Why Do The Nazis Get All The Attention?

Last Wednesday (June 6) was the 68th anniversary of D-Day, the Western allies’ landing at Normandy.  And while it is a milestone in Second World War history, I feel it is hyped way too much for the usual reasons.

Often, what is historically “important” depends on your perspective.  And since U.S. forces were the bulk of the invasion, Americans understandably, if incorrectly, pump up D-Day’s importance.  The local newspaper called D-Day the “turning point” of the war.  The writer needs to gets his (or her) facts straight….

Much more important is a date few Americans recognize: June 22 is the 71st anniversary of the German invasion of Russia, which was the prelude to the beginning of the end of the Nazis.  The beginning of the end was, of course, the Battle of Stalingrad, which marked the end of successive German military victories.  It was on the eastern front that Hitler’s fate was sealed and it is Russia that was principally responsible for the defeat of the Germans.

When I question why the Nazis get all the attention, it is because Americans can justifiably take pride in their role in another aspect of the war, an aspect that often gets little attention: the war in the Pacific against Japan.  The war against Japan was truly America’s war.

After all, the U.S. did not enter the war because of Europe but because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  After that, Congress declared war only on Japan.  It was Hitler, in a show of support for Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack, who declared war on the U.S.  (And Roosevelt happily accepted the declaration because 18 months after Western Europe fell to the Nazis, Americans had no desire to become involved in a “European” problem.)

So it is…interesting…and frustrating that the Nazis get all the attention when it comes to Second World War anniversaries.  Even though the heavy lifting in the Pacific was done by the U.S., most Americans will not recognize significant dates in the war against Japan.

For example, I was particularly dismayed by the lack of any acknowledgement in the national media of April 9.  That was the 70th anniversary of the surrender at Bataan, the largest surrender of U.S. military forces in history.  It was followed by the infamous Bataan Death March.  (BTW, Bataan was also the site of the last American cavalry charge, led by then Lt. Edwin Ramsey.)

But I saw nary a mention of either of these two events by the national news media. (PBS has been showing a documentary of Bataan in May and June in select cities.)

Nor did I see anything about June 4-7, the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, easily the greatest naval victory of the war and one of the top naval victories in history.  After Midway, Japan was on the defensive and Gen. MacArthur was able to implement the “island hopping” strategy which brought the war to Japan.

So forget the Nazis; it is the Pacific war where American forces shone and won victory.  But so many Americans overlook that.

As a child, one of my favorite programs was Victory At Sea, the documentary series of the war in the Pacific. Here is the third and final portion (six minutes) of the Midway episode (the other two are there if you’re interested, as are all episodes):

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3 responses to “Why Do The Nazis Get All The Attention?

  1. Good video thanks for posting. Funny you bring up Midway, last week I placed the movie in my Netflix Que. It truly was a remarkable sea battle, and the US was actually “lucky” to have succeeded. Communication equipment was so primitive that much of the attack was uncoordinated and just courage and luck prevailed.

    The war in the Pacific was not reported to America as much because it was more difficult to report. The press couldn’t travel on Subs nor could they fly in fighters. So the Navy could better control security restricting them to Carriers. Much of the footage in that Victory at Sea video and other film was produced by the Navy.

    But the true turning points to Victory were indeed bad decisions on the parts of both Japan and Germany. If Hitler had not divided fronts and instead had focused on Britain he would have likely prevailed. If Japan had attacked the US Coast after Pearl we would have been virtually defenseless. and grossly unprepared. These lessons were well absorbed by our military and is largely why we have such a Hugh DOD today.

    D Day was heavily reported because the press had greater access, being able to live in Britain and Europe much more freely than in the Pacific. I consider D Day to be the beginning of the end of the War in Europe; and Midway in the War in the Pacific.

    • That Midway movie is in sore need of an update…it’s 35 years old! I was hoping it’d show up on TV this week, but all I got was Saving Private Ryan on WGN. A remake of Midway could take a similar “Ryan” approach, by focusing on that US pilot shot down near the main Japanese carrier fleet and who saw the rest of the battle and sinkings as he floated in the water.

      A good part of that “luck” at Midway was for the US planes to catch the Japanese carriers while planes were refueling and rearming. So when a bomb hit the flight deck, there was a lot of additional explosive power. (I believe that’s how the Hood went down so fast; Bismarck got a hit in the Hood’s munitions area.)

      As for Hitler, the Battle of Britain might have been different if British bombers had not inadvertently bombed a civilian area, which at that point in the war was still “off limits.” Hitler thought it was intentional escalation and diverted German attacks to civilian areas. Had he kept pressure on military targets, the Germans might have reduced British air power enough for an invasion of Britain. Think about that alternate history!

  2. Very good information from both of you! I hadn’t ever thought of it quite like this. And I seem to recall that part of that island-hopping strategy (besides getting us closer to the Japanese mainland) was to establish an air base close enough for the B-29’s to drop the atomic bomb and still have enough fuel left to return. They flew from Tinian, and even that was cutting it close. Even if we had not gotten that close, I’m quite sure there were crews who would have volunteered to go anyway, knowing it meant almost certain death. (Almost, because you MIGHT have been rescued if you ditched at sea, but unlikely.) It was determined that it was too unsafe to put an aircraft carrier that close to Japan for the B-29’s to fly from. Aircraft carriers make really big targets. The USAAF was not into suicide bombintg. One of the many reasons I like the U.S.
    On a side note, I have previously posted about my father, who was in the Navy in WWII in the Pacific, and it was the high point of his life. And he died on June 6, 1993, which was almost eerie.

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