Diary of Dwight D. Eisenhower

September 3, 1939

This evening we have been listening to broadcasts of Chamberlain’s speech stating that Great Britain was at war with Germany. After months and months of feverish effort to appease and placate the madman that is governing Germany the British and French seem to be driven into a corner out of which they can work their way only by fighting. It’s a sad day for Europe and for the whole civilized world, though for a long time it has seemed ridiculous to refer to the world as civilized. If the war, which now seems to be upon us, is as long drawn out and disastrous, as bloody and as costly as was the so-called World War, then I berlieve that the remnants of nations emerging from it will be scarcely recognizable as the ones that entered it. Communism and anarchy are apt to spread rapidly, while crime and disorder, loss of personal liberties, and abject poverty will curse the aread that witness any amount of fighting. It doesn’t seem possible that people that proudly refer to themselves as intelligent could let the situation come about. Hundreds of millions will suffer privations and starvation, millions will be killed and wounded because one man so wills it. He is a power-drunk egocentric, but even so he would still not do this if he were sane. He is one of the criminally insane, but unfortunately he is the absolute ruler of 89,000,000 people. And by his personal magnetism, which he must have, he has converted a large proportion of those millions to his insane schemes and to blind acceptance of his leadership. Unless he is succesful in overcoming the whole world by brute force the final result will be that Germany will have to be dismembered and destroyed.

I have had some degree of admiration for Mussolini, none, ever, for Hitler. The former has made some tragic, stupid, mistakes. But he at least has seemed able as an administrator, and for a dictator, has abstained from the use of the “blood purge” in maintaining himself in power. Hitler’s record with the Jews, his rape of Austria, of the Czechs, the Slovaks, and now the Poles is as black as that of any barbarian of the Dark Ages.

A big question of the moment is, “What will Italy do?” Personally, I’m going out on a limb and answer that Mussolini will not go into the war on the side of Germany. One big reason for this conclusion [is] that the Italian is smart enough to know what would happen to him after a victory by Hitler and his allies. They’d all take orders from the maniac. . . . . No master of Europe can have an equal partner. If Mussolini does not fight with Hitler, what will he do? The answer to that is, “For the present, nothing.” My guess, and god knows I do not pose as one of those all-seeing persons that utter prophecies with the confidence of a new Delphic oracle, is that the Duce will hang back as long as her can, preferably until both sides are near exhaustion then . . . . . attempt to use his own forces to settle the outcome and, if possible, make himself the strong man of Europe.

It is my guess that only a wide spread conviction of sub-conscious feeling that our own eventually safety demanded active intervention will ever get us actively engaged, unless we are attacked.

The crisis has made me more than ever anxious to get home.

I want to be back with my own army to watch and be part of our own development and preparations; also to keep in closer touch with the daily record of the war as it is made. We’re too far away in Manila; our papers are not particularly informative and short-wave radio is not yet an adequate system of broadcasting information.