Reading guide 10. 1 Elaborate On The Causes Of wwii and Reasons For U. S. Entry Into The War

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10.1 Elaborate On The Causes Of WWII And Reasons For U.S. Entry Into The War.

Groundwork For War

In the years that followed World War I, the effects of a worldwide economic depression devastated Europe. As people blamed government leaders for their hardships, a great deal of political and social unrest began to rise within a number of European nations. As a result, totalitarian governments that restricted personal freedoms and prohibited political opposition rose to power. Two particular charismatic (charming) totalitarian leaders were Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy. Mussolini was the first to come to power and advocated fascism (a form of government that believes the state is more important than the individual; it maintains control of the economy, suppresses (eliminates) opposition, and is ruled by a dictator).

  1. During the 1920s and 1930s, what caused political and social unrest within a number of nations leading to totalitarian governments?

hitler and mussolini

Mussolini dreamed of establishing an Italian empire like that of the ancient Romans. He hoped to accomplish this by strict government controls and a strong military. Mussolini gained the support of those who feared the spread of communism; namely conservative business leaders and landlords, the Roman Catholic Church and the army. In 1921 - 1922, Italy's constitutional monarchy was in crisis. Mussolini used the instability to establish himself as dictator and eliminate his political opponents.

Following its defeat in World War I, Germany suffered humiliation and economic hardships. Adolf Hitler took advantage of the German people's resentment to win support for his Nazi Party. Using his talents as a zealous and inspiring speaker, Hitler effectively blamed the Jews, the betrayal of the former German republic (government), and Germany's enemies in World War I for the nation's troubles. Promising to restore the glory of the nation, Hitler ascended to power in 1933. He cleverly disposed of any opposition to his leadership and became known as the "Fuhrer" (leader, or guide) of Germany. Hitler labeled his new government the Third Reich, and he envisioned it as an empire that would last for thousands of years.

  1. Hitler, the Fuhrer of Germany, gained support for his Nazi party by blaming whom for Germany’s problems?

  2. Compare and Contrast Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini (i.e. form of government, causes and effects of their rise to power).


In 1925, Japan granted the right to vote to all males in the country. This was a great change from the previous government, which had been dominated by nobility (high social class) and the military. The following year, Emperor Hirohito was enthroned (installed), and he proclaimed Showa ("enlightened peace") as the motto for his reign. However, in 1931, the Japanese army took it upon itself to occupy the Chinese province of Manchuria. Split by party divisions, Japan's democracy soon collapsed, and the nation's military leaders established their own national cabinet.

  1. During the 1920s and 1930s, what were the causes and effects of democracy in Japan?

The Aggression Begins

In 1928, U.S. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French Foreign Minister, Aristide Briand, authored the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The agreement was born out of the popularity of isolationism in the United States. It was signed by more than 60 countries that promised to negotiate rather than go to war over future disputes. The pact's weakness was that it had no means of enforcement. In the early 1930s, three of its signers — Germany, Italy, and Japan — disregarded the pact and invaded neighboring territories.

  1. Explain the Kellogg-Briand Pact including its weakness.

Mussolini Invades Ethiopia

Early in 1935, Mussolini agreed to support an independent Austria against German interference if France would allow Italy's invasion of Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia). On October 3,1935, Italian forces moved into the African nation. Four days later, the League of Nations condemned Italy for its aggression. The League imposed economic sanctions (economic penalties) that only irritated Mussolini and did little to help Ethiopia. Hitler, who had earlier withdrawn Germany from the League, offered to help Italy. Not only had the international community failed to force Mussolini out of Africa, but its actions had served to cement relations between Hitler and Mussolini.

  1. How did the League of Nations respond to Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia? What was the result of this action?

Hitler Desires To Expand His Borders

In 1936, Hitler moved German troops into the Rhineland in direct defiance (to disobey on purpose) of the Treaty of Versailles. Fearing another war with Germany, Britain and France did nothing. In March 1938, Hitler tested his boundaries by annexing (adding) Austria to Germany. He convinced other countries that this move was an internal German affair, and again, he met no resistance. In September, he demanded the right to annex the Sudetenland, the western border of Czechoslovakia in which 3.5 million ethnic Germans lived.

  1. What event demonstrated Hitler’s defiance of the Treaty of Versailles? What was the consequence of his defiance? Why?

the munich and non-aggression pacts

Despite Hitler's aggressive moves, many leaders in Europe were still not willing to risk a war. The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the French premier Edouard Daladier elected to follow a policy of appeasement. Appeasement is a policy in which it is believed that by giving in to an aggressor's demands, the aggressor will be satisfied and future conflicts will be avoided. In signing the Munich Pact, Great Britain and France agreed to Hitler's capture of the Sudetenland. In exchange, Hitler promised to claim no further land in Czechoslovakia or anywhere else. The British people were relieved. Chamberlain spoke to cheering crowds in Britain, calling the Munich Agreement a "peace with honor" and a "peace for our time." One of Chamberlain's opponents in Parliament, Winston Churchill, voiced his opposition saying, "Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war."

  1. Explain the Appeasement policy signed by Chamberlain and Hitler.

  2. Explain the Munich Pact?

Although he had made promises of peace, Hitler already knew that there would be war. What Hitler wanted more than anything was to conquer the Soviet Union. Hitler wanted the Soviet territory for lebensraum (living space) for the empire that he was intent on building. However, Hitler was also convinced that, in order to defeat the Soviets in the east, he must first defeat France to the west. Otherwise, if France came to the Soviets' aid, he would have to fight a two front war. In 1939, Hitler signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, in which the two promised to divide up Poland and not to attack each other. Hitler hoped that this would allow him to invade France without having to worry about the Soviets attacking his army from the rear. Meanwhile, Stalin was not fooled. He knew it was only a matter of time before Hitler would attack him. He hoped that by signing the pact, however, there would be more time for the Soviet Union to prepare for war.

  1. What was the Non-Aggression Pact? Why did Hitler sign it? Why did Stalin sign it?

Japanese Aggression

Soon after Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the League of Nations demanded that the Japanese withdraw their troops. Japan responded to the demand by announcing its withdrawal from the League. Since the League was powerless to stop international aggression, China felt compelled to sign a treaty with Japan that formally ceded (to give up) claims to Manchuria. In July 1937, Japan began military operations to seize the rest of China. By the end of 1938, Japan had captured all the major cities along the Chinese coast but could not control the inland countryside. In 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan formally allied with one another to become the Axis Powers.

  1. Why did China sign a treaty with Japan giving up Manchuria?

  2. What alliance included Germany, Italy, and Japan?

The U.S. Remains Neutral

As the Axis Powers became increasingly aggressive, the United States continued to practice isolationist policies designed to keep the nation out of international conflicts and disputes. The devastation of WWI left many in the US unwilling to become involved in another European conflict. In addition, the Great Depression (1929 - 1941) was battering the nation, and most US citizens wanted their government concerned with fixing problems at home rather than abroad. Responding to this isolationist sentiment, Congress passed the Neutrality Act in 1935. This act prohibited the selling of weapons to warring nations. Anti-war feeling was so strong in 1937 that an amendment to the Constitution was introduced, requiring a national vote before the US could declare war. It failed by a narrow margin.

  1. What was a major reason why Americans wanted to focus on domestic issues instead of foreign conflicts?

  2. What was significant about the Neutrality Act in maintaining an isolationist foreign policy?

While President Roosevelt understood the isolationism that engulfed (overwhelmed) the country, he was also aware of the danger aggressive nations posed to the United States. In October 1937, FDR gave what came to be known as his Quarantine Speech. In it, Roosevelt called for a "quarantine" (essentially economic and diplomatic sanctions) against any "aggressor" nations. The speech angered isolationists who saw it as an attempt to side with nations that would oppose Germany and Japan. Ultimately, economic sanctions by the US would play a major role in leading Japan to the conclusion that it must go to war with the United States.

  1. What was the effect of Roosevelt’s Quarantine Speech?

10.2 Identify military, political, and diplomatic turning points of the war and determine their significance to the outcome and aftermath of the conflict.

the war in europe

Within a year after signing the Munich Pact, Hitler broke his promise and invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. On September 1, 1939, Germany also invaded Poland, the only territory standing between Germany and the Soviet Union. Hitler's forces swept quickly across Poland using a new technique of warfare called blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg means "lightning: war." It was so named because it involved using air power and tanks to strike fast and hard, moving rapidly into enemy territory. In less than a month, most of Poland fell to the Nazis. The remaining territory fell under Stalin's control when the Soviets attacked from the east as secretly agreed on in the non-aggression pact with Germany. Meanwhile, prior to Hitler's invasion, Great Britain and France had made a pledge to Poland that they would come to the nation's aid if Germany attacked. On September 3, two days after Hitler's forces crossed the Polish border, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany.

  1. Describe Germany’s technique of warfare called blitzkrieg.

  2. The invasion of what country on September 1, 1939 by Germany led Britain and France to declare war on Germany?

the fall of france

There was a lull in the fighting over the winter of 1939. Then, in April of 1940, Germany conquered Denmark and Norway. On May 10, Hitler's forces launched a blitzkrieg against Belgium, the Netherlands and France that quickly overwhelmed the three countries. That same day, British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain (the man who had supported appeasement at Munich) resigned, Winston Churchill was appointed to take his place. Churchill, a fiery and inspiring speaker and leader, would prove to be an exceptional wartime leader for the British nation.

  1. In 1940, who replaced Neville Chamberlain as Britain’s Prime Minister?

The Nazis soon forced France to surrender and on June 14, German troops entered the city of Paris. Hitler forced France to sign an armistice (peace agreement) yielding half the country to German control, with the remaining half to be ruled by a French, pro-German government. As a symbol of redemption, and in an attempt to humiliate Germany's former WWI adversary, Hitler insisted that France sign the armistice in the very train car where Germany had been forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles years before.

  1. What was the connection between France surrender on June 14, 1940 to the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I?

the battle of britain

At first, Hitler did not want war with Great Britain. The nations he had invaded were attacked because he saw such actions as necessary to achieving the lebensraum (living space) he desired. Hitler did not see a conquest of Great Britain as essential to accomplishing his ultimate goal. However, once it became evident that Great Britain would not make peace with an aggressor like Germany, Hitler decided that it too must be defeated. With the US still neutral and the Soviet Union not yet involved in the fighting, Churchill found himself standing alone to resist German domination of Europe.

Hitler knew that he had to destroy Britain's mighty Royal Air Force before he could cross the English Channel and launch an invasion. In the Battle of Britain that raged from July - October of 1940, thousands of German planes bombed British airfields and cities. During the almost nightly air raids, residents of London slept in subways for cover and woke up to find more and more of their city reduced to smoke and rubble. Churchill, however, proved to be a great leader who inspired the British people with a strong sense of nationalism and hope. Thanks to the heroism of their Royal Air Force, the British were able to fight off the German assault and resist long enough to force Hitler to give up his plans of invading Great Britain.

  1. What did Britain do to resist Germany’s air assault during the Battle of Britain?

the united states enters the war

In 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the only US President ever elected to a third term. Although the majority of US citizens favored neutrality, Roosevelt was already convinced that the United States could not afford to stay out of the War much longer. As Britain struggled in its fight against Germany, Roosevelt proclaimed to the United States public, "If Great Britain goes down, all of us in the Americas would be living at the point of a gun... We must be the great arsenal of democracy." In March of 1941, Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act. Under this act, the president could send aid to any nation whose defense was considered vital to the United States' national security. If the country had no resources to pay for the aid, the US could send it and defer payment until later. Roosevelt helped win public support for this policy by offering the analogy of a neighbor's house being on fire. If your neighbor's house is on fire, Roosevelt reasoned, you don't sell him a hose you give it to him. Then, you take it back after the fire is out. This helps your neighbor and makes sure that the fire doesn't spread to your own house. Roosevelt was so certain that the US would eventually be drawn into the war that he met with Prime Minister Churchill secretly on a warship off the coast of Newfoundland in August of 1941. Together they drafted the Atlantic Charter, in which they agreed on common principles aimed at guaranteeing the freedom and welfare of countries after the war. The document eventually served as a basis for the founding of the United Nations.

  1. What law resulted from the “…arsenal of democracy” speech?

  2. How did the lend-lease act get around the Neutrality act?

  3. Why was the significance of the Atlantic Charter?

pearl harbor

While Hitler steamrolled through Europe, the United States also had one eye on Japan. Like other countries, Japan had been hurt by the worldwide depression. As a small series of islands, Japan also lacked many of the natural resources that it needed. The Japanese military saw aggressive expansion as the answer to Japan's problems. When the United States responded to Japan's aggression by imposing an embargo (refusal to ship certain products to a country) on oil and steel, many in Japan's government felt that the time had come for Japan to take what it needed by force. After conquering Manchuria and much of China, Japanese army general and prime minister, Tojo Hideki, set his sites on the rich natural resources of Southeast Asia and the Dutch East Indies.

  1. What problems did Japan face as a nation, which led them to look to other nations for resources?

  2. How did the US respond to Japan’s aggressive military action?

Japan realized, however, that it could not make the advances it wanted without being threatened by the US naval fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Although he believed that a war with the United States could not be won, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto knew that his country was determined to expand. He developed an all but impossible plan to sail six aircraft carriers across the Pacific undetected and launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Maintaining radio silence the entire way, Japanese ships reached their destination as planned. US intelligence knew that the Japanese were planning an attack of some kind; they just didn't know where. Believing that the waters of Pearl Harbor were too shallow for planes to drop torpedoes (explosive devices that hit the water and then are propelled towards a target), they focused on the Philippines and the threat of sabotage.

  1. Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

A few minutes before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, Japanese airplanes began the first wave of bombings on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. United States military personnel actually detected the incoming planes on radar but, thinking that they were US planes flying in from the mainland, dismissed them as nothing to be concerned about. Meanwhile, US intelligence had finally determined that an impending attack was coming. By the time word reached Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor, however, it was too late. In less than two hours, the Japanese forces sank or seriously damaged a dozen naval vessels, almost 200 warplanes, and killed or wounded nearly 3,000 people. The next day, President Roosevelt emotionally described December 7 as "A Day, which will live in Infamy." Both houses of Congress approved a declaration of war against Japan and later against Germany and Italy. Suddenly, the US had been plunged into the middle of World War II.

  1. When was Pearl Harbor attacked? What was the result?

Upon hearing the news of Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill, who had been longing for the United States to join the fight, was quoted as saying, "We've won the war!" Meanwhile, as the Japanese celebrated their success, Admiral Yamamoto's concern grew. In the midst of the excitement, his only noted response to news of the attack were the words, "We have awakened a sleeping giant."

Four Freedoms

As the United States became involved in the war and young men and women joined the armed forces, Roosevelt declared the Four Freedoms he believed to be essential and for which they would be fighting:

    1. Freedom of speech and expression.

    2. Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way

    3. Freedom from want, (i.e. not having physical needs met)

    4. Freedom from fear.

  1. What were the four freedoms President Roosevelt told the American people they were fighting for?

north africa and italy

Three days after Pearl Harbor, Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States. By this time, Hitler had attacked the Soviet Union and the two countries were at war. For this reason, Joseph Stalin wanted the United States and Great Britain to launch an invasion of France because it would force Hitler to divert some of his troops from the USSR to fight on his western front. Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt, however, believed that the Allies were not ready to go into France. Instead, they chose to focus their attention on North Africa. North Africa was important because Axis control of the region prevented the Allies (the nations opposed to the Axis Powers) from using the Suez Canal in Egypt and threatened shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Allies successfully launched Operation Torch in November of 1942. The operation involved an invasion of North Africa designed to drive the Axis armies off of the continent. Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the allied troops that landed off the coast of Algeria and Morocco. After encountering stiff resistance in Tunisia from German forces under the command of General Erwin Rommel (nicknamed, the "Desert Fox" because of his brilliance as a commander), the Allies eventually drove their enemy north towards the Mediterranean Sea. In May 1943, the greatly outnumbered Axis forces surrendered. This victory represented the Allies' first major victory of the war and showed both sides that Allied victory was possible.

  1. Why did the Soviet Union have problems with Operation Torch?

  2. What was the significance of the success of Operation Torch?

During the course of the fighting, Churchill and Roosevelt had met in Casablanca, Morocco to discuss the Allies next move. Stalin was invited but did not attend. At this meeting, the leaders decided that an invasion of Italy should be next and that it was time to launch an offensive in the Pacific against Japan as well. Most importantly, they decided that nothing less than unconditional surrender would be accepted from the enemy. In other words, the victors would set all the conditions of surrender with the losers having no say.

  1. What did Churchill and Roosevelt decide at a meeting in Casablanca, Morocco?

Following the victory in North Africa, U.S. troops under the command of General George S. Patton attacked the island of Sicily in July of 1943. Sicily fell to the Allies in just 38 days, and the Italian monarch and Mussolini were arrested. The Allies then attacked the Italian mainland. At first, the Allies made advances, even causing the new Italian government to surrender. German troops in northern Italy, however, would not give up. The fighting grew very bloody. It would be May of 1944 before the German lines would be broken through, and another 11 months before Italy would finally surrender altogether. The US suffered almost 190,000 casualties during the Italian campaign.

invasion of the soviet union and the battle of stalingrad

In June 1941, Adolf Hitler decided the time had come to finally attack the Soviet Union. The German troops advanced quickly and captured large portions of Soviet territory. Because of their dislike for Stalin, many of the Soviet citizens would have gladly aided the Nazis, had it not been for the Germans' brutality. As they advanced, German troops raped women, burned homes, and executed large numbers of civilians. Their harshness would be remembered a few years later as Soviet troops marched through Germany on their way to Berlin.

The Soviet Red Army decided to make its stand at Stalingrad, a city named for the Soviet leader. Although the city carried no great strategic importance, the fact that it bore Stalin's name made it significant in the minds of both leaders. Hitler was determined to capture it and signal the defeat of the Soviet people. Stalin was determined to hold the city as a symbol of national (and personal) pride. In September of 1942, the Germans unleashed a ferocious campaign of artillery and bombs that rocked Stalingrad. With much of the city reduced to rubble, the Soviets fought desperately to hold off the advancing Germans. Fortunately for the Soviets, they were able to hold on until the brutal Russian winter set in. Using the weather to their advantage, the Soviets attacked and forced the surrender of 90,000 German troops. The Soviets had turned back their enemy, saved the city, and changed the course of the war in Eastern Europe.

  1. Why was the Battle of Stalingrad a major turning point in the war?


The three leaders — Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin — finally all met together at the Tehran Conference in December of 1943. Stalin desperately wanted the Allies to launch an invasion of France and create a second front against Hitler. In Tehran, the reluctant British finally agreed. US General Dwight D. Eisenhower was made the Supreme Allied Commander of Operation Overlord. By June 1944, the Allies had assembled close to three million troops. Allied bombers began the attack by destroying railroads in northwest France, thus cutting off German supply lines. On June 6 1944, the D-Day invasion got under way. Hitting the beaches at Normandy, the first soldiers ashore received overwhelming gunfire. Despite suffering heavy losses, it took the Allies less than a week to get over 500,000 troops ashore. From their established foothold, these forces were able to advance further into France. On August 25, 1944, the Allies fought their way into Paris, liberating the city from four years of German occupation.

  1. Why was Operation Overlord, otherwise known as D-Day significant?

One method developed by the allies for sustaining their drive into Europe was the use of airdrops. In the past, advancing armies often had trouble staying supplied because of long supply lines that were vulnerable to attack. With airdrops, the Allies used airplanes to drop needed supplies to soldiers in otherwise hard to get to areas. Although such drops initially only delivered small supplies (i.e., food and small arms), eventually they became capable of larger deliveries, like tanks and artillery. Airdrops also became important for delivering medical supplies and humanitarian aid. During WWII, propaganda pamphlets (pamphlets intended to win over civilians or demoralize enemy soldiers by promoting one sides ideas and beliefs) were sometimes dropped as well.

battle of the bulge

Once the Allies had a foothold in Northern France, they were able to start their push towards Germany. However, despite fighting on two fronts, the Germans put up a fierce defense of their homeland. One of their last major offensives was the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans attempted to pierce enemy lines and divide Allied forces in half. Thus, the name came from the outward bulge that appeared on maps showing where the front was located. Because it was uncharacteristic for the German army to launch offensives in the winter time, the attack initially caught the Allies off guard. Fighting became fierce as some Allied units got cut off from the rest of their armies. Just as he had done in North Africa and Sicily, General George Patton proved influential as he moved his entire army of 250,000 men from western France to the site of the fighting in Luxemburg and Belgium. His efforts provided much needed reinforcements, and the German attack failed.

  1. Why was the Battle of the Bulge significant?

Victory In Europe

By March 1945, Eisenhower's troops were re-supplied and ready to move into Germany. Meanwhile, the Soviet army was pushing across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Anticipating Germany's defeat, the Big Three (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin) met in February 1945 at the city of Yalta and conducted the Yalta Conference. At this meeting, they discussed military strategy and postwar policies. During the negotiations, Stalin restated his promise to declare war on Japan after the defeat of Germany. He also agreed to allow free elections to establish democratic governments in eastern European countries freed from German occupation. In return, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed that the USSR would retain land in Poland (the US and Britain considered this only temporary) and have special rights to certain islands and Chinese lands presently under Japanese control. Furthermore, because of the tremendous losses inflicted on the USSR by the war, the Soviet Union would receive half of the war reparations from Germany. The resolutions of the conference were stated in the Yalta Declaration and included a provision for Germany being divided into four zones following the war. The United States, Britain, France, and the USSR would administer these zones. In addition, the leaders scheduled a conference in San Francisco for the following April to establish the United Nations as a permanent peacekeeping organization.

  1. What promises did the Big Three make during the Yalta Conference?

As Allied forces closed in on their enemy, Winston Churchill wanted Eisenhower to make every effort to reach Berlin before the Soviets. The British Prime Minister didn't trust Stalin and did not want Soviet troops to seize control of the German capital. Eisenhower, believing that military strategy should outweigh politics, elected to spread his troops throughout southern Germany instead. Allied and Soviet troops eventually met at the Elbe River, 100 miles west of Berlin. In the face of certain defeat, Hitler committed suicide on April 30,1945. One week later, Germany surrendered unconditionally, ending the war in Europe. Sadly, President Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12 and never saw the day of victory. After many long years of war, people in the Allied countries finally celebrated V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) on May 8, 1945.

  1. Why was V-E Day significant?

war in the pacific

Within hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese warplanes attacked Clark Field in the Philippines, destroying nearly half of the US airplanes stationed there. A few days later, Japanese forces invaded and eventually took the Philippines as well. The war in the Pacific had gotten off to a disastrous start for the United States. Not only had one of its most gifted military leaders, General Douglas MacArthur, been forced to abandon the Philippines, but its Pacific Fleet had been badly damaged at Pearl Harbor. Fortunately for the US, the aircraft carriers (ships from which warplanes can take off and land) that the Japanese had hoped to destroy in the attack were not in port on December 7 and were still functioning. This proved to, be crucial as the United States tried to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific.

Battle Of Midway And The US Offensive

Admiral Yamamoto, considered a military genius for orchestrating the attack on Pearl Harbor, felt that the remainder of the US Pacific Fleet must be destroyed if Japan had any hope of winning the war. He believed that US Admiral Chester Nimitz would be determined to protect the island of Midway because it was key to preventing an invasion of Hawaii. The Battle of Midway in June of 1942 proved to be a turning point in the war. This time it was the Japanese who failed to detect the location of its enemy's aircraft carriers and US planes were able to attack the Japanese carriers as they were still attempting to load bombs onto their planes. The US victory at Midway forced the Japanese to assume a more defensive war strategy. Midway proved to be their last offensive operation of the war.

Midway allowed the United States to finally go on offense in the Pacific. Initially, the US had planned to pass the Philippines as they advanced on the islands of Japan. However, General MacArthur had publicly vowed to return to liberate the Philippines after he was forced to flee at the beginning of the war. He convinced President Roosevelt to change his mind and include an invasion of the Philippines. The United States adopted a "two-pronged" strategy. In other words, they would advance on Japan from two directions. The first path was across the central Pacific under the command of Admiral Nimitz. The second would be from the south and involved an invasion of the Philippines. This second prong would be under the command of MacArthur and Admiral William Halsey.

  1. Why was the Battle of Midway a turning point of the war?

The United States then began a process of island hopping, in which they would attack and conquer one group of islands, then move on to the next as they made their way to Japan. In the south, MacArthur reached the Philippines. In dramatic fashion, he waded ashore before rolling news cameras and proclaimed, "People of the Philippines, I have returned." As US troops fought their way inland, the largest naval battle in history was fought offshore in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In desperation, the Japanese turned to the use of kamikaze pilots to try and avoid defeat. Kamikazes were pilots who committed suicide by intentionally crashing their planes into US ships in an attempt to sink them. Meanwhile, Nimitz' forces won key battles at Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Guadalcanal was the United States' first offensive operation in the Pacific and provided US Marines with their first taste of jungle warfare. Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles fought as it took more than 100,000 US forces nearly a month to defeat 25,000 heavily entrenched Japanese soldiers. Finally, Okinawa was also a bloody campaign. When it was over, US and British forces had taken the island and removed the last obstacle between the Allies and the islands of Japan.

  1. What was the significance of the military strategy of island hopping?

the atomic bomb

The capture of Okinawa had cleared the way for an invasion of Japan that would end the war. The invasion never happened. Soon after entering the war, the US had begun work on developing the atomic bomb. The top-secret endeavor was called the Manhattan Project and was headed by J. Robert Oppenheimer. On July 16,1945, scientists tested the new weapon in the desert of New Mexico. The flash was blinding and the explosion so great that it Shattered windows 125 miles away. Meanwhile, the new president, Harry S. Truman, was at the Potsdam Conference discussing postwar policies with Prime Minister Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Among the conditions of the Potsdam Declaration, the allied leaders restated their policy of "unconditional surrender." When the Japanese refused to surrender until they were given a guarantee that the position of the Emperor would be protected, Truman authorized the use of the bomb.

  1. What was the purpose of the Manhattan Project, headed by J. Robert Oppenheimer?

  2. What prompted President Truman to authorize the use of the atomic bomb to beat Japan?

On August 6,1945, a specially equipped B-29 bomber called the Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The city was leveled and thousands of civilians and military personnel were killed. Many more would later die from the radiation released in the blast. Two days later the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria. When Japan delayed in issuing its surrender, the US dropped another bomb on August 9 on the city of Nagasaki. In the face of the massive death and destruction caused by these attacks, and with the Soviet Union now involved in the fighting, Japan finally surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur on August 14, 1945. World War II was over. This day of surrender was declared V-J (Victory over Japan) Days. Although the world was shocked by the power of the atomic bomb, Truman defended the decision to use it. He pointed out that by dropping the bomb, an invasion of Japan had been avoided, thereby saving the lives of Allied soldiers.

  1. What Japanese city did the Enola Gay drop the first atomic bomb on?

  2. Why did the US drop a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan?

The Aftermath Of World War II

the holocaust and the nuremburg trials

The invasion of Europe by the Allies brought an end to the war. It also led to exposing the horrible atrocities (evil acts) committed by the Nazis against people they labeled as socially inferior and unfit to live. Among the groups so targeted, no group suffered in so great a numbers as the Jewish people. Hitler had ascended to power in the early 30s in large part by successfully portraying the Jews as the major reason for Germany's financial problems. When the Nazis came to power, they began implementing laws and policies that were discriminatory against Jewish citizens. Eventually, this progressed to what Hitler called the "Final Solution" to the "Jewish problem." The Nazis set about attempting to exterminate the Jewish race through mass genocide (murder of a race of people). Under Hitler's regime, Jews were rounded up, separated from their families, and either killed or shipped to concentration camps. In the camps, Jews and other prisoners were either immediately put to death or forced to provide slave labor before finally being executed or dying of disease or starvation.

  1. How did Hitler’s “Final Solution” led to concentration camps?

As Allied soldiers began liberating areas of Europe formerly held by the Nazis, they encountered the camps that housed tortured and starving people, most of whom were Jews. They found gas chambers for conducting mass executions and ovens for burning bodies. Troops also uncovered mass graves where victims had been thrown after they'd been killed or left to die in the camps. Roughly six million Jews died during this horrible episode in history known as the Holocaust.

When the world became aware of the Holocaust, there was an outcry for justice. Hitler was dead, but there were others in the Nazi regime who could be punished. The Nuremberg Trials began in November 1945 and placed 24 Nazi leaders on trial for "crimes against humanity." The court sentenced twelve of the defendants to death, while others received long prison terms.

  1. How were Nazis who were responsible for the Holocaust punished following the war?

The Nuclear Age

Arguably, the greatest change coming out of World War II was the introduction of nuclear warfare. Not only did the atomic bomb end the war, it changed how future wars would be fought. Both Truman and Stalin were aware of this. Because of their differences in political ideology (Truman a strong believer in democracy, and Stalin a dictator and devout communist), the two never trusted one another. They had only forged an alliance because the war forced them to. With the war now over, each viewed the other as the new enemy. When Truman learned in Potsdam that the atomic bomb had been successfully tested, he could not wait to tell the Soviet leader that the US now had a new weapon of unprecedented power. In fact, some believe Truman chose to use the bomb as much to intimidate Stalin as to defeat Japan. When Truman told Stalin about the "new weapon," Stalin calmly expressed his hope that it would end the war. In reality, Soviet spies had already told Stalin about the bomb. He was indeed concerned and determined to see his own country develop a similar weapon.

  1. Why was the nuclear age the greatest change coming out of World War II?

  2. How did the differences in political ideas between Truman and Stalin change their relationship after World War II?

10.3 Describe and analyze the effects of the war on American economic, social, political, and cultural life.

The Military And National Morale

Most US citizens never experienced any fighting in World War II firsthand. However, the war still impacted people in the United States in many ways. In 1940, Congress authorized the first peacetime draft in US history when it passed a Selective Service Act (draft). This provided a pool from which young men were selected to serve in the armed forces. Once Pearl Harbor was bombed, a large number of volunteers enlisted in the military, as well.

Women And Minorities In Uniform

It was not just white males who served heroically in the US military in World War II. Women and minorities also served with honor. By the end of the war, almost 275,000 women had volunteered to serve in the armed forces. Although nearly every branch had a division for women, the WAC (Women's Army Corps) was by far the largest. Due to personnel shortages and a great sense of need, the US military had women serving both at home and abroad in just about every role except combat.

  1. What roles did women play in World War II?

Minorities also played a crucial role in the US war effort. Nearly 1 million African-Americans volunteered or were drafted. At first these troops found themselves prohibited from combat roles. Eventually, however, the numbers of casualties and the shortage of soldiers led to a change in policy. Notable among these African-American servicemen were the Tuskegee Airmen. As an all black squadron of fighter pilots, they successfully protected every single bomber they escorted during the war.

  1. What contributed to African Americans like the Tuskegee Airmen fighting in World War II?

Native Americans also served valiantly (bravely) in the armed forces. The United States Marines even developed a code for communicating based on the Navajo language. This code proved effective, and the Japanese were unable to break it. Some 300 Navajo marines served as radio operators known as "code talkers" during the war against Japan.

Then there were the Japanese Americans who served. Originally, Japanese Americans were not accepted into the military, but this changed in 1943. One Japanese American unit, the 442nd, served so valiantly in Europe that it became the most decorated (honored) unit in United States history. The contributions of the Japanese American troops were remarkable considering the racism and discrimination that many of their families were enduring back home in the United States.

  1. What role did Japanese-Americans play in helping the Allies win the war?

patriotism and morale

The government realized that it needed to maintain strong public support for the war effort. It also knew that a sense of patriotism (loyalty to country) and national morale (confidence) would be crucial. The government paid artists to design patriotic; war posters, and movie theaters began playing newsreels depicting the US war effort in a positive light. Ads depicting patriotic themes in magazines and on radio broadcasts also became common.

  1. How did the US government try to increase patriotism and national morale?

War Time Economy And Industry

War meant that the United States' economy had to switch from peacetime to wartime as quickly and efficiently as possible. To oversee this transformation, President Roosevelt established the War Production Board (WPB). This board re-directed raw materials and resources from the production of civilian consumer goods to the production of materials needed for waging war against Germany and Japan.

  1. What was the purpose of the War Production Board?

With so many US men going off to fight, women became an important part of the workforce at home. Women of all cultural and racial backgrounds stepped forward to take on jobs traditionally held by men. A popular song of the day was called Rosie the Riveter. The song described a woman who worked in the factory as a riveter while her boyfriend served in the marines. Rosie the Riveter became the symbol of those women who had entered the workforce to fill the gap left vacant by men serving in the war.

  1. What did Rosie the Riveter symbolize?

In order for the United States to have the money and resources available to win the war, it called on sacrifices from citizens. The number of people required to pay income taxes greatly increased during the war years. To make sure these taxes were collected, the government introduced the idea of withholding income tax. For the first time, the government required employers to withhold taxes from employee’s paychecks and give it to the government immediately. Another means of raising money was through the sale of war bonds. Advertisements, posters, even movie stars encouraged people to buy these bonds. Through bonds, the government raised more than 60 million dollars.

In addition to money, the government also called on people to sacrifice resources. People started growing victory gardens of their own so that more food could be sent to feed the soldiers. The government also started a program of rationing by which it could control how certain resources were distributed. In 1941, the government began rationing tires. Two years later, certain items were assigned points values. Once a citizen used up all their points, they could no longer obtain these items until they acquired more points. In this way, the government forced the public to conserve resources.

  1. How did the government raise money to help fight the war?

  2. What was the purpose of rationing?

internment of japanese americans

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor fueled suspicion and fear of Japanese people in the United States. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, ordering all Japanese Americans away from military facilities. Under authority of this order, the US military forced 110,000 Japanese Americans from their homes and businesses during the war and placed them in internment camps. These camps tended to be located in remote areas owned by the federal government. Many of these Japanese American citizens lost everything as a result. Two-thirds of them were US citizens who had lived in the United States for several generations. Many others had been born in the US to parents who had migrated from Japan. In 1944, a Japanese American named Fred Korematsu challenged the executive order on the grounds that it violated his civil rights. In Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the government internment of Japanese Americans was not unlawful because "the military urgency of the situation..." justified it.

  1. What was Executive Order 9066?

  2. What was the Supreme Court decision in Korematsu v. United States

Post War Us Culture


Initially, unions and business leaders agreed not to engage in strikes or lockouts during the war. With the wartime economy, more people entered the workforce and union membership grew drastically between 1940 and 1945. As union numbers grew and the cost of living increased, it became harder for workers to refrain from striking and the number of strikes actually doubled during the war years. The head of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, was a major leader amongst organized labor during this period. His union's strikes in 1943 required direct intervention by the Secretary of the Interior.

  1. Why did some Americans go on strike during the time of war?

Immediately after the war, automobile workers, steelworkers and others took part in strikes that affected the nation. In 1946, yet another coal strike came to an end only after the president had the federal government seize the mines. In part because the Democratic administration was blamed for the labor unrest, Republicans swept the congressional elections of 1946. Interpreting this as a public outcry against the unions, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act the following year. While the law reaffirmed labor's right to collective bargaining, it also forbade the "closed shop" system and gave workers the freedom to refuse union membership. It also allowed for employers, as well as employees, to sue for damages in certain cases.

  1. Explain the Taft-Hartley Act.

More and more, unions came to face the challenge of automation (manufacture of goods by machines). As machines replaced manpower, unions now represented workers who could lose their jobs to machines as well as to economic down times. It was out of the climate that the AFL-CIO arose as a powerful force for labor. The union was the result of the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. It formed in 1955 and represented more than 15 million workers.

  1. What factors led to the formation of the AFL-CIO in 1955?

Northern Migration Of African-Americans

The wartime economy of the United States also presented opportunities for African Americans. The increase in production meant that many blacks could now find work in northern factories. During the Great Northern Migration, over 2 million African Americans made their way from the south to the cities of the North. However, any hopes they may have had of escaping racism and segregation were quickly dashed. Many neighborhoods and communities would not welcome them. In addition, many blacks were poor and could not afford good housing. As a result, African-Americans often ended up living in urban ghettos. Many large cities now featured predominantly poor, African-American communities within their inner cities. In addition, white northerners often resented southern blacks taking "their" jobs and resorted to violence. In 1943, racially fueled riots killed 34 people in Detroit. Similar riots erupted in other cities as well.

  1. What were the causes of the Great Northern Migration and what were its effects?

Truman's Fair Deal

In 1948, Harry S. Truman shocked the nation by winning the election. So certain were most people that Truman would lose to Republican, Thomas Dewey that several newspapers went ahead and printed headlines announcing Dewey 's victory before all the votes being counted. When Truman did win, he used his inaugural address to announce to the nation his Fair Deal. The Fair Deal called for vast social reforms. While Congress would not pass some of what Truman wanted, it did extend Social Security benefits, increase the minimum wage, and appropriate funds for the construction of low-income housing.

  1. What did President Truman’s Fair Deal domestic policy accomplish?

With large numbers of discharged soldiers returning from the war, the nation faced the problem of assimilating these veterans back into US society. To help, Congress passed the GI Bill. This legislation provided military veterans with benefits such as job priority, money for furthering their education, training, and loans for purchasing homes and property. This contributed to the rise of a new middle class in the suburbs. One developer who took advantage of this trend was William J. Levitt. Levitt met the demand for middle class housing by introducing the concept of mass production of houses. Levitt built houses in weeks rather than months and constructed whole neighborhoods he called "Levittowns." The GI Bill meant that returning soldiers could easily obtain loans, and this only further increased the demand for such housing. Levitt's techniques made it possible for average people in the US to purchase homes much more easily.

  1. What were the economic benefits of the GI Bill?

  2. Why were “Levittowns” significant in the economic growth of America following WWII?

This also marked a period known as the "Baby Boom." Baby Boomers are members of the generation boom within the first few years after World War II. With the war over, spouses were reunited and couples got married. Many of these people started or expanded their family. What resulted was a "boom" in the number of babies boom in the United States during the late 40s and early 50s.

  1. What caused the Baby Boom following WWII?

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