Статья почетного консула России в Денвере Д.Палмиери, опубликованная в газете «The Villager» (Денвер, шт.Колорадо).
May 1, 2020
“World War 2, When Moscow and Washington Marched Together”
May 8, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of Victory Day in Europe (VE Day). It is celebrated on May 9 in Russia because the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender occurred late May 8, 1945 and it was after midnight in Moscow.
Gala celebrations that have been in the works for years had to be postponed. Many military parades, ceremonies and large crowds were planned marking the 75th Diamond Jubilee of the defeat of Nazi Germany. But Russia, Europe and the U.S. had to put everything on hold because of COVID-19. A Denver group of World War 2 veterans led by The Greatest Generations Foundation had to cancel plans to travel to Moscow’s Red Square. Denver’s Fox 31 reported all were disappointed, but hope for rescheduling later in the year. Fox quoted Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov, “We should remember, we should respect, we should say to them, ‘Thank you very much to those who sacrificed with their lives.’ “
Denver is lucky to still have many veteran survivors of the war, both Americans and emigres from countries of the former Soviet Union. They will all be remembered with special gratitude and appreciation on May 8.
World War 2 broke out in 1939. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union hoped to stay out of the war. But Germany and Japan, the lead Axis fascist powers, along with Italy, had other plans. Each country was drawn into the war in 1941. On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union according to Operation Barbarossa, the opening chapter of a grand plan to conquer Russia. The German General Staff set as its strategic objective the destruction of the Red Army in three months and capture of Moscow. For the Americans, the “day of infamy that will live forever” was December 7, 1941, morning of the surprise military attack by the Imperial Japanese navy on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu.
These attacks drew each country into the war, the U.S. starting in the Asian theater, and the Soviet Union in Europe. From June 1941 until June 1944, the Red Army bore the full brunt of the Wehrmacht and suffered millions of casualties and the destruction of its most productive and developed territories and largest cities Some of the most memorable battles were fought in Europe, including the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the bloodiest battles in war history, the turning point of the war; the Battle of Kursk, one of the greatest all-time tank battles; the 900 Day Siege of Leningrad, a blockade which constituted one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history. The western territories of Russia, including Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and Moscow, lay in ruins.
The Russians were happy and grateful when the Americans opened up the Second Front with D-Day, launched by Allied forces in northern France with paratrooper beach landings in Normandy. Stalin’s pleas for three years were finally answered. In the end, the Soviet Union suffered harsh costs of war, 28 million soldiers and civilians lost. The Americans suffered 400,000 casualties. The Germans suffered 75% of their wartime losses fighting the Red Army. The western portion of the Soviet Union lay in smoking ruins, from bombings, fighting, and ruthless Nazi scorch and burn policies.
In his memoirs President Eisenhower described the carnage. “When we flew into Russia, in 1945, I did not see a house standing between the western borders of the country and the area around Moscow. Through this overrun region, Marshall Zhukov told me, so many numbers of women, children and old men had been killed that the Russian Government would never be able to estimate the total.”
As American and Russian troops battled towards Germany together after June 1944, they finally reached each other April 25, 1945 on the Elbe River near Torgau in Germany. This marked a huge step towards ending the war. With the Americans advancing from the West and the Soviets from the East, their meet-up signaled doom for the Reich. The “handshake of Torgau” between American soldier William Robertson and Soviet soldier Alexander Silvashenko is one of the most historic photos of the war. American and Soviet soldiers were overjoyed. They embraced and renewed joint efforts to finish off the Third Reich once and for all.
A rare joint statement by President Trump and President Putin was issued by the White House on April 25, the occasion of the American and Soviet troop meeting on the Elbe River. It read in part: “The ‘spirit of the Elbe’ is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause. As we work today to confront the most important challenges of the 21st century, we pay tribute to the valor and courage of all those who fought together to defeat fascism. Their heroic feats will never be forgotten.”
As we express gratitude for all who suffered and died in World War 2, and as we thank surviving veterans and their families, and all of those no longer here, we are reminded that Americans and Russians need to work together in a complex world to ensure peace and security. We need to agree to find common ground and focus on areas of cooperation and mutual benefit. Washington would be well advised to facilitate President Trump’s instincts towards normalizing U.S.-Russian bilateral relations.
And we might take heed of the advice of British Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery, among the most decorated military leaders of World War 2, and the most prominent and successful of all British commanders. Speaking to the British House of Lords in 1962 he said: “Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: ‘Do not march on Moscow.’ Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. . . . I do not know whether your Lordships will know Rule 2 of war. It is: ‘Do not go fighting with your land armies in China.’ “
Dr. Deborah A. Palmieri has lived and worked mostly in Colorado since 1959. She has written several books on Russia pertaining to business and economics. She holds a doctorate from Columbia University. She is Colorado’s first Honorary Consul of Russia and has held the post since 2007.