Today i was playing a game of Quartermaster General with some friends. You know, it’s one of those World War II board games that some players control the Axis and others the Allies. I had Japan and we lost but that’s not the point here.
While we were playing, one simple question came to my mind: why the Axis powers are called by that name? I mean, why Axis?
Well, because this is something every loyal I’m A Useless Info Junkie reader should know, i decided to look into it and here’s the answer. (the article continues after the ad)
The term was coined in 1936 by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. At the time, Italy was pretty much isolated from the country’s old friends due to sanctions that were placed by The League of Nations (the body that was created in the wake of World War I) for invading the African kingdom of Abyssinia, the country we now call Ethiopia.
So, in order to avoid this devastating political isolation, Italy signed a new treaty of friendship with Germany, the so called ‘Rome-Berlin pact’. This treaty was announced to the public on November 1, 1936 with Il Duce giving a speech in Milan and stating that:
“This Berlin-Rome protocol is not a barrier, it is rather an axis around which all European States animated by a desire for peace may collaborate on troubles”
It is likely that both Italy and Germany were referring to themselves as the Axis long before Japan joining the coalition in 1940 by signing the Tripartite Pact. However, this nickname was not widely used by the Allies before the Tripartite Pact – at least there are no written records of it. For example, US President Franklin Roosevelt used the term for the first time on November 11, 1940 and went on to use it at least 157 times during the course of World War II. After that, the term was popularized and it’s used ever since when people refer to this coalition.
A very interesting research that was published at The Chicago Tribune by Northwestern University’s professors Kenneth Janda and Stefano Mula, revealed that even though it was Mussolini who said it first to the public, the term may have been the idea of Gyula Gömbös, the fascist premier of Hungary.
According to this theory, Gombos wanted to have an “axis” of European power that would include Germany as the leading power and Hungary, Italy as primary partners. However, Gombos, died in 1936, just weeks before the Rome-Berlin pact, so Mussolini went ahead with the axis idea, including only Italy and Germany.