What Our Vets Learned from World War II

In my last post, “May They Never Be Forgotten,” I mentioned that we must not only remember to honor the military veterans who won World War II but also do what we can to teach the next generation what those veterans learned. In this post, I’d like to develop that thought briefly by suggesting a few of the major lessons those vets have taught us and that we must communicate to the next generation.

  1. Appeasement of evil never works. Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier, and the other liberal-minded politicians of Europe tried appeasement and failed miserably. They gave Hitler everything he demanded–Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Germany), the Rhineland, the Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia), then all of Czechoslovakia, and the Danzig-Polish Corridor–and he still demanded more. Dictators are never satisfied and cannot be appeased.
  2. Be prepared. Foolishly, America typically has disarmed after every major war, and then we’ve had to struggle to rearm when the next crisis called for the exertion of arms. We never seem to learn this lesson. Congressional Democrats and liberal Republicans even demanded that we reduce our military and throw the “savings” of the post-Cold War “peace dividend” down the dark hole of questionable social programs. After fourteen years of battling Islamic terrorists, we have depleted our forces and capabilities. Will we be able to sustain this seemingly never-ending war? Will we be ready for the next threat when it comes?
  3. Always be on red alert for threats to our freedom. Watch incessantly for warning signs of enemy activity. And be prepared (see Point 2 above) to do something about the threats early on rather than letting them grow until we must struggle to defeat them. If our leaders had been paying attention to the growing threats in Asia in the 1930s, they would not have been caught by surprise by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Rather, they would have adjusted their foreign policy to avoid doing the very things that egged Japan on to launch the attack. John Philpot Curran wisely stated in 1790, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”
  4. Guard your freedoms. They can be taken from us quickly, almost before we know what is happening. Many people think, It can’t happen here. We have a Constitution that protects our rights. That’s what the people of the Weimar Republic thought, too, but Hitler and the Nazis took their freedoms–legally and constitutionally. And one of the first freedoms they took was the right of self-defense; they took away the citizens’ guns. Then Hitler took their freedom of speech and the press. Soon, they had no freedoms. We ignore this lesson at great peril. (For more information on this, see Stephen P. Halbrook, Gun Control in the Third Reich.)
  5. Never underestimate the depravity of man. Freedom will always have irrational enemies who will stop at nothing to take freedoms from us to advance their own twisted philosophy or religion. Once they have power and begin to exert it, there is no limit to what evils their twisted minds can imagine to wreak vengeance on their enemies. The heart of man is “desperately wicked.” The Death Squads that followed Nazi invasion forces, the concentration camps and forced medical experiments and gas chambers of the Holocaust, the Bataan Death March, and the general inhumane treatment and torture of Allied prisoners all attest to this truth. And we see it in action even today with ISIS.
  6. Fight through to the end. Don’t stop short of total victory. Don’t settle for a negotiated peace; rather, demand and achieve only the unconditional surrender of the enemy. We see the results of negotiated settlements in the the Munich Conference, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, and the Middle East. Only the total and utter defeat of our enemies will achieve anything close to peace. (Ultimately, no true, lasting peace will be achieved until the Prince of Peace comes, and when He comes, He will demand the unconditional surrender of all His foes: Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess.)
  7. Be magnanimous in victory, but never enable ingratitude. This was America’s method of dealing with the Axis powers after World War II, and we turned enemies into allies and industrial giants. It is folly, however, to continue giving foreign aid to countries that then turn and stab us in the back and complain about us. We must not coddle ingrates.

These are the lessons our veterans learned from World War II. These are the lessons we must be teaching the next generation.

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