Unfinished Business of World War II

By | April 22, 2021

[April 22, 2021]  Like so many Americans, I learned about the righteousness of the Allied fight against Hitler’s and Mussolini’s fascism and Japan’s imperialism during World War II.  Yet, there was plenty of unfinished business of the war that would plague the world for decades – a new book by Sean McMeekin challenge’s that view.

In his book, Stalin’s War: A New History of World War II (officially published two days ago), McKeekin admits to the same biases I also suffered in understanding the war.

“Like many Americans with a love for history, I was weaned on popular chronicles of World War II, from glossy secondary works and novels to Hollywood blockbusters, from Casablanca and The Dirty Dozen to Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. The “Good War” always gives Americans a satisfactory conclusion, with Hitler and Nazi evil defeated, Holocaust horrors brought to an end, and the USA emerging on the world stage as a righteous superpower.

What about the millions of Europeans and Asians who suffered greatly in the aftermath of WWII?  We never really appreciated Winston Churchill’s famous warning about the “Iron Curtain” that fell over Eastern Europe in 1945 and resulted in the unfinished business in Asia, Korea, and Vietnam.

“Over the years, however, doubts began to creep in about just how righteous the war’s outcome was for millions of Europeans and Asians less fortunate in geography than Americans are. Coming of age in the late Cold War years, I learned to appreciate the wisdom of Churchill’s warning [about the Iron Curtain].  I learned from the fallout resulting from them to the rise of Communist China as a strategic adversary every bit as formidable as the Soviet Union had been, if not more so.”

Apparently, WWII was not as clean as we would have liked.  The war did not free all peoples; they were not all liberated but were to be enslaved by a much more insidious force that went by the name of Communism.1

“When my overseas travels and research trips took me beyond popular tourist destinations such as London, Paris, and Rome into central and eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia, Turkey, and Asia, I learned that the Second World War is not universally seen as the “Good War,” with a neat Hollywood cast of heroes and villains and a happy ending. In Vietnam and former French Indochina, the conflict emerging from the Japanese incursion in 1940 lasted until 1975, at least, and in Cambodia longer still. East of the Elbe river, the war did not end in 1945, but arguably in 1989, when Soviet troops finally began to go home. In Taiwan and Korea, questions arising from the conflict remain unresolved, and the military standoff is no less tense today than ever.”

Were we suckered into accepting Stalin’s version of the war?  Were we biased in favor of an ally?  Or were we drawn to the communism of the Soviet Union that persists to this day?

“Over the years, many western historians have absorbed and passed on a sanitized Soviet version of Stalin’s war, without quite realizing this is what they were doing.  Some of this neglect reflects Stalin’s own cunning.  At least one reason so few western accounts have challenged Stalin’s preferred narrative of the war is that, until recently, they did not have the sources to do so. In some areas, we had almost no information at all.”

McMeekin’s book is fascinating reading and should be on your desk for reading.  Sean McMeekin is a professor of European History and Culture at Bard College.  His foray into the details and aftermath is something from which all historians can learn.

“In the end, it is up to historians to do the legwork and investigate the questions governments such as Russia’s – or that of the United States, for that matter – do not want them to ask. This is what I have tried to do in Stalin’s War, and I hope that interested readers will learn to see the Second World War in a new way.”


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/what-we-do-echoes-across-history/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “Unfinished Business of World War II

  1. Max Foster

    Now this is, indeed, a new look on the war. I think, just my opinion, that we in the West were too quick to rid ourselves of the destruction and death and were just happy to let things go. There is a price to that way of thinking and acting internationally. Millions of peoples paid a heavy price because it allowed the communists to make great strides. For example, what is now North Korea traded the Japanese for Communism. They have been under the yoke of suppression now of over 100 years.

    1. E.T.

      Max, excellent comment. Now, they have no history of freedom at all. I wonder what it would be like to live there? Not me.

  2. Janna Faulkner

    Another excellent article hitting close to home by Gen. Satterfield.

  3. docwatson44

    McMeekin also reveals the extent to which Soviet Communism was rescued by the US and Britain’s self-defeating strategic moves, beginning with Lend-Lease aid.

    1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      True enough. Stalin’s war machine, McMeekin shows, was substantially reliant on American materiél from warplanes, tanks, trucks, jeeps, motorcycles, fuel, ammunition, and explosives, to industrial inputs and technology transfer, to the foodstuffs which fed the Red Army.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    This is what makes Gen. Satterfield’s blog so valuable. You get a new perspective on major events. This book “Stalin’s War” should be on every thinking man’s desk.

  5. Eric Coda

    World War II endures in the popular imagination as a heroic struggle between good and evil, with villainous Hitler driving its events. But Hitler was not in power when the conflict erupted in Asia—and he was certainly dead before it ended. His armies did not fight in multiple theaters, his empire did not span the Eurasian continent, and he did not inherit any of the spoils of war. That central role belonged to Joseph Stalin. The Second World War was not Hitler’s war; it was Stalin’s war.

    1. Anthony "Tony" Benson

      A groundbreaking reassessment of the Second World War, Stalin’s War is essential reading for anyone looking to understand the current world order.

  6. JT Patterson

    I’ve got to read McMeekin’s book. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for highlighting it today and giving us some of the key points. 👍 A prize-winning historian reveals how Stalin—not Hitler—was the animating force of World War II in this major new history.

    1. McStompie

      I look forward to reading it. I ordered mine. Did you order your book as well?

  7. Max Foster

    Excellent article pointing toward a new view – well, not so new if you live in eastern Europe or Asia – of WW2. I’ll be getting this book and reading it soon. A perspective that delves into the evils of post-WW2 should be something we all should know about. I think much of our political left ignores this evil because they are too much into something similar in their Marxist ideology.

    1. Audrey

      Yes, Max, I agree that many of our politicians love Marxism (technically a neo-Marxism). They gain power from it and ignore the consequences. US Democrats use the black population to keep them in power, yet everything is done to destroy the black family. Go figure. Brilliant strategy.

      1. Greg Heyman

        Sure enough most blacks in America haven’t yet figured out they are being played. And they keep on supporting their own destruction. Over and over they do this.

      2. Darwin Lippe

        I can’t tell you why except they are being misled by black “leaders” who would rather gain their own political power by giving up their own people.

  8. Army Captain

    Wow, a very very different perspective. Perhaps we did, as Americans, overlook the terrible aftermath of how communism continued apace what the fascists started.

    1. Randy Goodman

      A testament to taking our eye off the ball of evil. Communism may not have been as ‘flashy’ as fascism but history has shown that it is far more attractive and far more destructive than anything the fascists ever did.

    2. Tom Bushmaster

      Just saying that Communism is bad is not good enough; we must show it is bad (evil, inefficient, and destructive). It is insidious. Just look at the SJW trend these days. Communism is also very anti religion. It cannot afford to have a competitor.

      1. Forrest Gump

        Right Tom, communism and religion don’t mix. Either you bow at the alter of communism or you die. As I always say for those who want communism, stupid is as stupid does.


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