How America Gets WWII History Wrong (And Why That Matters)


How much do you know offhand about World War II? If you’re an American, you probably know a lot. After all, everything from our education system to our popular culture hammers home the key facts of The War To End All Wars For Real This Time. And congratulations: a lot of what you know is factually accurate (e.g. “Hitler was bad”). A lot of what you know is worth knowing (seriously, Hitler was VERY BAD). But have you ever wondered why certain historical specifics get so much emphasis, while other facts get left by the wayside? Or why the name “Hitler” pops up in modern debates about everything from immigration to environmentalism to upsetting blog posts?

On this week’s episode of The Cracked Podcast, Alex Schmidt and Jason Pargin (better known as David Wong) look back on the defining war of The American Century, and examine the bizarre ways it gets reinterpreted through the years. They’ll get into the geopolitical reasons why movies like Patton and Saving Private Ryan celebrate some men and not others. They’ll consider the legions of historical monsters we ignore (or even laud!) in the process of cartoon-ifying World War II’s struggle. And maybe, just maybe, if enough people hear this show, not every random modern thing will get called “Hitler” without deserving it.


“The Good War: How America’s infatuation with World War II has eroded our conscience” by Chris Hayes & Mike Dawson (The Nib)

Eastern front plays greater role than D-day in German memories (The Guardian)

CHART: “Armaments Production of the Powers, 1940-1943” from The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy (via Google Books)

China: A New History by John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman

The Lend-Lease Act (Library of Congress)

The Day Gen. Patton Slapped a Soldier (The Washington Post)

Patton (1970) clip featuring Patton shooting a plane with a pistol, after the British screw up

Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse? (New York Review Of Books)

How Stalin Hid Ukraine’s Famine From the World (The Atlantic)

Origins of Eugenics: From Sir Francis Galton to Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (University of Virginia)

The eugenics movement Britain wants to forget (New Statesman)

The 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill’s career (BBC)

famed Yalta Conference picture of Churchill, FDR & Stalin

Mike Huckabee Says Trump Is Like Churchill. Historians Disagree. (The New York Times)

InfoWars, Breitbart compare Parkland’s David Hogg to Adolf Hitler (The Hill)

Neo-Nazis are using fashion in an attempt to normalize. The fashion industry needs to speak up. (The Washington Post)

Silvio Berlusconi: Ban on former PM holding office scrapped (BBC)

Ben Shapiro says a majority of Muslims are radicals (Politifact)

Did American Right-Wing Trolls Radicalize The Quebec Mosque Shooter? (Huffington Post)

How Charlottesville has exposed competing narratives in America’s cultural memory (The Conversation)

Twitter was slammed for verifying a white nationalist. It just took away his blue check mark. (The Washington Post)

The U.S. Confiscated Half a Billion Dollars in Private Property During WWI (Smithsonian Magazine)

‘I Am Not The Catholic Candidate For President’: How Faith Shaped JFK And His 1960 Campaign (WBUR)

History In Depth: The Hundred Years’ War (BBC)

basic Wikipedia overview of the European wars of religion, 1522-1712

Join us for our next LIVE Cracked Podcast! It’s happening Saturday, June 9th at 7pm at UCB Sunset Theatre in Los Angeles. Alex Schmidt is joined by comedians Dan Hopper, Molly Lambert, and Dani Fernandez for tales of amazing performances by actors who weren’t acting. Tickets are $7 and available here.

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