The Corner

D-Day, as The Russians See It

“Although President Putin turned up on Sunday, Russian veterans of the

’Great Patriotic War’ have not been celebrating the D-Day anniversary. In

1944, like Stalin himself, they regarded the Anglo-American contribution to

the European land campaign as too little, too late. ‘We never felt any

weakening of German pressure because of what the Western Allies were doing,’

said artillery officer Major Yury Ryakhovsky when I interviewed him a couple

of years ago for a book on the last phase of the war. ‘Indeed, we didn’t

feel they were doing very much. Their campaign was merely a splinter in

Germany’s side.’ Lieutenant Pavel Nikiforov said almost contemptuously, ‘It

was a pity the Americans and British did not start fighting sooner.’ He

remarked that he himself had been wounded in action three times before the

first Allied soldier stepped ashore on D-Day. A Russian history which

remained an official sixth-form school textbook until at least the 1990s

describes D-Day briskly: ‘In June 1944, when it had become obvious that the

Soviet Union was capable of defeating Hitler’s Germany with her forces

alone, England and the USA opened the Second Front …The Anglo-American

forces met with practically no opposition from the Hitlerites …For these

operations the Germans had diverted only 60 divisions to the Western front,

while the Hitler command maintained 259 divisions and brigades on the

Soviet-German front.’ There is enough truth in this to make Anglo-American

triumphalists uncomfortable. Consider a statistic: in the second world war

British and US ground troops killed about 200,000 German soldiers. The

Russians killed more than three million.”

—-From Max Hastings’s “Diary” in the june 12 Spectator


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