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Goodbye to Joseph Stalin!
And, good riddance!
Well, not quite. Uncle Joe is still at the National D-Day Memorial. They just took his bust off its pedestal. After spending a couple of months scratching his head, Robin Reed, the National D-Day Foundation’s executive director finally put his shoe back on and made a decision. Sort of.
The Stalin bust is being stored somewhere and, like the Terminator, it’ll be back. Uncle Joe’s bronze visage is slated to reappear with the busts of other Allied political leaders next year in “a more appropriate venue.”
Nobody’s satisfied with this. A friend of mine from Roanoke wrote on his Facebook page, “They need to ship that thing on a one way trip to Russia!” I can say with absolute confidence, however, that the Russians certainly won’t want it.
Mr. Reed’s sort-of-a-decision may be a sort-of-an-admission that the thinking behind the way the sculpture is being used at the Memorial, as a training aid, is flawed. When people see a bronze statue, or a bronze bust on a pedestal, they don’t see it as a training aid. They are left with the impression that the person is being honored. This is the way most American veterans have reacted. This is the way most Americans who are not veterans have reacted. This is the way Poles have reacted. This is the way Russians have reacted. The Americans have reacted with anger. The Poles and Russians think that we are totally nuts for honoring the man who did terrible things in their countries.
The Soviet Union did play a significant role on D-Day, even though there were no Red Army soldiers there that day. If it had not been for the Red Army, there would have been a lot more German soldiers there on June 6, 1944, and the following weeks. The Germans knew we were coming, we just fooled them about where the landing would be and when it would take place. That may have not made as much difference if they had at their access substantially more troops to throw into the Battle of Normandy following the landing. As it was, thanks to the Red Army, a large portion of the German Army was very busy on the Eastern Front, mostly getting shot full of holes by the Russians.
Stalin also played a direct role in D-Day because Winston Churchill and top British military commanders, unlike Franklin Roosevelt and American military commanders, did not want to do a cross-Channel invasion. They wanted to piddle around in the Mediterranean. Roosevelt and his military advisers, however, felt that the only way to bring American power to bear on Germany, and to win the war, was to land in France and head for the German border. Stalin, along with Roosevelt, was pressing for this and the only thing that appears to have changed Churchill’s mind was the real threat, in 1943, that Stalin would make a separate peace with Hitler.
There are better ways to depict this Soviet role than a bronze bust of Joseph Stalin on a pedestal. One way would be a bronze bas-relief of one of the Big Three conferences attended by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Another would be a bronze statue of a Red Army soldier. These were the guys who died by the hundreds of thousands on the battle fields of the Eastern Front.
Or, maybe they can just drop the sculpture idea all together and haul in a Soviet IS-2 tank. The IS-2 was able to go toe-to-toe with the best German tanks, and destroy them. One of these big Russian tanks, with its high velocity 122mm gun would certainly be an attention-getter.
Whatever is done to depict the Soviet role on D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, trying to tell it with a bronze bust of a monster on a pedestal sends the wrong message.