Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Inconvenient Truth

Friends,

I want you to imagine a surprise invasion of the United States.  Enemy tanks, aircraft, and infantry invade our country along a front that stretches from Boston to Miami.  They penetrate our country up to a depth of 1,000 miles.  Though eventually we are able to successfully repel this invasion, it is done at a great cost.  Around 25 million of our fellow countrymen are dead by the time it is over.  Whole cities are obliterated.  Orphans roam the streets.  Entire regions are depopulated.  What would that do to our country?  To our nation?  Now I want you to imagine that in this conflict we had an ally who's country was not damaged at all during the war.  They fought against a small portion of the enemy's army.  Now imagine that after the war, that country, our wartime ally, refused to acknowledge that the United States played any role at all in the victory.  They raised generations of children who didn't even realize that we had been part of the war.

Sucks, doesn't it?  Now you know how the Russians feel.  This is a controversial topic, though it really shouldn't be.  The Russian experience on the Eastern Front during the Second World War is something that we here in the United States know little about.  For decades after the war, it was understandable given the fact that the Soviet Union was a closed society and not much was available here detailing their experiences.  There is no excuse for it now.  Professors who teach about World War Two without even mentioning the Russians very much other than to say that the Germans invaded do exist.  Our textbooks even leave out hardly any mention of them.  And that doesn't even take into account our high school curriculum.

Why do I have students who know nothing about the fighting between two giant totalitarian powerhouses?  Why isn't this covered at all in the curriculum at any level?  Yes, I get the fact that they were communist and we don't like communists in this country.  But they took on roughly 80 percent of the German Army during the war and beat them!  They also inflicted about an equal percentage of the casualties suffered by the German military.  We would NOT have won the war had it not been for our Soviet allies.  That, my friends, is a fact.  Yes, we furnished them with vital supplies via Lend Lease, but they suffered the kind of casualties that our country would not have accepted in order to defeat the forces of Fascism.  We could not have incurred those kind of losses.

Oddly enough, we also don't mention the atrocities committed by our Soviet allies against the civilian populations in Germany and also in the countries that they "liberated".  It is kind of a paradox.  Now I know that this is a controversial topic.  However, acknowledging the sacrifices that our Soviet allies made during the War is in no way endorsing their system of government nor is it taking anything away from the sacrifices made by our fighting men during the war in Europe.  We bore the brunt of the fighting in the Pacific and the Soviets did in Europe.  That's just how it goes.

Yet many traditional academic historians still refuse to accept this reality and thus contribute to a society that doesn't know these facts either.  But what do I know?  I'm just a half a$$ historian.

My name is Lee Hutch and though I may be a half a$$ historian, at least I know about the Eastern Front!


5 comments:

  1. I am a Russian. I was born in Khrushchev’s Soviet Union. As all Soviet Union school kids from the first grade I belonged to the Communist Youth Organization, but that was more formal than ideological, like a dress code at school. We wore a ruby-colored five-pointed star badge with the portrait of Lenin at elementary school. We wore a red pioneer’s necktie at middle school (we were pioneers, but rednecks,) and then we were the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League symbol at High school. While membership at the last one was nominally voluntary, those who didn't join lost access to officially sponsored holidays and found it very difficult (if not impossible) to pursue higher education. A Communist membership gave us the opportunity to get promotion at the job and also at scientific research, getting access to the Lenin State Library.

    So, actually, we were not real Communists at that time as you think about us. Anyway, ideologically Americans can ignore us and our history but they cannot ignore the world history facts. The fact is that the Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, including 8.7 million military and 19 million civilian deaths. The largest portion of military dead were ethnic Russians (5,756,000), followed by ethnic Ukrainians (1,377,400). ONE OF EVERY FOUR Soviet citizens was killed or wounded in that war. Germany sustained 5.3 million military losses, mostly on the Eastern Front and during the final battles in Germany. Compare 27 million Russian losses and 5 million German ones and think about the price which Russians have paid for the victory. When we talk about the sacrifices made by American fighting men during WW2 we do not divide them into Republicans and Democrats. Should we ignore the sacrifices made by Russians in the war because some of them were Communists?

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    1. Very good points, Larissa. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. Does that include pre war purges.? These commentaries serve little purpose. My kids learnt about the impact Russia had on the war, the toll they paid and their overall impact on the Euro theater.. No one talks about China's losses either, which are higher again.
    So it may be a fact for you or for your friends but it is not a universal truth. I for one appreciate the sacrifice, understand the civilian loss and abhor the atrocities on all sides. Nor while I am at it think that in this day and age we 'hate commies'. That time has passed.

    This sort of pop history, drama is indeed half assed.

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    1. No, pre war purges include another 20 million or so. Actually as it stands now, historians place China's losses as less than Russia's which may very well be not true. However, that is where the official history is. Not only does not one write about China's losses, as you correctly pointed out, but Japanese atrocities against the Chinese are never discussed. It is almost as if they get a free pass.

      It is true that Russia bore the brunt of the land war in fighting the Germans. There is no way that you can argue otherwise. The suffered far greater manpower losses and took on the bulk of the German Army. That is a fact. They did it with Lend Lease support from the United States, which is also a fact.

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