Spence 17 – WWII

china war our war.jpg

OK you should be able to see some familiar things once you whack through the weeds of this chapter.  Lend-lease?  Nazi Soviet Pact?  FDR?  Winston Churchill?  These should be familiar to you at least from an America perspective from US history or probably a more Euro-centric perspective from World.  We will look again at WWII from Kissiger’s perspective in our next unit.

There is lots of great stuff in this chapter.  If you feel lost try to focus only on the terms.  Your terms are, in this chapter;

Guomindang                 CCP                Marco Polo bridge                   Chiang Kai Shek

Long March               Burma Road     united front

“New Fourth Army Incident”                Gen Joseph Stillwell                  “Hongkew”

Mao Zedong                    fabi

So, place each of them in context in the chapter, the fabi is the Chinese currency, part of their nationalism, that the Japanese seek to undermine.  The “united front” is the alliance of the nationalists and the communists against the Japanese which is effectively ended with the “New Fourth Army Incident.”

There are other things that you should catch just because of context or humor.   What was Stillwell’s nickname for Chiang?  Hysterical.

help china.jpg

In Big Broad strokes the Japanese invade mostly eastern China all the way down and through the French colony of Indochina (today’s Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos).  The nationalists under Chiang suffer a humiliating defeat at Shanghai and retreat inland.  The “Rape of Nanking” occurs and is the subject of numerous books and videos and much debate between Japanese and Chinese historical societies.

China is broken up into many territories again including Taiwan and Manchuko, controlled by the Japanese, Yan’an controlled by the communists,  and Chongquing controlled by the Nationalists.   Don’t worry about the others.

The Burma road is eventually opened which allows the Allies, the British and Americans to supply the Nationalists.    But then Churchill has to close it briefly which leads to lasting Chinese (Nationalist) resentment.

The Flying Tigers show up!

flying tigers

A later test question will ask, to what extent was the US involved in the war before Dec 7th 1941.  This is good evidence that we were.  Then after December 7th the US is in for real much to the relief of the Chinese.  Now it is only a question of when and how the Japanese will be defeated, at least in hindsight it appears that way.

Spence 16 – The Drift to War


This guy is Mao Zedong.  He led the Chinese Communist Party  from the time of the Long March in 1934-5 to his death in 1976.  Two of his principal advisers, who you should know, are Lin Biao (who will mysteriously die in a fiery plane crash in 1969)   and Zhou Enlai who will be one of Mao’s only advisers not to meet a similar fate.  They all show up here in this first chapter we are reading and are the only names I expect you to know by name along with this next guy.


This guy is Chiang Kai-shek.  He is leader of the Guomindang (GMD) or “Nationalist party” sometimes called the Kuomintang or (KMT).  He is trying to defeat the communists and unite China under one central government.  His forces make the communists undertake “The Long March”.  This is the beginning of your chapter.

But then there are the Japanese.  Since 1931 they have been invading Chinese territory and Chiang, enmeshed in his civil war, has done nothing about it.  The United Front was a call to put down arms between communists and nationalists and together fight the Japanese.  One of Chiang’s trusted generals, Zhang Xueliang, (but this is a name you do not need to remember) goes so far as to kidnap Chiang to force him to confront the Japanese.  That you know this happens is more important for our purposes than knowing the name behind it.

Other points of note include Chiang Kai Shek working with German advisers as late as 1934.  This is after Hitler has come to power.  Some Chinese leaders see Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini as all being points of inspiration and have a deep distrust of democracy.  But with the German-Japanese alliance Chiang can no longer work with the Germans, and when Zhang and others appeal to the Comintern, that’s the international communist organization, for support in a united front against the Japanese none other than Stalin steps in and says OK but only if Chiang Kai Shek is the man.  Later you will read about a dubious relationship between Mao and Stalin.  Its seeds may be here.

cat country.jpg

I love the inclusion of artists and writers in Spence’s analysis. The mission to Mars in “Cat Country” just sound fabulous and helps illustrate how some of the people are feeling.  The May the 4thers, BTW if you didn’t look it up, given some treatment here, refers to the Treaty of Versailles where despite their help in WWI China finds itself given the shaft by the authors of that document just given so much treatment in your recent essays.  Chinese protesters erupt on May the 4th 1919 in opposition to it.

Finally the treatment of the Chinese poor, or the attempt to understand them I also find fascinating.  All of the statistics from a variety of organizations trying to figure out the almost impossibly complicated experiences of almost half a billion people.   Were they better off or worse off?  Seems as though some were very very bad off.  Dying like the character in one of the stories referenced, “unnoticed, after brief miserable lives”.

Revolution was coming.

Kissinger 11 – Stresemann and the re-emergence of the vanquished.

Before we get started, take a moment and examine the title.  I think you can tell where Kissinger’s story is going.  Stresemann will try to bring Germany back to greatness.  But this makes understanding the cartoon below difficult unless you consider this quote from wikipedia;

“The conservative opposition criticized him for his supporting the republic and fulfilling too willingly the demands of the Western powers. Along withMatthias Erzberger and others, he was attacked as a Erfüllungspolitiker(“fulfillment politician”)”

The Republic to which they refer is the Weimar Republic which much of the German population felt had been imposed on them by the victors of WWI and much of that population refused to accept its legitimacy. The demands of the Western powers in quote of course refers to the Versailles system which he was willing to work with as he negotiated a billion dollar a year profit from the US in aiding these.  His critics did not seem to care and drew this;


Here Stresemann is portrayed rather villainously on the back of Deutschland, which is tied up with the Dawes plan.  This is def not how Kissinger portrays things.  Kissinger even brings up the great love of his life, Richard Nixon, alluding to how only a great conservative like Nixon could negotiate with Communist China, as the great conservative Stresemann was the only one who could negotiate with the hated “Western powers”.

I think the most significant thing to get out of this chapter is that the goals of Hitler (Anschluss /Union) with Austria, military parity with France, were the same as Stresemann and presumably the same as many Germans.  There is even open discussion of modifying the border with Poland here and even getting rid of Poland altogether.

Hitler will of course go about his goals in a decidedly militaristic way.  Maybe there was another way.  Maybe Germany could have been satisfied, France made secure (If GB would step up) and the Soviet Union isolated if it hadn’t been for the Series of Unfortunate Events outlined here.

Hitler will be described in the next chapter as a singular demonic personality.  Had Hitler been hit by a bus, or let into art school, would the war have come?

Kissinger Chapter 10 – the dilemma of the victors


The history of BMW is not mentioned here but it should be.  It’s a great example of the agreement at Rapallo in 1922.    At Rapallo as you read at the “conspiratorial hour” of 1:15 ATK,  the Russian Delegation that had been summoned to Genoa by the members of the Entente, Britain and France,  telephoned the German delegation.  An agreement of mutual assistance was met between the two “pariahs”, Russia and Germany.  In 1939 the infamous Nazi-Soviet pact made this official and quite public and as part of the agreement they shared production information on a number of things, including the monumental BMW R71, the immediate predecessor of the R 75, pictured here.


Hitler had commissioned the construction of a rugged motorcycle from BMW, which had produced airplanes in WWI but under the Versailles terms could no longer, and it’s now defunct rival Zundapp.  BMW produced the R71 “side valve” which won the contest with its novel tubular frame.  Later they shared the designs, parts, equipment and several completed motorcycles with the Russians.  (Though Stalin and others would reportedly later claim they were stolen in battle)

Russian M 72 (BMW R71)

The Russians produced their copies throughout and beyond the war years.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union the manufacturing was privatized under the name “Ural” and you can buy new ones today.  In 1950 the newly formed People’s Republic of China was also in need of a rugged motorcycle for its light infantry and the Russians shared their design with their new ally the Chinese communists. The Chang Jiang 750 pictured

Chang Jiang

above was the result.

You can also still buy these though beware they cost a fraction of the original BMW for a reason and many of the Chinese and Russian versions have been rebadged as BMWs.

So back to the chapter.  Who is the one English person calling for an open British French alliance (though at the cost of being open and friendly with Germany) ?   Keep an eye on him.  Anytime you don’t know an answer on a quiz question he is a good guess.

The long and short of it was that Versailles sucked ATK.  He has next to nothing good to say about collective security and seems only to admire those statesmen that are not “philosophers” but keen strategists of their nation’s interests.  Collective security never worked for the League of nations, not for Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia or the German conquest of Austria and Czechoslovakia.  Even under the United Nations he argues it didn’t actually function in Korea or Iraq.  “We have no friends, only interests” Tom Waits, in one of his more political songs, quotes Henry Kissinger as saying.  Remember that as we get to know Dr. Kissinger better.

Kissinger 9. The New Face of Diplomacy

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deus ex machina.  Who looked that one up?  You can’t just let these things go.

So Wilson rolls in to the treaty of Versailles, the Paris Peace Conference, and seems to try to take things over.  His 14 points.  Which were essential for Wilson?  Which were a really great idea?

Making the world safe for democracy and a war to end all wars may seem impossibly optimistic.  Certainly Mexico was suspicious.  But the idea of a League of Nations was so tantalizing.  Too bad it didn’t work out better.

Germany and Russia, Europe’s two largest powers, not being invited at all, definitely spoils the party for Kissinger,

Lenin called it a “capitalist orgy”.  What would you call it?  What do you think Kissinger would call it?

Kissinger 8 – Into the Vortex

if wwi were a barfight.png

Lena Peterson, from the class of 2010, shared with me, “if WWI were a Bar Fight”.  Google it.  Its pretty funny.   It nicely illustrates the absurdity, or as Kissinger calls it, the Greek tragedy that unfolds after the assassination of the Archduke.

Why WWI becomes WWI is ascribed by the popular British historian AJP Taylor, to the “long dead hand of Schlieffen pulling the trigger on the first WW”.  For, as Kissinger quotes Obruchev as noting, “mobilization means war”, was only really true, according to Taylor, of Germany.  Germany’s mobilization of mechanized and troop forces on its vast Railroad system demanded, under the Schlieffen plan, an invasion of Belgium, a quick decisive victory of France and then an all out effort brought to the Russian front.

It should’ve looked like this;

schlieffen plan

But it didn’t.  German troops get bogged down, entrenched, in the western front in France, and Germany is then forced to divide its forces to defend against Russia in the East.  At the same time the Germans are of course funding Lenin hoping to start a revolution in Russia to get them out of the war.  We know what happened there.

Taylor also points out that mechanization and mobilization in this era, really led to defensive strength, not an offensive one.  The troops could be brought to the front lines but once in enemy territory, they moved as slow as ever.  That coupled with the newly invented barbed wire and machine gun, and given that planes and tanks were insufficiently advanced to make a real difference, led to the inevitable trench warfare.

Another book (besides AQOTWF) that I highly recommend from the immediate post-war era is “Johnny got his gun” by Dalton Trumbo, later blacklisted by McCarthy.  Haunting imagery of a man destroyed in so many ways by war.  Read by and inspiring to  ”Born on the 4th of July” author (another great book!) Jon Kovitch, later leader of Vietnam Veterans against the war.

For your comments you can throw down anything of note.  Why do you think Russia wanted a general war?  Why did Austria press their demand against Serbia?  Was the war at all avoidable?

Kissinger 7 – a Political Doomsday machine

before wwi

Let’s look at a map.  Maps are helpful.  Germany, in the center of all that has enemies all around.  France is all upset about the Alsace-Lorraine, the land in between them which Germany took during its independence, Russia is very concerned about Germany’s interests in the “Balkans” which is that area Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, and England is wary of Germany’s power especially vis-a-vis the “low countries” of the Netherlands and Belgium.

A little background.  Germany was only united, and then only allowed to exist in relative peace, according to Kissinger, because of the singular brilliance of Bismark.  I wish I had time to still ask you to read that section. Its really wonderful.  His admiration of Bismarck and his Realpolitik knows no bounds.  Though Bismarck’s Germany dominates the map, through secret agreements, like the Reinsurance treaty mentioned here which keeps France and Russia simultaneously at bay, Bismark is able to maintain order.

Then Kaiser Wilhelm II becomes the monarch of Germany (Bismarck was chancellor a political not a royal position) and the kaiser is described elsewhere thusly;

“An inheritor of privilege, this leader of a superpower was impatient, reckless and vulgar. He was capable of insulting even his country’s closest global allies and viciously attacking his domestic opponents. And as he set out against the advice of his advisers to court a closer relationship with Russia, he left the world teetering with uncertainty over what felt like a collapsing world order.”

He fires Bismarck, rips up the Reinsurance treaty, bullies Great Britain and begins a massive arms race.  This is the powder keg which is Europe in the early 20th century.  Though several matches are struck, the Moroccan affair, the 08 crisis in Bosnia- Herzegovina, German flags flying over Constantinople, it would take the assassination of the Archduke in June 1914, to allow the powder keg to erupt, in August 1914, of an event that would claim human casualties in numbers never seen before and come to be known as the War to end all Wars.