Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

The 12 Things Every American Should Know About WWII

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by belasar, Dec 19, 2017.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    7,876
    Likes Received:
    966
    A little while back we had a somewhat contentious thread about the results of a very general quiz relating to WWII given to some young people. The answers, to be charitable, were decidedly uneven and confirmed what most rogues here believed that the teaching of WWII history is haphazard at best. This made me wonder about what should be taught as a High School level basic understanding of WWII and its effect on Humanity in general and the United States in particular.

    I am not proposing a graduate level understanding, but the bare minimum necessary to comprehend the war and to build a solid foundation upon which a deeper exploration could be developed if they chose. Who commanded which army at such and such battle would fall out of this as would a litany of dates and statistics.

    This is a decidedly American view of the war, but then as this is predominately a American-centric forum I feel this is not out of line here and the fact that the US was a major participant in the conflict as a whole. Certainly someone from Eastern Europe might see some areas as more prominent.

    Here is my list and look forward to your comments.

    ONE
    WWII was the largest and most destructive conflict in Human history resulting in the death of between 50 million and 80 million people world wide. It also devastated most of Europe and Asia.

    TWO
    The conflict was largely waged between 1939 and 1945, though events before and after these dates contributed to both the death total and devastation inflicted.

    THREE
    The conflict was waged between two massive military alliances, the Axis led by Nazi Germany in Europe and Imperial Japan in Asia. Opposing them were the Allies consisting of Great Britain, Soviet Union and the United States. Both sides had a number of lesser allies affiliated to each power block, but the five principal nations represented the 5 most powerful countries in the world at that time.

    FOUR
    Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party led Germany, while Japan was led by a military war cabinet in all respects though nominally subservient to the Emperor Hirohito who was more a figurehead rather than a true leader. Winston Churchill led Great Britain and Commonwealth/Empire through the majority of the war, while the Soviet Union was led by Joseph Stalin. For the United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presided for much of the war and was succeeded by Harry S Truman during the final months of the war.

    FIVE
    The principal cause of WWII was the profound and militant rise of nationalism within Germany, Japan and other Axis nations that called for expansion of their borders by conquest to either create or expand existing empires. In addition to this Nazi doctrine called for the elimination of any race considered inferior or 'sub-human' to Aryan ideals. This mass extinction of men, woman and children was known as The Final Solution in Germany and more commonly since as the Holocaust.

    SIX
    The principle victims of the Holocaust was Jews of Europe who lost nearly 80% of their number to killing literally on a industrial scale. Other victims were Gypsy's, Slav's, Communist's, Homosexuals and the Mentally and Physically handicapped. Though there was no really organised effort to kill civilians in the Pacific war, large numbers of Chinese and other nationalities did die due to harsh treatment and indifference of Japanese civil and military policies.

    SEVEN
    The United States did not become a active participant in the war until Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7th,1941, though it did offer support to the other Allies well before this date and tried to hobble Japan politically and economically prior to the attack. America would become known as The Arsenal of Democracy due to its vast economic, agricultural and industrial capacity that not only supplied all her own needs but significant levels of the needs of all her allies, including Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

    EIGHT
    No significant battles were fought on US soil save Pearl Harbor, but the war would still have a profound effect on American homeland. Vast factories would spring up all over the country and the influx of women and minorities into the workforce would promote significant migration of both groups challenging the existing thoughts on equality and race relations within the US.

    NINE
    The high water mark of the Axis was the late summer-fall-winter of 1942 where Germany and her European allies controlled Europe from the French Atlantic coast to the Volga river in Russia and the Arctic circle to the coast of Northern Africa. In the Pacific, Japan controlled much of the Asian mainland to the central Pacific. After this point the Axis would be in retreat on all fronts.

    TEN
    The war in Europe would end in the late spring of 1945 with the suicide of Adolf Hitler, the capture of the Nazi capitol of Berlin and the meeting of Anglo-American forces from the west and Soviet forces from the East in central Germany. In the Pacific, Japan would surrender in the late summer of 1945 when the Japanese Home Islands were cut off from the remnants of her Empire, the Soviet Union entered the war in the Pacific and the dropping of two Atomic Bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    ELEVEN
    Much of Europe and Asia would almost immediately descend into two new political and military alliances called the West and the Eastern Bloc with the US leading the West and the Soviet Union the East. This antagonism would lead to what was called The Cold War and would last over 40 years till the fall of Communism in Europe and the Soviet Union. Numerous brush fire wars, insurgencies and other forms of conflict would be waged across the globe, but the possibility of Nuclear Armageddon would restrain both sides from escalating to general conflict like WWII.

    TWELVE
    America would emerge as the one unqualified victor in the war, a homeland untouched war, a vibrant and modern economy and industrial base, cutting edge technology, relatively few casualties, a modern and massive war machine that could span the globe at will and the first Atomic weapons would make the United States into the first and only true superpower since the height of the British Empire. Her wealth, industry and technology would, through the Marshall Plan, allow Western Europe and Asia, allies and former enemies, to recover in a fraction of the time it would have taken otherwise.

    I now await your merciless picking apart of my list. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
    LRusso216, KJ Jr, green slime and 2 others like this.
  2. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,334
    Likes Received:
    404
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    I think these are certainly important for people to understand Belasar, I don't have anything to nit pick from your list. It would be truly fantastic if every American did understand and know these things, but that's not gonna happen unfortunately. Thankfully there are many like us out there who do care and think about the events that changed our world forever.
     
  3. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    5,409
    Likes Received:
    720
    FIVE
    The principal cause of WWII was the profound and militant rise of nationalism within Germany, Japan and other Axis nations that called for expansion of their borders by conquest to either create or expand existing empires. In addition to this Nazi doctrine called for the elimination of any race considered inferior or 'sub-human' to Aryan ideals. This mass extinction of men, woman and children was known as The Final Solution in Germany and more commonly since as the Holocaust.

    I would have added the discontent at the deal struck at the end of the last war for Germany...

    SIX
    The principle victims of the Holocaust was Jews of Europe who lost nearly 80% of their number to killing literally on a industrial scale. Other victims were Gypsy's, Slav's, Communist's, Homosexuals and the Mentally and Physically handicapped. There was no really organised effort to kill civilians in the Pacific war, large numbers of Chinese and other nationalities did die due to harsh treatment and indifference of Japanese civil and military policies.

    Tell that to the Chinese...the Kempatai had execution competitions... cut heads off until you physically can no more...we aren't talking a small amount here...

    TWELVE
    America would emerge as the one unqualified victor in the war - Huh?
    [​IMG]
    Not an American in sight... : )
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2017
  4. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Messages:
    2,152
    Likes Received:
    574
    Location:
    Auburn, Alabama, US
    A very good summary but it does not surprise me that young people of today are not as well i9nformed about it as I, for one, would wish. I first thought about it when having a conversation with a Political Science teacher, a friend, of mine and his discovery around 2000 that his students knew so little about the Vietnam war. It was already a generation old by then,. Perhaps most people find war a terrible thing to remember, or study, or even think about unless they a or someone they knew was directly involved. I was five when the war ended so my K -12 era was full of veterans, militaria, surplus , and the Cold War with its antecedents in WW2. I grew up a shotgun hunter but in our house resided a luger, P-38 ( pistol, not plane), 1903A3, two M1 carbines and lots of ammunition. We even had a surplus J-2 Piper, missing its doors .

    If I were growing up now, other than War Games and forums I could well have no interest but am glad we have some younger people here.

    Though sady I think the passage of time means passage of interest or change of interest. But maybe that is not sad at all but normal.

    The enormous carnage and disruption of the world should create much interest as to why and how this happened. The usual culprits are misguided men (madmen)with few checks and balances in my humble view. .


    Gaines
     
  5. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,334
    Likes Received:
    404
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    I think it would be nice for history classes to show the human side of things, how it affected people. Not the dates, the people, the places, that doesn't matter nearly as much as the fundamental human behavior that brought such destruction, death, and pain. Simple emotions of grief, anger, jealousy, and fear, resulted in 60 million deaths (Probably much more than that).
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    7,876
    Likes Received:
    966
    FIVE
    In my early mental drafts on this list ( I've contemplated this thread for over a week) I did include references to the Great War, its end and unrealized expectations. I omitted it in part to keep the list manageable (I had hoped for only 10 points) and because that though many countries found unrealized goals, only a handful were willing to spark a cataclysmic total war to reach these goals.

    SIX
    When I was still in school the accepted number of war dead was in the 35-40 million range, 40 years later that number has doubled and may yet still climb. Just how many civilians were deliberately killed by Japanese forces will likely never be known because the war in China was not a 'us against them' affair. There was almost too many factions to list, Nationalists, Communists, Japan, Warlords allied to the Nationalists, to the Japanese, Independents and Puppet States, each with their own agenda and occasionally willing to work with their 'enemy' or against their natural 'allies'.

    Japan lacked a 'Wansee Conference' or a formalized structure or ideology that called for the near genocidal killing of undesirables within their empire. Much of the killing was done on a localized level or due to a unofficial indifference towards local populations. It is no comfort to die because of poor planning as opposed to deliberate execution for the purpose of entertainment or sport, but the German approach was fully intentional and was opposed from the bottom up, and in Japan's case the top down.

    TWELVE
    As I said this was intended to be a American-centric list and different countries or regions might see it differently due to local considerations. Still I will stand by the statement in the grand sense. Of the five major powers the US was the only country to come out of the war better than it was before. Germany and Japan were utterly destroyed and suffered huge loss of life. Great Britain lost both her place in the world and nearly all her Empire due to the war. The Soviet Union gained her buffer empire for a generation or two, but the human and physical cost still hobbles them with a economy equal to that of a mid sized European country.

    Australia and the other Dominion countries certainly could be called victors in the war, but they did lose the protection of the 'great' British Empire in all but a token sense, forcing them to look elsewhere for a 'strategic level' defense be it local alliances or the US directly or indirectly. The US certainly needs and wants allies, but they do so as the dog wagging the tail and not the reverse. This is no knock on their sacrifice in the war.
     
    CAC likes this.
  7. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,319
    Likes Received:
    167
    Good list belasar! I like it. I would only add an emphasis that the USA did NOT win the war single-handedly and that Japan surrendered probably as much because the Soviet Union entered the war as because of our two atomic bombings.
     
  8. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2008
    Messages:
    9,334
    Likes Received:
    1,337
    Please don't tell me who won, I'm still reading.
     
    gtblackwell and Otto like this.
  9. Otto

    Otto Made of plastic. Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2000
    Messages:
    9,054
    Likes Received:
    1,341
    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    I like this thread and the concept.

    The title reminds me of those clickbait articles advertised at the bottom of so many pages these days, only this time the subject matter is well thought out and written by those who have subject matter expertise.

    I see this as an instructive introduction to WWII for Americans who are looking for a general overview on WWII.

    I think we can refine this and publish once we are comfortable with the content.
     
  10. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2015
    Messages:
    1,471
    Likes Received:
    481
    Since this sort of number crunching used to be my profession I thought I might comment. While my work was more focused on battles and campaigns, others have undertaken a pretty thorough examination of the data and discrepancies to produce some reasonable estimates. The figure of 65.6 million is probably closest to reality and is comprised of:

    7.3 million Axis military deaths to all causes
    12.3 million Allied military deaths to all causes
    45.9 million civilian "excess" deaths attributed to war causes

    In China specifically, the estimated numbers are complex, but essentially break down as:

    c. 10 million, of which:
    240,000 Axis Chinese military (Japanese puppet forces from Manchuko) deaths to all causes
    1,757,000 Allied Chinese military (Nationalists and Communists) deaths to all causes, of those, estimates place the KMT loss as 1,319,958 and the Communist loss as 446,736
    8 million Chinese civilian "excess" deaths attributed to war causes

    While it is difficult to attribute the civilian deaths to factions as a cause, some of the estimated figures are:

    335,934 Chinese civilians were estimated killed in Japanese air raids
    1,073,496 Chinese civilians were killed by the direct action of the Japanese military, but excluding the Nanjing Massacre (c. 260,000)
    Unit 731 killed c. 2,000 in germ warfare experiments and possibly as many as 200,000 in Yunnan, Ningbo, and Changde provinces
    The Yellow River flood of 1938, initiated by the KMT to halt the Japanese advance, killed c. 400,000-500,000
    c. 5-6 million deaths due to war related starvation and disease in excess of demographic norms
     
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    344
    Location:
    London UK
    If I would like the American public to understand one thing about the Second World War it might be to challenge the simple "good versus evil" lineup.

    The reality was much more complicated, as the USSR under Stalin not only had internal policies little less genocidal than the Nazis but entered the war on the side of the Nazis. I suspect the world might be a safer and better place if more Americans (and Britons) understood more about the trade offs made by Churchill and Roosevelt durign the war to balance expedience with morality.
     
    JJWilson likes this.
  12. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2014
    Messages:
    3,099
    Likes Received:
    335
    Location:
    New England
    Well thought out list. I think you have hit the critical points that students should be instructed. Gone are the days of dates and statistical analysis unless it is to support a thesis. Well done.
     
  13. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2008
    Messages:
    9,334
    Likes Received:
    1,337
    Wartime morality usually bears little resemblance to peacetime morality, with good reason.
     
    RichTO90 likes this.
  14. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2014
    Messages:
    3,099
    Likes Received:
    335
    Location:
    New England
    I agree completely. When I teach about the war (though its not in my curriculum :D) the major theme of the unit is just that, the emotional toll, destruction and foundations it set for the future. They are young though so I can only go so far. At the present I am teaching my "Rosie" Unit which delves into primary documents and objects that deal with similar themes.
     
    JJWilson likes this.
  15. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    18,729
    Likes Received:
    2,036
    Location:
    Stirling, Scotland
    Tried hard to pick faults in the list, and really can't without being bloody pedantic.
     
  16. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,334
    Likes Received:
    404
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    I think the idea that the Allies were the forces for "Good" has calmed down quite a bit. When I was much younger (5-9 maybe), I had the illusion that the U.S and her allies had the only good men in the conflict, and the Japanese, Italian, and German soldiers were next to the devil. Much of this I can attribute to movies I saw, and the amount of wartime propaganda I was exposed too. Later on, as I grew older, I realized that wasn't the case. On both sides, there were good, and bad men ("bad" is quite subjective, I mean it more in a war crime, inhumane behavior way). Half Tracks quote sums it up perfectly "In war, it's not who's right, it's whose left."
     
    belasar likes this.
  17. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,319
    Likes Received:
    167
    JJ kind of stole my thunder. I too believe there should be a theme somewhere that all the Allied personnel weren't good. All the German and Japanese weren't evil and all Italians weren't cowardly!
     
    JJWilson likes this.
  18. toki2

    toki2 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2013
    Messages:
    620
    Likes Received:
    162
    At the age of 15 what did you know about a period of history 57 years before you were born (unless specifically taught)? I certainly didn't know a lot about the Boer War. (The Second Boer War that is). Now that is from a British prospective. You peaceable yankees had the Spanish American War/ Philippine American War/ Moro Rebellion/ Second Samoan Civil War and the Yaqui Wars.
     
    JJWilson likes this.
  19. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,334
    Likes Received:
    404
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Sorry Harolds, you can steal my thunder next time :D
    I have learned mostly from reading, watching, and listening, very little of what I know did I ever learn at school. As for some of those lesser wars you speak that involved America, I have little to no knowledge on them, and have only just begun to try and learn more about them in the last 2 years at most.
     
  20. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    5,409
    Likes Received:
    720
    I was born in 1971...just 26 years after the war...so its like wondering what happened in 1991...not so long ago...
    As for good and bad...of course not all were good or bad...but instigators of WAR are bastards of the highest order and it should be remembered who threw the first punch.
    Pearl Harbour would be called a cowards punch in a pub/bar (punching someone when they are not ready or looking) Contempt should be the correct response...IMO
     
    JJWilson likes this.

Share This Page