The following is a composite of information from a day to day record from 1939-1945, Chronology of World War II, compiled by Christopher Argyle and from Iowans of the Mighty Eighth by Charles D. Taylor, of Muscatine, Iowa, used with his permission.

The conclusion of World War I had left a legacy throughout Europe. Thirty million casualties occurred during what was to be "the war to end all wars." The victorious Allied losses totaled over five million dead and close to thirteen million wounded. Those are not statistics! They are people! A result was a world-wide depression, wide-spread joblessness, starvation, and disease. President Woodrow Wilson proposed a League of Nations, designed "to promote international cooperation and achieve international peace and security." Its covenant or constitution was formed at the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919, and was embodied in the Treaty of Versailles on January 10, 1920.

The League's settlement of disputes was successful in the first decade, but failed in the 1930s when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, Italy attacked Ethiopia in 1935, Japan's further advance into China in 1937, and Hitler's aggressions in Europe. At the end of the war, the League was liquidated in favor of the United Nations. Based on the League's principles, Germany asked for an armistice to end WWI. The formal document was known as the Treaty of Versailles, the terms of which were dictated to rather than negotiated with Germany. Bickering began immediately as to the spoils of war. The fate of millions of people was decided by a handful of politicians from the principal participants in the war.

Very high unemployment and inflation were major issues in Germany in the 1930s. Small political parties began to flourish. One of those was the German Workers' Party that was joined by a down-and-out Austrian, Adolf Hitler, who had been a decorated corporal in the German Army. When Hindenburg died, Hitler was named president, a title he changed to Fuhrer (leader). He abolished all other political parties and promised to recover what Germany lost in WWI, which he told the people was caused by a conspiracy of the Jews.

In Italy, inflation, strikes, unemployment, and lack of leadership played into the hands of Benito Mussolini, a newspaper editor, who played upon people's fear and frustrations, and who was appointed Italy's Prime Minister, backed by the Fascist system.

In Russia, Stalin became the dictator. This was not his family name when he was born the son of a shoemaker, and educated for the priesthood. He was expelled from seminary, however, for carrying on Marxist propaganda. He took the name Stalin, meaning "steel" in 1917, when he was a member of the Communist party.

Japan's Emperor was Hiro Hito at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Japan was highly overpopulated, had limited arable ground and natural resources. Under terms of the treaty, they were given islands in the South Pacific and a province in China. Many victims tell in gruesome detail Japan's desperate attempt to keep those islands and gain more. The fact that the emperor was considered God made for more errors in judgment.



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Last Revised April 4, 2015