September 1st, 1939

german-tanks

Much rightful attention will be paid to the events of the First World War as we mark the centennial of the events of the “War to End All Wars”. 

Not to be lost in those observances of the Great War is tomorrow begins the marking of the 75th anniversaries of the events of the Second World War.  It was seventy-five years ago tomorrow, September 1st 1939, that the Wehrmacht of Hitler’s Third Reich crossed the Polish border and unleashed the savagery and bloodshed of that global conflagration. 

A great deal of what is in the news today can lead one to believe that the world is literally going to hell.  Perhaps it is, but the last century shows us that it has been there before.  Imagine in 1939 being a man or woman in your early 40s, who experienced the war of 1914-18, lost family and loved ones, perhaps your home and possessions, only to see war again come to your land and your people.  Again, for the second time in your short life, you may send a loved one (a son, or a husband) to war. Millions of men who fought in the Second World War had done so in the First.  Even without yet more personal participation as a soldier, the horrors of war were again manifest in the lives of hundreds of millions of souls, many of whom would perish before the uneasy peace ended the carnage. 

In 1914, the world was plunged accidentally into a bloodletting that spiraled out of control, by incompetent and irresponsible leaders in the nations of Europe.   In 1939, the world was again plunged into bloodletting, this time deliberately so by monsters who spewed their hatred and made no secret of their plans for conquest and subjugation.  Following a half a decade of weakness and appeasement from the Western democracies, whose desperation to avoid war only fueled the appetite of the dictator.

There are lessons aplenty from 1914, and many more from 1939.   Which are most applicable to 2014?  As the storm clouds gathered in the late 1930s, the words of Berthold Brecht must have echoed forlornly across the great cities of Europe.

Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.

If one listens to the cries of “death to the Jews” in the Muslim protests all over Europe, and watches the death squads murder thousands in Iraq, those words should echo still. 

12 thoughts on “September 1st, 1939”

  1. Applicable lessons?
    ALL of them

    But the asswipe is still playing golf and searching for a strategy
    Plus, no leaders worthy of the name, except maybe in that little country that gets rocketed daily and screamed at in those “protests”

    The next 10 years are going to be a waking nightmare

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  3. Alas, I have little doubt that it is about to happen again. Once again, t appeasers have guaranteed that lakes of blood will once again be spilled, because people refused to acknowledge the presence of evil, and the need to destroy it where ever it is found.

  4. Things are different today. Back then there were adults in charge.

    British forces were weak in the early 1930s (due to the 10-year rule), and French politics was a swamp of mediocrity. 



    UK Prime Minister Baldwin started the rearmament of the UK in 1934. Chamberlin continued to play for time while he was in office. The time gained led to new technologies that protected the country, esp. radar and Fighter Command’s organization and force structure. Fighter Command was ready just in time. An earlier start of war was problematic. AM Dowding used the time gained wisely.

    Poor political and military leadership harmed 

the French. The French Army did not have the doctrine or training needed to attack Germany after the Rhineland was occupied. The obsolescent French Air Force had new fighters in production. Labor difficulties crippled the modernization effort.

    An all-out French attack on Germany while Poland was invaded was theoretically possible and could have been decisive. French military leaders balked at that attack. 



    Inaction after the Rhineland occupation was the critical failure. Retrospective analysis is wonderful.

    1. An earlier start to the war would have been more problematic for Germany than for Britain and France.

    2. Tarl, you would think so just looking at the OOBs.

      However, the governments in both France and Britain had very strong anti-war opposition parties. They also had a pacifistic voting population. Governments preparing for war before 1939 would have been replaced with more incompetent leaders, with a specific anti-military agenda. No war call in Britain of France earlier than 1939 would have been successful.

      Politicians matter, for good of ill.
      How to get better politicians into office is another topic.

  5. Harry Turtledove has some ideas of how an earlier start to the 1939-1945 war in Europe might have gone. The alt. history branch of science fiction is one way to explore these issues.

    Paul

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