Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

World War Two Stories

with 9 comments


Ah, World War Two. The Greatest Generation. Americans know all about it. The evil Nazis and dastardly Japanese (helpfully illustrated above by the US Army) tried to take over the world, but they were no match for American moxie, know how, and heroism. Pulling together like never before, Americans were able to defeat this terrible threat and free Europe and East Asia from tyranny. Proving the rightness of the American way, and that if we work together no obstacle can stop us, no enemy can defeat us. Yes, brings a tear to many an eye just to think of it.

True enough, as far as it goes. Americans did pull together and fight hard in World war Two. The veterans of that war have much to be proud of, and we have much to be thankful to them for. However, there is one little problem. The Allies didn’t win World War Two because we outfought or outwitted our enemies. The Allies won World War Two because we outnumbered and outproduced the Axis powers by an overwhelming margin. Here are the war production figures for five major categories of weapons:

Allies: 227,235 vs. Axis: 52,435

Fighter Aircraft
Allies: 212,459 vs. Axis: 90,684

Allies: 153,615 vs. Axis: 35,415

Allies: 914,682 vs. Axis: 180,141

Aircraft Carriers
Allies: 155 vs. Axis: 16

In fact the only category of major weapons where the Axis outproduced the Allies is submarines, 1,337 vs 422. In every other category the Allies outproduced the Axis by margins of at least 2 to 1, sometimes 6 to 1 or higher. Even being outnumbered 2 to 1 is an almost hopeless situation when it comes to war, in most of the major battles of World War Two, the Axis were so badly outnumbered and outgunned that the outcome of the battle was not in doubt.

The Allied landing in France on D-Day is a great example. It was the most well planned and prepared for battle in history. The Allied air forces flew more than 14,000 attack sorties during the battle, the German Luftwafe was able to to fly…100. How does one say “no contest” in German? While D-Day was an important battle, and the Allies who participated fought with bravery and skill, the German defenders stood little to no chance. I could cite dozens of major battles where any sort of sober analysis shows the Germans or Japanese stood little chance of victory.

Now, what does this matter? I’m not trying to cast aspersions here or belittle America’s contribution to World War Two. What I’m saying is that this belief that we won the World War Two through our pulling together and fighting the good fight created a belief that we can win any war if we just give it the old college try, or old World War Two try as the case may be. And if one continues this line of thought, people who believe the USA won World War Two through moxie and pulling together are going to easily be persuaded that if we lost a war…it was because we didn’t pull together like in World War Two.

Maybe other people have made this connection before or said it better than me, but I think this is important. So many Americans have bought into this “greatest generation” myth, myself included, that it blinds us in crucial ways. We forget that we fought together in World War One not because we decided to fight as a nation to destroy the evil Nazi and Japanese regimes…no, we fought…because Germany and Japan declared war on the United States. It’s easy to get people to fight the good fight when two other powerful nations attack your nation. It just so happened at this place in time and history those two other nations didn’t really stand a chance, and they really were two regimes that committed systematic war crimes, in Germany’s case one of the more monstrous crimes in history.

And now many of us are confused. We think that if we are at war, why, we have to fight the good fight. And fail to see that if a war is vastly unpopular…maybe it isn’t the good fight after all. We’ve confused cause with effect on a very deep level. Our pulling together during World War Two was an effect created by the war we found ourselves, it wasn’t some driving near mystical blending of wills that propelled us to victory, as much as we would like to think so. Um, did anyone follow that?

The point I am leading to here, is that this myth has morphed into the belief that we lost Vietnam because we didn’t pull together as a nation…and that we are obligated to support any and all wars with the WW2 fervour. I will look at this in greater detail in a subsequent column. For now I must go to work and help the economy. I’m being paid to catch rats today. My cats sit at home sleeping, while I go out to catch rats to pay for their food. What’s wrong with this picture?

(The above image is a World War Two poster produced by the US Army, and is public domain under US copyright law. Amazingly and blatantly racist and offencive, nu? How American’s attitudes toward Japan have been shaped by political necessity and propaganda is a topic for a whole other column. PS: The links in the production chart above all go to odd little trivia thingys.)

Written by unitedcats

March 13, 2008 at 10:26 am

Posted in History, War

9 Responses

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  1. Where did the production come from ? Americans (Allies too) working hard in the factories and ship yards , doing scrap metal drives and rationing. The thought that racism and related propaganda played a role in motivating people is something I’d agree is true. Hardships are meet easier when you can have an emotional response to it. I imagine the Nazis made it a point to beat that drum vs the Jews.
    No war since then have we as a country 1. Truly been in a declared war.No aspersions on my part of those that fought in those conflicts. 2. Been invested as a population on a human or cultural level involved in the conflicts.The protest movements during Vietnam had as much to do about general distrust and disdain for government as it did the war itself.


    March 13, 2008 at 12:57 pm

  2. Sorry for the follow up but good posts provoke thoughts and feelings. The “greatest generation” was as much about the contributions in the post war America than the war itself. I wonder will we see a nation pull together through GI Bills and general drive pull the nation out of recession,create a stronger nation and make being American mean something to anyone.


    March 13, 2008 at 1:00 pm

  3. We do not commend the Germans for supporting the war machine of the third Reich.


    March 13, 2008 at 2:19 pm

  4. John Wayne didn’t win the war? You’re joshing, right?


    March 13, 2008 at 2:27 pm

  5. Well, itf, if you’re claiming that Americans somehow outproduced the Axis cause “we worked hard in our factories” ignores the point I was trying to make…for every armaments factory the Axis had…the Allies had two or more. At the high point of the Axis, just before they invaded Russia, the Allied GNPs were still 50% more than the Axis total. Add Russia and USA, and the allies had vastly more industrial capacity than the Axis.

    Micheal, well, I’m of mixed feeling on that. I will not judge people for supporting their government so long as they do not personally commit war crimes, though I do not necessarily approve. Having a German War hero in my family tree makes it hard for me to be objective here:

    Uncle Strehlow


    March 13, 2008 at 7:57 pm

  6. Only Americans think that Americans won the WW2… Largest battles raged on eastern front. Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad, Kursk only four from the long row of those HUGE battles. Offensives and counter-offensives, with very high number of casualties. Between 1939 and 1943 the european war ran almost without americans. At the moment of overhyped D-Day the mighty German war machine were on the way to defeated by Soviet Union (the “Russians”).


    See the number of military deaths at – Soviet Union and Germany lost the most lives with large margins.

    A European Male

    March 21, 2008 at 5:07 pm

  7. the americans were fucked up by the germans and the japanese

    adolf hitler

    May 26, 2008 at 12:20 am

  8. the german army of that time was the best to take on so many armies and fight as long as they did

    j. hudson

    September 18, 2008 at 5:33 pm

  9. This is an interesting perspective, but it over simplifies the complex nature of WWII, and leaps over actual facts. Prior to the US entry into the war the allies WERE outnumbered, outgunned, and out generaled. When the USA did enter the war it’s naval tonnage and soldiers fit for duty were far fewer compared to the Axis forces. Thats why the axis were able to run rampant across the Pacific and European theatres. The Allies were not able to launch a major campaign until the USA pulled together, put men in uniform, and began to build up the war machine. Allied strategic bombing sorties devastated the Axis war production infrastructure, and the Germans were never able to build a medium range fighter to match the British spitfire. I really must disagree with your accertions as they miss many of these facts. Allied war production, and strategic bombing made it possible for the allies to outnumber the axis at the end of the war.

    Michael M

    November 30, 2008 at 5:29 am

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