Tag Archives: WWII

The Bear Craves Seawater


Sitting on the Eurasian continent, and armed soldier (Japan) guards territory labeled "Manchukuo" as a bear (Russia) looks on hungrily from Siberia.
Sitting on the Eurasian continent, and armed soldier (Japan) guards territory labeled “Manchukuo” as a bear (Russia) looks on hungrily from Siberia.

Japan’s invasion of Manchuria was a highly significant occurrence in the erratic, sensitive time between the first and second world wars, garnering many reactions from across the globe. Manchuria was a historically disputed region in East Asia predominantly belonging to China. However, China’s weak economic condition in the late 1800’s allowed external powers to exert spheres of influence in many regions of China. Beginning in the mid 19th century, Britain had boldly colonized Hong Kong and other Chinese islands (Kong). This prompted the U.S. to introduce the Open Door Policy as an attempt to halt further colonialist intentions in the early 1900’s. However, peace did not last as geopolitical turmoil and war plagued the following decades.

The growth of fascism in this post-WWI period pitted countries against each other, as superpowers clashed for control over weaker regions of the globe. Ultimately, it was the greed and aggression of Japanese imperialism in overtaking Manchuria in 1931 that broke the Open Door agreement among the superpowers . Relations among Russia, Japan and China fluctuated between amnesty and conflict, creating the tension that culminated into the Manchurian conflict.

Two looming figures fill the political cartoon “The Bear Craves Seawater” by John Knott, a former cartoonist for the Dallas Morning News. One is a thirsty bear labeled “Russia” eyeing a soldier, “Japan,” who guards territory labeled as “Manchukuo,” which can be can be identified as Manchuria from its geographic placement on the map. In an editorial accompanying Knott’s cartoon, “Russia Thinks of the Future,” the focus is specifically on Russia, an expanding militaristic force as Japan, and its reactions to the invasion. At the time this cartoon was published, October 1932, the world was suffering from the Great Depression, and the tension leading to World War II was beginning to thicken. However, the cartoon was specific to the relationship between Japan and Russia in this conflict over land.

Russia had a presence in Manchuria through the 1800s, and as China’s Qing dynasty declined, Russia was able to convince China, through bribery and intimidation, to allow the Chinese Eastern Railway to be built through Manchuria. This allowed Russia to exert more dominance and control in the region by ensuring access to the Pacific Ocean through their port of Vladivostok (Perrins). At that time, Russia was run by tsars, or emperors, who all prioritized expansionism for economic and nationalistic reasons. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was a pivotal turning point for Russian history; ending the age of the tsars and bringing in socialism (Millar), which eventually influenced Chinese ideologies. Over the next few years, there were close relations between the communist parties in both nations. However, in 1927 the new Chinese ruler Chiang Kai-shek, a nationalist, turned against communism and the Russians. This left their relations tattered by 1932, causing Russia to lose an ally in China.

Chinese relations with Japan were just as negative. In the late 19th century, Japan had been expanding into Korea, China’s vassal state, which led to the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894 (Perrins). Korea was colonized through Japan’s victory, an experience that caused tremendous anti-Japanese sentiment among the Koreans- a factor that the Dallas Morning News editorial points out as a disadvantage to Japan. During World War I, Japan imposed its “21 Demands” on China, which was an attempt to assert more Japanese military involvement in China with an emphasis on Manchuria (Davis). The U.S. helped ward off Japan through diplomatic pressure along with the aid of a Chinese boycott of many Japanese goods. However, after WWI was over, China was left to itself and couldn’t resist military intrusion in its weak post-war state, despite anti-Japanese sentiment. Although Japan signed the Nine-Power agreement in 1922, acknowledging China’s principal hold on Manchuria, peace did not last (Davis). The Japanese military invaded Manchuria in 1931 over a fabricated conflict and violently took hold of the region, implementing a puppet government as an “independent” state renamed “Manchukuo.” The League of Nations condemned Japan yet did not take action, and in response, Japan simply left the League. China and Japan’s relations would remain volatile, leading to the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. It wasn’t until the end of World War II that Japan relinquished control over Manchuria (Perrins).

Both Russia and Japan were proud, imperial nations with interests in Manchuria’s resources and tactical position since the 19th century. Russia had been wary of Japan throughout the late 19th century, involving itself in the outcome of the first Sino-Japanese war of 1894. Japan had to give up the Liaodong peninsula, one of its war prizes, because of pressure from Russia, Germany and France (Davis). The clashes between the two in Manchuria culminated into the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, which ended with President Theodore Roosevelt’s Treaty of Portsmouth (Dobbs). The treaty granted more privileges to Japan, as the U.S. was closer to Japan at the time before the growth of authoritarianism. The Open Door Policy allowed Japan to have such smooth access to Russia’s former property, including its precious railway. Russia did not have the means to engage Japan through the following years and first world war. By 1932, A New York Times article explained that Russia chose to focus on it’s 5 year plan on infrastructure and would not fight Japan because it knew China would not cooperate (Solkolsky). Russia also knew of China’s profound hatred and boycotting of Japan in recent years, and thus relied on that to be a hurdle for Japan.

The Dallas Morning News editorial suggests that Russia was watching Japan’s actions intently, but backed off from any violence, in order to know when it might have the chance to reassert dominance over the region; hence, the watchful bear in Knott’s cartoon. Russia decided to wait for Japan’s inevitable downfall, seeing the flaws in its arrogance and opposition from former allies. The humor from Knott’s art stems from the characterization of the countries. Both are hyperbolized as absurd huge figures the size of giants sitting on the globe. One can tell that Russia seems to have the desire to take Manchuria from Japan through the characterization of the curious bear and the alert soldier.

The editorial’s predictions of Russia’s future actions weren’t untrue. Towards the last days of World War II, Russia invaded Manchuria and pushed back Japan’s weak forces. For years, Russia continued to plunder the region until China reacquired it (Perrins). The deep-running histories between China, Russia and Japan need to be understood to comprehend how such a dangerous, territorial brawl over Manchuria could have taken place. This conflict influenced WWII greatly, with Japan’s aggression and resignation from the League of Nations contributing to the growth of fascism plaguing the globe in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The power-hunger and imperialism of Russia has also persisted to the modern day, the Bear’s teeth biting into many world affairs and upholding Russia’s reputation as a relentless force.

Works Cited:

“Russia Thinks of the Future”, The Dallas Morning News, 23 October 1932, Section 3:8

“Manchuria, Japanese Invasion of (1931).” Encyclopedia of Invasions and Conquests: From
Ancient Times to the Present, edited by Paul Davis, 2nd ed., Grey House Publishing, 2006,
pp. 372-373. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3487400201/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=40f6f0f6. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Dobbs, Charles M. “Manchuria.” America in the World, 1776 to the Present: A Supplement to the
Dictionary of American History, edited by Edward J. Blum, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2016, pp. 641-642. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3630800322/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=0fd11509. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Kong, Belinda. “Hong Kong (Britain/China).” Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, & Africa: An
Encyclopedia, vol. 3: East and Southeast Asia, SAGE Reference, 2012, pp. 288-290. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX4182600620/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d4c4bfd1. Accessed 27 Apr. 2018.

Knott, John, “The Bear Craves Sea Water”, The Dallas Morning News, 23 October 1932, Section 3:8

Millar, James R., editor. Encyclopedia of Russian History. Vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. Gale
Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/pub/5BUJ/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL. Accessed 10 Apr. 2018

Perrins, Robert John. “Manchuria.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, edited by Karen Christensen and
David Levinson, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 27-29. Gale Virtual Reference Library,http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3403701854/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=36824cf2. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

JAPAN’S: While Accepting the Situation Created in North Manchuria, the Soviets Elsewhere Press Their Plans for Wide Domination.” The New York Times, 19 June 1932, p. XX3.

The German Debt

A Greek person smirks as they tell a German person that "a debt is a debt." The German person is worried and nervously clutching Drachma bills that Greece wants Germany to hand over.
A Greek man smirks as he tells a German man in a military uniform that “a debt is a debt.” The German man is worried and nervously clutching Drachma bills that the Greek man is nonchalantly telling him to hand over.

The London Debt Agreement in 1953 consisted of twenty countries (including the United States, Britain, France, and Greece) who wrote off about half of Germany’s World War I and World War II debt as well as installed a payment plan (Dearden, “Helped Postwar Germany”). As Germany began to prosper in the years following the debt relief, Greek debt and unemployment continued to rise. Economist John Milios states that Greece should receive a debt write off similar to what Germany received in the London Debt Agreement (qtd. in Bershidsky, “Debt Relief”). However, Greece’s political and economic circumstances vary greatly from Germany so it is unlikely that they will receive such help. This cartoon, “The German Debt,” by Miguel Villalba Sánchez (Elchicotriste) portrays the complicated relationship between the two countries and their debt problems through the use of visual exaggeration, irony, and historical allusion.

In this cartoon, Germany and Greece are personified and visually exaggerated in order to convey the strain that debt relief has put on their relationship. Germany is portrayed as an old, pale, sweaty, and almost sickly looking man dressed in combat gear. This rendering of Germany evokes a negative connotation; his pallor and old age represent weakness and intimidation. The German man is wearing a military uniform in which the helmet closely resembles the helmets that Germans wore in World War II (Antill, “German Army Equipment”). The uniform provides Germany with a false sense of safety and authority. By contrast, Greece is portrayed as a young, smiling, and healthy looking man who is at ease dressed in a stereotypical Greek outfit. This shows how Greece is pleased by the German struggle. Germany used to be Greece’s major enemy, however, now the tables have turned and Germany is now Greece’s largest creditor (BBC News). Greece claimed that Germany owed them billions of euros in order to repay the Nazi occupation of Greece during which about 250,000 people died, a forced loan was taken from the Bank of Greece, and infrastructure was destroyed (BBC News). Greece is satisfied with Germany’s struggle because they see justice being exacted.

This cartoon relates to the historical cartoon “Going Down Third Time” by John Knott because it shows how German debt problems in the past led to even worse debt problems. According to the Jubilee Debt Campaign, half of German debt came before World War II and the other half came after (“Cancelled Germany’s Debt”). The first half was incurred by loans as Germany tried to pay off their insane World War I debt charges. The second half stemmed from reconstruction following the end of World War II (“Cancelled Germany’s Debt”). After the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany’s debt problems continued to worsen. This was foreshadowed in Knott’s cartoon because he made it evident that Germany was drowning and no one was willing to help. However, Germany’s economic trajectory changed for the better in 1953 because of the debt pardon that was an “economic miracle” (Becker, “German Economic Miracle”).

There is irony in Greece chiding Germany by saying “a debt is a debt” because Greece is having problems paying its own massive amounts of debt. After the debt write off, Germany began to slowly but surely recover from their rough past as Greece fell further into recession. Greece feels that they should receive a debt write off similar to Germany, however, the creditors are not inclined to offer the same relief.  The crediting countries see that Germany is trying to “expiate its past” whereas Greece is accumulating debt by “unsustainable socialist benefits” (Bershidsky, “Debt Relief”). Some of these socialist expenses include higher pensions, universal healthcare, a large government, and salaries for Orthodox priests (Bershidsky, “Debt Relief”). The difference between German and Greek debt is seen in how each country acquired their debt.

According to Leonid Bershidsky in his Bloomberg View column, “Germany Deserved Debt Relief, Greece Doesn’t,” Greece caused deficits by continuing these socialist fiscal practices for three decades, borrowed to cover them, and then lied about them to the Eurostat so they could adopt the euro in 2001. Bershidsky emphasizes the fact that Germany is taking on debts made by previous, corrupt governments whereas Greece carelessly and secretly accumulates debts of their own. On the contrary, the cartoon shows Greece smirking at Germany as if the Greeks didn’t have any debt problems of their own. Therefore, the cartoon is ironic in that both countries have debts to pay and no matter how that debt was incurred, neither Greece nor Germany should be reprimanding the other.

The bar-code mustache and Drachma bills allude to World War II and how it affected Germany’s relationship with Greece. The bar-code mustache on Germany not only alludes to Hitler’s infamous mustache, but it represents a price. In general, we scan bar-codes to get the price of an item. This shows how Hitler’s rule created a huge price that Germans would have to pay for a long time. Not only was previous debt ignored and new debt obtained, but the cruelty of Hitler’s Germany will always be remembered and felt across the world. The bar-code mustache emphasizes the price that Germans are still paying for World War II. This leads to the allusion and symbolization of the Drachma bills.

The Drachma was Greece’s currency until they adopted the euro in January of 2001 (“Greek Drachma”). In 2000, the Greek Supreme Court ruled that Germany “should pay €28m to the relatives of those killed” in the Nazi massacre in Distomo in 1944 (BBC News). There were several other massacres in which hundreds of people died as well as war crimes, a forced loan, and the destruction of infrastructure (BBC News). Because of this, Greece rightfully deserves compensation for the Nazi occupation during World War II. This is a central idea in the cartoon as it shows Germany unwilling to give Greece its own currency. However, Germany is disinclined to settle these reparations because they claim that the issue was settled in 1990 and Greece keeps changing the figure. It also raises questions as to why Greece did not negotiate these repayments before entering the Eurozone (BBC News). This explains why Germany is reluctant to give the Drachmas to Greece, however, Greece feels like the money is rightfully theirs.

Furthermore, relations between the two countries continue to worsen. When discussing a bail out for Greece’s debilitating debt in 2015, Germany approached the topic with what many perceived as a harsh sternness. This view was reinforced when Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, suggested that Greece temporarily exit from the euro (Eddy, “Greek Debt Crisis”). The two countries have to deal with the exasperating problem of getting rid of old debt without incurring new debt.

Miguel Sánchez’s cartoon relates to John Knott’s political cartoon, “Going Down Third Time,” because it shows the results of what happened due to German debt after World War I. The debt problems Germany had with France led to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, which then led to more debt, which led to the London Debt Agreement, which led to further tensions between Greece and Germany. Not only do Greece and Germany have their individual problems with debt, but they are still trying to settle conflicts that happened over half a century ago.

Works Cited

Antill, P. “German Army Equipment of the Second World War.” German Army Equipment of the Second World War. N.p., 20 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Becker, Andreas. “German Economic Miracle: Thanks to Debt Relief? | Germany | DW.COM | 27.02.2013.” DW.COM. N.p., 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Bershidsky, Leonid. “Germany Deserved Debt Relief, Greece Doesn’t.” Bloomberg.com. Ed. Cameron Abadi. Bloomberg, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Dearden, Nick. “Greece and Spain Helped Postwar Germany Recover. Spot the Difference | Nick Dearden.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Eddy, Melissa. “Germany’s Tone Grows Sharper in Greek Debt Crisis.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 July 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

“Greek Drachma.” GRD. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

“How Europe Cancelled Germany’s Debt in 1953 – Jubilee Debt Campaign UK.” Jubilee Debt Campaign UK. N.p., 08 Apr. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Knott, John. “Going Down Third Time.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News 15 July 1931, sec. 2: 2. Readex: A Division of Newsbank. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

News, BBC. “Does Germany Owe Greece Wartime Reparations Money?” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Sánchez, Miguel Villalba (Elchicotriste). “Pitch THE GERMAN DEBT.” Cartoon. Cartoon Movement – THE GERMAN DEBT. N.p., 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.



They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying

“They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying” comments on pre-World War II interactions between Europe and Secretary of the State Cornell Hull.


They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying

John Francis Knott — March 1937

Distinguished through his thought-provoking ideas and unique artistic abilities, John Francis Knott was a political cartoonist for the Dallas Morning News who illustrated more than 15,000 cartoons in his 50-year career. His work throughout the early 20th century focused much on presidential campaigns and wars of the time and attracted national and international attention. His cartoon “They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying”, published on March 22, 1937 equally centralized around the upcoming World War and America and Europe’s atypical relationship leading up to it.

Characterized by historians as a time of political and economic unrest, the 1930s was turbulent for nations worldwide. Coming out of the midst of the Great Depression, the United States was slowly starting to become financially stable again under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership. Europe on the other hand became plagued with political crisis, with Adolf Hitler making plans to invade parts of Europe and Germany aligning itself with other strong nations, proving that a war was likely imminent. In an attempt to avoid an international feud, the United States, among other nations, called for a peaceful meeting to discuss the issues and try to extinguish tensions. This attempt is essentially what Knott illustrates in his cartoon.

“They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying” depicts two characters: a woman holding cannons, muskets, and other miscellaneous weaponry with the word “Europe” on her chest and a man in a car with “Good Neighbor Hull” on it asking the woman if she “want[s] a ride.” The woman in this piece clearly represents the nation of Europe preparing for war with Germany and the Axis Powers. The man is noted to be Cordell Hull, American politician and Secretary of State to Roosevelt who strongly advocated for the meeting between nations. Although the European people were in favor of peace, the men in power were not heeding Hull’s please for compromise. In the background of the illustration are two signs reading “Road to World Peace” and “International Trade” which Hull is gesturing towards as if suggesting this is where he plans to take the woman on the car ride.

The humor behind the illustration is derived from the criticisms of how both American leaders such as Hull and the European nations handled the proposition to meet peacefully. Specifically in the cartoon, Knott ridiculously has Hull offer to give Europe or European leaders a ride to the conference. Equally, signs advertising the benefits of meeting happen to line the road which Hull plans to take. Paradoxically, Knott unrealistically has the European woman carrying heaps of advanced weaponry and warfare machinery through the streets. Overall, the cartoon is Knott’s humorous depiction of Secretary of State Hull’s overt attempt to ask Europe for a meeting to discuss the issues at hand.

In a companion piece published alongside “They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying” entitled “Advice to Europe” Hull’s relationship and overall influence over European nations is better exemplified. The article touches on Europe’s hesitancy on taking advice from “a young upstart” like the United States, despite America’s wealth and political establishment. Ultimately, Europe considers aggression the only practical solution despite Hull’s or other nation’s appeals to handle the issue in a peaceful manner. The article even goes on to say that even someone with more power and authority than Hull would likely have an extremely difficult time in preventing the altercation from being resolved through violence or force.

Essentially, “They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying” by John Francis Knott humorously comments on the Secretary of State Cornell Hull’s proposition to Europe to settle differences in a peaceful meeting to avoid an international war. Although Hull’s proposal failed, Knott permanently etched the idea into history with his cartoon and remarked on the tense and confusing times leading up to the Second World War.


Works Cited:

“Cordell Hull.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John F. “They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying”. Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 22 March 1937: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Smitha, Frank E. “Crisis and War in Europe, 1937 to 1940.” Crisis and War in Europe, 1937 to 1940. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

Woolner, Diane. “Repeating Our Mistakes: The “Roosevelt Recession” and the Danger of Austerity.” Roosevelt Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.