The greatest cataclysm in history grew out of ancient and ordinary human emotions – anger and arrogance and bigotry, victimhood and the lust for power, and it ended because other human qualities – courage and perseverance and selflessness, faith, leadership and the hunger for freedom, combined with unimaginable brutality to change the course of human events.
The Second World War brought out the best and the worst in a generation and blurred the two so that they became at times almost indistinguishable. In the killing that engulfed the world from 1939 – 1945, between fifty and sixty million [50,000,000 – 60,000,000] people died – so many, and in so many different places, that the real number will never be known.
More than eighty-five million [85,000,000] men and women served in uniform, but the overwhelming majority [killed] were civilians – men, women and children – obliterated by the arithmetic of war.
The United States of America was relatively fortunate [compared to other major nations in the conflict], losing over 405,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines…. American cities were not destroyed. American civilians were never really at risk.
But without American power – without the sacrifice of American lives – the struggle’s outcome would have been very different.
The war touched every family on every street in every town in America — towns like Luverne, Minnesota, Sacramento, California, Waterbury, Connecticut and Mobile, Alabama – and nothing would ever be the same again.
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
What shall be our legacy? What will our children say? Let them say of me I was one who believed In sharing the blessings I received Let me know in my heart When my days are through America America I gave my best to you
~ excerpt from “American Anthem” by Gene Scheer, performed by Norah Jones in “The War,” the 2007 Ken Burns documentary of World War II.
May we never forget! © May 28, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.