On Sept. 1, 1939, Hitler's panzers smashed into Poland. Two days later, an anguished Neville Chamberlain declared war, the most awful war in all of history.
Was the war inevitable? No. No war is inevitable until it has begun. Was it a necessary war? Hearken to Churchill:
"One day, President Roosevelt told me that he was asking publicly for suggestions about what the war should be called. I said at once, 'The Unnecessary War.' There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world ... ."
But if the war need not have happened, what caused it?
Let us go back to Munich.
On Sept. 30, 1938, at Munich, Chamberlain signed away the Sudetenland rather than fight to keep 3.5 million Germans under a Czech rule imposed upon them at the Paris peace conference in violation of Wilson's principle of self-determination.
Why did Britain not fight?
Because Britain had no alliance with Prague and Chamberlain did not "give two hoots" who ruled the Sudetenland. Also, Britain had no draft, no divisions to send to France, no Spitfires, no support from America or her dominions, no ally save France, who had been told that, if war came, the United States would not deliver the planes France had purchased.
U.S. neutrality laws forbade it.
In his meetings with Chamberlain, Hitler had warned that Poland and Hungary would also be entering claims for ancestral lands ceded to the Czechs at Paris in 1919.
Thus, after Munich, Warsaw had seized coal-rich Teschen, which held tens of thousands of Poles. Hungary, in the "Vienna Award" of Nov. 2, 1938, got back lands in Slovakia and Ruthenia where Hungarians were the majority and Budapest had ruled before 1919.
Neither Britain nor France resisted these border revisions.
Came then March 1939, when Czechoslovakia began to crumble.
On March 10, to crush a Slovakian push for independence, Czech President Emil Hacha ousted Slovak Prime Minister Father Tiso, occupied Bratislava and installed a pro-Prague regime.
On March 11, Tiso fled to Vienna and appealed to Berlin.
On March 13, Tiso met Hitler, who told him that if he did not declare independence immediately, Germany would not interfere with Hungary's re-annexation of Slovakia. Budapest was moving troops to the border.
On March 14, Slovakia declared independence. Ruthenia followed, dissolving what was left of Czechoslovakia.
Adm. Horthy, told by Hitler he could re-annex Ruthenia but must keep his hands off Slovakia, occupied Ruthenia.