Saturday, May 3, 2008

How US has won the World War II

The undisputed common knowledge in the US is that IT has won World War II, more or less by itself. The other countries are really mentioned, except as victims.

I keep reading stuff like this over and over again: "We have to do to them what the Americans did to the Nazis. Kill all their leaders. Kill all the collaborators. Then, we'll find those willing to make peace." (This particular quote comes from US's 51st state - Israel, but it perfectly mirrors popular opinion in the "mainland").

Here are some numbers though (from
Country       Military casulaties   Total casualties
Soviet Union 10,700,000 23,100,000
Germany 5,533,000 7,293,000
United States 416,800 418,500

80% of German military deaths were on the Eastern Front.

In military deaths, US is behind Yugoslavia, Japan, China, Germany, and Soviet Union, and just barely above UK.

In total deaths, US is behind United Kingdom, Italy, France, Hungary, Romania, French Indo-China, Yugoslavia, India, Japan, Indonesia, Poland, Germany, China, and Soviet Union, and just above Lithuania and Czechoslovakia.

So in all actuality, US involvement in WWII was far, far, far, less than most countries in Europe. And US contribution to winning the war was closer to that of France and UK, and far, far, far, far behind Soviet Union, where Germans lost 80% of their army and where it was broken in Stalingrad ( and Kursk ( a full year before Allies landed in Normandy.

Now, obviously, self-aggrandising is not an American phenomenon. Every country practices a healthy dose of it.

What is super dangerous in this reading of history ("U.S. has won World War II") is that it creates an idea among American population that wars are cheap, and easy to win. Look, we won in the worst war ever to hit human civilization, and most people barely noticed. (Yes, as a percentage of population, US lost... 0.32%. That's one out of three hundred. As compared to Soviet Union's 13.71% - one out of six.)

Hence, the Rambo mentality.

Hence, Iraq.

But it could have been worse, much worse.

In mid-80s there were two movies that came out in Soviet Union and United States, both dealing with the world after the nuclear catastrophe.

The Russian movie was "Dead Man's Letters" ('s_Letters), and depicted the world that was dead.

The American movie was "The Day After" (, and had shown farmers removing the thin layer of soil that was irradiated, and preparing for the new crop. The message was - the life continues. We can win.

The Soviet Union is now history (look, America has won again! Just like it did with the Nazies!) but the myth of the military power on the cheap lives on - Hillary is now ready to obliterate Iran (soon to be nuclear power), and compared to the morons that are running the show now, she's the sane one.

It's funny, but the reality with Iran is probably going to turn out quite differently - by switching oil trading from dollar to euro it is they who are more likely to obliterate the US, not the other way around.

Meanwhile, the military hardware is being built. No health insurance though, we can't afford that...

In many countries such nationalism arises from a pent-up frustration over having to accept an entirely Western, or American, narrative of world history—one in which they are miscast or remain bit players. Russians have long chafed over the manner in which Western countries remember World War II. The American narrative is one in which the United States and Britain heroically defeat the forces of fascism. The Normandy landings are the climactic highpoint of the war—the beginning of the end. The Russians point out, however, that in fact the entire Western front was a sideshow. Three quarters of all German forces were engaged on the Eastern front fighting Russian troops, and Germany suffered 70 percent of its casualties there. The Eastern front involved more land combat than all other theaters of World War II put together.


Keith Sader said...

You missed an element in your analysis. The U.S. also fought Japan in WWII.

As a U.S. citizen I have no beef with saying the the U.S.S.R. basically broke the German army for us. Hover the Soviet Union only opened a second front after the U.S. had already all but beaten Japan.

Applying sixty year old state-based analogies to non-state entities in this century is ludicrous foreign policy IMO.

Keith Sader said...

Hover = however.

Sergey Solyanik said...

True, but Japan has lost 2.1M in military casualties, about 1/4 of all Axis military losses in the war. Defeating 25% of the enemy should still not qualify as winning the war, right?

WRT non-state entities. If you combine all the losses US suffered in the "War on terrorism", it would be less than 10% of yearly deaths due to drunk driving.

I think the level of hysteria that Bush was able to whip around 9/11 attacks was, again, due to deep misunderstanding of what the real war is, and what it really costs to win it.

So I was not comparing US involvement with non-state entities with real wars at all - in my mind, this is a law enforcement problem (and in terms of money, the expenditures on it should be proportional to the other law enforcement problems - like drunk driving).

xyz said...

They should teach this

In all American history books.

But... fat chance of that ever happening.

Anonymous said...

>> Keith Sader said...
>> You missed an element in your analysis. The U.S. also fought Japan in WWII.

ummm Chinese had been fighting the Japs since at least.....1931 ! typical American...don't know shit about history, geography and food......

David said...

You're basing how the war was won on the percentage of casualties caused? That doesn't seem like an accurate gauge to me. And so what if the US casualties where less than other allies? We know how to stay alive.