Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dieppe August 19, 1942

It is good that every few years we get a new book or film about the ill-fated Dieppe raid of seventy years ago today. It If Canadians don't study it, few others will do it for us.

The latest big book is Dennis O'Keefe's Dieppe Decoded, to be published next year and being promoted currently. New books on Dieppe often need a new angle, often announcing the real reason for the raid was a deep secret only now to be revealed.  O'Keefe's book seems to be in this category.  Seemingly it takes the view that Dieppe, like most of the rest of the war in some theories, was really driven by secret intelligence, Bletchley Park, and the Enigma machine. The Man called Intrepid is not mentioned, but Ian Fleming is.

On the whole I prefer the traditional explanation:  the Allies wanted to reassure Stalin by some action on the Second Front, or at least showing the difficulties facing a Second Front in 1942. And they wanted to test the possibilities of seizing a defended French port, even temporarily.  As the late John Keegan once argued, the main lesson learned from Dieppe was not to try anything like that again.

I've been intermittently following the daily blogging at World War II Day-by-Day. Its interest is in its dailyness: tracking all the various parts of the conflict as they rise and fall and interact.  So the Guadalcanal battle was shaping up in the Pacific. The siege of Leningrad and battles in the Caucasus were raging. Desperate efforts to provision Malta were continuing. There was the continuous steady attrition of bombers over Germany and of merchant ships and submarines all over the world. Suddenly, today, in the midst of all that, Dieppe explodes.  Reading newspapers in the 1940s must have been a harrowing experience.

Not compared to what guys like the assault forces at Dieppe faced, however.
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