The way in which leaders remember the past is how they tell us their vision of the future. This is evident in how Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Barack Obama celebrated the defeat of Nazi Germany. May 8th, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, or “V-E Day, Victory in Europe Day.” For Putin, V-E Day was used to enforce his vision that his country is one of strength and greatness. Putin showed his own people and the world that his nation will rise to meet any challenge with military force. For Obama, V-E Day was used to enforce his idea that the U.S.A. was grateful to be a part of a group of countries that were victorious. Obama showed Americans and the world that the U.S.A. will play a shrinking role in world events.
On May 8th, 1945, the United States of America, and countries around the world, celebrated the official end of World War II in Europe. Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered its armed forces to the Allies of World War II (United States of America, Great Britain, and The Soviet Union). World War II is the deadliest conflict in history, involved nearly 80% of the world’s population, and over 55,000,000 people were killed. The United States of America led the Allied forces fighting in Western and Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia, and the Soviet Union conquered Germany from the East. Without America’s sacrifice and leadership, no historian has ever argued that Nazi Germany would have been defeated.
Last week in Russia, President Vladimir Putin led the celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe in Victory Day Parades throughout the country. The parade in Moscow featured over 16,000 Russian soldiers, tanks, missiles, and impressive military hardware. It was the largest military parade in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Throughout Russia, there were over 20 such parades, featuring over 80,000 soldiers and impressive weaponry.
In the United States, President Obama marked the day in comments he gave to the Air Force football team. Also, National Security Advisor Susan Rice “conveyed the gratitude of the U.S. nation to the Allied countries” at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
President Putin sees his country as a leader in the world, wants to have people forget about the horrors of communism the Soviet Union inflicted on the globe during the 20th century, and is willing to use the Russian military to conquer its neighbors. In the past few years, Russia has invaded Ukraine, killed thousands, implemented martial law on conquered people, and imposed its will on Ukrainians. Russian airplanes continually invade airspace of its neighbors, and Russia is supporting the ruthless dictator Assad of Syria, as well as supporting the terrorist regime in Iran. Meanwhile, there is no freedom of speech in Russia, as dissenting journalists are murdered.
American President Obama sees his country as one of many, “leading from behind,” wants to have people forget the U.S. leadership in great conflicts such as World War II and the Cold War, and wants the Americans to retreat. In the past few years, America has withdrawn its forces in Iraq and allowed ISIS to invade and reconquer land held by American and Iraqi forces. Obama backed down from an American threat to use military force to punish Syrian dictator Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people (Assad is still using these weapons against Syrians). The U.S.A. has lost allies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and the President has done nothing to regain American trust in those regions.
Celebrations of V-E Day are more than just honoring those who served their country. These events are calculated to show what each country values, and how each country views itself. Putin’s Russia is an aggressive country that is eager to use its military to exert influence in the world. Putin’s Russia wants to ignore or its communist past, silence its detractors, and expand. Obama’s America is a weakened country that is embarrassed of its past and eager to retreat. Obama’s America wants to deny its role in defeating communism and expanding liberty, silence those who honor the U.S., and radically transform itself. Which of these visions prevail may determine the direction of the world for the next half century.
What happened on May 8th, 1945?
How did President Putin of Russia celebrate it?
How did President Obama celebrate it?
How does the author of this editorial think this tells us of how Putin and Obama view their own country?
What is your opinion of how the U.S.A. and how Russia remembered this day?
By John De Gree. Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.
August 6th, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the world’s first use of the atomic bomb. On August 6th, 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, the U.S.A. dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Within 6 days, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito unconditionally surrendered to America because of “a new and most cruel bomb.” Since the dropping of these two bombs, debates have occurred over whether America was justified in its actions. Was it moral or immoral to drop atomic bombs on civilian populations? Was the entire country of Japan at war against the U.S.A. or was it just the military? How many American and Japanese deaths would have happened had America invaded Japan?
In the early years of the war, American scientists, along with German scientists who had defected from Nazi Germany, approached the American government and demanded that the U.S.A. start an atomic weapons project. These scientists knew that Germany was developing an atomic bomb, and they were afraid to have Hitler discover the weapon before Germany could be defeated. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed with the scientists, and approved of what would be called The Manhattan Project. The U.S.A. worked together with the United Kingdom and Canada to develop the atomic bomb. During the development of the weapon, Soviet spies secretly gathered intelligence over the progress of The Manhattan Project.
On May 8th, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered to allied forces, and the war in Europe was over. However, the war in Asia continued. Though Allied forces, led by the U.S.A., were winning the war against Japan by taking back islands in the Pacific, Americans were wary of an invasion of mainland Japan. Some predicted the costs of an invasion to number at least 1,000,000 American lives, and many more Japanese casualties.
During World War II, Japan operated under a medieval warrior’s mindset. Under this philosophy, honor to one’s family and country superseded all other values, including life. For example, at the Battle of Iwo Jima, of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers, only 216 were taken prisoner. Some who were taken prisoner had been knocked unconscious or were disabled. To the Japanese, a soldier who surrendered was considered less than human. Thus, when Americans surrendered to Japanese forces, they were brutally tortured. And, when Japan conquered other nations, Japanese systematically committed war atrocities. An invasion of Japan would mean an entire Japanese population fighting to the death against an Allied army led by America.
Before the U.S.A. dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, it dropped over 5 million leaflets on Japanese cities. This leaflet read:
“Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America’s humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.”
After America bombed Hiroshima, it dropped these leaflets:
America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet.We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.
We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.
Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better and peace-loving Japan.
You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.”
Six days after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, Emperor Hirohito unconditionally surrendered. Following World War II, the U.S.A. helped Japanese write a new Constitution, modeled after the U.S. Constitution. Japanese renounced its medieval warrior’s philosophy, and to see what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, please take a look at the attached images:
Questions: 1. Who was the U.S.A. at war against in World War II? 2. Which country did America first defeat? 3. Who convinced the U.S.A. to start The Manhattan Project? 4. What are some of the questions Americans debate and discuss regarding the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan? 5. What is your opinion about the U.S.A. dropping the atomic bombs on Japan?
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