Sea History 104 - Spring 2003

Page 11

Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill meet for the first time in 1943, FDR in the middle, as he usually was in the troubled but powerful alliance of Russia, the United States and Britain in WWII FDR and Churchill worked hard to get along with their difficult partner "Uncle Joe. "(National Archives) C ommunist trappings (for rhe nonce) to become rhe avuncular leader of whar was called rhe G rear Parrioric War. Britain, as well as rhe US, sent muchneeded supplies to support rhe Russian effort, m ost of rhem delivered by rhe dan gerous Murmansk run , aro und Germanoccupied No rway to Russ ian pons in rhe White Sea. T his was a gamble, when most expert opinion was rh ar Russia wo uld collapse. Bur by a narrow margin- perhaps rhe margin of Allied aid-Russia survived rhe German onrush to come back fighting. T he Japanese arrack ar Pearl H arbor in D ecember 194 1 pulled the US into the war. Hider helped our by declaring war against the US to help his Japanese ally. U nder Roosevelt, wirh rhe support of the Army's General George C. Marshall and rhe Navy's Admiral Ernes t] . King, the US held to irs ABC -1 pl an to tackle Germany first. Sims would have cheered this decision, fruit of an oceanic view backed by sound planning. Admiral King failed to give protection to shipping in American waters the priority ir needed due to his p rofessional preoccupation wirh rhe great naval battles taki ng place in the Pacifi c-and to his innate disrrusr of the British, which led him to hold back forces in case of British collapse. It took General M arshall to straighten rhis out with a forceful memo saying char unless effective convoys we re instituted immediately America wo uld be unable to deliver the punch of its growing armed forces overseas, where the war was . Marshall at first thought rh e U S Army should be thrown as hore in Europe in 1942, but British authorities said no, rhe W ehrmacht would wipe our rhe strongest forces the Allies could land. It was th erefore decided to invade Africa, a BritishAmerican effort which despite many difficulties wirh ill-trained forces confronting Germany's bes t, liberated Africa by the spring of 1943 and opened the way for the invasion of Sicily and Italy. Stalin was furious at the delays in the big invasion, mocking the troops held idle in England. H e ignored rhe fact rhar rhey held an equal number of Germans facing them in France. And he did nor acknowledge

rhar elite panzer troops had to be withdraw n from Russia to meer rheAllied fronts opened in Sicily and rhen Iraly. German forces in Iraly suffered losses rhey could nor afford and America's citizen armies gained viral experience. So rheAllies cleared up Afri ca and fo ught rheir way up rhe Italian peninsula, postpon ing rhe invasion of France until June 1944 . T his decision d id nor sir well wirh rhe American planners, leading Adm iral King to cur back landi ng craft production on the gro unds that the Brits wo uld never make the channel crossing to France. T his lefr General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had led rhe Mediterranean campaigns, confro nting a shortage of sea transport to deliver rhe requi red puncha situation he discovered when he reported fo r du ty in London wirh little over three mo nths ro go till D -Day landings in France. T he northern landi ngs were delayed fo r a month to await more ships, and the landings in southern Fran ce, meant to be concurrent, were delayed two and a half months. D -D ay finally came off on 6 June 1944. T he landings incl uded French soldiers who had joined rhe Allies in rhe African campaign, together with Canadians and other volunteers from rhe British Empire. Once as hore rhey could nor be stopped , though rherewas a severe bump in rhe road in rhe Bartle of rhe Bulge in D ecem ber, when the Wehrmachr rhrew its las t heavy punch ar US fo rces in rhe hope ofinflicring such losses rhe Allies wo uld settle fo r a negotiated peace. Bur rhe now well-led and seasoned G ls res isted tenaciously, upsetting the German timetable and wrecking their attack- and then rolling on. T his was the culmination of rhe ocean ic effort made possible by rhe US Navy, while ir fo ugh t and wo n gigantic battles in rhe Pacific and


rhe home front buil r rhe Liberty ships char delivered the supplies rhar kept Russia in rhe war, thro ugh suppl y lin es ra nging from rhe Barenrs Sea to the Persian G ulf.

What Really Won the War? Soviet R ussia was rhe dominant parmer in grinding down rhe power of rhe hirhertoinvincible Wehrmach r. Two thirds of rhe German army was always on rhe Russian fro m unril rhe fi nal monrhs of rhe war, when Hitler deliberately over-concentrated against rhe West in his des perate gamble to make rhe "effete" democracies recoil. T he war was wo n by an oceanic coalition drawing the forces of the liberal democracies together. T har was rhe winning srraregy, which benefirred grearly from rhe grindingencoumer between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia- and also made it possible for Soviet armies to keep rhe field. D espite Allied di ffe rences Roosevelt, Churchill and their staffs perfor med admirably in executing their oceanic srraregy. In wa r rhe fo rces of freedom were nor found waming, and in peace rhe p ro mises of rhe Atlamic Charter were kept, except in lands under Soviet occupation. And rhar uni red resolve proved out again in the decades of rhe Cold W ar, which ended peacefully in rhe dissolution of the Soviet empire and the liberation, ar las t, of Eastern Europe. T he wo rld had no better guarantor of peace and freedom in the pas r stormy century rhan rhar oceanic coalition of free peoples, backed by rhe power of rhe US Navy. T har situation remains true today . .t Note: D iscussion is invited. Please write the author at NMHS for further information on the development of "The American Achievement by Sea, " of which these articles in Sea H istory are just a p reliminary sketch.