Some anecdotal reminders of the enormity of WWII, a history largely untaught by the American Academy (our public school system), and of which many might unthinkingly say, “Mistakes were made”.

“September 1, 1939, was the first day of a war that would claim an average 27,600 lives every day, or 1,150 an hour, or 19 a minute, or one death every 3 seconds.” [i]

“In September 1939, the U.S. Army had ranked seventeenth in the world in size and combat power, just behind Romania.” [ii]

“Another three weeks would pass before ordnance officers discovered that American tank crews had gone into combat with training ammunition rather than more explosive, more lethal armor-piercing rounds.” [iii]

“A train supposedly hauling rations to Béja for 50,000 men was found upon arrival to carry one sack of flour, a case of grapefruit juice, a boxcar of crackers, and sixteen boxcars of peanut butter.” [iv]

“Private First Class Audie L. Murphy, not yet nineteen and weighing in at 110 pounds, would become the most decorated American combat soldier in history, but not even the appearance of his like would free most troops from compulsory service for the duration.” [v]

“The German submariner casualty rate during the war, 75 percent, would exceed that of every other service arm in every other nation.” [vi]

“…Terry de la Mesa Allen. Before flunking out of West Point, he had amassed demerits for tardiness, bathing at midnight, yawning in class, yelling during a fire drill, and breaking ranks to pet a dog. As a young officer he “loved horses, women, dancing, and drinking,” and as a major he graduated at the bottom of the staff college class in which a certain Major Eisenhower finished at the very top. Yet he knew how to fight and he knew how to lead, and the Army valued both enough to make Allen the first among his former West Point classmates to wear a general’s stars. Now he wore a pair, the insignia of a major general.” [vii]

“From a four-inch hole in his right thigh, a surgeon pulled a one-pound shell fragment, which [Roy] Bates now clutched. “As soon as I get well,” he promised, “I’m going back up there and cram this thing down somebody’s throat.”” An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 209.

“One survivor wrote, “I saw a man dragging a sack with five or six bulges in it as if he were carrying heads of cabbages. It was the heads of his family, a whole family, that he had found in the cellar.”” [viii]

“A single American 105mm howitzer firing at its maximum rate could lob 4,000 pounds of shells in an hour over a 43,000 square yard area; American gunners now massed more than 300 guns, spitting eleven tons of steel each minute.” [ix]

“On June 22, nearly 200 German divisions invaded the Soviet Union in abrogation of the nonaggression pact that Hitler and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had signed in 1939, which had allowed a division of spoils in Eastern Europe.  Within a day, German attacks had demolished one-quarter of the Soviet air force.  Within four months, the Germans had occupied 600,000 square miles of Russian soil, captured 3 million Red Army troops, butchered countless Jews and other civilians, and closed to within 60 miles of Moscow. But four months after that, more than 200,000 Wehrmacht troops had been killed, 726,000 wounded, 400,000 captured, and another 113,000 had been incapacitated by frostbite.” [x]

“On a rainy Thursday evening, December 14, Dietrich performed in the tiny Belgian town of Bastogne, headquarters VIII Corps. She tried not to scratch at the lice as she sang “Lili Marlene.” [xi]

“Straw and rags muffled gun wheels and horses’ hooves as twenty German divisions lumbered into their final assembly areas on Friday night, December 15.” [xii]

“The initial blow by seven panzer divisions and thirteen of infantry, bolstered by almost two thousand artillery tubes and a thousand tanks and assault guns, would fall on a front sixty-one miles wide.” [xiii]

“A few miles to the east, the faint clop of horses and a growl of engines in low gear drifted to American pickets along the Our River, demarcating Luxembourg from Germany. Their report of disturbing noises in the night ascended the chain of command from one headquarters to the next, with no more heed paid than had been paid to earlier portents.” [xiv]

“The struggle would last for a month, embroiling more than a million men drawn from across half the continent to this haunted upland [Bastogne].” [xv]

“Even as American losses in the Pacific spiraled, roughly one in ten U.S. casualties during World War II occurred in the Bulge, where 600,000 GIs fought, fourfold the number of combatants in blue and gray at Gettysburg. More than 23,000 were taken prisoner; most spent the duration in German camps, living on seven hundred calories a day and drinking ersatz coffee “so foul we used to bath in it,” as one captured officer later recalled.” [xvi]

“…30,000 U.S. enlisted men…received battlefield commissions during the war.” [xvii]

“By war’s end the United States had sent its allies 37,000 tanks, 800,000 trucks, nearly 2 million rifles, and 43,000 planes ─ so many that U.S. pilot training was curtailed because of aircraft shortages.” [xviii]

———————————————————————————————————-

[i] An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 5. (1939 WP: 2.4 billion – 2016: 7.36 billion)

[ii] An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 8.

[iii] An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 235.

[iv] An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 414.

[v] An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 535.

[vi] The Day of Battle, The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Copyright © 2007 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 5.

[vii] The Day of Battle, The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Copyright © 2007 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 99.

[viii] ─ The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Copyright © 2013 by Rick Atkinson, Page 360.

[ix] An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 500.

[x] An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 8.

[xi] ─ The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Copyright © 2013 by Rick Atkinson, Page 416.

[xii] ─ The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Copyright © 2013 by Rick Atkinson, Page 418.

[xiii] ─ The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Copyright © 2013 by Rick Atkinson, Page 419.

[xiv] ─ The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Copyright © 2013 by Rick Atkinson, Page 419.

[xv] ─ The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Copyright © 2013 by Rick Atkinson, Page 421.

[xvi] ─ The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Copyright © 2013 by Rick Atkinson, Page 488.

[xvii] ─ The Guns at Last Light, The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Copyright © 2013 by Rick Atkinson, Page 491.

[xviii] An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Copyright © 2002 by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, Page 7.

About Michael

Retired military officer; retired Air Force civil servant; retired executive, DS Information Systems Corporation; writer; researcher; reader and avid yachtsman.
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