Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Has it been 74 years already?
VE Day was less than a decade and a half old when I was born. I'm feeling a bit confused here because I'm not sure whether that makes me feel young or old.
Countless writers and historians -- all of them better writers and historians than I -- will weigh in on what it all means, what we should always remember, what we should never forget, and why Trump should be executed for war crimes. No need for me to chime in on any of that. I do, however, have a tidbit to add.
Last year at the centenary of the end of the Great War, an immeasurable quantity of electronic ink was spilled over the sheer number of casualties during that awful conflict.
As we all know, the casualty count in World War Two, AKA the Second World War, was shockingly higher.
So shockingly higher in fact that when we look at the accounting numbers, most of us just go numb. Stalin is said to have remarked that a single death is a tragedy, while a million deaths is simply a statistic. As much as we all love to hate ol' Joe Steel, he had the right of it there.
Sometimes you see or hear a statistic that helps put such unimaginable numbers into a bit better focus. That happened to me today.
For a dash of perspective, according to the interweb oracle, 292,131 American service personnel were killed in action between December 8, 1941 and December 31, 1946. Of course the interweb oracle has to confuse things by adding an extra 385 days to the war, and by leaving out the 2,335 KIA at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I'm sure there's a good reason. Or perhaps just a reason. Nevertheless, Slightly fewer than 300,000 Americans were killed in battle during World War Two. Using interweb oracle dates it works out to about 160 killed per day.
Now here's the "ah-ha" number I bumped into today. According to Geoffrey Megargee, author of "Inside Hitler's High Command," one point four million German service personnel were killed in action...
Wait for it...
Between January 1 and May 8, 1945, the last 128 days of the war in Europe. That works out to 10,938 killed on each and every one of those 128 days.
Overall the Germans lost 5.7 million killed in action between September 1, 1939 and May 8, 1945, a period of 1,948 days, or an average of 2,926 killed in action each day.
The numbers are still too big, but when I squint at those 128 days and ignore everyone else but the Germans, some of the fuzziness begins to fade.
I hope I never achieve complete clarity.