They say history is written by the winners, but the truth is even stranger than that. In reality history is often written by popular opinion, or wishful thinking, or crass politics.
That's why so much of what we hear about an event like World War II--whether from textbooks, movies or something you overheard a smart-sounding guy say--is just plain bullshit.
5America Won the War Single-Handedly
Sixty years of World War II movies, and a decade of WWII video games, have made one thing clear: If it wasn't for America, you'd all be speaking German right now, baby! U-S-A! U-S-A!
How America fights a two-front war.
Why it's Bullshit:
Because it's like thinking that while many X-Men contributed in their own special way, defeating Magneto really came down to Iceman.
There are two radically different histories of WW II, the one that was actually fought, and the one where the US kicked everyone's assess. Guess which one Cold War-era classrooms were allowed to teach? Here's a hint: It's the same one Hollywood chose to film.
World War II wasn't just a clever name. It was a global conflict that included epic acts of heroism by non-Americans like the storming of Madagascar, the Battle of Westerplatte, the Battle of Moscow, the Battle of Kursk, the epically badass Kokoda Track, the pilots of the Polish Underground State, the details of El Alamein or the HMS Bulldog. Of course, Americans never hear about any of those unless, as in the case of the classic submarine film U 571, the characters are just straight up switched to Americans. To quote George S. Patton: "Americans love a winner," which you know because you saw Patton, the film that portrayed Field Marshal Bernard "Rommel-killer" Montgomery like a buffoon simply because he was British.
However, there is one Zangief-sized elephant in the room that America loved to leave out of conversation until the end of the Cold War: the Soviet Union. The "Great Patriotic War" as they called it was the single largest military operation in history, and home to perhaps the biggest turning-point of the war: the Battle of Stalingrad.
Understand, the Russia versus Germany part of the war wasn't just a little more important than the part the USA was involved in. It was "four times the scale" of the whole Western front, larger than all other phases of the war put together. The Soviet military suffered eight million soldiers dead, more than 20 freaking times the number of U.S. casualties.
Suck it up, Damon.
Sounds pretty brutal for a John Wayne movie? Try figuring in another 13.7 million dead civilians.
It's tragic how many kids in the West never heard these stories growing up. One platoon leader in the Red Army named Yakov Pavlov personally rigged a Stalingrad apartment building with enough landmines, rifles and mortars to hold off half the Nazi army. The building was under fire day and night and even had some civilians in the basement, but the fortress never fell. Pavlov himself picked off one dozen tanks from the beast.
Our history books should not have been denied such awesomeness.