This country never has lost a war
From days of William Penn,
We did it before, we'll do it again.
America Wins The War is a form of Hollywood History
in which a story implies or outright states that the United States single-handedly won World War II*
Sometimes, it's unintentional
; the viewpoint or focus is simply too narrow for the audience to be reminded of the bigger picture. Other times, though, it's a blatant example of Hollywood History
When this trope is in play, the efforts and contributions of the other "Western" Allies are downplayed, and the Eastern Front (where more than 80%
of the Wehrmacht was engaged at any one time after June 22 1941, and where the Germans suffered approximately 77%
of their casualties) is considered a sideshow
, if it's even mentioned at all. Often it seems like the only other Allied nation-state that actually did anything to fight Germany was the UK, which (after the Poles and French got their asses handed to them
) kept the hopeless fight alive until the USA joined in and saved the day. This is likely a result of the Cold War
making American educators and filmmakers unwilling to glorify the Soviet Union
or Maoist China
In particularly nasty cases, films based on actual WWII events will be warped to make the most prominent characters into US soldiers—see Steve McQueen in The Great Escape
and, perhaps most infamously, the film U-571
. It will occasionally even be said that WWII only began on December 7, 1941, when the United States entered the war, although that's usually poor phrasing or mixing up the dates, rather than a belief that the war did not begin until the US entry.
The D-Day landings are another good example. Many American-made productions will focus solely on Omaha Beach, the most heavily fortified of the four landing sites as well as the best-defended—both facts which Allied intelligence failed to realize prior to the operation. The carnage that ensued is a favourite among producers, since it emphasizes the sacrifice Americans made during the war—but doing so gives the impression that Omaha Beach was the
decisive turning point that led to the Allied victory in Europe. (The focus on Omaha Beach is also partially because Saving Private Ryan
did it, other games/movies/TV shows want to replicate its success
, and because it's more exciting to show a strongly opposed landing than an unopposed one — not that the other landings were exactly 'unopposed' (For instance, Canadian troops landing at Juno Beach on that day faced opposition almost as formidable and made better progress towards their objectives in spite of it*
), but still.
Cases of this trope are not limited to the European Theater. Most films featuring the Pacific theatre only focus on the naval and air battles fought by the U.S., appearing as though they were the sole force fighting in the Pacific. In reality, UK and Australian forces played significant roles and many other nations contributed as well. Not to mention the ''brutally'' violent war in China
, probably the most ignored battlefront of the war. This neglect is strange given that it was the longest conflict (starting in 1937) and believed to be the the second-bloodiest theatre of war in human history after the Russian front.
Keep in mind that despite having the name "America Wins The War," this is not
a strictly American trope. The British can and will exaggerate their
role in the war as well, with an additional jab that the Americans were not only late to the party but also stole all the credit, and additionally only joined in when they knew who was going to win. Even Russia does this; there, you'll find claims that WWII lasted from June 22, 1941 to May 9, 1945—when this was actually just the duration of the war between the USSR and Germany, known as the "Great Patriotic War". (However, this mixing up of the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War also sells the Soviet Union short, in that it ignores their successful campaigns against Japan in 1939 and late 1945). In short, many countries have tried to play up their part in the war at the expense of others and such examples are more than welcome.
Some see this general 'limited scope' thing as extending to the "official" date of the war's beginning, September 1st, 1939, the date of Germany's invasion of Poland. Most, however, accept that the moniker of 'World War' denotes merely the geography of a war (the British Empire alone spanned three continents at the time), rather than implying the conflict wasn't 'serious' or something
(the Japan of the time
, and many Japanese ultranationalists since, call it 'The China Incident'
). Though bloody and horrific in its own right*
, the war that Chiang Kai-Shek's Guomindang
waged against Imperial Japan
wasn't part of the 'World War' until The Imperial Navy lashed out to take Malaya and the Philippines
None of this is meant to diminish the contribution the United States, or any other single country, made to winning World War II, of course. The United States was very important, since not only was it the main presence on the Western and Pacific Fronts, but by virtue of heavy European investment over the last century or so they had developed the world's no.1 economy, accounting for perhaps a third of the entire world's GDP and maybe as much as 'half' of its industry (though not all of the latter was useful, of course). The United States also had more than twice the population of the Commonwealth, India aside. From the point of American entry, the Allies could have just broken even in the death count and material-destruction figures and still have won (Guomindang China aside, of course). Josef Stalin
is on record acknowledging that without American loans and industry backing them up the Soviets would taken 'far' greater casualties, and there would basically have been no chance of the Allies 'winning' any part of Europe in the peace to follow. None of the anti-Axis powers won the war all by their lonesome; everyone had their part, and the USA's was certainly in the top three.
See also America Saves the Day
, of which this is a sub-trope, and Hollywood History
, of which that
is a sub-trope.
: This trope specifically deals with World War II
. It does not apply to any other war, particularly modern conflicts.
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- Sgt. Rock and his 1960s spin-off series The Losers had one small team of US commandos pretty much holding up the Allied war effort.
- But generally averted in the other major DC Universe WWII "team" series, Blackhawk, about a multinational squadron of pilots where the leader is Polish (although sometimes he is a first-generation American of Polish descent). Even the American members of the team are generally immigrants or refugees from other countries.
- As did Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. At least Fury's team actually had a (stereotypical) British soldier on it.
- Averted in Atomic Robo, where of the five issues dealing with the titular robot's exploits against Nazi super-science, three of them has him teamed up with British agents (including one extremely Badass and nigh-unintelligible Scotsman).
- Given a head nod in The Punisher: Civil War, when Frank is having a tense disagreement over tactics with Captain America.
: My ways stopped Hitler
: No sir
, the Russians stopped Hitler.
- British comics set in World War 2 tended to concentrate on the Desert War up until El Alamein, the last major battle won by the British and Empire forces without the involvement of American troops.
Films — Live-Action
- U-571, which Americanized the story of the British capture of U-110 and her all-important Enigma machine. In real life, most of the captured machines were acquired by the British and the original breaking of the code was done by the Polish (the first captured Enigma being literally found at the Warsaw Post Office in a parcel addressed to the German Embassy). U-571 herself was never captured. When the film was released in the UK it had to have a disclaimer added at the start stating that it was in no way based on real events. Ironically, the filmmakers could have avoided all this by basing the movie on U.S. Navy's even more dramatic capture of U-505, making this film a trifecta of America Wins The War, Artistic License - History and Artistic License - Ships.
- Averted in Enemy at the Gates, an American film about a Soviet sniper in the battle of Stalingrad... in which Americans played no part. Granted, director/producer/writer Jean-Jacques Annaud is French, but Mandalay Pictures produced the movie, and Paramount Pictures distributed it.
- Churchill: The Hollywood Years parodies this. It suggests that Winston Churchill was a tough as nails American G.I. (Christian Slater) who won WWII and romanced then-Princess Elizabeth. The Churchill history is familiar with? The film says he was in fact an actor called Roy Bubbles.
- The irony of this is compounded by the fact that Churchill's mother was American.
- Never mind that the Real Life Winston Churchill had a remarkable political and military career already long before WW 2 broke out. The Brits didn't pick just any nobody for Prime Minister in 1940.
- Saving Private Ryan was criticized for this in the UK, since the sole reference in the movie to any non-American involvement in the battle was a brief exchange on how "overrated" General Montgomery was. Of course, like its successor, Band of Brothers, the narrative maintains a narrow focus on a small unit who might not have encountered foreign Allied soldiers during their mission and might have actually espoused this opinion (Field Marshal Montgomery being not-very-popular with a large segment of the American military).
- Pretty much averted in the film The Great Raid about the Raid at Cabanatuan wherein the American Alamo Scouts with help from Filipino guerillas rescued a group of American POWs in the Philippines from a Japanese prison camp. The film showed just how critical the local forces were to the rescue by showing the guerillas holding back Japanese reinforcements at an important choke point and providing hundreds of carabao carts to quickly transport the weakened and diseased American POWs.
- Also averted in Saints and Soldiers, when the Americans rescue a downed British recon pilot and attempt to return him to friendly lines.
- Absolutely averted in The Longest Day. It includes practically everyone. Also the Germans. Memorable for its portrayal of German officers:
Blumentritt: (as a sarcastic response to the message, that the Führer is asleep, and therefore unable to give permission to deploy vital Panzer reserves to Normandy) This is history. We are living an historical moment. We are going to lose the war because our glorious Führer has taken a sleeping pill and is not to be awakened. Sometimes I wonder which side God is on."
- The film does tend to focus on the American sectors, especially Omaha beach (with some justification, given the intensity of the fighting and the numbers of Americans vs. other Allies involved on June 6, 1944), and the Canadians are nowhere to be seen. Also, it is one of several major Hollywood movies focusing on the Western front very much to the exclusion of developments on the Eastern front, which prevents an incomplete picture even for 1944, when the crushing Soviet summer offensive was co-ordinated with the Normandy landing.
- The 1945 Errol Flynn film Objective, Burma! caused a minor uproar in the UK for supposedly suggesting that British involvement in the Burmese campaign was minimal, when, in fact, the British had been the primary combatants in the campaign. Churchill himself was said to have been incensed by the film, and it was denounced in the Times. Warner Bros.. withdrew the film from circulation in the UK, and it did not appear there until 1952.
- Interestingly author/screenwriter George MacDonald Fraser, who had been an infantryman in Burma during the war, said in his book Hollywood History that he rather liked ''Objective, Burma!' and that at least American troops had fought in that theater.
- In It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Milton Berle's character invokes this while arguing with Terry-Thomas. It proves to be something of a Berserk Button for the latter.
"As far as I'm concerned, the whole British race is practically finished. If it hadn't been for Lend-Lease, if we hadn't kept your whole country afloat by giving you billions that you never even said 'Thank you' for, the whole phony outfit would've sunk under the Atlantic years ago...What are you stopping for?"
- Averted in the 1961 adaptation of The Guns of Navarone. The team consisted of a American (Mallory), two Brits (Franklin and Miller), two Greeks (Stavros and Pappadimos) and one person of unknown nationality ("Butcher" Brown, played by Welshman Stanley Baker).
- The (Peoples' Republic of) Chinese equivalent appears in Ip Man, which is set during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The concluding captions mention China's defeat of Japan without mentioning the Guomindang or the international Allied forces that had pushed Imperial Japan back and blockaded the Home Islands in preparation for an amphibious invasion. In reality, the Guomindang and their warlord allies acted as a huge punching bag, losing battle after battle until The United States, Britain, and later the Soviet Union entered the conflict. The importance of US Lend-lease - which was critical to propping the Guomindang with things like massive loans and anti-tank weaponry - also goes unmentioned, naturally.
- The 2011 Captain America movie, of all places, makes it a point of him having a Multinational Team backing him up, and that the program that helped give him his powers was a joint Anglo-American operation. However, you won't find any mention of the Soviet Union save amidst the sea of flags in the end credits.
- This trope is blatantly invoked in Iron Sky, when the President of the U.S. defends her nation's claim to the Helium-3 deposits on the moon by saying that America won World War 2 and saved the world (albeit with tiny contributions here and there by her allies)... She even goes so far as to base this historic "fact" on Hollywood war movies which "never lie". Played for Laughs, of course.
- Played pretty much straight in Patton, which plays up George S. Patton's acrimonious rivalry with Montgomery and his antipathy towards the Soviet Union. Here Patton also boasts that America had never experienced defeat while addressing his troops. (Historian Shelby Foote in Ken Burns' Civil War series pointed out the irony of this, given that Patton's grandfather had been a Confederate officer and so of course had experienced defeat).
- On the whole averted in German movies about the war, a lot of which focus on the Eastern Front. Here the battles of Stalingrad and Berlin are particular favourites, maybe in part because with their intense house-to-house fighting they are easier to recreate than e. g. the battle of Kursk, the greatest tank battle in history.
- In Pearl Harbor, despite being set before America even enters WWII, there is a scene where a British man states:
"God help anyone who goes to war with America".
- This trope is pretty much the entire justification for Tom Brokaw to write The Greatest Generation, a book about the brilliance of Americans born in the 1920s and 1930s.
- Sergei Lukyanenko mocks this attitude in the book Day Watch where an American soldier (a Light Other) in Prague talks about how they liberated the place from the Germans. Earlier in the same book, Las is described as wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a Red Army-man bayoneting a Wehrmacht soldier and the text "Remember who really won the War!"
- Las was in "Twilight (Dusk) Watch", and (in the original Russian version, at least) he wears t-shirt with a picture of Russian paratrooper knifing "negro in American uniform". And the text was something like "We can help to recall who won the Second World War".
- Averted in The Guns of Navarone. It was about an Allied commando team, consisting of a New Zealander, an American, a Greek, a Scot, and another Brit. They were sent on their mission by the British army, to destroy enemy guns threatening British ships, that were on their way to rescue British soldiers. The blurb on the movie tie-in edition said something along the lines of "They had to succeed where the entire U.S. Navy had failed!" This story is based on the SAS attack lead by Paddy Mayne against the guns at Sicily prior to Allied invasion of the Island.
- Spoofed in a 2006 The Daily Show. Jon Stewart comments that the Iraq War has "gone on longer than WW2"; Englishman John Oliver corrects him, that WW2 was going on for 2 years longer than the US involvement. Though Stewart wasn't correct until 2009, John Oliver wasn't historically correct either if the Sino-Japanese angle, considered a separate war in European countries, is factored in (which would place the start at July 1937).
- Explored in the episodes of Foyle's War which focus on the American entry into the war; whilst the American soldiers who appear are treated largely sympathetically, there's a certain amount of realistic tension between them and the British characters, many of whom take the attitude that they took their time to get involved and now seem to be taking over everything since they got here - and the American 'we're here to save the day' attitude doesn't entirely help matters or endear them.
- Friends: Invoked in the fourth series finale when Ross and Emily's parents are arguing over paying the costs of the wedding.
Mr. Geller: "All right! Fine, but I just want to say, I'm not paying for your wine cellar, you thieving, would-be-speaking-German-if-it-weren't-for-us, cheap little man!"
- In Star Trek: Enterprise there is an alternate timeline where Lenin was assassinated, so quite naturally Germany didn't much bother with Russia and instead invaded the United States.
- Star Trek: The Original Series. "The City On The Edge Of Forever". Due to pacifist movement USA did not enter WW II, and Hitler won precisely because of it, causing humanity to be enslaved and never reaching the stars.
- Justified in the Ken Burns documentary, The War, as its format was specifically created to show, compare, and contrast WWII's impacts on 4 American towns and people from them. Since obviously few if any people from those towns would have been with the British, Russian or any other military, by default it focuses on the American parts of the war (although the British and Russians do get the occasional narrator-said nod).
- In the Dad's Army episode "My British Buddy", the Walmington Home Guard are infuriated by the arrival of American troops whose attitude is that they're going to succeed where the British have failed. Matters aren't helped by the fact that the first thing the American soldiers do when they get there is try and steal the British soldiers' girlfriends, and then act very entitled and hard-done-by when they find they can't get a good drink. It all ends in a fistfight.
- Warden Hodges' comments didn't help the situation any either - mockingly saying that the US had joined the war quickly this time, "Two and a half years instead of three!"
- For a long, long, time, the definitive TV-documentary history of WW 2 was the British-made The World At War, which condensed WW 2 into twenty-six hours of TV narrative. Scrupulous care was taken to make this as objective as possible, to allow the American and Russsian involvements to be related accurately and in context. The last thing the makers wanted was half a year of British triumphalism. American TV has since commissioned its own version of TWAW. And whaddya know, the British and Russian aspects have been pared back to invisibility, as second-rate allies of a triumphant world-leading USA...
- Whenever the French were mentioned in front of Raymond's dad, his automatic response was "Pulled their ass out of two world wars!"
- A Saturday Night Live sketch featured an uptight and Ambiguously Gay British host getting into a snit with Mickey Rooney, played by Dana Carvey. As they traded barbs, Mickey sneered at the host: "All I know is we hauled your butt out of two world wars!"
- Band Of Brothers is a bit of an interesting example, as it focuses on American soldiers in the war, but most of the main cast are played by British actors. Foreign allies do show up in the series, though not necessarily in a positive light. In Market Garden, the British armor support is shown to be completely ineffective, forcing Easy Company to retreat (In the book, Ambrose not-so-subtly implies that Operation Market Garden, which was led by Montgomery, was doomed to fail and that Patton's plan for crossing the Rhine would have been far more effective - a longtime debate in military history circles). Later on, Easy is tasked with rescuing a number of British soldiers trapped behind enemy lines, though both sides do get along very well after the success of the mission. When Easy Company is advancing on Eagle's Nest, they are specifically ordered to get there before the French do.
- Generally, Band of Brothers averts this trope. For instance, the epilogue to the Operation Market Garden episode points out that the British suffered far worse casualties at Arnhem than the 101st. Similarly, the British tank support does cover Easy's retreat in that episode, and the only reason the British tanks do badly is because their orders force them to "avoid unnecessary destruction of property" which would have allowed them to ambush the German tanks, rather than be ambushed.
- Averted in the Call of Duty series, in which you change your player character every once in a while so that you can see the war from several Allied perspectives; one mission concerns an American paratrooper, then you're a British commando in a few other missions, then a Russian grunt, etc. Of course, you rarely hear of what else is going on as you are fighting.
- The Medal of Honor series, however, tend to play this pretty straight, in which you're an American soldier who seems to single-handedly ensure victory in every major Allied campaign and save the day. In later expansion packs, this even included battles in which America played no part whatsoever. The second game of the series focused on a French woman, Manon Batiste, fighting the Germans as a Maquis and an OSS operative.
- MoH: Airborne, where each mission ends with a debriefing voice-over from the commanding officer. After a relatively minor skirmish in Italy, 1943 he proclaims "The war has begun" and after a very over-the-top raid on a flak tower in early 1945 he says that the war is over and effectively gives the Airborne itself full credit in his speech. The British are mentioned in passing in one mission, Operation Market Garden - fascinatingly, in contrast to the earlier MoH: Frontline, it is presented as a great victory in spite of the fact it's actually the Allies' most notorious bungle.
- Yahtzee's review went and analyzed and deconstructed this trope during his review of Airborne:
- Operation Darkness mixes this trope up a bit, by instead using Britain Wins The War. Both the plot of the game and its brief historical asides emphasize the British contribution to the war effort in the same way this trope does for the US. The funny thing? It's a Japanese game.
- Command And Conquer Red Alert Series.
- Averted - probably - in Command & Conquer: Red Alert. As per Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act, this version of WWII is quite different, with a Soviet invasion of Europe being countered by Allies led by a German supreme commander and aided by technology developed by Albert Einstein, while Word Of God is that America didn't directly join the war until the Soviets were already losing. That said, the Allied armory includes what look like Abrams tanks and M-16s (in the 1950's), but it's unclear whether this is due to an extensive lend-lease campaign by the United States, the result of alternate history shenanigans, or simply because the game reuses a lot of assets from the original Command And Conquer.
- Outright inverted in Command And Conquer Red Alert 2, as the United States grudgingly have to ask for help to the European Allies. The French President is stereotypically uppity. In the intro cutscene of Yuri's Revenge, though, the desperate U.S. President Dugan acknowledges Yuri that it in fact was the United States who won the war.
- Averted in Metal Gear Solid 33 Snake Eater with the Cobra Unit, which while led by an American (and apparently a hugely patriotic one) contains at least two Russians and three people of unknown origin (all that's said is that they're from the Allied Nations). The game tells you rather erroneously that they all but won WWII as if all the other millions of Allied soldiers were just twiddling their thumbs at the Axis Powers.
- Averted in the Resistance series. The Chimera have pretty much steamrolled over all of Europe and Asia. In the sequel, they begin their invasion of the United States...and steamroll over them too. It's only the Super Soldier main character and his pals that achieve anything even resembling success.
- Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory allows you to play as one of two sides: one is Nazi Germany, guess who the other is? Considering you know how the war turns out the implication is a given.
- Averted in the IL-2 Sturmovik series of WWII combat flight sims. The US is an important aerial power there, but the focus is more on their struggles in the Pacific theatre instead of the Western European front. They're certainly not winning single-handedly all the time, either. The British, Australian, Soviet and Dutch air forces play an equal role in the Pacific (British pilots attacking Okinawa from Royal Navy aircraft carriers, Soviets fighting in Manchuria and the Dutch defending their colonial turf in Indonesia) and often join US forces on various missions. In a humorous inversion, the Brits are sometimes even in command of certain US Army/Navy Air Corps squadrons.
- And this is a notable example because it is played straight in many, many combat flight simulators, where the focus is overwhelmingly on the European Western front and/or the battles between Japan and the US.
- To be fair to the Western Allies, the Germans did commit most of their air strength against the British and Americans and suffered their heaviest air losses against them. The air battles of Western Europe and the Pacific dwarfed those of the Eastern front.
- Considering that the Il-2 series were developed in Russia, the series' even-handed coverage (including its ready acknowledgment of the importance of British- and American-built Lend-Lease aircraft that were used alongside Soviet types in the Soviet Air Force) also counts as an aversion of The Soviet Union Wins the War.
- Averted in Red Orchestra and its sequel: they focus entirely on the conflict between Germany and Russia. To an extent this is also averted in the mods that add other Allied factions; for example, the only D-Day battle present in Darkest Hour is the Canadian's Juno Beach.
- In the Justice League episode, "The Savage Time," the immortal supervillain, Vandal Savage, manages to send a laptop full of technical information for superweapons to himself during World War II. There was also a video recording message telling himself what to do with the info, such as usurp Hitler and a specific warning to ready the Third Reich for a massive US/UK/Canada seaborne invasion of Normandy on June 6th, 1944. While the success of Operation Overlord in 1944 was definitely very bad news for Germany, wouldn't a specific warning not to invade the Soviet Union in 1941 before neutralizing the Western enemies first have been a higher priority?
- The laptop he sent back in time could have arrived years before 1945 (the Martian says it). Savage had enough time to set himself up as a revolutionary scientist, prove his new weapons, and then remove Hitler. Since there's no mention made of the Soviets, one could assume he never invaded the USSR, and was instead focusing on the center of Allied supply lines, the US.
- Also, Savage shut the laptop off while the message was in mid-sentence, implying that there may have been more to it.
- Spoofed in the Monkey Dust sketch Hollywood Pictures Presents: The Diary of Anne Frank, along with a slew of other Hollywood clichés. The sketch ends with Anne Frank's all-American boyfriend Johnny killing a room full of Nazis with an American flag, then sucker-punching Hitler with a cry of "This one's for President Churchill!" 
- Several other spoofs appear also, one set in the 'Camelot' era where everyone has American accents, and then 'They all come home' which is a parody of Black Hawk Down lampooning various American military cliches.
- Parodied indirectly in The Simpsons; in an episode set Twenty Minutes into the Future, Moe tells Lisa's British fiance that "We saved your ass in World War II." The fiance replies "Well, we saved [America's] arse in World War III", and Moe concedes the point.
- Bart-Mangled Banner, which is mainly a Take That episode aimed at misguided patriotism, plays with it. The Simpsons are rescued from the sea by a boat captained by a xenophobic Frenchman, who acknowledges his unjustified hatred of the Americans by admitting they were the (not a, the) country which saved France from the Germans - twice.
- In The Regina Monologues Homer, as usual, handles this in his usual way when visiting London: "We're big shot tourists from everyone's favorite country, the USA. We saved your ass in Vietnam and shared our prostitutes with Hugh Grant".