A just war

The D-Day landings at Normandy on 6 June 1944 (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Throughout the centuries, war has been a spectre looming over civilisations across the world. There hasn’t been many of the last, say, 200 years that have not involved some sort of war around the globe.

Although most wars are not justifiable, or are only justifiable with intrinsic evidence and realms of pros and cons. In the past century, one conflict stands out more than any other in topping the category of a ‘just war’.

The causes of the Second World War can be traced back to the ending of the First World War. In effect, a second global conflict was almost destined to take place as soon as the brutal reparations were handed to the Germans in 1919.

It was the ideal climate of interwar Germany that enabled a party such as the Nazis and a leader like Adolf Hitler to rise to power. Following the First World War, Germany was financially ruined and its work force decimated.

Four years of fighting had ended in a demoralising defeat. Battle weary soldiers returned from the front to a nation which was a shell of the one they left. Following the financial crash, the people were in desperate need of a figure to lead the nation out of the dark days of the 1920s.

By the time the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939, Europe was teetering on the brink of war once again. The German war machine appeared to be unstoppable, especially after the dramatic evacuation of Allied soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940.

The next four years saw the war in Europe become focused on sea and sky. Heavy bombing missions carried out by both sides inflicted tens of thousands of deaths on civilians in cities across the continent.

Soviet soldiers raising the Red Flag on the Reichstag following the Battle of Berlin in 1945.

The struggle of life in wartime Britain was sold as ‘just’ to the public as it was the effort of saving the wider continent and the world from fascism. The sacrifices made on the home front were to help the armed forces fighting around the world.

The question of is a war ever just is hard to answer directly, but the need for the Allies to intensify the war against Nazi Germany. The planning and preparation of an all out assault on occupied Europe was on a scale never seen before.

Over 150,000 allied troops took part in the most important assault of the war. Beaches across northern France were soaked in the blood of soldiers from around the world.

Many were cut to pieces within seconds of stepping out of the landing crafts, but they paid the ultimate sacrifice in the war against Nazi Germany.

For the men on the beaches, the sight of thousands of their colleagues slain around them might have led them to question the point of the attack, and the war in general.

The scale of death would have, after a certain time anyway, reached a certain point that the only way to make the sacrifice worthwhile was to fight on. If either side had surrendered, what would have been the point of the slaughter in battles such as Stalingrad? By the time D-Day took place, the death toll was already inconceivable.

However, despite the millions of lives lost to the war, a whole scale invasion like that which launched on 6 June 1944 was arguably the only way the Allies would be able to push the Nazis back across Europe.

US soldiers raising a flag following the Battle of Iwo Jima. The photo won a Pulitzer Prize (Credit: Joe Rosenthal/AP Photo)

It was a hugely costly attack across a wide stretch of northern France, but without the sacrifice doubtless millions and millions more would perish at the hands of Nazism.

Even after the successful landings, countless lives would be lost in the efforts to push back the Nazis, yet they are lives which helped to do just this.

Success in Europe, and then in Asia, came at a terrible price for mankind. The landscape of the world was changed forever by the war, and the people who died truly did pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Many conflicts in the years following the end of the Second World War were either unjust or involved an unjust involvement of a foreign power.

The war in Vietnam was a civil war that the north and the south had been sleepwalking towards years before Russian/ Chinese and American involvement.

The two nations were divided on everything from politics to social issues, but the presence of France as a colonial invader made sure to sow the seeds of discontent towards the West long before American boots touched down in Da Nang in the mid 1960’s.

From America’s standpoint and with the benefit of hindsight, their involvement in Vietnam was unjustifiable. Over 64,000 Americans died and many, many more were physically or mentally broken by the war which resulted in no substantial benefits for the USA.

Any death in war is tragic, and one that is always argued could be avoidable and whilst this might be the case for the majority of time, it is on few occasions well argued that it is not.

Stepping back to the Second World War as a prime example of how to argue this point is the most suitable course of action.

The war changed the face of the world for good, and a world in which the Third Reich was able to dominate is often depicted in pop culture as being the height of dystopian horror; without the sacrifice of millions it could have been a truly gruesome reality.

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Patrick Hollis

Patrick Hollis

I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. I’m a published author and journalist with several years experience