Events Leading to American Involvement in World War II DIRECTIONS: Read the following actions and reactions and complete the following tasks:
Highlight aggressive acts.
Underline acts of appeasement.
Circle what you think are the 10 most important events leading up to American involvement in WWII.
1935 – 1936 Germany Remilitarizes
Hitler announced the formation of a German air force and required military service. In 1936, he sent troops into the Rhineland, a German region on the border with France. These actions all challenged the Treaty of Versailles
The League of Nations lodged a formal protest against these actions but refused to consider sanctions against Germany.
1935 Italy Invades Ethiopia
The Italian Army, under Mussolini, invaded Ethiopia. The Ethiopian forces could not stop the invasion, and Italy annexed the country in 1936. Hitler and Mussolini soon formed a treaty of friendship known as the Rome-Berlin axis.
Trade Embargo Against Italy
Ethiopia appealed to the League of Nations for help. The League voted to impose economic sanctions against Italy, including an oil embargo. The United States was asked to join the oil embargo, but Roosevelt refused to do so.
1936 – 1939 Spanish Civil War
Italy and Germany backed a military rebellion in Spain led by General Francisco Franco. They provided the Nationalists with supplies, weapons, and troops. The Nationalists eventually overthrew Spain’s democratic republic and set up a dictatorship.
Although some volunteers, including 3,000 Americans, fought against the Nationalists, only the Soviet Union officially helped. The U.S. Congress passed the Neutrality Acts in 1936 and 1937, which kept the U.S. out of the conflict.
1937 Japan Invades China
After taking control of Manchuria, Japan began to take control over parts of eastern China. The Japanese Army took control of the Chinese city of Nanjing. Japanese soldiers went on a six-week rampage, killing approximately 300,000 Chinese civilians and raping about 20,000 Chinese women. These acts clearly violate the terms of the League of Nations, so Japan withdraws from the League.
Roosevelt states in the Quarantine Speech, that he believes peace-loving nations of the world need to stop aggressor nations in order to avoid a world wide conflict. However, the speech had little effect at Japan continued to conquer lands in the Pacific.
1938 German Anschluss with Austria
Hitler pressured the Austrian government to join with Germany. In March, Hitler’s army crossed the border without opposition. Hitler declared a political union, or anschluss, between the two countries.
Britain and France were passive spectators as Germany expanded into Austria.
1938 Munich Agreement
Hitler wants to annex the Sudetenland, the western region of Czechoslovakia. He claimed that it belonged to Germany since there were about 3 million German-speaking people living there. Both France and Britain had promised to protect Czechoslovakia.
Hitler invites France and Britain to Munich to discuss the situation. The three countries agree that Hitler can annex the Sudetenland, as long as that is the last location he seizes. Hitler promises that this will be his last territorial demand.
1939 Germany Invades Czechoslovakia
Ignoring the Munich Agreement, in March of 1939 Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Britain and France were angered over Hitler’s breaking of the Munich Pact, and declared that any further attacks by Germany on small states would trigger war. However, they do NOT come to Czechoslovakia’s aid.
Germany and the USSR sign a non-aggression pact. They agree to surround and invade Poland and then divide the territory between them. They also agreed to not attack each other. Germany used blitzkrieg tactics to attack so quickly that Polish forces were not able to mobilize. Soviet forces simultaneously invaded from the east, and Poland fell quickly.
France & Britain Declare War on Germany France and Britain follow through with their previous announcement that any further act of aggression by Germany will not be tolerated. They declare war on Germany. However, they were not able to do anything to stop the invasion and takeover of Poland.
1940 Germany Invades France
After seizing control of Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg Germany now feels prepared to invade France. Hitler quickly moved through France, and trapped French and British soldiers along the coast.
Evacuation at Dunkirk
Britain sent every boat possible to evacuate the trapped British and French forces in and event called the Evacuation at Dunkirk.
Italy declares war on France and invades France from the south. Germany moved towards Paris from the north.
On June 22, 1940 France surrenders to Germany. Germany occupies most of France and a new government controlled by the Germans, the Vichy government, is created.
1940 Germany Attacks Britain
In the summer of 1940, the Germans plan their invasion of Britain. Ships are sent into the English Channel and the German’s launch an air war, called the Battle of Britain. For two months, the German Air force flew bombing raids against British ports, airfields, factories, and large cities.
British fighter pilots successfully shot down more than 600 German aircraft during the Battle of Britain. British citizens withstood the bombing raids. The raids diminished as Germany was unable to replace the lost aircraft, and eventually Germany stops the attacks entirely.
1940 Axis Powers Alliance is Created
Germany, Italy, and Japan sign a mutual defense treaty creating the Axis Alliance. The goal of the alliance was to keep the United States out of the war by controlling both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
U.S. Prepares for War
Shocked by the creation of this alliance and the advances of the Germans, the United States increases aid to the Allies and begins to prepare for war. The U.S. increased defense spending, began a military draft, and creates the Lend Lease Act. The Lend-Lease Act allowed the U.S. to provide weapons and supplies to the Allies.
1941 Hitler Invades USSR
In a surprise move, Hitler launches Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR.
Stalin turns to the Allies for support and the U.S. extends Lend-Lease to the Soviets.
1941 Wolf Pack Attacks on the U.S.
To stop the shipment of supplies to the Allies, the Germans launch the Wolf-Pack Attacks. German U-boats sink 350,000 tons of supplies in just a month.
Roosevelt authorizes the navy to “shoot on sight” any German submarines. Roosevelt and English Prime Minister Churchill secretly meet and sign a treaty, the Atlantic Charter. They agree to collective security, disarmament, self-determination, economic cooperation, and freedom of the seas
1941 Japan Seizes Indochina
After taking over parts of China, Japan takes over French Indochina (Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam).
U.S. Cuts off Trade with Japan
In reaction to Japanese aggression, the U.S cuts off trade with Japan, including oil. U.S. and Japan engage in peace talks in an attempt to negotiate a settlement regarding the pacific.
1941 Pearl Harbor Attacked
Disregarding any attempt at diplomacy, the Japanese launch a surprise attack on the largest U.S. naval base in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor.
The United States Declares War
Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Congress declares war on Japan and the U.S. officially becomes a member of the Allies.