“Today, September 1, 1939, Nazi Troops crossed Germany’s
eastern border and entered the sovereign state of Poland.”
–New York Times, September 2, 1939
As the decade of the 1930s came to its end, the black horse of poverty and despair which had galloped across America—a land presumably protected by two oceans—was no longer front page news. Employment figures had risen, and the economy was rolling again. President Franklin Roosevelt’s popularity reached 71%—the highest figure in the Gallup Poll Institute’s seven-year “vote of confidence” index.
The gambit that set off World War II was taken on the first day of September, 1939, when Chancellor Adolf Hitler ordered Wehrmacht troops to cross Germany’s eastern border and enter western Poland. That was the beginning of a debacle that would claim the lives of more than fourteen million men and women under arms as well as countless civilians killed either by deliberate intent or as innocent victims of modern warfare.
A tidal wave of German airplanes first swept into Poland, whose air force was destroyed in two days, its army in seven, and its capital city captured in sixteen. In fulfillment of pledges to Poland, England and France declared war on Germany, and then, worsening the crisis, came the Soviet Union’s march into hapless Poland from the east.
For nearly a month after these happenings, except for scattered naval engagements there was almost no fighting by the Western Allies. The