Alexander Boot recently described D-Day as splendid, glorious, heroic, sacrificial — and terribly wrong, based in part on Viktor Suvorov‘s contention that the Soviet Union was planning a massive invasion of Europe.
Of course, building up an army to invade German-occupied Europe looks an awful lot like building up an army to defend against a likely German invasion.
Boot contends that the Soviets were planning on attacking the Germans before the Germans attacked them — which, again, sounds perfectly plausible — until the Finns delivered an unsettling reality check. The Red Army may have been big, but it wasn’t any good — not yet.
Just as important was the fact that the Germans did not have to fight a long and bloody war on the Western Front. No one expected them to take out the French in one month. The French certainly didn’t expect it. The British didn’t. Neither did the Germans. It’s not hard to imagine the Soviets waiting for the French and British to bleed the Germans dry before stepping in — and then demanding that the British somehow reopen a second front.
Looking back at how the war played out — with the Soviets defeating the Nazis, conquering Eastern Europe for themselves, and then becoming our Cold War enemy — it’s hard to see why we were so quick to offer them so much aid.
Part of our motivation came from the fact that our leadership was surprisingly pro-Communist. Many of our top men — Harry Dexter White, Alger Hiss, Harry Hopkins — were literally Soviet agents.
Just as important though was everyone’s recent memory of how Russia performed in the last war — it collapsed — in light of how unstoppable the modern German military seemed.
So, early in the war, when the Nazis look strong, and the Soviets look weak, it makes sense for the US (and Britain) to offer aid and open up a second front, to keep the Soviets in the war. Ideally, the other Allies then let the Nazis and Soviets bleed each other dry.
That’s not what happened, of course, and the US had to find a way to get onto the continent and get to Germany before the Soviets rolled through and seized everything. Was invading Normandy the way to do that?
In 1942, Churchill called Italy the soft underbelly of the axis, not because the mountainous terrain would be easy to invade, but because Italy would be comparatively easy to knock out of the war, and this would grant the Allies control of the Mediterranean. It was also supposed to tie down German forces.
It’s not clear at all to me how the Allies were supposed to land and approach Berlin without a heroic effort. Of course, it’s not at all clear why FDR called for unconditional surrender and why we cut off the option of a separate peace.