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The Real War 1939-1945, by Paul Fussell (1989) (theatlantic.com)
223 points by gruseom on May 26, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments

Just use this as a counter to the "rising tide of crap" on HN.

This has nothing to do with startups or technology, but it is a vital insight into our world, that makes us more aware of that world's terrible failings.

I am glad HN is still a place I can come to read about web deployment best practises, and find my self lost in near weeping horror about the wars I did not try hard enough to stop.

+1 from me and let's stop worrying we might be going downhill. Just push this uphill, Sisephyaen style.

Just use this as a counter to the "rising tide of crap" on HN.

Then again what makes HN special to me is that it is free of otherwise very popular and frequently also great topics I agree with. Exactly because they are popular. Why should they also be popular here as well as everywhere else?

This weekend the US will be awashed in Memorial day related content. Heck, I think this would fit better on HN if it was voted up on any other time of year.

The current top comment mentions Memorial day isn't about hotdogs. But seriously is there a major US holiday less commercialized? Christmas is a god damn consumer orgy. Memorial day in my experience is still quite the thoughtful and yes memory and appreciation full holiday.

I ran across this piece because Paul Fussell died this week and posted it because it was so shockingly enlightening. Nothing to do with Memorial Day; apart from not keeping track of these things, I'm Canadian and we do our remembering in November.

If some people voted it up for Memorial Day, so much the better for an impassioned piece of good writing. Fussell obviously deserves to be better known.

  > we do our remembering in November
The US celebrates 'Veteran's Day' on November 11th, which coincides with Remembrance Day (or Armistice Day), though it's one of those holidays that are more of a footnote than anything else. Memorial Day apparently holds a much older heritage. According to Wikipedia:

  [...] it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate
  the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War [...] By the 20th 
  century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans
  who have died in all wars.

What makes HN great is - simply - the culture. This is partly due to the people. If as a community we continue to stamp the culture on to newcomers, it has a good few years left in it. If its popularity grows at such a clip that the culture is lost, it becomes Reddit.

Very interesting. I do think it's vitally important to acknowledge the real nature of war, whose best witnesses are those who actually lived through it, the actual reality of it, not generals or politicians conducting the war from the safety of their offices.

There's a real question as to whether war ought to be shown in all its gory, butcher's window horror in the media. On the one hand, it's important people realise what war is actually like, on the other, it's easy to get desensitised to this stuff.

Personally, I've (regrettably) seen several images which indicate the reality of these things on shock sites, etc., and after a short while was rather desensitised. The images are so horrible that I just couldn't even begin to register the reality of it on any scale the way somebody who has actual experienced it would.

I really don't know whether showing these images would really get people to see the utter, utter insanity of war and the cost to these ordinary human beings, or whether people would just get desensitised.

It's an important question that ought to be explored.

In some countries there's less of a taboo in showing graphic war imagery than the US, and I don't think it's made them wiser. The injustice is when one small segment of your population endures the horror while the rest glorifies and romanticizes it. The extreme solution is if every time we as a country decide to go to ANY war, we conscript across all socio-economic lines. You really can't show or read about the cost of war.

Contrary to the popular belief, it's the middle and upper classes which are overrepresented in the US military, not the poor: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/08/who-serves-...

This report is base on the demographics of 2006-07 enlistees. Go back to the late 1960s (Vietnam era) when you have a draft, and people of means taking college deferments, and I wonder how the numbers would look.

Your link is to a page on the Heritage Foundation's website. Heritage is a well-known, right-wing pro-corporate/pro-oil/pro-plutocratic propaganda think tank, funded in part by the Koch brother's oil tycoon family, and started by Coors. A quick trip to their Wikipedia page will give a taste of the sort of high quality human beings they are associated with (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heritage_Foundation), such as the Kochs, Reagan, Novak, Kristol, Bennet, Cheney, Boehner, Gingrich, Scaife, and Pat Robertson. And they have partnered with organizations like AEI, the Hoover Institution and the Wall Street Journal. Because Heritage has such a public track record of on-going spin and disinformation I would not trust them for any objective, non-distorted arguments.

Furthermore, it's pretty well-known among historians that in wars it is primarily the poor and the working middle-class, who die or suffer predominately, either as soldiers or civilians on the homefront, or as prisoners. The rich and their sons are disproportionately able to avoid harm, and especially in the case of weapons contractors or supply companies, oil suppliers, or banks, are often able to profit handsomely from wars and militarization. This is not controversial and is a repeated pattern going back at least a thousand years or so.

Also I looked at their report and it's cherry picked and very carefully worded, with several sloppy arguments, often contradicting themselves in the matter of a few sentences. Typical stuff for them.

> Also I looked at their report and it's cherry picked and very carefully worded, with several sloppy arguments, often contradicting themselves in the matter of a few sentences. Typical stuff for them.

I don't see anything wrong with their methodology, could point those out for me?

Sorry I will not. It's hilariously bad. Riddled with it. I've seen dozens of flaws with just a few paragraphs. It's very very carefully worded and has gaping statistical flaws and false conclusions. Even starting with the piece's title and 1st paragraph you should be able to see the propaganda shell game start shuffling around. I made my comment more for the sake of other readers of HN. Instead I'll offer it as a geeky intellectual challenge for yourself to take a fresh look at their report with a critical eye. Once you can spot all the "fnords" in one piece of a propaganda you'll get better at seeing it elsewhere as well. :)

You keep repeating the ad hominem but there's not much to your critique. Actually, you didn't offer a single valid argument and seem much more biased than the report, I don't think HN is benefiting.

I'm quickly desensitized by video footage or images from war, acts of terrorism and the like. It might just be me, but I find that reading about the atrocities of war is much more effectual. So maybe there is a case for more old-fashioned war reporting?

Indeed, and there is also a question of the dignity of the victims of these events. It might be very distressing indeed for the family of a dead soldier to see his strewn remains appear on television.

> There's a real question as to whether war ought to be shown in all its gory "It is almost impossible to produce antiwar films or documentaries that also present images of battle. It is like trying to condemn pornography while showing erotic love scenes. The prurient fascination with violent death always overpowers the message. War has become part of the modern industrial landscape. Indeed, its tools are often the cutting edge of technology." - from Chris Hedges' "War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning"

Great speech here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2SaM8RJ30c

I would rather the journalist's simply described events with a view to the people involved. Describe what it feels like to walk past a bombed out car. Interview the family of the dead. Actual journalism.

Robert Fisk sprung to mind immediately when you said that. What ever anyone thinks of his politics, he does manage to convey things from a viewpoint at the scene of the event.

Wow. I just got through reading and reviewing Fussell's book this was taken from, Wartime. http://i-heart.us/read-smart/wartime/ I was watching some political commentary show a few weeks ago and one of the talking heads mentioned it, so on a lark I got it from Amazon.

If you want to understand the war, I can't recommend this book enough. It's not a history book like most of us are used to. It's more of a social history -- the way things were and the way people experienced them. I know it changed my view of WWII forever.

War is like death: when it comes we all must deal with it, and it is a great horror upon us and society. It changes the world and the way people think about things. When modern students look back at WWII, I don't think they have any idea what they're really looking at. I am reminded of a section in the book (not sure if it's in this essay, sorry, once I realized I already have read this I skipped ahead) where two soldiers are getting off the boat at the end of the war in New York. They were given cookies and candy. One remembers that here they were for all intents and purposes cold-blooded killers coming from hell, and civilians were treating them like kids home from summer camp. Even many of the people that lived through it didn't understand the true nature of the war.

Fussell did a great job with this article and the longer book. (side note: he also did a book on WWI. Been meaning to read that as well. I believe both of these books won some awards)

It is mentioned in the book but it was referring to a Canadian returning home.

> The postwar result for the Allies, at least, is suggested by one returning Canadian soldier, wounded three times in Normandy and Holland, who recalls (in Six War Years 1939-1945, edited by Barry Broadfoot) disembarking with his buddies to find on the quay nice, smiling Red Cross or Salvation Army girls. >> 'They give us a little bag and it has a couple of chocolate bars in it and a comic book. . . . We had gone overseas not much more than children but we were coming back, sure, let's face it, as killers. And they were still treating us as children. Candy and comic books.'

Thank you for the book recommendation - really enjoying it so far.

It was nice to read the article. My dad died last year. He was an infantryman in 1944 & 1945 in the 3rd army. He lost a lot of friends and my uncles told me that the war fucked him up. He became an alcoholic and never could fully shake the demons. He could never watch a war movie or anything depicting war. He also never could talk about what he experienced. I've realized that the ones who talk usually didn't see any combat. My dad hated war and hated patriotic fervor.

I wonder if it was harder on the American or the European soldiers. Going home to a land where nobody knows what you've been through.. My grandfather fought in WW2 and he talked about it all the time. But I feel like he got over it, psychologically. Everyone here did it together.. I think.

That's a great comment. I have a thought that a few American civilians were killed (Pearl Harbour and some kind of hot air balloon bombs from Japan I seem to recall), but having the majority of the population have no idea what you experienced has got to make it harder.

You can counter that with European soldiers coming home to dead families and destroyed cities. The US was prosperous and had unmatched conditions to help returning soldiers.

Thank you, OP, for reminding us in the U.S. that Memorial Day wasn't meant for barbeques and sales, but for remembering.


Max Marcus, (1923-1944), KIA, Battle of the Bulge.

George Weissman, (1925-1945), DOW, Germany.

To the uncles I never met and the cousins who never came to be.

My grandfather was a US Army Air Corps bombardier in WWII... During one of his group's missions over Southern France (he was based out of Corsica) they had a NCO from a ground division onboard, who at one point remarked "boy I'm sure glad I'm up here far away from all of the chaos and hell on the ground." Two minutes later a 3-inch piece of German flak penetrated the NCO's seat and missed his balls by under an inch.

If you were a combat theater of WWII, nothing was safe. In the air, in a sub, on the ground, in a civilian city under attack, on a ship, anything.

I recommend reading Stephen Ambrose's Wild Blue: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wild-Blue-Germany-1944-45/dp/07432... - it gives a realistic portrayal of the air combat facets of WWII and features a lot of George McGovern's personal experiences throughout.

Fussell's Great War and Modern Memory (http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-War-Modern-Memory/dp/0195133...) is one of the great texts explaining WW1, though not perfect. Hugely influential creating the view that WW1 caused a break from Victorian to modern views and values. Fussell also passed away this week.

My grandfather was enlisted in the French infantry, driving horses to haul their outdated artillery through deep mud. His unit quickly had their supply and command cut off, and so they ate their horses and dispersed back to their homes mostly on foot, surviving as best they could on what little they could find.

Later, a couple men from the local resistance showed up at his house, having learned of his experience with explosives. They asked him to join, and he reluctantly agreed.

After he and a colleague blew up a local bridge, the SS came into town and carried off an elderly business owner and respected member of the community. They publicly tortured him and threatened to kill him the following day unless those responsible turned themselves in. Allegedly, that night, my grandfather was forwarded a note smuggled from the captive elderly gentleman saying that he'd lived a full life, and to not under any circumstance surrender to the Germans. He stayed hidden, and the SS executed their hostage. He never shared the note with anyone, and for a long time felt the animosity of the people in his community who reproached his actions and their gruesome consequences.

I'm no American flag waver, but I think the primary reason Germany had better weapons was that they had years of head start in developing them. It makes me wonder if this is why the US has since spent trillions trying to stay ahead of the weapons curve.

I don't know about that. The Germans had the same head start on Russia that they had on the US, but when the Russians came into the fighting in 1941 they were already fielding the T-34 tank (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-34), which outclassed any German panzer in a one-to-one engagement and may have been the finest tank in the world. The best US industry could turn out in 1941 was the abysmal M3 Lee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M3_Lee), which would go on to get absolutely chewed to pieces by the Germans in the North African campaign. Even the next American attempt, the iconic M4 Sherman, which was the US' standard medium tank by 1944, was unimpressive compared to contemporary Russian and German designs.

The big lesson of WW2, though, was that in modern all-out warfare the quality of individual tanks didn't really matter. What mattered was the quantity those tanks could be turned out in. The Germans, stung by the unexpected quality of Russian tanks, had turned their efforts toward building absolute monsters like the Tiger (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_I) and Panther (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panther_tank). Those tanks individually outclassed any Allied tank of the era, even the Russians'. But they were so complicated to build that the Germans could only turn out a few thousand of them, which was peanuts compared to the swarms of T-34s and Shermans the Allies were cranking out. The tactical doctrine in 1944 was that it would take five Shermans, acting together, to knock out a single Tiger; but US industry turned out 12,000+ Shermans that year, while German industry would only turn out around 1,000 Tigers, so five-to-one numerical superiority wasn't hard to put together. No matter how fearsome the German tanks became, they eventually got stung to death by swarms of less impressive enemies.

Well put. Additionally, German industry was under heavy strategic air bombardment, further complicating their ability to mass produce tanks. And Tigers were vulnerable from the air, and the U.S. had nearly complete tactical air superiority from D-Day forward.

True, but the Russians had their own production problems too, namely the loss of nearly the entire industrialized area of their country to the enemy in 1941. The great virtue of the T-34 was that it was so simple to manufacture that it could be built in numbers in the ad-hoc, open-air factories the Russians set up east of the Ural Mountains, and maintained even in facilities directly under enemy attack, like the famous Tractor Factory in Stalingrad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volgograd_Tractor_Factory).

Fuel was a big (bigger?) problem. Albert Speer was an organizational genius and plane production (unsure about tanks etc) was actually increasing despite the bombardment. Lack of fuel and pilots scuppered the air force. I'd love to post the graph I can't find, but this Wikipedia article gives GDP versus year. Until 1945 German output was increasing. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_production_during_Wo...

Same with u-boat production. They still managed to build a lot in 1944, and in the first few months of 1945 they built nearly 100.

My understanding is total Allied domination of the air is what made the difference. German tanks were highly vulnerable to air attack, even the best of them.

True on the Western Front, where US air superiority was indeed total; less so on the Eastern Front, where the Soviet air force was essentially wiped out in 1941 and took years to rebuild, so the great tank battles, like Kursk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kursk), took place in a contested air environment.

A quick look at the table here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ussb-1.jpg will illustrate that air superiority in the west was achieved by the Allies. I am sure you meant to say "Allied air superiority", and I am sorry for being pedantic. However, there is a tendency for national triumphantism, especially over WWII, that points to some of the issues highlighted in the "The Atlantic's" article.

You're correct, I did not mean to slight the contribution of the RAF and other Allied air forces. (Though I think my other comments should illustrate that I am far from a "national triumphalist.")

I don't know about "T-34 tank... which outclassed any German panzer in a one-to-one engagement and may have been the finest tank in the world"

It beat panzers the same way American tanks beat panzers --by swarming them. It's not like Americans didn't know about sloped armor --they did. We even provided the Russians with armor --if I recall my history channel stuff. Also, the Russian tanks were prone to quality defects but they made that up with production numbers. Also their effective firing range was dismal --but again, in a swarming tactic, range is unimportant.

The German generals, who presumably would have been in a position to know, disagreed with you. Take Heinz Guderian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_Guderian), for instance; he was deeply impressed with the quality of the T-34 as a fighting vehicle. Example (http://books.google.com/books?id=feIBwIK6DA0C&lpg=PA10&#...):

General Heinz Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army spearhead was ambushed near Mtensk on October 6, 1941, by a brigade of T-34s. In a brief action, T-34s under Colonel Mikhael Katukov destroyed ten Pz III and Pz IV tanks for the loss of only about five of their own. Guderian, creator of the German panzer force, was shocked. The German panzers, with their short 50mm and 75mm guns, could only penetrate the thick armor of the T-34 from point-blank range of 100m or less, but the T-34 could destroy the poorly armored Pz III and Pz IV from up to 1,000m. The T-34's mobility over muddy terrain and poor roads astonished the German tankers. Furthermore, the use of sloped armor on the T-34 and KV-1 tanks indicated that German tank design had fallen woefully behind.

Guderian came away from the battles of 1941 believing that Germany should just drop its own tank designs and straight-up copy the T-34. They didn't, of course; the Panther and Tiger were supposed to be T-34 killers, but they were too difficult to produce and maintain in the field to ever really live up to that role.

It seems there are many sides and superiority swung every other month. I only know from what a history buff's knowledge rubs off on me.

Anyhow, not sure the veracity of the following link, but it provides some different opinion: http://operationbarbarossa.net/Myth-Busters/MythBusters2.htm...

Essentially, with a production run in the 55,000 range, it's no wonder it has able to overwhelm the enemy. Not unlike when Russian generals sent barely armed men against the enemy to face automatic weapons. They had the numbers.

It's strange then how Russians and Axis on the Eastern front had the same order of magnitude of losses.

Distilling the whole thing to a number isn't insightful, or a good description of how it progressed. I think you need to look at timelines.

The Germans obviously had the upper hand in the beginning as Russia was unprepared and Stalin having purged Russia's (USSR's) most able commanders (due to paranoia) before the war didn't help things. Had they been prepared Germany would not have been within 20 miles of Moscow. Germany grew overconfident and was unprepared for a war in freezing climate, whereas the Russians at least didn't have supply line issues to contend with.

Well every ally's entry to the war was botched. France was overwhelmed in a couple of weeks. U.S. lost much of it's Pacific fleet in matter of hours. Britain had its Dunkirk moment.

Unlike the Brits and Americans though, USSR didn't have have an advantage of natural geographic isolation. It's a bit unfair to pretend Russian case was somehow fundamentally different than the others.

> It's a bit unfair to pretend Russian case was somehow fundamentally different…

Can you elaborate on that? I'm not sure I follow.

Never the less, I would say the Russian front was different in that the Winters imparted severe contraints and challenges on the invading army. Another thing is Russia had the population numbers. They could afford to "throw" a generation at the Germans.

A little known tank destroyer - the M18 Hellcat could more than hold its own against German tanks, given the right tactics. It had a more powerful gun than the early Sherman models and phenomenal speed. (Still respectable today.) Some crews even used this speed to outpace the slow turret traversal of German tanks for the kill. The speed came at the price of very light armor. (No armor in the case of the turret.)

    "The best US industry could turn out in 1941"
The US wasn't in the war in 1941. So there's zero head start time.

Ironically, the German war plans were geared towards the conflict starting in 1944. If they had held off and gone to war later with vastly greater numbers of submarines, jet fighters (Me 262), and perhaps even a nuclear weapon...

Realistically the German's had zero chance of developing nuclear weapons. That wasn't known at the time, but we know enough about their program now to say that with certainty.

Neal Stevenson's Cryptonomicon does a pretty good job, in places, of calling out some of the more terrifying and gruesome aspects of WW2 in the Pacific. It reads so distinctly removed from the Hollywood version but this piece is a good reminder of the depth and length of the discomfort and terror the ground troops endured.

Related: the @RealTimeWWII project (https://twitter.com/#!/RealTimeWWII/) is an ambitious, and very compelling re-telling of the war. You really feel the tension, especially with the Dunkirk evacuation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirk_evacuation) just starting.

Personally, I don't think I could handle multiple daily updates for the next six years, but it's fun to check in with now and again.

I recommend reading everything by Paul Fussel, who never got over his rage at being exploited in war and seeing his best friend killed in France, and used his lifelong career in English literature as an instrument to communicate it.

You kind of have to hope if more people (politicians, general public, enlistees) saw the realities of war they may be less likely to start them. There are a number of disturbing things about the USA Combat Robot / Drone programs but one of them is removing the psychological impact of blowing up another human being (bad guy, civilian). It seems like a path to increasing conflict, not reducing it.

Most of us at times have felt patriotic or romantic perceptions of battle and war. In addition to this piece, Chris Hedges' "War is a force that gives us meaning", will help vaccinate you from such notions and manipulations.


Off topic: The author's son, Sam Fussell, wrote a very entertaining book "Muscle". It is an eye-opening look into the bodybuilding sub-culture. If you ever see a copy, grab it. Very entertaining.

Hard to take this article too seriously when it makes an egregious error regarding the quality of US automatic rifles in the very first paragraph. The M1 Garand was one of the finest rifles built, and George Patton considered it the "greatest battle implement ever devised."

"It was officially adopted as a United States military bolt-action rifle on June 21, 1905, and saw service in World War I. It was officially replaced as the standard infantry rifle by the faster-firing, semi-automatic 8 round M1 Garand, starting in 1937. However, the M1903 Springfield remained in service as a standard issue infantry rifle during World War II, since the U.S. entered the war without sufficient M1 rifles to arm all troops"

Thanks Wikipedia, that was easy!

While the M1 Garand may have been one of the greatest battle implements ever devised, it was semi-automatic, not fully automatic. The article probably refers to the M1918 BAR.

There weren't many automatic rifles in use during the war; the BAR was one of few since there were conflicting requirements. Most of the other "automatic rifles" were really submachine guns; until the Stug44 came along, the automatic rifle just wasn't that popular.

"They knew that their automatic rifles (First World War vintage) were slower and clumsier..."

This implies that the Axis had a better automatic rifle, which wasn't the case at all. The Wermacht didn't deploy an automatic rifle until the Stug44 in the last year of the war. Instead, they relied upon their bolt action rifles to provide protection to the core of the infantry unit, the MG34 and MG44.

The Japanese as well didn't use an automatic rifle in their infantry units, relying on the Ariska bolt action. The Italians too didn't use an automatic rifle to any extent.

If he wants to criticize the Army for using the BAR that's fine; but to imply that US weapons (other than the atomic bomb) were inferior to their counterparts is specious. The B-24, B-29, A/B-26 were far superior to any bombers the Axis ever deployed. The P-51, P-47, and P-38 were outstanding fighters.

The deuce and a half truck (that probably won the war) was far superior to any truck the Germans had.

And other than a crappy bunch of torpedoes throughout the war, the USN was equipped with excellent ships and aircraft. Sure in the beginning of the conflict there were issues with hardware (Brewster Buffalo, Devastator torpedo bomber, etc), but to make it as if the US equipment was trash is just mistaken.

Don't forget the VT (variable-time) fuse! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VT_fuse) There's even a book about the engineering development: The Deadly Fuze: Secret Weapon of World War II (Baldwin, Ralph B.)

Yep, proximity fused anti-aircraft guns were essential in the Pacific.

I also think the concept of superior German technology is a tiresome and often unsupported one. At the outbreak of the war there tanks were outclassed by French tanks, they relied upon hundreds of thousands of horses, so on and so forth.

High tech was almost a curse for Germany; they could never build enough wonder weapons, and when one looks at the economic output of their opponents, the matter was really a foregone conclusion. Individually, the US, UK, USSR and even France before she capitulated had better economies than Germany. Now economics isn't the sole determinant when it comes to warfare, but when you're outproduced 3-1, and faced with opponents that are looking for unconditional surrender your chances are rather slim.

Finnish officer once said to me that when Finnish defense forces ceased to use horses at large,our mobility went greatly down. This happened somewhere around sixties. Only when Sisu Nasu came to use the situation was fixed.

I can understand, as horse needs no gasoline, can move in snow, is small enough to go between trees and is more silent than most engines.


That's exactly what George Patton should have said to motivate his troops. So I would not consider his quotations worth anything when considering the benefits of U.S. weaponry.

The way the article paints all US wartime equipment as inferior is a bit of an overstatement, but that doesn't significantly blunt the overall meaning of the article.

Same article, but reformatted to make it easier to read (for me at least): http://www.readability.com/articles/ikavpsvz

In my opinion the real nature of war described in a matter-of-fact kind of way in the "Forgotten Soldier". In every chapter you think it can't get any worse, but it does.

Paul Ham, Kokoda. It made me feel sick reading it. And I had never heard of it until someone gave me the book. Closest thing to hell I can imagine.

If we are more journalistically enlightened now, what would be a good example of mainstream war journalism detailing the horrors of war in Afghanistan or Iraq?

Also a great 'no-holds-bar' american piece is the following:


quite great.

Thank-you. Absolutely Incredible.

> "Good God," said S., shocked, "here's one of his fingers." S. stubbed with his toe at the ground some feet from the corpse. There is more horror in a severed digit than in a man dying: it savors of mutilation. "Christ," went on S. in a very low voice, "look, it's not his finger."

Is this referring to what I think it's referring to?

I hope not - but probably so. Ugh.


Most useful when shared with our enemies.

Don't miss Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke, far and away the best introduction to a cynical interpretation of WWII.

Human Smoke is brilliant. I had no idea that Roosevelt was a virulent anti-semite [1] or that starvation through blockade was a key part of allied strategy.[2]

And TIL that between 500 000 and 3 000 000 Germans are estimated to have died in the subsequent forced relocation back to German territory.[3]

A memoir of one soldier's experience in the Pacific which is along the same lines as the Atlantic article is Goodbye Darkness.[4] It's a hell of a read.

[1] http://books.google.com/books?id=8HKQEJlAl9gC&lpg=PP1...

[2] http://books.google.com/books?id=8HKQEJlAl9gC&pg=PA143

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_and_expulsion_of_Germans...

[4] http://books.google.com/books?id=nvPRNK-Zo_YC&printsec=f...

"I had no idea that Roosevelt was a virulent anti-semite"

For balance:


quoting the whole thing...

"Franklin's mother Sara shared anti-Semitic attitudes common among Americans at the time.[citation needed] Although anti-Semitism was common during the era, it is argued[citation needed] that FDR was not anti-Semitic. Some of his closest political associates, such as Felix Frankfurter, Bernard Baruch and Samuel I. Rosenman, were Jewish, and he happily cultivated the important Jewish vote in New York City. He appointed Henry Morgenthau, Jr. as the first Jewish Secretary of the Treasury and appointed Frankfurter to the Supreme Court. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin cites statistics showing that FDR’s high level executive appointments favored Jews (15% of his top appointments at a time when Jews represented 3% of the U.S. population) which subjected Roosevelt to frequent criticism. The August, 1936 edition of "The White Knight" published an article referring to the New Deal as the “Jew Deal.” Pamphlets appeared such as "What Every Congressman Should Know" in 1940 (featuring a sketch of the Capitol building with a Star of David atop its dome) that proclaimed that the Jews were in control of the American government. Financier and FDR confidant Bernard Baruch was called the “Unofficial President” in the anti-Semitic literature of the time. The periodical Liberation, for example, accused FDR of loading his government with Jews.[2]

During his first term Roosevelt condemned Hitler's persecution of German Jews. As the Jewish exodus from Germany increased after 1937, Roosevelt was asked by American Jewish organizations and Congressmen to allow these refugees to settle in the U.S. At first he suggested that the Jewish refugees should be "resettled" elsewhere, and suggested Venezuela, Ethiopia or West Africa — anywhere but the U.S. Morgenthau, Ickes and Eleanor pressed him to adopt a more generous policy but he was afraid of provoking the men such as Charles Lindbergh who exploited anti-Semitism as a means of attacking Roosevelt's policies.

In practice very few Jewish refugees came to the U.S. — only 22,000 German refugees were admitted in 1940, not all of them Jewish. The State Department official in charge of refugee issues, Breckinridge Long, insisted on following the highly restrictive immigration laws to the letter. As one example, in 1939, the State Department under Roosevelt did not allow a boat of Jews fleeing from the Nazis into the United States. When the passenger ship St. Louis approached the coast of Florida with nearly a thousand German Jews fleeing persecution by Hitler, Roosevelt did not respond to telegrams from passengers requesting asylum, and the State Department refused entry to the ship. Forced to return to Antwerp, many of the passengers eventually died in concentration camps.[3]

After 1942, when Roosevelt was made aware of the Nazi extermination of the Jews by Rabbi Stephen Wise, the Polish envoy Jan Karski and others, he told them that the best solution was to destroy Nazi Germany. At Casablanca in 1943 Roosevelt announced there would be no compromise whatever with Hitler. In May 1943 he wrote to Cordell Hull (whose wife was Jewish): "I do not think we can do other than strictly comply with the present immigration laws." In January 1944, however, Morgenthau succeeded in persuading Roosevelt to allow the creation of a War Refugee Board in the Treasury Department. This allowed an increasing number of Jews to enter the U.S. in 1944 and 1945. It also financed Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg's work in Budapest, where he and others helped to save 100,000+ Jews from deportation to death camps. By this time, however, the European Jewish communities had already been largely destroyed in Hitler's Holocaust.

In any case, after 1945 the focus of Jewish aspirations shifted from migration to the U.S. to settlement in British mandate of Palestine, where the Zionist movement hoped to create a Jewish state. Roosevelt was also opposed to this idea. When he met King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia in February 1945, he assured him he did not support a Jewish state in British mandate of Palestine.[citation needed]"

And "The 'Good' War" by Studs Terkel, a comprehensive masterpiece of individual perspective.

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