Mr. Speaker, the date was September 1, 1939. It was a date that would change the world forever. Nazi Germany, under Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland by air, land, and sea, igniting the Second World War and throwing the world into turmoil. Hitler used what is known as the ‘‘blitzkrieg strategy’’ to occupy Poland.
He attacked the country by air to destroy its infrastructure; meanwhile, he directed a massive land and sea invasion to take the nation. Poland’s troops and military were unequipped to effectively fight the Germans, so consequently Poland quickly fell under the control of Germany and the Soviet Union. Hitler had hoped that Britain and France would tolerate the invasion like they had when Hitler invaded Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia.
However, the invasion of Poland was one invasion too many, and it significantly altered the course of history, launching the allied and axis powers into a full scale world war. Germany initially intended to invade Poland on August 26, not September 1. Hitler had signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union on August 23 to ensure that the USSR would not come to Poland’s aid, and within the treaty, Hitler and Stalin agreed to divide Poland between them once conquered. However, Hitler made a last minute decision to postpone the attack because, on August 25, Britain signed the Polish-British Common Defense Pact, guaranteeing Poland military support if invaded.
Hitler utilized false propaganda throughout the next few days in an attempt to justify Germany’s impending invasion of Poland and to prevent Britain from coming to its aid. Hitler secretly attacked small installations inside Germany and framed it on Poland, attempting to pose as the victim instead of the aggressor. The propaganda failed, though, and both Britain and France entered the conflict when Germany overtook Poland.
The breakout of WWII, however, cannot be attributed to any single event, but rather an accumulation of issues that climaxed in a destructive standoff between the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria) and the Allies (The United States, Great Britain, France and— later—the Soviet Union). The world had been anticipating war for a long time preceding Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland. The global balance was unstable after World War I (initially and ironically considered ‘‘the War to End All Wars’’) and international tensions remained high. Germany especially was dealing with significant instability and neglect as a consequence of the First World War, and this national crisis led to the election of Adolf Hitler.
Hitler’s invasion on this day 77 years ago provoked Britain and France to declare war against the malicious power on September 3,1939, leading to a long and bloody international conflict. For nearly two years, America attempted to remain out of the military conflict, calling itself a neutral power. However, on several occasions before entering the war, American military vessels (including USS Reuben James and USS Kearny) and British civilian vessel SS Athenia were attacked by German submarines, resulting in American military and civilian casualties.
The breaking point for the United States eventually occurred during the morning hours of December 7, 1941. It was a date that would live in infamy, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced. Hundreds of Japanese fighter planes soared over Pearl Harbor, the American naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, destroying a significant portion of our nation’s Pacific Fleet and taking thousands of American lives with it. This unforgivable attack against the United States provoked Roosevelt and Congress to declare war on Japan on December 8, 1941.
Subsequently, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and America joined the Allied Powers’ fight against the Axis. In the end, we notably contributed to the extinguishment of Nazi Germany and the defeat of its allies. World War II transformed the globe as the deadliest war in history.
Over the course of the war, more than 72 million people lost their lives, leaving nations and families from all around the globe in deep despair. Out of the 690 million people who fought in WWII, 16.1 million were Americans; of those 16.1 million courageous soldiers, nearly 292,000 sacrificed their most precious possessions—their lives— for the greater good of our nation and our world.
The United States was left in grieving. Wives cried for their fallen husbands, sisters for their brothers, and mothers for their sons. These heroes honorably gave everything to fight one of the vilest brands of evil the world has ever seen. Thanks to our brave military and committed allies who fought in World War II, the world is a better place.