But certainly one of the most significant anniversaries occurs next week – on Monday, September 1. On that date in 1939, Nazi Germany launched its first “Blitzkrieg” against Poland, the final straw as far as the Allies were concerned.
For four years, Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich had been defying international rules and agreements in its effort to reclaim victory from the German loss in World War I. On Sept. 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
In short order Italy would join the war on Germany’s side. And even though Hitler had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin only days before the invasion of Poland, Russia would wind up on the side of the Allies after Hitler invaded his supposed “ally” in 1940s.
Initially the United States held back. Still reeling from the Great Depression and jaded by the sour outcome of World War I, Americans were ambivalent at best. 1939 had been an upbeat year in America. The World’s Fair in New York City – “The World of Tomorrow” was its theme – celebrated innovation and the promise of a brighter future for Americans.
President Franklin Roosevelt viewed the situation in Europe with alarm, but was very sensitive to American public opinion. Just three years before, he declared:
“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping, exhausted men come out of line — the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.”