Skip to comments.(from 1946) Americans Are Losing the Victory in Europe
Posted on 06/01/2004 5:27:52 PM PDT by doug from upland
We are in a cabin deep down below decks on a Navy ship jam-packed with troops thats pitching and creaking its way across the Atlantic in a winter gale. There is a man in every bunk. Theres a man wedged into every corner. Theres a man in every chair. The air is dense with cigarette smoke and with the staleness of packed troops and sour wool.
Dont think Im sticking up for the Germans, puts in the lanky young captain in the upper berth, but
To hell with the Germans, says the broad-shouldered dark lieutenant. Its what our boys have been doing that worries me.
The lieutenant has been talking about the traffic in Army property, the leaking of gasoline into the black market in France and Belgium even while the fighting was going on, the way the Army kicks the civilians around, the looting.
Lust, liquor and loot are the soldiers pay, interrupts a red-faced major.
The lieutenant comes out with his conclusion: Two wrongs dont make a right. You hear these two phrases again and again in about every bull session on the shop. Two wrongs dont make a right and Dont think Im sticking up for the Germans, but .
The troops returning home are worried. Weve lost the peace, men tell you. We cant make it stick.
A tour of the beaten-up cities of Europe six months after victory is a mighty sobering experience for anyone. Europeans. Friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are disappointed in you as an American. They cite the evolution of the word liberation. Before the Normandy landings it meant to be freed from the tyranny of the Nazis. Now it stands in the minds of the civilians for one thing, looting.
You try to explain to these Europeans that they expected too much. They answer that they had a right to, that after the last was America was the hope of the world. They talk about the Hoover relief, the work of the Quakers, the speeches of Woodrow Wilson. They dont blame us for the fading of that hope. But they blame us now.
Never has American prestige in Europe been lower. People never tire of telling you of the ignorance and rowdy-ism of American troops, of out misunderstanding of European conditions. They say that the theft and sale of Army supplies by our troops is the basis of their black market. They blame us for the corruption and disorganization of UNRRA. They blame us for the fumbling timidity of our negotiations with the Soviet Union. They tell us that our mechanical de-nazification policy in Germany is producing results opposite to those we planned. Have you no statesmen in America? they ask.
The skeptical French press
Yet whenever we show a trace of positive leadership I found Europeans quite willing to follow our lead. The evening before Robert Jacksons opening of the case for the prosecution in the Nurnberg trial, I talked to some correspondents from the French newspapers. They were polite but skeptical. They were willing enough to take part in a highly publicized act of vengeance against the enemy, but when you talked about the usefulness of writing a prohibition of aggressive war into the law of nations they laughed in your face. The night after Jacksons nobly delivered and nobly worded speech I saw then all again. They were very much impressed. Their manner had even changed toward me personally as an American. Their sudden enthusiasm seemed to me typical of the almost neurotic craving for leadership of the European people struggling wearily for existence in the wintry ruins of their world.
The ruin this war has left in Europe can hardly be exaggerated. I can remember the years after the last war. Then, as soon as you got away from the military, all the little strands and pulleys that form the fabric of a society were still knitted together. Farmers took their crops to market. Money was a valid medium of exchange. Now the entire fabric of a million little routines has broken down. No on can think beyond food for today. Money is worthless. Cigarettes are used as a kind of lunatic travesty on a currency. If a man goes out to work he shops around to find the business that serves the best hot meal. The final pay-off is the situation reported from the Ruhr where the miners are fed at the pits so that they will not be able to take the food home to their families.
Well, the Germans are to blame. Let them pay for it. Its their fault, you say. The trouble is that starving the Germans and throwing them out of their homes is only producing more areas of famine and collapse.
One section of the population of Europe looked to us for salvation and another looked to the Soviet Union. Wherever the people have endured either the American armies or the Russian armies both hopes have been bitterly disappointed. The British have won a slightly better reputation. The state of mind in Vienna is interesting because there the part of the population that was not actively Nazi was about equally divided. The wealthier classes looked to America, the workers to the Soviet Union.
The Russians came first. The Viennese tell you of the savagery of the Russian armies. They came like the ancient Mongol hordes out of the steppes, with the flimsiest supply. The people in the working-class districts had felt that when the Russians came that they at least would be spared. But not at all. In the working-class districts the tropes were allowed to rape and murder and loot at will. When victims complained, the Russians answered, You are too well off to be workers. You are bourgeoisie.
When Americans looted they took cameras and valuables but when the Russians looted they took everything. And they raped and killed. From the eastern frontiers a tide of refugees is seeping across Europe bringing a nightmare tale of helpless populations trampled underfoot. When the British and American came the Viennese felt that at last they were in the hands of civilized people. But instead of coming in with a bold plan of relief and reconstruction we came in full of evasions and apologies.
U.S. administration a poor third
We know now the tragic results of the ineptitudes of the Peace of Versailles. The European system it set up was Utopia compared to the present tangle of snarling misery. The Russians at least are carrying out a logical plan for extending their system of control at whatever cost. The British show signs of recovering their good sense and their innate human decency. All we have brought to Europe so far is confusion backed up by a drumhead regime of military courts. We have swept away Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease. [Emphasis mine]
The taste of victory had gone sour in the mouth of every thoughtful American I met. Thoughtful men cant help remembering that this is a period in history when every political crime and every frivolous mistake in statesmanship has been paid for by the death of innocent people. The Germans built the Stalags; the Nazis are behind barbed wire now, but who will be next? Whenever you sit eating a good meal in the midst of a starving city in a handsome house requisitioned from some German, you find yourself wondering how it would feel to have a conqueror drinking out of your glasses. When you hear the tales of the brutalizing of women from the eastern frontier you think with a shudder of of those you love and cherish at home.
That we are one world is unfortunately a brutal truth. Punishing the German people indiscriminately for the sins of their leader may be justice, but it is not helping to restore the rule of civilization. The terrible lesson of the events of this year of victory is that what is happening to the bulk of Europe today can happen to American tomorrow.
In America we are still rich, we are still free to move from place to place and to talk to our friends without fear of the secret police. The time has come, for our own future security, to give the best we have to the world instead of the worst. So far as Europe is concerned, American leadership up to now has been obsessed with a fear of our own virtues. Winston Churchill expressed this state of mind brilliantly in a speech to his own people which applies even more accurately to the people of the U.S. You must be prepared, he warned them, for further efforts of mind and body and further sacrifices to great causes, if you are not to fall back into the rut if inertia, the confusion of aim and the craven fear of being great.
Very, very telling.
It's a quagmire!®
Great read....this must be sent to every news outlet, radio talk show, and government agency.
Keep up the good work.
media history repeats itself ping
History repeating itself...or is it naysayers blabbering on as they always do?
Sounds like atrocious planning and inadequate force structure! Due, no doubt, to the intellectual shortcomings of the then-sitting President.
June 1, 2004
The more things change, the more they stay the same. (ehhh?)
Yes, including the fact that Dos Passos was a communist.
The more things change, the more they stay the same(i.e. a defeatist press)
Thanks for finding and posting this.It just shows that there have always been defeatists and naysayers.
Agreed! This is all Bush's FAULT!
It is weird to read that, knowing that this is precisely what the Iraqis are saying now, according to the liberal media. There is some flaw in the American character which seems to require that we feel the people we defeat must just LOVE us regardless of the fact that we had to kill boatloads of their countrymen and end their previous way of life. It's a sort of intellectual sophistry that says that any country that we wind up fighting is just chock full of nothing but good, honest people who will appreciate us to death once we take over from the few bad men that led them against us. I don't know if I would call it naive, or simply decadent, but anyone who thinks that the people of countries we bombed to smithereens are going to immediately love us and say favorable things to pollsters no matter what we do after the war is one or the other, and perhaps both.
Every Freeper must read this !
I told you diplomacy
was the way to go.
I think Dos Passos had ceased to be a communist at this point. He was one of those disillusioned by the Spanish Civil War who then became a "premature anti-Stalinist" and was denounced by his former comrades for breaking with the Party line.
Whatever he believed in the '30s, Dos Passos was a clear-eyed enemy of communism post WWII.
I was in Austria and John dos Passos is full of it.
No matter,he was still a damned lefty fifth columnist and a terrible play-write/author.
I had his works crammed down my throat,long ago and did some research on him back them and never saw anything about him doing such a turnaround.But it's been many decades and maybe I just never found that part out.
I hadn't heard that, but I would suspect that he was an enemy of Stalinism, but still thought communism would be a worker's paradise (much the same distinction Orwell liked to draw: socialism fails because of those who run it, not some inherent flaw).
If you know otherwise, I'd love a chance to read that Dos Passos genuinely rejected communism.
Isn't it just amazing that so few Americans have any comprehension of history? It's not just that they can't name who was President during the Civil War, or in what decade of what century the Spanish-American war was fought ... no, they don't have any memory or understanding of the history of the 20th century and the Second World War. Even many of the people who SHOULD know better because they lived through those years are utterly clueless.
God deliver us from the historical amnesia of the American population! Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.
It's a repost, but a worthwhile one, to be sure.
This article is so AMAZING. It's like going into a time warp and reading the same pessimism in the MSM all over again.
"Agreed! This is all Bush's FAULT!"
Maybe they would blame Poppy (GHW) or his Dad, Senator Bush, since GW was just a toddler at the time.
No, Bush and Dick Cheney used Halliburton's TOP SECRET time machine and went back in time and created this mess.
Thanks for moving this to news. Doh. I thought that is where I had put it.
John Dos Passos is one of the most overtly political authors in this unit. Involved in many radical political movements, Dos Passos saw the expansion of consumer capitalism in the first decades of the twentieth century as a dangerous threat to the health of the nation. The son of unmarried Portuguese American parents, Dos Passos grew up in Chicago. He attended prestigious East Coast schools, first the Choate School and then Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard in 1916 and joined the war effort before the United States entered World War I, becoming a member of a volunteer ambulance corps and later serving in the American medical corps.
Following the war he became a freelance journalist, while also working on fiction, poetry, essays, and plays. He wrote a novel drawing on his war experiences, Three Soldiers (1921), but his 1925 novel Manhattan Transfer established him as a serious fiction writer and displayed many techniques that writers who followed him would emulate. Political reform underwrote much of his fiction, and in 1926 he joined the board of The New Masses, a Communist magazine. Though not a party member, Dos Passos participated in Communist activities until 1934, when the Communists' disruption of a Socialist rally convinced him that the Communists were more concerned with achieving power than with the social reform about which he cared passionately.
From 1930 to 1936, Dos Passos published three bitingly satirical novels about contemporary American life, The 42nd Parallel; 1919; and The Big Money, an excerpt of which is discussed in this unit. Together the novels form a trilogy called U.S.A., and they attack all levels of American society, from the wealthiest businessman to the leaders of the labor movement. Dos Passos believed that American society had been thoroughly corrupted by the greed its thriving capitalist system promoted, and he saw little hope for real reform of such an entrenched system. His novels experimented with new techniques, especially drawing on those of the cinema, a relatively new cultural form (see the Context "Mass Culture Invasion: The Rise of Motion Pictures," Unit 13). His "Newsreel" sections mimic the weekly newsreels shown before films at local cinemas, blending together a patchwork of clips from newspapers, popular music, and speeches.
Dos Passos's politics shifted radically following World War II, as he saw the political left, with which he had identified himself, becoming more restrictive of individual liberty than the political right. His trilogy District of Columbia (1952) reexamined American society from this new perspective, attacking political fanaticism and bureaucracy.
OK...thanks for the info...
Died in 1970. The above post discusses how he changed after WWII and recognized that the left was the real threat.
What was Roosevelt's exit strategy in 1942? Hell, its 62 years later and we are still in Germany and Japan.
Bump for later read.
bump for later
The link to the original post is http://www.jessicaswell.com/MT/archives/000872.html
Check it out. There are tons and tons of comments there.
Truman should have planned for the peace before starting the war. [/sarcasm]
I imagine that is exactly how they felt in Poland, E. Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, .....
Kind of reminds me of the no WMD rant we hear today!
This is indeed for real.