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Posts Tagged ‘Tripartite Pact’

Well, winter has come to Iowa with a gale.  Yesterday, it was 53°F and gorgeous.  Today, it’s about 15 with 45mph wind gusts, blowing snow, and super-icy streets.  I’m glad I got a good bike ride in yesterday…it’ll be a few days before I get another opportunity.

It’s a quickie this evening.

On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the United States.  But Germany didn’t necessarily have to do so.  The U.S. hadn’t declared war on Germany, nor had either country attacked the other.  And what’s more, though Germany and Japan had signed the Tripartite Pact the previous year, Germany was only obligated to come to Japan’s defense, not back her aggression against Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Rim.

Members of the German High Command also believed a declared war with America was dangerous ground.  It’s true that the U.S. was openly assisting Germany’s enemies through the Lend-Lease program, and German U-boats were clashing with the U.S. Navy in the Atlantic.  But this was a far cry from open war, where the full weight of America’s military potential would be brought to bear.

But Adolf Hitler made the declaration anyways.  With his successes to date, he believed in the might of his military and the ability of his country’s industries to fuel it.  He also believed in Japan’s ability to defeat America, even though some in Japan’s own leadership, particularly Isoroku Yamamoto, pretty much knew the score.  And he thought that America lacked the will to fight and that it would take some time for her to put her economy on a war footing…by which time Japan would have already knocked her from the conflict.

Adolf Hitler ended up being wrong on every point…

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I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday…I know we did.  There was too much food, all of it good.  There was no Black Friday shopping, which was awesome!!  Well actually, there was a bit of shopping on Friday and Saturday, but Friday’s was in the early afternoon, well after all the diehards were pretty much done and back home in bed.

So let’s see, what do we have for today?…Well, it’s my wife’s birthday, so “Happy Birthday!!” to her.  I’m not sure she knows it, but her presents are all ready to go, so we’ll keep that a secret.

Let me check the official Today’s History Lesson spreadsheet…

Here we go…

The Tripartite Pact was an economic, military, and political alliance that was originally set up between three countries (hence the “Tri” in Tripartite).  Germany, Italy, and Japan were the original signers in September of 1940, but the Pact wasn’t strictly limited to them.

As 1941 approached, the Russians were approached about joining the Pact.  It’s a bit unusual, given the natural opposition that Hitler’s National Socialism felt for Russia’s Communism.  But Adolf Hitler’s designs on Russia were not strictly military in scope.  Russia’s tremendous natural resources had as big a target on them as did her military forces.  And if they could be taken peaceably, so much the better.

So Vyacheslav Molotov was invited to Berlin in mid-November and given the Tripartite Pact sales pitch.  And there was some hope that Molotov would listen.  The Russians and Germans had already done business on the Polish issue a couple of years before.  And Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia were all within days of joining the Tripartite Pact.

But those hopes proved fleeting, as the meetings did more to highlight Russo-Germans disagreements than they did to create common ground.  Molotov left Berlin having refused Germany’s “peaceful” overtures, and from the German perspective, the die was cast.  Or maybe “the die was confirmed” is a better phrase, since regardless of the outcome, Hitler had decided years before that Russian soil would be invaded at some point.

On November 29, 1940, the German High Command offered up a proposal for the invasion of the Soviet Union.  The draft included three massive Army Groups, setting off along an 1,800-mile front.  Army Group North would make for Leningrad.  Army Group Centre would have the capital of Moscow as its goal.  And Army Group South was tasked with the capture of Kiev, to be followed with a push to Stalingrad via Kharkov.

Within three weeks, the draft would be polished, planned, and finalized as Directive No. 18…Operation Barbarossa.

If Hitler couldn’t get what he wanted the easy way, he would get what he wanted by any means possible…

Recommended Reading:  WorldWar-2.net – One of the best World War II timelines available anywhere.  A wee bit clunky to navigate, but loaded with information.

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On September 27, 1940, the Axis Powers were officially created when Germany, Japan, and Italy signed the Tripartite Pact in Berlin.  Set to last for 10 years, the Pact contained several articles.  First, Japan recognized that Germany and Italy were in charge of things in Europe, while Germany and Italy submitted to Japan in East Asia and the Pacific.  It also stated that each country was allowed to acquire the territory needed to maintain peace (sounds strange, right?), and that each member should economically, politically, and militarily support the acquisition efforts of the others. 

The Tripartite Pact also addressed the Soviet Union…with good reason.  If you recall, Germany and Japan had already signed the Anti-Comintern Pact back in 1936.  Simply put, the two countries agreed that Communism was evil and that neither country would enter into any kind of treaty with the Communist Soviet Union.  Fast-forward to 1939.  Germany, in setting up Poland for occupation, signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Russia, which caused some consternation in Japan, who was involved in on-again, off-again territorial disputes with the Soviets and wanted to focus more on deteriorating relations with the United States.

As a result, the Tripartite Pact contained language stating that this Pact in no way affected any member’s current relationship with Russia.  So, Japan and Russia could stay mad at each other, and Russia and Germany could be friends (for the time being), and Japan wouldn’t have to be mad at Germany…one of those high-school-girls-type alliances if ever there was one.

Over the course of next several years, other countries would join the Pact.  Today’s History Lesson has already directly addressed two of those:  Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.  Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia would be added in November, and Croatia would join in 1941.

Recommended Reading: Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941

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Many of us remember the Yugo’s that were sold here in the U.S. some years back.  Priced at $3,990, they were Yugoslavia’s attempt to market cheap “cars-for-everyman” in the States.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a very successful venture.  I’ve often wondered if any driveable examples still exist in the country.

On April 17, 1941, Yugoslavia signed an armistice and surrendered to the German Army.  But the surrender implies a war, and the war implies a catalyst, so let’s step back in time just a bit…about a month is all we’ll need as events moved very, very quickly.

On March 25, 1941, Yugoslavia’s Prince Paul signed the Tripartite Pact, raising the ire of anti-German elements in both the country and, more importantly, the Yugoslavian Army.  Two days later, Paul was overthrown in a coup and replaced by a military general.

German dictator Adolf Hitler came unhinged and ordered Belgrade levelled.  On April 6, 1941, Germany (with some help from Tripartite fellows Italy and Hungary) invaded Yugoslavia.  On April 8, 1941, Hitler got his wish and Belgrade was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe.  By the 17th, surrender documents had been signed and organized resistance had ended.

Yugoslavia was carved up and split among Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria.  It wasn’t until 1946 that a “new” Yugoslavia, comprised of a half-dozen provinces, was created.

Recommended Activity: Spend the entire day looking for a Yugo on the street.  Any color will do.  A Yugo in a junkyard does not count.  It must be moving…under its OWN power.

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April 4, 1884 – This day marks the birth of Isoroku Takano, better known by his adopted name – Yamamoto.  He is, of course, most recognized as the mastermind of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.  But this soldier, who dedicated nearly his entire life to military service, is something of a paradox.

He graduated from Japan’s Naval Academy and he fought in the war with Russia in the early 1900’s.  And over the years, he rose through the ranks to become a full Admiral in the Japanese Navy.

But Yamamoto was not a man of war at all.  In fact, he was very much opposed to war, particularly war against the United States.  In 1919, Isoroku enrolled at Harvard University and studied there until 1921.  But he also spent a lot of time observing the American culture, watching the people, and learning the business of American business.  He became convinced that any future war with the U.S., given its incredible manufacturing capacity and ingenuity, would be a futile endeavor.

These lessons, as much as his classroom time, would shape his military worldview.  Upon returning to Japan, he opposed the war in Manchuria, he opposed the signing of the Tripartite Pact, and most of all, he opposed war with the U.S., all of which served to make him extremely unpopular with his peers.  He would famously say that a war with America could be sustained successfully for about six months, but after that, things would become precarious.

When the actions of his superiors made war with America inevitable, Yamamoto devised a “strike hard and fast” strategy, seeking to destroy the better part of the American fleet before it could deploy to fight, hence the Pearl Harbor operation.  The results were, as we all know, very successful…but not good enough.  The Admiral’s words about a “six-month victory spree” were eerily prophetic.

It is somewhat ironic that Yamamoto, a man of the ocean, would meet his end in the belly of an airplane…a topic that we’ll look at in just a couple weeks.

Recommended Reading: The Reluctant Admiral – Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy

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The ball-point pen, that is.

On March 1, 1941, Bulgaria’s Tsar Boris III lifted his and threw his lot in with the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan, Italy, Hungary, Romania, and later Yugoslavia)  by signing the Tripartite Pact in order to stave off an impending German invasion.  The Pact, penned and initially signed by the three major participants in 1940, did essentially two things.  First, it recognized that each country, in order to maintain peace, needed to acquire the necessary territory to do so.  Second, it stated that each signee would help the other members do just that.  Maybe they should have spelled “peace” differently, as this was really about a “piece” of France, “piece” of Russia, a “piece” of Africa, a “piece” of the Philippines,…

Bulgaria took a stance of neutrality and, while it had pro-German leanings, no Bulgarian armed forces took part in the War.  Boris himself died two years later, likely poisoned by Hitler, who desired stronger Bulgarian compliance.

Twenty-four days later (March 25th, 1941), Prince Paul followed suit and added Yugoslavia’s name to the Pact.  He had barely put his pen down when he was whisked away by anti-German Serbians in a March 27th coup (not the 2-door type) and replaced.  In a rage, Adolf Hitler postponed his May launch of Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of Russia), and ordered Belgrade leveled as retribution against the rebellious populace.

The Russian invasion began about six weeks later than originally planned (June 22, 1941), and stalled in a brutal winter that began early.  Russia was saved, not only by Hitler’s violent temper and a later-than-usual spring, but also by a pen which was mightier than the sword.

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