Wednesday, September 2, 2009

it was 70 years ago today

Historian and author Colin Heaton has kindly responded to this post - click here to go to the update.

My Mum, God rest her soul, was always clear about her last day of school in 1939, when she was 14 - the leaving age in those days. As usual, a tune played on the piano called all the children on St Roch's Secondary School in Glasgow to their lines. Then the headmistress, in tears, prayed that the coming storm not last too long.

Her Dad - my Grandad, who I regret to say I never met - had been a Sergeant in the first war, and was under no illusion as to the prosecution of the war or its likely length. The three children were given the chance to be evacuated, but her Mum decided that if they were to die, they would die together. By the grace of God, all survived.

My Mum sometimes admitted guilt that for her, the War was a time of innocence and fun. Childhood's end didn't come until 1946 when, waiting in Glasgow's Central Station for the return of soldiers who had been taken prisoners by the Japanese: I remember a fellow without a nose, because of the beating visited by the butt of a Japanese guard's rifle.

It was a different time, but a time that continues to shape our present. Franklyn Delano Roosevelt comes under fire for prosecuting the War, once his country had officially entered it, with a "Germany first" strategy. My view is that, Hitler having marched on Russia in 1941, his defeat at Stalin's hands was a matter of when rather than if: and the US would have stood against a Soviet Europe. Perhaps that's wrong, but as a (right-wing) Brit I bless FDR's name.

My Mum is gone now, and so have many of the soldiers and evacuees. But many remain alive - please remember them.

click to go to Colin Heaton's profile at the American Military University
Acclaimed historian and author Colin Heaton says of Rooseveldt's "Germany-first" stance:

"There was a reason for the Germany first approach. It all had to do with U-boats, which were sinking aid being sent to the UK and USSR. The Soviets had lost 80% of all their war making materiel by December, 1941. They hclick to read a review of 'Night Fighters' by Colin Heaton and Anne-Marie Lewisad manpower, but few vehicles, little ammunition and powder, little bomb making potential, and almost zero aircraft until 1942. Most of their ability to hold back Hitler was due to US aid, hence the U-boat menace. Japan was pretty self contained after Midway and Coral Sea. There major carriers were sunk, our subs were sinking 90% of their transports, and 25% of the warships. Remember that US submarines sank 97% of all enemy shipping, but only made up 3% of the total US Naval forces.

"I remember talking with a Stuka pilot, who knocked out over 20 trucks on a road in the Ukraine. After the battle, he saw they were all Ford vehicles, made in Detroit, and half the aircraft shot down were British-made Spitfires and American P-39 Airacobras, used for ground attack.

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