|Franklin Delano Roosevelt- USA
Many critics suspect that Roosevelt steered the country to war while professing all the while to avoid it. No matter what his private sentiments were on the necessity of war, FDR chose to wait for provocation from the aggressors to push the country out of its isolationist mood rather than act without their support. He attempted to manipulate an incident where torpedoes from German U-boats hit American ships headed towards Britain into a battle-call, but Hitler quickly apologized, and the incident faded into memory. Roosevelt waited in vain for some overt aggression in the Atlantic, but the Germans, wary from their experience with America in World War I, continued without any dramatic inducement to war. In the meantime, Roosevelt had been increasing pressure on Japan by decreasing exports of metal and oil. When FDR finally cut off high- octane aviation fuel to Japan entirely, the Japanese were pushed into a corner and decided to launch an all-out offensive rather than give up their possessions in China. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, finally provided Roosevelt with the provocation to declare war. The fact that the war had come from the west, not the east, was unexpected, however. Indeed, 265 American aircraft were lost, 2,403 men were killed, and 1,178 were wounded at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese lost only twenty-nine aircraft and fifty-five men. On December 8, FDR asked Congress to declare war against Japan. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
Roosevelt chose a talented team of military advisors who would remain at their posts for the entirety of the war. General Marshall was the Chief Advisor for the Army and Admiral King was the Chief Advisor for the Navy. Both Marshall and King were straightforward with the President and had his trust, so much so that the soft-spoken Marshall was not allowed to command the Allied advance in 1944 because Roosevelt wanted him at his side. These military leaders had to cope with many logistical difficulties that during the war, as not all of the Allies were at war with the same countries, nor did they consider the same countries their friends. China was not at war with Germany, but Britain and the Soviet Union did not have any faith in China, and so on. The domestic front was also a major cause of concern in mounting an Allied offensive. Although FDR had encouraged mobilization many years before Pearl Harbor, many industrialists were reluctant to comply with the plans of a leader who was seen as anti-business. But Roosevelt's experience at the war desk during World War I had taught him that a modern war was little more than a fight between the resources of each country. With Pearl Harbor, the resources of the United States were opened.
Winston Churchill- Great Britain
In political circles, Churchill inspired animosity and mistrust not only because of his perceived disloyalty (caused by switching party affiliations), but also because many of his opinions were seen as unsound. He was particularly discredited during World War I when, in 1915, he favored the doomed Dardanelles campaign , which resulted in heavy British casualties. In the 1930s, he issued warnings when Germany began to mobilize for war. He was critical of the 1938 Munich agreement , in which British officials allowed Germany to take over part of Czechoslovakia in the hopes of reducing future German demands. Churchill disagreed with this policy of appeasement , but as with many of his past political stances, not many agreed with him.
On May 10, 1940, Churchill was 65 years old, but he was far from retirement. Instead, on that day, he became Great Britain’s prime minster. The serious threat posed by an aggressive Germany, which seemed intent on conquering Europe, had finally been realized. In his first speech as prime minster, delivered on May 13, Churchill assured his countrymen that he would offer his “blood, toil, tears, and sweat”in this time of crisis. During the war years, Churchill, resolute and patriotic, bolstered his nation’s morale as the British battled the Nazis . For more than a year, the country fought without its eventual allies, the Soviet Union and the United States, who joined the conflict in 1941. The alliance Churchill helped create with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin defeated the Axis , but he was forced to watch his Allied partners gain power while the once-great British Empirecrumbled. While attending the final war conference in July 1945, Churchill lost the general election at home and was replaced as prime minister, a devastating blow.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) served as the prime minister of Great Britain from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. He led Britain's fight against Nazi Germany in World War II. Churchill was a talented orator, giving many stirring speeches to boost national morale during the war. A close friend of American presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, Churchill hoped to join the Americans in building a postwar order that limited Soviet leader Josef Stalin's ability to dominate European affairs.
In January 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Casablanca, Morocco to plan attacks on all war fronts, to invade Sicily and Italy, to send forces to the Pacific, and to better aid the Soviet Union.
General Tôjô Hideki- Japan
Known within the army as “Razor Tôjô” both for his bureaucratic efficiency and for his strict, uncompromising attention to detail, he climbed the command ladders, in close association with the army faction seeking to upgrade and improve Japan’s fighting capabilities despite tight budgets and “civilian interference.” Tôjô built up a personal power base and used his position as head of the military police of Japan’s garrison force in Manchuria to rein in their influence before he became the Kwantung Army’s chief of staff in 1937. He played a key role in opening hostilities against China in July. Tôjô had his only combat experience later that year, leading two brigades on operations in Inner Mongolia.
Seeing the military occupation of Chinese territory as necessary to force the Nationalist Chinese government to collaborate with Japan, he continued to advocate expansion of the conflict in China when he returned to Tokyo in 1938 as army vice minister, rising to army minister in July 1940. He pushed for alliance with Germany (where he had served in 1920-1922) and Italy, and he supported the formation of a broad political front of national unity. In October 1941 he became prime minister.
Although Tôjô supported last-minute diplomatic efforts, he gave final approval to the attacks on the United States, Great Britain, and the Dutch East Indies in December 1941. Japan’s early victories greatly strengthened his personal prestige and his assertion that there were times when statesmen had to “have faith in Victory.”
When the war intensified, Japan’s losses mounted, and its fragile industrial foundations threatened to collapse. Tôjô characteristically sought to gather administrative levers into his own hands. Serving as both prime minister and army minister, at various times he also held the portfolios of home affairs (giving him control of the dreaded “thought police”), education, munitions, commerce and industry, and foreign affairs. In February 1944, he even assumed direct command of army operations as chief of the Army General Staff. Yet despite all his posts, Tôjô was never able to establish a dictatorship on a par with those wielded by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. He served constitutionally at the behest of the emperor, without support of a mass party, while crucial power centers, such as the industrial combines (known aszaibatsu), the navy, and the court, remained beyond his control. After the island of Saipan fell to American forces in July 1944, he was forced from power, despite arguments raised by some officials close to the throne that Tôjô should be left in office to the end to accept responsibility for the loss of the war so that a court official could “step in” to deliver peace.
Adolf Hitler- Germany
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was the dictatorial leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazi Party, commanding German forces throughout World War II. A fanatic nationalist, miltarist, racist, and anti-Semite, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and quickly transformed Germany into a totalitarian fascist state. His efforts to build a territorially larger and ethnically purer fatherland for the German people ended in world war and Holocaust. Hitler retained power in Germany until his suicide just before Germany's surrender in 1945.
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was one of the most powerful and infamous dictators of the 20th century. After World War I, he rose to power in the National Socialist German Workers Party, taking control of the German government in 1933. His establishment of concentration camps to inter Jews and other groups he believed to be a threat to Aryan supremacy resulted in the death of more than 6 million people in the Holocaust. His attack on Poland in 1939 started World War II, and by 1941 Germany occupied much of Europe and North Africa.
Focused on reestablishing Germany as a great European power, Hitler began planning the country’s rearmament and territorial expansion. Between 1936 and 1939, in a series of increasingly aggressive moves, Germany occupied the Rhineland, invaded and annexed Austria, and annexed and seized Czechoslovakia. Hitler then ordered the September 1, 1939, attack on Poland , setting off World War II. During the war years, Hitler insisted on exercising ever greater control; he frequently disregarded the opinions of his military advisers and, in December 1941, he took direct command of the German army. Under his leadership, the Nazis carried out a policy of genocide they called “the Final Solution ,”which cost the lives of around six million Jews in Europe. Millions of others opposed to the Third Reich or deemed undesirable were also targeted for forced labor and extermination.
In September 1938, leaders of France and Great Britain met Adolf Hitler to discuss his demands, ultimately granting the German leader control over the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. In return, Hitler promised to leave the rest of Czechoslovakia alone, and to abandon all further ambitions of territorial expansion. When Hitler broke his pledge and took the rest of Czechoslovakia and then invaded Poland in 1939, France and Great Britain declared war. Hitler's forces invaded Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg, and defeated France within the first year of war. Ultimately, however, Nazi Germany would fall to Allied forces, surrendering on 2 May 1945, one day after Adolf Hitler's suicide.
Benito Mussolin- Italy
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) rose to power in the wake of World War I as a leading proponent of Facism. Originally a revolutionary Socialist, he forged the paramilitary Fascist movement in 1919 and became prime minister in 1922. Mussolini’s military expenditures in Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Albania made Italy predominant in the Mediterranean region, though they exhausted his armed forces by the late 1930s. Mussolini allied himself with Hitler, relying on the German dictator to prop up his leadership during World War II, but he was killed shortly after the German surrender in Italy in 1945.
Originally a revolutionary Socialist, he abandoned his party to advocate Italian intervention in World War I. Following the war, in which he served as a rifleman, Mussolini decided his destiny was to rule Italy as a modern Caesar and re-create the Roman Empire. He forged the paramilitary Fascist movement in 1919-1921, using it to march on Rome, become prime minister, and then to seize dictatorial power (1925-1926). By subduing Libya (1922-1932), pacifying Somalia (1923-1927), conquering Ethiopia (1935-1936), helping the Nationalists win the Spanish civil war (1936-1939), and seizing Albania (April 1939), Mussolini made Italy predominant in the Mediterranean-Red Sea region. But his military adventures in 1935-1939 left his armed forces exhausted.
National poverty, resource deficiencies, and scientific-industrial weakness, combined with inflexible commanders, plagued the Italian forces. The king, Victor Emmanuel III, provided monarchist officers with an authority figure to impede Mussolini’s dominance of the armed services. An air power enthusiast, Mussolini did create an innovative, Fascist-minded air force. It performed well over Ethiopia and Spain but lagged technologically after 1935. Mussolini promoted Fascists to leadership positions and sponsored some new army thinking in the 1930s. But bitter interservice rivalry crippled joint planning. Mussolini lacked the understanding and power to solve these problems. Thus, he pursued his imperial dreams with politically, strategically, and doctrinally incoherent forces.
Mussolini slowly overcame his lieutenants’ anti-German attitudes, and then allied himself with Adolf Hitler in May 1939. Mussolini expected coordinated policies to inhibit German initiatives until Italy’s forces recovered from their recent exertions. Mussolini planned for war in 1943-1945. But Hitler started World War II in September 1939, giving only one week’s warning to the Italians and forcing an enraged, humiliated Mussolini to declare “nonbelligerence.”
Hitler’s May 1940 successes persuaded Mussolini to intervene in a presumably short, parallel war. But Italy’s cautious generals and admirals wasted brief opportunities in the Mediterranean and North Africa during June-October 1940. After Mussolini forced offensives in the fall, he suffered disasters in Greece and North Africa: only German military intervention in early 1941 preserved him from a military coup. Thereafter, Hitler dragged Mussolini in his wake, particularly once the German-Soviet war overwhelmed Axis strategy.