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Article posted: 4/16/2013 4:40 AM

Role of Soviet Union in World War II

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Role of Soviet Union in World War II

Regarding Richard Cohen's column on World War II, it is always interesting to think about "What if" scenarios throughout history. A willingness to do so demonstrates a better understanding of other times.


It is not uncommon to hear people state that the Soviet Union would eventually have prevailed against Nazi Germany by itself. Difficult to say -- certainly the war in the east would have been far different. The USSR survived 1941 pretty much on its own, and it was a very near thing.

Allied material support of the Red Army was significant, providing more than 20 percent of their armored vehicles, 30 percent of their aircraft, and well over half their wheeled transport.

By far, the single greatest contribution of the Western Allies to victory in Europe was the strategic bombing campaign. The point that is often missed is the effect of the strategic bombing campaign on German airpower. The Luftwaffe could not fail to oppose these bombers, and in doing so they were eventually swept from the skies. The numerically superior Red Army aircraft were cautious abut engaging German aircraft -- they simply lost heavily when they tried. Soviet air supremacy came to be mostly became they were unopposed -- the Luftwaffe being decisively engaged and eventually destroyed.

The focus of Mr. Cohen' article is not "who won World War II in Europe," and it is not clear that he believes the Soviet Union would have prevailed alone. It would take an extremely biased person to authoritatively say World War II in Europe could have been won without Great Britain, the Soviet Union or the United States. Each made an indispensable contribution. Mr. Cohen's assertion that the war was not won primarily by the U.S. is very supportable. That it was "more so" won by the Soviet Union is not.

Wes Polender Jr.

U.S. Army Colonel, Ret.

Charlottesville, Va.

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