Peter Allen’s June 11 letter, “British contribution on D-Day,” begins fairly enough; he objects to the French government’s billing the anniversary of D-Day “as an American-French event.” Assuming this is accurate, Allen makes a good point. The British contribution, including providing the necessary rendezvous for the D-Day landing, is undeniable. The problem with Allen’s letter is that he claims “the Americans” have for decades been trying to edit the British out of the history of World War II.
First of all, if by his reference to “the Americans” he means most Americans with an interest in the history of World War II, his statement is absurd. In the 1950s, the very long American documentary “The Twentieth Century” actually named Winston Churchill “Man of the Century.”
Sometime later I remember my history books on World War II — most written by Americans — and my American history professor stressing that the British resolutely faced up to Hitler while the U.S. Congress refused to join the effort beyond the Lend-Lease Program for more than two years — and then only because Hawaii had been attacked.
But my main objection to Allen’s letter is his attempt to demonstrate that the British contributed more than the Americans. This is mean-spirited and silly. Allen explains that “the Americans advanced 1½ miles (2.4 km) that day; the British and Canadians, 6 miles (9.5 km), despite the fact that they were counterattacked.”
Let’s assume Allen’s numbers are correct. This wasn’t an Olympic event. The combatants all did their job, and a lot of them were wounded or killed. Allen doesn’t itemize the casualties, so here is a quote from the Portsmouth D-Day Museum: “The Allied casualty (wounded and dead) figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead.” Broken down by nationality, the usual D-Day casualty figures are approximately 2,700 British, 946 Canadians and 6,603 Americans. Recent painstaking research by the U.S. National D-Day Memorial Foundation shows higher fatality figures: 2,499 Americans and 1,915 from other Allied nations.
My point is hardly that the Americans contributed more — only that they did their part and that the number of casualties might explain their slower progress.
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