Untold History of the United States – Parts 1-3
Directed by Oliver Stone (2012)
Last week, I sat down and binge watched Oliver Stone’s 10 part Showtime series Untold History of the United States. I was pleasantly surprised. Stone is strongly influenced by late historian Chalmers Johnson (see The Impermanence of Empire) and mentions him at several points in the series.
Untold History concerns the hidden history of the “American Century” that we’re never taught in school. Unlike Howard Zinn’s People’ History of the United States, it devotes little air time to the popular resistance movements that shaped the period 1932-2012. Instead it focuses mainly on the presidents who governed during this period.
Parts 1-3, which focus on World War II, unpack the lie that Truman dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan to spare hundreds of thousands of GIs who would have died invading the Japanese mainland.
Stone begins with a broad outline of the German military build-up that began in the early 1930s. I think this segment would have been clearer if Stone had discussed the Wall Street fascists who deliberately armed Hitler in the hope he would invade and destroy the Soviet Union. He delays this discussion until part 9, when he introduces Prescott Bush, the pro-Nazi granddaddy of George W Bush.
The first three parts of this series provide a fairly comprehensive history of the Spanish Civil War and of so-called British “appeasement” of Hitler in the early 1930s. I was extremely surprised to learn that Neville Chamberlain wasn’t motivated by cowardice, as we were taught in school, when he agreed to Hitler’s 1938 occupation of Czechoslovakia. He was merely carrying out the wishes of the US-Anglo elite – they were happy to cede Eastern Europe to Germany if it facilitated the destruction of the Soviet Union.
I was also totally unaware that the Soviets were responsible for destroying the bulk of Hitler’s vast military arsenal while the Allies piddled around in peripheral conflicts in North Africa and Italy (at the cost of 27 million lives in contrast to the 500,000 each lost by Britain and the US).
The real reason for Churchill and Roosevelt stalling for two years (Hitler invaded the USSR in 1941) before opening a second front (in Normandy) was their continuing belief that Hitler would defeat the Soviets. Once the Red Army pushed Nazi forces out of the USSR and began retaking Eastern Europe, the allies were forced to act to limit Soviet expansion.
It was actually this two year delay that caused nearly all of Eastern Europe to end up under Communist control – not ruthless Soviet expansionism as we are taught in school.
Stone agrees with historians who attribute the US nuclear attack on Japan to anti-communist hawks in the Truman administration who sought to use it to intimidate the Soviet Union. He maintains that Henry Wallace (Roosevelt’s vice-president until 19944) would never have given in to War Department hawks.
Wallace, according to Stone, was a true liberal populist in the Roosevelt mold. He was universally hated by Wall Street elites. He lost the 1944 vice presidential nomination to Truman (despite controlling over 65% of the delegates) after Democratic Party bosses rigged the 1944 Democratic Convention.
Part 1 – World War II
Part 2 – Roosevelt, Truman & Wallace
Part 3 – The Bomb