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When did the Second World War really start?

Today, December 7, we remember the 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor – the date recognized as the entry of the United States into the Second World War.

This summer we will mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. That was the amassing of the largest armada in history and the allied landing of troops in France.

The history books note September 1, 1939, with the German and Soviet invasions of Poland, as the date the Second World War commenced. Maybe there are some other dates and considerations. Wasn’t the Japanese invasion of China part of the Second World War? That began in 1936.

gold jayhawker name war

Robert White

Even if we are dealing with only the sinking of American ships as the entry to World War II, it means that, for the United States, the War began on December 12, 1937. That was the date of the sinking by the Japanese of the USS Panay, an American river patrol boat on the Yangtze River. Even if the Japanese apology sufficed at the time, using Pearl Harbor as the beginning of the war also ignores the USS Reuben James which was sunk by a German U-boat on Halloween night 1941. That was a full month before Pearl Harbor.

I am fortunate enough to have met one of the survivors of the Reuben James – someone who learned in high school history class about something called the Great War. That war was suppose to have been the “war to end all wars” yet its consequences led to another one less than two decades later.

With Christmas coming, and our nation losing members of the Greatest Generation at a rapid rate, we all need to be thankful for their sacrifice.

–Bob White is a Certified Financial Planner who lives in the Pleasant Hill area.  A graduate of Pembroke Hill School and the University of Kansas, he majored in Economics and minored in history.  In addition to local, Kansas and Missouri history, he has an interest in its unique aspects–the events missing from the history books and timelines that paint a more complete picture.