Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Historical Perspective

I just finished reading "The Victors", by Stephen E. Ambrose. It's an account of the European Theater during World War II. As I made my way through the book, reading of all the men killed and wounded it slowly dawned on me that my impressions of the war were flawed. World War II, in my mind, was a war that Americans went off to, won, and then came home. But that is not really accurate. A lot of Americans went off to war, died, and never came back.

I know it sounds incredibly stupid on my part, but it occurred to me that my viewpoint was based entirely on one detail: The only ones who can tell the story of what happened are the ones who lived. Every story you hear about the war is told by someone who lived. The dead tell no tales. You never hear a story without it ending "and then I got to go home."

Wikipedia states that there were 416,800 American soldiers killed in the war. That's as if the entire region for about 50 miles around my house were suddenly depopulated. America got off lightly, considering our role.

It is practically impossible for us today to comprehend the evil that was unleashed on the world in the space of about ten years. Three to four percent of the world's population was killed in the war; about 60 to 80 million people.

What can one say about that, really?

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