“What are the odds?”

“What are the odds?” (September 30, 1941)
by Charles (Chuck) Werner (1909-1997)
13.5 x 17.5 in., ink and crayon on textured paper
Coppola Collection

Charles (Chuck) Werner won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1939 for a cartoon he did for the Daily Oklahoman titled “Nomination for 1938” which allowed for the transfer of the Sudetenland to Hitler’s Germany (October 6, 1938). At age 29, Werner was the youngest person to win the Pulitzer. Werner left the Daily Oklahoman to be the Chief Editorial Cartoonist at the Chicago Sun in 1941 before leaving for the Indianapolis Star in 1947. Throughout his nearly sixty-year career, many U.S. Presidents expressed interest in Werner’s cartoons, including Lyndon B. Johnson and Harry Truman requesting cartoons for their presidential libraries.

There is a period of time where there are three players making war, and when the US is not even formally involved. On September 1, 1939, Germany invades Poland and WW2 begins. The Soviets have a pact with the Germans, and take a piece of Poland (September), then Finland (Dec 1939 – March 1940), and the Baltics (June 1940, the same month that Germany takes France). Great Britain was carrying the weight of the Allied resistance.

Hitler turned on Stalin in June 1941, and the Soviets were now third party warriors, not aligned with the Allies but counting on their success.

From September 29 to October 1, 1941, the first Moscow conference was held.

Stalin told British diplomats that he wanted two agreements: (1) a mutual assistance/aid pact and (2) a recognition that, after the war, the Soviet Union would gain the territories in countries that it had taken pursuant to its division of Eastern Europe with Hitler in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The British agreed to assistance but refused to agree to the territorial gains, leading to the rocky view of peace represented in this cartoon.

Two months later, Pearl Harbor was attacked, bringing the US into the fray.

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