World War II: a war worth fighting
American intervention in WWII was necessary to keep Hitler at bay.
I commend Paul Schrampfer for his willingness to question the standard historical narrative that we are force-fed in high school history classes in his article printed in Chimes a few weeks ago (“America should not have entered WWII,” Jan. 12). Had he questioned American involvement in any other war, I would have supported him whole-heartedly.
Unfortunately, he chose to revise the history of what I would assert is the only just war the United States has ever fought. His assertions that the Allies were as vile as the Axis and that Germany had already lost the war before December of 1941 are based on a poor analysis of narrowly selected facts that do not present the entire picture of the war in question. In the end, I believe that World War II was a war worth fighting.
Schrampfer’s first claim is that the traditional picture of good versus evil is inaccurate. To an extent, this is correct. But to pretend that the U.S.S.R. was a “good guy” under Stalin would be a mistake; Stalin’s regime was brutal, repressive and despotic. China was split between the Communist party under Mao Zedong and the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek, neither of which was known for being a paragon of virtue.
Yes, France and the United Kingdom were fading imperial powers who had committed atrocities in their quest for imperial glory, but to compare the misdeeds of the Allied powers to the intentional slaughter of over eleven million Jews, Romany (Gypsies), homosexuals and other ethnic and social “undesirables” in the name of racial purity does a disservice to the victims of the Nazis. There were casualties throughout the world, caused by both sides, but the horrors of war pale against the emaciated bodies found at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Treblinka and other camps. There is a difference between war and murder, academic though that difference may be to the victims.
Furthermore, even if we consider Stalinist Russia as evil as Nazi Germany, what of Britain, France, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece and Bulgaria? WWII was fought, at least in part, for the freedom of the many victims of the Nazi regime. That we failed to fight an equivalent war for the freedom of Eastern Europe does not diminish the justice of defeating Germany.
Schrampfer’s second main claim was that the war was virtually won by the time America entered anyway, making American intervention unnecessary. To write off the Axis so easily is a mistake that fails to take into account the realities of war and the repercussions of isolationism.
By stating (correctly, so far as I can tell) that Germany never conquered more than four percent of the world’s surface area, Schrampfer minimizes the very real threat that the German war machine posed to the rest of the world. In addition to the portion of Europe ruled directly from Berlin, one must also take into account the land controlled by Italy, Romania, Finland and Vichy France. With the addition of these lesser Axis and Fascist powers, the total area dominated by Germany spreads almost unchecked across Europe. Granted, this is still a relatively small fraction of the world’s surface area, but to compare industrialized Europe with colonial Africa, unsettled Siberia, or the vast expanses of open land in Canada and the western USA in terms of strategic value is laughable.
When America entered the war in December of 1941, Germany had just conquered the vast majority of Europe in only two years with what seemed like token resistance. Poland fell in 30 days, France in 43. In five months of fighting, the Germans pushed to the gates of Moscow and Leningrad. Although the fighting bogged down for the winter, the Germans launched a fresh offensive in the spring that captured the oilfields of the Caucasus. Compared to the slow, plodding pace of WWI, the German progress seemed an unstoppable juggernaut. Although there is a reasonable chance that the Allies would have prevailed in the end, the war was by no means over. Schrampfer’s claim that “anyone who knew history could see that Germany was finished” is a reckless exaggeration.
Schrampfer’s final and most dramatic mistake is in his analysis of post-war Europe. In his concluding paragraph, he claims that “by getting involved, America
set the stage for the Cold War by helping the U.S.S.R. emerge as a world power.” Even if we assume that the Allies would have emerged triumphant without America’s aid, who but the Soviet Union would have dominated Europe? The British and Free French forces would have been hard-pressed to liberate just France, much less Italy, the Low Countries and much of Germany. Without American intervention, the post-war situation almost certainly would have favored the Soviet Union heavily. For that reason alone, American intervention was imperative.
While the traditional picture of history is in need of revision, Schrampfer reaches too far. His report on Maybury’s book seems to begin with a premise and searched for the few facts available that supported that premise, regardless of whether or not the rest of the facts did or not. America needed to fight in World War II in order to stop the atrocities of the holocaust, ensure an allied victory and bring about a post-war environment favorable to American interests.