Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that brought the United States into the war that had begun in Poland in September, 1939.  George Washington, in his speech when he was leaving the office of the presidency, warned the United States to beware of entangling alliances.  The domino fiasco that brought the US into World War II was exactly what he had in mind.

Germany used an excuse to invade Poland.  Poland was allied with Great Britain and France so when Germany declared war on Poland, Great Britain and France had to declare war on Germany.  The majority of people in the United States were absolutely opposed to getting involved in a European War so, officially, the US stayed out of it.  Unofficially, Franklin Roosevelt began the Lend-Lease program with Great Britain.  We would lease or lend planes, tanks, trucks, ships, and every other kind of heavy material to Great Britain who would return it when they were done with it.  The country stayed out of the fighting war until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  Japan is, as we know, a nation made up of islands with few natural resources.  The United States presence in Hawaii kept Japan from making claims on the resources of the other countries in the Pacific.  It was Japan’s misfortune that they did not understand the size of the United States nor the manufacturing advancements that had been made even during the Depression.  Japan declared war on the United States, the United States declared war on Japan, Great Britain and France declared war on Japan, Japan declared war on the countries in Europe and the US found itself involved in a European war even though the proximate cause of all the war declaring was on the other side of the world.

Never has an event in history given rise to more books than World War II.  Some of those books have been thrillers about civilian life crimes that just happened to take place during war time.  It would take pages to list all the books that are worth reading in this genre.

A unique take on the police procedurals is a terrific series written by a Canadian author, J. Robert Janes.  The series is set in France during the Occupation and it features an unusual partnership.  One of the detectives is German, a man who was a police officer before the war and was kept in the job once it began.  Because he was part of the system that protected German citizens in German territory, he was considered a member of the Gestapo.  He was partnered with a French detective and together the two form an alliance to act as police detectives not as an arm of government they despised.

James Benn, Alan Furst, Bill Mesce, David Downing, and Philip Kerr have written excellent series set in different parts of Europe during the war period.

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  1. Condorena says:

    This was a very interesting and educational post. Thanks !

  2. heavyepsilon says:

    Very informative, I am so glad people still remember, 70 years is not that long ya know.

    • Beth says:

      Condorena, the history of diplomacy in the thirties proves that as wise as Washington’s warning was in the eighteenth century he could not see the future. He could never have imaginged the emergence of aircraft as a fighting weapon. The world then was connected by diplomatic ties as well as economic ones. The world kept getting smaller.

      Heavyepsilon, I read your blog entry for today. I see that this is your first day going live. Best of luck to you. I do not agree with your view on the relationship with Japan. General Douglas MacArthur was a brilliant strategist and, unfortunately, arrogant with it. But he had founght in World War I and he knew the mistakes the US and its allies made were the direct cause of World War II.

      I won’t go into the history of hate between Germany and France (everyone breathes sigh of relief) but France forced Germany to take full responsibility for the war and it imposed, with the blessings of the allies, terms that were ruinous for Germany in the aftermath of the destruction. Germany wasn’t just defeated, it was humiliated. Hitler, or someone like him, was inevitable in that atmosphere. M..acArthur and Roosevelt agreed that a repeat of that disasterous decision would lead to another war. Both sides had learned that distance was no longer a guarantee of safety. MacArthur understood the Japanese and, strange as it seems today, Congress was willing to accept the word of someone who was on the ground and understood the cultural differences.

      Mac Arthur convinced Roosevelt and his advisors that the one way to ensure Japan’s hatred of the United States would influence everything in the Pacific would be to remove the emperor. Hard for us, or the Japanese I think, to understand that Hirohito was believed to descend from the sun god. When the emperor left the imperial compound, his subjects had to bow to the ground and not look at him because they would be blinded Instead, MacArthur convinced Roosevelt to allow the Japanese their dignity and their emperor. That decision over sixty years ago, gained us an ally. We could not defend ourselves in the Pacific if it were not for the alliance of the United States and Japan.

      When General MacArthur retired, he spoke at Westpoint, giving historians a quote that defined MacArthur and his role in history. “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away” and MacArthur slipped quietly into history. He wanted to be president but he was too much the commanding officer to understand that in the office of president, the commander-in-chief serves at the will of the people.

  3. Cara says:

    Beth thanks for mentioning J Robert Janes! He’s written this brilliant series and I wish there were more in print. Cara

  4. Beth says:

    There are more in print than there are available. Janes should have received far more attention than he has. He writes World War II stories that are really different.

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