Questions And Answers From World War 2

September 26, 2017 | 3 Comments » | Topics: Answers

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What became of the children of high-ranking nazis? How did they deal with the actions of their parents later in life?

There’s a book on this subject called “My Father’s Keeper – The Children of Nazi Leaders – An Intimate History of Damage and Denial: How Nazis’ Children Grew Up with Parents’ Guilt” written by a German journalist called Stephan Lebert. He did a series of interviews and general research on the children of high ranking Nazis. Also a film called “Hitler’s Children” made by Israeli director Chanoch Zeevi. It was quite diverse – Martin Adolf Bormann ended up being a quiet and peace-seeking priest. Edda Göring made public appearances, attending memorials for Nazis and took part in political events, Gudrun Burwitz (daughter of Himmler) was a neo-Nazi. Bettina Goering had herself sterilized so she “would not pass on the blood of a monster”.

The most disturbing anecdote in the book was Hans Frank’s son Niklas Frank – apparently he masturbated on October 16th (the anniversary of his father’s death) with the image of his father hanging.




Why doesn’t Japan hold a grudge against the U.S. after we nuked them?

The biggest thing to remember is compare how nations were treated by conquerors at the time. Case in point, Japan itself. When Japan conquered other nations during WW2, they treated the locals horribly to say the least. Comfort women and the rape of Nanking are two of the most striking examples. Foreign militaries were expected to rape, steal and kill with impunity while occupying another nation.

The United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, preventing an invasion by the USSR. With the Japanese surrender, they expected us to treat them the way they had treated other nations. Instead, the U.S. military went to work helping rebuild the nation. Japan was practically “honorary white” in the view of America and Europe prior to WW2, and were the most westernized of any nation in Asia. This just helped accelerate the process.

During the war, a lot of the Japanese didn’t agree with the decisions made since all the political power was concentrated in the hands of the Army and the Navy, who had a bitter rivalry. If a young man wanted to be successful, becoming an officer was one of the most reliable ways of doing this. The rivalry between the Army and the Navy is part of what caused the Kwantung Army to begin expanding Japan’s holdings in China without the consent of most of the rest of the political powers that be. The US’ decision to dismantle the military’s hold on the Japanese government was appreciated.

The US eventually became a major trading partner, and our culture became extraordinarily popular in Japan. Japan’s standards on beauty are very similar to the West’s, for example.

The fact that I’ve seen statues of General MacArthur, the man who ruled over Japan as a military dictator during the transitional period says something about how favorably the United States is viewed.

Operation Tomodachi helped repair some of the tensions in US/Japanese relations caused by minor resentment over American influence in Japan and the poor decisions by some of the military stationed there. When I was there during the earthquake and tsunami, the US stepped up to the plate to help in a way that I can’t recall seeing in any other natural disaster. Even Haiti paled in comparison.

This isn’t to say there isn’t any conflict. There are vans full of nationalists that protest the US military and occasionally follow American service members/their families when they’re off-base. There are unfavorable opinions, but the US is viewed as a good ally and influence for the most part.




What was the alternative to dropping the atomic bomb on Japan?

The alternative to bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been Operation Downfall. Operation Downfall would be split into two parts: Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet.

Operation Olympic was scheduled for November 1st, 1945. It’s goal was the invasion of the southern part of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four Japanese main islands. It was to involve forty-two aircraft carriers, twenty-four battleships and over four-hundred cruisers, destroyers and destroyer escorts. By comparison today’s US navy only consists of 271 deployable combat ships. Fourteen Army and Marine Corps divisions would have invaded the beaches. The Fifth, Seventh and Thirteenth Air Forces would have provided tactical air support for the troops on the beaches, with the Twentieth Air Force continuing their strategic bombing of Japanese infrastructure, in the hopes of slowing down the Japanese main counterattack.

Operation Coronet was scheduled for March 1st, 1946. Twenty-five Army and Marine divisions would have landed on two opposing beaches, with the plan being to take Tokyo in a large pincer movement. By comparison, the entirety of all American, Canadian and British forces landing on D-Day amounted to twelve divisions.

The Japanese also had some plans of their own. Operation Ketsugō would employ five thousand kamikaze aircraft. They planned to target the troop carriers ferrying troops to the beaches, which alone could have destroyed one third of the invasion force before it even arrived. They would also employ over four-hundred submarines and over two-thousand suicide boats to attack Allied transports. They also planned on using “human mines” – men in diving gear who would swim out and detonate bombs as the American transports passed overhead.

The Japanese moved one million soldiers to Kyushu. They also forced civilians into the fight, training women, schoolchildren and old men to kill Americans with muskets, longbows and bamboo spears. Casualty predictions varied widely but were extremely high for both sides. Depending on the degree to which Japanese civilians resisted the invasion, estimates ran into the millions for Allied casualties, and tens of millions for Japanese casualties.

Nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the casualties resulting from the invasion of Japan. To the present date, all the American military casualties of the sixty years following the end of World War II—including the Korean and Vietnam Wars—have not exceeded that number.

The irony however, is that some plans for Downfall called for the usage of atomic bombs anyways. Numbers vary from seven up to twenty bombs. Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be bombed either way, but they were planning on using the bombs on the beaches to soften up Japanese defenses as well. Considering the lack of knowledge about radiation at the time, the troops would be marching through the still glowing impact zone, possibly killing every single one of them.





How did Germany take France so easily in WW2?

It was a combination of factors.

One thing that’s very overplayed is the Maginot Line; the line of fortifications that France built along its border with Germany. In the popular imagination people often say that the French sat behind the Maginot Line and the Germans went around it through Belgium, but that’s just completely false. The French in fact built the Maginot Line to force the Germans to go through Belgium. The French sent their best forces and tanks to Belgium when the Germans attacked.

But what happened is that the Germans took a big gamble that paid off. Belgium can be roughly divided into two parts:

So the French assumed that the Germans would attack through the northern plains. It was the sensible thing to do—the French knew that the Germans were very good at tank warfare, and it made sense for the Germans to attack on good tank terrain. Also, a German army officer carrying the original German attack plans—through northern Belgium—had to do an emergency landing in Belgium, and the Belgians managed to get a hold of these plans and send them over to the French.

The Germans in the end decided to send their main attack through the Ardennes; to fool the French, however, they started by attacking northern Belgium to make it look like it was their main attack. The French didn’t figure out the trick, so they sent their best forces to meet the fake German attack; in the meantime the best of the German forces went through the Ardennes mostly unopposed and ended up attacking the worst of the French forces, the ones defending the sector that the French assumed was the safest.

That part of the explanation is called strategic surprise; the Germans managed to fool the French about their plans, and the French Army’s best forces just ended up in the wrong place. A powerful army is no good if it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But what most people don’t understand is that if the French had figured out the Ardennes trick in time, the Germans would have looked like total morons. The Germans’ Ardennes move, for example, caused the worst traffic jam that the world had ever seen up to that point. Most German officers hated the plan. Hitler did like it; Halder (the military boss at the time, who’d been plotting against Hitler) thought privately that the attack on France was stupid, and that he’d rather pursue a plan that meant either quick success or quick defeat, instead of the northern plan which would mean a long war that he thought the Germans would lose at enormous cost.

Strategic surprise isn’t the whole story, however. People often say that the French were trying to fight World War I again. (Our misguided friend Amarkov in another reply here says so, for example, along with the Maginot Line error.) That’s not quite true, but it’s at least aiming at a general problem. Both sides knew that the war was going to be different than WWI: tanks and airplanes. But for the most part the officers in neither side knew exactly how it would be different. However, the German Army’s training was better suited for these new situations. German training emphasized improvisation and initiative, while French training emphasized following orders.

So the Battle of France was a bunch of unexpected situations for both sides; the thing is that the Germans were able to improvise, while the French basically became paralyzed and unable to counterattack effectively once their grand plan to stop the Germans in northern Belgium was shown to be less than relevant. (Paralysis actually also happened to the Germans briefly; at one point one general managed to convince Hitler that the army was advancing too fast, and Hitler ordered them to stop for a day or so. Without this pause, the British might have never escaped from the battle.)

The French also had the problem that they had to coordinate with the British and the Belgians. Bad communication prevented some counterattack plans that might have saved France.

Another one: the French had more powerful tanks, but the Germans knew how to use their tanks better. One big aspect of this is that nearly all German tanks had radios, but the French didn’t.

Yet another one: the Germans had better close air support. German army officers could much more easily radio in requests for bombers to come and strike targets of their choice. The French held a lot of their air force in reserve for the fight, while the Germans went all out with theirs.




Why is Adolf Hitler talked more about for his responsibility for the deaths of about 17 million instead of Mao Zedong, who is responsible for about 3 times as many deaths?

Two things: specificity and deliberateness. When the Final Solution was put into action at the height of WWII, it was with a view to wiping out entire classes of people – Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and the disabled, to name a few. The Nazis undertook this work with a level of planning that was unprecedented in human history and has never been matched since. They made an earnest attempt to kill every single Jew in occupied Europe using all the techniques and technologies of the industrial age. This is why the Holocaust was such an appalling event: firstly because we attach a special significance to genocide compared to other forms of mass murder, and secondly because of what an indictment of the industrial age it was. To expand on this second point a bit, the Holocaust gave us – probably for the first time in history – an act of genocide in which the virtues of a supposedly civilised society were put to a perverted use, as tools of extermination. The Nazi regime coordinated countless soldiers, bureaucrats, engineers, scientists, doctors, politicians, and industrialists, and deliberately concentrated all of their talent and learning to destroy European Jewry.

For sheer numbers, Mao (and Stalin) put Hitler in the shade, but theirs were passive acts of mass murder, and they probably weren’t genocides. Mao starved millions in the 1960s, but the starvation wasn’t the goal – it was a simple by-product of CCP policies. Likewise, Stalin would probably be guilty of ethnic cleansing in his treatment of numerous ethnicities in the USSR, but these acts were always in service of his paranoia, and never because he made a concerted attempt to bring the state’s full industrial might to bear on a particular ethnicity.

Whether or not a certain dictator might have intended to kill so many people seems like a semantic difference, and to the victims it wouldn’t really matter. But, we differentiate between murder and manslaughter for a reason, and for the same reason we also put Adolf Hitler in a category of his own. Sheer numbers are not at issue here: what really matters to us when we compare these things is mankind’s capacity for evil, and the Nazis’ methodical genocide is a far darker reflection on our species than Mao’s criminal neglect.




What was it like to fight Americans during World War 2?

If you were a German fighting Americans at the start of Operation Torch in Tunisia, you’d have a mixed view of American soldiers. They were certainly brave, but they lacked experience of the British and ran into ambushes that the Brits had learned to avoid in 1941. Their equipment was generally good, and they were well supplied. So well supplied in fact, that you and your unit was evacuated to Sicily after your own supplies dwindled to nothing and the Americans were able to flank you.

Say it’s 1943 and you are another German soldier in central Italy. The Americans you are facing are certainly more experienced than they were the year before, and they have started to perfect their air support and artillery. Your unit has been on the defensive for month and while you are able to inflict heavy casualities on the Americans during their attacks, the level of artillery barrages and air attacks you receive are overwhelming. There’s no way you can win this war, but you fight on because tying up the Allies in Italy helps keep them from going into France sooner (or so your superiors say).

Fast forward a year and it’s July in Normandy ’44. You’ve been in combat continuously against the Americans since early June. They seem relentless in the attack, and no matter how many time you blunt their armor and infantry assaults….they always have more troops and more tanks on the way. Every time you move back towards Paris in daylight, you risk being cut down by the American fighter bombers, which are seemingly everywhere. If the Americans suspect you are dug in, they drop a barrage on you. You have air support of your own and artillery to match, but the supplies of shells and the ability of your air support to survive over Normandy are decreasing every day. The fighting retreat to Paris is disjointed, and it seems as though you never have proper time to occupy a position fully before the Americans are back at it.

It’s 1944 and you are serving the Emperor on Saipan. Your unit has been fighting the Americans for weeks now, and you are outgunned. Your unit has held the numerical advantage since day 1, but the bravery of your comrades has been for naught. You aren’t lacking for firepower, but the Americans seem to know when you’ll attack and where. It will be a desperate fight to your end, and you know full well that the Americans can’t be stopped on Saipan.

It’s June 1945 and you’re stationed on Okinawa. You’ve started the battle near the beaches, but the Americans have slowly pushed you back to the center of the island. The resistance of your comrades and yourself has been fanatical…for every ridge that the Americans take, you have seen dozens of Americans fall. Yet they keep coming. Your machine gun support eats up American assaults, but they still manage to force you out of your positions. Even if you win the day (as your unit has several times) you aren’t safe: the Americans will direct their big ships to shell your position, or even worse their planes will drop canisters filled with some type of burning gel that sucks the oxygen right out of the caves of those unfortunate enough to be nearby. You hold out, but there’s no chance you can beat back such a relentless surge.

Americans weren’t the best equipped, best trained, or most fanatical fighters of the war. But they were persistent, well equipped, well supplied, and well led.

– Chris Rhoden

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