On 2 February 1848 the Mexican-American War came to an official end, though for all practical purposes it had ended weeks before. Winfield Scott, the only American General-In Chief to take field command (a whole other story, that) was the most celebrated soldier since Andrew Jackson. An entirely self-educated officer who was first commissioned at age 22 as a captain of artillery (1808), “Old Fuss and Feathers” had led the American invasion of the Mexican Plateau in the first such expedition since Cortes. What was remarkable was that European observers were all convinced that the European-trained Mexicans would handily defeat the Americans, whose last outing against European-style armies was in 1815.
Scott’s army never lost a battle, nor left a battlefield in retreat. Six different American forces invaded Mexican territory from 1846-48 ranging in size from company to Scott’s small army, and none were unsuccessful. “A little more grape, Captain Bragg” became a buzz phrase for a generation before the Civil War. Mexico, beset by internal division, class warfare, and political uncertainty since its independence in 1822, would gradually settle into a twilight state between revolution and civil war that would obtain until the European invasion in 1862, and return until the Cristero War ended in 1929.
And then there was Stalingrad. Though German Sixth Army officially surrendered on 31 January 1942, it would be two days until the last pockets of resistance were destroyed. Between the Axis Allies and the Soviets, somewhere near two million soldiers and at least as many civilians died in the carnage and bitter weather at the City of Stalin. Films like Stalingrad (1943) and Enemy At the Gates (2001) depict desolation, privation, random death and injury only to well-fed Germans and Russians, but the truth was that both sides were nearly on starvation rations even before the November 1942 offensive cut off the Germans and their allies.
Stalingrad changed the entire face of WWII in Russia, and arguably lost the war for Germany. Between the loss of Guadalcanal by Japan earlier in the week, the brawl that was the American’s return to combat in North Africa in the next month, the British offensive into Libya and then Tunisia, the cracks in the Axis empires were becoming bigger, if not deeper. It was clear that, if the Allies would fight long enough, both the German and Japanese monsters could be tamed.