Wasn’t Someone Else Involved?

An op-ed guest writer for the New York Times opines:

SIXTY-FIVE years ago, in November 1944, the war in Europe was at a stalemate. A resurgent Wehrmacht had halted the Allied armies along Germany’s borders after its headlong retreat across northern France following D-Day. From Holland to France, the front was static — yet thousands of Allied soldiers continued to die in futile battles to reach the Rhine River.

One Allied army, however, was still on the move.

The author goes on to speculate that a breakthrough at Strasbourg would have brought the war to a speedy end. Just how is mostly handwaving, “could unhinge the Germans’ southern front and possibly lead to the collapse of the entire line from Holland to Switzerland … swing west to come in behind the German First Army, which was blocking Patton’s Third Army in Lorraine. The enemy would face annihilation, and the Third and Seventh Armies could break loose and drive into Germany. The war might end quickly … what [German generals] really feared was an incursion across the Rhine, which would have been a military catastrophe and a devastating symbolic blow to the German people.”

Symbolic blows, devastating or otherwise, didn’t quite get the job done in that war. More importantly, the author manages the remarkable feat of writing about decisive events in the European theater without once mentioning where the bulk of fighting took place.

Really, how hard would it have been to put “on the Western Front” somewhere in that initial paragraph? Why not acknowledge the titanic struggle taking place on Germany’s other borders at that time? Why didn’t the author do it himself? How many hands did it pass through at the Times, and no one thought to put in even a clause about the East?

Why, as Brad DeLong says, oh why can’t we have a better press corps?

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Geography, Germany, History, Not Europe by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

5 thoughts on “Wasn’t Someone Else Involved?

  1. Agreed. “The war in Europe was at a stalemate” is both an abuse of the word “Europe” and the word “stalemate”. It was in fact a brief (if bloody) setback on a single part of the Western front.

  2. I think that it’s pretty obvious from the context that when an American newspaper makes a reference to the “War in Europe”, they speak of that part of the European theatre where the American forces were primarily involved.

    Besides, many Russian writers still habitually treat 1941 as the year when the “War” started, even though most Chinese, Poles, Britons and… um, Russians would probably disagree with that definition.

    Such generalizations are normal in every country.


    J. J.

  3. Not only that. There was a little something called the Colmar pocket just south of Strasbourg. Pulling out the 6th to cross the – seemingly – undefended Rhine might have been catastrophic for the French army protecting Strasbourg. The German units in Colmar were not pushovers and that was considered – already – part of Germany, not France. In any event, German units launched a counter attack against Strasbourg at the end of November which the understrength and largely green French troops withstood. But not by much.

    The author, I think, wanted to bash caution but conveniently left out some strategic concerns that required the 6th to be held back. I also agree it would have been nice to remember the other,somewhat more important, front.

  4. Yes, the opinion piece is way over the top for all sorts of reasons.

    But for what it is worth, Omar Bradly also felt that Eisenhower was making a big mistake. If I am remembering Bradly’s memoirs correctly, he argued that Eisenhower gave the order mostly for political reasons.

  5. Nice that you picked up on the op-ed piece. I saw it and almost tossed my cookies. The same old bologne that they used to dish up on the CBS affiliate in my hometown in the 60s – Saturday Afternoon Movies. Heroic GIs rescuing Yurup, making the world safe for democracy, a bunch of Americans doing what needed to be done. While there were American heroes somehow CBS didn’t get around to describing who the ultimate liberators were and what happened in Berlin in May 1945. It’s impressive – the power of American propaganda, the spectacular success of the establishment media to guide and form the self-perception of Americans, to perpetuate a delusion. Is it unreasonable to think that Roosevelt and Churchill decided to let Stalin do the dirtiest work? That they hoped that in winning the last and most awful battle of the war Stalin would exhaust Russia and communism?

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