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Horrors of War-Japan & China, 1938 (R69)

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) between China and Japan was the largest Asian war of the 20th century. The two countries had skirmished off and on since 1931 but a full-scale conflict did not begin until Japan escalated its imperialist actions with what is known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, an assault on a key entry into Beijing. The 1937 invasion, involving an estimated 350,000 Japanese soldiers, led to the occupation of Shanghai, Nanjing, and Southern Shanxi, triggering what the Chinese refer to as the War of Resistance Against Japan. The world condemned the invasion, but others were reluctant to join in.

China was ill-equipped for the war, without mechanization and boasting few armored forces. The course of history could have been different had Japan not attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, but that prompted U.S. and Allied involvement in what became full-fledged World War II. The war ended when the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, prompting its full surrender and the return of Manchuria, Taiwan, and the Pescadores Islands to China. The Second Sino-Japanese War lasted more than 8 years and resulted in casualties estimated at between 15 and 22 million people.

Horrors of War-Spanish Civil War, 1938 (R69)

In the midst of a worldwide depression and with unrest throughout much of the globe, the Spanish Civil War erupted in July 1936 following an attempted coup by the conservative Nationalists against the left-leaning Republicans who then ran the government. The Nationalists emerged from the failed coup with control of Seville, and the inevitable civil war that followed became what Claude Bowers, U.S. ambassador to Spain at the time, called a “dress rehearsal” for World War II. The Nationalists received troop support from Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italian military. The USSR provided the Republicans with weaponry, and Mexico also declared its support.

The U.S. remained neutral, although there were American sympathizers. Among them was Ernest Hemingway who traveled to Madrid in March 1937 on behalf of a newspaper wire service and filed 31 dispatches while also collecting material for one of his most famous novels, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Spanish artist Public Picasso in 1937 painted Guernica which depicted the brutality of war. By the time the fighting ended in 1939, estimates are that a half-million people were killed and just as many were exiled as refugees. The Nationalists prevailed and General Francisco Franco ruled Spain until his death in 1975.

Horrors of War-Ethiopia and Germany, 1938 (R69)

Having already violated treaties by annexing Austria in the spring of 1938, Hitler’s Germany next pressured Britain and France into letting them take over the northern portion of Czechoslovakia that was largely ethnically German and was known as Sudetenland. The Munich Pact was signed in September 1938 in exchange for a pledge of peace from Hitler. The deal was made without consulting the Czech democratic government, which promptly resigned. Six months later, Hitler invaded the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. Hungary seized a southern portion of the country, and by the end of 1939, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist.

The Allies offered no military response, even after Hitler had broken the Munich Pact so quickly. That opened the door for Germany to continue its pattern of aggression and go after Poland. The Germans and Soviets huddled and agreed to peace for a period of 10 years which allowed Germany to invade Poland without fear of retribution from the Soviet Union. On September 1, 1939, Germany sent troops into Poland. This time, Britain and France demanded they withdraw or face a declaration of war. Two days later, having received no response, the two Allies followed through on their threat. World War II had begun.

Horrors of War-Ethiopia & Germany, 1938-39 (R69)

Italy had first tried invading Ethiopia back in the 1890s. That failed, and by the 1930s, Ethiopia remained one of the few African nations independent of European rule. But a border incident involving Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland (now Somalia) gave Benito Mussolini the excuse he needed to once more launch an invasion. On October 3, 1935, the Italians sent 200,000 troops across the border and by early April 1936 had taken the capital city of Addis Ababa. The League of Nations voted to impose economic sanctions on Italy, but their actual impact was small. As W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “If Italy takes her pound of flesh by force, does anyone suppose that Germany will not make a similar attempt?”

The Ethiopians were often equipped with little more than spears or bows but fought hard enough that Germany sent munitions to the Italians which further prolonged the war and led to Italy’s dependence on Hitler’s Germany as World War II approached. Mussolini’s position at home was strengthened, and Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie was forced into exile. The Italians prevailed, with Ethiopian civilian deaths estimated at several hundred thousand, and the Axis powers were emboldened to pursue an aggressive expansionist policy.

Power for Peace, 1954 (R701-10)

Construction of the USS Missouri began at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard on January 6, 1941, and early in 1945 the ship entered the Pacific Theater of World War II. Measuring 887 feet long, weighing more than 40,000 tons, and manned by nearly 2,000 men, the Missouri survived a Kamikaze attack by a Japanese plane and participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa before joining air strikes with shore bombardment on the mainland of Japan. World War II came to an end on September 2, 1945 with the Japanese signing surrender papers during a 23-minute ceremony led by General Douglas MacArthur on the deck of “Mighty Mo.”

The Missouri was activated during the Korean War, firing nearly 20,000 rounds in two separate deployments. Decommissioned in 1955, the Missouri was resurrected in 1986 to provide escort after a pair of attacks on Kuwaiti oil tankers. With the onset of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1990, the Missouri was equipped with cruise missiles and returned to the Middle East to bombard Iraqi forces in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. After a run that spanned half a century, the ship was permanently decommissioned in 1992 and now serves as a floating museum in Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor.

Fight the Red Menace, 1951 (R701-12

The Korean War (1950-1953) never was officially a war, although it lasted three years and caused the death of 5 million soldiers and civilians. The conflict began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea, supported by the Soviet Union and eventually China, sent 75,000 troops across the 38th parallel into South Korea which was backed by the United States and the United Nations. Still, the U.S. never formally declared war on North Korea, and the United Nations although it provided forces, cannot declare war. The conflict was brutal. President Harry Truman even made overtures of using an atomic bomb on the North, but after sharp reaction from Great Britain he insisted he had “no intention” of following through.

By July 1951, the two sides began peace talks which dragged on for two years. The U.S. wanted a resolution over concerns the fighting might lead to a larger conflict with the Soviets or China. After Joseph Stalin’s death early in 1953, the Soviets worked more quickly to end things. An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, with the border between the two countries left exactly where it was before the war began. Over 70 years later, the two remain split.


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Story text above written by Jeff Faraudo.