Hoping to prevent future wars, governments form an international league. Despite men’s efforts, another world war emerges—unleashing previously untold horrors of human nature.
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Failing to heed the lessons of the Great War, nations engaged in events that would eventually trigger World War II. The second global war was far worse in terms of destruction, number of deaths and injuries, shattered lives, and previously unthinkable atrocities—affecting soldiers and civilians alike.
Despite astounding advancements in physical pursuits, man would continue to grope about in darkness, blind to the causes of global warfare, and unable to govern human nature.
This is part two of a three-part series that examines why.
As World War I drew to a close, United States President Woodrow Wilson promoted the idea of a community of nations working together to prevent another world war. During his “Fourteen Points” speech delivered before Congress in 1918, Wilson said, “A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.”
This led to the formation of the League of Nations, a collective security organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Its purpose was to use diplomacy to settle disputes between countries, and thus prevent war from erupting.
League members included Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the Soviet Union and Germany, among others. Despite President Wilson’s staunch support for the League of Nations, a fervent tide of isolationism swept Congress and the American public, and the United States never joined.
America had emerged from World War I as a formidable global power. Without Washington’s leadership, the league was ultimately a paper tiger—a world authority without teeth. The international organization lacked an army to enforce economic sanctions against governments attempting to wage war.
In 1931, Japan invaded China and seized control of the Chinese province of Manchuria, renaming it Manchukuo. The league officially condemned the invasion—causing Japan to withdraw its membership.
In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia. Led by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, the nation’s military—including 400,000-plus troops, tanks, fighter planes, and mustard gas—overwhelmed the African country. Though the League of Nations condemned the invasion and imposed sanctions against Italy, it provided little comfort for the easily conquered Ethiopians.
In 1938, Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain caved in to Adolf Hitler’s demands that Germany be allowed to seize Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia if the Nazi dictator promised not to demand any more territories in Europe. Chamberlain thought this would ensure peace.
The league remained silent about the invasion deal.
Meanwhile, after years of witnessing war and destruction, a new generation sought to numb its sorrows through fast living, hard drinking, lewd dancing and risque apparel. It was the age of the flapper—the modern “liberated” woman who thumbed her nose at conventional dress and conduct. Promiscuity and social experimentation were the rule of the day.
But soon the chickens came home to roost: a flash depression in 1920 caught most Americans by surprise. It was an early warning sign that national economic disaster was just over the horizon.
That year, prominent statistician Roger Babson warned bankers and business executives that “they were about to enter the worst business depression of their generation. ‘I advise you all to set your houses in order,’ he said” (Herbert W. Armstrong — His Life in Proper Perspective).
“Because the demands of World War I had artificially inflated the price of food and supplies, the postwar economy was riding a wave of prosperity. Bank clearings, business activity, stock car loadings and stock market quotes were all booming…”
“Yet, by the end of that same year, Mr. Babson’s prediction came true. The economic wave gave way to the flash depression of 1920, which came crashing down, sweeping away many American businesses…”
“Mr. Babson explained that he was able to know a depression was coming by looking at the way people lived—how they dealt with one another as a whole.
“He said, ‘I looked to the source which determines future conditions. I have found that the source may be defined in terms of “righteousness.” When 51 percent or more of the whole people are reasonably “righteous” in their dealings with one another, we are heading into increasing prosperity. When 51 percent of the people become “unrighteous” in their business dealings with their fellows, then we are headed for bad times economically!’” (ibid.)
This principle echoes a biblical lesson of wisdom: “Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
The warning lesson of the 1920 flash depression fell on deaf ears. Over the decade, dubbed the Roaring Twenties, general prosperity, propped up by greed for get-rich-quick schemes and reckless investing, transformed into widespread monetary woes starting with the 1929 Stock Market Crash. Banks and other financial institutions shut down. Savings accounts were wiped out. Businesses closed. Jobs disappeared. The Great Depression spread across the globe, setting the stage for WWII.
The Treaty of Versailles, signed by participants of the first world war, was designed to reduce Germany’s defenses. It restricted its army to 100,000 troops and its naval force to 15,000 sailors, and banned it from manufacturing poisonous gas, tanks, submarines and warplanes—all so the defeated nation would never again become a pivotal military power.
Germany was essentially forced to sign the peace treaty, which burdened the country with the humiliation of paying war reparations and being held responsible for all loss and ruin the Allied forces suffered during the war. Most Germans saw this as unreasonable and unbearable—adding insult to injury.
The German economy experienced hyperinflation: workers had to be paid almost every day because the worth of the national currency spiraled out of control—and citizens experienced food and fuel shortages, as well as political unrest among communists and fascists. During these desperate times, people listened to plans that advocated desperate measures.
From political and economic turmoil, the fascist Nazi movement emerged. Adolf Hitler and his Brownshirts, through a coup d’etat, failed to seize power from the fragile Weimar Republic. But this proved to be only a minor setback. Hitler was eventually elected to office, and gained political power through legal means.
After the elderly President Paul von Hindenburg died, Hitler became chancellor of Germany. He used his position to mesmerize millions of German citizens with grandiose speeches that promised a return to national glory by the establishment of a Third Reich—1,000 years of prosperity and peace for the Aryan “master race.” Adolf Hitler became “Der Fuhrer”—the leader—of Nazi Germany.
Promoting the idea of racial superiority meant that other peoples were somehow “inferior.” In the Nazi mindset, some races were meant to be enslaved while others had no right to exist. Thus, the Jewish peoples, along with others, suffered merciless and escalating persecution.
The Nazis forced Jews in Germany to publicly identify themselves by wearing the Star of David symbol. They destroyed Jewish businesses, forced the Jews to live in cramped ghettos and confiscated their property. The Nazis deported Jews, along with Gypsies and other “undesirables,” into work camps, where millions were exterminated. This was Hitler’s “Final Solution” for the Jews.
Hitler’s aggression led to Britain and France declaring war on Germany. To ensure that the Soviet Union would not interfere with Hitler’s goals, Germany entered into a peace treaty with communist Russia.
But Hitler’s hatred for the Russians got the best of him, leading the dictator to repeat Napoleon’s blunder of invading Russia and fighting a war on more than one front, overextending Germany’s army.
In “Operation Barbarossa,” the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, which was caught off guard by Hitler’s assurances of peace. But Germany was unable to take control of key Russian cities before winter arrived.
As with Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in 1812, German troops succumbed to a particularly bitter Russian winter. They underestimated communist Josef Stalin’s resolve to fight by any means necessary. Using their bodies as decoys for machine-gun units, Russian soldiers drew out German troops and caused them to use up their ammunition—armed women fought to their deaths—bands of men carrying rusty muskets and pitchforks attacked armed Nazi soldiers. Germany had never before experienced anything like it.
Hitler’s betrayal of the peace treaty with Russia would later result in savage acts of revenge upon the German populace.
The 1,000 years of German rule lasted only 12 years, as Allied forces eventually gained the upper hand in Europe. Germany was on its deathbed. But instead of negotiating peace for the sake of his people, Hitler resolved to carry on to the very end. He ended his life in a bunker in April 1945 as Russian forces invaded Berlin, Germany’s capital.
Russian soldiers took out their revenge by raping nearly every female, from little girls to old ladies, resulting in shattered lives, unwanted pregnancies and countless abortions.
As with WWI, America was late to enter the second world war. It was not until Japan’s 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that the U.S. joined the Allied Forces. The infamous battle, which crippled the U.S. naval force, was meant to give America a bloody nose and make it think twice before interfering with Imperial Japan’s goal of bringing the South Pacific to its knees. But the attack resulted in awakening a sleeping giant.
Citizens along the U.S. West Coast worried that Japan would invade America’s homeland. Desperate and outraged, the U.S. government used Census Bureau data to round up people of Japanese descent—including American citizens—and force them into internment camps, where they were “protected for their own safety.”
During the first half of the 20th century, a massive influx of immigrants from Japan largely inhabited California. While tensions and racial animosity between whites and Japanese were already simmering—the attack on Pearl Harbor brought it to a boil. Also, an incident involving three people of Japanese descent who chose to violently free a downed Japanese fighter pilot in Hawaii, who had taken part in the Pearl Harbor attack, led Americans to question the loyalty of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent.
Elsewhere, Canada had its own internment camp program that detained Canadian citizens of Japanese descent. And Latin American nations, such as Peru, deported people of Japanese origin to the U.S. to be imprisoned.
To a lesser degree, the American government also detained citizens of German and Italian descent during the war. The detainment program was eventually ruled unconstitutional. In January 1945, Japanese Americans started to be released.
Despite the mass roundup, some Japanese Americans voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. military and fought in Europe. Some decades later, President Gerald Ford acknowledged the injustice that a paranoid America had committed, and President Ronald Reagan signed a declaration that formally apologized.
The war in Europe ended with Germany’s surrender in May 1945. America could now focus on ending the war in the Pacific.
Despite massive losses among its naval force, and the fact that Japan was running short of fuel and food, the nation’s leaders determined to never surrender. Desperate, the Japanese resorted to implementing suicide missions.
Washington drew up invasion plans against the Japanese homeland, expecting great loss of life for American soldiers—perhaps even millions.
U.S. President Harry Truman, taking office after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s unexpected death, learned that American scientists had developed a weapon that could instantly destroy cities and entire populations. This would replace the need to send soldiers into harm’s way.
Washington warned Japan of this new weapon of mass destruction, which they ignored.
U.S. scientists and military authorities had successfully tested a prototype in the desert of New Mexico in July 1945, creating an atomic fireball that produced a 30,000-foot mushroom cloud of radioactive vapor. The Atomic Age had begun.
Washington then ordered the Japanese army to surrender unconditionally, but Japanese leaders chose to answer with the “silence of contempt.”
On August 6, 1945, the U.S. B29 Superfortress Enola Gay flew over Hiroshima, Japan, and released the first atomic bomb.
The uranium weapon reached its target at 8:16 a.m., when the city was in the midst of daily commuter traffic. Office and factory workers headed to their places of employment—walking, riding bicycles, and driving cars—when “Little Boy” fell. A white light equivalent to 10,000 suns flashed, commuters felt intense heat, and then sonic pressure rippled across a three-mile radius, searing exposed skin, vaporizing people or turning them into carbon, burning clothes off bodies, and burying survivors under rubble. All that was left of many were carbon shadows of their incinerated remains etched onto concrete.
The 10-kiloton atomic explosion killed an estimated 66,000 people and injured 69,000. In the coming days, weeks, months and even years, victims of the bomb died from radiation poisoning.
Remarkably, Japanese imperial leaders still would not surrender. In response, the U.S. dropped “Fat Man”—a plutonium bomb—on Nagasaki, Japan, three days later. Within 24 hours, Japan was willing to accept defeat. WWII was finally over.
Physicists later determined that the detonations of the two bombs used only a tenth of 1 percent of what they could have unleashed.
The United States emerged from the rubble of WWII as the world’s superpower, becoming the foremost leader of the democratic West. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union became leader of the communist East. Both power blocs entered into the Cold War, dividing Europe into nations of the democratic West and the communist East.
This would last decades until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Immediately after the war ended, men resolved to form another international organization, the United Nations, to ensure peace and security, which they hoped would be far more effective than the League of Nations—and prevent another world war.
Yet this organization, as devised by men, will not achieve lasting peace.
Be sure to read part three of this series, which will address the ultimate war mankind will needlessly suffer to finally learn the way to permanent peace. World War III is now just over the horizon.