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‘Rape and racism’: Washington Post celebrates D-Day with controversial op-ed

‘Rape and racism’: Washington Post celebrates D-Day with controversial op-ed
As leaders from around the world gathered in Normandy to honor allied troops who landed on the beaches 75 years ago, the Washington Post published an op-ed that called WWII American troops rapists and racists.

It would not be 2019 without at least one “woke” take about a historical event on the magnitude of D-Day. Enter the Washington Post, which published an article by Cambridge history PhD Ruth Lawlor, decrying the “darker underbelly” of “racial inequality and a militant form of misogyny” that accompanied the Normandy landings and the subsequent liberation of western Europe.

Lawlor noted that after the landings complaints of rape began to surface in alarming numbers as Americans pushed inland. By April 1945, Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower stated that “wanton destruction, rape, and other crimes” had become widespread in liberated territory.

The historian then brings racism into the mix. According to Lawlor, white US soldiers were frequently let off the hook for raping civilians, escaping punishment on mental health grounds, while black GIs were treated far more severely for their “violent and lustful” conduct.

Readers of the Post had little patience for Lawlor’s claims, mainly wondering why the paper chose a day of remembrance to highlight the issue. After all, the historian even went after the sacred cows of the 101st Airborne Division – whose deeds were portrayed in HBO’s ‘Band of Brothers’ – asking why they weren’t arrested or prosecuted after they raped“several” girls in a French town in 1945.

“How easy it is for you to sit in your comfy chair in safety and complete freedom to denigrate those who fought and died for your very right to write these things,” wrote one commenter, who described herself as a ‘daughter of a D-Day hero’. “How easy to point fingers, denigrate and tear down memories having never experienced an nth of what those soldiers, many of whom were 18 years old, did.”

“There ya go WaPo...I knew we could count on you for something to darken D-Day remembrances,” wrote another.

“This is a ridiculous essay to publish on the 75th anniversary of D-Day,” said a third commenter. “Sure there was racism, but keep in mind 10s of millions of people of all races were killed during the war and entire countries destroyed.”

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Others were angered by Lawlor’s choice to focus on this particular issue. It is common for academics to study history from narrow angles, and Lawlor’s research has focused intensely on this area. Her article made no mention of sex crimes committed by other armies, in Normandy or elsewhere, nor did it compare these crimes to atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. Post readers were unamused.

“Let this nonsense sit in her PhD advisor's bottom drawer,” read one scathing comment. “Two months from now, this might have been an interesting article – today it's an insult.”

Trotting out a controversial take on D-Day is not a new attention-grabbing strategy. The New York Times greeted the 2013 anniversary of the landings with its own story of rape and rampage. Unlike the Washington Post, however, they elected publish it before June 6.

Perhaps anticipating an avalanche of expletive-laden comments, Lawlor switched her Twitter profile to ‘private’ some time before the story was published.

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