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PAUL JAY Welcome back to The Real News Network. We're continuing our discussion with Peter Kuznick about the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and ask him whether or not D-Day really was the day the battle that broke the back of German militarism, German fascism.
Peter joins us again. Peter is a professor of history and the director of Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. He's the author of The Untold History of the United States, co-written with Oliver Stone, as well as Rethinking the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, Peter, let's pick up the conversation.
So so the narrative we all mostly learn in schools is D-Day was this heroic battle fought by tens of thousands of Canadian, British, American soldiers, and I started with Canadian because that's where I was. But was it? No doubt it was a tremendous battle, and no doubt thousands of people died. But was it the battle that broke the back of Naziism?
PETER KUZNICK No. It was a tremendous battle. I'm surprised that you say you learned that the Canadians were actually there on that day.
PAUL JAY That's because I grew up in Canada.
PETER KUZNICK The Americans don't know that the Canadians were there. The Americans don't even know that the British were there. And if you look at the films like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, the Canadians and the British still weren't there. This was the United States fighting singlehandedly to defeat Germany in the war.
So I'm not sure what your father was doing there that day, but as we know, the reality is that this was very much a joint operation; that the British and the Canadians in some ways played a greater role at Normandy than the Americans did, in terms of the number of troops, in terms of the landing craft, in terms of the number of beaches hit.
So it's part of the American mythology. It's a crucial element of American mythology. And I'm sorry you're trampling on it by bringing the British and the Canadians into this.
PAUL JAY Sorry to let a historical fact get in the way of a good narrative.
PETER KUZNICK And it's a great narrative, and it's a heroic narrative. At least the United States is intervening in an aggressive way to stop fascism. That's a good thing. I wish the Americans would do more of that now rather than coddle many of the fascist forces around the globe today.
But it was a very important day, and a very important turning point. But it was not the decisive turning point in World War II.
PAUL JAY So what was?
PETER KUZNICK What we have to remember is that throughout most of World War II, the U.S. and the British faced 10 German divisions combined. The Soviets were facing more than 200 German divisions. The Germans lost approximately 1 million men on the Western front. They lost 6 million on the Eastern front. There is reason why Churchill said the Red Army tore the guts out of the German war machine. However, that's not what Americans learn. But the reality is that the Soviets defeated the Nazis with aid from the Americans and the British and the Canadians and others. It was a vast coalition. But the ones who did most of the fighting and most of the dying were the Soviets. The Americans lost about little more than 300,000 in combat and 400,000 total in World War II. The Soviets lost 27 million. 27 million. Even now in the public opinion surveys, Americans are asked who won the war in Europe. 11 percent said the Soviets won the war in Europe. The Europeans have come in a little bit better. Maybe 15 percent understand that the Soviets won the war in Europe. In France, in a survey taken in May of 1945, when they were asked who won the war in Europe, 57 percent said the Soviets did. Now it's under 15 percent who say the Soviets did.
So what's happened is history has fallen into this deep black hole, and that's been reinforced by the patriotic drivel in the post-war period. Again not to diminish the tremendous achievement and the heroism and the sacrifice at D-Day or in Europe in World War II. But again, we've got to go back to this history. As you said before, the Soviets were asking the West to intervene to stop Hitler repeatedly. They finally gave up and signed the Hitler-Stalin pact in 1939. And then Stalin fell into this delusionStalin, who never trusts anybody, seemed to trust Hitler that the Germans were not going to invade. And Stalin was caught with his pants down in June of 1941 when the Germans finally did invade. And they almost succeeded. But the Soviets resisted. And then the big battles occur.
Late 1931, the Battle of Moscow, the Germans came very close to taking Moscow. But the Soviets resisted. But the big battle, the real turning point, is the Battle of Stalingrad. And that begins in August 1942, and ends in February of 1943. And the casualties there were horrific. We're talking about over a million Soviet casualties, perhaps half a million Soviet dead, several hundred thousand Germans dead. And after the Soviets defeat the German army and Paulus surrenders his 91,000 remaining troops in February 14 of 1943, Hitler says the gods of war have gone over to the other side. And that battle is followed by the Kursk battle. The big tank battle at Kursk. And from there the Soviets were on the offensive, and they were marching through Eastern Europe and Central Europe, and making their way to Berlin.
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