America in World War II
I. The Allies Trade Space for Time
When Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, millions ofinfuriated Americans,
especially on the west coast, instantly changedtheir views from isolationist to avenger.
However, America, led by the wise Franklin D. Roosevelt, resistedsuch pressures,
instead taking a “get Germany first”approach to the war, for if Germany were to defeat
Britain before theAllies could beat Japan, there would be no stopping Hitler and his men.
Meanwhile, just enough troops would be sent to fight Japan to keep it in
America had the hardship of preparing for war, since it had been inisolation for the
preceding decades, and the test would be whether ornot it could mobilize quickly enough
to stop Germany and make the worldsafe for democracy (again).
II. The Shock of War
After the attack at Pearl Harbor, national unity was strong as steel, and the few Hitler
supporters in America faded away.
Most of America’s ethnic groups assimilated even faster dueto WWII, since in the
decades before the war, few immigrants had beenallowed into America.
Unfortunately, on the Pacific coast, 110,000 Japanese-Americanswere taken
from their homes and herded into internment camps wheretheir properties and freedoms
were taken away.
The 1944 case of Korematsu v. U.S. affirmed the constitutionality of these
It took more than 40 years before the U.S. admitted fault and made $20,000
reparation payments to camp survivors.
With the war, many New Deal programs were wiped out, such as theCivilian
Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration, and theNational Youth
WWII was no idealistic crusade, as most Americans didn’t evenknow what the Atlantic
Charter (declaration of U.S. goals going intothe war such as to fight Germany first, and
Japan second) was.
III. Building the War Machine
Massive military orders (over $100 billion in 1942 alone) ended the Great Depression by
creating demand for jobs and production.
Shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser was dubbed “Sir Launchalot”because his methods of ship
assembly churned out one ship every 14 days!
The War Production Board halted manufacture of nonessential itemssuch as passenger
cars, and when the Japanese seized vital rubbersupplies in British Malaya and the Dutch
East Indies, the U.S. imposeda national speed limit and gasoline rationing to save tires.