Why are people so obsessed with WW2?

psikeyhackr

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The Commies--not the ordinary Ivans who died by the millions in the war, but the ones running the country--were always bad guys.
I am a cynic. There are no Good Guys.

Isn't it interesting that the Commies, Cappies and Socies cannot think of something as simple as making 700 year old double-entry accounting mandatory in the schools? And then the Cappies kill a million Vietnamese to defend economists who can't do algebra? What happened to the Depreciation of all of the automobiles purchased by American consumers for the last half-a-century?
Economic Wargames
 

Lafayette

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Yeah, and yet for some reason we still argue about whether or not it was actually about slavery. :rolleyes:
I think that question depends on where you were coming from. If you were a southerner it was about states rights. If you were an abolitionist it was about slavery. If you were black it was about freedom.

In my opinion, it started out as states rights versus federal sovereignty and ended up about slavery.
 

psikeyhackr

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In my opinion, it started out as states rights versus federal sovereignty and ended up about slavery.
The interesting thing is that we do not discuss how many poor Whites who did not own slaves fought for the the Confederacy. What did they have to get out of it? Stupid Pawns?!?
 

Lafayette

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From a personal view, I had an uncle who served both on HMS Nelson and then later HMS Belfast (now a museum ship). But I think it was another of my uncles that really brought home how the war affected people. My uncle Frank was an alcoholic and I remember when I was a youngster, I would see him drunkenly staggering about the town in broad daylight whilst other townsfolk screwed up their noses and went about their business. To me, he was a family embarrassment and I did my best to avoid him. The strangest thing was that he was always dressed really smartly. I remember he was always clean-shaven, in slacks and navy blue blazer.

I never understood him until my dad sat me down and explained that Frank had been in the Merchant Navy. Twice, the ships he served on had been torpedoed and twice, he survived by clinging on to wreckage in the Atlantic until rescued. Drink, for him, was the only way he could blot out the memories of all his lost friends.

I understood a lot better after that, got to know him more and found that he was actually a really nice guy. Sadly, he died not long after finally defeating his alcoholism. That's what the war did to a member of my family and there will be millions of families all over the world who still, as Brian says, have a living memory of the impact of this conflict. Frank and Pat (my uncle on the Belfast) are why I have an interest in that period (my dad was too young, although he did try and sneak into the RAF).
In a strange and in an indirect way I and the rest of my family were affected. My oldest brother told me that our father also had two ships shot out from under him. I believe it caused or was one of the factors that caused his alcoholism. The result was he couldn't hold a job and take care of his large family (I'm number ten of sixteen) and so most of us (including me) were adopted out.

I and two of my brother were probably luckier than the rest for we were adopted by a very good and loving woman that was friends with my birth mother.
 

BAYLOR

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The Commies--not the ordinary Ivans who died by the millions in the war, but the ones running the country--were always bad guys. They just got a brief propaganda victory in the West while they were on 'our' side.

Stalin was never really on anyone's side but his own. One of the most (darkly) amusing things I've read about WW2 was that the other Russian leaders asked Stalin for a meeting after the Nazis invaded, and he thought it was because they planned to kill him, and was quite shocked when they didn't. Because that was exactly what he would have done in their position.
Purging his generals in 1937, signing the nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany, refusing to believe the warnings from his intelligence and spy network of an impending attack by the Gemans. These are are good examples of Stalin's awesome stupidity and incompetence. He bears a great deal of the blame for the millions in Russia who died as a result of his decisions and actions.
 
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Foxbat

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Stalin was a monster but also an utterly fascinating character. Before ruling the USSR, he spent time as a meteorologist and as a bank robber. He was also a published poet.
 

BAYLOR

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Because the Greatest Generation is almost gone. A few more years and all they will be is a memory .:(
 
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sknox

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I gotta say, I really dislike that phrase "greatest generation." The soldiers were just soldiers, poor saps who found themselves in a war and did the best they could. The folks back home, likewise. Nobody really knew what they were doing, and nobody had much choice in the matter.

In that, how were Americans any different from the British or Canadians? Or, for that matter, the French, the Italians, and yes even the Germans or Japanese? War came. The grunts turned out and died. Or lived. It was pretty much a horrifyingly random business. There's a reason why our heroes insist they were not heroes. They were there. They know.

None of that lessens one iota what was accomplished. Tyranny was turned back, and that is no small thing. But greatest generation? Would that make the vets of WWI the second-greatest generation? Or would you hand that to the Civil War vets, the poor wretches? Is the Iraq War like the seventh-greatest?

Wars come. People fight and die, and the rest of the world watches and weeps over its loss. There's very little greatness in that.
 

BAYLOR

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I gotta say, I really dislike that phrase "greatest generation." The soldiers were just soldiers, poor saps who found themselves in a war and did the best they could. The folks back home, likewise. Nobody really knew what they were doing, and nobody had much choice in the matter.

In that, how were Americans any different from the British or Canadians? Or, for that matter, the French, the Italians, and yes even the Germans or Japanese? War came. The grunts turned out and died. Or lived. It was pretty much a horrifyingly random business. There's a reason why our heroes insist they were not heroes. They were there. They know.

None of that lessens one iota what was accomplished. Tyranny was turned back, and that is no small thing. But greatest generation? Would that make the vets of WWI the second-greatest generation? Or would you hand that to the Civil War vets, the poor wretches? Is the Iraq War like the seventh-greatest?

Wars come. People fight and die, and the rest of the world watches and weeps over its loss. There's very little greatness in that.
Your right.
 

Edward M. Grant

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Tyranny was turned back, and that is no small thing.
At the risk of being heretical, a handful of small tyrannies were destroyed, and replaced by two big ones (Stalinist Russia and Maoist China). Tyranny was the winner in WWII, not the loser.

Even the West became more tyrannical in the Cold War era, as governments decided they had to become more like the USSR in order to defeat it. We're still living with the consequences of that today.
 

BAYLOR

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At the risk of being heretical, a handful of small tyrannies were destroyed, and replaced by two big ones (Stalinist Russia and Maoist China). Tyranny was the winner in WWII, not the loser.

Even the West became more tyrannical in the Cold War era, as governments decided they had to become more like the USSR in order to defeat it. We're still living with the consequences of that today.
George Patton wanted to launch a war against Stalin's Russia. It would have been a very costly war had we done so . But there is part of me that wishes we had , I think in best case scenario, we would have broken the back of the Soviet Union and like prevented the whole Cold War. Stalin was criminal every bit as malevolent Hitler and he should been forced for answer for his crimes. I think ther are alot of Russias Ukraines and Eastern Europeans that would have loved to seen him swing from a rope.

In chase of Mao, we made a very large blunder. Chaing was on the point of stamping out Mao and his group, instead the Us told him to work with him to fight the Japanese. What colossally bad idea that was. We should have let Chaing finish him off. Mao demise before he could become a threat would have saved the million who die as result of his Great leap forward, Cultural revolutions and other persecutions. Mao too is one histories great criminals.
 

sknox

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Both Russia and China had been tyrannies for a very long time. They were the worst sort of tyranny, a hereditary empire. True, both had toppled their emperors and replaced them with republics, but both republics were either failed or in the process of failing. I've always seen Stalin and Mao as the ones who destroyed the old order. Bathed in blood, no argument there, but the French got rid of theirs in a similar bloodbath (I include the Napoleonic Wars as part of the process). The other European nations need not be smug about this. The First World War overturned the European old order, at a terrible cost.

WWII did turn back tyranny; specifically, fascism. It did not end it. Tyranny is a hardy weed, taking root wherever the ground is parched, and will grow even when your back is turned. But those who pulled up the last one still get credit.
 

BAYLOR

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Both Russia and China had been tyrannies for a very long time. They were the worst sort of tyranny, a hereditary empire. True, both had toppled their emperors and replaced them with republics, but both republics were either failed or in the process of failing. I've always seen Stalin and Mao as the ones who destroyed the old order. Bathed in blood, no argument there, but the French got rid of theirs in a similar bloodbath (I include the Napoleonic Wars as part of the process). The other European nations need not be smug about this. The First World War overturned the European old order, at a terrible cost.

WWII did turn back tyranny; specifically, fascism. It did not end it. Tyranny is a hardy weed, taking root wherever the ground is parched, and will grow even when your back is turned. But those who pulled up the last one still get credit.
WWI wiped away the Hapsburgs, The Hohenzollerns, The Romanovs, The Ottoman dynasties and set Europe on a path to a second world war because the big Four let polical expediency be their guide. Woodrow Wilson who wouldn't listen to anyone but himself . Lloyd George of Britain a political opportunist who wanted German possession in Africa , Vittorio Orlando who contributed nothing to the alliance was only looking for spoils , George Clemenceau was looking to settle the score with Germany over their humiliating loss in the Franco/Prussian war . In Clemenceau's case , I think that had he died in the Franco/Prussian war, he would rendered a far more useful and valuable service to France an the world. A genuinely fair and just peace could have helped avert a second world war.

The very same Western allies who left Franco in power in Spain because he remained neutral and was staunch anti communist.

Stalin and Mao both murdered millions and in retrospect, neither one of them should have been left standing to bask in the glow of their combined tyrannies. It might been better had the west had stomped them both into the ground before they got access to atomic weapons.
 
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Nozzle Velocity

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I gotta say, I really dislike that phrase "greatest generation." The soldiers were just soldiers, poor saps who found themselves in a war and did the best they could. The folks back home, likewise. Nobody really knew what they were doing, and nobody had much choice in the matter.
That's not entirely true. There were plenty of young men who wanted to go to Europe and the Pacific. The desire to enlist didn't start out with a bang though. There was a big fight in Congress over draft entitlements regarding who had to go and who got to stay, relating to age, employment, etc. Later, there was also the question of what the hell we were doing in North Africa after being attacked by the Japanese.

As I type this in August 2018, my immediate neighbor, Bob, is still kicking around. He flew fighters in the Pacific in WWII. (A few years ago, he went parachuting on his 92nd birthday, much to the terror of his kids. His wife has passed on, so she had no say.) His neighbor on his other side is also a WWII vet. That generation of vets almost covered the neighborhood when I bought this house in '94. My impression from talking to them is that the desire to enlist increased as the war ground on.

I was close to my grandparents and great-grandparents, so the men in the family told me stories of WWI and WWII. I think all of these people I've mentioned would be embarrassed at this "Greatest Generation" idea. My impression in the 90s was that Tom Brokaw and others were pushing it on the anniversary of D-Day as atonement for the Boomer behavior during the Generation Gap and the Year Zero mentality of the 60s.

My grandpa was drafted when he was 23 and had two kids, so he definitely didn't want to go. He went into the Navy because he figured they had the best food. He landed on Okinawa immediately after the battle and said you could walk on the beach without touching the ground because of the bodies. Marines were rifle-butting dead soldiers' teeth to get the gold. He said that was all the war he wanted to see. Unfortunately, he was trained as an LST skipper for the invasion of Japan. Their instructions were to drop off their load and return to the ship for more, doing it over and over. How many times? They were told to do it until they died because literally none of the LST skippers were going to survive that mission. Patton may (or may not) have said nobody ever won a war by dying for their country, but that was exactly what these sailors were prepard to do. Imagine that. You wake up every day and train for that job.

So, in my view, there were definitely heroes, but the "Greatest Generation" always sounded too broad and, ironically, a little self-serving. It's the same dynamic today when you see vets get annoyed after meeting people who like to say, "Thank you for your service."
 

sknox

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Nozzle Velocity has it exactly right. I'm glad to hear that description. I'd only differ with the part that says they "were prepard [sic] to do" that. Maybe a few were prepared. Most just went where they were told to go. With all and full respect to the soldiers of WWII, that's pretty much what every soldier does, though the exact mix of motives vary by individual. To me, stories like The Naked and the Dead, Catch-22, or From Here to Eterinity ring true, and make bitter nonsense of phrases like "greatest generation" or "thank you for your service."

War is a horror show. Instead of thanking a vet for their service, I'd want to say damn, buddy, glad you made it back, can I buy you a drink. I'd listen to them if they wanted to talk, and if they didn't I'd shake their hand walk away.

I'll offer my own reply to the OP. People are obsessed not with the war, which is a reality they cannot know, but with the stories. And they are more obsessed with WWII because there are so many stories--far more than for any other war. Heartbreakingly many.
 

Nozzle Velocity

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I'd only differ with the part that says they "were prepard [sic] to do" that. Maybe a few were prepared.
Well, certainly trained, if not prepared. I'm not sure how you would prepare for that end result. Also, he had one child when he was drafted, not two, as my Aunt keeps reminding me. I think two kids gave you an exemption.

Here's something to think about on the strategic level: The Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact signed in April 1941 held together even after Operation Barbarossa two months later. In fact, it held until August 1945 when the Soviets invaded Manchuria after the fall of Berlin. This was beneficial to both parties who didn't want to fight a two-front war. The world is round, after all, but this was the firebreak between the Axis and the Allies. It was encouraged by the U.S. who saw the benefit of allowing Stalin to focus on Germany even though that freed Japanese resources to take the Phillipines, attempt to gut the U.S. Pacific Fleet, take Singapore, basically everything they did for the next four years. While the U.S. fought Japan in the Pacific, Stalin harangued FDR unceasingly, demanding that the U.S. immediately leave Africa and enter the European theater to siphon German resources from the Eastern Front. Nice guy, that Uncle Joe.
 

Boaz

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Do you think the OP was just trolling?

Anyway...

Dear OP,

I am not an historian. I do hold a minor college degree in history (1988), which qualifies me to pretend to know the terms Ides of March, Magna Carta, and Casus Belli. That being said, let me pull up my soap box...

Short answer: Our loved ones fought in it. It was Good vs. Evil. The aftermath of the war defines our world.

Long answer:

Let me say that most every following sentence contains at least one oversimplification...

WWII is so close in time to us.... that many of us knew and spoke with our parents, grandparents, uncles, teachers, pastors, doctors, nurses, bosses, co-workers, and neighbors about their experiences in the war. Many of us did not get one hundred percent of our information from textbooks... we received first hand accounts from eye witnesses. My great uncle Gib told me of his work on an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Another great uncle, who fought in WWII, was nicknamed Yank by his relatives... everyone called him Yank... in the late 80's, his wife still called him Yank!

And when we did not get the stories from our grandfathers, our fathers told us of their bravery. I don't know how many times my father told me about his uncle Junior... a paratrooper in Operation Market Garden.

And audio and video of the death and destruction, took the war to even those who wanted no part. It was inescapable.

People can suggest root causes and unseen objectives for war, but at least on the surface, if not to the core, WWII was fought over ideology. How will the human race live? As bullies or friends? Promoting euthanasia or goodwill? As superior races or neighbors?

WWII was not fought because Hitler's great grandfather had been Duke of Krakow and Hitler sought to assert his claim. Lebensraum is not the same thing as hereditary title. (Not that I'm big on hereditary title...) Operation Himmler and the Mukden Indicent were shoddy attempts to give a casus belli... for the aggressors to gain lebensraum.

For the most part, I do not believe international war has been waged for ideology. Our -ism versus their -ism. Civil wars? Often. Wars between nations? Not as much. I think most wars are started for anger, greed, pride, glory, lust, jealousy... at least six of the seven deadly sins. Both sides desire to portray themselves as morally right.... and in a war between kings, languages, ethnicities, and religions this is a fairly easy thing to do.

Yes, the European Wars of Religion, the Napoleonic Wars, and most civil wars can be explained in terms of ideology.

WWII was fought on one side by Germans, Italians, and Japanese against the Poles, French, Brits, Russians, Chinese, and Americans.... I cannot imagine a greater oversimplification than that. Of course, I've omitted Canada, Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Brazil, Philippines, India, and a hundred others on the allied side. What about Albania? They repulsed Mussolini's attack, but after being conquered, their fascist government joined the Axis. Was Finland in the Axis or merely defending themselves against the Russians? Romania. Bulgaria. Hungary. What about Vichy France? How many of them were killed by the Allies? And didn't the Americans field Japanese units?

There is not an equitable nor easy way to list all of the combatants. Most of the allies had been involved in the Soviet Union against the Reds during 1918-1920. They allied against the Nazis, but they disliked each other at best.

What I'm saying is that WWII could not be easily qualified for King and Country, For God, For the Motherland, by language, by race, by religion, or by hereditary claims.... Each combatant (each nation, each person) had to qualify their involvement. Since none of the old reasons were easily applied or believable, they fought for ideas.

Germany:
Lebensraum.
The superiority of the Aryan race.

These were the ideas of the Nazis. These were their excuses... Since the German peoples were so numerous and needed more space in which to live and since the Slavic/Jewish/Gypsy peoples were inferior, then the Germans (as the banner bearers for the Aryans) could murder them at will.

Japan:
Other nations blocked all access to natural resources.
Superiority of the Japanese race/culture.

These were the Japanese reasons for war. Since the Japanese were racially and culturally superior to all others (they were descended from and blessed by the gods) and since the lesser races would not equitably share their natural resources nor put them to the supreme use of enhancing the Japanese culture, the Japanese were justified in murdering them.

Italy:
Ancient Rome was the greatest civilization.... ever.

This was the Italian reason for war. A lot... I mean a whole lot.... a lot of wishful thinking went into the Italian casus belli.... and their ancestors invented the term. Anyway, because they were the descendants of the Caesars, this meant they could murder Ethiopians and Albanians.

And because of the need to respond to such asinine reasons, at least on the part of the USA, the war became a war of ideology for us. Capitalism vs. Fascism. Republicanism vs. Totalitarianism. Rescue vs. Murder. Good vs. Evil.

And I feel that war is now mostly about ideology....

I also think that WWII holds a place for us, because we were all involved. San Marino, Luxembourg and Denmark did not want to get involved, but they were not given a choice. Goums, Sikhs, Mongolians, Thais, Cypriots, Somalis, Haitians, Samoans, Kenyans, Croatians.... almost every single nation was touched by the war. Few events have had such connections.

And also few events have had such repercussions.... Japanese-American Internment Camps, the Marshall Plan, the Monnet Plan, the Chinese Civil War, Breton Woods, Black Tulip, the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain, the Cold War, the Arms Race, the Western Bloc, the Soviet Bloc, the fear of MAD (mutually assured destruction), Reza Pahlavi, Mao, Tito, Nasser, the United Nations, Decolonization (in and of itself, this may be the largest repercussion of WWII... the independence of Africa and all the subsequent wars to the present day), India, Pakistan, West Pakistan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the European Community, NATO, the Warsaw Pact, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the First Indochina War, the Korean War, the Suez Crisis, the U.S. and Soviet space programs, the Vietnam Conflict, the Six Day War, the EU, Japanese apocalyptic art, the remarkable economic recoveries by Japan and West Germany, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War... that is to say that we are still living in it.

(Thiat section looks a bit like Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire.)

Maybe, in a hundred years, historians will be able to definitively state the aftermath.

Just my thoughts...
 

Boaz

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Noz Vel, Hitler declared war on the U.S. four days after the IJN attacked Pearl Harbor.... bet he was waiting for some reciprocity in Manchuria.
 

BAYLOR

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Noz Vel, Hitler declared war on the U.S. four days after the IJN attacked Pearl Harbor.... bet he was waiting for some reciprocity in Manchuria.
Germany was fighting Britain and the Soviet Union and then declares war on the US. Too many enemies and too many fronts and not enough resources and industrial output. The US had a massive industrial capacity , we could out produce all the other waring countries combined and we could supplely them with weapons and everything else on scale that Germany and it allies couldn't hope to match. Germany fighting The UK and can't conquer Britain because the Royal Navy and the he couldn defeat the RAF because the raid stations which gave the Raf a huge strategic advantage and enable them to ply their planes where they were needed most. Lacking a significant surface feet doomed Operation Sealion to failure. Then the was the Easter Front , Hitler's operation Barbarossa invasion of the Soviet Union was folly on an epic scale. The Red Army bleed German dry of men , weapons and other valuable resources .
 

Boaz

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Too many enemies and too many fronts and not enough resources and industrial output.
Baylor, Why did Hitler pull the trigger? Did he really believe Britain and France would let Poland fall? Was he just evil? Was Nazism basically a Ponzi scheme... did he have to just keep going until it crumbled?

In the U.S., there is the idea of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. It is based upon a bunch of what if's, and "they just had more money", and "we were betrayed", and moral justifications. It ignores the hard facts of disparities in industrialization, slavery (drained manpower for war, killed chances of allying with France, Britain, or Spain), disparities in population, and disparities in cash.

In retrospect, the Nazis could only have maintained the ante-bellum status quo through a bunch of what if's and a complete denial of the economics and demographics.

What if Canaris could have assassinated Hitler early in the war?
 

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