The Chaco War: Bolivia and Paraguay, 1932-1935

The Chaco War: Bolivia and Paraguay, 1932-1935

The Chaco War: Bolivia and Paraguay, 1932-1935

The Chaco War: Bolivia and Paraguay, 1932-1935

Synopsis

Nearly 100,000 men died during the course of the tragic three-year war between two of the world's poorest nations, Bolivia and Paraguay, in the 1930s. The Chaco War was fought over a worthless stretch of desert scrubland for the pride of political leaders and the ambition of a few military officers. While thousands of illiterate, barefoot, undernourished peasant soldiers fought and died with incredible bravery, their commanders and national leaders fussed and fumed over imagined slights and avoided the peace which was so easily within their reach. The Bolivian military, in particular, performed abysmally. Few wars have been as unnecessary or as costly as the Chaco War.

Excerpt

In the early 1930s the world was concerned about important matters. The industrialized nations were reeling under the effects of the Great Depression, with untold millions out of work and the once-great financial houses tumbling down in ruin. Europe was increasingly worried about the meteoric rise to power of a mad ex-corporal in Germany, and the world kept a wary eye on Japan's imperial ambitions in the Far East. Fascist Italy had also made no effort to disguise its aggressive tendencies. Consequently, it is not surprising that a "little" war between two countries of which few had even heard went largely unnoticed.

The word "tragic" has been applied to virtually every war in history, but there have been few wars that word fits more perfectly than the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay. That the war was fought between two of the world's poorest nations over three long years and that it claimed the lives of nearly a hundred thousand men out of a total combined population of less than five million was certainly sad. That the war was fought over one of the most worthless pieces of real estate in existence was undeniably insane. But the truly tragic aspect of the war was, to my mind, that it was fought during the heyday of the League of Nations, by two tiny, landlocked countries without the means of producing any of the materials needed for modern warfare, and yet none of the efforts of the League or other individual states to seek an early end to the conflict prevented the war from running its bloody course until the two sides were simply too exhausted to continue.

In this book I have tried to pain a human face on a decidedly inhuman war. The war was fought largely by illiterate peasant infantrymen, many of whom had never left their home villages nor ever wanted to, and the horror of modern warfare carved its mark deep into their beings. The war was characterized by incredible hardship, such as soldiers of any country have rarely known. While . . .

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