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Don't Dare to Compare



I usually enjoy John Rasmuson’s column, but I found this week’s Opinion [“Mtn. Men,” March 3, City Weekly] distressing.

I am not casting aspersions on Dole, Christensen or the men of the 10th Mountain Division. They clearly made a valuable contribution to the war effort and deserve to be remembered for it. But to compare them to “the few” who saved Britain is, frankly, ridiculous.

Hitler was threatening to invade Britain, and there was little to prevent him. After the disasters on mainland Europe, culminating in the evacuation from Dunkirk with the loss of massive amounts of essential equipment, the British Army was in no state to resist. Then Hitler, worried about British naval and air superiority over the Channel, allowed himself to be persuaded by Goering to postpone the invasion until the Luftwaffe had eliminated the Royal Air Force.

And this they very nearly did. Whether the RAF would have run out of pilots, planes or airfields first is still a matter of debate, but if Germany had persisted with its offensive directed at the RAF, there seems to be no doubt that they would have won. The reason that they did not was that Hitler switched his focus to attacking British cities. The devastation was beyond anything anyone had imagined possible—whole swathes of London burned—but the RAF survived and Hitler abandoned all thoughts of invasion.

So “the few” were not just good soldiers, or brave men; they saved Britain from German conquest. Hence Churchill’s marvelous speech. Don’t cheapen their sacrifices.

If you detect a personal note in what I have written, you’re right. I was a child living in London at that time. My father commanded an anti-aircraft battery, my grandfather (normally a distinguished and rotund stockbroker) spent his nights fighting fires in the city, and I had to be dragged from watching the glare of the fires on the horizon to be put safely to bed—either in the closet under the stairs or in a special steel cage under our grand piano, thought to be the safest places if the house were bombed. Later in the war, I was able to “do my bit”: As a 6-year-old, I helped on a fishing boat that took the barrage balloons out to the U.S. invasion fleet in Falmouth harbor, in the west of England.

Richard Middleton
Salt Lake City