Today marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of France and the opening of the Western Front in WW2. Ceremonies are happening on the beaches of Normandy this morning while many others honor their sacrifices from afar.
The invasion is often noted as the greatest of its kind in history and the undertaking was massive. Hundreds of thousands of troops, tanks, airplanes, and artillery pieces took part in the culmination of years of planning and preparation.
While Germany was currently fighting in the East against the Soviets, the large scale fighting that started on D-Day with U.S. Airborne Rangers just after midnight helped divert masses of German troops and materials. The entirety of the 5th Panzer army was used to defend France while millions of German soldiers would eventually surrender in battles to come.
Even before D-Day though, Allied forces were fighting in North Africa, Italy, and of course the Pacific (and the air battle over Britain). There’s no question that the western armies played a pivotal role in the defeat of Nazism from start to finish.
But Russia wants you to know that it really wasn’t that big of a deal. This is from the official account of Russia’s Ministry of Affairs.
#Zakharova: The Normandy landings were not a game-changer for the outcome of WWII and the Great Patriotic War. The outcome was determined by the Red Army’s victories – mainly, in Stalingrad and Kursk. For three years, the UK and then the US dragged out opening the second front pic.twitter.com/LhzkEzNCQN
— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) June 5, 2019
To be frank, this is a-historical garbage.
That’s not to say that Russia didn’t lose a lot of men and materials, because they did. Astronomical levels in fact. But they didn’t push back the tide of Nazism alone. Russia’s armored divisions were nearly wiped out at one point. It was on the back of U.S. vehicles and materials that the Soviets were able to turn the tide.
Given their “to the death” mentality, perhaps the Russians would have been victorious without lend-lease? But there’s no question it helped them immensely. There’s also the fact that the North African and Italian theaters drew large numbers of German troops and tanks from the Eastern Front, helping relieve some of the pressure around Kursk and Stalingrad.
Another major factor is that the U.S. was fighting a brutal war in the Pacific. The Russians refused to get involved with that until after Hiroshima (because they wanted to be around for the spoils). By fighting the Japanese, the U.S. kept them from further invading Russia on its eastern side. Had Russia itself ended up in a two front war, things could have gone very differently for them.
Lastly, it should be noted that Russia was busy collaborating with the Nazis and trying to carve up Europe well into 1941. Perhaps not helping and empowering Hitler while ensuring future genocide in places like Poland would have been prudent. Russia also wasted men and materials attempting to invade Finland for no reason whatsoever except naked expansion.
The point being that Russia should probably just shut up about D-Day. They made a myriad of massive mistakes, committed huge atrocities throughout the war, and then used it as an opportunity to expand their dictatorial borders. Yes, tens of millions of Soviets died fighting the Germans. Some of that is related to Stalin’s foolish missteps and complete disregard for life. The goal wasn’t to lose the most people, it was to win the war.
I write all this not to downplay what happened on the Eastern Front. Enormous sacrifices were made there. But that should never be used to try to hand wave away the sacrifices of the western powers and the massive impact they had on eventually defeating Nazi Germany. I’ll end by noting that not having Russia take over all of Europe was an incredibly important victory in and of itself.
Russia’s response isn’t surprising though. They just barely rank above North Korea when it comes to the thinness of their skin. Nationalism of mythical proportions is a cultural staple there.
(Note: This article is not meant to be an exhaustive history of World War 2. There are obviously many more details not mentioned here.)
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