For Halloween, here is something truly scary.
I want you to think about World War II. What is it that you picture? Did you think about the heroic British, valiantly defending their island as the last bastion of freedom? Did you think of America, the awakened sleeping giant who came over to Europe to whoop old Mr. Hitler's smarmy ass. Did you think of D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge? Did you think of the brave American GI, putting it all on the line to take down the vilest dictator ever known? Fighting it out mano a mano as the last hope for liberty, truth, and the pursuit of happiness? Did you? Is that what you thought? Well, if it is, I got some bad news, because you're picturing World War II completely wrong.
During World War II, approximately 0.4 million U.S. servicemen lost their lives, of which 0.1 million died in the Pacific and 0.3 million died in North Africa and Europe. When the Allies landed in France on D-Day in 1944, American deaths equaled 12,500. The single costliest battle of the war for America was the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-1945, which cost an estimated 20,000 GI lives. For reference, 4,500 US soldiers died in the eight years we fought in Iraq and 2,300 died in the sixteen years we've fought in Afghanistan so far. Of course America wasn't fighting on its own. We had allies like Britain, Canada, South Africa, and numerous freedom fighters from the nations conquered by the Nazis. In total 0.9 million Allied soldiers died freeing Europe from Nazi control, taking 0.8 million Nazi soldiers with them. All together it adds up to some pretty grisly numbers.
Now what if I told you that the U.S. and its allies were only fighting two-fifths of the Nazi's military might. Well, if so, then where the hell were the other three fifths? Just sitting around with their thumbs up their asses? The more historically astute of you probably already know the answer and might even be screaming it at your computer screen. Something along the lines of, "the Soviet Union numb nuts, they were fighting the reds." In 1941, the Nazi's invaded the Soviet Union, kicking off one of the bloodiest military campaigns in human history. On one side was an insane fascist dictator, bent on exterminating entire groups of people. On the other was an insane communist dictator, also bent on exterminating entire groups of people. Neither gave even the tiniest piece of shit for the value of human life. For the Nazi soldiers, the western front was considered a cakewalk compared to the certain death which awaited them to the east. The Nazi's came a knocking with their best, and the Russians fought with everything they had to beat them back.
The deadliest battle on the eastern front was the Battle of Stalingrad where 0.5 million Soviet soldiers met their demise. More Germans were killed trying to take a single house in Stalingrad than were killed in the taking of Paris. Nothing on the western front even came close to matching the scale of the devastation. The Germans were better armed and better trained. All the Soviets had was a grim stubbornness to never surrender, no matter what the cost. Men of all ages fought for comrade Stalin, even women and children heeded the call of the motherland. Any who tried to retreat were shot as traitors. By the time the Soviet army entered Berlin, 5.5 million Nazi soldiers had been killed, nearly seven times the number killed in the west. However, the victory had a high cost. In total, an estimated 11.3 million Soviet soldiers lost their lives, nearly thirteen times more than all Allied deaths in the west. Another 23.0 million were wounded. Of the estimated 25 million soldiers who died during World War II, 46% were Soviet. Of the 59 million civilians who died, 29% were Soviet (only surpassed by China who made up 31%). In total, 14% of the population of the Soviet Union died in the war. Only Poland, the main victim of the holocaust as well as numerous purges by both the Germans and Soviets lost a larger percentage of its people, 17% in total.
Most of Professor Errare's stuff is written with a smattering of humor and a bite of sarcasm. There's no way the above can be made funny. The US and its western Allies were not the ones to defeat Hitler. We were at best just a sideshow, a pleasant distraction in comparison to the hell on earth that was the war in eastern Europe. History is a messy thing and sometimes it is hard to find someone to cheer for. Hitler and his fascists killed around 11 million people via the Holocaust, mass civilian executions, and the purposeful starving of prisoners of war. Stalin and his communists killed around 9.5 million via the gulags, manufactured famines, and military and ethnic purges. Hitler was a monster, but in the end it was not a chivalrous knight that slew him, just another monster.
For some amazing visuals on this, and also something that might cheer you up a bit, check out the following: