Empire. No other country has had its role in World War Two dissected like the UK from personalities through tactics and equipment, Churchill being one popular target for many historians or just mention “Bomber offensive” for some lively debate day or night

    The UK’s “Left” in particular has always trumpeted the Eastern front, AJP Taylor for example and from the “Right” we have Alan Clarks “Barbarossa” being his seminal work.

    Then we have the Military theorists like Liddel Hart who always “bigged” up the Russian Front in his works as most of the German Generals who wrote memoirs name checked him.

    The OKH and OKW division of command and the proportion of high ranking German Generals surviving from OKH into post war led to them “starring” in the east that most important of theatres in their memoirs. It was unhelpful for histories sake for Rommel to be euthanized, Jeschonnek and Udet to blow their brains out because the Allies were winning even before the Russian steam roller got rolling.

    Thankfully we had Chester Wilmot and more recently Adam Tooze for those that enjoy more “balance” But if your Eastern front mojo ever tires you can rekindle it with the American David Glantz’s complete works.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Tried to get at least one of David Glantz’s works from my local library. Nothing available even to borrow from any other county library here. Maybe I’ll have to fork out.

  • Gopher

    His work never seems to discount to any great degree which suggests it sells.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Gopher,

    I might be able to persuade my library to buy a copy. Can you suggest a seminal work.

  • Gopher

    Cant really help you there Joe I’m starting at the beginning with his Barbarossa because it was cheap and available on tablet to see if I enjoyed his style before shelling out the more expensive works.

    My critique so far would be this his style is very easy to follow. If you have not read any Russian Front books before you would enjoy it but if you have there is essentially nothing new which surprised me given his reputation but should not have given the scope of the operation and the small size of the book. I think I ll have to take the plunge now with one of his more detailed works to see if that does anything for my Eastern Front mojo

    In comparison

    I have just finished Norman Stones “Eastern Front 1914-1917″ which is only slightly longer but totally captivated me because my knowledge of that front in World War One was scanty so every page was practically a new discovery.

    This book seemed to really challenge you to form an opinion about various aspects I just did not get that with Glantz

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    thanks, Gopher.

  • Harry Flashman

    It’s a fallacy put about by people sympathetic to Communists that somehow the Soviet war effort has been downplayed, it is nonsense, throughout the war and ever since we have been told again and again that the Soviet role was the most important in defeating the Nazis, no one has ever denied this and I have never seen the Soviet role downplayed in any history book or TV program I have seen about WWII.

    What is of course downplayed is the fact that the Soviet Union was an ally and willing partner of Hitler right up until Hitler invaded, that the Soviet murder machine put the Nazis in the ha’penny league and that the utter incompetence of the Soviet government and Communist Party led to the disastrous initial defeats inflicted on the Soviets and thereby extended the war by at least two years.

    Furthermore the boots on the Red Army’s feet and the trucks that got them to the front along with millions of tons of food and oil and other commodities that kept the Soviets fighting were provided by the west and were received with little or no acknowledgement either then or today.

  • Taoiseach

    Soviet role downplayed for a number of reasons:
    1. morally ambivilent role – they sided with the Nazis and facilitated the invasion of Poland, while trying to grab Finland and Baltic States;
    2. Post war occupation of Eastern Europe;
    3. Militarily just not as exciting a tale as D-day landings – more of a hard slog.

  • Delphin

    Following on from that Harry, the Arctic convoys and the allied navies especially the Royal Navy played an absolutely vital role in defeating Nazi Germany.
    Ultimately neither the Japanese or German war machines could compete with the industrial might of the USA. So it’s good old free market capitalism that saved us from tyranny after all.

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    That’s an interesting post Turgon, but to take the language from a textbook on international relations, you seem to be suggesting that the liberal project of the EU comes about because of the realist factors of a lack of military dominance and I have to disagree with you. Perhaps a better explanation might be one that moves away from the the realist-liberal debate in IR and engages with newer theoretical understandings.

    So war in Europe is impossible not because of a lack of military might or because of economic interdependence but rather because the linguistic discourse of interstate relations has changed so radically. Alexander Wendt (I think) said of the end of the cold war that it finished not because of any showdown or success of the west but rather because the USSR and the US decided that they weren’t enemies anymore. This perspective from social constructivism is something that is sorely needed in how we think about interstate relations and the impossibility of war in western Europe.

    War is therefore impossible not because of the economy or lack of military might but rather that the identity formation process of European states has changed so dramatically after the horrors of world war two to a point where we construct each other as allies rather than as enemies.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    Turgon,

    The long period of peace in Europe from 1945 to 1992, which rivaled the earlier periods from 1815 to 1854 and 1871 to 1914, was due mainly to the existence of nuclear weapons and the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence in Europe, which did not operate in the Third World during the Cold War. That same explicit nuclear deterrence is now operating in South Asia to keep peace between India and Pakistan. Since both South Asian powers acquired nuclear weapons in the 1980s they have fought only one very small and very limited war in Kashmir, in contrast to the three they fought from 1947 to 1971.

    Tacapail,
    Churchill was trying to suck Roosevelt and the U.S. into the war through the Battle of the Atlantic and having some limited success in late 1941. But ultimately the U.S. entered the war because of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war on the U.S. Churchill had no control over either of these–he had no influence over Tojo and the other Japanese militarists or over Hitler.

  • Barney

    Harry wrote
    “What is of course downplayed is the fact that the Soviet Union was an ally and willing partner of Hitler right up until Hitler invaded”

    The Soviet Union was an ally of Germany in the same way that Britain and France were allies.

    The material sent to the Soviet Union would not have equipped or fed a single soviet Army, most went straight to storage.

    When the Palestinians are supplied with nuclear weapons to match Israeli’s peace will be assured……

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Gopher,

    Tried to borrow a copy of the Eastern Front via my library. There is one copy in Ontario, in a University. They want $10 to loan it. Do you think it’s worth it? That’s about 6 pounds.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Mr Joe

    Anthony Beevor’s ‘D-Day’ might be worth a look too.

  • Harry Flashman

    “The material sent to the Soviet Union would not have equipped or fed a single soviet Army, most went straight to storage.”

    You need to put down the Commie (Putin?) propaganda and do some real historical research.

    The US alone supplied 16,300,000 tons of supplies to the Russians. The Brits also sent a fair package at a time when their own people were on starvation rations.

    I very much doubt, knowing how desperate the Russians were for any sort of materiel (this is the army that famously and murderously sent infantrymen to charge the enemy lines without a rifle on the understanding that they could pick one up off a dead comrade) that any of this went into “storage” (unless storage means warehouses belonging to Communist Party apparatchiks for sale on the black market).

    The Russians received 12,000 tanks from Uncle Sam. Likewise, the Soviet air force received 18,700 aircraft.

    The US also sent 2,000 railway locomotives and 11,000 railcars (during that time the mighty Soviet heavy engineering plants produced a paltry 92 locomotives), 400,000 superb Studebaker and Dodge trucks were also sent, invaluable for moving armies across the wide spaces of the Steppes at a time when the German army was dependent on horse transport.

    Millions of tons of aluminium, copper cable, oil, rubber, and foodstuffs were also shipped to the Soviets.

    Among the other supplies were 15,000,000 leather boots (that could shoe somewhat more than one Soviet army, right?), Russian soldiers wouldn’t have put up much of a fight in snow with frostbitten feet wrapped in rags.

    Without the western supplies the Russians would probably still be slogging it out with the Germans in some god forsaken part of the Ukraine in a vast muddy stalemate to this very day.

    So who’s doing the minimizing and downplaying of the respective allied efforts now?

  • Barney

    Harry

    Its is somewhat ironic that your advice to “do some real historical research” is peppered with propaganda.

    The 34 million soviet troops would not have been fed let alone equiped by even if the most generous estimates offered were accepted.

    The cold hard fact is that most material sent to the soviet union was useless and placed in storage.

  • Barney

    no edit function……..

  • Billy Pilgrim

    It’s not so much that the Soviet role in defeating Germany is underplayed; it’s more that the western role is exaggerated.

    The Allied invasion was postponed and postponed again. It didn’t take place till Germany was already in retreat and tens of millions of Russians lay dead.

    Normandy was no joke but in comparison to Stalingrad, it was a sideshow. The US and UK faced ten Wehrmacht divisions on the western front. The Soviets took on 200 (that’s TWO HUNDRED) Wehrmacht divisions in the east. And crushed them. At a cost of about 27 million lives. Compared with about 400,000 American deaths, and a similar number for the British.

    So saying: ‘We sent the Russians boots,’ isn’t all that impressive.

    The Soviets were the ones who ‘tore the guts out of the German war machine.’

    That’s not me saying that. That was Churchill.

    The western allies remind me of Cristiano Ronaldo in the recent Champions League final, scoring the fourth goal in a 4-1 win and celebrating by strutting around as though he had won the game single-handedly.

    But when Athletico were leading and defeat looked certain for Real, Ronaldo was nowhere to be seen. It was the less-heralded figure of Sergio Ramos who saved the day for Real. But of course it was the preening Ronaldo whose picture appeared in all the papers.

  • Reader

    Billy Pilgrim: The US and UK faced ten Wehrmacht divisions on the western front
    I assume you mean on D-Day itself – there were several times that number in France and Benelux, which were fought over the next couple of months.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Overlord
    And the western allies were fighting another 30 divisions in Italy at the same time.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_Line_order_of_battle
    Do you have any justification for your outrageous piece of spin?

  • Delphin

    Russian propaganda below, but what would they know. Some people are so blinded by hatred for the UK that they cannot give credit where credit is due – unlike the Russians.
    “Russian and British veterans of the Arctic Convoys of World War II will converge on HMS Belfast on May 9 to mark the 69th anniversary of the victory in World War II and commemorate their vital missions in 1941-45, said Yevgeny Kasevin, the founder and organizer of the London celebrations, Interfax reports.
    “The Arctic Convoys added a glorious chapter to the history of World War II – an ordeal filled with selfless courage and, unfortunately, still wrapped in a veil of oblivion. We want to draw the attention of the public to the Arctic Convoys’ important historical role in the outcome of that war, and we want the present and future generations to know and to remember the Soviet and British sailors’ joint fight against fascism,” Kasevin stated.”
    Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_04_27/Russian-British-veterans-to-converge-in-London-to-mark-WWII-Arctic-Convoys-anniversary-8117/

  • Kevsterino

    To paraphrase ole Tennessee Ernie Ford, “You load sixteen (million) tons, and what do you get?”

    Well, it does drive up war debt, for one thing. To this day, only 1 country has fully repaid Uncle Sam for materials furnished during World War II.

    Finland, believe it or not.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Reader

    I meant D Day itself, yes. But I was also thinking about the Italian theatre you mention. The really decisive fighting of the war took place between 1941-44, and it took place between Germany and the USSR. While the Soviets were facing 200 divisions in the east, there were rarely more than ten divisions in the Mediterranean theatre. The British strategy centred on securing its imperial possessions in Asia and access routes to them. Its war with Germany was purely an air war.

    But it’s true that, after D Day, Germany mobilised more units, perhaps as many as fifty, to resist the Allies in the west. (Though, unlike the divisions in the east in the earlier part of the war, these divisions comprised a large number of conscripts and underage or overage volunteers.)

    I think the sheer scale of the disparity in terms of the contribution made by the various allies to the defeat of Nazi Germany is often underappreciated in the west. But then the sheer scale of the sacrifice made by the Soviets is hard to fathom. Imagine literally half the population of Britain being wiped out. Or the population of Ireland, four-and-a-half times over. Or, as Kennedy later observed: imagine if in the United States, everything east of Chicago was razed to the ground.

    Given all this, it’s fair to note that while WWII was certainly a life-altering event for the western allies, in comparison with their Soviet allies, their contribution / sacrifice was minor, and very late in the day.

    Of course I understand that this observation will be shocking and offensive to many in Britain (and the USA) for whom WWII is not so much an historical event as a founding myth and an ideological touchstone.

  • Gopher

    @Mr Joe, I really enjoyed it.and it certainly gives you plenty to think about though unfortunately it cuts off very abruptly at the Revolution which is a shame as I would have enjoyed his take on Brest-Litovsk. But I would certainly recommend.

    As for cost, what I would suggest is joining Amazons Audible you can stick the audio books on five devices and if you have blue tooth in the car it brings it into its own. You get a free book and you have it forever and Eastern Front is on there. The only downside of Audible for me is it has not got any Patrick O’Brien books.

    I still buy physical copy books that arnt on Audible mainly because I mostly read History and they arnt always available but I recommend it without reservation as the price per book is so cheap and you can take them on your phone or Tablet anywhere especially on long haul flights with blue tooth head phones

  • Reader

    Billy Pilgrim: But it’s true that, after D Day, Germany mobilised more units, perhaps as many as fifty, to resist the Allies in the west. (Though, unlike the divisions in the east in the earlier part of the war, these divisions comprised a large number of conscripts and underage or overage volunteers.)
    There were 50 Axis divisions in Western Europe *before* D-Day. Most of them fought in Normandy eventually. And while some of them were scraped up divisions, most of them were not:
    http://www.dday-overlord.com/eng/divisions.htm
    You can take the 700 series of “static” divisions as the sort you mean. That’s just four out of the 39 divisions that fought in Normandy – before the breakout.

  • Valenciano

    “Without the western supplies the Russians would probably still be slogging it out with the Germans in some god forsaken part of the Ukraine in a vast muddy stalemate to this very day.”

    The irony is that if the Soviets hadn’t provided the Nazis with vast quantities of raw materials, especially oil, the Nazi invasion of the USSR probably wouldn’t have taken place at all. The Nazis only had enough oil for a few months and probably wouldn’t have risked it. As it was, virtually every drop of oil in the tanks which swept across the Soviet border in 1941 had been originally been provided by Stalin.

    The war in the west would have been a lot less successful too due to the British blockade preventing a lot of crucial war materials getting to Germany. The Soviet trade deal helped Hitler circumvent that.

    Why this happened is still a bit hard to fathom. It’s kinda like living two doors down from a maniac who has already written a book openly detailing how he plans to burn your house down and murder you and all your family so his offspring can live on your land instead. You know it’s not just idle talk since he’s already done it to at least one of your neighbours. In that situation, pretending to be his mate and gifting him the petrol he lacks, at knock down prices, doesn’t seem the most sensible of moves.

    Among the theories I’ve heard for that is that Stalin realised the USSR’s relative weakness, but hoped to buy time by focusing Hitler’s efforts westwards into a protracted war with France and the UK. In 1940, few people would have predicted that the Germans would knock out Poland, Norway and France and emasculate Britain all within a matter of months. As it was, however, that did happen and Stalin’s tactical gamble failed disastrously and over 20 million Soviet citizens would pay for that with their lives.

  • Barney

    Val that is an interesting ahistorical view of things.

  • Valenciano

    Barney, without the Soviet economic aid, where do you think the Nazis would have got the oil from to wage war on both the Western powers *and* the Soviet Union simultaneously?

    This link from the time

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1338&dat=19410804&id=3tZXAAAAIBAJ&sjid=T_UDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7193,470898

    gives a good overview of Germany’s oil problems, which Stalin helpfully plugged under their economic aid treaties.

  • Gopher

    On June 6th there were 59 German divisions in France, 11 in Norway, 6 in Northern Germany and Denmark, 25 in Italy and 25 in Yugoslavia and Greece. That is 126 Divisions tied down directly or indirectly by the Western Allies. On the Russian Front including Finland there were 167 German Divisions.

    Of those 167 divisions some had only been “lent” to the Eastern Front like for instance the elite II SS PZ Korps which were returned to West when the invasion occurred and were not present to counter Bagration which was launched on June 22nd.

  • Harry Flashman

    The funny thing is that somehow the propagandists have managed to give the impression that the Soviets were doing all that fighting as some sort of favour to the west and the ungrateful western allies didn’t do enough fighting to help them.

    Let us just remind ourselves of why the Soviets had to endure such a dreadful war, they did so because of the criminal stupidity of their nation’s leadership, ie the Soviet Communist Party and the genocidal maniac who led that party.

    When one examines the history of World War Two one would almost believe that the Communist Party and Stalin were actually Nazi agents so bloody inept was their handling of the war and the lead-up to it.

    First off Stalin slaughters tens of thousands of his finest officers and puts loyal Communist buffoons in their place.

    Then he agrees a non-intervention pact to allow Hitler to invade Poland and move his armies a couple of hundred miles nearer the Soviet Union.

    Then Stalin decides to invade Finland and watches as that tiny nation heroically knocks seven shades of shite out his much-vaunted Red Army thus demonstrating to the world how useless they were.

    Then he ignores every single warning being shouted to him from the world and her aunty that the Germans were massing to attack him and leaves his armies and air force sitting ducks for the Nazis all the while as trains roll westward to a grateful Hitler full to the brim with oil and grain.

    For the next 18 months he presides over the worst ever defence of a nation in the history of warfare as he loses his industrial heartland and the bread basket of the Ukraine (whose population cheered the invading Germans so sick were they of Soviet Communist rule) and the only way he is able to keep an army in the field is by the generosity of the very western democracies he always loathed.

    And we’re supposed to feel humble and grateful to the Soviets for simply clearing up the God-awful shambles they themselves created?

  • DCAP

    92% of all German military casualties in WW2 were lost on the Eastern front

  • Doug

    Harry

    ” And we’re supposed to feel humble and grateful to the Soviets for simply clearing up the God-awful shambles they themselves created? ”

    Well, yeah. I think so. It might have been due, as you say, to

    ” the criminal stupidity of their nation’s leadership “.

    But that doesn’t mean that the deaths of so many ordinary people should be dismissed either.
    The people fighting on the front line sent

    ” to charge the enemy lines without a rifle on the understanding that they could pick one up off a dead comrade) ”

    weren’t respnsible for it. Their deaths are no less a sacrifice than any at Normandy, so I’d say Yes. If you choose to remember the D Day veterans as heroes, if you choose to honour them and feel any sort of gratitude to them, then the Soviets are entitled to the same reverence.

  • Gopher

    I’ll take your word for it. When you cant deploy 40% of your army and most of your air force against continental Europe’s largest army and dont have the logistics or production to supply them because of the naval Blockade your going to suffer lots of casualties. This is especially true when the Western Allies drive your strategy first into launching Barbarossa because you cannot defeat your principle enemy Britain, then into seeking decision in 1942 with limited resources and then once again in 1943 before the Allies can get a foothold in Europe.

    Yup when your forced into bad strategic choices your going to suffer casualties and lots of them.

  • Reader

    DCAL: 92% of all German military casualties in WW2 were lost on the Eastern front
    Counting a third of a million dead POWs probably helps; though the detailed analysis still doesn’t seem to back you up:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_casualties_in_World_War_II

  • Harry Flashman

    One mob of totalitarian genocidal mass-murdering barbarians calling themselves national socialists slaughters another mob of totalitarian genocidal mass-murdering barbarians calling themselves international socialists.

    The prize at stake in this bloodfest is the winner’s right to impose his savage tyranny over the peoples of central and eastern Europe.

    The Mongols fighting the Huns.

    As Kissinger said about another war involving similar knuckle-dragging ideologies, it’s a pity they both couldn’t lose.

  • DCAP

    Reader: By 1945 Germany had 375 Divisions available for combat, US had 94,GB 31 and USSR 491.
    WW2 was lost for Germany at Kursk in 1943. After months of planning the greatest concentration of German manpower and armaments ever put together was unleashed on July4th. By 22nd of July the Germans had lost 500,000 men dead or wounded and were never again able to set the agenda in the theatre. The Russians had the manpower and industrial capacity to recover and go on the offensive.
    D Day was a welcome adddition of another front but its only strategic value was preventing total dominition of a defeated Germany by the USSR – defeat was certain for Germany by that point.

  • Gopher

    Hitler refused to disband division so those 375 divisions you quote were skeletons Sepp Dietrich quipped about his unit the 6th Panzer Army that it was aptly named for it was made up of 6 tanks.

    It was rare for German formations to be at establishment strength after Barbarossa and from Barbarossa the Germans continually cut the establishment of Divisions culminating in the Volksgrenedier Divisions that she ended the war with which were even on paper a fraction of Allied infantry divisions strength.

    Germany lost the war when she invaded Poland

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    1/ As fascinating as the disparate statistics above are, I imagine they matter not a jot to any poor bugger who had to face a machine gun/bombing raid/ambush etc.

    Bullets have a wonderful way of drowning out idealogies and languages

    2/ With regards to the western perspective of the war, well, most of our imagery comes from David Nivan/Anthony Quayle films, the films handed out every so often by the Daily Mail and the History Channel not to mention that even before the war ended we started to view the USSR as the next big threat so I think it’s entirely understandable that we aren’t bombarded with images of Churchill saying: “The Soviets: a great bunch of lads…”

    And I’ve only ever watched a couple of soviet era war films and quite frankly, such grimness doesn’t mix well with our stiff upper lip brand of Richard Attenborough films, so no wonder the soviets receive little praise from us, they can’t fight a war with tea, brandy or cigars.

    Had there been a soviet film along the lines of ‘Lauvrent of Arabia’ then things might have been different…

  • DCAP

    Gopher: Well aware how poor the German devisions were in 1945. My point was the relative strength of the forces arranged against them and who bled them dry.
    Unlikely that Germany could have won the war after turning east but it is arguable that if Hitler had not made the fatal mistake of turning away from the oil fields at Baku the eastern conflict would have taken a different course.
    The war in the west was effectively won by Germany before Barborassa and if Hitler had the oil supplies he could have forced the Soviets beyond the Urals and perhaps to a truce.
    D Day, Battle of Britain etc may make the best film topics but it didn’t defeat the Germans- 23 million dead Russians did.

  • Valenciano

    The biggest surprise in the whole thing was how close Germany came to winning, despite the interests ranged against them. If you’d suggested in late 1938 that within a couple of years, Germany would have disposed of the well trained armies of the Czechs (through politics and the threat of force) and those of Poland, Norway and France, as well as isolating Britain and getting to Moscow’s equivalent of Poleglass, people would’ve asked you what asylum you’d escaped from.

    Even so, they could have won it. Until mid 1940, Hitler pursued a successful strategy of picking off weaker opponents one by one. The smart strategy mid 1940 would have been to leave the Soviets be for the time being and focus all efforts on taking Egypt and the Suez Canal. They already outnumbered the British there and even a fraction of the troops committed to Barbarosa would made victory there a certainty. That would have cut the British off from the Mediterranean entirely and Germany would have been able to push on into the oil fields of the Middle East, ensuring them the one resource they lacked as well as putting them within striking distance of southern Russia. The troops freed up in Africa could have been used against Russia and would also have allowed them to take French North and West Africa, either politically or by force, giving them control of the Southern Atlantic. In a scenario like that, it’s almost impossible to see them losing.

  • Gopher

    A Soviet division had a smaller establishment than even a German division, A Soviet Corps was roughly the size of a western division.

    Interestingly in 1940 Molotov did not think the war in the west was won when informed that was the case by Ribbentrop during discussions about a future carve up of the British Empire

    “If England is infact defeated and powerless, why have we been conducting this discussion in your air raid shelter” he retorted

    The Luftwaffe launched Barbarossa with 200 bombers less than it had in 1940 thanks to the Battle of Britain which equates to about 1/5 of its Bomber strength.

    The gravity in warfare is called logistics, lack of logistics ensured Germany’s defeat. Those counter factual’s always amuse me, Germany could not even supply the troops adequately on their actual fronts never mind sending them on journeys of hundreds of miles outside Europe and the industrialized world.

    Before the start of WWII Germany spent an unsustainable portion of her gross national product on armaments, that and persistent folly got her to the outskirts of Moscow. Nobody would have believed it because it was insanity.

    When the peacetime Allied economies geared up for war the end was inevitable but irrationally drawn out by fanaticism and the moral cowardice of senior German officers

    As for the one bottleneck, it is nonsense, Germany had bottlenecks everywhere from steel to food.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “Unlikely that Germany could have won the war after turning east but it is arguable that if Hitler had not made the fatal mistake of turning away from the oil fields at Baku the eastern conflict would have taken a different course.”

    @DCAP,

    Hitler made many fatal mistakes, which is to be expected from someone who was a high school dropout and whose main professional preparation consisted of practicing for hours in front of a mirror the gestures that would accompany his ravings. Hitler was no Lincoln in terms of reading and self-education after dropping out of school. And unlike Lincoln who educated himself on strategy by reading books taken from the Library of Congress, Hitler contented himself with touring armaments factories and then berating his generals with his fixed opinions gained from having been a courier in the Great War.