In particular, he mentions a point about contradictions in Howard Zinn’s A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Several years ago I was given the book by my mother-in-law, who had returned to college to earn her teaching degree. “I know you like history,” she told me when she gave it to me. “There was a LOT of stuff in here that I had never heard of.” The book had been a textbook in an American history class she took at Western Michigan University.
That right there is a little scary, folks. First of all, the book was a textbook in a college history course. Second of all, a future teacher was taking the class.
(Remember at the end of THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK when they open the Ark of the Covenant and that energy shoots out, first hitting one German, then splitting out and hitting two Germans? The beam from each of those two splits out and hits two others and so on and so on and so on. Pretty soon they’re all wiped out. This is sort of like that, except this ain’t the power of God we’re talking about.)
I have a softcover edition of the book, ISBN 0-06-092643-0. The cover says
REVISED AND UPDATED EDITION
I’ve always been amused that this is a “revised” edition.
To support my earlier claims about statements concerning the military power of the Soviet Union, I refer you to page 404. In a chapter entitled “A People’s War?” that mostly tries to make the argument that our part in World War Two was unpopular with the American public, Zinn writes
And, at the same time, the Russian victories over the Nazi armies (the Russians, by the time of the cross-Channel invasion, had driven the Germans out of Russia, and were engaging 80 percent of the German troops).
And on page 406 he writes
But the U.N. was dominated by the Western imperial countries–the United States, England, and France–and a new imperial power, with military bases and powerful influence in Eastern Europe–the Soviet Union.
The reason I quote this is to provide reference for my claim that Zinn wrote that “the USSR that defeated Nazi Germany, since the American, British, and Canadian forces that invaded the Continent were so small compared to the masses on the Eastern Front. The Soviets, through the superiority of their system and motivation of their people, beat the Nazis. The USSR was the true military power on the planet.”
Pages 416-428 explain how the threat of the Soviet Union was really just American aggression, with a fair amount of the expected “MacCarthy was a madman blah blah blah” (I’m paraphrasing). Although I was just plain wrong about the use of the term “agrarian”, on pages 428-429 Zinn explains how the US military budget ballooned and the US arsenal expanded greatly despite
a false “bomber gap” and a false “missile gap”
And he goes on to explain how we had 10 pounds of TNT for every man, woman, and child on earth. Coupled with the claim on pages 413 and 414 that using nuclear bombs on Japan was not necessary, I think my interpretation of Zinn’s intended message was pretty close.
Also interesting is the fact that I cannot find any reference to “D-Day”. It’s always “cross-Channel invasion”. Although I may certainly have missed it somewhere, “D-Day” is not present in the index. I find it amusing that he chose not to use the term. It tells me a lot about what he thinks of the event.
And, though it’s been quite a while since I read the book, I keep it on my bookshelf. As a reminder. Also, Matt Damon’s character in the film GOOD WILL HUNTING expresses his belief that the Zinn book is an important text.
As I flip through the pages again, I’m reminded of why my mother-in-law didn’t remember learning about a lot of what’s written on them. Sadly, she will probably remember learning this history more clearly than she remembers the history she was taught in the 50s and early 60s.