Whole sections of the European peace structure collapsed in 1938. Before the year was out Austria fell, Czechoslovakia was fatally compromised, and Mussolini gained British recognition of his Ethiopian conquest. To Italian and German delight, Anthony Eden left the Foreign Office. In Spain, Franco's forces stood close to victory; British and French recognition of the dictator's regime would come in February 1939, shortly before Germany took what remained of Czechoslovakia. The American role in these events was not decisive; neither was it insignificant. There were almost two sides to American diplomacy in 1938. One manifested itself in an undertaking at the start of the year that, if successful, might have matured into the most important development of the decade; the other reflected the thinking of the man who represented the United States in Germany, an individual who agreed in the main with the mixed and confused assumptions that caused his European colleagues to commit the diplomatic blunders leading to catastrophe.
Hugh R. Wilson was a highly capable career diplomat, esteemed by his colleague, Moffat, for belonging to the "realist" as opposed to the "messianic" school of thought.1 He had entered the foreign service in 1911 and served successively in Guatemala, Argentina,____________________