Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More Important Than Bill Murray

Geez, I need to brush up on my military dates. February 2nd is not just Groundhog Day, but also the day that the Battle of Stalingrad ended. Over 90,000 German soldiers surrendered to the Red Army a few days after the last airfields had been captured, leaving the Germans no chance of escape or reinforcement.

The larger significance, of course, is that this began the long Soviet push back across Europe that eventually led - more than two brutal years later - to Berlin. Something like 2 million people died on all sides at Stalingrad, making it one of the bloodiest battles ever recorded - on average, something like 12,500 people died every day.

Brad DeLong has taken to saying "We in the west have still done far too little to repay our debt to the soldiers of the Red Army and to the workers of Magnitogorsk for what they did and suffered in those years." Needless to say, I agree. As offensive as western European arrogance is when it comes to how "we" won World War II, it's not even close to true. In Europe, the Soviets are owed most of the credit to defeating the Nazis. In the Pacific, most Japanese soldiers never saw an American: they were busy garrisoning (read: brutalizing) China. The Americans at least have a decent claim in the Pacific, what with the whole aerial incineration of Japan. Europe, on the other hand, owes both the freedom of France and England, as well as the oppression of the Warsaw Pact, to the Soviets.

I think I need to watch Fog of War again.

1 comment:

Westacular said...

It's worth pointing out that the reason D-Day was needed wasn't to defeat the Nazis -- it was to get in there before Russia could sweep all the way west and defeat them all on their own.