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I'm still reading. However, the common Western view of WWII, and this is not to say all Westerners think this way, but the common Western view of WWII is pretty distorted.

Unsurprising, really. Any nation involved in a conflict sees it in terms of themselves. Hell, France sees their contribution to the invasion of Germany and the end of the war in Europe as major, which by nearly any objective measure is a vast overstatement. Still...

One unit of measure that has been bandied about to view the relative involvement of given nations, taken from No Simple Victory by Norman Davies, is the man-month, with one being one soldier deployed for one month during the period 1939-1945. For example, in the German invasion of Poland, over five weeks Germany deployed 1.25 million men against 800,000 Poles. With a "month" figure of 1.25, that gives us a total of 1 million man-months for the Poles and 1.56 million for the Germans, so:

Poland, September 1939 : 2.56

Taken in that light, here are some numbers for WWII battles and campaigns:

Poland, September 1939 : 2.56
Finland, 1939-40 : 9.00
German invasion of Norway & Denmark, 1940 : 0.04
German Western Offensive, May-June 1940 : 9.00
German-Soviet War, 1941-45 : 406.00
North Africa, 1941-43 : 5.00
Italy, 1943-45 : 4.40
Western Front, June 1944 - May 1945 : 16.50

In other words, the German invasion of the U.S.S.R. and the Soviet defense and subsequent invasion of Germany involved close to nine times the troops that the entire European Theater of WWII did. That number increases to over ten times if one removes the Soviet invasion of Finland, mistakenly regarded by many Western historians as a footnote to WWII, while it in fact was as major a theater of conflict (by this measure) as the German invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands and France, historically afforded a much larger profile.

From this angle the conflict starts to look a whole lot more like two land-hungry dictators going at it than anything else, and it's really not that inaccurate. Hitler and Stalin both wanted Eastern Europe, and both invaded Poland. Stalin also invaded Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and of course, Finland. And even this is an oversimplification, leaving out the massive aid the USA gave Stalin via the Lend-Lease act once he and Hitler were openly at war. (A few random figures for the period between 1943 and 1945: 51,000 Jeeps, 345,735 tons of explosives, 4,478,000 tons of food, 15.4 million pairs of combat boots, and close to four million tires.) This is to say nothing of the massive influx of American materiel into the U.K., quite literally the difference between continued resistance and suing for peace.

I can't really tie all of these threads together yet, but that's okay. Historians haven't managed a cohesive, objective history, so I suppose I can expect no more of myself. Still, there are a lot of misconceptions to abolish. More to follow as things either bubble to the surface or cohere into a whole.


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