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Who Won The War?

Discussion in 'War44 General Forums' started by Jim, May 13, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Interesting article by the historian Norman Davies in an old Sunday Times aticle i found while surfing... :thumb:

    How we didn't win the war . . . but the Russians did
    Britain and America still insist they defeated the Nazis, in the face of overwhelming evidence that they were minor partners, says Norman Davies


    “History will be kind to me,” predicted Winston Churchill, “because I intend to write it.” And so it proved. Churchill’s The Second World War, which began to appear in 1948, largely set the agenda for all subsequent presentations of the war years, especially in western countries: Britain stands in the centre of the conflict and her survival paves the way for victory.

    As Churchill has it, Britain’s enemies, the axis powers, provide the sole authors of aggression, of criminal conduct and of undefined “evil”. The tide turns at El Alamein. Britain’s principal allies, the US and the USSR, which Churchill brought together in the grand coalition, provide the twin sources of military muscle that hunt down the fascist beast.

    In Europe the allies of east and west co-operate, overcome their differences and triumph. The spectacular landings of the western armies in Normandy match the huge “Russian” successes on the eastern front. The Reich is crushed. Freedom and democracy prevail and “Europe is liberated”.

    Unfortunately, the truth is more complex. The Russians, for example, are clear that the Red Army played the dominant role in the defeat of the Reich, demoting the Anglo-American war effort to secondary or tertiary importance. What is more, like the Americans, they insist that the “real war” began in 1941, relegating the events of 1939-41 to a mere prelude. For their part the Americans are most conscious of the competing demands of the two theatres of action in Europe and in the Pacific. They also emphasise the importance of the US as “the arsenal of democracy”.

    Any attempt to revise established views provokes resistance, although I must admit to being surprised at the vehement opposition I encountered when challenging the Churchillian version. Other historians, such as Richard Overy, Robert Conquest and Anne Applebaum, have been peeling away the layers of myth for the past four decades, but still many people are unwilling to judge events on their own merit for fear of being accused of supporting “the forces of evil”.

    Others recoil with incredulity from the notion that our patriotic opinions about 1939-45 may constitute something less than the whole truth. Both the British and the American public have long been told that “we won the war” and D-Day, in particular, has been built up as the decisive moment. The American D-Day Museum has been adopted as the national tribute to the war and Steven Spielberg, the director of Saving Private Ryan and co-producer of Flags of Our Fathers, which is just about to open, seems to have made it a mission to perpetuate Churchill’s myth.

    After talking at Cambridge recently about the preponderance of the eastern front and the scale of the Red Army’s triumph, I was accosted by an angry young British historian. “Don’t you realise that we were pinning down 56 German divisions in France alone,” he said. “Without that the Red Army would have been heavily defeated.” What is less acknowledged is that without the Red Army pulverising 150 divisions, the allies would never have landed.

    The attack on the Third Reich was a joint effort. But it was not a joint effort of two equal parts. The lion’s share of victory in Europe can be awarded only to Stalin’s forces and it is a fantasy to believe that he was fighting for justice and democracy.

    Separating the facts from the myths and the propaganda is not easy. One of the trickiest problems in establishing a credible narrative of the war arises from the misconception that the largest combatant state, the USSR, stayed neutral before the German attack of June 1941. Soviet accounts have always preferred to focus on the so-called Great Fatherland War, and carefully avoids close examination of Stalin’s political and military machinations in the preceding years.

    Western commentators have usually followed this line, reluctant to publicise their embarrassment at Hitler’s initial partner becoming the ally of the democratic West.

    In reality, in the first 22 months of fighting when the Wehrmacht attacked and occupied eight countries, the Red Army attacked and occupied five. These manifest aggressions make nonsense of any claims of neutrality or of defensive responses to the provocations of others. In November 1939, for example, Stalin’s unprovoked invasion of Finland resulted in a war that lasted for twice as long as any of Hitler’s early campaigns.

    Similarly, the Soviet annexation of the Baltic States in 1940 was no mere “strengthening of the defences” or “readjustment of frontiers”. It was a brutal act of depredation that destroyed three sovereign European states, together with a quarter of their population. All these events were facilitated by the Nazi-Soviet pact, which gave Stalin the same licence for banditry in the Soviet sphere that Hitler was exploiting in the German.

    Proportions, however, are crucial. Since 75%-80% of all German losses were inflicted on the eastern front it follows that the efforts of the western allies accounted for only 20%-25%. Furthermore, since the British Army deployed no more than 28 divisions as compared with the American army’s 99, the British contribution to victory must have been in the region of 5%-6%. Britons who imagine that “we won the war” need to think again.

    The modest size of the American contingent also calls for reflection. The population of the US was more than twice that of Germany and not far short of the Soviet Union’s. The military potential of the US, as estimated in 1939 in terms of gross national product and industrial production, represented more than 40% of the world’s total. Yet these advantages were never translated into proportionate superiority on the battlefield. The 100 divisions that General George C Marshall and his staff set as their target for mobilisation were overshadowed 2.5:1 by German divisions and 3-4:1 by the Red Army’s divisions.

    Of course, crude numbers do not explain everything. The western powers were strong in some departments, notably in naval and air forces, and less strong in others. American industrial output was one of the marvels of the war; and all members of the allied coalition, including the Soviet Union, benefited greatly from it.

    Nonetheless, the Third Reich was not brought to its knees by bombers and blockades. Both the German military and the German civilian population proved remarkably resilient. Hitler’s continental fortress had to be reduced inch by inch by soldiers on the ground. And here the Red Army excelled.
    So much may be reluctantly conceded by western analysts who can do their sums. Harder to accept is that Soviet military prowess went hand in hand with criminality. The Third Reich was largely defeated not by the forces of liberal democracy, but by the forces of another mass-murdering tyranny. The liberators of Auschwitz were servants of a regime that ran a much larger network of concentration camps of its own.

    When Churchill was writing in the late 1940s, he knew perfectly well that Stalin was no angel. Yet the sheer scale and variety of Stalinist crimes was not known. The statistic of 27m Soviet “war losses”, which appeared in the 1960s, concealed the fact that many of them were not Russians and many were victims not of Hitler but of Stalin. It has taken the collapse of the Soviet Union and more than 60 years for this body of certainty to accumulate.

    One can argue about the similarities and differences of the Holocaust and the Gulag and it is obviously a mistake to equate the two. On the other hand, it is also a mistake to pretend that Stalinist crimes can somehow be absolved because Stalin was a doughty champion of the anti-Nazi cause.

    All of which makes the Churchillian model open to revision. Britain can no longer stand centre stage. The axis powers are joined on the criminal list by the Soviet Union, which also turns out to have been the principal victor. The western allies are not all-conquering heroes but did well to finish in the winners’ enclosure.

    The Americans arrived too late and in too few numbers to play the dominant role. The forces of democracy played their part in the defeat of fascism, but were left controlling less than half the continent. In the greater part of Europe one totalitarian tyranny was replaced by another. More often than not, the rhetoric of “freedom” and “liberation” was misplaced.


    Source: www.timesonline.co.uk
     
  2. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Excellent article JIm. I have quoted from it before and linked to it in the "What If?" thread. :thumb: It looks like The Sunday Times won't allow links directly to it, as neither your link nor mine work properly.

    He's got a great angle, enough for a book !
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Sorry Dave for using the link, but this caught my eye on a few accounts which i thought would be good for anyone to debate.
    One of my accounts is the fact that the Germans lost the War thru faults of their own which was ceased on by by the Allies, who in my own eyes did a suberb job whether British, American, Russian or the rest of the World.. :thumb:
     
  4. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    No apology necessary Jim, I just thought you hadn't been paying attention :ponder:

    I agree with what you're saying and think it is all fascinating. The problem is - like we saw in the "What If?" thread - that it's impossible to answer without asking "what if?" type questions. It does your head in ! Questions like "What if Hitler hadn't invaded The Soviet Union ?" , and "What if the B.E.F hadn't been allowed to escape from Dunkirk?" mean that it's all conjecture.

    Davies spends a lot of time in the article stressing that Stalin's forcres weren't all sweetness and light just because they were fighting Nazi Germany. That's not such a massive revelation. The Cold War was one big symptom of that, and we all know now that there has hardly been a worse mass-murderer in history than Stalin. So it was not a good vs evil, black and white thing, no surprises there either.

    Here's his summing up :

    I agree with all this, but it doesn't look as startling now as it did when I first read it. Like you, I prefer to think of the amazing efforts and the price paid in blood and tears by all of the Allies. And we'll never know how The USSR would have fared without all the efforts being put in elsewhere. I always find the "real war started in 1941" stuff quite annoying. Of course the Americans and the Russians will prefer to see it like that, but it belittles the efforts of the Brits. They can revise Churchill all they like, and they're doing a fascinating job. The fact will always be though that Great Britain "stood alone", and that on its own justifies a place right up there on the winning podium with America and Russia I would say.
     
  5. Junkie88

    Junkie88 New Member

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    I think you're all missing the point here.

    The main reason for the Americans and English to come to our aid was to keep europe in their power. A communist federation that reached from the pacific to the atlantic ocean was just too much. (If that was the case, Russia would've been in control over Asia, Africa (the many colonies, remember?) and Europe).
    The german army was never strong (i mean: not big) enough to maintain order in such a great area. The german empire would've fallen anyway.
    The Allied invasion was just a rush to the east, to secure as much land as possible from the communist threat, (conference of Jalta and all that).
    It wasnt because of the ideal of freedom, or to aid the jews (even Churchill made some rather cruel comments on them :fag:). World dominance was at stake. the USA laid the fundament for their present power on those five beaches in France.

    you can say that the allied won WWII in 1990, when the soviet union collapsed. .
     
  6. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    I would like to see this addressed to Mr. Davies ! ; )
     
  7. Kelly War44

    Kelly War44 New Member

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    Just a thought to add, Dave, but wasn't the Battle Of Britain a Huge turning point, causing Hitler to radically revise his 'Battle Plans', ie. the beginning of the end:yeah: for The Third Reich...??
     
  8. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Good question Kelly, 'wish I knew!:happy:

    I can't believe Hitler thought that Russia would be a softer touch than Britain though. On Sealion, maybe he just thought: "they'll keep" - big mistake ! Enter Frankie Roosevelt and from then on however strong the Atlantic Wall was it would never be strong enough...

    Something I've noticed about historians is that they're a fickle bunch, always changing the past and what it means. :happy:
    Remember that not so long ago three historians were arguing that the RAF played only a bit-part in the Battle of Britain, that it all hinged on the Royal Navy! They probably sold a good few books and did well on the lecture circuit though, and this kind of stuff keeps the mind open...
     
  9. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    Hitler always knew that Britain was going no where he thought that the time was good to go into Russia as they were virtually unarmed, and that the blitzkrieg would prevail along the plains of Russia. Very good point Dave :thumb:
     
  10. Junkie88

    Junkie88 New Member

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    Hitler never really wanted to attack britain. His advisors knew it was going to be very hard. But the aggresive actions of churchill forced hitler to fight england. Kelly overestimates the importance of the battle of britain, the axis never went to full-power.

    Hitler hated the russian bolsjeviks more than the english. He hated them just like the jews. Read mein kampf. that's why he pushed his troops to the limit in siberia. He really believed that the axis race was ubersuperior. The russian army was never strong enough to hold the germans back in good weather conditions. Its hitlers own fault he lost there.

    (something i read about the war today:)
    the kill ratio between germans and russians was 10/1. For every dead german, they needed ten dead russians. Many killed russians were never enlisted (some of them only carried knives), and if you arent enlisted, they cant declare you as a dead soldier.
    If you got a penny for every man that's dead due to stalins stupidities, you would be a rich man.
     
  11. Kelly War44

    Kelly War44 New Member

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    :eek:i:How can I overestimate the importance, or, for that matter, the relevance of the Battle Of Britain?:wtf: If WE hadn't fought back and won, Hitler would've taken England and the World would probably be a very different place to be in today!! :oops:
     
  12. Junkie88

    Junkie88 New Member

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    Ok let my rephrase it without hurting any of your (famous) patriotic feelings.

    It's thanks to Russia and the USA that Europe is free of nationalsocialism. But if they didnt help, England would've been the only country in europa with a democracy. The battle of britain is important for ppl in britain. But it wasnt an important battle for the rest of europe. Hitler didnt lose many important and vital troops in that battle. He did against the russians, that's why the Battle of Stalingrad is the turningpoint, not the britain-battle.

    Do you think that britains military position now is stronger than in WWII? if so, who's got a better army?
     
  13. Junkie88

    Junkie88 New Member

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    I was wrong, the battle of brittain showed the continent that the Axis werent invincible. The English victory ignited the resistance and was one of the first turning points in the war.
     
  14. krrish

    krrish New Member

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    My own opinion is none of them were won or lost.Second world war was a lost to all human beings.Every nations wanted to take the credit of defeating the Hitler's Army.But I never support any of these nations,as they were responsible for the war.
     
  15. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    You could put it like this -

    The Allies won the war but it meant different things to different nations.

    The US ended WW2 as the richest nation on the planet. More Steel than it could use. More clothes than it could wear. More food than it could eat. The only country with the Atom Bomb. A Super Power.

    The British won a moral victory but little else. The UK was virtually bankrupt at the end of WW2. Unrest in a lot of the colonies, particularly in the Far East (India, Malaya, Burma) and Africa saw the end of the British Empire with many nations gaining independance post war as Britain was simply too weak to hold them anyway.

    The Russians were much in the same boat and had to re-build much of their infrastructure after it was destroyed by the retreating Germans. The Russians did however gain a foot hold in Eastern Europe which lasted until the late 80's during the Cold War. They also became a Super Power after acquiring through their spies, knowledge of the Atomic Bomb program in America to produce their own weapon in 1949.

    The Germans despite actually losing the war found themselves winners. The Marshall Plan helped to re-build Europe post war and a modern democratic nation emerged from the ashes of the 3rd Reich.

    The Japanese also became winners. The US was determined that Japan would be under it's sphere post war. Only US Troops were allowed in as an occupying force. Under General Douglas McArthur, Japan would emerge slowly as a highly industrialised, modern democracy with an extremely strategic and valuable position in World affairs in the Pacific Region.
     
  16. liowkc

    liowkc New Member

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    I think the major beneficiary of WWII is America. Without the victory in WWII, America would not be a superpower. Without Hitler chasing away all the Jewish scientists, there will be no scientific community as we know today.

    In other words, the payoff for American's relatively late entry into war and small sacrifice is spectacular.
     

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