Some Facts of WW2 That We Hardly Know

Commando comics WW2
As we read and go deeper into what happened in the years 1939-45, a lot of our illusions shatter. May be because we all  got acquainted with WW2 from movies and "Commando" comics, which paint rosy pictures of American and British soldiers, showing them as good men who fight bravely against the evil "Krauts".

The reality is different.

The reason the Allies took almost a year after landing on Normandy on June 6, 1944 to defeat Germany was that many soldiers were not motivated enough to fight It is a well known fact that British and American soldiers moved forward only after the enemy lines had been flattened by a lot of artillery fire. Unlike the German or Russian soldier who went ahead, without waiting for artillery or tank support.

There were a lot of desertions. In the German or Russian army they would have been shot.

British soldiers captured by Germans 1944

Allied commanders were cautious and hesitant to act quickly. If Eisenhower had reacted fast after the Germans were on the run from France, the Allied armies would have reached Berlin by December 1944.

Montgomery and Eisenhower
Montgomery was on his own ego-trip and came up with the hare-brained Operation Market Garden which achieved little but cost a lot of airborne troops. Eisenhower indulged him because he wanted to keep British-American relations cordial.

The only Allied general that the Germans too respected was Patton. If he had been in place of Eisenhower Germany would have been defeated before the red Army could enter east Prussia. The problem with Patton was, he would have led to a massive row with the British and also he was anti-Jew.

After 1944, the Americans turned a deaf ear to what Churchill said. Churchill wanted Allies to land in Greece and move into the Balkans before the Russians did. If such a thing had happened The Americans would have had to fight not only Germans but the Red Army too.  America hardly had enough troops to do that as it was busy fighting Japan too.

A clash between the Allies and Russia would have been catastrophic. Hitler knew the friction and was hoping for the friction to lead to an explosion.

But wiser counsel prevailed. Thankfully. The Americans knew that Russia was shedding the blood necessary to defeat the formidable German Army. Alone it seems unlikely that American or British soldiers would have been prepared to fight the savage war that raged in the Ostfront. Only the Russians could have done that.

German POW In Russia

Democracies by nature have little martial tradition and their soldiers are not moulded  to fight absolute war that the Wehrmacht or the Red Army fought during WW2. It was Russian blood and America's immense arms production that defeated Nazi Germany.

British commando
German soldier Eastern FrontThis is not to say that American soldiers are soft. The War in the Far East with Japan proved beyond doubt that the American soldier was as hard as the Japanese soldier and could take a lot of beating. Only that more American blood would have been shed to defeat both Japan and Nazi Germany if the Russians had caved in in 1941-42. It would have taken a lot more time to defeat Hitler, if ever. If Russia had collapsed and if there had been no Stalingrad, Hitler would have got his hands on the plentiful oil lying under the ground in the Soviet Union.

Perhaps then America's massive arms production would have been of little use in defeating Hitler. Because as a soldier, the German was undoubtedly the best fighting machine mankind has ever seen.

Coming to America's war with Japan. After the Marianas Islands were captured after brutal fighting in 1944, America had a base from which it could launch massive bombing operations on Japan with B-27 bombers. The Japanese Navy had largely been annihilated. American aircraft-carriers and ships ruled the seas. American submarines had knocked the stuffing out of Japanese supply lines .

General MacArthur
So there was little need to launch combat operations to take over Japanese held islands in a hurry. With no supplies of arms or men the Japanese soldiers on different islands could do little harm. The focus should have been bombing Japan proper to dust. The Japanese would have then capitulated.

But General MacArthur, was like Montgomery, a publicity seeker and a vain man. He wanted to make frontal attacks and liberate Philippines where he had spent many years. He went ahead though militarily there was no need to do so because he was a media's hero and enjoyed massive popularity back in America. Roosevelt dared not sack him. So the bloody fight for the Philippines ensued with massive loss of American lives and those of the local inhabitants.

Germans captured by Americans
A popular myth is that only German and Soviet  soldiers acted brutally and took no prisoners. That American and British soldiers in contrast were 'humane'. The good guys who followed the Geneva Conventions to the G. This is just propaganda. There are lots and lots of instances where Allied soldiers took no prisoners and shot German POW straight away. This despite the fact that most American soldiers did not hate the Germans, as say the Russians did. In contrast, a few instances aside, German soldiers while dealing with American and British POW behaved very properly.

British Bomber Command  headed by Sir Arthur Harris from 1942
The infamous British Bomber Command was headed by Sir Arthur Harris from 1942. Harris believed that bombing and terrorising German cities and civilians would demoralise them and Germany would lose the war. So he went about the task enthusiastically and by April 1945 all German cities had been blown to bits. Harris' thinking was criticized by many as being not a war-winning one. They felt bombing military and war production plants would be more helpful. But so popular was Harris amongst the British public that no one dared to stop him.

Hindsight revealed that bombing did not demoralise the German people so much that the country surrendered. The bombings by the British Bomber Command and the US Eight Air Force did serve one purpose. Hitler was forced to strip Russia of most of Luftwaffe planes to defend German cities. Also the formidable German 88 mm guns were diverted from the Ostfront. This greatly helped the Red Army.
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