An American soldier and soldiers of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, walk next to an American D-Day memorial that stands on Omaha Beach in Normandy on the 75th anniversary of the Allied D-Day invasion last week. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images)
Has the current tide of hysteria against all things Russian risen to the point that European and American policymakers are now attempting an Orwellian rewrite of the history of World War II? This is no mere academic matter of misrepresenting the past but has life-and-death importance for the here and now.
The single most crucial factor in the defeat of Adolf Hitler in that great conflict was the willingness of the Allies, both East and West, to put aside enormous political and social differences for the greater good of ridding the planet of the pestilence of Nazism. The 75thanniversary of D-Day ceremony should have been a perfect opportunity to renew that spirit as well as, of course, honoring those brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice in opening up the long-awaited Second Front against the German occupiers.
But instead, the planners of that event, with barely a peep of resistance from participating Western heads of state, chose to move in exactly the opposite direction. By making the outrageous decision to pointedly snub, to un-invite Russian President Vladimir Putin, the leader of the nation that did the most (by far) to crush the Wehrmacht, they dishonored no one so much as themselves.
The pathetic rationale for that insult, reported in The Baltimore Sun ("World leaders honor D-Day veterans,” June 6), is that "Russia was not involved in D-Day.” Excuse me? What made the Normandy landing plan even thinkable as a strategy was the fact that the then-Soviet Union was tying down, pushing back the overwhelming bulk of Hitler’s troops on a battlefront 1,500 miles away. Had the Germans been able to deploy their entire armed forces on the coast of France, D-Day would have been an infinitely worse nightmare in human loss terms, and all but impossible militarily. This was a classic hammer and anvil operation. To claim that one, but not the other, was involved is an absurdity that would embarrass any reasonably intelligent 3-year-old.
Far too many Americans today have the conceit that the downfall of the Nazis was primarily a U.S. achievement with perhaps some significant assistance from Soviet Russia. The reverse would be far closer to the truth. No one is denigrating the heroic efforts of Americans both in and out of the armed services in the victory, but a little perspective is very much in order.
The U.S. lost 500,000 lives in the conflict, a huge sacrifice. Soviet losses were 25 million, 50 times as great. The number of Soviet deaths at the Battle of Stalingrad alone has been estimated at one million, which is more than the combined fatalities for the U.S. and Great Britain during the entire war. Some 9,000-10,000 Americans and others died on D-Day, a horrific number. It is about one percent of the Soviet fatalities at Stalingrad, the true turning point of World War II. And on the other hand, of all the battlefield venues of that war, encompassing three continents, the Eastern Front was the scene of fully 80 percent of the Nazi soldiers’ deaths.
American soldiers and sailors fought courageously and selflessly in both the European and Pacific theaters. But the Nazis never laid siege to, say, Philadelphia, killing over a million through starvation and cold, as they did to Leningrad. They never occupied the Great Plains states and forced American farmers to feed them while our people went hungry, as they did in Ukraine. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Arsenal of Democracy, the industrial engine that supplied the logistics for victory, was an amazing achievement. But imagine if, to flee the oncoming Nazis, we had to dismantle the entire industrial base of Detroit, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, etc., only to relocate and rebuild each factory west of the Rocky Mountains! That’s exactly what the Russian people did in moving their productive capabilities, along with some 10 million people, east of the Urals at the outset of the invasion. For them, the war was not "over there.”
Is there any serious doubt as to who did the heaviest of heavy lifting in vanquishing Hitler’s barbaric horde? So then why the contemptible decision to exclude that nation’s leader? Has some epidemic of historical amnesia suddenly gripped Western officials? No, the ugly snub was the permanent warfare crowd’s response to President Putin’s 2015 proposal to re-create the World War II alliance of the U.S. and Russia, this time to fight the common enemy of terrorism. This could easily expand to include other nations like China and India and be broadened in scope to encompass massive joint projects in science and infrastructure development that would dramatically uplift every participating nation.
Those who believe in divide and rule geopolitics as a way of life are threatened by this. Their reaction insults not only the Russian nation but also those whom we should properly honor on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Doug Mallouk, Catonsville