Geophysicists at War—1939–45
Despite the successful conclusion of the “War to end all wars” and the subsequent formation of the League of Nations, the implementation of the Treaty of Versailles proved unworkable because its basic premises were not based on a practical understanding of human nature and the need for adequate natural resources at the national level. With a revitalized Germany behind him by the late 1930s, Hitler was busy expanding his “Lebensraum” and being imitated by the leaders of Japan and Italy. Such actions rapidly upset the stability of the “Versailles World Order” concept. In view of this drift toward a new geo-war, Professor Richard M. Field noted in his presidential address to the American Geophysical Union on 30 April 1941:1
From the dawn of history this method of conquest and colonization has led to the rise and fall of “master races” and imperial governments, equally aided and abetted by organized science and organized religion and organized trade…. Much as we may wish it otherwise, the true history of the rise of civilization is the history of organized science in which, until quite recently, the most important facts were either unmentioned or misinterpreted by historians. That is why “we learn from history that we do not learn from history.”
This lack of historical understanding and a diplomatic inability to resolve the associated geopolitical problems then brought on a series of conflicts that would involve practically all of the world’s geophysicists.
Looking back to 1940, one finds that this was