May 8 marked the end of World War II in Europe 70 years ago — a horrific conflict that is still fought over by historians.
More than 60 million people perished — some 50 million of them in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and China.
The pre-war Soviet state in the 1920s and 1930s had killed perhaps 20 million of its own citizens in purges, exiles, collectivizations, forced famines, and show trials. Then it lost an estimated 25 million soldiers and civilians to the German army on the Eastern Front. Hitler’s Germany by late 1942 had occupied almost 1 million square miles of Soviet ground.
The Soviet Red Army would eventually be responsible for three quarters of Germany’s WWII casualties, but at a cost of approximately 9 million dead of its own combatants. Nevertheless, the Allied defeat of the Axis powers is more complicated than just the monumental and heroic sacrifice of the Soviet soldier.
World War II started largely because the Soviet Union had had assured Hitler that the two powers could partner up to divide Poland. With his eastern rear thus secure, Hitler then would be free to fight a one-front war in the West against the European democracies.
The Soviet Union only entered the war after it was double-crossed by Hitler in June 1941. Before the surprise German invasion, the Soviets had supplied Germany with substantial fuel, food and metals to help it bomb Great Britain into submission. For all practical purposes, Russia had been Nazi Germany’s most useful ally.
Once the United States entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Axis cause was largely doomed.
Duplicitous Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin at one time or another both fought against and followed non-aggression arrangements with every Axis power — Germany, Italy, and Japan. In contrast, the United States was the only major power of the war that did not start fighting until it was directly attacked.
The war in Europe was not just won with Soviet blood. When World War II started, America was isolationist and the Soviet Union collaborationist. After the fall of France in June 1940, Great Britain until June 1941 alone faced down the huge Nazi Empire that ranged from the Arctic Circle to the Sahara desert. British prime minister Winston Churchill’s steadfast leadership, Britain’s superb air force, and its indomitable Royal Navy ensured that even when outnumbered, isolated, and bombed, England would be unconquerable.
Once the United States entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Axis cause was largely doomed. America mobilized 12 million soldiers — about the same number as did the Soviet Union, despite having a population of about 40 million fewer citizens.
American war production proved astonishing. At the huge Willow Run plant in Michigan, the greatest generation turned out a B-24 heavy bomber every hour. A single shipyard could mass-produce an ocean-going Liberty merchant ship from scratch in a week.
In just four years, the United States would produce more airplanes than all of the major war powers combined. Germany, Japan, Italy, and the Soviet Union could not build a successful four-engine heavy bomber. America, in contrast, produced 34,000 excellent B-17s, B-24s, and B-29s.
By 1944, the new U.S. Navy had become the largest in the history of civilization at more than 6,000 ships. Its B-29 heavy bomber program and Manhattan Project efforts together cost more $50 billion in today’s dollars.
America sent troops throughout the Pacific islands, and to North Africa, Italy, and Western Europe. The United States staged two simultaneous bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan while conducting surface and submarine campaigns against all of the Axis powers.
At the same time, the U.S. supplied the Soviet Union with 400,000 heavy trucks, 2,000 locomotives, 11,000 railcars, and billions of dollars worth of planes, tanks, food, clothing, and strategic resources. By 1943–44, the U.S. also supplied about 20 percent of Britain’s munitions.
If the measure of wartime success is defined by quickly defeating and humiliating enemies at the least cost in blood and treasure, then America waged a brilliant war.
Of the major powers, only America’s homeland was not systematically bombed. It was never invaded. While its 400,000 fatalities were a terrible cost of victory, the United States lost the smallest percentage of its population of any major power.
By late 1944, the American M1 rifle, B-29 heavy bomber, P-51 Mustang fighter, Gato-class submarines, Essex-class aircraft carriers, and Iowa-class battleships were the best weapons of their class.
America did not win World War II alone. But without the United States, the war against Axis fascism would have been lost.
© 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
17 thoughts on “Why America Was Indispensable to the Allies’ Winning World War II”
I agree 100%
There are two issues that I’m currently thinking about. One is the war aim of only accepting unconditional surrender. I think this made sense in Europe with the state of distrust between the Allies; however, after VE day I’m not sure if the US could have changed its war aim and accepted a negotiated peace with Japan. Could this could have averted the decision for the dropping of the bomb or the need to invade?
The other issue is the disarming of the French after the surrender by the Vichy. At that point the Germans had a million French POWs. How quickly did they processes these soldiers? How much of an effect did that have on French morale and resistance?
If you believe that there could have been a negotiated peace with Japan, then please consider the following: Japan did not surrender after we bombed Hiroshima, Russia declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria, and, for a short time, even after we bombed Nagasaki. And even when Japan agreed to announce its surrender, it still had to overcome a coup-d’etat led by military men who wanted Japan to remain at war.
Given these extraordinary facts, under what circumstances do you believe Japan would have negotiated a peace?
Robert raises indisputable facts. Ruminating over the decision to use nuclear weapons against Imperial Japan requires dismissing the facts on the ground at the time. Indeed, Dr. Hansen’s point about America sustaining the fewest casualties of the war would become completely moot as our military planners expected at least a million American casualties in any invasion of mainland Japan, and up to four times that many Japanese. We knew at the time they were arming civilians and creating militia to repel our troops, and we had just island hopped to Okinawa with most Japanese fighting to the death. That was most certainly at a time when those planners had proven their skill and ability to assess an offensive’s cost accurately.
Good Article. One minor quibble: The Aleutian island campaign ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleutian_Islands_Campaign ) constitutes an invasion in my mind, despite it’s relatively small size. The Alaskan people involved certainly consider it an invasion.
So, the worldview of Liberty concurrently beat the worldview of Progtard Control (i.e. Nazis) AND the worldview of Tribal Control (Japanese Empire) in just three and a half years.
Now we have Tribal Control Muslim Extremists on a kill-fest… and Lord knows the Progtard Control-masters at the Central Banks, Mandarins in Europe, Mandarins in China, Mandarins in Russia… and the best Mandarins in D.C… are on a enslave-everybody campaign via debt or rules or hectoring whatnot….
Wonder if Liberty’s Worldview can beat back the crazy Tribal and Progtard Necrotic Controllers again?
Who is elected in 2016? The boom-bust cycle is upon us, time may have run out. A Clinton Presidential victory may be the greatest catalyst for World War since Germany in 1940’s.
Great article for the upcoming D-Day celebrations. A time when Leftists start belittling the invasion and boasting about the Soviet Union. Yet they ignore the fact that Russia started the war as Hitler’s ally, helping him to start the hostilities and supplying his army with raw materials right up until the very first minute of Operation Barbarossa. The Soviet Union raped the Baltic States, Finland and Poland. Russian troops even marched in the infamous victory parade at Brest-Litovsk with their Nazi allies.
Of course, at the end of the war the Soviets raped Poland one more time for good luck.
The same modern-day Soviet apologists now ply their trade for Putin, Belarus, Assad, Hezbollah and anyone else detestable enough…
Of course America was essential to winning WW II. It would take more than a short essay to enumerate all the ways. What rational and informed being has ever doubted it?
But by the same token, for two years the war was England’s and the Commonwealth’s to lose, and we didn’t lose it. If England had gone down, and its massive fleet – at the beginning of the war the largest in the world – had been gained by the Kriegsmarine, America could not have obtained a foothold in Europe, and with the combined forces of the former British navy plus the Kriegsmarine, the French navy, the Italian navy, and the Imperial Japanese Navy, the US would have faced a fight for its life at poor odds.
Your forgetting the havoc to British maritime shipping that the German U-boats wrought. Britain my have had the largest navy in 1940, but Germany far out numbered its Army and Air Force, so if hadn’t been for the gallant efforts of the RAF, or if Hitler had instead of bombing British cities had decided to take out the airfileds and radar stations, Britain would very easily have lost the war by the end of 1940. The Italian Navy was hit hard after the Battle of Taranto had destroyed half of its fleet, and the Italians surrendered in 1943. The French fleet was scuttled at Toulon.
The Russians killed 90% of the Wehrmacht and would have won the war if America stayed neutral. The American army is so inept it could not win in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. What wars has America ever won? A weak Spain in 1898 and some disease-ravaged Indian tribes armed with bows and arrows.
Rufus: Nonsense! USSR would still be limping if the US stayed home and Europe would still be under the Nazi’s including England. Worse still if Hitler stayed allied with the USSR as in the earliest days of WW2 the whole world (or most of it) would likely be under their control.
PS: Did you ask Groucho if you could use his character’s name?
That’s just goofy. The American armed forces could have and can defeat any foe if given proper support from politicians and the public. To lay the results of Korea, Viet Nam, Iran or Afghanistan at the feet of the U.S. military is seriously wrong.
In each case the politicians should have declared the goal and then got out of the way.
The Russians would have never beaten Hitler without U.S. help, both materially and with the presence of the second front.
Or the second front in North Africa. Or the third front in Sicily. Don’t forget the forth front in Italy. Then there was the fifth front in the skies over occupied Europe and Germany. Then you Ruskies need to be ever mindful of the sixth front in the Atlantic.
While all these fronts were active the USA was also fighting a 4 pronged war in Asia against Russia’s long time and I might add rather successful enemy, the Empire of Japan. In short, if not for the USA, Russia today would be a German soccer field.
Come on Rufus, you can’t be serious? Politicians lose wars, not the US military.
After the battle of Inchon, the US led forces had all but won in Korea. It was only after the surprise entry of waves of Chinese conscripts that this achievement was reversed. And it was General Ridgeway who pushed the Chinese and N. Koreans back to the 38th parallel which ended the war.
We won every major battle and skirmish in Vietnam, and if we had invaded the North, we could have easily crushed the NVA and Viet Cong. For a large part of the war the North was using Cambodia and Laos – the Ho Chi Minh trail to supply the VC in the South. We didn’t invade these countries until late in the war, for had we done so earlier we would have easily crippled the North’s supply lines. And it was our overwhelming air bombardment that arguably forced the North to sign a peace agreement in 1973. And had Nixon not been embroiled in the Watergate scandal, he may very well have gotten the money to support his Vietnamization policy which would have given the South a fighting chance to defend itself from the North.
The American military took out both Saddam Hussein and the Taliban in a matter of weeks and with very few casualties during their respective campaigns. And with respect to Iraq, after General Petraeus’ surge, Iraq was for the most part a peaceful and stable country, and would still be today had our joke of a C-I-C secured a routine status of forces agreement and pissed away all the hard fought gains that the men and women of our gallant military had sacrificed with life and limb to achieve.
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The Soviets benefited significantly from the US war supplies and these shorten the war. However, Nazi Germany could still not keep pace with Soviet internal production. So a stalemate along the Dniper in 1943 and 44 would have ensued. This would have been broken and a slow advance on Berlin begun. And the Soviets may have just kept going to the Atlantic. Only the a threat of an American nuclear attack would have tempered Stalin’s lust for communist domination.
The wars cited above are really just battles in a much larger war – the establishment of American economic hegemony in the later half on the 20th century, and beyond. This war continues as the American military keeps war’s destruction an ocean away using technology, training and bravery to – frankly – not fight “fair” wars.
PS: the American conduct of the pacific campaign in WWII was a masterpiece.
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