Today, more than 75 years after the formal start of World War II, some countries have found an opportunity to forgive their old enemies and shake their hands with a smile. On the other hand, populists continue to speculate on the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind, turning the eyes of gullible patriots to the stereotypes of the past. Consider the most divisive episodes of World War II these days.
Who started the war?
It is believed that World War II began on September 1, 1939 with the Nazi Germany attack on Poland. However, even if Hitler was indeed the initiator of the war, one question remains: can the aggression be considered the result of his personal ambitions, or was the Nazi leader himself only a pawn in the hands of others? The Fuhrer certainly had ambitions. There were also opportunities to start a war, because he could rely on the revanchist sentiments of the Germans and appeal to the unfair terms of the Versailles Treaty. Meanwhile, both the leadership of England and France and the leadership of the USSR intended to use the militarization of Germany for their own purposes. The "specter of communism" hanging over Europe thoroughly frightened the leaders of the capitalist countries. England and France had not yet managed to forget the horrors of the First World War and did not want a war with the USSR with their own hands.
As for the Soviet Union, its leadership also hoped to use the growing Germany for their own purposes. Even before the establishment of a totalitarian regime there, a German tank school "Kama" was created near Kazan, where specialists in the field of armored vehicles were trained, bypassing the Treaty of Versailles. In particular, the German generals Wilhelm von Thoma and Wolfgang Thomale passed through this school.
Thus, if we talk about unleashing a world war, then not only the Germans, but also the authorities of the USSR and Britain / France are responsible for this. The victorious Western countries put Germany in a humiliating position after the First World War, contributing to the flourishing of revanchism. Some Western leaders dreamed of using Nazism against communism, and the USSR itself was not averse to getting a weapon to fight the West. Sympathizing with the Nazi totalitarian system, Stalin relied on secret diplomacy, the result of which can be considered the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact - a non-aggression pact signed by Germany and the USSR on August 23, 1939.
A number of historians believe that the USSR entered World War II on November 30, 1939, having committed an armed aggression against Finland. As in the case of Hitler's attack on Poland (the Nazis claimed that they were "only defending themselves"), the Soviet leadership declared that Finland was the first to start the war. But, unlike the successful Polish campaign for the Nazis, the war with Finland was a crushing blow to the Soviet Union. It is interesting that the battles on Khalkhin Gol (May 11 - September 16, 1939), on the contrary, showed the best side of the Soviet army.
"Strange War" in Europe
Historians believe that the beginning of the so-called "strange war" was the entry into the war between France and Great Britain (September 3, 1939), and its end was marked by Hitler's offensive in France (May 10, 1940). The very term "fake war" was coined by journalists from the United States, and, I must say, they had every reason for this. England and France defended their allies so "zealously" that the Nazis seized Poland almost without hindrance and carried out the Danish-Norwegian operation.Having declared war on Germany, the British and French hardly intervened in it.
All this might seem strange given the fact that collective efforts (even without the participation of the USSR) the Allies could have stopped Hitler. However, it is important to consider that many English and French sympathized with the Fuhrer. In France, for example, there was a nationalist association "Action Française", and in Britain there was a "British Union of Fascists". Of course, there were fears about the Nazis. But in Western countries for decades, the thesis about the threat of communism was implanted, and Nazi Germany was seen rather as enemy number two.
At the same time, the main reason for the pacifism of the Western powers was not at all sympathy for Hitler, but in the weakening of the old colonial empires. Having suffered huge losses in the First World War, the British and French were simply morally not ready to get involved in a new bloody massacre. By the time the Second World War broke out in England and France, the agenda was, rather, economic issues, and not at all confrontation with a common enemy.
Flight of Hess
Rudolf Hess is a cult figure. Both for their time and for modern neo-Nazis. In 1941 he was Hitler's deputy for the party and one of the most prominent Nazi leaders. On May 10 of the same year, Hess flew in a Messerschmitt Bf.110 fighter jet to Great Britain and surrendered to the local authorities. It is believed that he made his flight in secret from the German leadership. Against the background of well-known dramatic events, this flight may seem like an insignificant event, but it was he who could change the results of the Second World War.
The Nazi leader considered the British "brothers in blood" - the same Aryans as himself. The war between Germany and Great Britain was a tragedy for him. Probably, Hess wanted to meet with the British leadership and convince him to unite with the Fuhrer against the common enemy - the USSR. Another version says that "Nazi number two" was sent by Hitler himself with the aim of ending the war in Europe and giving the Fuehrer room to maneuver. Finally, according to the third version, the flight of Hess was initiated … by the British themselves. It is difficult to say what goals they could pursue. Hess's son believed that there were some agreements between the Nazis and the British leadership - and allegedly they were the reason for the assassination of the Nazi leader in 1987 (according to the official version, Rudolf Hess hanged himself in his cell).
Suppose the British really wanted to negotiate peace with Hitler and chose to hide this fact after the war. Would they have waited until 1987 to eliminate the "inconvenient" witness? In addition, at the time of his death, Hess was 93 years old, and it was unlikely that a decrepit old man could be a problem for the British leadership.
Why was Stalin "not ready for war"?
The defeat of the Red Army in 1941 became the largest military disaster in the history of mankind (no one will undertake to calculate the exact number of victims). But the wording about the "unpreparedness of the USSR for war" incorrectly reflects the essence of the issue.
The Soviet Union could wage war, and for this it had everything, including the most powerful army in Europe. So why did the Soviet Union suffer such losses and was forced to retreat? According to one version, Stalin himself prepared for the attack and did not pay enough attention to the creation of an in-depth defense. Despite this, on the eve of the war, the USSR had a military potential that was many times greater than the forces needed exclusively for the defense of the country.
We see that the USSR had an almost complete quantitative superiority over the Nazis. In technological terms, a certain parity was observed, because already in 1941 the Red Army began to massively use such advanced weapons for its time as the T-34 medium tank, Il-2 attack aircraft, BMRA (MLRS) BM-13 (legendary Katyusha)), self-loading rifle SVT-40, etc.
Meanwhile, the thesis of the famous historian Viktor Suvorov that the USSR could have attacked in the summer of 1941 seems to be incorrect. By that time, a large-scale rearmament of the Red Army was taking place, and the fighters had not yet had time to master new models. It also seems strange that the USSR in 1941 did not have modern bombers (and bombers are one of the main attributes of a major offensive operation).
Summing up, we note that the USSR would have intervened in the war sooner or later, and this war, most likely, would have been offensive in nature. But Hitler got ahead of Stalin. Not wanting to admit that he was deceived, in the summer of 1941, "Koba" issued an ill-considered order for a counter-offensive, which cost the lives of millions of his soldiers.
The famous American historian and psychologist Robert Tucker believes that the "father of nations" was psychologically in the shadow of another communist leader - Vladimir Lenin. And since Stalin failed to become the creator of the revolution in Russia, he wanted to go down in history as the "gravedigger of world capitalism." Developing this concept, we can say that in order to implement his plans, Stalin needed an army that was superior in potential to the armies of all European countries.
Why did the United States withdraw aircraft carriers from Pearl Harbor?
Japanese carrier-based aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The operation resulted in the death of 2,400 US military personnel and civilians. 188 American aircraft were destroyed, but the main result is the death of four battleships of the US Navy. The Japanese losses were much more modest: they amounted to 29 aircraft and four small submarines.
The attack on Pearl Harbor came as a shock to America. The death of the battleship "Arizona", which was literally torn to pieces after the hit of Japanese bombs in its gun cellar, added to the drama. Even now, Americans recall this episode with a shudder. Of course, the loss of life is a tragedy, but the scale of the "military catastrophe" for the United States is greatly exaggerated. De facto, outdated battleships of the First World War, the value of which in the context of the impending conflict, was questionable, came under attack. By the time of World War II, battleships were relegated to the second (if not to the third) plan, and aircraft carriers became the first violin in the fleet. The United States withdrew the carriers based at Pearl Harbor shortly before the attack: Lexington was sent to Midway Atoll on December 5, and the Enterprise departed for Wake Atoll a week earlier.
After the attack on the naval base, the Americans got the perfect excuse to go to war. US President Franklin Roosevelt, long before this attack, realized the danger posed by Hitler and his Japanese allies. He also understood that society was against the entry of the United States into hostilities.
Apparently, the American leadership knew about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. Within a few months, the Soviet intelligence officer Richard Sorge reported to Moscow about the attack, and this information was brought to the attention of the US leadership. The British, the main American allies, also guessed about the attack. But even after the discovery of Japanese aircraft flying up to Pearl Harbor by American radars, no one raised an alarm. Thus, it is highly likely that the US leadership "sacrificed" the naval base in order to achieve its geopolitical goals.
The renowned Japanese political scientist and diplomat Kazuhiko Togo believes that Japan was forced to attack Pearl Harbor as it fell victim to "US provocations." The specialist claims that the United States initiated the war by presenting the so-called Halla Note to Japanese diplomats on November 26, 1941. The document said that Japan should withdraw from the Triple Pact and withdraw its troops from China. These requirements were impossible for the Japanese, and they took the document as an ultimatum.
Could the Normandy landings have taken place earlier?
We often hear that the allies (mainly Great Britain and the USA) deliberately delayed the opening of the Second Front.This pursued two goals: firstly, to reduce its own losses, and secondly, to wear down the USSR, preventing it from becoming the main force in Europe.
The Soviet Union really bore the brunt of the ground war with Germany - on the Eastern Front, the Wehrmacht lost up to 80% of its forces. America and Great Britain took over the air and sea phases, and also helped the USSR with the supply of military equipment and equipment. Could the allies open the Second Front earlier and more actively help the USSR? They could, but it was very difficult to implement it.
This suggests an analogy with the Soviet landing on the Eastern Front during the Kerch landing operation (December 26, 1941 - May 20, 1942). Then the Nazis demonstrated their ability to resist the landing, and the Soviet army suffered a crushing defeat (while its losses amounted to 300 thousand people).
Any large-scale amphibious operation is fraught with a huge number of difficulties. Operation Overlord (the Allied landings in Normandy) was not just a major action - it became the largest military landing in history. The operation began on June 6, 1944, and by the time of its completion the number of the expeditionary force reached 3 million. Such a large-scale action would be difficult to carry out, even if the enemy did not offer resistance at all. Unfortunately for the Allies, the Nazis had about half a million soldiers in France ready to fight and die for Hitler.
The Allies tried to land and gain a foothold in France even before the opening of the Second Front. On August 19, 1942, Operation Rutter began, in which 6 thousand Canadians and British were landed on the French coast near Dieppe. The operation ended in complete failure, the total losses of the allies reached 3, 6 thousand soldiers. Sometimes this failure is called a planned action designed to show the failure of the opening of the Second Front.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
A B-29 heavy bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and on August 9 of the same year, the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. As a result of the bombing directly from the explosions and their consequences, about 246 thousand people died.
For many decades after the end of World War II, historians have been tormented by the question: was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified? From the moral point of view, it is impossible to justify these actions, just as it is impossible to justify any undertaking that entails such a number of innocent victims. The Americans could not be unaware of the long-term consequences of the atomic bombings for the Japanese population, but they took this step anyway.
However, sadly, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was absolutely justified from a military-strategic point of view. Indeed, although it was August 1945, the Japanese willingness to resist (sometimes bordering on fanaticism) did not run out. By that time, there were already cases of mass surrender of Japanese soldiers, but the landing on the main Japanese islands would cost the Americans more than 100 thousand total losses, and the war could drag on until 1946.
It is also difficult to determine the degree of the United States' fault in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki because at the time of the use of nuclear weapons there were no international documents regulating their use. De jure, the use of atomic bombs was no different from the carpet bombing practiced by Britain and the United States throughout the war.
Historians ask another question: why exactly Hiroshima and Nagasaki were attacked? And why didn't the Americans drop bombs on "military targets"? Contrary to popular stereotypes, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were of great military importance. The first city served as a supply base for the Japanese army, and the second was a large industrial center where military equipment was manufactured. The mass death of civilians became an additional "warning" for Tokyo in case of failure to comply with the terms of surrender.