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Monday, June 6, 2016

WW2 | D-Day, 72 Years On

D-Day Assault.
June 6, 2016–Today is the 72nd Anniversary of D-Day. I was two barely years old. Both my father and my mother's brother Willem were in Europe at war, along with many other relatives of their generation.

My mother and grandmother had reason to be concerned about Willem. He was killed four days after D-Day.

My wife Alice Tepper Marlin and I went to France in 2014 on the 70th anniversary to pay our respects to those who died. We were in Normandy and the Mayenne to the south.

My uncle Willem piloted missions over northern France before and after D-Day. He is buried in Laval, Mayenne, along with his six crew-mates. He was flying a Halifax bomber out of an RAF base (Squadron 10) in Melbourne, Yorks., UK. A Dutchman, he was a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland when the war broke out. He went to Canada to volunteer for the RCAF and ended up flying for the RAF.

His plane was shot down, after its mission was completed, in the early morning of June 10, 1944. Another crew of seven from another Halifax on the same mission (two of ten planes on the missions were lost that morning) are buried next to them. A book about that mission (Time Bomber, for adults or young adults) was written by Dr. Robert Wack and has a five-star review on Amazon, with seven reviewers.

The other airplane that was shot down the same night was piloted by an Australian. I met his son two years ago at a reunion of the relatives of the airmen in Laval; it was my third visit to the gravesite.

In preparation for our visit in 2014 (about which I have written here1, here2, here3, here4, and here5), I assembled data on D-Day and World War II in Europe. One source was a new book targeted at young people by Rick Atkinson, D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944, published by Henry Holt and meant to be used in schools and is adapted from Atkinson's #1 best-selling book The Guns at Last Light. It is reviewed here on Goodreads' list of the best books for young people about World War II.

Deaths from WWII

Total deaths – Possibly as many as 72 million people, of whom 26-27 million were from the Soviet Union and 7-9 million were from Germany.
  • Atkinson gives the total as 72 million people, or 28,000 people every day of the 2,174-day war. This is at the high end of the Wikipedia figures. Soviet dead 26 million - military 10.7 million, civilian 15 million. U.S. dead 419,000 - military 417,000 (out of 16 million who served), civilian 2,000 UK dead 451,000 - military 384,000 (out of 6 million who served), civilian 67,000 Canadian dead 23,000, all military (out of 1.1 million who served). German dead 8.8 million - military 5.5 million, civilian 3.3 million. European Jews killed in Holocaust - 6 million. Number of American soldiers buried in Europe (25,000 U.S. pilots killed behind enemy lines) 14,000.
  • UK Source (worldwar2.org.uk). Total dead 50-70 million. Soviet dead 26.6 million, of which 8.7 million soldiers died in World War 2. British 700,000 military and 60,000 civilian deaths. Poland’s dead were between 5.6 and 5.8 million. USA military dead: 416,800. German total 7.4 million, of which military dead and missing are 5.3 million.
  • History Channel Total dead 35-60 million. (Much lower than the Atkinson and Wikipedia upper figure of 72 million.)
D-Day Armada – Allied Troops landed, 156,000.
  • Vehicles landed - 30,000. Planes - 11,000. Ships and landing craft - 5,000. Parachutists - 13,000.
  • Most Effective Bombers Used in Europe Britain Avro Lancaster, DeHavilland Mosquito (wooden, to avoid radar). USA B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-29 Superfortress. Germany Heinkel III, Junkers 87 Stuka, Junkers Ju-88.
  • Most Effective Tanks Used in Europe USA M4 Sherman Soviet T-34 German Panther (partly copied from Soviets), PzKfw Mk. IV Panzer, Tiger I/II.
U.S. Military in WWII–16 million.
  • 16.1 million–U.S. armed forces personnel who served in WWII between December 1, 1941 and December 31, 1946: 16.1 million. 33 months–The average length of active-duty by U.S. military personnel during WWII. 73% The proportion of U.S. military personnel who served abroad during WWII. 
  • 292,000–Number of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines killed in battle in WWII. 114,000–Number of other deaths sustained by U.S. forces during WWII. 671,000–The number of U.S. troops wounded during WWII.
Surviving Veterans

The few surviving veterans from World War II are fading away with an attrition rate that in some cases approaches 30 percent per year. I have interviewed one survivor at length.
  • 5.7 million The number of World War II veterans counted in Census 2000. The census identified the period of service for World War II veterans as September 1940 to July 1947.
  • 475,000 Calif.–Estimated number of WWII veterans living in California in 2002, the most in any state. Other states with high numbers of WWII vets included Florida (439,000), New York (284,000), Pennsylvania (280,000), Texas (267,000) and Ohio (208,000). See Table 529 in Census source.
  • 5.4 percent Clearwater, Fla. - The proportion of WWII veterans among the Clearwater, Fla., civilian population age 18 and over in 2000. Other large places (100,000 or more population) with high concentrations of WWII vets were: Cape Coral, Fla. (5.1 percent), Oceanside, Calif. (4.3 percent); and Scottsdale, Ariz.; Pueblo, Colo., Metairie, La., St. Petersburg, Fla.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Mesa, Ariz.; and Independence, Mo. (all around 4 percent).
  • 210,000 - Estimated number of women in 2002 who were WWII veterans. These women comprised 4.4 percent of WWII vets. See Table 530.
  • 22% The proportion of all veterans in April 2000 who were WWII veterans.
The National World War II Memorial was dedicated on May 29, 2004. In Washington, D.C. between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, it is the first national memorial dedicated to the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, including those who died in combat, and Americans who supported the war effort on the home front.

Sources: Besides the Atkinson book and UK sources referenced above, two other sources were used. One is no long available, the original Census release #001747 on which many of the above numbers were based (this was the link: http://www.census.gov/PressRelease/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/001747.html). Many related numbers are available here: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-students/ww2-history/ww2-by-the-numbers/us-military.html. However, the Museum numbers do not always line up with the Census numbers that were released.