Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Islands and WWII : did anything else important happen (yawn) ?

For hundreds of millions of avid newspaper readers during WWII, an atlas was essential to follow the conflict's global course.

Never more so because of the fact that most of the battles - yes, most of the battles - took place over, around and on islands - with some of the most heavily fought-over islands being almost incredibly tiny.

(The battle for Tarawa Atoll saw almost 10,000 casualties spread over its meagre 500 acres.)

An atlas (and a magnifying glass) was essential to make sense of it all.

Admittedly, the Eastern Front can be understood completely without once referencing a single island but no other major war front can say the same.

Consider, just for one example, why bombers were based in Yorkshire to bomb Hamburg.

It was because this maximized the amount of "Flak-free" water between the bomber base on the island of Britain  and its target on the coastline of the mainland.

So, a war decided by actions involving hundreds of strategic but tiny islands scattered all over the globe in the most unlikely of places.

That isn't something easy to blend with the popular view of WWII was holds it was all about the clash of a few Titans going at it, head to head.

Only a commensal history of 1939-1945 can blend the story of the Great Powers with the stories of the tiniest of powers, to make a truly coherent account of those years.....

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