United States History I & II
United States History I & II

United States History I & II

Lead Author(s): Sara Eskridge

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Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition

Pearson

Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

$63.90

Hardcover print text only

$87.99

Per volume

$79.60

Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

$63.90

Hardcover print text only

MacMillan

Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition

$87.99

Per volume

Pearson

Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013

$79.60

Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

Sara Eskridge, Ph.DRandolph-Macon College, VA

Dr. Eskridge is a Professor of History at Western Governors University. She specializes in Civil Rights, Cold War, Southern, and Cultural History. She is the author of Rube Tube: CBS as Rural Comedy in the Sixties (University of Missouri Press, 2019) as well as several articles and book chapters on southern mediated images during the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.

Contributing Authors

Andrew WegmannLoyola University

Michael CarverCalifornia Polytechnic State University

Michael FrawleyUniversity of Texas of the Permian Basin

Linda ClemmonsIllinois State University

Angela HessCameron University

Sam NelsonRidgewater College

Volker JanssenCalifornia State University

Lance JandaCameron University

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Chapter 24: World War II



Chapter Overview

As the Great Depression ravaged the world’s economy throughout the 1930s, nations all over Europe and Asia succumbed to various strains of political extremism. Even as war threatened, the United States remained committed to neutrality. From the late 1930s until 1941, Japan raged through Asia while Germany systematically conquered the nations of European virtually unimpeded; the U.S. offered financial and material assistance, but refused to commit ground troops to help its allies. It wasn’t until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that the U.S. finally committed to war against both Germany and Japan. Following the German surrender in May 1945, the U.S. completed the latest in a series of victories against the Japanese, working closely with allies on both fronts. Having regained all territory previously lost in addition to all Japanese holdings in the South Pacific, there was nothing for the United States to do but prepare an invasion of the Japanese home islands in the fall of 1945. As the military geared up for the invasion, a top-secret army project to create a potentially war-ending weapon reached completion. In August 1945, the U.S. used the new weapon, an atomic bomb, on two Japanese targets. Devastated and reeling in the wake of the bombs’ destruction, Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945.

Chapter Objectives

  • Understand the reasons behind Japan and Germany’s campaigns of continental domination in the 1930s
  • Explain the reasons for the U.S.’s neutrality at the beginning of the war, and what ultimately forced its entry into the conflict
  • Comprehend the various strategies used by the U.S. and its allies in both the European and Pacific wars.
  • Understand the legacies of World War II


Background of the War

The Great Depression exacerbated the conditions created by the political and economic upheaval stemming from World War I. With no formal plan in place to rebuild Europe after the war, every country was forced to fend for itself—with mixed results. Germany fared the worst of the lot. The Treaty of Versailles had forced the German people to accept a set of punitive conditions that ensured the country would never be able to properly recover from the war. The Germans were expected to pay the equivalent of 500 million U.S. dollars every year, a sum that was unreachable given the state of their post-war economy. After the treaty signing in 1919, British economist John Maynard Keynes grimly predicted that the consequences of the treaty would be quick and far-reaching in their destruction of not only Europe, but western civilization as a whole.

Unfortunately, Keynes’ predictions proved prescient. As the economy floundered, Germans quickly grew to resent the “November criminals” who had signed away Germany's future by agreeing to the armistice and then to the treaty. Numerous political groups grew out of this unrest, but the Nationalist Socialist Party gained the most traction. Led by a charismatic Austrian war veteran named Adolf Hitler, the party developed a following based on its strong appeals to nationalism and its promises to return Germany to its former greatness. The party members, nicknamed Nazis, developed their following throughout the 1920s, steadily gaining seats in the German Parliament until 1933, when Hitler was elected chancellor (Figure 24.1).

Figure 24.1: Nazi leaders (from left): Adolf Hitler, Herman Goering, Joseph Goebbels, and Rudolf Hess in an undated photograph. [1]


24.01 - Level 1

Which was a reason for the rise in the popularity of the Nazi party in Germany during the 1930s?

A

The party's appeals to nationalism

B

Anger over the Treaty of Versailles

C

Charismatic party leader


Hitler quickly dispensed with the pretense of democratic government and turned Germany into a police state. He suspended German reparations payments and began redeveloping the German military, both actions in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. In the late 1930s, Hitler began a campaign of domination, annexing Czechoslovakia and Austria in a bid to not only reunite all ethnic Germans under one government, but to create a German super-state that would allow “lebensraum,” or “living space,” for the German people. Although the nations of Europe initially allowed Hitler to continue, attempting to appease him out of fear of another war, Hitler clearly displayed his malignant intentions by 1939. After the German army invaded Poland in September of that year, Great Britain declared war on Germany. By then, it was too late. Hitler had amassed an empire and a group of allies so powerful that while Great Britain could defend itself from Nazi intrusion, it could not successfully defend other nations. It successfully protected North Africa, but in the spring of 1940, the Germans conquered Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, and France. Between July and October of the that year, the Germans regularly engaged in relentless aerial bombardment of London and its surrounding environs, with the goal of eventually staging an amphibious invasion of Great Britain and forcing its surrender. In a stroke of luck rare in the early years of the war, the British Air Force decisively defeated the German Air Force (called the Luftwaffe) in the so-called Battle of Britain. This victory permanently stalled German plans for a British invasion. Forestalling German ambitions elsewhere, however, proved more difficult.

24.02 Level 4

Do you think that it was a fair assessment when the Germans referred to those who signed the Armistice of 1918 as "November criminals?" Why or why not?


24.03 Level 3

Match each nation on the lefthand side with their response to German aggression in Europe during the 1930s.

Premise
Response
1

United States

A

Joined forces with the Germans to avoid becoming a target

2

United Kingdom

B

Retreated into isolationism

3

Soviet Union

C

Attempted to solve the problem through diplomacy

D

Engaged the Germans in multiple military skirmishes in an attempt to curb their power


Meanwhile, Asia was under siege by the aggressively nationalist and militarist Japan. Throughout the early 20th century, Japan embarked on opportunistic campaigns of expansion, especially in China. After World War I, the United States, Britain and France had worked with Japan to put some limits on this expansion. In 1922, they created the Four Power Treaty, in which all four nations agreed to respect one another’s territories in the Pacific. A larger nine-power treaty, signed at the same time, also indicated agreement among signatory nations that all nations would respect Chinese sovereignty, competing equally in the Chinese market rather than establishing monopolistic markets in specific regions. These treaties were meant to highlight mutual interests between European nations and Japan, and prevent competition for resources from becoming too aggressive or even militaristic. However, these treaties did not require actual cooperation between the signatory nations, and so the various countries all quickly found loopholes to exploit. Japan withdrew from the Four Power Treaty entirely by 1934.

In 1931, following an explosion on a Japanese-owned rail line in Manchuria, Japan accused the Chinese of sabotage and invaded the region. With little to no resistance from the poorly trained Chinese army, the Japanese quickly overran Manchuria, focusing their attentions on the areas richest in natural resources (Figure 24.2). Japan’s actions constituted a breach not only of its treaty, which demanded respect for Chinese territorial integrity, but also of its promises as a member of the League of Nations. However, when the Chinese pointed this out and requested assistance, none was forthcoming. The U.S., along with the other western powers, debated a course of action; they wanted to retain good trade relations with China and ensure China’s sovereignty, but ultimately decided the situation was not pressing enough to warrant direct intervention. In 1932, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Stimson created the Stimson Doctrine, which stated that the U.S. would not honor any agreements between China and Japan that negatively impacted U.S. economic interests. Not only did the Stimson Doctrine prove ineffective in the face of Japanese aggression, but the Japanese also invaded Shanghai shortly after its issuance. More appeals to the League of Nations yielded similarly poor results.

24.04 Level 4

What are the differences between the Four Power Treaty and the Stimson Agreement?


Figure 24.2: Map of 1931 Invasion of Manchuria​. ​


24.05 - Level 2

Why didn't Western powers come to China's aid after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria?

A

They felt that Japan had a legitimate claim to Manchuria

B

They didn't want to risk their economic interests in East Asia

C

China was considered an enemy communist nation


U.S. Approach to the War

During the 1930s, the United States had significant economic interests in both Europe and Asia, but isolationist sentiment prevented the government from getting too deeply involved in foreign affairs. Following World War I, a belief prevailed that bankers and the arms industry had tricked the nation into joining the European conflict, leaving Americans feeling that they had sacrificed in vain. The Great Depression and its accompanying economic woes only exacerbated the isolationist outlook. Americans believed that in times of economic turmoil, the nation should look inward toward its domestic issues instead of inserting itself into international affairs.

Question 24.06

24.06 - Level 5

In your opinion, how well founded were the American concerns that led to the nation's isolationist sentiment in the 1930s?

Click here to see the answer to Question 24.06.

By the end of the 1930s, however, American intervention seemed more likely. After Japanese and Chinese forces clashed at the Marco Polo Bridge in Peking in 1937, the two nations escalated into full-blown war. Although international opinion stood in sympathy with the Chinese, once again, no military assistance came forth. That same year, Japan joined Italy and Germany in establishing an Anti-Comintern Pact, which, in theory, was aimed at containing communist threats. This pact effectively established the so-called Axis Powers, perpetrating the aggressions that started World War II. Despite these developments, which demonstrated increasing solidarity between European and Japanese nationalistic militarism, the United States continued to maintain shaky diplomatic relations with Japan until 1940.

Meanwhile, World War II was already raging in Europe, as the British forces battled valiantly against the Nazi juggernaut. By the end of 1940, Germany had taken control of not just Poland, but also Denmark, Finland, Norway, and France, in addition to their previous conquests. They were also closing out a ferocious bombing campaign against London; while the Nazis had not prevailed in that battle, there was still talk that they might invade Great Britain. Despite requests for U.S. intervention, public sentiment did not support such action. The extent of U.S. participation in the early years of the war consisted of providing armaments and financial assistance to Great Britain through the Lend-Lease Act of 1941. This agreement allowed the United States to sell, lend, or lease military armaments and equipment to any nation deemed crucial to national security. Even this limited involvement drew the ire of several congressional isolationists, who believed the agreement would eventually draw the United States directly into the conflict.

The U.S. became more directly involved in the European war in August 1941. In response to the increasingly dire geopolitical situation, Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in Newfoundland to discuss war plans. Germany had invaded the Soviet Union  just weeks before, bringing an end to the dangerous alliance the two had formed before the invasion of Poland. Now the Soviet Union fought against Germany, who was slightly weakened by fighting on two fronts. Although the U.S. still maintained a commitment to neutrality, Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter, a list of war and post-war goals shared with Great Britain (Figure 24.3). The goals included a commitment to restoring self-rule to all of the countries occupied during the war, not seeking colonial holdings after the war, and liberalizing trade. Both Churchill and Roosevelt hoped that this statement of aims would convince Americans to support the war, but the Charter did not have the desired effect. While the treaty was not binding, it did have the effect of solidifying the alliance between the U.S. and Great Britain while making the U.S.’s intentions clear in the event it should enter the war.

24.07 - Level 3

Which of the following American exports would have fallen under the protection of the Lend-Lease Act of 1941?

A

Selling tobacco to France

B

Selling tanks to Britain

C

Selling airplanes to Italy

D

Selling cotton to China

24.08 Level 3

Imagine yourself as an American in the era prior to World War II. How would you interpret Roosevelt's decision to sign the Atlantic Charter and the Lend-Lease Act?



Figure 24.3: Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill onboard the HMS Prince of Wales at the Atlantic Charter Conference, August 10, 1941. [2]


Pearl Harbor and the American Entrance into the War

By 1940, the United States had formalized its aid to China while restricting trade with Japan. Because the United States was an enormous source of many commodities needed in Japan, the Roosevelt administration hoped that these economic restrictions would encourage Japan to retreat from its aggressive forays into China. Soon after, in September 1940, Japan entered into the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy, an ominous gesture that placed the nation in direct opposition to the signatory nations on the Atlantic Charter. France and the Netherlands both had territories in Southeast Asia, but were currently incapable of defending them due to recent defeats at the hands of the Germans. Japan clearly sought to capitalize on these defeats by invading their colonial holdings while they were most vulnerable. Sure enough, almost immediately after entering the Tripartite Pact, Japan persuaded France to allow Japanese occupation of northern Indochina; within a year, Japan occupied all of Indochina.

24.09 - Level 1

Match each country the left-hand column with the nation it occupied in 1940.

Premise
Response
1

Germany

A

France

2

Japan

B

Philippines

C

Portugal

D

Indochina


By the summer of 1941, the relationship between Japan and the U.S. had reached an impasse. The Japanese wanted the U.S. to lift its trade sanctions, particularly since it was running low on oil, but it refused to de-escalate the war in China. The Japanese government concluded that the only way to resolve the conflict and avoid possible U.S. military intervention was to neutralize its naval resources in the Pacific, a feat they planned to accomplish via a massive air strike. They chose to target the naval base at Pearl Harbor, the base of operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The strike on Pearl Harbor came early in the morning on December 7, 1941, when more than 350 Japanese bombers attacked not only the ships in the harbor but also the airfield (Figure 24.4). More than a dozen battleships and cruisers were either sunk or badly damaged in the attack, in addition to the loss of 188 aircraft. The United States sustained 3,581 casualties in the attack, including deaths and injuries.

24.10 - Level 1

On what Hawaiian island did the Pearl Harbor attack occur?


Question 24.11

24.11 - Level 6

Based on your knowledge of the historical conditions leading up to the Second World War, speculate about what might have happened if the Japanese had not decided to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941. Would the United States have entered the war?

Click here to see the answer to Question 24.11.

Figure 24.4: The first stage of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. A torpedo has just struck the USS West Virginia. [3]​


Within a week, the Japanese had also invaded the Philippines, where they quickly overtook the outnumbered and undersupplied American and Filipino forces there. The attack stunned Americans and knocked them out of their isolationist stance. President Franklin Roosevelt, in a nationally broadcast address on December 8, called the attack a “date which will live in infamy” and requested a declaration of war from Congress, which obliged with a near-unanimous vote in favor of Roosevelt’s proposal.

Spotlight on Primary Source

President Roosevelt gave this speech to Congress on the day following the Pearl Harbor attack, explaining the reasons why the U.S. could no longer avoid war. 



24.12 Level 5

Of the reasons that President Roosevelt gave for why the United States could no longer avoid war with Japan, which do you find most compelling, and why?


Mobilization

Financing the War

The president and Congress differed in opinion on how to finance the war. The president intended to use taxation to pay for the war, but congressional conservatives preferred to borrow money and risk incurring a debt. Ultimately, the two sides reached a compromise. Approximately 45% of all war expenditures were paid for through tax increases, and the rest was funded through borrowing from the public. This was primarily achieved through war bond drives, but the government did borrow some money from financial institutions, thus increasing the national debt six fold over the course of as many years.

24.13 - Level 1

Which of the following was not one of the primary ways by which the United States government financed their role in the Second World War?

A

Through higher taxation

B

By borrowing money from financial institutions

C

By borrowing money from the American people

D

By borrowing money from foreign nations


Mobilizing the Workforce

World War II effectively ended the Great Depression in the United States. Far from having too few available jobs, the problem now became finding enough workers to fill all of the positions in the military and armaments industry. People who had traditionally been either excluded or marginalized, particularly women and African Americans, found numerous opportunities in the new economy. The country experienced enormous population shifts as people moved all over the country to embrace new economic opportunities. African Americans left the South in droves, heading west to find work in the military industrial complex. Despite numerous opportunities in this field, they still faced discrimination, with some factories publicly announcing that they would not hire African American workers. More than 1.2 million African American men joined the armed services, where they served in every branch and in every theater of the war, although they were still confined to segregated units and often relegated to service work. As U.S. battlefield casualties grew, the military began placing more African American units in combat. The most famous African American unit of the conflict was the Tuskegee Airmen, a contingent of the 15th Air Force that escorted bombing missions over Italy between 1943 and 1945. The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 15,000 missions in the last two years of the war, and did their jobs so well that bomber crews would often request them as escorts.

The U.S. government actively worked to increase African American participation in the war effort, and as such, the African American presence in World War II was greater than any previous war. As they fought courageously on the battlefield, they also were fighting for basic civil rights back home. Strange situations developed in which German prisoners of war received better treatment in American businesses than the African American military police tasked with guarding them. Civil rights leaders invoked the “Double V” campaign, meaning victory against fascism abroad and against racism at home. That racism continued unabated during and after the war was unacceptable to the African American community, which redoubled its civil rights campaigns in the years after the war.

Millions of American women played some role in the wartime economy. Before the war, women had a part in the economy, but were relegated to low wage positions as typists, shopkeepers, and domestic servants. With millions of men suddenly in uniform and headed for basic training, there were numerous roles that women were expected to fill. They were able to find jobs in both the civilian and military worlds, and quickly became everything from car mechanics to factory workers. In 1943, celebrated illustrator Norman Rockwell painted a portrait of a local telephone operator as the embodiment of the wartime woman. Called “Rosie the Riveter,” she looked powerful, capable, and confident; everything the American woman needed to be while the men were away. She became a cultural symbol that long outlasted the hostilities in Europe and Asia, especially for feminist movements.

In addition to embracing work in factories, 350,000 women served in the military in some capacity over the course of the war. They were able to join the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), which put women in non-combat service positions doing everything from clerical work to radio operation to repairing aircraft, thus freeing up more men for combat duty. More than 150,000 women served in this organization during the war (Figure 24.5). They could also join the WAVES, also known as the Navy Women’s Reserve, the Navy Nurses Corps, and the Marines Women’s Corps. In the Army Nurses Corps, women actually served on the front lines of battle and more than a dozen were killed in combat by enemy fire. Dozens of other nurses were captured as POWs in the Philippines. More than 1,600 American nurses were decorated for bravery and meritorious service under fire. Women were also vital to the Office of Strategic Services, a fledgling wartime intelligence organization that served as the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. American willingness to use women in service of the war effort gave the nation a significant advantage over its German foe. Hitler derided the United States for using female labor and insisted that German women continue to stay home and have as many children as possible, thus depriving the Reich of a significant source of labor.

24.14 - Level 1

What was the name of the organization that placed women in non-combat positions within the military during World War II?


Figure 24.5: Women assembling 37 mm armor-piercing shot in a Cincinnati, OH aluminum factory, February 1942. [4]​

Japanese American Internment

One group actively excluded from the burgeoning war movement was the Japanese Americans. Anti-Japanese sentiment was at an all-time high in the wake of Pearl Harbor, and many feared that Japanese Americans would commit espionage, sabotage or other such disloyal behaviors toward the U.S. government. President Roosevelt endorsed this view when he issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This order called for the removal of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast from their homes and businesses, followed by their relocation to internment camps for the duration of the war. This removal occurred without any of the relocated citizens receiving a trial or any degree of due process. Most of those interned were U.S. citizens or permanent legal aliens, and there is no proof that any inmates were disloyal to the U.S. government. Half of those interned were children. The government excluded German Americans and Italian Americans from this treatment, despite the fact that the U.S. was at war with their nations of origin as well.

There were ten internment camps spread over the western United States. They were bleak places, located in desolate parts of the desert. Sometimes families were broken apart by the internment, with family members dispersed in different camps. Although most Japanese Americans survived their internment, there were numerous cases in which inmates died in these camps from lack of proper medical care, and some inmates were killed by the guards, supposedly for not following orders.

In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, which acknowledged that the U.S. government had committed a grievous wrong against Japanese American citizens and authorized reparations payments for every victim of wartime internment. Although the military had pushed for the original internment order on the grounds of national security, the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Interment of Civilians determined that Executive Order 9066 was primarily motivated by “racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

24.15 - Level 3

Match each the following terms in the lefthand column with its most commonly associated social demographic.

Premise
Response
1

Tuskegee Airmen

A

Hispanic Americans

2

WAVES

B

Women

3

Executive Order 9066

C

German Americans

D

Japanese Americans

E

African Americans

Spotlight on Primary Source

Executive Order 9066 was President Roosevelt's order to detain Japanese Americans for the duration of the war, along with his reasoning as to why this action was necessary. 



Alliances

The United States entered into war with Japan as well as all of the Axis powers, including Germany. After already expressing solidarity with Great Britain, the U.S. entered into alliance with the Soviet Union and the governments of twenty-four other countries at war with the Axis powers when its representatives signed the Declaration of the United Nations on January 1, 1942. This agreement upheld the sentiments of the Atlantic Charter, pledging that each signatory country would commit its full resources to the war and that none would obtain a separate peace with the primary Axis powers of Germany, Japan, or Italy. The so-called “Big Three,” represented by leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, met periodically over the course of the war to discuss strategies and aims. This alliance was often fraught with suspicion and opposition, with all parties disagreeing on everything from military strategy to visions of what the post-war world should look like.

Strategy: Europe

While the U.S. Pacific fleet did its best to hold off Japanese aggression in the Pacific, the U.S. put most of its focus on the war in Europe. Although this naturally aligned with the goals of the other allies, the Roosevelt administration also determined that victory in Europe would ultimately be most directly beneficial to U.S. economic and political interests. The Allies also believed that the Germans would be able to build more impregnable defenses than anything the Japanese could construct in the Pacific. There was also reason to believe that the Germans were working on an atomic weapon.

Spotlight on Primary Source

Albert Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt just before the outbreak of World War II, explaining German advances in nuclear fission and why it was important for the U.S. to consider following suit. 

Question 24.16

24.16 - Level 1

What concerns did Einstein express concerning Germany? What solution did he propose?

Click here to see the answer to Question 24.16.


24.17 - Level 2

Why did the United States ultimately choose to initially focus its efforts on Europe, rather than the Pacific theatre?

A

Victory in Europe was more important to America's economic interests

B

The Allied Powers felt that Germany was a greater and more immediate threat than Japan

C

The Japanese military was considered disorganized and ineffective


Battle of the Atlantic

As the longest running battle of the war, the Battle of the Atlantic took place from 1939 until the end of the European war in May 1945. This battle was also one of the most important fought in the war, securing the Allies’ ability to send military convoys across the ocean without fear of German U-boat attacks. Without this lifeline between the two major Allies, the war effort would have been doomed. In the early days of the war, hundreds of German U-boats mercilessly attacked British merchant and military vessels, ensuring that necessities such as food and armaments from the United States would not reach the increasingly desperate Brits. Both the Royal Canadian Navy and the U.S. Navy became useful allies in this fight after 1940, helping to protect convoys headed for Great Britain (Figure 24.6). It was the U.S. assistance in the Battle of the Atlantic that most likely led Hitler to view the U.S. as a military threat, prompting him to declare war on the United States in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. Although developments in shipping and airplane technology helped the Allies to turn the battle to their favor, breakthroughs in military intelligence are what truly tipped the balance. By 1941, a classified part of the British intelligence service including Alan Turing, who is cited with the invention of the first computer, broke the seemingly unbreakable German codes and was able to successfully determine the locations of German U-boats based on radio messages. This information allowed Allied convoys to avoid U-boats and to eventually actively hunt them out and destroy them. By May 1943, the Allies had destroyed most of the U-Boats, allowing the Atlantic lifeline to operate virtually undisturbed. Although the battle continued through the end of the war, the backbone of the German U-boat defense was broken, thanks to the work of Turing and the British intelligence service.

24.18 - Level 2

What were the Allies’ key strategies in the Battle of the Atlantic?

A

Deployment of new airplane technology

B

Improving military intelligence

C

Development of atomic weapons

D

Coordinated Allied efforts

E

Use of helicopters


Figure 24.6: U.S. convoy crossing the Atlantic toward Casablanca, Morocco, November 1942. [5]

North Africa

The Soviet Union pushed for the opening of a second front in Europe to take the pressure off of the Eastern Front, where the Red Army bore the brunt of Nazi aggression. While the United States favored an immediate invasion of Europe, the British felt that the Allied powers were not prepared for such an operation at this early stage and worried about potential repetition of the horrors of World War I trench warfare. Instead, they decided on an invasion of French North Africa, which had been occupied by the Nazis since 1940. General Dwight D. Eisenhower led the invasion of British and American forces, called Operation Torch, on November 8, 1942. After successful landings in both Morocco and Algeria, the campaign lasted until May 1943. The bulk of the fighting took place in Tunisia, and the Allies initially had difficulty gaining a footing against the larger and more experienced Axis units. However, by May, the Allied powers had trapped the Germans in a pincer movement, leaving them outgunned and outflanked. The Allies took 275,000 prisoners of war at the close of the engagement. This campaign allowed the U.S. troops to gain experience fighting against the Nazis on a smaller scale while accomplishing the British goal of clearing the Germans and Italians out of North Africa.

During the campaign, Roosevelt and Churchill met in the Moroccan city of Casablanca in order to outline major strategic goals. In addition to finalizing military strategy for the next stage of the war and promising even more aid to the Soviet front, they also established a policy of only accepting an unconditional surrender from enemies. Given the anger and confusion that followed the armistice of World War I, Roosevelt and Churchill believe that the best way to ensure post-war peace was to completely disabuse the Axis powers of their militaristic and nationalistic theories.

Italian Campaign

Following their victory in North Africa, the Allies immediately embarked on a military campaign against Italy that officially began in July 1943. The Italian campaign was a compromise between the United States and Great Britain. The United States, possessing a larger army, wanted to engage in direct confrontation with the Axis powers on the European continent. The Soviets, facing the full force of the Nazi juggernaut on the Eastern Front and seeking relief, fully supported this position. The British, however, wanted to capitalize on their strength as a naval power and engage in a more peripheral strategy that involved intensive sea battles. The Italian invasion offered the promise of both extensive naval engagement as well as direct combat in Europe. It offered the added advantage of potentially removing Italy from the war.

The Italian campaign began with the invasion of the island of Sicily in July 1943. Although this campaign was supposed to be relatively small in scale, the battlefield eventually encompassed the entire Italian peninsula, and the campaign lasted 22 months. The Allies faced a number of unexpected challenges in Italy. The Italians mounted a much more powerful defense than expected, and once the Germans entered the fray, they engaged in practices that were problematic for the Allies. General Mark Clark lamented the war in Italy, saying that fighting there was like “fighting in a goddamned museum.” While the Allies were unwilling to damage the omnipresent antiquities and works of art that dotted the Italian countryside, the Nazis were not so reticent. They used thousand year old churches to house troops and sniper’s nests. They had no qualms about bombing historically important buildings and bridges. The U.S. government eventually created a Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives unit designed to protect antiquities in imminent danger and restore items already damaged or destroyed (Figure 24.7). This concern about the well-being of Italy’s cultural heritage led the Allies to move through the country at a significantly slower pace than expected.

In the middle of the Italian campaign, the Big Three met in Tehran, Iran for the first time since the U.S. entered the war. This conference was vital as Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin discussed the next stages of the wars in Europe and Asia. Of particular importance was the need to open another theatre in France, thus further dividing Nazi forces. With the Italians preoccupied defending their homeland, Germany was left with few allies and more vulnerable than ever before. An invasion of France, termed Operation Overlord, was in the planning stages and had a tentative execution date set for May 1944. While at the conference, Churchill and Roosevelt set the conditions under which this invasion would take place. The attendees also decided that after victory in Germany, the Soviet Union would assist the U.S. with its war in Japan.

Question 24.19

24.19 Level 4

Why was it necessary for the Allied leaders to meet in person to discuss the war?

Click here to see the answer to Question 24.19.

24.20 - Level 2

Click on the location of Operation Torch on the map.



Figure 24.7: Nuns and priests walk on the ruins where there once was a church. [6]​​


Though fighting continued in Italy until the very end of the European war, the Allies decided to go ahead with their planned invasion of the northern French coast in 1944. Operation Overlord was, at the time, the largest aquatic invasion in the history of warfare; it required involved sea, air, and land forces of the U.S., Great Britain, and Canada to succeed. It led to the liberation of Western Europe and represented the beginning of the end of the European war.

In the nearly two years that it took to plan Operation Overlord, circumstances in Europe had changed considerably in favor of the Allies, making the invasion more likely to succeed. The German Luftwaffe no longer had air superiority, German submarines had been defeated, and the Allies experienced successes on their respective battlefields in the Soviet Union and Italy. The choice and secrecy of the invasion location further strengthened the Allies’ odds of success. The Germans believed the Allies would invade at the Pas de Calais, a beach directly opposite the major ports in South England, and the shortest distance from England across the Channel.

The Allies did everything possible to encourage that line of thinking. As the personnel for Overlord trained in secret in the south of England, another mission called Operation Bodyguard was instituted to trick the Nazis into preparing for an invasion at the Pas de Calais. They created a phantom army of inflatable aircraft and tanks and moved them around to mimic troop movements and maneuvers. They fed hundreds of hours of false information about training exercises and the invasion schedules over the radio. As the Allies had broken the German codes, they knew that the Germans believed the deceit, allowing them to maintain the element of surprise.

The Allies were not going to invade the Pas de Calais—it was the most obvious site for an invasion and therefore the most heavily defended part of the Atlantic Wall. Instead, they were preparing for an invasion at one of the widest parts of the English Channel: Normandy, a town 150 miles southwest of the Pas de Calais. An invasion on these beaches presented enormous challenges; the Germans had prepared minefields, obstacles, and installed heavy guns to protect France’s northern coast. The Germans also backed their coastal defenses with army reserves.

However, the Allies were also prepared. The invasion forces trained for nearly a year in preparation for the attack. As part of Operation Bodyguard, an actor resembling British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was sent to Africa to trick the Nazis into believing a Mediterranean invasion was afoot. Allied minesweepers cleared a path through the English Channel that allowed safe passage for the more than 7,000 Allied craft headed toward Normandy. Allied airborne troops were flown in hours before the invasion in order to cut communications behind enemy lines.

Spotlight on Primary Source

General Eisenhower's speech before the D-Day invasion indicated victory was anything but assured. 

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."


In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, approximately 156,000 Allied forces, including more than 73,000 Americans, stormed the five beaches of Normandy (Figure 24.8). As the thousands of crafts landed, some struck obstacles, others were swamped by high seas, and others hit by German coastal forces. There were nearly 10,000 casualties on this first day, with nearly 2,500 dead, although some recent estimates offer a slightly lower number. Although this was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, the Allies successfully established a beachhead and within days, they had landed more than 326,000 men to begin the campaign to liberate France. The fighting in France was some of the toughest of the war, but the first Allied troops reached the German border by September. The Germans staged a massive counteroffensive in December, but the Allies were able to win the so-called “Battle of the Bulge” in January 1945. The end was near for Germany.

Figure 24.8: U.S. soldier comes ashore on Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. [7]​


24.21 - Level 1

About what percentage of the Allied forces who landed on Normandy were Americans?


Bretton-Woods Conference

Throughout the duration of the war, the Allied leaders worked to compromise on shared goals for the post-war world. Among the most pressing concerns was creating a workable international economic system. Having seen the consequences of the failed economic policies of the 1930s, President Roosevelt and his advisors believed that free trade and economic cooperation were the cornerstones of a peaceful and successful society. The U.S. and Great Britain had already stated this in the Atlantic Charter, and both nations spent the bulk of the war convincing their other allies to adopt the same approach.

By 1942, Allied economic leaders were working on proposals for organizations that could lend funds to nations experiencing temporary financial problems. Such organizations were meant to prevent those nations from adopting protectionist financial policies that could potentially negatively impact trading partners. For two years, financial experts worked on creating workable policies. This planning culminated in a meeting of representatives from 44 nations at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, held in Bretton-Woods, New Hampshire in July 1944. Often referred to as the Bretton-Woods Conference, the meeting resulted in the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The IMF was designed to oversee a system of fixed exchange rates based on the U.S. dollar and gold, while also providing financial counsel and short-term assistance to countries experiencing temporary financial problems. The World Bank was responsible for providing financial assistance for both the reconstruction of war-ravaged nations and the economic development of less developed countries. Congress authorized U.S. entry into both organizations in July 1945, thus representing a major departure from the previous U.S. policy to avoid financial entanglement with other nations.

24.22 - Level 1

Which of the following was the Bretton-Woods Conference designed to manage?

A

War strategy

B

A post-war international monetary fund

C

Wartime funding

D

Deployment of troops after the war

E

Use of atomic weapons

24.23 Level 3

What were the factors that made the Allied invasion of France a particularly dangerous and uncertain mission?



Strategy: Japan

Although the U.S. and its allies experienced many quick successes against the Nazis in Europe, turning the tide in the Pacific war was a far more arduous task. The United States bore the brunt of responsibility for fighting back against the Japanese juggernaut that seemed determined to conquer the Pacific. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had left a significant amount of the U.S. Pacific fleet in ruins, and their attack on the Philippines ended in U.S. surrender by April 1942. After U.S. Commander General Douglas MacArthur reluctantly fled to Australia, the Japanese captured the 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers remaining on the Bataan Peninsula of Luzon and marched them sixty miles to a prison camp over rough terrain with virtually no food or water. Termed the Bataan Death March, this forced walk claimed the lives of between 5,000 and 11,000 POWs.

Despite these early losses, the U.S. was able to turn the war around with two significant victories. The Battle of the Coral Sea took place on May 7-8, 1942, when U.S. forces attempted to halt a Japanese advance on New Guinea. Although the Americans sustained higher losses during the battle, they effectively repulsed the Japanese threat against Australia.

The Americans followed up quickly with another victory at the Battle of Midway in early June 1942. Thanks to advances in codebreaking, the U.S. was able to effectively eavesdrop on the Japanese battle commands, learning that they were planning a major offensive against a U.S. target. After planting some false reports over the radio, they ascertained that the target was Midway Island, the westernmost inhabited island in Hawaii. The Commander of the Central Pacific, Admiral Chester Nimitz, reinforced the island with planes and aircraft carriers.

When the first Japanese attack occurred on June 4, 1942, the Americans were prepared. The Japanese exacted significant damage on the island’s defenses, but at the cost of approximately one-third of their planes. American bombers were able to strike before a second Japanese attack, destroying four Japanese carriers. This attack marked the last major Japanese offensive of the war.

Island-Hopping

Although the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway represented major victories for the U.S., the Japanese were not deterred. Immediately following these battles, the Japanese captured the Solomon Islands and began building an airbase on the island of Guadalcanal, intending to use it as a base from which to launch attacks against U.S. forces heading to Australia. In August 1942, U.S. forces accomplished their first major offensive against the Japanese when the first Marine units landed on Guadalcanal. The battle for Guadalcanal lasted until February 1943; although both sides sustained massive losses, U.S. forces successfully seized the island. This victory ensured the Americans’ ability to continue offering support to Australia.

Meanwhile, combined U.S. and Australian forces began a successful offensive to push the Japanese out of New Guinea. Between 1943 and 1944, Allied forces “island hopped,” effectively re-taking the Solomon, Gilbert, and Marianas Islands. In October 1944, General Douglas MacArthur and his 6th Army staged an invasion of the Philippines through the island of Leyte (Figure 24.9). Between October and December, the Allies virtually destroyed the Japanese navy as a productive fighting force. The Battle of Leyte Gulf also saw the first use of Japanese kamikazes, or suicide attacks by Japanese pilots.

As the battle for the Philippines continued, the U.S. forces moved ever closer to the Japanese home islands. They invaded the island of Iwo Jima in January 1945, followed by Okinawa in April. After sustaining major losses in both battles, the Japanese emperor asked his prime minister to request terms for peace. However, the Allies refused to accept Japanese terms. The Allies asked for an unconditional surrender, which the Japanese were not yet willing to countenance. The two sides were at an impasse.

Figure 24.9: Douglas MacArthur landing on the island of Leyte during the Allied invasion of the Philippines, October 1944. [8]​


24.24 - Level 1

Which of these battles marked the final major engagement in the Pacific theater before the proposed invasion of the Japanese home islands?

A

Guadalcanal

B

Iwo Jima

C

Okinawa

D

Midway


End of War

As the Allies in the Pacific closed in on the Japanese home islands in the spring of 1945, the German defense in Europe was in its final throes. Just as the U.S. and British forces were repelling the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge, the Soviets began their final offensive on the Eastern Front, liberating western Poland and forcing the surrender of Hungary, a Nazi ally. While the Soviets had come across a number of concentration camps in Poland since 1944, they found a camp in Western Poland that dwarfed everything before it: Auschwitz-Birkenau. Although there were only a few thousand prisoners left in the camp, there was ample evidence of mass murder, including gas chambers, mass graves, and ovens that still contained human remains. Storehouses on the premises were found to contain tons of items belonging to the victims, including suitcases, clothing, and hair. In the following months, Allied forces would liberate dozens of camps all over Poland and Germany (Figure 24.10). Stories about the German mandate to destroy all of European Judaism had surfaced throughout the war, some appearing in American publications such as The New York Times as early as 1942. These stories had previously been dismissed as rumors and propaganda, but the new photographs coming from Poland and Germany told the horrible truth.

Figure 24.10: Allied commander General Dwight Eisenhower exams charred remains of prisoners at the liberated Orduhf concentration camp in April 1945. [9]​


As the Soviets closed in from the east, British and American forces pushed in from the west. In mid-February 1945, the Allies began an intensive bombing campaign in Dresden, resulting in the deaths of more than 35,000 German citizens. As bombs rained over Dresden, the Big Three gathered for their penultimate meeting at Yalta in order to discuss the imminent post-war world. Franklin Roosevelt, newly re-elected to his unprecedented fourth term, came to the conference with two major aims: to ensure the Soviet entry into the Pacific war and to establish a plan for dealing with post-war Europe, particularly Germany. Stalin agreed to enter the Pacific war following the cessation of hostilities in Europe, on the condition that the Soviets be given a sphere of influence in Manchuria in exchange for their assistance. Additionally, the three leaders determined that the United Nations would continue to exist after the war and that each of the major allied powers would have a seat on the Security Council. The Allied powers also agreed to include France in the post-war governance of Germany, and Stalin agreed to release all occupied countries in Eastern Europe, allowing them to have democratic elections. In return, the Allies permitted the Soviets to take the German capital of Berlin. Stalin believed that since the Soviets had borne as much as two-thirds of the combat fighting against the Nazis, taking the capital city was their privilege and right.

Spotlight on Primary Source




Indeed, although the Americans reached the Rhine River in March 1945, the Soviets staged the final offensive against Berlin in April. With the capital encircled and troops pushing toward the Reichstag, Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, and the provisional government declared surrender on May 8. Victory celebrations engulfed Europe, tempered slightly by the continually mounting evidence of the Holocaust and the death of President Roosevelt on April 12.

Potsdam Conference

Following the cessation of hostilities in Europe, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation, each controlled by a different major Allied power. The Allies struggled to reach a consensus on how to deal with reconstruction. This was a particularly difficult transition for the United States; while the country’s leaders wanted the Soviets to honor their promise to enter the Pacific war, they did not want to sacrifice democratic ideals in the rebuilding of post-war Germany in the process. The final Big Three conference took place in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam in late July 1945. Harry Truman took the place of his late predecessor Franklin Roosevelt, and newly minted British Prime Minister Clement Atlee replaced wartime stalwart Winston Churchill halfway through the conference. The only original member of the Big Three present was Joseph Stalin (Figure 24.11).

Figure 24.11: British Prime Minister Clement Atlee, President Harry Truman, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam Conference, July 1945. [10]


24.25 - Level 2

Click on the only person in this image who attended each of the "Big Three" conferences at Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam.


This final meeting was marked by uncertainty and hostility as the former Allies struggled to maintain consensus in the absence of a common enemy. The only precept everyone agreed with was the necessity of the “denazification” of Germany, meaning the systematic removal of Nazi ideology and influence in German politics, press, legal system, and culture. Stalin pushed for the Germans to pay heavy war reparations, and Roosevelt had previously accepted this proposal, but Atlee and Truman knew Germany did not possess the capability to make such payments. The final compromise allowed each occupation zone to determine its own degree of reparations. The last accomplishment of the conference was the issuance of the Potsdam Declaration, a joint statement from the United States, Great Britain, and China, threatening Japan with “prompt and utter destruction” should it decide to continue fighting. The Soviet Union did not sign the declaration, having not yet declared war on Japan.

During the conference, Truman and Stalin had a tense conversation about the war in Japan. Truman informed the Soviet leader that the U.S. had tested the first atomic weapon on July 16, a weapon expected to bring the war to a swift end. Truman thought the information would shock Stalin, but he remained surprisingly placid, due to the fact that he already knew about the experiment and was working on one of his own.

24.26 - Level 1

What is the name of the post-war Allied initiative used to systematically rid Germany of Nazi influences and ideology?


The Manhattan Project

Despite Stalin’s droll response, the atomic weapon was one of the best-kept secrets in the world. The U.S. government had been researching and creating the bomb since 1941, when the Manhattan Project was created. The project was overseen by General Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist from the University of California-Berkeley and the lead scientist at the main Los Alamos, New Mexico laboratory (Figure 24.12). Over the course of four years, more than 120,000 Americans were employed on the project at multiple secreted locations all over the United States. In order to preserve the secrecy of the project, most of those workers did not know what they were working on. Truman himself did not find out about the project until weeks after he was sworn in as president. In total, the project cost two billion dollars. Oppenheimer and his team of scientists successfully tested the weapon on July 16, 1945. There was some controversy over how to use the weapon; some scientists favored either warning the Japanese about the bomb or demonstrating it for them. These ideas were ultimately overruled due to the concern that the bombs might misfire. Instead, the Army decided to use the available bombs on two cities of military significance that had remained virtually untouched by previous bombing campaigns.

Figure 24.12: J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves at the Trinity atomic bomb testing site, September 1945. [11]


Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Truman knew of the success of the atomic test immediately, but continued to wait for a Japanese surrender. The Japanese, however, continued to hold out. There were concerns that surrendering to the Americans might force the abdication of the Japanese emperor, who the Japanese people considered nearly a deity. The U.S. had planned an invasion of the Japanese home islands for November 1, but the loss of life was expected to be extreme based on the previous casualties incurred at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. There were also concerns that the approximately 100,000 prisoners of war being held in Japan would be executed as a result of the invasion.

The Potsdam Declaration stated a deadline of August 3 before facing prompt and utter destruction, but the deadline came and went without measurable progress on peace talks. On August 6, a B-29 bomber called the Enola Gay flew over Hiroshima, a manufacturing city 500 miles from Tokyo, and dropped a uranium bomb called Little Boy. 

Spotlight on Primary Source




The blast, which had the explosive equivalent of more than 12,000 tons of TNT, immediately killed 80,000 people, with 60,000 more dying of radiation poisoning by the end of the year. When the Japanese did not surrender in the aftermath of the bombing, the Soviets saw the end of the war in sight and wanted to partake in the spoils of victory. Finally honoring a promise made at both the Tehran and Yalta "Big Three" conferences, the Soviet Union officially entered the war in  by invading Japanese-occupied Manchuria on August 8. Given these circumstances, Truman and his advisors decided to drop a second bomb. Another B-29, called Bocks Car, dropped a plutonium bomb, nicknamed Fat Man, on Nagasaki on August 9. Although the United States had used both of their existing atomic weapons, the Japanese did not know this and there were concerns that more bombings would follow. The emperor urged his advisors to surrender, with the sole condition that he remained on the throne. The Allies agreed to this provision, provided he work under the supervision of the Allied commander in charge of the occupation. With terms agreed upon, the Japanese formally surrendered on August 14. The emperor himself announced the surrender to his people via radio address, marking the first time most Japanese people had heard his voice.

Spotlight on Primary Source




The surrender documents were formally signed on September 2, 1945, aboard the battleship USS Missouri (Figure 24.13). With that, the war was finally ended. General Douglas MacArthur immediately assumed control of the occupational government as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, a position he would hold until 1951.

Question 24.27

24.27 - Level 5

President Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons against the Japanese was, and continues to be, one of the most controversial military decisions in human history. In your opinion, was the dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy a necessary course of action to prevent even greater loss of life, or a “crime against humanity”?

Click here to see the answer to Question 24.27.

Figure 24.13: Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri, September 2, 1945. [12]

Conclusion

World War II was the most destructive war in human history, killing close to 25 million soldiers and nearly as many civilians (Figure 24.14). Although more than 435,000 of those deaths were American, the United States escaped many of the pitfalls that faced the nations of Europe and Asia. Not only were there comparatively fewer American casualties, but the United States also did not experience the physical devastation wrought on the Asian and European battlefields. Whereas most of the combatant nations suffered economically as a result of the war, the United States, as one of few unscathed nations with a large functional industrial economy easily geared toward consumer production, received an economic boost so extensive that it ushered the nation into an era of unprecedented prosperity. That economic boom translated into political power, and the United States truly embraced its world superpower status for the first time, thus shedding hundreds of years of isolationist tendencies. The benefits were not solely economic and political. The war also jumpstarted major social changes, particularly in relation to the societal role of women and African Americans. The nation had emerged from the war with remarkable power and authority, but the post-war world was anything but easy. As we will see in the following chapters, the seeds of change sown by the war would have long-lasting socioeconomic and geopolitical consequences for decades to come.

Figure 24.14: World War II Total Military Deaths.​




Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Class Discussion 24.01

Class Discussion 24.01 - Level 2

What were the reasons for the United States remaining neutral in the early years of World War II?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.01.

Class Discussion 24.02

Class Discussion 24.02 - Level 2

Discuss the trajectory of the relationship between Japan and the United States in the 1930s. Why did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.02.

Class Discussion 24.03

Class Discussion 24.03 - Level 5

When the United States entered the war, why did it adopt a “Germany first” policy? In your opinion, was this the best decision? Why or why not?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.03.

Class Discussion 24.04

Class Discussion 24.04 - Level 2

What were some of the disagreements that plagued the Allied powers during World War II?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.04.

Class Discussion 24.05

Class Discussion 24.05 - Level 2

Explain the compromises made between the Soviet Union and the other allies in relation to the structuring of the post-war world.

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.05.


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Suggested Additional Material 

Short documentary on the human cost of World War II: 


Hastings, Max. 2011. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 (New York: Random House).

Kiernan, Denise. 2013. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II (New York: Touchstone Press).

Reeves, Richard. 2015. Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment during World War II (New York: McMillan).

Walker, J. Samuel. 2006. Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan, Revised Edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press).



Answers to In-Chapter Discussion Questions

Answer to Question 24.06

A belief that the nation was tricked into European conflict and economic woes stemming from the Great Depression.

Click here to return to Question 24.06.


Answer to Question 24.11

This question is obviously speculative, but students could make a case that without a direct attack on U.S. soil, the isolationist mood among the American public was so strong that the U.S. would not have entered the war until much later, which may have turned the balance in favor of the Axis powers. Had Nazi Germany been able to defeat Britain, the U.S. would not have had a launching point for the counteroffensive that eventually defeated the Nazis. Likewise, the Japanese would have had a much greater hold over the South Pacific, leading to a very different historical outcome.

Click here to return to Question 24.11.


Answer to Question 24.16

Einstein indicated that the Germans were doing preliminary research on chain reactions and splitting the atom, which could potentially result in the creation of an atomic weapon. He suggested that the United States embark upon a similar path of inquiry.

Click here to return to Question 24.16.

Answer to Question 24.19

Because the war had multiple fronts, the Allies had to engage in a lot of coordination and strategizing. They also needed to start working on plans for how each envisioned the outcome of the war and its aftermath. Additionally, because of the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic, it was safer for Roosevelt to travel overseas.


Click here to return to Question 24.19.


Answer to Question 24.27

Although this is ultimately a matter of opinion, students can marshal evidence on both sides of this question. For those arguing that it was justified, they could point to the unlikelihood of Japan surrendering without a massive land invasion that would have resulted in tens of thousands of civilian causalities, perhaps more than the atomic bombs, and certainly with greater loss of American life. Those arguing against its usage may point to the unique nature of atom bombs as a "weapon of mass destruction" whose use is immoral no matter the utilitarian calculation.

Click here to return to Question 24.27.


Answers to Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Answer to Class Discussion 24.01

The United States remained neutral for the first two years of World War II for two major reasons. One, the majority of Americans did not support it. They felt that the United States had been tricked into joining World War I, and did not really benefit from the experience. Many believed that entering World War II would have similar costs and a similar lack of benefits for the United States. Secondly, the United States economy was just starting to recover from the Great Depression, largely as a result of arms production and sales related to the war. Entering the war would possibly put an end to those new economic gains.

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.01. 


Answer to Class Discussion 24.02

The United States and Japan had a reasonably cordial relationship for much of the early 20th century, going as far as to co-sign two treaties with them in the early 1920s guaranteeing that all signing parties would respect each other’s Pacific territories and that all nations would compete equally in the Chinese market. The two nations began to experience problems in the 1931, as the Japanese sought to build their empire by attacking China and taking its resources. Although this action was a violation of the treaties mentioned above, the U.S. did not believe it warranted military intervention. Nonetheless, as Japan became more militaristic and aggressive in its pursuit of Chinese territory, the United States issued sanctions against Japan in an attempt to thwart its expansion. In 1940, Japan entered into the Tripartite Pact with Italy and Germany, thus setting up in direct opposition to the signatories of the Atlantic Charter, of which the United States was one. Japan also continued to aggressively accumulate colonial holdings, including Indochina. Japan wanted the U.S. to lift economic sanctions, particularly on fuel, but when the U.S. refused to do so, Japan concluded that the only way to settle the conflict was through war. They bombed Pearl Harbor in order to permanently cripple the U.S. Pacific fleet, thus making it impossible for the U.S. to militarily intervene in Japanese affairs in the Pacific.

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.02.


Answer to Class Discussion 24.03

The United States adopted a “Germany first” policy for a number of reasons. Firstly, they believed that Germany had built stronger defenses than anything the Japanese could build, and would therefore be the toughest to beat. The United States vastly underestimated the fighting capabilities of the Japanese. This strategy also naturally aligned with the interests of U.S. allies, all of which were in Europe and under direct threat from the Nazis. Lastly, the Americans had reason to believe that the Germans were building an atomic weapon.

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.03.


Answer to Class Discussion 21.04

The Allied powers disagreed on military strategy and war aims throughout the conflict. While the Soviet Union wanted the United States and Great Britain to open up a second front in France in order to take pressure off its own beleaguered forces, the latter two opted to open fronts in North Africa and southern Italy in the hope of gradually weakening Nazi defenses while also removing the threat of Nazi allies like Italy. The United States and the Soviet Union also wrangled over Soviet involvement in the Pacific War, something the Soviets wanted to delay until the last possible moment (and did). The Allies also disagreed on what the political and economic systems of post-war Europe should look like, particularly in Germany. The U.S. and Great Britain wanted to avoid the mistakes of World War I by rebuilding Germany into a politically and economically stable ally while the Soviet Union wanted the war torn country to remain a backwater so that it would not become a threat again. The Soviets also wanted to establish a buffer zone of friendly states in Eastern Europe as a buffer zone, a strategy opposed by the other allies.

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.04.


Answer to Class Discussion 21.05

In exchange for the Soviet Union entering into the Pacific War, allowing for democratic elections in Eastern Europe, and agreeing to vacate all occupied Eastern European nations following the war, the Soviet Union was allowed to take Berlin at the end of the war, thus giving them the cache of having forced Germany’s surrender. While the Soviets felt that, as the conquerors, they should be given control of Berlin, the allies ultimately agreed to split the capital city into four sectors, each controlled by a different country. The rest of the country was ultimately split in a similar fashion.

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 24.05. 



Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy of the National Archives ARC# 196509 in the Public Domain.

[2] Image courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum in the Public Domain.

[3] Image Courtesy of the U.S. Navy in the Public Domain.

[4] Image courtesy of the Library of Congress in the Public Domain.

[5] Image courtesy of the National Archives ARC# 520948 in the Public Domain.

[6] Image courtesy of the National Archives ARC# 196303 in the Public Domain.

[7] Image courtesy of the U.S. Army in the Public Domain.

[8] Image courtesy of the National Archives ARC# 531424 in the Public Domain.

[9] Image courtesy of the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library in the Public Domain.

[10] Image courtesy of the National Archives in the Public Domain.

[11] Image courtesy of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Public Domain.

[12] Image courtesy of Naval Historical Center in the Public Domain.