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The Dangerous Summer of 1940
For a few weeks Hitler came close to winning World War II. Then came a train of events that doomed him. An eloquent historian reminds us that however unsatisfactory our world may be today, it almost was unimaginably worse.
October/November 1986 | Volume 37, Issue 6
One year before Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt had announced that the United States would be the “arsenal of democracy.” Churchill had told the American people: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” Did he mean this? We cannot tell. It was far from certain that Hitler could be defeated by the supply of American armaments alone. What was needed was the employment of immense American armies and navies in the field. And even that would not be enough. Hitler’s defeat could not be accomplished without the armed might of Russia, whereby victory in Europe had to be shared with Russia.
Forty-six years later we have a government that neither remembers nor understands this. Churchill understood the alternative: either all of Europe ruled by Germany, or the eastern portion of it controlled by Russia. It was not a pleasant alternative. In world politics few alternatives are altogether pleasant. Yet half of Europe was better than none. Had it not been for Franklin Roosevelt during that dangerous summer of 1940, even this alternative would have been moot. Had the United States been led by an isolationist president in 1940, Hitler would have won the war.