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Behind the D-day story

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The 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings on Sunday 6 June has had wide media coverage. Chris Bambery looks at the myths and the reality
Issue 1904

FOR THE anniversary of D-Day, the landings in Normandy, President George Bush will visit Paris and Rome to mark their liberation. In reality he will spend little time in either city, fearing demonstrations against the American occupation of Iraq. Neither the Americans nor the British liberated Paris. An insurrection by French resistance forces freed the city.

The Americans liberated Rome after the Communist-led resistance decided against an insurrection. But the Italian partisans liberated every great city of northern and central Italy, including Naples in a heroic uprising in 1943.

The decisive moment in the Second World War was Hitler’s defeat at the hands of the Russians in Stalingrad at the start of 1943. Before D-Day British forces never faced more than five or six German divisions. The Russians faced 200 divisions.

German casualties in the east after D-Day were four times greater than the losses inflicted by the British and Americans in the west. Even in the final days of the war two thirds of German forces were engaged fighting the Russian advance.

The British war leader Winston Churchill’s strategy after Hitler conquered France, Belgium and Holland in May 1940 was to hang on hoping the US would be drawn in.

Churchill only just faced down those within the Tory party and the ruling class who wanted to strike a deal with Hitler in the summer of 1940. Churchill was a gung-ho imperialist who realised if Hitler controlled mainland Europe he would then move to control the Middle East and to liquidate the British Empire.

Prior to D-Day Britain’s war effort was aimed at defending Egypt and the Middle East because of oil and its role as a staging post to British-controlled India. Even as invasion threatened Britain in the summer of 1940 British troops were concentrated in Egypt.

For Hitler the war in North Africa was a sideshow. The main prize was Russia. The Russian dictator Stalin was Hitler’s ally from August 1940 until June 1941, when German troops attacked Russia.

The Americans’ instinct when they were forced to war was at first to let the Germans and Russians wear each other out. Once the tide turned Moscow’s way Washington was determined to get troops into Europe to forestall Stalin. Throughout 1943 and right up until the 6 June Normandy landings Churchill argued against invading France. For him the priority was the Mediterranean. In the end the Americans insisted D-Day went ahead.

NO ONE can deny the bravery of the Americans, British, Canadians, Poles and others who went ashore in Normandy. My own father was offshore in a warship covering the landings. He had volunteered at the outset of war because he saw it as a fight against fascism.

But for the rulers of America, Britain and Russia it was not a war against fascism or for democracy. It was a war for imperial gain and over the division of the globe. Winston Churchill had no problem with fascism. In 1927, on a visit to the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini, he stated, ‘If I had been an Italian, I am sure I should have been wholeheartedly with you from start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.’

Mussolini’s declaration of war against Britain did not change Churchill’s esteem. Commenting on Mussolini’s fall Churchill wrote, ‘He was, as I had addressed him at the time of the fall of France, ‘the Italian lawgiver’. The alternative to his rule might well have been a Communist Italy.’

Within two months of D-Day British forces were fighting the Greek resistance, which had single-handedly liberated the country, alongside the forces that had served the Nazi occupation regime.

Britain and the US went out of their way to reassure the supposedly neutral fascist dictatorship of Franco in Spain that they meant him no harm, despite the presence of Spanish troops alongside Hitler’s in Russia. Major American multinationals like IBM and Ford made vast profits from dealing with the Third Reich. Ford’s German subsidiary was deeply implicated in the Holocaust.

The Russian leader had signed a pact with Hitler in 1939 partitioning Poland between them and guaranteeing Hitler supplies of war materials vital to his war effort.

From 1942 onwards the leaders of the three Allied powers met to haggle over the post-war division of Europe, with no reference to the people of the continent. After the war the Americans, British and Russians rushed to recruit Hitler’s spy chiefs and rocket scientists.

Today in Italy the party which is the ‘spiritual heir’ of Mussolini, the ‘post-fascist’ National Alliance, is part of Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition government. Its leader, Fini, who described Mussolini as ‘the greatest statesman of the 20th century’, is deputy prime minister.

THE FIRST World War saw Wall Street take over from the City of London as the world’s financier after Britain had to go cap in hand to the US for loans to subsidise its war effort.

The Second World War saw the US emerge as the global industrial power. The war years were the greatest period of economic expansion in US history. Its economy increased by 50 percent. Today’s close connection between the Pentagon and US big business was the product of those years. The War Production Board was created in January 1942 staffed by businessmen. They decided the war materials that were to be ordered and placed those orders with the future multinational companies who paid their wage packet.

In the Second World War, far from being brothers in arms, the US and Britain were warring allies. America did not ‘enter the war’. The war entered America with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Before that the Roosevelt administration had favoured aiding Britain’s survival as a means of blocking Germany becoming a mega-power on the world stage. That was despite the advice of the US ambassador in London Joseph Kennedy (father of President John F Kennedy) who was sympathetic to the Nazis and believed Britain could not escape defeat.

The first piece of aid America delivered was 50 redundant battleships. For that Britain had to hand over its naval bases in the Caribbean. Before the Second World War Britain had created a protected trade area round its empire, Argentina and other parts of the globe. Competitors like the Americans were kept out by extra duties on the goods they tried to sell.

American wartime aid came at the price of Britain liquidating whole chunks of its foreign investments in America and globally, dismantling its trade bloc and accepting free trade-in other words the right of US multinationals to trade at will globally.

Britain, its former colonies and the Western European states had to sign up to the pillars of today’s neo-liberal world order-GATT, the IMF and the World Bank. Furthermore the Americans moved to liquidate British control of Middle Eastern oil. The key was Saudi Arabia.

The US opened an embassy there in 1942 and then its first military base. Britain and America competed to buy the loyalty of the House of Saud, the Saudi royal family. Churchill sent a gold-plated Rolls-Royce. But by the end of the war the Saudi royals were in the Americans’ pockets.

To the east the Americans begged Russia to declare war on Japan, as the US was facing a tough battle and feared the new atomic bomb might not be ready. As Russian troops advanced into China and the north of Japan the Americans grew nervous. They knew the Japanese, whose cities and economy had been devastated by firebombing, had decided to surrender.

But the US went ahead with dropping two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a warning to Stalin not to overreach the mark. The US in 1945 had emerged as the world’s superpower, having liquidated British global power.

Do you have a view? Send it to: [email protected]

Anti-war legacy

I WAS one of the many thousands who took part in the Normandy landings. Many of us were about 20 years old but living in that period we knew we were fighting the brutal Nazi fascist regime. I was a naval seaman on a British torpedo boat so we did not land.

But I shall never forget the first day and the many friends who died, especially on Omaha beach. I shall not forget all those on the Russian and Italian fronts, and those in the Burmese jungles.

I have felt a sense of responsibility since 1945 that those who can should oppose the lies and deception that lead to war. We should also oppose the elaborate propaganda that is used to whitewash the real objectives.

D J DAVIES, DMX, RN 509954

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