WWII Myths and Misconceptions (That Need to Go Away)

Discussion in 'WWII' started by Guttersnipe, Apr 7, 2018.

  1. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Another myth I loathe: "people fought for freedom and to defeat Naziism". Some fought for nothing other than petty, flag-waving nationalism. Most fought because the conscription papers came through the door. (None of which invalidates many acts of individual bravery, but...).
     
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  2. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    A war can quickly level asinine notions especially in the young. Youth admittedly has its immature side but mortality itself is a great and noble teacher,
    whose harsh cruelty exacts deathly certitude among young and older troops. The death age in Vietnam was 19 years, 10 months, seven days.
    The Second World War age was probably a bit older but all in all life is fleeting to a combat soldier.
     
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  3. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

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    Out of 125,000 volunteers (and they were all volunteers) serving in RAF Bomber Command as aircrew:
    55,573 were killed;
    8,403 were wounded in battle; and
    9,838 were taken prisoner.

    Put another way, out of a random group of 100 airmen:
    -55 killed on operations or died as result of wounds
    -3 injured (in varying levels of severity) on operations or active service
    -12 taken prisoner of war (some wounded)
    - 2 shot down and evaded capture
    -27 survived a tour of operations.

    Anyway you look at it, they did, indeed, "pay a very high price."

    The lack of appreciation on the part of Mr. Churchill for the crucial role that was played by Bomber Command in winning that war - likely because he wanted to deflect any negative reactions from the Dresden bombings (which he ordered) toward Arthur Harris... well, that's another topic, one likely worthy of a dissertation in itself.
     
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  4. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    The Churchill myth is perhaps one of the most pervasive and unchallenged here in the UK. Significantly, it grows stronger with age. Churchill was hated throughout much of the UK by 1945 - if they'd forgotten Tonypandy and other such political (ab)uses of the military, Gallipoli, or any other of his many mistakes, his rampant self-promotion among other factors ensured he was hated in Wales, the North of England, and elsewhere. Much is often made by his fans of the cranes which dipped in respect as his funeral barge passed the London docks on its way up the Thames; in reality, this took place on a non-working day, and the crane operators were handsomely bribed to come in and carry out this "spontaneous" act of "respect". His death was cheered in the Welsh valleys, and there were many others who weren't much impressed either. Nonetheless, for a generation that were too young at the time to comprehend politics and a generation or two born since his death, he has become, for the mainstream, something of an untouchable icon who must not be criticised. I find it a very worrying obscuring of the real history. I used to view him to some extent as one of history's "Necessary Bastards", but the more I learn of his true history, the less convinced I actually am of the notion that but or Churchill things would have been very different.

    Whereas recent history (even moreso than the history he wrote for himself) has been at least overly kind to Churchill, I lean to the view that Chamberlain has long been given rather a raw deal. We may speculate that he didn't see the danger in Hitler quite as Churchill did, however the notion that Britain was ready by any measure, whether psychologically, socially, or even financially, to go to war in 1938 is bunk, and I believe Chamberlain was all too aware of that. Morally, I find it a great tragedy that a man a scant two decades removed from the industrialised mass-murder of the trenches and sought to avoid sending sons to the same slaughter as that into which their fathers had been thrown is popularly depicted as weak and misguided.
     
  5. p51

    p51 One Too Many

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    I've always wondered why there seemed to be no effort to do something, but I guess considering the allies knew that Russians POWs were being killed en mass and all the other general mayhem going on inside Europe at the time, it appears to have bene a low priority.
    I would have assumed that some of those camps might have bene confused with POW camps as well (which generally weren't touched even in the general area, for fear of reprisals against the POWs), but I've seen very little on the strategic plan for the allies in any regard to this kind of thing.
     
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  6. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    I think I remember reading something to the effect that it was also tied up with not wanting to let Hitler know that his communications encryption had been breached.
     
  7. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    My favorite WWII myths are;

    1. 'Hiroshima ended the war and saved millions of lives'. It didn't, which is why we bombed Nagasaki, and even after that when the Emperor's surrender speech was in the can, the army rebelled, stormed the imperial palace, and ransacked it searching for the recording to destroy it. Hirohito hid in a cupboard with it for hours. USAF Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that the bombs had no effect, and USN submarine blockade would have starved Japan into surrender.

    2. 'Japanese war crimes are a fabrication'. A remarkably widespread myth in Japan.

    Bonus!
    German 'scarecrows'.
    RAF Bomber Command crews reported seeing a number of large 'model' Lancasters fired up into the sky by German gunners and then brightly exploding- a kind of psychological warfare. RAF Bomber Command confirmed this explanation during the war only to later reveal that they had known all along from the atrocious attrition rates that the aircrews were actually seeing real Lancasters taking direct hits.
     
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  8. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    I believe Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, was involved in scientific research during the war. He and his fellow scientists discussed the atomic bombings, but were not mystified as to what they were. Japan also was investigating the potential of atomic weapons, and knowing how they had to be made were shocked that anyone had built working versions so quickly. His take was that if the US could drop an atomic bomb in 1945 many other, perhaps unknown, layers of military technology could be applied to Japan (like advanced submarines and aircraft as well as rockets and things of that sort). This was really an extension of the pre-war knowledge that the clock was ticking toward US military dominance in the Pacific and if Japan wanted to expand it's empire it needed to do so quickly.

    We've all been taught to forget that in 1945, with no threat of world wide atomic war, the bombs were just bigger bombs. I completely get your point; if thousands of workers in factories all over the US labored for years to produce a pair of supremely powerful bombs, how is that different from thousands of bombers dropping firebombs every night. It's just another use of technology and horrible death is horrible death whether by atomic fire or napalm. We tend to reverse engineer our cautionary tales and rather appropriate emotional reactions to a possible WWIII into a myth about WWII!

    Morita's comment seemed to be a cautionary one, aimed at the US in the 1970s; that we were giving away technology (like transistors) too easily and without developing our own industries fully and that Japan was sucking up the ignored American technology and selling it back at tremendous profit. Basically; don't blame us for a trade imbalance, you guys are squandering your own inventions and industrial base which were at one time impressive enough to bring Japan to its knees.

    All that said, we have to take into consideration that he using history to express a certain kind of a point. Before the war Japanese experts did predict their demise, overwhelmed by Allied industrial and technological might ... and that Japan lacked sufficient commercial shipping to even make use of it's growing empire. I've always seen it as some sort of awful and malign fate that they coundn't stop themselves from steering directly into the threat as opposed to avoiding it in some way. It's so odd now that we live in a world where fortunes can be made by just purchasing the oil, steel, and other materials that the Axis felt cheated out of because of their lack of empires. Even at the time it was an old fashioned idea, something from the sixteenth to nineteenth century.

    Possibly the most significant WWII myths and misconceptions at the time of the war was that Germany or Japan had the capacity to fulfill their dreams. In both instances it was case of utterly magical thinking, of mythologizing the character of the German and Japanese soldiers and people. It's a lesson in hubris that should still resonate with everyone on earth but seems too often be the forgotten lesson of WWII.
     
  9. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    That's one I'd not heard before!
     
  10. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    There is much to admire in Chamberlain; most notably his innate decency, a rare trait within politics, that most practical of professions.
    Perhaps too refined to recognize human nature in all its insidious variation; or to deal with Mars' temporal scourge at the political pillar,
    History cannot deny a nod to Chamberlain for a gallant attempt at compromise and the cost its failure extracted.

    More measured for his moment, more complex a personality, Churchill-whatever his foibles and faults-proved himself a pragmatist.
    Ambition is a cruel mistress to some men and glory resultant short lived against its cost. It can be readily assumed that Churchill paid
    an interior charge against his conscience, probably down to the last penny in the coffers. He remarked to Eisenhower on the eve of Overlord
    that he saw Normandy pooling the blood of the flower of American, British, and Canadian youth. Such a remark is telling. As told as the
    Ultra secrets that precluded Coventry's civil evacuation, a decision he undoubtedly carried to the grave.
    A mixed bag, warts and all in sum. But whatever currency History accords his ghost today hardly seems unearned lucre.
     
  11. Kennyz

    Kennyz Familiar Face

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  12. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @Edward, yeah, it seems total bunk right? IIRC I read it in Max Hastings 'Bomber Command', which is a brutal examination of the RAF's strategic bombing campaign.
     
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  13. Otter

    Otter One Too Many

    Read what Max Hastings did to Ian Bruce and the other journalists in the Falklands and make your own judgements about the man.
     
  14. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    The Poles crippled the Soviet Army in 1920s Battle of Warsaw. Military readiness is quite the game, however: be prepared for war too early and you are outdated if it comes at you later on. There is a constant ebb and flow in the 'who is ready to take on who and how' sweepstakes
     
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  15. p51

    p51 One Too Many

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    MikeKardec, interesting take on the Axis 'big picture' and for the most part, I agree with it based on what I know.
    It never made any sense to me how any of the Axis nations could believe they'd be able to keep their empires like that, especially in Japan's case. The early horrific war in China should have bene a preview of what was going to happen elsewhere. I talk with school groups about WW2 and the question comes up how Germany and Japan especially thought they'd win and I tell them to a degree it was simple Racism (and that is not a popular answer), in that the Japanese simply felt themselves superior to the West with a divine right to their half of the world. It's no less racist, I will always contend, than the program of dehumanizing we directed right back to them. We weren't like each other, so the other side was beneath us, pure and simple. It was racist for us, and I see nothing to suggest it was any less racist for them to do feel the same. it was this belief in the superiority of the Japanese people over, well, all other peoples, that led them to utter ruin by the fall of 1945.
    Could you please explain? I did a internet search and turned up nothing that explains what you're talking about. I've done a lot of research into war correspondents in WW2 but know very little about the Falklands conflict other than a interesting discussion I once had with a Harrier pilot who shot down some planes in that war...
     
  16. Otter

    Otter One Too Many

    Hi p51,

    Basically when Port Stanley fell, there was only one seat on a chopper back to the fleet where the sat terminal was that the journalists could file their reports. They all agreed to file a pool report and Max was chosen to file the story on behalf of all. When he returned to the Upland Goose he announced that he had filed an exclusive about how he had been "The First Man into Port Stanley", instead of the pool report. Ian Bruce had to be restrained by members of 45 Commando from gutting Dear Max with a bayonet.
     
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  17. Otter

    Otter One Too Many

    Funnily enough my pal Kevin has a large skin section from one of the Argentinian Pumas that the Harriers got. He tabbed out there from his ship to get a souvenir.
     
  18. LOL -- and they wonder why journos are held in such low esteem by many :p
     
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  19. p51

    p51 One Too Many

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    Nothing new there, the press has always been a cutthroat field...
    There was also a correspondent who broke the embargo of the D-Day landing story and was sent home in disgrace, but his name escapes me at the moment.
     
  20. 3fingers

    3fingers One Too Many

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    Not sure on that one, but the AP's Edward Kennedy caused a crap storm by defying SHAEF and breaking the end of the war in Europe before the blackout was lifted and before the shooting stopped.
     

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