World War II origins discussed, Erie's Brig Niagara up next for Bridgeville history group
The October program of the Bridgeville Area Historical Society featured a talk on “The Origins of World War II” by Glenn Flickinger, a highly successful business consultant who is a passionate history buff with the ability to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with the rest of us.
He effectively traced the evolution of the root causes of the war by drawing three parallel timelines that intersected at the point where Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor.
The top line represented the Far East, and especially Japan. It began in 1853 when Commodore Matthew Perry's fleet of United States Navy warships steamed into Tokyo Bay and presented a letter to officials of the Shogunate demanding trade negotiations to be conducted the next year.
It then proceeded through the Japanese capitulation a year later, their remarkable modernization, their success in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, their acquisition of German Pacific Ocean colonies following World War I, their takeover of Manchuria in 1931, and their invasion of China in 1937, culminating in the infamous Pearl Harbor attack.
Flickinger began the United States timeline in 1898 with the Spanish-American War and our acquisition of possessions in the Pacific. He then discussed our involvement in World War I and in the peacemaking process at its end. He highlighted the unrest in this country following the stock market crash in 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression.
The European Timeline began with the Franco-Prussian War and the consolidation of the numerous German-speaking principalities into one country, primarily under the control of Otto von Bismarck. It continued with the German victory in that conflict, their acquisition of the Alsace Loraine region, World War I, the onerous Versailles Treaty, the emergence of Communist Russia, the Great Depression, the rise of Nazism, the takeover of Austria and Czechoslovakia, and the invasion of Poland.
The Communist experiment in Russia survived numerous crises before becoming strong enough to initiate its expansion agenda in the Baltic and in Eastern Europe. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 France and Great Britain declared that a state of war existed. Russia invaded from the east and within a few weeks Poland had been divided up between Germany and Russia.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States was drawn into war with them. Hitler's declaration of war on the United States four days later, Mr. Flickinger believes, was the official beginning of World War II.
The consensus of the audience for this discussion was that World War II occurred because of the expansionist, nationalistic ambitions of all the major powers, exacerbated by the complications of the Great Depression worldwide. The speaker's timelines tracing some of these developments were particularly effective in developing this conclusion.
The November program for the Historical Society will feature Edd Hale, discussing the U.S. Brig Niagara in Erie. The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 in the Chartiers Room of the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department on Commercial Street.