Published: September 20, 2018
"Today, I heard the voice of Adolf Hitler," Edward Robb Ellis wrote in his diary on this day. He added: "His oratory is so menacing that he chills one's blood."
A journalist and author, Ellis is regarded as being the most prolific known diarist in the history of American letters. Like many of his countrymen, he was opposed to the United States becoming involved in another war in Europe, only 20 years after the horrors of the First World War – "the war to end all wars".
His diary entry for 26 September 1938 reads: "Today I heard the voice of Adolf Hitler. Some other people and I sat on a balcony in the Black Hotel [in Oklahoma City] and listened on the radio to what is being called the Munich crisis.
"Hitler spoke in German, of course, his words being translated into English as he spoke. He demanded that Czechoslovakia give Germany the Sudenten area of that country, which is inhabited by a German-speaking minority.
"Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain has flown from England to Germany to confer with Hitler.
"He has been called the Mad Dog of Europe, and now I understand why: His demands are extreme and his oratory so menacing that he chills one's blood.
"The war scare is a reality here in Oklahoma City. People buy the latest editions of newspapers and talk about diplomacy and war. Young men ask one another how they feel about conscription. Young women tremble lest their men be thrust into battle.
"I, for one, am a coward and isolationist. Not only do I not want to go to war, but I don't consider it necessary for the United States to enter the war that seems about to begin."
The hopes of Ellis and many other Americans to stay out of the war were dashed in December, 1941 when Japan launched a surprise attack against the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Eight battleships were damaged, four sunk and over 2,400 Americans killed, causing President Franklin D. Roosevelt the next day to declare war on Japan. A few days later, in a fateful decision, Hitler and his Italian ally, Benito Mussolini, declared war on the US.
*Footnote: The upmarket Hotel Black, a noted Oklahoma landmark, misnamed by Ellis as the Black Hotel, closed in 1976 after hitting hard times in the 1960s. It was converted into offices before being demolished in 2015.