Saturday, January 12, 2013
About 70 Years Ago
Think for a minute what waking up on January 12, 1943 was like, for pretty much anyone in the world.
For hundreds of millions -- yes, you read that right: hundreds of millions -- waking up on this very morning exactly 70 years ago today was a complete and utter nightmare. To tens of millions -- yes, you read that right again too -- it was a personal nightmare not one of us can even begin to imagine today.
And for a few million -- a few MILLION people -- it was unknown whether or not they would again be waking up the following day.
Yes, I know that it's the same thing today, that a few million people are probably worried that they might not be alive tomorrow -- those in hospitals everywhere, or a few in the few remaining pockets of war zones, or the like -- but for a large part it's because they're quite ill, or very old or just at high risk.
The majority of them are not young people, some very, very young, say, 18 years old, as they were on this day 70 years ago. They aren't about to struggle into a uniform, pick up a weapon, and walk, crawl or slither into a hailstorm of bullets or shellfire, just like they probably did yesterday, and the day before that, or the day after this, and the days, weeks or even months after that, seventy years ago.
1943 was quite possibly the most brutal and horrific year that all of humankind that has ever lived experienced. It was The Year From Hell, more than Hell, a waking, non-stop nightmare that no one could escape except by death, and there are very few people alive today who will be able to stand up and say, yes, I remember 1943.
1943 was the pinnacle, the absolute apex of World War II, the year that so much shit was hitting so many fans in so many places on Earth that any alien visiting it at the time could have well been expected to turn tail and flee without a backwards glance.
I won't go into the precise litany of horrors that were occurring on this very day 70 years ago, but let's just start with one horror, one unspeakable, indescribable pocket of Hell on Earth that was just reaching its final death throes after a couple of years of brutal, insane suffering, mayhem, murder and madness; the city of Stalingrad, Russia.
Just about on this day 70 years ago, several hundred thousand men -- perhaps closer to a million -- were locked in a ferocious battle to destroy or save an entire large city, say, the size of New Jersey today, and things were winding down, with the attackers (the Germans) surrounded by almost a million Russian soldiers and about to surrender. Of the eighty or so thousand who did surrender, only five thousand or so ever survived to go back to Germany.
Can you imagine that now? There are a lot of Taliban, but EIGHTY THOUSAND MEN, enough to fill two Olympic stadiums, were about to go into a nightmare of captivity from which most would never return.
But hey, that's just ONE CORNER of Earth; all over this misbegotten planet, millions upon millions of human beings were locked in life-or-death struggles in which over 65 million, roughly twice the entire population of Canada today, would be annihilated, most in the most horrific and mind-destroying deaths of every conceivable stripe: starvation, disease, imprisonment, torture, execution, genocide, mass exterminations perpetrated by doctors, lawyers, teachers, policemen, politicians, brothers, fathers, grandfathers, sons . . . a veritable tsunami of killing, murder, torture, mayhem, senseless, wanton reckless, even joyful destruction of whole cities full of women, infants, old people, entire communities of human beings burned to crisp, shrunken, dried-out black husks that used to have brains, that used to take out the laundry to dry, that used to enjoy a glass of beer on a warm summer's evening, that used to dream of futures that were never to be; this . . . THIS was what the world woke up to on the morning of January 12, 1943.
Can you conceive of this happening today? Can you imagine Russia, locked in a death struggle with, say, France and Germany, or B2 bombers carpet-bombing Amsterdam, or entire million-strong armies of young Americans shipping off across the Atlantic to North Africa to reduce Egypt to rubble?
Think about it, good people. Think for a second over your morning cereal that a mere seventy years ago this very day, these kinds of things were normal occurrences in the lives of the majority of human beings, completely normal things that you would read about every day in the newspaper, not even a lead story but on page 5, "U.S.S. Templeton struck by torpedo in North Atlantic; 2,300 crew feared lost" which would be an ordinary story on an ordinary day buried in an avalanche of similar stories of other catastrophes halfway around the globe: "Monte Cassino Invasion Falters as 4th Division Surrounded by Enemy; as Many as 24,000 Troops at Risk: Prime Minister."
I think that these scenarios will never -- cannot ever -- occur again on Planet Earth.
But don't for a second forget that they once did . . .
Posted by ChefNick at 12:53 PM