Who won the war?

I didn’t know America won it for us all. Did they?

I thought we managed it all on our little selves on D-Day. Or whenever. Didn’t Americans come in at the last minute when their ships were targeted somewhere far away from Europe?

My first degree was in history, but it was totally Europe-based, as was my school history. So although I studied WW2 (and WW1) at school, they were done from a European perspective.

Even though we were British, I’d never heard about Gallipoli and Anzacs. America’s contribution on our curriculum was down to two lines. Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima. I think our educational systems have a lot to answer for, but I guess the world was a little smaller when I went to school.

My parents’ generation were all in the second world war. My grandparents’ generation were all in the first world war. I grew up thinking war was a part of life and waited for the next one because I had heard so much about it. I thought WW3 was around the corner with bombs, and dads being called up.

I grew up hearing about the night my mother walked home as a teenager when she had been working (under age) and narrowly avoided the bomb that dropped on the town. My uncle who had to swim for his life twice when the (merchant navy) ships he was in were torpedoed. Another uncle was shot down and killed in the RAF.

And the blunt truth is, no-one who lived through the war years that I knew, ever said the USA won the war(s). Whether or not that is true is not the case, that was the perspective from the British generations of my family who fought in the world wars. All anyone ever said about America, was over here and over paid or whatever the phrase was. Over sexed may have come into it.

American deaths in world wars were trivial in the scheme of things. Less than half a million in WW2 and just over a hundred thousand in WW1. More than 23 million Russians died in WW2.

Out of nearly 70,000,000 deaths in WW2, 418,000 were American. That’s including civilians. I don’t know anyone from British war years who has ever said they owe their life and free speech to the Americans.

But did we ever have to pay? Oh yes. The Marshall Plan. (America’s serious imperial/colonial onslaught).

A couple of posts back, I mentioned a blog I found that said the US saved the UK. I did get a courteous response in the end.

This post has come about because I thought it was too long to post as a comment on someone else’s blog. But it was an interesting topic because we all have different perspectives.

However the response to mine was grossly inaccurate. (This quote below incidentally is apparently from a history teacher – now that is bad news). I’m not linking to the blog because it is not relevant. What is relevant is that people do NOT check out their facts and believe political rhetoric.

Those millions of unselfish American men and women who fought bravely and gave their lives in both world wars bought you that precious, priceless right to continue to believe and speak freely what is in your heart. If they had not — if the monsters like Hitler had won instead — you would not have that right today.

is blatantly untrue. More than a million British (empire) people died in the first world war, while 116,000 Americans died. And the above figure of 418,000 Americans who died in WW2. Nowhere near approaching millions. Half a mill as far as my inadequate maths go.

We can all interpret figures how we choose, but basically millions of Americans did not die in two world wars. Even put together. So no. America, you did not buy my precious freedom. Or maybe you did, financially. Personally, I would rather you hadn’t done, but I wasn’t a politician at the time.

History is relative. And relevant. But do get those facts right.

In more detail, my post on Armistice Day has lots, and war poetry too of course.

And on a lighter note. To show the American obsession with, well America:

I wasn’t even aware the next Olympics would be held in Britain. There’s not much news about this here in the US. ( I suppose there is on the Sports Page ) The US is now busy with Presidential elections.

That says it all. Seriously. The most important issue in the world is the election of the next American president. Oh. It is.

*I have some great American readers out there but sometimes, there is a need to let rip..*

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About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
This entry was posted in history, life, politics, War and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Who won the war?

  1. Totty says:

    I agree with every word you have written. My Uncle Leyton was killed at Gallipoli with the ANZACS. He had been at sea when war was declared and Australia was his first port of call where he could sign up. My Uncle Archibald survived most of the war in France, but was sent home wounded in 1918 only to die in the influenza epidemic. My father was one of the lucky ones. He was wounded in 1916, sent home to recover, promoted, transferred to the Buffs and spent most of the rest of his time in India and Mesopotamia. Of the brothers who were old enough to fight, the only one unscathed was the eldest, who spent the war years in America!

    The insularity of the Americans I come across in Blogland never fails to astound me. Maybe it is a failing of their education system, but it is a rare bird that is aware there is another world out there!

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    • That is the best and most interesting comment I have ever received.

      Your father was wounded in 1916????????????

      Just big wow to that one. My partner’s grandfather signed up illegally (under age).

      I have some great American blog pals, but insularity is a good word. For such a large place.

      You have summed it up exquisitely.

      Regardless of all that, Germany lost the war because of the Russian front, easy.

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  2. jonolan says:

    It really all depends upon how you evaluate certain points.

    We Americans did save Europe’s collective ass from the Nazis. You’d all be speaking German right now if we hadn’t first supplied you and later fought beside you. Yet, that last part is also key; we fought beside you not for you – and we both spent men saving the French.

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    • History always depends on evaluation, and what you are taught, what you learn and personal experience (assuming it is recent, I’m not talking Roman history here).

      You can find so many sources portraying a different example, and different perspectives, that there is an argument for every point of view. For example, America’s acts of neutrality, which gradually changed into funding the Allies, and finally joining in.

      Not only was WW2 a huge slaughter of people, it was a very complex one, with many documents still not publicly released. Who knows what deals were done?

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      • jonolan says:

        The simple facts don’t change though. Europe would have most likely lost to the Axis if the US hadn’t gotten involved. That’s a simple matter of economics and logistics.

        As for the why of it and the American government’s rationale for involving us in a largely European war – that’s entirely open to debate and I, personally, think that friendship and beliefs had very little to do with it.

        In other words, while America saved Europe’s collective butts, I really don’t think that the movers and shakers had that as their primary goal.

        Again, we fought beside the rest of the Allies. It’s not like we jumped in and did it all ourselves – though US history, as taught here, sort of makes it seem that way.

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        • I mostly agree with you. Who knows what would have happened if America hadn’t got involved? We’re speaking American here, my friends say cupcakes and awesome! rather than German.

          But to go back to the original question, I think tracing American involvement is interesting, and particularly the reasons. Some articles say that the US wanted to enter the European arena but Pearl Harbour forced the US hand.

          Here is an interesting one, which I hadn’t read before, that looks at the turning point of WW2.

          http://www.historynet.com/what-was-the-turning-point-of-world-war-ii.htm

          And there is significant agreement on the Russian aspect. But as the author also says, history is for debate.

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  3. Amazing that your uncle survived the torpedoing twice. So many didn’t.

    I don’t think we American’s won the war and perhaps I should shut up because I honestly don’t know much about WWII, but I’ve always thought of it as a joint effort. Oh, yes and the Russian front. I think it beat Napoleon too.

    Liked to hear it come from a British point of view.

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    • That rather encapsulates my view.

      I never met my uncle, he went to Aus and well, families eh. Wish I had as he sounded one tough person. And a good swimmer.

      I was discussing this with my partner today and the first thing he said was the Russian front, Napoleon.

      America may rule the world (until China takes over) but it is recent history.

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  4. reb says:

    The allied forces won WWII…

    If you don’t stop, reflect and check your facts, it’s very easy to get the impression that the Americans ‘saved’ us … Hollywood is a good contributor to that impression too.

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  5. bluonthemove says:

    The fact that their (baseball I think it is) tournament is called The World Series, yet it features teams from primarily US cities plus a few Canadian ones kind of sums up most American’s view of the world. Last time I was in the US was a matter of weeks before 9/11, so things might have changed.

    Within the European arena it is my understanding that having American forces on our side significantly helped with the invasion of France and on into Germany and with the second front from Libya up into Italy. We couldn’t have done it without them, equally they couldn’t have done it without us.

    The Far East/Asian war was different, success there was very much down to the Americans as far as I am aware, including the final days when they unleashed their weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    As for little interest in the Olympics because they are in the middle of electing a new President, that happens EVERY Olympics. Who was it that said:
    “The President of the United States of America is far too important an international role to be simply left to Americans to elect”

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    • Does anyone else play baseball though? Oh, that’s not really relevant is it, as to where the centre of the world is.

      Part of my point, is that we all have a totally different perspective depending on our education, our families (depending on our age), and our prejudices. And mine is that I don’t like other people belittling the efforts of every other nationality who contributed to WW2 on the side of the Allies. Everyone contributed. Whether civilians in the Resistance, Greek partisans, or military, or those working for the ‘war effort’.

      It’s not a simple equation, and saying it is, to me, displays a narrow perspective.

      The far east might almost have been a different war. Except Brits did make the odd appearance in PoW camps too. But yes, primarily a US/Japanese conflict from my extremely limited knowledge about that part of the war.

      I wrote about the Indianapolis a while ago:
      https://cloudsmovingin.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/why-dont-things-work-out-like-we-want/

      The last quote? When I was on FB, I remember saying that American politics were not just an American issue. The influence on the rest of the world via foreign policy, BANKS, and a whole list of issues means that everyone has a right to a view, although sadly not a vote. Or otherwise Clinton (Hillary) would have got mine. What little I have read of late leaves me reeling with despair.

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  6. EllaDee says:

    I enjoyed this post. All nation’s pasts are re-written one way or another, deliberately, by time or disinterest. Many live comfortably in the bubble of their immediate environment and unless they stop to think don’t take that necessary grain of salt with what is in the media. “History is the projection of ideology into the past.”

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    • The re-writing – and teaching – of history is such an important point. And that was one of the main issues I was trying to highlight. So if my education about WW2 was narrow, and from where I lived, why would it be different elsewhere? We learned about selective glorious British history – presumably why Gallipoli didn’t come into it – we didn’t learn about our failures. University history brought analysis, the use of available sources, whether documented or otherwise. It brought investigation and not to believe what you are taught 😀

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  7. Perpetua says:

    A thought-provoking post. My understanding has always been that the sheer numbers the US was able to mobilise in the closing months of WW1 tipped the balance, as happened also in Europe in WW2 from D-Day onwards, but by no stretch of the imagination can they be said to have ‘won’ either war. The Allies won the war.

    The absolute numbers from each country killed in the two wars also don’t tell the full story. We need to see what proportion of the total population those losses were. In this context the US losses in WW1 were the lowest of all the Allies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

    Similarly in WW2 the absolute number of US casualties was bigger than the UK’s, but as a proportion of population it was a third as big: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WW2_casualties

    Like

  8. Great minds. I used those links (and another) when I wrote a post for Armistice Day – here: http://roughseasinthemed.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/strange-meeting/ – and like you, also made the point about percentages. Not specifically the American ones, but rather, some of the others in the two wars.

    Every country lost in a way. When between 50 and 70 million people die, there is a loss to humanity.

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  9. Always enjoy your viewpoint. We were always taught the Allies won the war cooperating together in school, but I went to good schools in a very large city – and all our uncles/dad fought in one place or another ( and there were some WW I uncles still around)
    Unfortunately most US schools now neglect history and focus on social issues and multiculturalism in the US. Facts (science/history) are considered too boring to teach – and besides “you can always google that stuff”. Very sad – no wonder these people grow up spouting embarrassing things.
    I was livid to find my daughter’s advanced/honors world history class was studying/doing worksheets/taking tests on the old Soviet Union – no mention of the break-off of countries or the fall of the Berlin Wall. The teacher (head of the department) calmly said she ran off her study guides and tests in August and didn’t want to make new ones even though that information was outdated. Outrageous. No wonder some kids/adults now sound dumb.
    But not everyone is.
    And there’s Olympic stuff all over the news and has been for weeks…(most of us are bored with the political nonsense and are dreading the next few months’ barrage).
    There are idiots everywhere – a lot of good people are just too busy to spend time on blogs.
    One thing we can all agree on is that War is ugly and bad for everyone.
    As always a great read and community here.

    Like

    • Not everyone is dumb of course, but you are right about the education systems (of all countries) being so responsible for influencing us in our early years. My own lack of knowledge about the war outside of Europe is a good example (I went to a good city school – private) but at the end of the day the syllabus we did was called British modern day history – so that’s what it reflected.

      ‘Googling that stuff’ is a terrible attitude. You can only do that when you now what you are looking for, but that doesn’t teach anyone to critically appraise not just the facts, but the sources – and who they are – too.

      Oh well, that person obviously doesn’t look at the news. Can’t say I blame them.

      I think we’re all too busy to spend time on blogs! so thanks for making time to visit and add your perspective.

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      • Sorry for the long raving above. I do feel the kids in school are getting short changed as the teachers didn’t live through the era.
        Just wanted to assure you that we were taught great respect for the British people who endured the bombing. I remember the news footage and hearing people taught about the bomb hits in the cities – and the resilience of the Brits.
        (OK Americans have and will be forever be the loud mouth, brash, swaggering naive, country cousins…)
        As time passes, loud mouths with their own agendas/ those wanting to rewrite history confuse the picture. Broad sweeping generalities are never good. And I have to remember the cohorts involved.
        And we won’t get started on what are primary sources and why not google everything…)
        Your is one of the blogs with accurate info – and lovely rants. Always enjoy your perspective and humor
        Have a great weekend

        Like

        • No apologies needed. As ever always appreciate you visiting and your perceptive comments. The rants are invariably tongue in cheek to some extent, but usually with a point behind. Like your blog but different.

          The facts, well, like you, I spend time researching my posts, and looking at a lot of different sources. And then it gets the personal punta da vista.

          Always happy to hear other points of view, but sources are always good (to provide that different perspective) rather than broad sweeping generalisations, as you say.

          Enjoy yours too. Warm in your part of the world? It is here.

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  10. As reb says, it is obvious the Americans won the war, I’ve seen all the movies! If there is a Brit he is generally a bumbling laggard who just gets in the way. Europe wise, I am not entirely sure the Allies won, just look at the economies. Germany, that once divided nation, has been reunited and marches on, to the sound of a metaphorical drum, rolling over it’s neighbours in the fiscal version of blitzkreig.

    I am grateful that the good old US of A decided to lend us some stuff, and charge us a huge sum for the privilege. I read somewhere that it was because Churchill hoodwinked the congress that we got lease lend which could have bankrupted us, helped the US to world domination and we have been their lackey ever since.
    Cold war fact, Britain was the largest US aircraft carrier. US troops refused to soldier during an excercise in Germany because the ice cream machine broke. I know I was there shivering in a soaked tent up to my knees in water eating oatmeal blocks and processed cheese.

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  11. There are a fair few bumbling laggards in the Palace of Westminster….

    The unification of Germany was one of those achievements that never fail to surprise me. It just seemed to happen overnight with no problems and I thought the inclusion of the former DDR would have decimated the West German economy.

    Winning as you say, is so relative. Nearly 70 years later you could say we won the battle (WW2) and lost the war. I’ve no idea how many deals Churchill did behind the scene, there are so many documents still unreleased, rather like that Conspiracy Theory post I did on roughseas.

    I know even less about the cold war. Apart from Commies bad, the rest of us good. Interesting that Russia refused the American aid though because they didn’t want the US calling the shots. America’s money and Russia’s refusal of it certainly changed world power politics.

    I wonder if you have just breached the OSA with your ice cream machine fact?

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  12. You certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest here. My contribution – imagine how difficult it was for an American president to bring the USA into the war given the huge ethnic and cultural balance of that country. How difficult must it have been to have asked Geman and Italian US citizens to commit to a war in Europe on the side of the allies. The Second World War is far more complex than most of these jingoistic and superficial responses!

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    • I did not!! Interesting contribution though, not something anyone else has mentioned. Aren’t all wars complex though? And the reason for posting it was because the original post I read was even shorter and less thoughtful than some of these responses. I wouldn’t call them jingoistic or superficial though, after all, they are only short comments to a blog post. You can hardly expect a dissertation on the unresolved issues around WW2 as a briefly reply. One of my main points was that we don’t know enough about it, so making facile pronouncements on a blog post when historians endlessly discuss the turning point, the contribution, the losses, the costs, the agreements and deals – in public and behind closed doors, is a little thoughtless. And given our differing backgrounds, nationalities and education, we all learn a different view of history. Nowt new there.

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      • I entirely agree! My Russian trip has given me a new dimension on the war to try and absorb – so different to what my dad used to tell me!

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        • Actually the Russian aspect was something I vaguely knew about, but certainly none of the detail. What is interesting about WW2 is how much it has impacted on the shape of the world now. Just learning a few facts is far too simplistic. I’d like to understand the Far East aspect of the war. I was going to write ‘more’, but as I understand nothing about it, that would be redundant.

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