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Category Archives: World War II – General

The Long Goodbye to the Greatest Generation

Photo from the National Archives

From the National Archives: ” GI’s at the Rainbow Corner Red Cross Club in Paris, France, whoop it up after buying the special edition of the Paris Post, which carried the banner headline, `JAPS QUIT.'” T3c. G. Lempeotis, August 10, 1945. 111-SC-210208. National Archives Identifier: 531309

As Christmas nears, I am moved to make mention of the declining number of World War II veterans who are alive and with us today. The National WWII Museum in New Orleans cites the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “They are dying quickly—according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, only 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2016.” [1] Illustrated another way, 620,000 represents just 3.875% of the 16 million Americans who served during that war. This low percentage is sobering and is projected to be 0.5% (80,000) in ten years. The percentages could be similar for those other nations that fought for the Allied and Axis Powers, depending on mortality rates and standards of living in those countries.

In the liner notes of his 1985 CD Scarecrow, John Mellencamp wrote: “There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands.” It is needless to paraphrase Mellencamp’s quote or explain its appropriateness here. The long goodbye accelerates as we “change hands” with the men and women of the Greatest Generation. If you still have a loved one among this group, hold them close this Christmas season.

[1] The National WWII Museum, http://www.nationalww2museum.org/honor/wwii-veterans-statistics.html. Accessed 23 December 2016.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in World War II - General

 

The Economics of the Allied Victory

Not Why the Axis Lost – Why the Allies Won
This is an interesting final chapter for Overy – one that takes the same title as the book. As Overy tells the reader early on in the chapter, Hitler’s Germany did not lose the war because of the “two-front” hypothesis or that he was up against a “greater GDP” than he and Germany possessed. Overy adds that: “Materially rich, but divided, demoralized, and poorly led, the Allied coalition would have lost the war, however exaggerated Axis ambitions, however flawed their moral outlook.”[1] So Overy’s statements beg the question – was it not so much that Germany (and possibly Japan) lost the war as much as it was that the Allied “Grand Alliance” won the war? Perhaps it was so. To Overy’s point that had the Allies been divided, demoralized, and poorly led the Allies might have lost; Gerhard L. Weinberg notes in A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II that “In a global war of great complexity, personal relationships at the top were of even greater importance than usual; and, in addition, at least a few of the highest commanders had to acquire the ability to work with allies and to understand global relationships.”[2] This in turn, brings us back to Marshall’s statement of “Allied military unity of action.” As dysfunctional as the management of the war was for the Allies both on the battlefields and in the international conferences, it still managed to work in the end – because it had too – and the Allied leaders knew it.

The Sleeping Economic Giant is Awakened
America’s full-entry into the war in 1941 created a “perfect storm” for an economic boom. This enabled what Overy calls “moral energy” amongst a nation, its leaders, and its people. Propelled out of the Great Depression and into bustling wartime factories the new American labor force was able to out-produce their German and Japanese counterparts. This new moral energy was typified in the demographic shift of African Americans from the south to the new factories in the northern and western United States. For the first time in America women now had a strong presence in these same shipyards and factories. Hundreds of thousands of women entered military service for the first time in order to alleviate manpower shortages across all branches.[3] In Great Britain, nearly 23% of the 22 million member workforce in the period of 1944-45 were serving in the armed forces. Nearly one-third of the men between the ages of 14 and 64 were in uniform.[4] Across the Soviet Union this moral energy took the form of patriotism and what the Soviet citizenry now called their ‘Great Patriotic War’. Fighting for their lives, their homes, and what they thought would be a better post-war life, the Soviet citizens toiled in the factories displaced by war; turning out vast armaments and munitions which were found to be superior to their German foes.[5]

Endnotes:
1 Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995) 325.
2 Weinberg, Gerhard L., A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 918.
3 Ibid., 496
4 Ibid., 489.
5 Ibid., 502

Bibliography:
Overy, Richard. Why the Allies Won. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995. Page references are to the 1997 edition.
Weinberg, Gerhard L. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Page references are to the 2005 edition.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in World War II - General

 
 
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