Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Eighty years later, World War Two is fading from historical memory

By Michael R. Auslin, Spectator World

With worries about inflation, the war in Ukraine, and tension over Taiwan, it’s easy for Americans to forget that we are now deep into the four-year period marking the eightieth anniversary of World War Two. Last December marked eighty years since the day of infamy at Pearl Harbor, while this June passed the date of the critical victory at Midway. In a little less than two years, it will be eight decades since the greatest invasion in history, on D-Day. Soon after will follow commemorations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and both VE and VJ Days. Each year, living memory of that global struggle continues to fade, with the passage of both time and the Greatest Generation.

Eighty does not have the same emotional weight as fifty, seventy-five or one hundred, but it also sits squarely between living and dead memory. Even as new books on the war are published, time is erecting an impenetrable wall between us and those days. The general lack of attention paid to this anniversary reflects our inevitable, ongoing separation from the men and women of that momentous era. The next milestones will see World War Two relegated to a phantom of the past, like the settlement of Jamestown or the War of 1812. As the war passes fully into the history books, it is even more important to honor the extraordinary sacrifices of Americans and their allies to defeat Nazism and Japanese fascism, as well as to remember how the war forever transformed American life.

Thanks to one of those ironies of history, our forebears of that decade were also celebrating an anniversary whose terrible events had been slipping from their memory. We are today exactly as far removed from World War Two as Americans in the 1940s were from the Civil War. As Franklin Roosevelt, George Marshall, Ernest King, Dwight Eisenhower and Chester Nimitz planned and fought their far-flung war across two oceans, it was precisely eighty-years since Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee engaged in an apocalyptic battle to determine the future of America. The twelve million Americans in uniform in World War Two were living through a more modern but just as brutal experience of combat as their nearly three million ancestors from the North and South.

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