Washington Post Discovers World War II-Era Survey, Cancels the Greatest Generation

(AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal, File)

The Washington Post had a real scoop Monday: people in the 1940s held views that many would find racist and sexist today. It seems that Edward J.K. Gitre, an assistant professor of history at Virginia Tech, stumbled upon 65,000 pages of Army surveys from World War II in the National Archives. Wokescolds have now combed through them and are presenting the very worst of the “harsh views” expressed, in a project called “The American Soldier in World War II,” supported by Virginia Tech and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Post breathlessly informs us that “a lot of it runs counter to the wholesome image of the war’s ‘greatest generation.’”

To be sure, the Post found some ugly statements to highlight. One soldier wrote: “White supremacy must be maintained. I’ll fight if necessary to prevent racial equality. I’ll never salute a negro officer and I’ll not take orders from a negroe [sic]. I’m sick of the army’s method of treating … [black soldiers] as if they were human. Segregation of the races must continue.” Another declared in the same vein: “God has placed between us a barrier of color … We must accept this barrier and live, fight, and play separately.”

The Post adds that “some soldiers were suspicious of women in the service. A gay soldier wondered why he had been drafted. And several soldiers said they had been in combat too long.” A black soldier wrote: “It is impossible to understand how the brains of the Southern white man works and just what can be the cause of so much … hate that is imposed upon the Negro soldier. With all the patriotic speeches … he takes time out to heap insults and abuse upon the Negro soldier who is doing all that he can to further the war effort.” Another survey respondent wrote: “A women’s place is in the home. She can do more there by writing letters or by doing war work than by being in the army. … There are too many immoral women in the service and I wouldn’t want my sister to live with such people nor would a self-respecting woman.”

These remarks show that America has come a long way. But what is the point of highlighting in 2021 that some people in 1944 were racist and sexist? Edward J.K. Gitre, an assistant professor of history at Virginia Tech and the director of this project, suggests that he wanted to present an unvarnished view of the “greatest generation,” saying that the surveys were “an amazing find, because so much of the material from World War II is censored or kind of written after the fact. I knew immediately … that these were not censored in any way.”

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Fox News noted, however, that there seemed to be an ulterior motive in the presentation of this “uncensored” material. “Critics took to social media to blast The Post’s framing of the surveys, with some questioning the desire to view people in the 1940s through a 21st-century lens, and others suggesting that there was now an ongoing effort to cancel the grandparents of some Americans.” Nick Timothy, a columnist for the UK’s Telegraph, tweeted: “Next you’ll be telling me William Wilberforce wasn’t in the Parliamentary LGBTQ society, and Gandhi didn’t support Black Lives Matter. Historical figures lived with different social and moral norms. This is not news, or a novel academic discovery.”

Indeed. It is noteworthy also that the Post saw fit to highlight, out of 65,000 pages of surveys, racist and sexist remarks, rather than material that might have provided insight into the challenges that the men who won World War II faced and the difficulties they overcame. The Post’s article, and apparently the entire Virginia Tech project, if its focus is reflected accurately in the article, is akin to the pulling down of statues that has become a fad all over the country. The Left wants Americans to be ashamed of our history. Washington? Jefferson? Not statesmen, not men of courage, not key framers of the most successful republic and freest society the world has ever known, but just racist slaveowners, to be repudiated and abhorred, not respected or celebrated. Lincoln? He didn’t free the slaves; that’s the “white savior complex.” He, too, must be rejected as a racist, paternalist white supremacist. The Greatest Generation? Yes, they fought and won World War II and came home and made the United States the greatest power on earth, but you see, they did not hold woke attitudes.

The Washington Post and the entire Leftist intelligentsia wants to rewrite the Lee Greenwood song as “I’m ashamed to be an American.” A population that is ashamed of its own identity will not fight to defend it.