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It’s been over a year now since Dr. William McIntosh, the former director of the National D-Day Memorial, stirred up all sorts of anger and discontent by putting up a bust of Uncle Joe at the National D-Day Memorial. I’m not talking about Joe Biden, I’m talking about another bolshevik, Joe Stalin.
I still remain of the opinion that this was an enormous mistake. The Poles thought it was crazy. The Russians thought it was crazy. The evening news anchors on NTV (the primary Russian TV network) introduced a story on it as a “big scandal.” News articles in Russian on-line publications at the same time never referred to it as a bust of Stalin. They always called it памятник Сталину — monument to Stalin.
When most people see a bust on a pedestal, they get the idea that the person portrayed is being honored. Stalin most definitely does not deserve to be honored. He was on Hitler’s side when the war started and attacked Poland, from the east, after the Germans had attacked from the west. He took advantage of his alliance with Nazi Germany to swallow the Baltic States, and would have done the same to Finland had not his German buddy turned on him. Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union is what brought Stalin over to the Allied side. He had no choice at that point.
It is true, however, that Stalin had a significant role in D-Day. There were no Russian soldiers on Omaha Beach, but, thanks to the Red Army, a lot of Germans weren’t there either. On June 6, 1944, the Russians were keeping 150 German divisions very busy on the Eastern Front. The Germans only had 66 divisions in the west and there wasn’t anything they could do about that. By that time, Germany was running out of Germans, in large part due to their heavy losses on the Eastern Front.
Nevertheless, putting a bust of Stalin on a pedestal was an inappropriate way of recognizing the Russian contribution. A bronze bas relief of one of the Big Three conferences would have been one way. Or, better yet, they could have put up a statue of a Russian soldier. Millions of them died in the war.
I still think that the National D-Day Memorial Foundation should simply admit that they made a mistake and get rid of the Stalin bust. Instead, they want to display it in a different venue, although I believe that the best venue for it would be beside the urinal in the men’s room.
Recently I was talking with a Korean War veteran named Bob VandeLinde.VandeLinde received the Silver Star for gallantry in that war, and still carries fragments from one of Stalin’s hand grenades in his leg, a reminder of that night. Stalin is the one who started that war, encouraging North Korea to invade South Korea and strong-arming the Chinese into joining in when the North Koreans were getting their butts kicked.
VandeLinde shares my feelings about Stalin and the Stalin bust. We also agree on the importance of the survival and success of the National D-Day Memorial. VandeLinde, who is a regular volunteer at the Memorial, is worried that the continued opposition to the Stalin bust is harming the Memorial. I’m worried about that too. Whatever happens concerning the bust, the Memorial must survive to tell the story of those old veterans when the day comes when none are left to tell it themselves.
VandeLinde is willing to accept the compromise of displaying the bust, along with the busts of the other Allied political leaders, in a different venue. I believe that he is correct and that it’s time for the opponents of the bust to declare a cease fire, at least long enough to see what the Foundation does.