1939: The Balance Sheet: Paradoxes and Imponderables -- Part 9
American power, economic and military, contributed to the victory of the Entente in World War I, and that power would again provide an important tilt to the balance in World War II if Americans were less inclined to believe.
The landing in western Europe was widely expected to be a decisive display of American power, and Hitler's last hope to survive seemed to be based on Germany's ability to repel the landing.
If the landing failed, he believed the Anglo-American leaders would file for peace.
The success of the landing appeared to be in doubt for a while.
The weather cooperated on June 6 after a last-minute postponement on June 5.
The Germans were not at their highest alert because of the bad weather, and the Anglo-American forces were able to surprise them.
The Germans were tricked into believing that the main landing would happen in the south of Normandy, which is the shortest route across the English Channel.
Omaha Beach was one of the battles that took place along the Normandy coast.
The total number of casualties for the Anglo-American forces in the landing was over 10,000.
The losses on the German side were the same as they were on the eastern front, but were not large.
The main goal of the landing was to bring 2.2 million men and half a million military vehicles across the Channel.
On June 22, the Red Army launched a major offensive on the northern edge of the eastern front, with over a hundred divisions and 4,000 tanks.
By late July, the Red Army had pushed Nazi lines back to Warsaw and inflicted over half a million casualties.
There were significant differences between the eastern and western fronts.
The Anglo-American forces moved slowly after establishing a beachhead.
The American army consisted of a significant amount of raw recruits, and they faced battle-hardened opponents.
In the area of the Ardennes Forest, where Germany's armies had so famously broken through in the spring of 1940, Americans were surprised.
The counteroffensive was halted and contained after the Americans suffered some 90,000 casualties.
The contribution of the French to the Normandy landing was small because Anglo-American forces were gradually being superseded by French recruits.
After France's humiliation, General Charles De Gaulle established himself as the leader of the anti-Vichy Free French, but both Roosevelt and Churchill disliked him, and he joked about it in the midst of the war.
The date of the Normandy landing and the date of the landing in north Africa were not known to De Gaulle.
By the end of the war, De Gaulle's forces had grown to 1.25 million, with ten divisions fighting in Germany, and he had become recognized as France's leader, but reestablishing France as a major power was a hard sell.
The Franco-German border was not crossed by the Western Allies until 1945.
Soviet forces were pushing into the valley as they worked their way into Germany.
They renewed their offensive in January 1945.
The Yalta meeting of the Big Three took place in February 1945, which was when Germany's defeat was certain.
Yalta became the most famous of the war-time conferences because Roosevelt had given away eastern Europe at Yalta because of his naive beliefs about Stalin and frail health.
Compared to Soviet Russia's military victories, these factors seem unimportant.
If Roosevelt had arrived at Tehran as a supplicant, he would have been aware of Russia's entry into the war against Japan.
It had been the case for a long time.
If Roosevelt had been in better health, or if he had been more willing to challenge Stalin, things would have worked out better for the settlement in eastern Europe.
Roosevelt might not have gotten Stalin's promise to declare war on Japan or his support for the United Nations.
After Roosevelt's death in April and the surrender of Germany in early May, the new American president assumed a distinctly more confrontational stance, and was harshly criticized by some historians for unnecessarily antagonizing Stalin, allegedly resulting in levels of hostility in the ensuing Cold War.
There were many reasons for Truman's stance.
He was a different personality with a different past and different options, and he had little of Roosevelt's confidence in his own personal charm and political adroitness, as the heavy burden of war-time leadership was so suddenly thrust.
The fact that the United States was days away from dropping atomic bombs on Japan was important to him.
The importance of Russia entering the war against Japan seemed less important.
There was a shift in the feelings of anti-Nazi cooperation when the conference began.
The reports of mass rapes by the Red Army in eastern Europe, which provoked indignation in the United States, particularly among Americans of eastern European origin, constituted an important element of the vote for the Democratic Party.
Historians have debated how much Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs was decisive.
Stalin was impressed with the power of the United States and was forced to surrender.
The award of 10 billion dollars to the Soviet Union was one of the things that was left undecided at Tehran and Yalta.
The Allied conferences can't be said to have achieved genuine consensus on a range of topics, as the following year saw much wrangling over exact details and alleged broken promises.
The Oder-Neisse line was not formally accepted as Germany's permanent eastern frontier by the Americans or British, but it became permanent after a peace conference was not held.
Plans for trials of the major Nazi leaders, as well as military occupation zones, were agreed upon at Potsdam.
The first camps were constructed in 1942.
By the summer of 1944, deportations to eastern- European ghettoes and death camps had reached a peak, after two years of mass murder and genocide by the Nazis.
Some 400,000 Hungarian Jews, most of whom had been sheltered by Hungarian authorities, were transported to their deaths at Auschwitz and elsewhere during the last full year of war.
In the final months of the war, thousands of others perished in various work details and elsewhere outside the camps, including prisoners of war and members of the anti-Nazi resistance.