[Jazz- Icon of Twentieth Century America]
In 1940, we moved to San Angelo, Texas where I started to school. I had been “home schooled” by a full-time tutor, my grandmother (still, my best teacher) and I experienced my first day in a classroom without a parent. It was nearly overwhelming. It was a class of twenty-five, six-year-olds, and one teacher. The most memorable event: I was allowed to go unaccompanied to the boys restroom, and I could not find it!
Our elementary school curriculum included “Current Events” – a review of newspapers – The current events of my grades one and two, included the massive: “Hinge of“ History” events that I will attempt to describe. This information was nearly impossible for a six and seven-year-old to comprehend but, there it was! The complexities of this information and perspective were reviewed and incorporated later in my adolescence and young adult years. These two years became the stage for the performance of the remainder of The Twentieth Century.
Even though not yet in my teens, I memorized parts of the four iconic speeches which are on this page:
1. Churchill’s “The Few”speech.
2. Churchill’s “We will fight on the beaches -we shall never surrender” speech,
3. Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” speech.
4. Roosevelt’s “a day which shall live in infamy” speech.
I was very active in Cub Scouts of America during World War II. We collected scap metal for war manufacturing. We bought “stamps” toward War Bond Purchases….and marched, as soldiers.
I was thirty-seven years old when Herman Wouk’s: The Winds of War was published. This novel, the first of two parts, is a superb example of truth being conveyed with a blend of real and fictional characters. Understanding these events is essential for Cultural Literacy!
A brief book review of The Winds of War: The novel features a mixture of real and the extended family of Victor “Pug” Henry, a fictional middle-aged Naval Officer and confidant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The story arc begins six months before Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and ends shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941,
What should you know about 1940 and 1941?
The Battle of Britain
The war in Europe started in September 1939 with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. World War II had broken out in Europe, and Adolf Hitler was determined to subjugate England. The main combatants were the United Kingdom and Germany. The American consensus opposed to sending American troops to Europe or even providing assistance.
The Battle of Britain was one of the first, but a major World War II battle. The battle was waged in the skies over the English Channel and England’s eastern and southern coast in 1940 and 1941. The German plan was to unfold in several phases, but all efforts toward that end ultimately failed.
Hope for American isolationism came to an end with the Battle of Britain. By the end of 1940, most Americans had come to realize that war was inevitable. By the beginning of July 1940, the British Royal Air Force (RAF), had built up its strength to 640 serviceable fighters, but the Luftwaffe (German air force) boasted 2,600. In spite of fewer planes and pilots, Britain prevailed and turned a tide in the war.
“The Few” speech: After a few hundred British Pilots fought at the limits of human endurance, Churchill, Prime Minister, delivered an iconic speech that is a part of cultural literacy, which every free person of The Western World should know, among Winston Churchill’s leadership orations:
“The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world except in the abodes of the guilty goes out to the British Airmen who, undaunted by odds, unweakened by their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Winston Churchill, August 1940
The Dunkirk Evacuation
“…on the beaches” speech. The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk, France, between 27 May and 4 June 1940, during World War II. The operation was decided upon when large numbers of Belgian, British, and French troops were cut off and surrounded by the German Army, during the Battle of France. In a speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the events in France “a colossal military disaster,” saying, “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army” had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his “We shall fight on the beaches – we will neversurender” speech, on 4 June, he hailed their rescue as a “miracle of deliverance”.
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. Churchill rallies his nation and Amerca:
“We shall go on to the end! we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old” [This was one of the numerous speeches that I was required to memorize.]
Newspaper Headlines: “Franklin D. Roosevelt Elected to an Unprecedented Third Term as U.S. President” Nov. 1940
January 6, 1941: “The Four Freedoms Speech” [another icon] While publicly denying war, Roosevelt prepared The Congress and The Nation for going to the aid of Western Europe, speaking to Congress he said: “In the future days, which we seek to make [us] secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms: The first is freedom of speech and expression –The second is freedom of ever person to worship God in his own way –The third is freedom from want–The fourth is freedom from fear– anywhere in the world.” – Franklin Roosevelt
December 7, 1941 – “A day which live in infamy” speech – Franklin Roosevelt
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, in the United States Territory of Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II.
Japan intended the attack as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan planned in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. There were near-simultaneous Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. The attacks – from troop landings at Kota Bharu, Malaya, to the air attacks ranging geographically from Hong Kong to Pearl Harbor – took place over seven hours.
“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”“: FDR Asks for a Declaration of War
“The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, stunned virtually everyone in the United States military.” President Franklin Roosevelt quickly addressed Congress to ask for a declaration of war as illustrated in this audio excerpt. Although he never mentioned Europe or the fact that Germany had not yet declared war on the United States, the Pearl Harbor attack allowed him to begin the larger intervention in the European war he had long wanted.
“The Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
“The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Roosevelt: “Yesterday the Japanese government also launched the attack against Malaya.Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.”
On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress declared war upon the Empire of Japan in response to its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the prior day. It was formulated an hour after the Infamy Speech of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Following the declaration, Japan’s allies, Germany, and Italy, declared war on the United States, bringing the United States to enter into perhaps the most momentous events in human history.
Charles Clanton Rogers October 16, 2015
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 About.com About Education 20th Century History “Timeline of the 20th Century” 1940