Misconceptions

We Americans like to think we won World War Two. We didn’t. This false belief plays into the worst kind of American chauvinism which greatly affects our attitudes towards the world today.

In World War Two in Europe, the Americans did the supplying and the Soviets did the dying. Yes, we lost many men killed in action and yes many of them were very brave. But this key figure tells the entire story: over 80% of German troops killed in World War Two were killed by the Soviets. The Red Army. That’s right. The Red Army. We don’t like to think about this because the Soviets were our enemies in the Cold War and to say anything good about them during the anti-communist hysteria of the 50s and into the 60s would have been dangerous.

World War II – visual scale of military deaths by theater and year using low-end casualty counts. I’ve included it here to give a sense of scale.

Joseph Stalin was a dictator fully as evil as Hitler. He is responsible for more deaths than Hitler mainly because Stalin was in power longer. He was a vicious anti-Semite and was in the midst of planning a major propaganda offensive against Soviet Jews when he died. Stalin was responsible for the deaths of millions in the famines which struck the Ukraine and other grain producing areas of the Soviet Union during the forced collectivization of farms and the campaign against the “Kulaks”, the term for a rich peasant. If you had a cow, you were a rich peasant and hence a Kulak. Wealth is relative.

In the horrendous purges of the 1930s, Stalin destroyed what remained of any type of civil society from pre-Revolution days. His murder of millions of intellectuals, military officers and scientists pre-staged a disaster for the Soviet Union. In his stupidity and paranoia, Stalin had bought into military concepts that were outdated – an invited catastrophe and that catastrophe came with the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

We made a pact with the devil in allying ourselves with Stalin. But American leaders at the time such as President Roosevelt and General George C Marshall, knew that a democracy would have limited tolerance for casualties. We knew how many Soviets were being killed and how many Germans they were killing and Stalin threw this in our faces a lot to squeeze more supplies out of us. I can’t blame him.

The minimum figure for Soviet losses in World War Two is twenty-seven million killed, half military, half civilian. Other historians think the figure is higher. Some think it is as high as forty million. That’s million. At least 1/8th of the population of the USSR died during World War Two.

As evil a man as Stalin was, as appalling evil as the Communists were, we owe them a lot, even though we will never admit it.

Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill on the portico of the Russian Embassy during the Tehran Conference in November/December 1943.

[Images courtesy of Wikimedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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