Some things in the war in Ukraine have not changed since 1944

Review: Archie Henderson
D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, by Anthony Beevor (Penguin)
This is not a new book, having first appeared in 2009, but it has become relevant again after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This war, in spite of its current confined location, has taken on dimensions of World War 2, but with greater ferocity because of the weapons at the disposal of both sides. It is also revealing of the true nature of the Russian war machine, the indiscriminate use of young men employed as cannon fodder.
There is a myth, perpetrated mostly by Russia, that battlefield casualties in the last months of World War 2 were greater on the eastern front than in France. Anthony Beevor, historian and expert on sides of that war, debunks this most effectively in his book on D-Day.
Not that the Russians did not suffer in the defence of their homeland from 1942 and in the great counter-attacks from 1943. But many of those casualties were also inflicted by the Russians themselves – by NKVD troops shooting deserters and slackers out of hand.

After the war Russia, and its sycophants, tried to minimise the efforts of their Western allies in the second front, for which Joseph Stalin had been clamouring since 1943 and which took much pressure off the Red Army.
Such Russian cynicism was especially stark when the Red Army reached the outskirts of Warsaw, then deliberately paused so that the Wehrmacht could brutally eliminate the local uprising just as it was on the brink of success.
The story of Russian subjugation of most of eastern Europe for more than 50 years is a story for another day; Beevor’s book is about the invasion on the beaches of Normandy from June 6, 1944 to the liberation of Paris three months later.
He deals with the battles in detail without the minutiae destroying the story, which is well told, as with all Beevor’s books. In view of the situation in Ukraine, his descriptions of the horrors of war are especially apt.
It was a brutal struggle, on a par with Russia’s battles in east, and, yes, in Ukraine. The fighting in France became such a threat to Hitler that he could afford to switch panzer armies from the eastern front to the western – a massive decision which reflects well on the fighting quality of the Western allies so often denigrated after the war in Russian propaganda.
Through Beevor’s descriptions of battles we can begin to imagine what Ukrainians must be suffering today – soldiers and civilians alike.
And some things have not changed: as in 1944, artillery is playing a crucial role in the Ukraine war. For all the advanced missiles and aircraft, it is the gunner and the grunt who will decide this conflict, just as they were in that other European war which is now being reprised on its old battlefields.

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