WWII Myths and Misconceptions (That Need to Go Away)

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

  1. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    Very, very interesting and informative discussion about tanks. Thank you very much guys, I enjoyed reading that a lot.

    @p51, great post. The Japanese have a national month of victimhood every August, and TV is filled with documentaries about how the Japanese suffered in the war. There's nothing wrong with that except that it completely deletes any discussion or consideration of the victims of Japanese aggression; the Japanese see the war as 'something that happened to them' rather than as 'something they did to millions of other people'. It's a period of national mourning for the Japanese lives lost, and a pledge to never make war so that Japanese lives aren't lost again. No wonder that the rest of Asia keeps slapping Japan in the face with its war crimes.
    The postwar Japanese Ministry of Education was almost entirely staffed with wartime Kempeitai (military police) on the misguided understanding that after the occupation ended, and the US Army left, Japan could revive its imperial ideology and get back to brain washing kids. Japan's post war, US led, economic revitalization gave people a standard of living most Japanese had never experienced before, so that 'resurgence' was never embraced by the now democratized masses, but 'the dream' has never been abandoned (witness the tri-annual ceremonies at Yasakuni shrine, where over 1000 convicted war criminals were secretly enshrined in the 1960's; these are always 'to pray for peace').
    My wake-up call was when my eldest daughter brought home a textbook when she was 11 that literally said 'It was a warm sunny day when the Americans dropped an atom bomb without warning on the peaceful city of Hiroshima'.
    That was the day I decided that my kids would need to go to private schools to avoid the propaganda brainwashing (and I embraced poverty).
     
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  2. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @Hannauman,

    Very intriguing comment about Isreali M4s Vs Syrian Panzer IVs! I knew that the Irealis modified, upgraded and used the M4 for many years, and I knew that the postwar Belgian army used recomissioned Panthers, but I never knew the Syrians used Panzer IVs.

    Recently I've been reading everything about the air war over North Vietnam (highly recommend Clashes, On Yankee Station, Going Downtown, Mig Killers of Yankee Station and First In, Last Out) because the best of US air power went up against the best Soviet air defense system, and that tells us a lot about how an air war in Europe would have played out.

    Likewise, I've just read a book about the Second Indo-Pakistan War; Indian Army Chieftan tanks (British) Vs Pakistan Army M47s (US). Very interesting.
     
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  3. HanauMan

    HanauMan Practically Family

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    The Soviets captured many Panzer IVs, and other stuff, and post WWII they supplied their allies with this equipment, including the Syrians who were given the IVs as well as Russian T-34s etc.

    I have read some books on the air war in Vietnam and there would certainly have been some aspects used in a similar way in Europe but on the whole the air war there would have been different in some areas. While the jet to jet engagements would be similar, using the same hardware and tactics, other combat areas would be totally different to Vietnam. For example, NATO had real concerns about Soviet armor in the 1970s / 80s, one reason that there were so many A10s based in Europe. The air battles were mostly geared towards defence against ground based armor and motor - infantry units. Helicopter tactics were also largely different, again geared more to ground defence. The Soviets, in turn, had large numbers of ZSU 23-4s and ZSU 57-2s alongside their armor, as well as static missile units as were used in positions in North Vietnam. Many lessons would have also been taken from similar air war engagements between the Arabs and Israeli forces. (Who recalls the Soviet pilots defecting to the West with their Migs in the 1970s? The military pulled the Migs apart before returning them to the Soviets and sniggered about the old fashion valves used in the electronics until it was realized that they would withstand electromagnetic pulses better than the latest western electronics!!)
     
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  4. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    One subtle aspect to Japan's involvement in China was a sense of shame that China, the mother culture, had been in such disarray (30 year multi sided civil war). Some Japanese sources discuss Japan's need to bring China back to order and civilization ... of course with Japan as the governing entity. It's ironic to read this sort of thing with knowledge of the savagery Japan used when it tried to do the job. Sort of a 'kill them until they appreciate us' mentality. Japan tried to play the role of freeing Asia from European colonialism too. True yet they didn't even seem to try to be popular with the locals in Indochina, Borneo, and other places. Their reputation as the overlords of Korea wasn't positive either. When you think of the POTENTIAL of what Japan could have offered Asia at the time had it gone slowly and gently about the process of aiding, educating, industrializing, and freeing Asia piece by piece it really looks like a tragedy. The area was ripe for conversion and Japan could have had all it wanted with a great deal less death and destruction.

    The tanks you use to fight a defensive war at home are generally not the best designed to be transported to a distant battlefield, especially if you have to do the transporting in great numbers.

    I've heard that a good many of the Israeli Shermans were upgraded with a vastly improved turret and gun from a tank they were in the process of buying from Germany. The Germans couldn't supply the complete tanks quickly enough and, kind of brilliantly, the Israelis said, 'Okay, we'll just take the turrets for now!' When the chassis' arrived in later years they retrofitted the battle scarred turrets and junked the Shermans.

    In WWII I believe that the US benefited from its frontier experience in that there were still many extremely challenging environments in the US where military equipment was required to work. Post war we spread civilization and prosperity so far and wide in the lower 48 that I think we forgot that the robust designs intended for the frontier are important in warfare anywhere. Russia hasn't yet become a first world nation from St Petersberg to Kamchatka and they build equipment for their local conditions. We could learn a lesson or two from people who still imagine they might fight a war under vastly less than perfect circumstances!
     
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  5. p51

    p51 One Too Many

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    Excellent point, well said.
     
  6. EngProf

    EngProf A-List Customer

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    "...there were still many extremely challenging environments in the US where military equipment was required to work."
    The primary training/maneuver area during WWII (1941-44) was Middle Tennessee. The Army decided that terrain here - hills, valleys, creeks, rivers, woods, etc. was most like Western Europe.
    Multiple-Division-size maneuvers were held all over Eastern Middle Tennessee. People to this day are still finding lost equipment.
    I remember asking my dad - who was in the ETO - what it looked like over there. His short answer was "Just like here.".
    (Patton and the 2nd Armored Division started training about 40 miles Southeast of Nashville in mid-1941.)
     
  7. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @ MikeKardec,

    I'm going to have to disagree with you comment about Japanese imperialism being comparable to European colonialism. This is in fact a modern 'myth' the the Japanese repeat to themselves; 'but we were only doing what western countries were doing!'. It's a lie.
    However brutal western colonialism was, there was always the underlying idea of taking 'the noble savage' and making him/her into a 'good Christian'.
    Japanese imperialism had no such faith. In fact, Japanese imperialism more closely resembled Islamic State and its bizarre death cult mentality. In an era when the aspiration for a Japanese citizen was for the whole country to die 'like a jewel shattered into 100 million pieces', the Japanese army had an official 'steal all, burn all, kill all' policy in China. Western colonialism never had explicit policy such as that.
    There's another thread on the lounge about the TV show The Man in the High Castle. One of the themes in the book is that in victory, Germany and Japan would have been nihilistic death cults that would have embraced their own destruction provided they took their enemy with them; the inverse of Mutually Assured Destruction. In real life, we survived our Cuban missile crisis moment because neither side wanted to die. The Japanese and the Nazis would have raced to push the button on each other whilst praising the 'purity' of their deaths.
     
  8. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    You may be disagreeing with me but I am certainly not disagreeing with you! Obviously (hopefully), I was commenting on the potential contained in an alternative to the historical Japanese mentality. There's still a lot of learning possible from studying WWII, especially the early parts Americans tend to be less aware of. The mind set that went into some of the supremely bad decisions on the part of the Axis is still fascinating and mysterious as is much of the behavior of the victorious Allies after the war. These subjects are not unstudied but we are not nearly as good in our consideration of them as we are with other eras.
     
  9. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Interesting article which pertains to the subject matter of this thread here:

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/...s-provocative-book-challenging-think-WW2.html

    I don't normally care for either the Daily Mail or Peter Hitchens, but it looks like his book might be worth a read. We've long had a plurality of academic views about the Great War in the open, but for somethingl ike the Daily Mail to carry such an article as this in relation to WW2 is a significant step indeed.
     
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  10. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @mike, my apologies, reading it back, the tone of my post sounds dismissive. My apologies for that. Just trying to tap these out with my sausage fingers as quickly as possible.

    @Edward, I was a big fan of Chris Hitchens, not so much his brother, although I always felt his brother was at least honest in what he said and wrote. Not so in this case.
    I've never heard Brits call their WWII vets 'the greatest generation' (I thought that was a US concept), so he sets up this straw man argument that Brits do use the term, and then attacks them for doing so. Intellectually dishonest.

    As for his fathers musings on 'did we win the war' (great sample size of one!) I think Hitchens is being less than honest about his fathers circumstances. IIRC, when his father came home from the war, he found that his wife had been carrying on with a con-artist. The two of them ran away, until he'd used up all her money. Then he abandoned her as a washed up alcoholic with mental health issues. No doubt this was a factor in his fathers wondering what he fought for and why: he returned to domestic turmoil.

    I think the whole piece says rather more about Brexit tensions in the U.K., and should be seen as an attack on the British national pride driving the 'leave' movement. Jeremy Paxman said that WWII was the last time Britons shared a sense of national purpose and identity, and this Hitchens article seems to be attacking the exploitation of that fact. Given that the Mail is the go-to paper for moral panic for the U.K.s right, I think they published it without understanding what it really was (which is spectacularly amusing), but I still think it's a dishonest piece.

    If the UK had sat the war out, there is no guarantee that it wouldn't have been outright destroyed/occupied by the other belligerents. I also view the effort to 'force Germany into war with Briton' as a imperative when faced with the option; members of the U.K. political and social elite (even the monarchy) would have been quite happy to accept German dominance and control, and all the evils that would have brought as a de facto occupied state.
    It's not a case of 'Churchill good, Nazis bad', but it certainly is a case of 'Nazis bad'.
     
  11. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Let's steer away from The Brexit issue - suffice itg to say this is highly unlikely to be an attack on the same, given that Hitchens has personally long supported the idea, and the Mail in general was one of the loudest cheerleaders for Brexit all along (not to be confused with the Mail on Sunday, which took the opposite approach).

    "Greatest Generation" is certainly an Americanism - a lot of those have slipped into the Mail discourse in recent decades, quite likely as that's where much of its readership lies (this explains a lot of the sort of 'soft news' features on the website which are very US-based, in what is famously quite a Little Englander paper). That said, the fetishisation of WW" and the generation that went through it as the most heroic period of English/British civilisation is very deeply engrained, in particular in the generation either born during and too young or born in the years after the war, who grew up on a 50s and 60s school syllabus which still taught history through a lense of British exceptionalism, and a popular culture in which Tommys and Nazis replaced cowboys and Indians for many kids. A substantial number of folks over here still buy into the romanticised and mythologised version of WW2, and it directly colours the way they view everything. Note even the way in which much of the mainstream English soccer fandom of a certain age behaves - "Two world wars and one world cup" is chanted; they even had a band that followed them around for a long time that only ever played the theme to The Great Escape. Unfortunately that sort of thinking is very much alive and well. Sticking to history, it's amazing how many people in the UK will still react with extreme hostility to basic facts - such as, for example, the rate of crimes including theft, looting and rape during the Blitz; many will prefer to shout that down with howls about how the war meant people stuck together. I've even heard plenty of idiots wish for another war to bring on that "community spirit".

    It's certainly true that much of the aristocracy were Nazi-sympathisers, and, indeed, there was briefly one on the throne in the person of Edward VIII, but there were many others at the time who opposed the war for many different - not least because the pointless carnage of the trenches was still very much within living memory. Where I find Hitchens' analysis is particularly pertinent is in the separation of the decisions that were being made at the time - whether rightly or wrongly - and the retrospective justification for entry into the war, specific actions taken and so on. I fear retrospective justifications can set a dangerous precedent.
     
  12. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe One Too Many

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    The Hitchens article is interesting, but it seems to rely on another common misconception regarding interwar Soviet-German relations. Simon Sebag Montefiore's excellent biography Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar makes it clear that the Soviet leadership was ready and willing to go to war with Germany in 1938 during the Czechoslovakia crisis. However, when the British and French governments backed down, Stalin and his Politburo concluded that the western democracies could not be relied upon as allies against Nazi Germany's belligerent foreign polices. Hence, Stalin determined his only viable course of action was to seek a separate agreement with Hitler in order to buy time, resulting in the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

    The Hitchens article also misses a particular aspect of the post-WWI zeitgeist in Britain. In addition to war weariness that influenced interwar British politics and foreign policy, there was also a sense that WWI left the British Empire as a paper tiger, and that its international prestige among other powers and within its own Imperial Domains was in irreversibly damaged. (George Orwell alludes to this societal viewpoint extensively in various essays.) Thus, IMO, Hitchens' logical thrust -- that Great Britain won WWII yet lost the peace -- ignores a wider trend that stretches back to 1918.
     
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  13. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    It can fairly be argued that the British Empire went into inevitable decline from Easter 1916 onwards.
     
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  14. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    It certainly remains a fixed argument; although the occasion itself notwithstanding had the British recalled
    their Machiavelli and not prolonged the executions the larger proletariat might have proved pacified by swift vengeance.
     
  15. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Oh, it was absolutely much more about how the aftermath was mismanaged than the actusl event itself, yes.
     

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