I believe one of the reasons many Americans carry such negative feelings about the Russians is our collective failure to understand the price Russians paid to defeat Hitler. The sad truth is that most Americans have trouble identifying the warring parties in World War II and generally believe that terrible conflict was settled because of what America did.
The American people are good folk at heart. They genuinely want to help the less fortunate or the beleaguered. But, during the last 75 years, American politicians cynically have used this trait to convince the public to back foreign wars that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. All of this bloodshed was done under the banner of promoting freedom and democracy. Yet, if you ask the folks in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Libya and Syria how they view the U.S. “help”, they have what can charitably be called a “different perspective.”
I believe one of the reasons Americans have been bamboozled into supporting most of the U.S. foreign adventures is a fundamental ignorance about U.S. military casualties. Misconceptions about U.S. losses in World War II are pervasive. If you ask the average American who knows something about the history of WW II, he or she likely believes that the United States paid dearly in blood to defeat Japan and to help bring an end to Nazi Germany. In fact, the vast majority of Americans believe that the Russians played only a minor role in crushing the Nazis.
Apart from lousy public education, Hollywood is the major culprit in perpetuating the myth of U.S. prowess in World War II. Those movies that mention the Soviet role (and that is a small number) usually portray Stalin as desperate for the Allies to open a western front against the Germans.
So let me share with you some surprising facts. What were the five bloodiest campaign battles in World War II that cost the United States the most fatalities?
Battle of Normandy–June 6 to August 25, 1944. The United States lost 29,204 killed in action.
Battle of the Bulge–December 16, 1944 to January 28, 1945. KIA, 19,276.
Central Europe Campaign–March 22 to May 8, 1945. Fatalities totaled 15,009.
Battle of Okinawa–April 1 to June 22, 1945. Deaths are estimated between 14,000 and 20,000.
Philippines Campaign–December 8, 1941 to May 6, 1942. Approximately 13,000 KIA.
If your family lost a loved one in these battles, the total number of deaths is meaningless. The death of the person who was loved by parents, siblings and friends was incalculable. My intent in presenting these stark statistics is to help you appreciate why the Russians are so justifiably paranoid about foreign threats, especially those that embrace modern Nazis.
Here are the top five Russian campaigns. They only fought the Germans. But the price in blood is staggering:
Battle of Leningrad–8 September 1941 – 27 January 1944. Total killed numbered 1,017,881.
Battle of Moscow–2 October 1941 – 7 January 1942. Russia lost 653,924 killed and missing.
Operation Barbarossa–22 June 1941 – 5 December 1941. Russia lost 566,852 killed in action
Battle of Stalingrad–23 August 1942 – 2 February 1943. Russia lost 478,741 killed or missing.
Battle of Kursk–5 July 1943 – 23 August 1943. Total fatalities were 432,317 killed or missing.
Let me state the difference in another way. Total U.S. killed in action in World War II in both the European, North African and Pacific Theaters totaled 472,000. The Russians lost more troops in four separate battles than the United States lost in the entire war.
The Russian people did not fight because Stalin had a gun pointed at their back. They rallied in a remarkable way to the Nazi invasion. Most military analysts at the time predicted the Soviet Union would collapse under the weight of the Nazi steamroller. The Russian people defied those expectations and rallied to defeat the best of the German armies.
The horrific death toll touched almost every family in Russia. That is why the Russians still remember and commemorate that sacrifice every May. It has nothing to do with communism. World War II scarred the Russians to the bone. That is the primary reason that Vladimir Putin enjoys widespread public support in taking on the threat from Ukraine. Ukraine has been a de facto NATO ally since 2014, when the United States and the United Kingdom helped orchestrate the coup that ousted the democratically elected president.
The United States and NATO are grossly mistaken if they believe that flexing military muscle by deploying troops on Russia’s borders will cow the Russian people. This perceived threat goes beyond Putin. It is something most Russians see and fear. My hope is that once the American people appreciate the legitimate paranoia of the Russians, they will reject calls to treat Russia as an intractable enemy.
The history of the 77 years that have passed since the end of the war is not replete with incidents of Russia launching repeated military operations in other countries. It is the United States that holds that tarnished crown. President John Quincy Adams, speaking about the Declaration of Independence, offered this wise counsel (Adams was the first U.S. Ambassador to Russia) :
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.
I believe the American Republic would be well served to take Adam’s words to heart and construct a new foreign policy that is not based on sending our troops abroad to die in meaningless wars. The good heart that powers America still beats. But it is under assault at home. Russia does not threaten our Republic. Our peril is at home.
Right again, Mr Johnson. However, don’t hold your breath. Machiavelli was the first to write about it, and Goering MAY of said it to his psychologist (not documented at his trial), FEAR rules. When a person is afraid, the blood leaves the thinking part of the brain, the frontal lobes, and goes to the brain stem where the automatic “Fight, flight [and follow the leader]” part takes over – they CANNOT think clearly. As you point out, Americans and Europeans were lied to in history class, at least indirectly, so they have nothing to counteract it. Moreover,
“The mob believes everything it is told, provided only that it be repeated over and over. Provided too that its passions, hatreds, fears are catered to. Nor need one try to stay within the limits of plausibility: on the contrary, the grosser, the bigger, the cruder the lie, the more readily is it believed and followed. Nor is there any need to avoid contradictions: the mob never notices; needless to pretend to correlate what is said to some with what is said to others: each person or group believes only what he is told, not what anyone else is told; needless to strive for coherence: the mob has no memory; needless to pretend to any truth: the mob is radically incapable of perceiving it: the mob can never comprehend that its own interests are what is at stake.”
― Alexandre Koyré, Réflexions sur le mensonge
Korzybski created General Semantics,
“When we say ‘our rulers’, we mean those who are engaged in the manipulation of symbols. We must consider ourselves a symbolic, semantic class of life, and cannot cease from being so… those who control the symbols rule us…
“Our rulers: politicians, ‘diplomats’, bankers, priests of every description, economists, lawyers, [media,] etc. and the majority of teachers [of our rulers] and work together. They do not produce any values but manipulate the values produced by others, and often pass signs for no value at all. … are ignorant of modern science, scientific methods, structural linguistic and semantic issues of [today] and … historical and anthropological background, without which a sane orientation is impossible. … as long as such ignorance of our rulers prevails, no solution of our human problems is possible. Scientists and teachers also comprise a ruling class. They produce the main values mankind has, but, at present, they do not realize this. They are, in the main, ruled by the cunning methods of the first class.
Skeptical Canuck says
Thanks Larry, for another poignant and truthful article.
One small thing.. IIRC the Soviets did fight and defeat a Japanese army early on in WW2, around Khalkhin Gol in 1939 I believe.. General Zhukov was the commander on the Soviet side.
Larry Johnson says
Japan and the USSR fought a number of times throughout the 1930s. But this was mainly in half hearted support of Mao and his communist revolution in China. Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao worked together to fight the invading Japanese. But Mao left most of the heavy fighting to Chiang Kia-Shek and Russia left most of the heavy fighting to the Chinese.
In 1941 Stalin signed a non aggression pact with Japan. His hope was to have Japan focus their expansion to the south where they would come into conflict with Britain and the US. Just like in signing the Ribbentrop Molotov Pact he hope Germany would fight it out with Britain and France. That way
That way Stalin could sit back, continuing to build his massive army and have the European powers exhausted and ripe for a Soviet invasion.
Another great article.
Same problem in my country, the UK. The underlying belief is that we “won” the war with a little help that you guys provided; although you came into things a bit late!
Reality is totally different, of course. The figures vary but according to Alan Allport the UK (excluding colonies) suffered 270k armed forces deaths. The most murderous battle in our history was not in WW2 but was The Somme in 1916 with 95k deaths; which still cast a shadow with older people during my own childhood in the early 70s. WW2 was then deliberately fought in a way to minimise British deaths, in large part a reaction to WW1.
Populist histories written here by authors such as Anthony Beevor often refer to the Eastern Front as a couple of chapters with much emphasis on alleged atrocities toward German civilians and Soviet soldiers all being press ganged to fight. By contrast, our own soldiers were total paragons of virtue. None of this stacks up, of course, but reflects the deep prejudice that people have.
Having suffered so much in The Great Patriotic War and having been invaded multiple times in the past centuries (including by Britain / France / Turkey in 1853) Russia’s security concerns are reasonable. But every action taken by our so called leaders seems to be designed to validate and intensify those fears.
if you read beevor and many other western historian works on eastern front , one get the impression that these writers sided with the krauts in empathy and sympathy..
for some reason they seem to revel in german victory stories and pooh pooh any soviet victory on the battlefield , always quick on believing german military records while questioning soviet miliary records when it come to battle results
How can you support mass murder Stalin? After all, most of his victims were Russian.
Yes, I know I’m a troll and Stalin was a great humanitarian.
I agree. I have read Beevor’s works on Stalingrad and Berlin 1945. That is exactly the impression one gets. Citino is the same too in my view. No western histories I have found that tell the story genuinely from a Russian perspective, with empathy for the decisions that their society needed to make. But lots of stuff is German narrative oriented.
I suspect that a big part of the reason is the undoubted Russophobia / Sovietphobia that exists.
The other part is that German generals such as Guderian worked with the US Army Historical Division in the 40s to write the “history” of the Eastern Front. This also shaped NATO doctrine that seems fixated on Blitzkrieg and small unit tactics, as a direct inheritance of the Wehrmacht legacy. These were, of course, also war criminals whom America refused to extradite to the USSR. Their sanitized version of history and the myth that the Soviets only won through weight of numbers, Stalinist terror and Hitler’s mistakes entered the lexicon in readily accessible English. This then gave the means to write relatively one sided histories.
On the Non-Christian Origins of the American Constitution: The United States of Freemasonry
We were there before Lenin took over.
M Droy says
And as I recall Germans killed was approximately 1 German for 2 allies against all nations. US was no more successful in killing Germans than Russia or anyone else.
I disagree with your thesis.
First off, America had good reason not like the Soviet Union. It had an aggressive international policy, especially from 1920 to 1950. In the interwar years, communist group throughout Europe were causing problems trying to spread their vile and stupid ideology. Thank God Franco saved Spain!
Most Americans now hate Russia because the boob-tube is flooded with anti-Russia propaganda. Putin is literally Hitler. And we all know Hitler was Satan because the same MSM pounded that into our heads for 80 years.
Of course FDR had a big hard-on for Stalin and his brain trusted travel to the Soviet Union to witness the wonders of the totalitarian managerial state. And New York Times reporter Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for hiding the holodomor. I wonder if his religion was similar to the religion of much of the leadership of the NKVD? 🤔
As for me, I love Russian literature and music and I wish the Russian people much happiness and prosperity. I wish we had a President that was the same caliber of man as Putin. Instead, we are e stuck with a feeble grifter and his cackling dunce VP.
Outstanding article as usual. I will be sharing this far and wide.
I woke up this morning to two articles, this one and another on ZH saying that that lunatic in the UK Liz Truss wants to arm Taiwan against a Chinese invasion so they can have a chance to fight better than the Ukrainians have been able to.
The US has been arming Ukraine for years for all the good it did them.
I personally support Taiwan sovereignty and independence, but I also know that if you want to trigger the CCP to invade Taiwan right now I cannot think of a better way to do it. Like Ukraine, the west will fight China to the last Taiwanese and get nothing to show for it.
Your support is misplaced. A sizeable population in Taiwan would seek and support a peaceful reunification with the mainland and families. Who are you to separate them? At the end of the day, Russia has reminded the west and the world, might is right. and China is also very mighty.
Personally, I think that Taiwan is a long away from both the US and Europe. I agree that we need to let Chinese people (both on the mainland and on the island) resolve their own challenges and not interfere. The US is still behaving like an imperial power, and stupid countries such as the UK think they can exert power in her wake. That is totally misguided.
One might ask the question, why was Stalin engaged in a huge military buildup all through the 1930s? In 1940 Stalin’s army, both equipment and man power, vastly exceeded those of Hitler’s. Stalin had 22,000 tanks, more than 4 times what Hitler had. Similar super sizing in aircraft and other tools of war also existed, why?
Are we white washing the evil of Stalin and what his intent was for Europe?
David Habakkuk says
Rather than answering my response on an earlier thread you chose to ignore me and simply restate your claims.
I would suggest that, rather than the works of the supposed ‘nephew’ of ‘Lazar Ka-gonovitch’, (sic), you must usefully consult recollections by some – non-Soviet – sources who were actually there.
In the early ‘Fifties, encouraged by his two erstwhile American colleagues, George Kennan and Charles Bohlen, the sometime long-serving ‘Legionsrat’ in the German Moscow Embassy in the interwar years, Gustav Hilger, wrote a memoir, published in English in 1953 under the title ‘The Incompatible Allies.’
It can now be read, free of charge, on ‘archive.org.’
(See https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.136909/2015.136909.The-Incompatible-Allies-A-Memoir-History-Of-German-Soviet-Relations-1918-1941_djvu.txt .)
On page 276, you will find a concise answer to your question:
‘There is not the slightest doubt [my emphasis] that a deep fear of Hitler’s Germany was the essential guide to all Soviet foreign policy in the mid-1930’s. It led Moscow to enter the League of Nations and conduct a painfully futile struggle for active collective security against the Axis. At the same time it made the Kremlin bend every effort and strain every muscle to render the country strong politically, economically, ideologically, and militarily. A desperate race against time ensued which was carried on in a spirit of hysterical urgency.’
For a few dollars or pounds, one can purchase a second-hand copy of the memoir published in 1981 by Hilger’s erstwhile colleague, Hans (‘Johnnie’) von Herwarth.
This has a fascinating account of how its author drafted a crucial speech which his ambassador, Friedrich Werner, Count von der Schulenberg, gave at the ‘Wehrmachtsakademie’ in Berlin in November 1937. As he brings out, his and his colleagues view was that Trotsky was essentially right about Stalin – in his memoir, Herwarth writes that ‘I have often thought that someone should erect a monument to Stalin as the liquidator of Communism.’
Put another way, Schulenberg’s view was that, Stalin had been turning into a ‘national socialist.’ The conclusion he and his colleagues drew was that the appropriate strategy for Germany was to seek a long-term ‘rapprochement’ with the Soviet Union.
The 1936 ‘Anti-Comintern Pact’ of Germany, Italy and Japan, should simply be adjusted, so as to include in it the power against which it had been directed. The intended result was, essentially, the kind of consolidation of ‘Heartland’ and ‘Rimland’ which Sir Halford Mackinder had warned, in 1904, was the greatest potential threat to ‘maritime’ powers.
If you can be bothered to look up some maps of the world as it was following the conclusion of the August 1939 ‘Nazi-Soviet Pact’, of which Schulenberg was a principal architect, you will see that all one would have needed would have been a ‘corridor’ over the ‘Polish corridor’, and a short ferry-ride to Japan, to have unimpeded transit to the ‘tip’ of that country from the ‘bottom’ of Italy.
A complete realisation of Mackinder’s nightmare.
Another fascinating part of Herwarth’s account – which can be cross-checked with much other material – is that it describes how, in the months after the Munich agreement in September 1938, he drastically changed course.
So, he made desperate attempts to warn Western colleagues in Moscow – prominent among them Charles Bohlen – that the only way of avoiding total catastrophe involved their doing everything possible to reach an agreement with Stalin before Hitler did.
The reason for this, however, was not because in any way changed his view of Soviet policy. It was because, being in close contact with ‘anti-Nazi’ circles in the ‘Auswärtiges Amt’, he realised, as Schulenberg did not, that, in the wake of a pact with Stalin, Hitler would become involved in a war with the Western powers.
Unfortunately, the warnings from Herwarth to Bohlen were relayed only belatedly to us, and the – rather clear – warnings from other German sources were ignored by Chamberlain.
Why was this? An important element, obviously, was that Chamberlain, partly because of bad advice from MI6 – incompetent, then as now – could not escape from precisely the interpretation of Soviet policy which ‘Suvorov’ and McMeekin have been attempting to resurrect.
Actually, the interpretation of Stalin’s policy which the Israeli historian Gabriel Gorodetsky gave, in his 1999 study ‘Grand Delusion’, to which I have referred you, is essentially that of the German Moscow Embassy diplomats.
Of course, he may be biased. If one is an – intelligent – Jewish historian, who has spent many years researching both British and Soviet archives, you do find yourself asking whether, perhaps, had Chamberlain not been so committed to the ‘Suvorov’ version, very many members of your extended family might have lived rather longer, and died less horrible deaths.
There are many more issues involved here, but I do think that, if you want to continue commenting, you need to familiarise yourself with sources rather more credible than the claims of the ‘nephew’ of ‘Kagonovich.’
Well the said nephew went to the USSR and had long interviews with his Uncle which is the basis for the book. Yes its second hand and who knows if Lazar lied. But clearly Lazar Kagonovich had a ring side seat to the going ons under Stalin. I suggested this book because it’s very oblique to military history but perchance comments on some relavant points.
As with all sources (which are mainly second hand or third hand) one needs to read multiple perspective and try to make sense of things based on the information and how it comports with your world view.
It sounds like you are Russian and thus you have grown up believing a certain perspective which puts Soviet dealings in a positive light. Also, people tend towards confirmational bias and so authors who support the reader’s view are given more credence than those that don’t.
All this history is especially troublesome because so many lies have been told to vilify one side and justify the actions of the other side. Thus it is a tangled mess.
I am expressing my perspective based on my readings. I thing Stalin was an evil man (much worse than Hitler) and he committed atrocities against his own people. Given that, plus the Soviet support for communist revolution through-out Europe in the interwar period, it is not a far stretch to think he had designs on Europe. His huge arms build up was way more than he needed for defensive purposes and if defense was his objective he would have constructed his own maginot line.
Also it is a little disingenuous to spin Stalin as a National Socialist (he was bad QED he must be a Nazi, not a peace loving commie). But we all know the left is never satified until there is a pile of bodies. Or to channel Isador Patterson, “Beware the humanitarian with a guillotine!”
But thanks for the references. I will investigate.
As I believe you said, no one knows Stalin’s intent, except Stalin.” However I think some wishful thinking by Schulenberg or reflection by Hilger hardly make for an accurate portrayal of Stalin’s intent. Also although Trotsky was more intent of exporting revolution, Stalin still subscribed to world revolution. Why did support the comintern? He supported the commies in Spain and Mao in China. He supported various groups throughout Europe. He had spies in the FDR’s administration. Besides that, his arms build up did not support a defensive policy, it was offensive. Also how do you explain the gobbling up of territory before Babarrosa?
Do you think Stalin was good for the Russian people?
Thanks. This comment has improved my understanding of the reality of late 1930s alliance making as opposed to the various myths.
What kind of demagogy is that? Are you suggesting that just on the basis of your leading question the reader has to come to a certain conclusion suggested by your question? It is not that “one might ask the question”, this question has been asked and addressed by many scientists over the course of many years. To get a feeling of the scope of the debate one has to go no farther than wikipedia’s “Soviet offensive plans controversy”.
Tisk, tisk. Just trying to counteract the notion that the Soviet Union’s victory was some sort of noble thing.
Thank you for your efforts and perspective. I look forward to your blog daily.
Happy Fourth of July!
Larry, Is it mere coincidence or the love of truth and liberty that your John Adams quote is the same quote (in extended form) opposite the title page of the great historical book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, A Critical Examination of the Foreign Policy of Franklin Roosevelt and Its Aftermath”?
This book is a collaboration by eminent revisionist historians published in 1953. The editor, Harry Elmer Barnes says in the preface that the title was suggested by the Charles Beard because he held that foreign policy of Roosevelt and Truman and “their idealogical supporters, whether Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, or Communists, could most accurately be described by the phrase ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace.’” He goes on to say that Orwell’s 1984, prophesied a world order “erected on the premises and implications of this goal of perpetual war, presented in the guise of a global struggle of free peoples for perpetual peace.” The likes of which we have been witness to for the last 70 years.
You have probably read this book or know of it, for your thoughts here reflect its fundamental premise. For me when I read it late in my life it simply documented what I knew in my gut from what I experienced in my life: the assassination of John Kennedy, the Viet Nam War and the rest of the interminable conflicts perpetrated by the United States government, right down to this present conflagration in Ukraine. It laid facts on my feelings.
In addition to the reasons you give for our ignorance of the role of Russia in WWll, Barnes points out the intentional blackout of revisionist historians, especially after the war, because they veered away from, they challenged the official narrative with new documented evidence, which is why they referred to themselves as revisionists, and why their enemies used that term pejoratively.
Cancel culture has been around for a long time under different names.
Harry Elmer Barnes and other revisionists were very effective at exposing the lies of WW1. As a result America was very much against intervention in WW2. FDR made non-intervention a central theme is his 3rd run for President (even while preparing for war). FDR had to engineer the attack on Pearl Harbor to get the US into the war. And Soviet spies in the FDR administration helped in steering things that way.
Thus, revisionist like H.E. Barnes and A J P Taylor had to be silenced after WW2. What with 60 million dead and half Europe handed over to Stalin, the truth could not come out. The truth was it was all for nothing or as A-hole Churchill quipped, “looks like we stuck the wrong pig”. Thus, the great effort to continue to vilify Germany and Hitler after the war. And the Nazi dog whistle and the accusation of isolationist has been used to start wars ever since.
Nixon linking dollar to oil and creating the petro dollar was both a masterstroke and death knell for a fair and just America.
From that point the banks and guns started to take over. Dollarization maintenance was backed by endless wars and the single most destructive policy – complete fear of fair compensation from other states and massive violence to destabilise potential rivals or rebels.
Destruction of monopoly law created superwealth and corporate power in the Obama era (also earlier) that had never been seen.
Since ,Obama US house ownership has fallen from 68% to 56% money printed goes to banks the new landlords owning 54% real estate. Obama Aldi destroyed local small banks.
The democrats and republicans are the parties of the 1% and the 10% that own 70% of America. These corrupt parties do not represent the ordinary person or vets or the military.
The division in America is great for them. Their plan is going great. Since Obama, through Trump and under Biden there has been consistent transfer of power and wealth to the 1% and big corporations.
The working class are virtual slaves working 3 or ,2 jobs to try to pay healthcare and college.
No time to think about ww2 or Russia
Jan 6 was not the coup. The coup in America happened a long time ago. From Kennedy on Americans have been trapped and played. The scary thing for both parties was that people may realise they are both against them. They might realise what they are all really up to.
The theft of America
No Jan. 6 is a Soviet show trial!
Most Americans don’t know what war that most Americans were killed. If you tell them that it was the Civil War, they didn’t realize the extent of the thousands killed. Currently, I believe the total deaths are above 700,00.
Lincoln was an empire builder and really did not care about the slavery situation but used it to his best advantage.
And the population was only 31 million!