Monday, June 09, 2014

The D-Day anniversary

I usually pay attention to things like the D-Day commemoration. You can learn some history that way. And I'm fascinated by how the politics of public memory work, too.

I've mostly ignored the D-Day anniversary articles, though. One reason is that didn't want to hear bad analogies between the Second World War and the tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

Even more so, I'm so disgusted over the Republican sideshow over the prisoner-of-war swap that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity that I just didn't want to read or hear gasbags gushing over the glories of the D-Day landing. Digby says what needed to be said about the Bergdahl hate propaganda in Everybody look what's goin' down Hullabaloo 06/08/2014.

But I did pay attention to this article from the BBC History Magazine, D-Day: the successes and failures in focus 06/05/2014, an interview with historian Antony Beevor. It points to a problem in the D-Day operation that the United States hasn't adequately come to grips with yet, the callousness and carelessness toward civilian casualties:

Q: Could the Allies have reasonably reduced the high number of civilian deaths?

A: Yes I’m afraid I think they could. The British bombing of Caen [beginning on D-Day] in particular was stupid, counterproductive and above all very close to a war crime.

There was an assumption I think that Caen must have been evacuated beforehand. Well that was wishful thinking on the part of the British. There were over 2,000 casualties there on the first two days and in a way it was miraculous that more people weren't killed in Caen when you think of the bombing, and the shelling which carried on for days afterwards.

Here again there was a lack of thinking things through. If you are intending to capture Caen on the first day then you need to be able to penetrate its streets with your troops. Why then smash them to pieces? In fact, exactly as happened at Stalingrad, the bombing created terrain for the defender as well as being morally wrong.

There have also been heavy accusations against the Americans in Normandy for their indiscriminate use of artillery. The Americans have always believed that you save lives by using massive artillery bombardments beforehand, and I’m certainly not saying they should have done the whole thing without artillery because Allied casualties would have been horrific.

Yet there were occasions, as for example at Mortain [on 12 August], where the Americans destroyed the town in a fit of pique even as the Germans were retreating, simply because they had had such a bloody time there. That I think was deeply shocking.
Tags: ,

No comments: