60th Anniversary of the Allied Landing in Normandy.

Congratulations to everyone who shares our celebration of our common victory over the forces of Evil!

As with everything big, everyone wants a stake in it, so, just like Einstein is claimed for their own by the Swiss, Germans, Americans and Jews, the Victory is claimed by each and every ally (I am sure even the French have something to be proud of!)

It is not surprising, then, that a US monthly, the National Geographic, claims that "D-Day turned the tide of war against Hitler".

It is equally natural that many people got really upset about these words.

What follows is just a moderately educated layman's opinion on this piece of history.

Let us not get carried away...

First of all, let us remember that this is the US:

Let us try to remain calm and not take all this personal, and, instead, examine some facts (in no particular order):

  1. Indeed, the Soviet war losses are staggering: 26,500,000 soldiers (+ 17,000,000 civilians, including Jews et al). Note that the first number included several million POWs - 3,000,000+ surrendered in 1941 alone! No country comes even close. The next is Germany with 4,000,000 soldiers (+ 2,000,000 civilians), 2,600,000 out of them lost on the Eastern Front. This appears to support the Soviet propaganda claim that the Soviet Union won the war. These numbers are, of course, controversial.
  2. People are not everything, especially in a highly technological war, such as WWII. Almost all German Navy and half of Luftwaffe was fighting the Western Allies.
  3. D-day invasion was, indeed, the largest amphibious operation in history, which makes it remarkable even without considering the strategic repercussions, e.g., the fact that 1944 was the first year when the Summer campaign on the Eastern Front did not start with a German offensive.
  4. Lend-Lease should not be disregarded either. If you look closely into the numbers, you would realize that if Lend-Lease would have stopped, Soviet Army might have collapsed in months: you cannot fight without locomotives and cars, aviation fuel, trucks, gun powder, tanks, aircraft etc etc etc. Тушёнку тоже не забудем. Наркомовские 100 грамм под тушёнку шли лучше чем без неё. (Let us not forget the canned meat either - the 100 grammes of vodka given to every Russian soldier daily went down with it much better than without it.)
  5. The war in the West started 2 years before it started in the East. Even if you discard the Phony war, it will be 1 year before. And the Battle of Britain was not easy.
  6. Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign of World War II, running from 1939 through the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, and it directly affected the Soviet war effort because this was the route of most of the allied aid.
  7. On 1941-05-27, the British sunk Bismarck, a 41,673-ton battleship. If all this metal were used for tanks (e.g., the best German tank of 1941 was the 25-ton Pz-IV) instead of the battleship, Hitler would have had at least 1,000 extra tanks (he started the Russian campaign with fewer than 4,000 tanks). Was it Stalin who said that a battleship is worth two tank armies in terms of steel and three tank armies in terms of time?
  8. The Americans entered the war in 1941, not 1944. If, instead of Pearl Harbor on 1941-12-07, the Japanese (who are 50% more numerous than the Germans) attacked Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Irkutsk, the Moscow counteroffensive might have been much less successful. Fighting the Japanese was not a cakewalk, but the Americans won an important battle of Midway in 1942.
  9. The Western Allies fought Germans in North Africa in 1941-1943. I am not sure what would have happened if the Germans took the Suez Canal. When the Allies captured Tunisia, the Axis losses were comparable to their Stalingrad losses. Strategically, it was more important than Stalingrad, because it closed up a whole theater of operations.
  10. The Western Allies landed in Sicily and Italy in 1943 - and Italy, the main German ally in Europe, surrendered that year. Do you know that the Italians had several Armies on the Eastern Front? (One of them was destroyed during the Stalingrad offensive).
  11. The last German offensive was in Ardennes, against the Western Allies (started 1944-12-15, stopped 1944-12-22 because of fierce American resistance, 6th SS Panzer Army transferred to the East when the Soviet offensive started on 1945-01-15.)

No, I have no idea how things would have been without the D-day landing - or if it failed, but I am pretty sure that the war would not have ended in 1945. (Actually, there was a book devoted to such a possibility, and the alternative history painted there was quite grim.)

I would not say that the Soviets won the war. I would not say that the Americans won it it either.

One may say that the war was won by the Soviet Soldier and the American Industry, although this is no good either...

Casualties

This is one of more controversial issues about the war. While the war losses of democratic countries, like US and Britain, are known exactly, the casualties in a totalitarian state (like the Soviet Union) can only be estimated because, as a political and propaganda issue, it was subject of a rampant unchecked government falsification. Germany is borderline, probably somewhat closer to the democratic West with respect to accounting for casualties, both because half of it became democratic after the war and its pre-war totalitarian regime did not quite encompass the Wehrmacht yet.

I have seen various estimates of Soviet and Germany war casualties. The most trustworthy, IMNSHO, appears in the collection of articles by B.V.Sokolov, The Truth about the Great Patriotic War. Even if you do not want to trust his estimates, his evidence that the official Soviet figures are wrong is quite compelling.

Huge Soviet casualties are not something to be proud of - they offer a glum testimony to the institutionalized incompetence of the Soviet commanders, who, from the bottom up, feared their superiors more than the adversary.

Quiz for the Russians: The War as it is NOT Taught in Russia

  1. Who was Lt.Col. Doolittle?
  2. Whose nickname was Desert Fox? Who fought him?

Quiz for the Americans: The War as it is NOT Taught in the US

  1. What 4 battles turned the tide of war in the opinion of the official Soviet historiography? (Answer: Zbfpbj, Fgnyvatenq, Xhefx, Qavrcre).

Relevant links