Stalin, U.S. and Allied military deaths, and the D-Day Memorial

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By James Morrison

Joseph Stalin bears varying degrees of responsibility for the deaths of over 37,000 American and over 60,000 Allied military personnel, plus the wounding of hundreds of thousands of others, with thousands more being imprisoned or missing in action.

    The plan to erect a bust of Stalin on a pedestal—a place of honor—at the revered National D-Day Memorial should provoke outrage in all American and Allied veterans, their families, and the public at large.

     Bedford should not gain the notorious distinction of being the first and only community in America ever to erect and display a bust of Joseph Stalin on a pedestal for the world to see. The former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have torn down their statues of Stalin. History should not be reversed in Bedford.

     The veterans, citizens, and elected leaders of Bedford City and Bedford County should demand that the president and board of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation terminate the plan to erect the bust of Stalin. (The local American Legion post has expressed its opposition.)

    The city of Bedford assisted the foundation with acquiring the property, and the city owns much of the overall site and dedicates city-owned land near the school for use as part of the site. The city of Bedford, thus, has an involvement and responsibility in what occurs at the memorial.

    The foundation president has recently indicated the intent to erect the Stalin bust by the end of the summer, so action should be taken now.

    The deaths and injury of American and Allied military personnel are only one of the reasons why the plan should be terminated. Stalin is one of the most reviled dictators in history, ranking with Hitler and Mao in responsibility for millions of deaths. He helped start World War II by rejecting British and French efforts to enlist his support for Poland and, instead, signed a non-aggression pact with Germany and agreed with Hitler to divide Poland. Stalin’s forces invaded Poland in September 1939 just 16 days after Germany did. Stalin’s forces went on to invade Finland, the Baltic States, and part of Romania. On Stalin’s order, 22,000 leaders of the Polish military and other elites were murdered in the Katyn Forest in 1940.

    After WWII, Stalin enslaved Eastern Europe, and he started the Cold War which led to the deaths of U.S. and Allied military personnel and Allied civilians.

    The Stalin bust diverts resources and attention from the memorial’s purpose—“to honor the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied forces of D-Day, 6 June 1944.” It would be a travesty for the memorial to display a bust of Stalin when there is no statuary of D-Day participants from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Air Forces, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and ten of the D-Day Allies whose flags fly at the memorial. The bust would be counterproductive in terms of visitors, donations, volunteers, and prospects for the National Park Service taking over the memorial.  


Stalin and the Cold War

    Stalin was personally instrumental in starting the Cold War, which began after World War II and continued for decades past Stalin’s death in March 1953. Many American military personnel died during the Cold War, as did Allied service personnel and civilians.

    In the last five years of Stalin’s life, from 1948-1953, he ordered the blockade of West Berlin, which led to the Berlin Airlift; oversaw the downing of American military aircraft flying reconnaissance missions over international waters on the periphery of the Soviet Union, and supported the North Korean invasion of South Korea and the entry of China into that war, which was resisted by the United States and other members of the United Nations. Stalin established a hostile policy that the USSR was to continue after his death.

Berlin blockade and airlift

     In June 1948, in an attempt to gain control of those portions of West Berlin administered by the U.S, U.K., and France, Stalin ordered troops to blockade the Allies from using road, rail, and water routes across East Germany to West Berlin. To feed and sustain the two million West Berliners and Allied forces in Berlin, the Allies organized the Berlin Airlift. Over a 15-month period, the U.S. and Allied militaries flew over 277,000 flights into Berlin, delivering some 2.3 million tons of food, coal, and other supplies to West Berlin. Soviet forces harassed some of the flights. At the airlift’s peak, planes were landing almost every 30 seconds. The blockade and airlift ended, respectively, in May and September 1949, when Stalin backed down.

     Over the course of the airlift, primarily because of crashes, there were 101 fatalities, including 31 American and 40 British military personnel.


Downing of American

reconnaissance aircraft

    In the early 1950s, Soviet aircraft shot down a number of American military aircraft flying reconnaissance in international waters on the periphery of the USSR. While sources are sketchy, from 1950-1952, five American aircraft appear to have been shot down, killing a total of some 50 crew members. After Stalin died in 1953, and until 1956, another five American military aircraft appear to have been shot down.

Korean War

    On June 25, 1950, in an attempt to unite Korea, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. Stalin supported the invasion and helped sustain the war.

    Pulitzer-prize-winning author David Halberstam, in The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, wrote of Stalin’s involvement. According to Halberstam, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung was the driving force for the invasion, and Moscow archives suggest that Stalin was “more the accommodator that the instigator.” In many instances the weapons for North Korea’s forces “had been newly manufactured in Russia and shipped to them specifically for use in this offensive.” When things went bad for North Korea, Kim sought Soviet troops. Stalin, instead, pressed for China to send troops, offering to provide materiel and provide air protection over Chinese territory near Korea. Later, after the Chinese entered the war, Stalin pressed China to be obstinate in the war, and only after Stalin’s death in March 1953 was it possible to conclude a truce in July 1953. 

    Under United Nations auspices, 16 countries sent troops and 41 others sent military equipment, food, or other supplies to help South Korea.

     The United States marshaled 5,720,000 military personnel to serve during the Korean War. Of these, 33,652 were killed in battle, 3,262 died of other causes, and 103,284 suffered wounds that were not mortal, according to the Department of Defense.

    Bedford County, according to unofficial accounts, had 172 men serve in the Korean War. Three of these were killed or died in service; their names are on the memorial plaque inside the door of the Bedford County Courthouse. Twenty-one were wounded, and two were prisoners of war.

    Our South Korean ally suffered over 58,000 military personnel killed, over 175,000 wounded, and over 166,000 missing or taken prisoner. About one million South Korean civilians were killed, and many millions were made homeless. Other Allied military serving as part of the United Nations force suffered over 3,000 dead, 11,000 wounded, and 2,700 missing or taken prisoner.


    To erect the first bust of Stalin in America and to do so at the revered National D-Day Memorial, which honors U.S. and Allied veterans, flies in the face of history, reason, and common sense. People in the Bedford community and beyond should demand that the foundation terminate its plan to erect the bust of Stalin.

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    Morrison is a veteran, Legionnaire, retired senior executive in the Office of the Secretary of Defense with responsibilities for policy toward the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, author of Bedford Goes to War, and a volunteer tour guide at the National D-Day Memorial. He lives in Monet