A belated article

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Vassili Zaitzev, Oct 11, 2013.

  1. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    Hello everyone-

    Right before the end of the school year for 2012-2013, I wrote an Op-Ed that I hoped was going to be published for the Hartford Courant. Unfortunately, it did not make the cut. It occurred to me only recently that I did not post on the forum, so I'll do that now. Feedback will be appreciated, I'm trying to improve my writing.

    Remembering our Allies
    I recently subbed for a high school teacher. It was the last period of the day, and the class had finished their work. Having some free time, I decided to give them a small lecture on WWIIs’ Pacific Theater. During the lecture, a student asked me why Canada and Australia stayed out of both world wars; I had to tell him the contrary. Though it was only one question, it prompted me to think: What does the student body know of our Allies contribution?

    I cannot fault the educational system for this. Given the scope of history, and limited time in a school year, it is unrealistic for educators to go into detail on every aspect. The objective is for the student to understand the big picture of historical events. This trend is not limited to the United States. It’s understandable for countries to focus on their achievements over others. For example, Russia has placed a much greater emphasis on its role in the World War II (Great Patriotic War over there). This is justifiable, given the staggering cost the Soviets suffered to defeat the majority of the German Wehrmacht.

    This trend is not, however, set in stone. I recall visiting Sainte-Mère-Église in Normandy, France in the summer of 2004. The residents were friendly, and thanked the U.S. for it’s’ contribution (the town was liberated on June 6th, 1944, by elements of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions). With all this in mind, I will use the rest of this letter to answer the students’ question. For sake of length and detail, I will narrow down to two examples in the Pacific.

    By December of 1941, two Canadian Battalions (The Royal Rifles of Canada and The Winnipeg Grenadiers) were sent to bolster the defense of Hong Kong. Along with mix of British, Indian, and volunteer forces numbering 14,000; they faced the onslaught of the Imperial Japanese Army on December 8th. For three weeks, the Canadians resisted until the surrender of the British territory on Christmas Day. This is despite being outnumbered four to one, lacking equipment, and the Japanese having air and naval supremacy. Out of the approximate 2,000 Canadians, over 500 would die from combat or captivity. One of the Grenadiers, Sergeant Major John Osborn, received a posthumous Victoria Cross for hurling himself on a grenade to protect his comrades.

    Australians were involved against the Japanese throughout the war, ranging from fighting in New Guinea to the Coast Watchers of the Solomon’s. One of the lesser known stories is that of HMAS Perth. She was a light cruiser, built and sold by the British to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Serving in the Mediterranean, Perth and her crew were later attached to the naval arm of ABDACOM. A hastily made command of American, British, Dutch, and Australian forces; they were organized to defend the Malay Barrier. By February of 1942, Java was one of the few strongholds still in Allied hands. Perth was part of a strike force led by Dutch Rear Adm. Karel Doorman, which attempted to sink a Japanese Invasion convoy on the 27th. The daytime phase of what was called

    The Battle of the Java Sea saw little gain for the Allies.
    Left with three light cruisers (De Ruyter, Java, and Perth) and one heavy cruiser (USS Houston), Doorman again attempted an interception at night. Japanese torpedoes sank both Dutch cruisers, forcing Perth and Houston to retire south. Both ships were ordered on the 28th to sail to the port of Tjilatjap, through the Sunda Strait. Through communication failings, they were not informed of the Japanese landing at the mouth of the strait. Close to midnight, the two ships ran afoul on superior forces. Fighting bravely for over an hour, Perth and Houston were savaged by torpedoes and gunfire, sinking on March 1st. Only 229 of the Australian cruisers 682 complement would survive Sunda Strait and captivity. Houston would only have 284 out of 1,015 crewmembers survive the war.

    I hope the reader does not mistake me for diminishing the sacrifices made by members of our Armed Forces. My only intention is to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by our Allies.

    Bibliography


    Ferguson, Ted, Desperate Siege: The Battle of Hong Kong.
    Garden City, New York: Doubleday Company, INC., 1980.

    Gilbert, Martin, The Second World War.
    New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1989.

    Hornfischer, James D., Ships of Ghosts.
    New York, New York: Bantam Books, 2006.

    Hoyt, Edwin P., The Lonely Ships: The Life and Death of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet.
    New York, New York: David McKay Company, INC., 1976.

    Leckie, Robert, Delivered From Evil: The Saga of WWII.
    New York, New York: Harper Perennial, 1987.

    Winslow, Walter, The Fleet The Gods Forgot.
    Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1982.

    Winslow, Walter, The Ghost That Died at Sunda Strait.
    Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1984.

    Britain at War. “Canadians at Hong Kong.” Accessed June 17, 2013.
    Canadians in Hong Kong

    Canada at War. “The Battle of Hong Kong.” Accessed June 17, 2013.
    WWII: The Battle of Hong Kong - Canada at War

    HMAS Perth. “Battle of Sunda Strait.” Accessed June 19, 2013.
    SUNDA STRAIT
     
  2. pattle

    pattle Member

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    There was quiz show on the TV the other day where a contestant was asked did Australia join the war against Germany in 1939? after a pause the contestant replied that he had seen Gallipoli with Mel Gibson so his answer was yes. I find this ignorance to be unforgivable.
     
  3. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Holy Molie! I can understand some of the lesser Allies, but Canada and Austrailia???????
     
  4. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Nicely done
     
  5. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    An interesting thread.

    In fact, there was a Japanese journalist Kiyoshi Kiyosawa's opinion before the Pacific War that Japan should not confront with the Commonwealth as Japan would lose chance to negotiate with the US through them.
     
  6. Crimea_River

    Crimea_River Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure there are plenty of Canadian kids who don't know that Canada fought in the war either.
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    That's quite sad. I can tell you that neither of my daughters, one of whom is an English teacher, could give me the dates for the two World Wars, though one got Agincourt! Probably been teaching Henry V.

    I doubt kids in school today have much idea of what went on in WW2. To them it's ancient history.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  8. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Well many people here in the States think that WW1 started in 1917 and that WW2 started in 1942, so...
     
  9. bbear

    bbear Member

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    #9 bbear, Oct 13, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2013
    One observation,

    I checked the wikipedia page for films distributed in the war period 1938-45 (I think these are just films with war related content or propaganda value). Lots of US/UK and German films, a fair spread of Japanese, some from the minor states, and one from Australia, none from NZ, none from Canada, one from India. The one from Australia was about Tobruk ("The Rats of Tobruk"). And a lot of the UK ones seem to me to be slanted for US consumption/propaganda.

    List of World War II films - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Perhaps popular impressions of the war and it's importance are down to 'hollywood' ? Just a thought
     
  10. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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  11. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Sure!!

    http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/ww2-general/day-war-europe-65-years-ago-6116.html

    Thats just the ETO. There is also a thread for the PTO and BoB! :)
     
  12. bbear

    bbear Member

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    One website to rule them all: of course, i should have known. Thanks Njaco.
     
  13. Wavelength

    Wavelength Member

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    LOL they think Vietnam is ancient history too or run it together with WWII in their minds. Most "kids" today were born after the Gulf War
     
  14. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Those that do know about the war(s), often dont know the reasons why it was fought, and evil that propagated the conflict. You see it even in this place, and its distressing, to say the least....
     
  15. silence

    silence Active Member

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    #15 silence, Oct 13, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2013
    I was subbing for a High School English class, and they happened to be reading The Diary of Anne Frank. So after the in-class reading I asked them about what they knew about the Holocaust. In short, not much. The idea of six million didn't really register, and honestly its a very hard number for most people to grasp and really quantify. So the way I told them to look at was that 6M is enough people to go to one SF Giants home baseball game for two years. And that was only roughly half of the people who died in the camps. The class got real quiet, then one guy in the back just said, "damn."
     
  16. bbear

    bbear Member

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    Worse stilll there may be some vets who are becoming unclear about the mile wide gap between the behaviour of 'hardened' troops or ruthless and muddled high command on one side and the camps and atrocities on the other. As you know my dad died recentlly, who was one of those who didn't wear medals or march or memorialise. "At the end we were no more than armed robbers" he told me on one rare occaision he talked about it - ground war, Wesel etc.. Well, maybe. But FDR/LeMay were not Hirohito and WS Churchill/RAF/LW/Allied armed forces were not Hitler. Our officers generally admonished or weakly puniished looters and abusers - theirs too often positively encouraged it. Our high command may have been FUBAR - theirs were in a word evil as you say. That's not nationalistic just diagnostic.

    I am not happy that the suffering of minor nations are overlooked and that major allies like Aus/NZ/Canada/India are under recognised and bluntly hung out to dry by the empire. Nor happy that the bombed urban populations and the bomber boys are thought of as opposite rather than the same. Not happy, not proud and greatly concerned that my countrymen wear their poppies less and less at this time of year as each year passes and that what should be becoming clearer is becoming more mudddied.

    Excuse an emotional outburst : This problem is a bit important, I think.
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    what you are referring to or trying to come to terms with is the moral dimension of the war, which unfortunately often gets reduced to some unseemely arguments.

    There were good an bad poeople on both sides, and i would even concede in equal measure. But they are individuals. There were individuals on all sides that did good things, and individuals that did bad things.

    But thats not the point.

    On the Axis side, the rule of lawa was removed. Acts of bastardry became officiial, sanctioned policy. Sadly, this was also the case in the Soviet army as well. But in the west, the rule of law remained official policy throughout the war. If you shot a prisoner, or robbed a civilian you were guilty of an offense, however weakly admonished. In the german army that was often not the case, such as Hitlers illegal and ammpral orders to shoot all Allied Commandoes without trial.

    The thing that sets the allies apart from the Axis is that moral dimension, and in my opinion, its the single most important lesson we have to learn from the war. never let go of your principals, and what is right and decent.
     
  18. bbear

    bbear Member

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    Thanks very much for the gentle correction. That's a clear line to take. It certainly clarifies things for me. My comment risked the good order of the thread it seems. But not intentionally so.

    Acceptance of all the facts, including all the more obscure and all the 'difficult' parts still seems like important hard work to me. But that means knowing the facts first. So back to the books for me.
     
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