World War II has no parallel in the history of humanity in terms of its scope, tension and the immensity of the armed struggle and the number of states directly participating in it. According to military historians, military actions in World War I covered the territory of 14 states, while the armed struggle of World War II swept 40 countries. Sixty-one states took part in the war, with a total population of 1,700 million, that is 75% of the population of Earth. About 70 million people were mobilized during World War I, while in World War II this figure was 110 million. The overall number of the dead in World War II is 50 million people. That is the dreadful debt to humanity of the war unleashed by fascists. The war was ruthless to civilians. Whereas in World War I 95% of the casualties were military and 5% civilians, 33% of the casualties in World War II were military and 67% civilian. Alongside the occupation of new territory, the war aimed to annihilate entire peoples. Below are the human losses in Europe alone.
As the table shows, more Soviet people, both military and civilians, died in World War II in Europe than in all European countries and the USA taken together. Whereas the figures for European countries are beyond any doubt, those concerning the USSR are underreported, as many military historians point out. Much could be said here about tragedies among civilians and the military in the USSR during the war; these facts are generally known. We will mention only one striking fact: 80% of men in the USSR born in 1923 did not survive the war, that is, an entire generation of people was lost!
The fight was ended long ago
By the hands of all the friends.
A boy was laid in earth so low
Like in a Mausoleum.
A whole generation of young people was buried. The fascists had a "special" attitude not only towards Soviet civilians but also towards Soviet prisoners of war.
"Heaps of corpses are on our shoulders", H. Moltke wrote to his wife from the Eastern front. Emile Zola's descriptions of the notorious destruction of the French army near Sedan and Metz in 1870, for all their horror, could not compare to Kiev and Vyazma. And not only to them. The way the fascists treated Soviet captives cannot be compared to their treatment of captured Frenchmen, British or Americans. The latter were fed, dressed and had a roof over their heads.
The International Red Cross had precise lists of prisoners and constantly checked the camps.
Jews, communists and commissars were annihilated on the spot or sent to concentration camps in accordance with special orders.
In June 1941 when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the SS were charged with the liquidation of Soviet Jews and "Bolshevist agitators". For this purpose, special "combat groups" (Einsatzgruppen) were formed in the SS which followed the attack troops and established the new system in occupied Soviet territory. They would organize mass raids, chiefly on Jews whom they would kill. According to the materials of the International War Crimes Tribunal, millions of Jews from different countries were tortured to death by SS members.
The veteran writer Vasil Bykov wrote about those who died in the battlefield, "The dead know no pain!" But those who passed the gates of hell into German captivity and ended up in Stalin's camps after the war knew agony!
The Soviet Union suffered dreadful, unimaginable material damage - civilization had never experienced anything like it.
Some 72,000 Soviet towns and villages were ruined, 32,000 industrial facilities were destroyed, 65,000 km of railroad were disabled. Almost all the main industrial regions in the west of the Soviet Union (and it was the European part of the USSR where the majority of industrial facilities were located) were twice destroyed. In 1941-42 they were blown up on Stalin's orders by Red Army units withdrawing east; and after 1943 they were completely ruined on Hitler's orders by German forces retreating under the pressure of the Soviet army.
Some 1,700 towns and settlements and 70,000 villages were destroyed, 35 million people were left homeless.
Right after the war, in September 1945, the estimated losses were 679 billion roubles, which exceeded the USSR net national income in 1940 more than fivefold.
German towns and civilians certainly suffered much less than those of the USSR, Poland etc., but the damage was severe here, too. "Kill a German!" exclaimed the famous writer I. Erenburg in the columns of Pravda, - not a fascist, not a member of the SS but a German, without investigation or trial! And they were killed. People who had lost their whole family, all their kin were hard to stop. According to German sources, over a million German women were raped brutally by Red Army soldiers. Everyone was ravaging Germany, both the winning state and Red Army men, everyone for himself. The government took out to the USSR entire plants and factories, valuable museum pieces, armaments and so on. Hundreds of thousands of German prisoners of war worked at various construction sites in the USSR. Captive engineers and technicians worked for many years after the war in different Soviet experimental design offices. And everyone was stealing inside the Red Army itself, from soldiers to marshals. Officers and soldiers took away the loot in suitcases, and generals and marshals in wagons.
The Allies were even more aggressive and tough towards Germany, they bombed German towns without remorse.
Tens of thousands people died when Dresden was bombed by the Allies. As the eyewitnesses of the bombing recalled later, it was absolute hell.
"On the night of 9-10 March, 1945 American bombers of the 20th Air Force under the command of General LeMay started the House of Prayer operation. The target of the massed air raids of the Super Fortresses was Tokyo. They rained down on the city thousands of incendiary bombs made by DuPont Co. and Standard Oil, and the Japanese capital turned into a flaming hell. Wooden houses standing side by side caught fire like straw. Side streets became rivers of fire in an instant. Mad crowds were running to the banks of the Sumida River and its tributaries. However, even river water, even cast-iron bridge spans were burning hot from the enormous heat. Firestorms raged over the city. The turbulent air flows caused by these storms buffetted the American Super Fortresses so much that the pilots could hardly keep control of their aircraft", journalist Vsevolod Ovchinnikov wrote in his book Burning Ashes.
This was not yet the nuclear bomb, but still over 83,000 Tokyo civilians died in a night.
The nuclear bomb was yet to come. Atomic bombings of the Americans wiped Japanese towns Nagasaki and Hiroshima off the map. The Allies also pinpointed German plants and factories that competed with companies in their own countries. Unlike their Soviet colleagues, they did not think small, they were chiefly interested in intellectual goods and took away Germany's best minds and their achievements.
Everything was completely different in the USA which made an outstanding contribution to the victory.
Sasha from Uralmash, a character in the famous wartime film Two Soldiers, happy to have met a true friend and wife, thanks to the war, exclaims, "For some it's war, for others it's mother's apple pie!"
This is pretty much what the heads of the US oil companies said, for oil was going up in price. Trade with the enemy was brisk. The military industry received big orders. The countries at war were running into debt to the Americans. Before the war, competing plants and factories had crashed with the help of those same Americans. This was bound to affect the post-war world economy. "The war rejuvenated American capitalism," Lawrence Wittner writes in one of his books. If he means the pace and scale of economic growth in the war years, which followed on from a decade of severe crisis, this cannot be argued. GDP in the USA in 1940 was 90 billion dollars, but it reached 200 billion dollars in 1944. All the industrial sectors were operating at full capacity and unemployment actually disappeared, whereas in 1940 12 million people were unemployed.
Only 63,000 worked in the aviation industry in 1939, while in wartime the number rose to a record 1,345,000. It is important to note that all the production growth in sectors operating as part of the war effort was actually achieved on account of state investments. In 1939 about one-third of total aviation industry output was for military orders while by 1944 half of output was for the military. "The American market today is the most surprising phenomenon in history," Fortune magazine wrote in 1953. "It is a colossus that absorbed half of the world steel and oil resources and three quarters of equipment. Household income increased nearly seven times from 1941 to 1944." Why is Fortune suprised? After the war, the USSR gained as allies, admittedly by force, the ruined part of Eastern Europe - the ravaged countries of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the eastern part of Germany. While the USA got as allies France, which was intact, the United Kingdom which had been slightly damaged in the bombing, Holland, Denmark, Austria, Spain and Italy which were all completely unharmed. The USSR suffered enormous damage in all respects, whereas the USA got an enormous market. The USSR lost 27 million people, and the Americans 200,000. The Soviet Union's largest strategically important plants had been destroyed by the fascists or relocated beyond the Ural Mountains. For instance, the Kharkov plant, where the famous T-34 tank was designed, and production of V2 diesel engines for tanks were relocated to the Urals in September 1944. Leningrad's Kirov plant, which produced the KV heavy tank, and other factories were also relocated, while the USA lost their old ships in Pearl Harbor. Indeed, "For some it's war, for others it's mother's apple pie!"
The wounded of the post-war years well remember the film Seagulls Die in the Harbor, which ends with a striking scene in which fat, rosy-cheeked Americans appear in the middle of cold, hungry Europe. The appearance of the Americans was indeed symbolic!
The French Telegraph Agency reported that the war casualties in the French army were fewer than the number of people killed in car accidents in the corresponding period.
An American war correspondent E. Taylor described the scene of the "strange war" as follows, "The frontline lies five or six kilometres from the border with German territory. A picturesque view of the Saar valley opens up from the window of the French mess…
"No shell craters, no crippled trees, no smashed windows. After that dreadful battlefield in Spain (And what about Stalingrad? - Author), this scene seemed amazing and very comforting. There was nothing horrible, it was almost impossible to imagine that people can die of battle injuries in green fields. I knew that a soldier with a severe injury could hardly be found on either side." Nevertheless, despite such a harsh contrast in losses, there is no doubt that that the war was won by three countries - the USSR, the USA and Great Britain. Whatever other countries may claim, this is an undeniable fact, and still the contribution of each country to the Victory was different.
We should not forget here that in the most desperate days just after Hitler's forces had invaded the Soviet Union, when the Germans were waging their Blitzkrieg and the USSR was all alone, the future Allies "buried" the USSR.
In 1941 after the defeat of the Soviet armed forces both on land and in the air, the Germans, the Americans and the British were unanimous in their estimation of events on the Eastern Front. In the beginning of the war, when the Germans were hacking at the USSR from every direction, the US State Department sent a telegram to its ambassadors in Moscow and London on 14 June, 1941, "We have no intention to make any proposals to the USSR government." On 16 July 1941, Hopkins arrived in England as Roosevelt's representative to negotiations with Churchill and his war cabinet. He cabled the president on 25 July, "Could you tell me if you consider it important and useful that I should also visit Moscow?.... I suspect that it is necessary to do our best for the Russians to hold a stable front, even despite the possibility of their defeat at the moment."
US Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote to President Roosevelt in July 1941, "I have been almost constantly reflecting upon the German-Russian war in the last 30 hours… To make my own attitude clear I have spent today consulting the chief of staff and the members of the General Staff War Plans Division… Here is their assessment of the main factors.
"…Germany will be substantially concerned with the task of defeating Russia probably at least for a month and at the most three months…"
Stimson was not alone in this view. According to the American historian James McGregor Burns, US Naval Secretary William Franklin Knox said, "It will take anywhere from six weeks to two months for Hitler to clean up on Russia."
A US Army General Staff resolution dated 25 September, 1941, considered "admitting the possibility of the Russian defeat to the west of the White Sea - Moscow line…"
George Marshall assured US President Roosevelt that the USSR would fall in three months. Later, the US ambassador to the USSR, W. Averell Harriman, admitted that the US government had demanded his rapid conclusion of talks with Stalin and return to the USA so as not to be taken prisoner by the Germans during their occupation of Moscow.
In those days, Roosevelt said to his son Elliott, "I know to what extent the prime minister (Churchill) believes in the possibility that the Russians will withstand this war." And he snapped his fingers, showing zero… "But Harry believes more. He can even convince me of this."
Politicians in London were not optimistic either. When the Soviet Union had just joined the war, Churchill had a low opinion of the USSR's defensive capacity. On 10 June, 1941 Churchill wrote, "The advantage we should reap if the Russians could keep the field and go on with the war, at any rate until the winter closes in, is immeasurable."
It is common knowledge that Stalin was infuriated by Churchill's letter of 7 November, 1941, in particular by the inference that by the time Churchill's envoys came to the Soviet Union, Moscow might already be in German hands. After the war began the top brass in London were asserting that "…the first stage will probably take at least three and at most six weeks or some more". The British Joint Staff officially informed Churchill in the beginning of the war that the USSR would cease its existence as a state in six months.
The chief of the British Imperial General Staff Sir John Dill predicted that "the Germans will go through them like a hot knife through butter".
On 24 October, 1941 Winston Churchill wrote to the chief of British Military Intelligence, Major General F.H. Davidson, "I have the impression that the battle heat in Russia has waned.. There are fewer divisions from both sides taking part in the battles than a month before. What can you say? When will winter come near Moscow? Are there any signs of transition to trench warfare? What are the chances of Moscow falling before autumn, in your opinion? I think myself the chances are one-to-one". In other words, 50-50!
The following fact emerged after secret NKGB documents were disclosed 60 years after the war - "On 8 October, 1941, residents in London sent the following message: "A naval intelligence officer said in a conversation with our source that the naval experts engaged in the task of coordinating support for the USSR had received guidelines not to provide the USSR any classified or explicit data on naval issues, with the exception of the data already sent to the French before and therefore known by the Germans." This fact suggests a lot. It means an unwillingness to share classified information with a doomed country!
Hitler and his generals were saying the USSR was already defeated and the rest was just a technicality.
Speaking before tens of thousands of Berliners in the Sports Palace, the great building on Potstdamer Strasse, for the first time since 22 June, Hitler said, "German troops have already left behind them an area twice as big as the territory of the Reich was when I came to power, and four times as big as England… I am talking of this only today, for it is today that I can say for certain: our enemy is crushed and will never rise again…" As we can see, in the early days after the Soviet Union joined the war the great powers of the time, both friend and foe, were unanimous in their views of the USSR's military chances with just the slightest shade of doubt. Where such a big state as the USSR is concerned, a small difference of opinion on the timing of its fall means a mistake in determining a major historic event, the fall of a great empire.
Nor is there a unanimous opinion on the assistance of the USSR Allies and its significance in the war as a whole.
Both Roosevelt and Churchill of course feared strengthening Stalin's hand, for they knew him well and Bolshevism too. And they were consistent in that. Throughout the whole war, they never changed their ideological attitude towards the USSR. In this regard, the following statements by those politicians during the war , when they were allies of the USSR, can be considered typical.
The US president to be, then an influential American senator, Harry Truman is known to have said after Nazi Gerrmany attacked the Soviet Union, "If we see that Germany is close to victory we should support the Soviet Union. And if we see success for the Soviet Union, we are to assist Germany. And let them kill one another, as much as possible."
Senators Taft (Republican) and Truman (Democrat) said that victory for the Communists in the war against Nazism is as dangerous for the Americans as Hitler's occupation of Russia, or even more so.
Revealing the essence of US war policy, Franklin Roosevelt said in a conversation with his son Elliott in August 1941, "The Chinese kill the Japanese, and the Russians kill the Germans. We are to help them continue their cause till our own forces are ready to come to their rescue. That is why we should start sending a hundred times as much material as we do now. Fancy it is a football match. And we are, let's say, odd players sitting on the bench. At the moment, the key players are the Russians, the Chinese, and, to a smaller extent, the English. We are destined to be the players that join the game at the crucial moment. Before our forwards are played out, we will join the game to score the winning goal. We will come with fresh forces. If we choose the right moment our forwards will not be too exhausted." According to Roosevelt, the crucial moment came when the German backs were disabled, the Russian forwards were not tired at all, the American forwards were all milk and roses, and the goals were unguarded!
Churchill's stance towards the USSR was even tougher.
As soon as Great Britain recovered after Hitler attacked the USSR, Winston Churchill said at a secret meeting of senior British officers in Tripoli in 1943, "I would like to see the German army in the grave and Russia on the operating table".
At the same time, Roosevelt and especially Churchill understood full well the desperate consequences of fascism for Europe and the USA. And they saw clearly that the main force opposing fascism in Europe was the USSR, and they genuinely wanted to help the USSR in its fight against Hitler, to a certain moment. Several months after the end of the war, everything reverted to how it had been
On the other hand, it should be noted that Soviet military historians used the following incorrect device for many years to downplay the role of the USSR Allies' assistance. They took the total of arms produced in the USSR during the war years, for example aircraft, and compared it with the quantity of aircraft the Allies sent the USSR. This is a devious approach, as it does not take into consideration the important time weighting factor - an aircraft in the ranks of Red Army in 1941-42 is far from equal to one in 1944-45! From October 1941 to June 1942, the USSR received 3,000 aircraft, 4,000 tanks, 20,000 different vehicles and much else. THAT ASSISTANCE FROM THE USSR'S ALLIES WAS VALUABLE AS IT CAME AT THE RIGHT MOMENT, WHEN THE USSR WAS FIGHTING TOUGH DEFENSIVE BATTLES AND, THEREFORE THE ASSISTANCE WAS HIGHLY EFFECTIVE. Besides, the Allies supplied a number of types of arms and goods that the USSR did not produce at the time.
Soviet political and military quarters were also equivocal about the significance of the Allies' Normandy landings in 1944 - the importance of this event was downplayed by the USSR, while the Allies exaggerated it!
At the height of the bloody battles, Churchill wrote to Roosevelt, "I think it is terrible that in April, May and June no American and no British soldier will kill any German or Italian soldier, while the Russians pursue 185 divisions of the enemy. Of course, someone may say that July is probably the most favourable month, militarily, but time is a crucial factor. It seems to me we will undoubtedly cause serious reproach from the Russians if we allow such an enormous delay, taking into account the small territory we are conducting our operations in…" This confession by Churchill speaks volumes and later he will try to forget it.
American historians divide the US participation in World War II into three stages: neutrality (1939 - 1941), full mobilization and defensive warfare (1941 - 1942), offensive operations (the end of 1942 - August 1945).
The crowning event of the last period was the landing of the Americans in Normandy.
Harrison describes the Normandy operation as crucial in the defeat of Germany. "That was not an ordinary incursion", he writes. "That was the greatest achievement of the Western Allies in Europe, the completion of the vast scheme of entrapping Germany, through a direct strike right into the heart of Hitler's Reich". We can add just one thing - into a heart already stricken by the attacks of Soviet troops!
The former chief of the Western Front Staff Operation Branch, Gen B. Zimmerman, confirms this in other words, "It can be said without exaggeration that the Eastern Front was exhausting German forces in the West of all effective manpower and military equipment… Since 1943 the basis of German troops at the Western Front was old men equipped with outdated arms."
When the Allies landed in Normandy, the balance of forces with the Germans was as follows: infantry 1.43:1, support echelons 6:1, other units 2.25:1, total 1.92:1; tanks 3.93:1, artillery 1.5:1, other 2.5:1, bomber and fighter aircraft 7.4:1. Moreover, Romania had already fallen and this was a major factor. The Germans had hardly any fuel, just some synthetic fuel. With such superiority in all areas, and first of all in fuel, the Americans could surely take care of Private Ryan, as Steven Spielberg depicted.
Even with this balance of forces, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces, General Dwight D. Eisenhower soon after the start of the offensive in Normandy made a request to Stalin to speed up the Red Army offensive on the Eastern Front in order to help the Americans and the British who had met what they saw as heavy resistance from the Germans in Normandy. Eisenhower should be admired for that request, and not mocked as a number of Soviet historians did, for he wanted to spare his soldiers as far as he could, unlike Stalin and Zhukov for whom the lives of Soviet soldiers were not worth anything. Operation Overlord was not so much aid to the Soviet Army as a desire to meet it as far east in Europe as possible.
In regard to Operation Overlord, let us give some figures on the outcome of the war for the loser. These figures clarify the question of the Allies' contribution to the common Victory. It was on the Soviet-German front that Hitler's forces lost 73 out of every 100 of their soldiers and officers, 76 out of every 100 of their tanks and 57 out of every 100 of their aircraft were destroyed by Soviet pilots, excluding aircraft shot down by artillery fire. The rest were destroyed by the other members of the anti-Hitler coalition, including the US Air Force. However, it must be mentioned that the crucial blow to the Luftwaffe was delivered in the skies above Great Britain. These figures are enough for anyone, literate or even illiterate, to understand who made the main contribution to the common Victory.
Finally, an assessment of the role of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief in World War II, Stalin. Konstantin Simonov wrote in his immortal novel The Quick and the Dead that was published at a time when only the idle were not flinging mud at Stalin, "He was loved in different ways: whole-heartedly and with reservations, both admiring and fearing; and not loved at all sometimes. But no one doubted his courage and iron will. And these two qualities proved to be the most necessary in a man leading a country at war." There can be no better description of the bloody dictator in respect of the exterminatory war unleashed against the USSR.