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Bedford is internationally famous. Or, should I say internationally infamous.
I saw more news stories on the Stalin bust on Russian Internet news sites the Saturday before last. One begins, “, , ~,,f ,f ,ee,e -eOe e ',,e () < ,% e %,.” This reads, “Installation of a monument to Joseph Stalin on the grounds of the war memorial complex in the city of Bedford (USA) has caused a real scandal in American society.”
It amazes Russians that we would do such a thing. Uncle Joe is popular among Russian Communists, but there aren’t very many of them these days. Most Russians detest Stalin.
Meanwhile the local debate continues about the merits of including Stalin’s bronze likeness in the sculpture ensemble at the National D-Day Memorial. Meg Ballard, who was born and raised in Coventry, England, mentioned at a recent public forum some negative things about Winston Churchill. Meg ended up coming to Bedford because a young airman named Dave Ballard, a Bedford native, carried her back in the 1950s.
Meg was a young teen when the Germans bombed the city for 11 straight hours on Nov. 14, 1940, destroying 4,000 homes and killing 600 people. She noted that the British government knew the raid was coming, but Churchill chose to sacrifice the city so that the Germans wouldn’t know that the British had broken their Enigma code.
That was a strategic decision, however. Something that wasn’t excusable was his attitude toward India, which kept the Indian population from embracing the Allied cause. Churchill adamantly refused to loosen British rule in India. After Churchill received the Order of the Boot from British voters in an election in 1945, his successor, Clement Atlee did what Churchill refused to do, paving the way to Indian independence a few years after the war. Fortunately, the Japanese Army wouldn’t go along with the Japanese Navy’s plan to invade Ceylon in early 1942, or the course of WWII could have taken a very ugly turn in the Axis’ favor.
There were a few other things the British did that weren’t very good. In an effort to block Japan’s drive for Australia, a course the Japanese Navy took when the Army wouldn’t go along with an Indian Ocean initiative, Fleet Admiral Ernest King, America’s Chief of Naval Operations, asked Britain for two aircraft carriers to help out in the Coral Sea. We were reading Japanese military communications and knew they were coming. Britain refused and we ended up doing the job on our own. Later, during naval action around Guadalcanal in late 1942, Fleet Admiral King asked for a British aircraft carrier. They finally sent one, in the spring of 1943. This was too late to do any good.
This left Fleet Admiral King with a very sour attitude toward Great Britain. By 1944, when Britain offered naval units for the Pacific, King was of a mind to tell them where they could stick their navy. He went as far as to comment on the inferiority of British battleships and said that British naval units would only slow our fleet down. Intervention by President Roosevelt, for diplomatic reasons, forced King to accept elements of the Royal Navy.
Winston Churchill’s bust, however, is not causing a public relations catastrophe for the National D-Day Memorial. Nor is his bust’s presence at the Memorial making other parts of the world wondering where our heads are. The Stalin bust is doing that.
The time for Robin Reed, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation’s president, to ponder the issue is over. The longer he procrastinates, the more this ongoing PR disaster will grow.