Today’s games have achieved an astounding level of graphic realism, incorporating real-time actions and true physics models to give us all the appearance of being in battle. We can play World War II simulations that have us crossing the Reine, landing on the shores of Normandy, bracing for the Blitzkrieg, or fighting the Battle of Britain over the English Channel. But all the games have one common trait: they’re just games.
The reality is that many games are based on actual conflicts fought by real people who sacrificed their lives, limbs and health, holding back the tide of barbarism that threatened to overwhelm us all. Blood was shed and its stain should leave us all with the need to give thanks to all who gave their all so that we do not have to do so today. The numbers are staggering. In World War I, 16 million people were killed, and another 21 million were wounded. Of those casualties, 6.8 million were civilians. The horror and tragedy of World War I caused its survivors to declare that it was the War to End All Wars…and yet only a little over two decades later, World War II erupted.
The Second World War was so widespread and bloody that we don’t even have an accurate picture of just how many people died. The estimate is between around 50 to 70 million people, including civilians, military personnel and deaths caused by the aftereffects of the conflict (such as famine and disease). Think about that estimated casualty figure for a moment: it has a spread of 20 MILLION. Those were people, just like you and I, your neighbours, and family. Entire towns were eradicated from the globe. Here are some casualty figures by country, including both civilian and military deaths, but not including every country that fought the war:
China…between 10 and 20 MILLION dead.
Dutch East Indies…between 3 and 4 MILLION dead.
Germany…between 6 to 9 MILLION dead.
India…between 1.5 to 2.5 MILLION dead.
Japan…around 2.7 MILLION dead.
Poland…around 5.7 MILLION dead.
Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation)…around 24 MILLION dead.
The numbers are staggering, especially compared to the death toll in some of the Allied countries:
Australia…around 40,000 dead
Canada…around 45,000 dead
United Kingdom…around 450,000 dead
United States…around 419,000 dead
So the next time we fire up whatever battle simulation that permits us to play as a soldier in the Second World War or other conflict, let us keep the horror of the sheer scope of the two World Wars in mind. “Lest We Forget” is more than a catch phrase to help us remember to wear a red poppy on our lapel; it is a call to pause and reflect on the courage and sacrifice of those who gave their all so we could enjoy the lives we lead today.