Conflict Humor: Hungary’s Declaration of War on the USA in 1941

According to a widely circulated, if apocryphal contemporary story, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked an aide in the early weeks of the US involvement in  what came to be called World War II,  if Hungary, which had just declared war against the United States, was a  kingdom or a republic. “A kingdom, Mr. President”, the aide replied.  This dialogue followed:

FDR: What’s the King’s name?
Aide: Hungary doesn’t have a King.
FDR: Then who runs the kingdom?
Aide: A Regent by the name of Admiral Miklós Horthy.
FDR: Admiral? Then Hungary must have a powerful navy.
Aide: Hungary has no navy; it doesn’t even have access to the sea.
FDR: Wars are often fought for religious reasons. What’s the main religion there?
Aide: Catholicism, Mr. President. But Admiral Horthy is Protestant.
FDR: Did this admiral declare war on us because of territorial claims then?
Aide: Hungary’s territorial claims are against Romania.
FDR: In that case, did Hungary declare war on Romania?
Aide: No, Hungary and Romania are allies.
FDR: Let me get this straight. Hungary is a  kingdom run by a Regent who’s an admiral without a navy, and it is  allied with Romania against which it has territorial claims but it has  declared war on the U.S. against which it doesn’t.
Aide: That’s right, Mr. President.”

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict History, Conflict Humor and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Conflict Humor: Hungary’s Declaration of War on the USA in 1941

  1. Adam says:

    1941 is not “early months of World War II”, it is its second year.

    • For the United States. the subject of the humorous, not to be take too seriously story, it was the early weeks of World War 2. For the UK and its Empire indeed the second year of what came to be called World War 2. For China, the war had been going on since July 7th 1937 or going on five years. For the Soviet Union World War 2 was six months old….and I guess for Hungary it too was the early weeks. Depends on your perspective, unless you think there is only one: the correct one: your own? I try to avoid that.

      Nevertheless as we aim to respond to feedback, I have amended the post slightly to capture that it was the early weeks of US involvement in WW2. I hope that is satisfactory. Thank you for bringing this possible ambiguity to my attention.

      And of course, the war only really became a World War when the Soviet Union and the US joined it. Up until then it was largely a European war with a bit of North Africa significantly involved best I recall. But I am fine with calling it a world war from any time after 1937: retrospective labeling….And Time Magazine apparently referred to WW2 in prospect in August 1939 even before the invasion of Poland. So when it comes appropriate to call it thus, is somewhat arbitrary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s