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America was so determined to stay out of war that it did not build up its armed forces or prepare for conflict. Roosevelt called for preparedness, but was shot down. It wasn’t until 1938 that Congress realized they had to build up the navy; they did so with a billion dollar construction act.Appeasing Japan and GermanyIn the Far East, Japan had invaded China in 1937. Roosevelt did not recognize it as a war and so did not put the neutrality legislation in effect. FDR delivered his “Quarantine Speech” in 1937 in Chicago, where called for “quarantine” of the aggressors through economic embargoes.This was met with protest, and Roosevelt decided to deal with the dictators by indirect means.In Japan, aviators sank the American gunboat the Panayand killed 2 Americans with 30 injured. Japan issued necessary apologies and compensations, and war was avoided.
In Europe Hitler became bolder. He openly violated the Treaty of Versailles by introducing military serviceand marching into the Rhineland. Britain and France were indecisive. Hitler also decided to exterminate the Jewish population, 6 million when all was said and done. He created a devastating military. In 1938, he captured Austria without a fight, democratic powers hoped that this would quench his imperialistic thirst.However, Hitler wanted more. He had his eyes on the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia; and Britain and France were ready to appease him. At the conference in Munich in September 1938, the European powers gave Hitler what he wanted; they hoped that this would be the end.However, by 1939, Hitler had basically erased Czechoslovakia from the map.Hitler’s Belligerency and U.S. NeutralityStalin was the key to peace, and the British and French were eager to make peace agreements. However,on August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression treaty with Germany.Now, Hitler could make war upon Poland and the western democracies. They hoped that Hitler and Stalin would kill each other off, while the Soviet dictator hoped to turn Germany against the western powers. Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.Britain and France declared war, appeasement had failed. Poland succumbed easily and quickly, while Stalin took his share. Roosevelt issued a neutrality proclamation, and the American people hoped that the democracies would win. Britain and France needed aide, but the Neutrality Act forbid arms trade.Congress came up with the Neutrality Act of 1939, which provided that European democracies could buymunitions from America, but would have to ship them themselves and pay in cash. America would avoid loans, war debts, and torpedoes. FDR proclaimed danger zones where U.S. merchants were forbidden.This law hurt China, as it was blockaded by Japan, but favored the western democracies against the dictators. Britain and France controlled the Atlantic, so no dictatorial power could buy munitions form the U.S. The demand for war goods also helped the American economy.