When war broke out in Europe, US President Franklin Roosevelt recognised that the conflict threatened US security, and looked for ways to help the European democracies without direct involvement in the war. This necessity increased in June 1940, when the Fall of France left Britain as the only democracy standing between Nazi Germany and America. In 1939, the Fourth Neutrality Act authorised the US to trade arms. In March 1941, Roosevelt moved further towards making the US the ‘arsenal of democracy’ with the Lend-Lease Act, which permitted the selling, or bartering of arms, ammunition and food to “any country whose defence the President.”
The US was sucked towards the conflict when its navy and air force began to ‘escort’ British convoys which transported Lend-Lease material across the Atlantic, protecting them from German submarines. Roosevelt’s announcement of a ‘shoot on sight’ policy in September 1941 following an attack on the USS Greer enraged isolationist senators. They alleged that Roosevelt was deliberately provoking the Germans.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the vote in the senate was predictable. Hitler’s declaration of war on the US, which came four days later, was actually a blessing in disguise for Roosevelt; it enabled him to legitimately pursue a ‘Germany first’ strategy. In November 1942, Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. Allied troops slowly caught German forces in North Africa, who surrendered in Tunisia in May 1943.
By the beginning of 1943, the opening of a ‘second front’ was a pressing and divisive issue. At the Casablanca conference in January 1943, Churchill effectively won the argument. It was decided that operations in the Mediterranean would continue once victory was achieved in North Africa. The success of Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily launched in July 1943, allowed the Allies to invade the Italian mainland, capturing Rome on 4 June 1944.
During the war… To help build the armaments necessary to win the war, women found employment as electricians, welders and riveters in defense plants. Japanese Americans had their rights as citizens stripped from them. People in the U.S. grew increasingly dependent on radio reports for news of the fighting overseas. And, while popular entertainment served to demonize the nation’s enemies, it also was viewed as an escapist outlet that allowed Americans brief respites from war worries.
On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), two hundred and fifty thousand Allied soldiers arrived in France, which was released by the end of August. Allied air forces attacked Nazi industrial factories, such as the Auschwitz camp (though the gas chambers were never a target). The Soviets began an offensive on January 12, 1945, and liberated Poland and Hungary. In mid-February 1945, the Allies bombed Dresden, and nearly a hundred thousand civilians were killed.
On April 29, Hitler committed suicide. Berlin was captured by Soviet forces in May 1945, and the Germans surrendered on May 7, 1945.
About the Pacific War…
In 1937, Japan resumed its expansion in China, beginning the Sino-Japanese War. After waging two battles with the Soviet Union, Japan occupied Indochina, a French colony, seeking end the long contest in China. The UK, the U.S. and other nations with interests in the region responded by imposing an economic embargo that threatened to suffocate the small country. After failed negotiations, Japan attacked simultaneously, without a declaration of war, a territory controlled by the United States, the UK, Thailand and the Netherlands in December 1941.
The Japanese attack failed to break the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, although weakened. Japan succeeded in conquering the Philippines, Malaysia, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong and launched an offensive in the Indian Ocean in 1942. The Japanese advance was stopped the same year, after the defeat at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.
The American advance across the Pacific managed to force a great naval battle known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where the Japanese Navy suffered irreparable losses. Since then the U.S. naval superiority in the Pacific was indisputable.
By 1945, the Allies had recovered Burma, New Guinea, Borneo, the Philippines, the Aleutian Islands and occupied Japanese territory, Iwo Jima, and both sides were preparing to give battle in large Japanese islands. In August, the war in the Pacific ended, shortly after the U.S. will use atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing one hundred and twenty thousand civilians.
World War II resulted in an estimated 55 million deaths in the world.
“Military History of the United States of America during World War II”. Wikipedia. 28 March 2013. April 3, 2013.
“World War II”. US Embassy. April 2008. April 3, 2013.
“America and the second world war”. Multipoint Briefings. February 2006. April 3, 2013.