The Second World War
THE PATH OF DESTRUCTION
One of the results of the 2nd World War has been the continual intake into Australia of migrants from many parts of the world. This has, to some extent, been good for the country.
Of late, however, not all migrants or the children of migrants, have fitted into the Australian way of life. Over a hundred people from Australia, for example, have gone overseas to join Islamic State.
I had a Polish neighbor who was a reminder of the 2nd World War. Also she was a reminder of Australia's part in dealing with the refugees this war produced.
Her father was a professor, an intellectual. The Germans who invaded Poland during the war had no time for such people. Her family were kicked out of their traditional home and forced to find another place to live. They also had to line up for food rations.
Was she Jewish? No. She was Catholic. The Germans at the time, however, were not interested in books in Polish or those who write them. The books written by her father plus whatever else was in their library were destroyed as possibly containing subversive material.
Today this past neighbor writes poetry in Polish for the Australian Polish community. She is living in a nursing home in New South Wales, Australia. She worked hard to make a home for herself 'down under'.
Strangely enough, she married a German but kept her Polishness over the years. She had children. One of them works in a hospital. Another is an engineer. She has not forgotten what the Germans did to her home but she has never blamed all Germans - just the brutes who could destroy books.
The Second World War saw the displacement and/or murder of millions of people. Many of the survivors were never to return to their homes again but to seek out new homes in other countries. One of these 'other countries' was Australia.
Today there are people living in Australia who were born in places such as Poland, Italy and Greece. They moved to my country soon after the war and have contributed to the building up of the country.
After the Second World War there was a great movement by government to further populate Australia. The catch phrase at the time was 'populate or perish'.
There were also people in Europe who had no home and no future where they had grown up. Thus not all who survived the horrors of World War Two in Europe wanted to stay in Europe. Australia offered for many a fresh, new start.
In 1945 there was a weapon so devastating that it would make nations pause before using it for fear that it might in turn be used on them. The Americans had it to themselves for a while but that did not last. Once the Reds were known to have it the Cold War was on for young and old.
Fascism came into its own in the 1920s going into the 1930s and was practiced everywhere including the USA and Australia. Yes, there were Nazi bunds in the USA and there was also a Nazi rally in New York in the years leading up to war.
Australia had its own home grown brand of Fascism as depicted in the 1923 novel by D. H. Lawrence titled Kangaroo. Of course the fascist organisation mentioned in Kangaroo is fictional but there were such organisations around at the time. By 1945 many people who thought fascism a good idea had turned away from it for good.
Since World War Two there is more communication going on between nations and also individuals. Whether the news that gets through to the general public is any less laced with propaganda or not is debatable. My view is that propaganda has become more subtle over time and thus harder to detect.
Indoctrination into a national way of thinking about the world was something practiced in just about every classroom during WW2. We would be fools to assume that it doesn't go on today.
Many young people in Australia right now, for example, believe in the federal government's line on immigration because this belief has been fed into them at an early age. A similar government line was fed to me when I was young.
Travel became cheaper after WW2 and the planes that took people to various tourist destinations became more stable and the general service of the airways more professional. During WW2, there were leaps and bounds in aircraft design. We are still enjoying the benefits.
Countries such as Japan and China, which had little if any importance to most people living in Western style countries, took on more importance because of the war. After 1945, neither Japan nor China could be ignored by the Australian people.
Present day India and Pakistan are a result of WW2. Britain may have held onto India longer if not for the drain on resources of fighting both the Germans and Japanese during the war.
The seeds planted after the First World War that would lead to the Vietnam War were watered during WW2. Americans fought alongside Vietnamese people against the Vichy French and the Japanese. Promises were made but not kept.
No way after WW2 were the Americans going to support any outfit that had anything to do with Communism or Communists. Also the future of Malaya ( to later become Malaysia) was, in some ways, decided by WW2.
The Nazi Holocaust prompted the Jews to form Israel after the 2nd World War even after initial opposition from the British. This has resulted, over the decades, in the Middle East being and remaining a rather unstable part of the world.
The Cold War started soon after the 2nd World War and was part of my childhood.
And all the above is only the tip of a great and glorious iceberg of how WW2 has influenced our lives and continues to do so.
FIGHTING IN THE SKY
OVERVIEW OF THE WAR
For Australians, New Zealanders and also the British, the 2nd World War began in 1939 and ended in 1945. For the Chinese it was a much longer war and, for the Americans a tad shorter.
British designers were working on fighter monoplanes before war was declared on Germany over the German invasion of Poland. The Spitfire and the Hurricane became available in time to save Britain. There were also bombers at the ready.
In 1939 there were still biplane fighters in service in Britain and Australia. The Swordfish, a slow biplane fighter capable of carrying a torpedo big enough to sink a submarine or a battleship, was the best the British navy had. It would eventually be replaced during the war by Spitfire variants and other monoplanes also capable of landing on aircraft carriers.
Even so, the Swordfish was needed in the battle to sink Germany's pride, the Bismark, and also in the early fight to keep shipping relatively safe from submarine attack. The Bristol Bulldog was another remnant from the biplane age and so was the Gladiator.
If not for the Schneider Cup race, an airplane race popular in the 1930s, the Spitfire might never have come into existence. As things stood, it was only just ready in time. There were, however, more Hurricanes in action during the Battle of Britain.
There were Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and Polish fighter pilots, as well as British, who fought to save Britain during this trying time.
Possibly the best well designed and least credited plane during the war was the Mosquito. One of the reasons for this was that it was of strange design. It was basically made of light wood in an age when even a combination of fighter bomber was generally metal based. Even so, it had a habit of completing its missions and of getting its pilots back to base in one piece. One can't really ask for more than that out of any wartime aircraft.
I can't think of an American fighter plane that really stood out during the First World War. It seems that American fighter pilots, though very good and considered among the best, fought in British and French aircraft. In the 1920s going into the 1930s, there wasn't much to be said for America's capabilities in fighter aircraft design.
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, however, all that changed dramatically. American designers and factories quickly came to the fore and, well before the war came to an end, the USA had the best air force in existence.
In the Pacific, aircraft carriers rather than battleships gained importance. The Japanese Zero was one of the best fighter aircraft to come out of the 1930s. By 1943, however, it was showing its age.
The Japanese had design ideas for better, more up to date fighters but not the resources to make them or. at any rate, make them in the kind of numbers that counted.
The Americans, on the other hand, had both the ideas and everything else required to continually improve in this vital area. American Hellcats and Corsairs chewed up and spat out many a Zero.
The Zero was fast for a 1930s plane but too easily exploded when its fuel tank was hit by enemy fire. By 1945 the best thing a Japanese pilot could do for his cause was to smash his plane into an American aircraft carrier. Many attempts to do so were made but there were few who succeeded.
Darwin was bombed by the Japanese during the war and two Japanese min-subs made their way into Sydney Harbor. Australians were fearful of invasion by the Japanese. This fear is in the art produced at the time. There were underground shelters made against runs by Japanese bombers that thankfully never eventuated.
It was Australian soldiers who stopped the advance of the Japanese in New Guinea thus putting to an end the possibility of future attacks upon Australian soil.
The war in Europe might have been won by the Germans if they had more jet fighters. It might have lasted longer if not for the legendary dam busters. The dam busters were bomber crews expert at low level bombing and were made up of British, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians.
There were Germans in 1944 who felt that surrender to the allies was the best option. Hitler, however, had the war continue into 1945 as a punishment to the German people for letting him down.
Two A bombs ended the war with Japan. It turned out that the Japanese emperor preferred surrender to the continued sacrifice of his people.
The war had brought Australians closer to the Americans. There had been successful trade with the USA going back to the 19th Century. In fact, during the American Civil War, a Confederate vessel sailed into Melbourne harbor in Victoria, Australia.
In the last years of the First World War, American soldiers fought beside Australians on the battlefield.
In the 1920s, American Blues, Ragtime and Jazz came into Australian homes via the record and the radio. Even so, it was during the 2nd World War that a lot of American ideas and expressions entered the Australian version of the English language. A tin became a can. Gaol was out and Jail, the more sensible spelling, was in. American movies became more and more popular.
Belief in the British Empire began to wain. More and more, Australians sought to stand on their own two feet. Migrants from countries such as Italy provided the backbone for a clothing industry that thrived for a while but, unfortunately, no longer thrives today.
LOST - THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN
Recovery from the war was slow. There had been much damage from German air raids.
Also Britain's connection with much of the British Empire had been weakened. Britain may have been one of the winners but winning had put her in a financial hole it was not going to be easy to climb out of.
The Polish pilots who had fought so well for the British during the Battle of Britain were somewhat short-changed by the British. After the defeat of the Germans, the Russians marched into Poland and the British didn't do a thing to stop them. It would have been very difficult, however, to get the British public at this time on side for a war with Russia or, for that matter, a war with anybody.
In the late 1940s, it was decided that India should have its independence. It was further decided that part of India would break away and become Pakistan. Thus Britain lost the jewel in Queen Victoria's crown.
THE AMERICANS WERE EXPECTING A SECOND GREAT DEPRESSION THAT DIDN'T EVENTUATE
American industry quickly changed from war time to peace time production. It was feared that there would be a great financial collapse swiftly leading to another great depression but this did not happen.
War bonds may have helped. Also there was the elation of having won the war.
New products came on the market and the 1950s became a time of prosperity marred somewhat by the Korean War. The USA was now a superpower in every sense of the word.
By the 1950s most Americans had television sets. The enjoyment of television, however, was somewhat marred by the fear of 'Reds under the bed' caused by Senator Joseph McCarthy.
THE RUSSIANS GOT THEIR HANDS ON THE A BOMB
Russian loses in terms of life during the 2nd World War were horrendous. Even so, Russia emerged as a new type of superpower capable of rivaling and even threatening the USA. It was Communist and was quite happy to gobble up smaller, weaker European countries. Mainland China turned red.
The brave polish fighter pilots who helped to keep Britain safe from German invasion returned to Poland to discover that it had been freed of German rule but was now ruled over by Russia. Poland now has its independence but those dark days of first German and then Russian occupation are not easily forgotten.
THE COLD WAR WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN MUCH WITHOUT GERMAN ROCKET KNOW HOW
Americans were not keen on repeating past mistrakes. The USA was determined not to treat Germany the way it had been treated after the First World War. Germany, at least the portion ran for a time by the Western victors, would not be allowed to slip into financial and social anarchy.
In the parts of Germany dominated by the west spy movies and anti-communist flicks became popular. The German people and the west could agree that Communism was wrong and also dangerous. Fear of Communism was a factor in Adolf Hitler's rise to power. It was also a factor in getting the Germans in the sectors controled by the west to have another go at democracy.
There was a long period of occupation. It was worse where the Russians were in charge. They had suffered greatly because of the Germans and were not keen on the Germans improving their lot in life.
Many a German scientist would be enticed into working for the USA. After all, in order to keep up with the other superpowers, a rocket and jet program was required. German scientists were also to work for the Russians.
When the Russians launched Sputnik 1, they started the space race. In 1969 the Americans landed men on the moon. Space exploration continues but the race is long over.
WINNERS AND LOSERS!
WHAT REMAINS OF THE LEGACY OF WORLD WAR TWO
If the emperor of Japan had not agreed to the surrender of Japan in 1945 there might not be a Japan. Certainly, there wouldn't be a nation with some financial muscle in the world today. The USA got Japan back on its feet for the same reasons Germany was aided. Today Japan, like the USA, is losing a lot of its financial power to mainland China.
The League of Nations was formed after the First World War in an attempt to prevent future large scale conflicts. President Woodrow Wilson wanted the USA to be a part of this organization from the start but the American people were against the idea. After the Second World War another attempt was made to create a world organization dedicated to peace and prosperity. It was called the United Nations. Not only did the USA decide to be a part of it straight off the mark, but the main headquarters came to be in New York, USA.
In recent years the USA has come to weaken the United Nations. The United Nations was against the invasion of Iraq because the existence of the weapons of mass destruction had not been sufficiently proven. The USA, with allies such as Australia, went in anyway thus defying the United Nations.
It is because both the USA and Russia had the A bomb that, in the 1950s and beyond, the Cold War between the Democracies and the Communists never heated up into a full scale Third World War. Neither the USA nor the Russian people wanted to destroy our planet.
Both Muslim and Christian fanaticism has increased throughout the world in the last two decades. The possibility that these fanatics might some day lay their hands on atomic weapons has also increased.
There have been some big budget movies made by fanatical Christians over the last ten years. In parts of the USA they have proven to be very popular.
Strange religious attacks upon science in the USA has also increased in recent times. In Great Britain Athiests have come to the fore to challenge any and all religious beliefs. Of course religion and science need not be against one another. There are Christians as well as members of other religions that also see themselves as scientists or scientifically minded.
Migration to Australia by people from nations where there is no control over population growth has also gone up over the decades since World War Two. Such migrants, it seems, will always be a headache and a detriment to the very planet itself.
There was a disturbing documentary a while back on Australian television. It depicted a woman who hadn't left the confines of her home, even to cross the road, in forty years. She had been reduced to nothing more than a baby factory with very little idea of what was going on in the world beyond the rooms she occupied. It is too cruel to imagine her as intelligent for then one has to imagine how she had suffered over that period of time. It is regrettable but one of her sons now lives in Australia. His father is obviously a monster. Hopefully the son doesn't take after the father.
Australians took in migrants during and after World War Two as much out of the goodness of our collective heart as to build up the country. Migrants were taken in after the Vietnam War because it was the right thing to do. It may, unfortunately, be the right thing to do today when it comes to refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan. Mind you, following this present logic trail of mine, such intakes should slow down or even stop once Australia stops following the USA into one petty war after another. By petty I mean conflicts that don't solve anything and only spoil countries and cost lives.
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