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Subject: Philosophical question about battle commemoration... rss

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Drew Heath
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Triggered by this thread here...

(if you have a direct, familial link to a given battle, you're kind of disqualified from this question)

Why do people, such as the gentleman who posted the thread I linked, choose to commemorate certain battles?

I'd imagine that within WW2 alone, the determined scholar could find a battle to commemorate for every day of the year.

So why, to use his example, D-Day and not... The Makin Raid?

Is it because of body count? because of strategic value? just a quirk of cultural inheritance that People A passionately commemorate Event B but generally forget Event C?

I don't commemorate any particular day/battle from WW2, rather, I just try and keep the sacrifices made by everyone involved generally in mind.

Maybe it's a generational thing?
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Ian Scrivins
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In any history some events are far better known than others, I hadn't heard of the Makin Raid for instance, and I'm very much a lover of history.

It's really a question of how widely events are reported at the time, subsequent portrayals in popular films and the simple emotional attachment to what happened. For instance, in Britain the Dams Raid and the Great Escape are remembered and celebrated far beyond their real contribution to the outcome of WW2.
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Alfred Wallace
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This discussion could go really bad places really quickly.

I'll discuss the Civil War, since that's what I know best.

Partly, you can start with the Gettysburg Address:

ALincoln63 wrote:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


So, the idea of commemorating a battle is to serve as a reminder for the living about the cause the soldiers died for.

But why Gettysburg? It's a big flashy battle with the highest casualty count of any Civil War battle, which gives it a certain resonance. It helped somewhat that it was a Union victory in the north, which helped with politics. (Eventually a "united soldiery" notion would help establish lieux de memoire in southern battlefields.)

https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/citd/holtorf/2.6.html

(The notion of what a lieu de memoire is has changed since Nora invented the term, but that's the basics.)

But why all the monuments? Since it became so big, each unit wanted to make sure it was part of the commemoration, that it had a plot in the cemetery, so to speak. A lot of the units had close ties to certain geographical areas--even more focused than just a particular state. It became vitally important where some of these monuments went--so that no state, no region, no unit would be denied its proper share of the battle's memory.

Of course, Gettysburg is mostly for eastern units. Westerners felt somewhat cheated and wanted their own hallowed ground--and thus Vicksburg became studded with all of its monuments.

But it comes down to identifying with a cause, and then identifying that cause with a particular military event. (It doesn't have to be a victory, of course--the Alamo, Masada, Kossovo...) Anything can become a lieu de memoire.

My take, anyway.
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Christopher
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interesting question!

Shad wrote:


Why do people, such as the gentleman who posted the thread I linked, choose to commemorate certain battles?

I'd imagine that within WW2 alone, the determined scholar could find a battle to commemorate for every day of the year.

So why, to use his example, D-Day and not... The Makin Raid?

Is it because of body count? because of strategic value? just a quirk of cultural inheritance that People A passionately commemorate Event B but generally forget Event C?



(I don't have any family members that fought in any war, that I know of)

First of all, D-Day is not the only day I commemorate, but on the other hand, I will not rise every morning and think of "which Battle has it's anniversary today". (although, with WifWendell's nice list, I could...) This is mainly due to the fact that some dates are easier remembered than others. This is again due to the fact that some dates are "better known" than others.

On the other hand, D-Day is a very important day to me. To me it is the start of the offensive that "liberated" Western-Europe in general, and my country specifically. It's the beginning of the undoing of the German occupation of Western Europe. Mind you, I don't say that it is the cause of the fall of the German Third Reich, or the fall of Hitler, or whatever. To me it is simply the act (battle, campaign, offensive,...) that started all this becoming reality.

And then there is the aspect of military interest: I think the whole operation, starting with the dropping of paratroopers, commando's and glider-infantry, over the landing on the Normandy Beaches to the establishing of a solid Allied front in Normandy really fascinating. All this started on D-Day. (wel technically, a part of the operations started earlier)


my 2 cents...
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Hunga Dunga
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Interesting that here in the West we don't celebrate major Russian victories, even though they had a far larger impact on the outcome of the war against Germany than anything we did.

You know, something like "Thank You, Russia Day".
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Jim F
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Hungadunga wrote:
Interesting that here in the West we don't celebrate major Russian victories, even though they had a far larger impact on the outcome of the war against Germany than anything we did.

You know, something like "Thank You, Russia Day".


A ticker tape parade through Washington for surviving veterans of Stalingrad, Russian flags draped over the White House, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii". I can't think of a single reason why not.
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Lucius Cornelius
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It is called "The Longest Day" after all; the size matters!
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Jim F
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sullafelix wrote:
It is called "The Longest Day" after all; the size matters!


I watched that film at 1 a.m. on a coach trip back from Normandy. Felt more like 'The Longest Night' but I was very tired and sharing a coach with a bunch of rowdy teenagers
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Sim Guy
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Hungadunga wrote:
Interesting that here in the West we don't celebrate major Russian victories, even though they had a far larger impact on the outcome of the war against Germany than anything we did.

You know, something like "Thank You, Russia Day".


No nation paid a higher price in WWII.

The Russians have always been very tough soldiers, but, maybe fortunately for the rest of the world, they have been consistently badly led for the last 300 years or so.

We certainly have a lot to thank the Russian soldiers for, along with the people who suffered so much, and I for one would knock back a few vodkas on their behalf on a day of commemoration (perhaps one of our Russian friends could suggest an appropriate date and a proper toast?).

On the other hand, their are some who would say that the Soviets were spoiling for a fight, and played a significant role in getting WWII started by collaborating with the Nazis to partition Poland, and invading Finland as well. Stalin directly, or through encouraging international aggression, was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of his own peopl,e as he threw his country's young men (and some not so young) at the Nazi forces until they wore themselves out. For that sacrifice I don't think it too much to ask that the world acknowledge a debt to the ordinary Russian soldiers of WWII.

Sorry, I do go on sometimes. modest
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Leo Zappa
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Hungadunga wrote:
Interesting that here in the West we don't celebrate major Russian victories, even though they had a far larger impact on the outcome of the war against Germany than anything we did.

You know, something like "Thank You, Russia Day".


We probably would have been more likely to thank them at the time if they had marched their guys home after the war, instead of squatting on half of Europe for 45 years.
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Sim Guy
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
Interesting that here in the West we don't celebrate major Russian victories, even though they had a far larger impact on the outcome of the war against Germany than anything we did.

You know, something like "Thank You, Russia Day".


We probably would have been more likely to thank them at the time if they had marched their guys home after the war, instead of squatting on half of Europe for 45 years.


Also good point.
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Christopher
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
Interesting that here in the West we don't celebrate major Russian victories, even though they had a far larger impact on the outcome of the war against Germany than anything we did.

You know, something like "Thank You, Russia Day".


We probably would have been more likely to thank them at the time if they had marched their guys home after the war, instead of squatting on half of Europe for 45 years.


I think that's exactly the reason why there is no "thank you Russia"-day in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, ...
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Martí Cabré

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Rate them per existing operational wargames.

You'll discover that the most important battles in the History of the World are Gettysburg, Normandy, the Bulge and Stalingrad.
 
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