Discuss the varied perspectives regarding the United States' participation in World War II (WWII). Compare the views from political, social, and...
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Can someone please help with the following question, I have attached the reading assignment as well.

Discuss the varied perspectives regarding the United States' participation in World War II (WWII).

Compare the views from political, social, and economic realms, including those of the American

people not active in the military and from the international community.

The Reading assignment is below.

27.1 The Origins of War: Europe, Asia, and the United States

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

• Explain the factors in Europe that gave rise to Fascism and Nazism

• Discuss the events in Europe and Asia that led to the start of the war

• Identify the early steps taken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to increase American

aid to nations fighting totalitarianism while maintaining neutrality

The years between the First and Second World Wars were politically and economically tumultuous for the

United States and especially for the world. The Russian Revolution of 1917, Germany's defeat in World

War I, and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles had broken up the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian

empires and significantly redrew the map of Europe. President Woodrow Wilson had wished to make

World War I the "war to end all wars" and hoped that his new paradigm of "collective security" in

international relations, as actualized through the League of Nations, would limit power struggles among

the nations of the world. However, during the next two decades, America's attention turned away from

global politics and toward its own needs. At the same time, much of the world was dealing with economic

and political crises, and different types of totalitarian regimes began to take hold in Europe. In Asia,

an ascendant Japan began to expand its borders. Although the United States remained focused on the

economic challenges of the Great Depression as World War II approached, ultimately it became clear that

American involvement in the fight against Nazi Germany and Japan was in the nation's interest.


While during the 1920s and 1930s there were Americans who favored active engagement in Europe, most

Americans, including many prominent politicians, were leery of getting too involved in European affairs

or accepting commitments to other nations that might restrict America's ability to act independently,

keeping with the isolationist tradition. Although the United States continued to intervene in the affairs

of countries in the Western Hemisphere during this period, the general mood in America was to avoid

Figure 27.2

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becoming involved in any crises that might lead the nation into another global conflict.

Despite its largely noninterventionist foreign policy, the United States did nevertheless take steps to try to

lessen the chances of war and cut its defense spending at the same time. President Warren G. Harding's

administration participated in the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-1922, which reduced the size of

the navies of the nine signatory nations. In addition, the Four Power Treaty, signed by the United States,

Great Britain, France, and Japan in 1921, committed the signatories to eschewing any territorial expansion

in Asia. In 1928, the United States and fourteen other nations signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, declaring

war an international crime. Despite hopes that such agreements would lead to a more peaceful world—far

more nations signed on to the agreement in later years—they failed because none of them committed any

of the nations to take action in the event of treaty violations.


While the United States focused on domestic issues, economic depression and political instability were

growing in Europe. During the 1920s, the international financial system was propped up largely by

American loans to foreign countries. The crash of 1929, when the U.S. stock market plummeted and

American capital dried up, set in motion a series of financial chain reactions that contributed significantly

to a global downward economic spiral. Around the world, industrialized economies faced significant

problems of economic depression and worker unemployment.

Totalitarianism in Europe

Many European countries had been suffering even before the Great Depression began. A postwar

recession and the continuation of wartime inflation had hurt many economies, as did a decrease in

agricultural prices, which made it harder for farmers to buy manufactured goods or pay off loans to banks.

In such an unstable environment, Benito Mussolini capitalized on the frustrations of the Italian people who

felt betrayed by the Versailles Treaty. In 1919, Mussolini created the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian

Combat Squadron). The organization's main tenets of Fascism called for a totalitarian form of government

and a heightened focus on national unity, militarism, social Darwinism, and loyalty to the state. With

the support of major Italian industrialists and the king, who saw Fascism as a bulwark against growing

Socialist and Communist movements, Mussolini became prime minister in 1922. Between 1925 and 1927,

Mussolini transformed the nation into a single party state and removed all restraints on his power.

In Germany, a similar pattern led to the rise of the totalitarian National Socialist Party. Political

fragmentation through the 1920s accentuated the severe economic problems facing the country. As a result,

the German Communist Party began to grow in strength, frightening many wealthy and middle-class

Germans. In addition, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles had given rise to a deep-seated resentment of

the victorious Allies. It was in such an environment that Adolf Hitler's anti-Communist National Socialist

Party—the Nazis—was born.

The Nazis gained numerous followers during the Great Depression, which hurt Germany tremendously,

plunging it further into economic crisis. By 1932, nearly 30 percent of the German labor force was

unemployed. Not surprisingly, the political mood was angry and sullen. Hitler, a World War I veteran,

promised to return Germany to greatness. By the beginning of 1933, the Nazis had become the largest party

in the German legislature. Germany's president, Paul von Hindenburg, at the urging of large industrialists

who feared a Communist uprising, appointed Hitler to the position of chancellor in January 1933. In the

elections that took place in early March 1933, the Nazis gained the political power to pass the Enabling Act

later that same month, which gave Hitler the power to make all laws for the next four years. Hitler thus

effectively became the dictator of Germany and remained so long after the four-year term passed. Like

Italy, Germany had become a one-party totalitarian state (Figure 27.3). Nazi Germany was an anti-Semitic

nation, and in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws deprived Jews, whom Hitler blamed for Germany's downfall, of

German citizenship and the rights thereof.

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Figure 27.3 Italian Fascists under the dictatorial leadership of Benito Mussolini (a, center) and German National

Socialist Party leader and dictator Adolf Hitler (b) systematically dismantled democratic institutions and pushed

military buildups, racial supremacy, and an aggressive nationalism in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Once in power, Hitler began to rebuild German military might. He commenced his program by

withdrawing Germany from the League of Nations in October 1933. In 1936, in accordance with his

promise to restore German greatness, Hitler dispatched military units into the Rhineland, on the border

with France, which was an act contrary to the provisions of the Versailles Treaty. In March 1938, claiming

that he sought only to reunite ethnic Germans within the borders of one country, Hitler invaded Austria.

At a conference in Munich later that year, Great Britain's prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, and

France's prime minister, Édouard Daladier, agreed to the partial dismemberment of Czechoslovakia

and the occupation of the Sudetenland (a region with a sizable German population) by German troops

(Figure 27.4). This Munich Pact offered a policy of appeasement, in the hope that German expansionist

appetites could be satisfied without war. But not long after the agreement, Germany occupied the rest of

Czechoslovakia as well.

Figure 27.4 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arrives home in England bearing the Munich Pact agreement. The

jubilant Chamberlain proclaimed that the agreement meant "peace in our time."

In the Soviet Union, Premier Joseph Stalin, observing Hitler's actions and listening to his public

pronouncements, realized that Poland, part of which had once belonged to Germany and was home to

people of German ancestry, was most likely next. Although fiercely opposed to Hitler, Stalin, sobered

by the French and British betrayal of Czechoslovakia and unprepared for a major war, decided the best

way to protect the Soviet Union, and gain additional territory, was to come to some accommodation with

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the German dictator. In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union essentially agreed to divide Poland

between them and not make war upon one another.


Militaristic politicians also took control of Japan in the 1930s. The Japanese had worked assiduously for

decades to modernize, build their strength, and become a prosperous, respected nation. The sentiment

in Japan was decidedly pro-capitalist, and the Japanese militarists were fiercely supportive of a capitalist

economy. They viewed with great concern the rise of Communism in the Soviet Union and in particular

China, where the issue was fueling a civil war, and feared that the Soviet Union would make inroads in

Asia by assisting China's Communists. The Japanese militarists thus found a common ideological enemy

with Fascism and National Socialism, which had based their rise to power on anti-Communist sentiments.

In 1936, Japan and Germany signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, pledging mutual assistance in defending

themselves against the Comintern, the international agency created by the Soviet Union to promote

worldwide Communist revolution. In 1937, Italy joined the pact, essentially creating the foundation of

what became the military alliance of the Axis powers.

Like its European allies, Japan was intent upon creating an empire for itself. In 1931, it created a new

nation, a puppet state called Manchukuo, which had been cobbled together from the three northernmost

provinces of China. Although the League of Nations formally protested Japan's seizure of Chinese territory

in 1931 and 1932, it did nothing else. In 1937, a clash between Japanese and Chinese troops, known as the

Marco Polo Bridge Incident, led to a full-scale invasion of China by the Japanese. By the end of the year,

the Chinese had suffered some serious defeats. In Nanjing, then called Nanking by Westerners, Japanese

soldiers systematically raped Chinese women and massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians, leading

to international outcry. Public sentiment against Japan in the United States reached new heights. Members

of Protestant churches that were involved in missionary work in China were particularly outraged, as were

Chinese Americans. A troop of Chinese American Boy Scouts in New York City's Chinatown defied Boy

Scout policy and marched in protest against Japanese aggression.


President Franklin Roosevelt was aware of the challenges facing the targets of Nazi aggression in Europe

and Japanese aggression in Asia. Although he hoped to offer U.S. support, Congress's commitment to

nonintervention was difficult to overcome. Such a policy in regards to Europe was strongly encouraged

by Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota. Nye claimed that the United States had been tricked into

participating in World War I by a group of industrialists and bankers who sought to gain from the

country's participation in the war. The United States, Nye urged, should not be drawn again into an

international dispute over matters that did not concern it. His sentiments were shared by other

noninterventionists in Congress (Figure 27.5).

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Figure 27.5 This protest sign shows the unwillingness of many Americans to become involved in a foreign war. A

reluctance to intervene in events outside of the Western Hemisphere had characterized American foreign policy since

the administration of George Washington. World War I had been an exception that many American politicians

regretted making.

Roosevelt's willingness to accede to the demands of the noninterventionists led him even to refuse

assistance to those fleeing Nazi Germany. Although Roosevelt was aware of Nazi persecution of the Jews,

he did little to aid them. In a symbolic act of support, he withdrew the American ambassador to Germany

in 1938. He did not press for a relaxation of immigration quotas that would have allowed more refugees

to enter the country, however. In 1939, he refused to support a bill that would have admitted twenty

thousand Jewish refugee children to the United States. Again in 1939, when German refugees aboard the

SS St. Louis, most of them Jews, were refused permission to land in Cuba and turned to the United States

for help, the U.S. State Department informed them that immigration quotas for Germany had already been

filled. Once again, Roosevelt did not intervene, because he feared that nativists in Congress might smear

him as a friend of Jews.

To ensure that the United States did not get drawn into another war, Congress passed a series of Neutrality

Acts in the second half of the 1930s. The Neutrality Act of 1935 banned the sale of armaments to warring

nations. The following year, another Neutrality Act prohibited loaning money to belligerent countries. The

last piece of legislation, the Neutrality Act of 1937, forbade the transportation of weapons or passengers

to belligerent nations on board American ships and also prohibited American citizens from traveling on

board the ships of nations at war.

Once all-out war began between Japan and China in 1937, Roosevelt sought ways to help the Chinese

that did not violate U.S. law. Since Japan did not formally declare war on China, a state of belligerency

did not technically exist. Therefore, under the terms of the Neutrality Acts, America was not prevented

from transporting goods to China. In 1940, the president of China, Chiang Kai-shek, was able to prevail

upon Roosevelt to ship to China one hundred P-40 fighter planes and to allow American volunteers, who

technically became members of the Chinese Air Force, to fly them.

War Begins in Europe

In 1938, the agreement reached at the Munich Conference failed to satisfy Hitler—in fact, the refusal of

Britain and France to go to war over the issue infuriated the German dictator. In May of the next year,

Germany and Italy formalized their military alliance with the "Pact of Steel." On September 1, 1939,

Hitler unleashed his Blitzkrieg, or "lightning war," against Poland, using swift, surprise attacks combining

infantry, tanks, and aircraft to quickly overwhelm the enemy. Britain and France had already learned from

Munich that Hitler could not be trusted and that his territorial demands were insatiable. On September

3, 1939, they declared war on Germany, and the European phase of World War II began. Responding to

the German invasion of Poland, Roosevelt worked with Congress to alter the Neutrality Laws to permit

a policy of "Cash and Carry" in munitions for Britain and France. The legislation, passed and signed by

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Roosevelt in November 1939, permitted belligerents to purchase war materiel if they could pay cash for it

and arrange for its transportation on board their own ships.

When the Germans commenced their spring offensive in 1940, they defeated France in six weeks with

a highly mobile and quick invasion of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. In the Far

East, Japan took advantage of France's surrender to Germany to occupy French Indochina. In response,

beginning with the Export Control Act in July 1940, the United States began to embargo the shipment of

various materials to Japan, starting first with aviation gasoline and machine tools, and proceeding to scrap

iron and steel.

The Atlantic Charter

Following the surrender of France, the Battle of Britain began, as Germany proceeded to try to bomb

England into submission. As the battle raged in the skies over Great Britain throughout the summer and

autumn of 1940 (Figure 27.6), Roosevelt became increasingly concerned over England's ability to hold out

against the German juggernaut. In June 1941, Hitler broke the nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union

that had given him the backing to ravage Poland and marched his armies deep into Soviet territory, where

they would kill Red Army regulars and civilians by the millions until their advances were stalled and

ultimately reversed by the devastating battle of Stalingrad, which took place from August 23, 1942 until

February 2, 1943 when, surrounded and out of ammunition, the German 6th army surrendered.

Listen to the BBC's archived reports (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15BattleBrit) of

the Battle of Britain, including Winston Churchill's "Finest Hour" speech.

In August 1941, Roosevelt met with the British prime minister, Winston Churchill, off the coast of

Newfoundland, Canada. At this meeting, the two leaders drafted the Atlantic Charter, the blueprint of

Anglo-American cooperation during World War II. The charter stated that the United States and Britain

sought no territory from the conflict. It proclaimed that citizens of all countries should be given the right of

self-determination, self-government should be restored in places where it had been eliminated, and trade

barriers should be lowered. Further, the charter mandated freedom of the seas, renounced the use of force

to settle international disputes, and called for postwar disarmament.

Click and Explore

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Figure 27.6 London and other major British cities suffered extensive damaged from the bombing raids of the Battle

of Britain. Over one million London houses were destroyed or damaged during "The Blitz" and almost twenty

thousand Londoners were killed.

In March 1941, concerns over Britain's ability to defend itself also influenced Congress to authorize a

policy of Lend Lease, a practice by which the United States could sell, lease, or transfer armaments to any

nation deemed important to the defense of the United States. Lend Lease effectively ended the policy of

nonintervention and dissolved America's pretense of being a neutral nation. The program ran from 1941 to

1945, and distributed some $45 billion worth of weaponry and supplies to Britain, the Soviet Union, China,

and other allies.

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

By the second half of 1941, Japan was feeling the pressure of the American embargo. As it could no longer

buy strategic material from the United States, the Japanese were determined to obtain a sufficient supply

of oil by taking control of the Dutch East Indies. However, they realized that such an action might increase

the possibility of American intervention, since the Philippines, a U.S. territory, lay on the direct route that

oil tankers would have to take to reach Japan from Indonesia. Japanese leaders thus attempted to secure

a diplomatic solution by negotiating with the United States while also authorizing the navy to plan for

war. The Japanese government also decided that if no peaceful resolution could be reached by the end of

November 1941, then the nation would have to go to war against the United States.

The American final counterproposal to various offers by Japan was for the Japanese to completely

withdraw, without any conditions, from China and enter into nonaggression pacts with all the Pacific

powers. Japan found that proposal unacceptable but delayed its rejection for as long as possible. Then, at

7:48 a.m. on Sunday, December 7, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor,

Hawaii (Figure 27.7). They launched two waves of attacks from six aircraft carriers that had snuck into

the central Pacific without being detected. The attacks brought some 353 fighters, bombers, and torpedo

bombers down on the unprepared fleet. The Japanese hit all eight battleships in the harbor and sank

four of them. They also damaged several cruisers and destroyers. On the ground, nearly two hundred

aircraft were destroyed, and twenty-four hundred servicemen were killed. Another eleven hundred were

wounded. Japanese losses were minimal. The strike was part of a more concerted campaign by the

Japanese to gain territory. They subsequently attacked Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Guam, Wake

Island, and the Philippines.

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Figure 27.7 This famous shot captured the explosion of the USS Shaw after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

While American losses were significant, the Japanese lost only twenty-nine planes and five miniature submarines.

Whatever reluctance to engage in conflict the American people had had before December 7, 1941, quickly

evaporated. Americans' incredulity that Japan would take such a radical step quickly turned to a fiery

anger, especially as the attack took place while Japanese diplomats in Washington were still negotiating

a possible settlement. President Roosevelt, referring to the day of the attack as "a date which will live

in infamy," asked Congress for a declaration of war, which it delivered to Japan on December 8. On

December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States in accordance with their alliance with

Japan. Against its wishes, the United States had become part of the European conflict.

You can listen to Franklin Roosevelt's speech to Congress

(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15FDRWar) seeking a Declaration of War at this

archive of presidential recordings.

27.2 The Home Front

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

• Describe the steps taken by the United States to prepare for war

• Describe how the war changed employment patterns in the United States

• Discuss the contributions of civilians on the home front, especially women, to the war


• Analyze how the war affected race relations in the United States

The impact of the war on the United States was nowhere near as devastating as it was in Europe and

the Pacific, where the battles were waged, but it still profoundly changed everyday life for all Americans.

Click and Explore

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On the positive side, the war effort finally and definitively ended the economic depression that had been

plaguing the country since 1929. It also called upon Americans to unite behind the war effort and give of

their money, their time, and their effort, as they sacrificed at home to assure success abroad. The upheaval

caused by white men leaving for war meant that for many disenfranchised groups, such as women and

African Americans, there were new opportunities in employment and wage earning. Still, fear and racism

drove cracks in the nation's unified facade.


Although the United States had sought to avoid armed conflict, the country was not entirely unprepared

for war. Production of armaments had increased since 1939, when, as a result of Congress's authorization

of the Cash and Carry policy, contracts for weapons had begun to trickle into American factories. War

production increased further following the passage of Lend Lease in 1941. However, when the United

States entered the war, the majority of American factories were still engaged in civilian production, and

many doubted that American businesses would be sufficiently motivated to convert their factories to

wartime production.

Just a few years earlier, Roosevelt had been frustrated and impatient with business leaders when they

failed to fully support the New Deal, but enlisting industrialists in the nation's crusade was necessary

if the United States was to produce enough armaments to win the war. To encourage cooperation, the

government agreed to assume all costs of development and production, and also guarantee a profit on

the sale of what was produced. This arrangement resulted in 233 to 350 percent increases in profits over

what the same businesses had been able to achieve from 1937 to 1940. In terms of dollars earned, corporate

profits rose from $6.4 billion in 1940 to nearly $11 billion in 1944. As the country switched to wartime

production, the top one hundred U.S. corporations received approximately 70 percent of government

contracts; big businesses prospered.

In addition to gearing up industry to fight the war, the country also needed to build an army. A peacetime

draft, the first in American history, had been established in September 1940, but the initial draftees were to

serve for only one year, a length of time that was later extended. Furthermore, Congress had specified that

no more than 900,000 men could receive military training at any one time. By December 1941, the United

States had only one division completely ready to be deployed. Military planners estimated that it might

take nine million men to secure victory. A massive draft program was required to expand the nation's

military forces. Over the course of the war, approximately fifty million men registered for the draft; ten

million were subsequently inducted into the service.

Approximately 2.5 million African Americans registered for the draft, and 1 million of them subsequently

served. Initially, African American soldiers, who served in segregated units, had been used as support

troops and not been sent into combat. By the end of the war, however, manpower needs resulted in

African American recruits serving in the infantry and flying planes. The Tuskegee Institute in Alabama

had instituted a civilian pilot training program for aspiring African American pilots. When the war

began, the Department of War absorbed the program and adapted it to train combat pilots. First Lady

Eleanor Roosevelt demonstrated both her commitment to African Americans and the war effort by visiting

Tuskegee in 1941, shortly after the unit had been organized. To encourage the military to give the airmen

a chance to serve in actual combat, she insisted on taking a ride in a plane flown by an African American

pilot to demonstrate the Tuskegee Airmen's skill (Figure 27.8). When the Tuskegee Airmen did get their

opportunity to serve in combat, they did so with distinction.

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Figure 27.8 First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt insisted on flying with an African American pilot to help fight racism in the

military. The First Lady was famous for her support of civil rights.

In addition, forty-four thousand Native Americans served in all theaters of the war. In some of the Pacific

campaigns, Native Americans made distinct and unique contributions to Allied victories. Navajo marines

served in communications units, exchanging information over radios using codes based on their native

language, which the Japanese were unable to comprehend or to crack. They became known as code

talkers and participated in the battles of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, and Tarawa. A smaller number of

Comanche code talkers performed a similar function in the European theater.

While millions of Americans heeded the rallying cry for patriotism and service, there were those who,

for various reasons, did not accept the call. Before the war began, American Peace Mobilization had

campaigned against American involvement in the European conflict as had the noninterventionist

America First organization. Both groups ended their opposition, however, at the time of the German

invasion of the Soviet Union and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, respectively. Nevertheless, during

the war, some seventy-two thousand men registered as conscientious objectors (COs), and fifty-two

thousand were granted that status. Of that fifty-two thousand, some accepted noncombat roles in the

military, whereas others accepted unpaid work in civilian work camps. Many belonged to pacifist religious

sects such as the Quakers or Mennonites. They were willing to serve their country, but they refused to

kill. COs suffered public condemnation for disloyalty, and family members often turned against them.

Strangers assaulted them. A portion of the town of Plymouth, NH, was destroyed by fire because the

residents did not want to call upon the services of the COs trained as firemen at a nearby camp. Only a

very small number of men evaded the draft completely.

Most Americans, however, were willing to serve, and they required a competent officer corps. The very

same day that Germany invaded Poland in 1939, President Roosevelt promoted George C. Marshall, a

veteran of World War I and an expert at training officers, from a one-star general to a four-star general, and

gave him the responsibility of serving as Army Chief of Staff. The desire to design a command staff that

could win the army's confidence no doubt contributed to the rather meteoric rise of Dwight D. Eisenhower

(Figure 27.9). During World War I, Eisenhower had been assigned to organize America's new tank corps,

and, although he never saw combat during the war, he demonstrated excellent organizational skills. When

the United States entered World War II, Eisenhower was appointed commander of the General European

Theater of Operations in June 1942.

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Figure 27.9 Dwight D. Eisenhower rose quickly through the ranks to become commander of the European Theater

of Operations by June 1942.

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General Eisenhower on Winning a War

Promoted to the level of one-star general just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dwight D. Eisenhower

had never held an active command position above the level of a battalion and was not considered a

potential commander of major military operations. However, after he was assigned to the General Staff in

Washington, DC, he quickly rose through the ranks and, by late 1942, was appointed commander of the

North African campaign.

Excerpts from General Eisenhower's diary reveal his dedication to the war effort. He continued to work

despite suffering a great personal loss.

March 9, 1942

General McNaughton (commanding Canadians in Britain) came to see me. He believes

in attacking in Europe (thank God). He's over here in an effort to speed up landing craft

production and cargo ships. Has some d___ good ideas. Sent him to see Somervell and

Admiral Land. How I hope he can do something on landing craft.

March 10, 1942

Father dies this morning. Nothing I can do but send a wire.

One thing that might help win this war is to get someone to shoot [Admiral] King. He's the

antithesis of cooperation, a deliberately rude person, which means he's a mental bully. He

became Commander in Chief of the fleet some time ago. Today he takes over, also Stark's

job as chief of naval operations. It's a good thing to get rid of the double head in the navy, and

of course Stark was just a nice old lady, but this fellow is going to cause a blow-up sooner or

later, I'll bet a cookie.

Gradually some of the people with whom I have to deal are coming to agree with me that

there are just three "musts" for the Allies this year: hold open the line to England and support

her as necessary, keep Russia in the war as an active participant; hold the India-Middle East

buttress between Japs and Germans. All this assumes the safety from major attack of North

America, Hawaii, and Caribbean area.

We lost eight cargo ships yesterday. That we must stop, because any effort we make depends

upon sea communication.

March 11, 1942

I have felt terribly. I should like so much to be with my Mother these few days. But we're

at war. And war is not soft, it has no time to indulge even the deepest and most sacred

emotions. I loved my Dad. I think my Mother the finest person I've ever known. She has been

the inspiration for Dad's life and a true helpmeet in every sense of the word.

I'm quitting work now, 7:30 p.m. I haven't the heart to go on tonight.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower, The Eisenhower Diaries

What does Eisenhower identify as the most important steps to take to win the war?


Even before the official beginning of the war, the country started to prepare. In August 1940, Congress

created the Defense Plant Corporation, which had built 344 plants in the West by 1945, and had funneled

over $1.8 billion into the economies of western states. After Pearl Harbor, as American military strategists

began to plan counterattacks and campaigns against the Axis powers, California became a training

ground. Troops trained there for tank warfare and amphibious assaults as well as desert campaigns—since

the first assault against the Axis powers was planned for North Africa.

As thousands of Americans swarmed to the West Coast to take jobs in defense plants and shipyards, cities

like Richmond, California, and nearby Oakland, expanded quickly. Richmond grew from a city of 20,000

people to 100,000 in only three years. Almost overnight, the population of California skyrocketed. African

Americans moved out of the rural South into northern or West Coast cities to provide the muscle and

skill to build the machines of war. Building on earlier waves of African American migration after the Civil

Chapter 27 | Fighting the Good Fight in World War II, 1941-1945 799

War and during World War I, the demographics of the nation changed with the growing urbanization of

the African American population. Women also relocated to either follow their husbands to military bases

or take jobs in the defense industry, as the total mobilization of the national economy began to tap into

previously underemployed populations.

Roosevelt and his administration already had experience in establishing government controls and taking

the initiative in economic matters during the Depression. In April 1941, Roosevelt created the Office of

Price Administration (OPA), and, once the United States entered the war, the OPA regulated prices and

attempted to combat inflation. The OPA ultimately had the power to set ceiling prices for all goods, except

agricultural commodities, and to ration a long list of items. During the war, major labor unions pledged not

to strike in order to prevent disruptions in production; in return, the government encouraged businesses

to recognize unions and promised to help workers bargain for better wages.

As in World War I, the government turned to bond drives to finance the war. Millions of Americans

purchased more than $185 billion worth of war bonds. Children purchased Victory Stamps and exchanged

full stamp booklets for bonds. The federal government also instituted the current tax-withholding system

to ensure collection of taxes. Finally, the government once again urged Americans to plant victory gardens,

using marketing campaigns and celebrities to promote the idea (Figure 27.10). Americans responded

eagerly, planting gardens in their backyards and vacant lots.

Figure 27.10 Wartime rationing meant that Americans had to do without many everyday items and learn to grow

their own produce in order to allow the country's food supply to go to the troops.

The federal government also instituted rationing to ensure that America's fighting men were well fed.

Civilians were issued ration booklets, books of coupons that enabled them to buy limited amounts of

meat, coffee, butter, sugar, and other foods. Wartime cookbooks were produced, such as the Betty Crocker

cookbook Your Share, telling housewives how to prepare tasty meals without scarce food items. Other

items were rationed as well, including shoes, liquor, cigarettes, and gasoline. With a few exceptions, such

as doctors, Americans were allowed to drive their automobiles only on certain days of the week. Most

Americans complied with these regulations, but some illegally bought and sold rationed goods on the

black market.

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View an excerpt from a PBS documentary on rationing

(http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15Rationing) during World War II.

Civilians on the home front also recycled, conserved, and participated in scrap drives to collect items

needed for the production of war materiel. Housewives saved cooking fats, needed to produce explosives.

Children collected scrap metal, paper, rubber, silk, nylon, and old rags. Some children sacrificed beloved

metal toys in order to "win the war." Civilian volunteers, trained to recognize enemy aircraft, watched the

skies along the coasts and on the borders.


As in the previous war, the gap in the labor force created by departing soldiers meant opportunities for

women. In particular, World War II led many to take jobs in defense plants and factories around the

country. For many women, these jobs provided unprecedented opportunities to move into occupations

previously thought of as exclusive to men, especially the aircraft industry, where a majority of workers

were composed of women by 1943. Most women in the labor force did not work in the defense industry,

however. The majority took over other factory jobs that had been held by men. Many took positions in

offices as well. As white women, many of whom had been in the workforce before the war, moved into

these more highly paid positions, African American women, most of whom had previously been limited

to domestic service, took over white women's lower-paying positions in factories; some were also hired by

defense plants, however. Although women often earned more money than ever before, it was still far less

than men received for doing the same jobs. Nevertheless, many achieved a degree of financial self-reliance

that was enticing. By 1944, as many as 33 percent of the women working in the defense industries were

mothers and worked "double-day" shifts—one at the plant and one at home.

Still, there was some resistance to women going to work in such a male-dominated environment. In order

to recruit women for factory jobs, the government created a propaganda campaign centered on a nowiconic

figure known as Rosie the Riveter (Figure 27.11). Rosie, who was a composite based on several

real women, was most famously depicted by American illustrator Norman Rockwell. Rosie was tough yet

feminine. To reassure men that the demands of war would not make women too masculine, some factories

gave female employees lessons in how to apply makeup, and cosmetics were never rationed during the

war. Elizabeth Arden even created a special red lipstick for use by women reservists in the Marine Corps.

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Chapter 27 | Fighting the Good Fight in World War II, 1941-1945 801

Figure 27.11 "Rosie the Riveter" became a generic term for all women working in the defense industry. Although the

Rosie depicted on posters was white, many of the real Rosies were African American, such as this woman who

poses atop an airplane at the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, California (a), and Anna Bland, a worker at

the Richmond Shipyards (b).

Although many saw the entry of women into the workforce as a positive thing, they also acknowledged

that working women, especially mothers, faced great challenges. To try to address the dual role of women

as workers and mothers, Eleanor Roosevelt urged her husband to approve the first U.S. government

childcare facilities under the Community Facilities Act of 1942. Eventually, seven centers, servicing 105,000

children, were built. The First Lady also urged industry leaders like Henry Kaiser to build model childcare

facilities for their workers. Still, these efforts did not meet the full need for childcare for working mothers.

The lack of childcare facilities meant that many children had to fend for themselves after school, and some

had to assume responsibility for housework and the care of younger siblings. Some mothers took younger

children to work with them and left them locked in their cars during the workday. Police and social

workers also reported an increase in juvenile delinquency during the war. New York City saw its average

number of juvenile cases balloon from 9,500 in the prewar years to 11,200 during the war. In San Diego,

delinquency rates for girls, including sexual misbehavior, shot up by 355 percent. It is unclear whether

more juveniles were actually engaging in delinquent behavior; the police may simply have become more

vigilant during wartime and arrested youngsters for activities that would have gone overlooked before

the war. In any event, law enforcement and juvenile courts attributed the perceived increase to a lack of

supervision by working mothers.

Tens of thousands of women served in the war effort more directly. Approximately 350,000 joined the

military. They worked as nurses, drove trucks, repaired airplanes, and performed clerical work to free up

men for combat. Those who joined the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) flew planes from the

factories to military bases. Some of these women were killed in combat and captured as prisoners of war.

Over sixteen hundred of the women nurses received various decorations for courage under fire. Many

women also flocked to work in a variety of civil service jobs. Others worked as chemists and engineers,

developing weapons for the war. This included thousands of women who were recruited to work on the

Manhattan Project, developing the atomic bomb.


During the Great Depression, movies had served as a welcome diversion from the difficulties of everyday

life, and during the war, this held still truer. By 1941, there were more movie theaters than banks in

the United States. In the 1930s, newsreels, which were shown in movie theaters before feature films,

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had informed the American public of what was happening elsewhere in the world. This interest grew

once American armies began to engage the enemy. Many informational documentaries about the war

were also shown in movie theaters. The most famous were those in the Why We Fight series, filmed by

Hollywood director Frank Capra. During the war, Americans flocked to the movies not only to learn what

was happening to the troops overseas but also to be distracted from the fears and hardships of wartime by

cartoons, dramas, and comedies. By 1945, movie attendance had reached an all-time high.

This link shows newsreel footage of a raid (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15Tarawa)

on Tarawa Island. This footage was shown in movie theaters around the country.

Many feature films were patriotic stories that showed the day's biggest stars as soldiers fighting the

nefarious German and Japanese enemy. During the war years, there was a consistent supply of patriotic

movies, with actors glorifying and inspiring America's fighting men. John Wayne, who had become a star

in the 1930s, appeared in many war-themed movies, including The Fighting Seabees and Back to Bataan.

Besides appearing in patriotic movies, many male entertainers temporarily gave up their careers to serve in

the armed forces (Figure 27.12). Jimmy Stewart served in the Army Air Force and appeared in a short film

entitled Winning Your Wings that encouraged young men to enlist. Tyrone Power joined the U.S. Marines.

Female entertainers did their part as well. Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich entertained the troops.

African American singer and dancer Josephine Baker entertained Allied troops in North Africa and also

carried secret messages for the French Resistance. Actress Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash

while returning home from a rally where she had sold war bonds.

Figure 27.12 General George Marshall awards Frank Capra the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 (a), in

recognition of the important contribution that Capra's films made to the war effort. Jimmy Stewart was awarded

numerous commendations for his military service, including the French Croix de Guerre (b).

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Chapter 27 | Fighting the Good Fight in World War II, 1941-1945 803


The Meaning of Democracy

E. B. White was one of the most famous writers of the twentieth century. During the 1940s, he was

known for the articles that he contributed to The New Yorker and the column that he wrote for Harper's

Magazine. Today, he is remembered for his children's books Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web, and for

his collaboration with William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, a guide to writing. In 1943, he wrote a

definition of democracy as an example of what Americans hoped that they were fighting for.

We received a letter from the Writer's War Board the other day asking for a statement on 'The

Meaning of Democracy.' It presumably is our duty to comply with such a request, and it is

certainly our pleasure. Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms

on the right. It is the 'don't' in don't shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the

sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that

more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in

the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere.

Democracy is a letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It

is an idea that hasn't been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It

is the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request

from a War Board, in the middle of the morning in the middle of a war, wanting to know what

democracy is.

Do you agree with this definition of democracy? Would you change anything to make it more



The need for Americans to come together, whether in Hollywood, the defense industries, or the military, to

support the war effort encouraged feelings of unity among the American population. However, the desire

for unity did not always mean that Americans of color were treated as equals or even tolerated, despite

their proclamations of patriotism and their willingness to join in the effort to defeat America's enemies

in Europe and Asia. For African Americans, Mexican Americans, and especially for Japanese Americans,

feelings of patriotism and willingness to serve one's country both at home and abroad was not enough to

guarantee equal treatment by white Americans or to prevent the U.S. government from regarding them as

the enemy.

African Americans and Double V

The African American community had, at the outset of the war, forged some promising relationships

with the Roosevelt administration through civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune and Roosevelt's

"Black Cabinet" of African American advisors. Through the intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt, Bethune

was appointed to the advisory council set up by the War Department Women's Interest Section. In this

position, Bethune was able to organize the first officer candidate school for women and enable African

American women to become officers in the Women's Auxiliary Corps.

As the U.S. economy revived as a result of government defense contracts, African Americans wanted

to ensure that their service to the country earned them better opportunities and more equal treatment.

Accordingly, in 1942, after African American labor leader A. Philip Randolph pressured Roosevelt with a

threatened "March on Washington," the president created, by Executive Order 8802, the Fair Employment

Practices Committee. The purpose of this committee was to see that there was no discrimination in

the defense industries. While they were effective in forcing defense contractors, such as the DuPont

Corporation, to hire African Americans, they were not able to force corporations to place African

Americans in well-paid positions. For example, at DuPont's plutonium production plant in Hanford,

Washington, African Americans were hired as low-paid construction workers but not as laboratory

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During the war, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded by James Farmer in 1942, used peaceful

civil disobedience in the form of sit-ins to desegregate certain public spaces in Washington, DC, and

elsewhere, as its contribution to the war effort. Members of CORE sought support for their movement

by stating that one of their goals was to deprive the enemy of the ability to generate anti-American

propaganda by accusing the United States of racism. After all, they argued, if the United States were going

to denounce Germany and Japan for abusing human rights, the country should itself be as exemplary

as possible. Indeed, CORE's actions were in keeping with the goals of the Double V campaign that was

begun in 1942 by the Pittsburgh Courier, the largest African American newspaper at the time (Figure

27.13). The campaign called upon African Americans to accomplish the two "Vs": victory over America's

foreign enemies and victory over racism in the United States.

Figure 27.13 During World War II, African Americans volunteered for government work just as white Americans did.

These Washington, DC, residents have become civil defense workers as part of the Double V campaign that called

for victory at home and abroad.

Despite the willingness of African Americans to fight for the United States, racial tensions often erupted

in violence, as the geographic relocation necessitated by the war brought African Americans into closer

contact with whites. There were race riots in Detroit, Harlem, and Beaumont, Texas, in which white

residents responded with sometimes deadly violence to their new black coworkers or neighbors. There

were also racial incidents at or near several military bases in the South. Incidents of African American

soldiers being harassed or assaulted occurred at Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Jackson, South Carolina;

Alexandria, Louisiana; Fayetteville, Arkansas; and Tampa, Florida. African American leaders such as

James Farmer and Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP since 1931, were asked by General

Eisenhower to investigate complaints of the mistreatment of African American servicemen while on active

duty. They prepared a fourteen-point memorandum on how to improve conditions for African Americans

in the service, sowing some of the seeds of the postwar civil rights movement during the war years.

The Zoot Suit Riots

Mexican Americans also encountered racial prejudice. The Mexican American population in Southern

California grew during World War II due to the increased use of Mexican agricultural workers in the fields

to replace the white workers who had left for better paying jobs in the defense industries. The United States

and Mexican governments instituted the "bracero" program on August 4, 1942, which sought to address

the needs of California growers for manual labor to increase food production during wartime. The result

was the immigration of thousands of impoverished Mexicans into the United States to work as braceros, or

manual laborers.

Forced by racial discrimination to live in the barrios of East Los Angeles, many Mexican American youths

Chapter 27 | Fighting the Good Fight in World War II, 1941-1945 805

sought to create their own identity and began to adopt a distinctive style of dress known as zoot suits,

which were also popular among many young African American men. The zoot suits, which required large

amounts of cloth to produce, violated wartime regulations that restricted the amount of cloth that could be

used in civilian garments. Among the charges leveled at young Mexican Americans was that they were un-

American and unpatriotic; wearing zoot suits was seen as evidence of this. Many native-born Americans

also denounced Mexican American men for being unwilling to serve in the military, even though some

350,000 Mexican Americans either volunteered to serve or were drafted into the armed services. In the

summer of 1943, "zoot-suit riots" occurred in Los Angeles when carloads of white sailors, encouraged by

other white civilians, stripped and beat a group of young men wearing the distinctive form of dress. In

retaliation, young Mexican American men attacked and beat up sailors. The response was swift and severe,

as sailors and civilians went on a spree attacking young Mexican Americans on the streets, in bars, and in

movie theaters. More than one hundred people were injured.


Japanese Americans also suffered from discrimination. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor unleashed a

cascade of racist assumptions about Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans in the United States that

culminated in the relocation and internment of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, 66 percent of whom

had been born in the United States. Executive Order 9066, signed by Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, gave

the army power to remove people from "military areas" to prevent sabotage or espionage. The army then

used this authority to relocate people of Japanese ancestry living along the Pacific coast of Washington,

Oregon, and California, as well as in parts of Arizona, to internment camps in the American interior.

Although a study commissioned earlier by Roosevelt indicated that there was little danger of disloyalty on

the part of West Coast Japanese, fears of sabotage, perhaps spurred by the attempted rescue of a Japanese

airman shot down at Pearl Harbor by Japanese living in Hawaii, and racist sentiments led Roosevelt to

act. Ironically, Japanese in Hawaii were not interned. Although characterized afterwards as America's

worst wartime mistake by Eugene V. Rostow in the September 1945 edition of Harper's Magazine, the

government's actions were in keeping with decades of anti-Asian sentiment on the West Coast.

After the order went into effect, Lt. General John L. DeWitt, in charge of the Western Defense command,

ordered approximately 127,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans—roughly 90 percent of those of

Japanese ethnicity living in the United States—to assembly centers where they were transferred to hastily

prepared camps in the interior of California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arkansas

(Figure 27.14). Those who were sent to the camps reported that the experience was deeply traumatic.

Families were sometimes separated. People could only bring a few of their belongings and had to abandon

the rest of their possessions. The camps themselves were dismal and overcrowded. Despite the hardships,

the Japanese attempted to build communities in the camps and resume "normal" life. Adults participated

in camp government and worked at a variety of jobs. Children attended school, played basketball against

local teams, and organized Boy Scout units. Nevertheless, they were imprisoned, and minor infractions,

such as wandering too near the camp gate or barbed wire fences while on an evening stroll, could meet

with severe consequences. Some sixteen thousand Germans, including some from Latin America, and

German Americans were also placed in internment camps, as were 2,373 persons of Italian ancestry.

However, unlike the case with Japanese Americans, they represented only a tiny percentage of the

members of these ethnic groups living in the country. Most of these people were innocent of any

wrongdoing, but some Germans were members of the Nazi party. No interned Japanese Americans were

found guilty of sabotage or espionage.

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Figure 27.14 Japanese Americans standing in line in front of a poster detailing internment orders in California.

Despite being singled out for special treatment, many Japanese Americans sought to enlist, but draft

boards commonly classified them as 4-C: undesirable aliens. However, as the war ground on, some were

reclassified as eligible for service. In total, nearly thirty-three thousand Japanese Americans served in the

military during the war. Of particular note was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, nicknamed the "Go

For Broke," which finished the war as the most decorated unit in U.S. military history given its size and

length of service. While their successes, and the successes of the African American pilots, were lauded,

the country and the military still struggled to contend with its own racial tensions, even as the soldiers in

Europe faced the brutality of Nazi Germany.

This U.S. government propaganda film (http://openstaxcollege.org/l/15Tarawa)

attempts to explain why the Japanese were interned.

27.3 Victory in the European Theater

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

• Identify the major battles of the European theater

• Analyze the goals and results of the major wartime summit meetings

Despite the fact that a Japanese attack in the Pacific was the tripwire for America's entrance into the war,

Roosevelt had been concerned about Great Britain since the beginning of the Battle of Britain. Roosevelt

viewed Germany as the greater threat to freedom. Hence, he leaned towards a "Europe First" strategy,

even before the United States became an active belligerent. That meant that the United States would

concentrate the majority of its resources and energies in achieving a victory over Germany first and then

focus on defeating Japan. Within Europe, Churchill and Roosevelt were committed to saving Britain and

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Chapter 27 | Fighting the Good Fight in World War II, 1941-1945 807

acted with this goal in mind, often ignoring the needs of the Soviet Union. As Roosevelt imagined an

"empire-free" postwar world, in keeping with the goals of the Atlantic Charter, he could also envision the

United States becoming the preeminent world power economically, politically, and militarily.


Franklin Roosevelt entered World War II with an eye toward a new postwar world, one where the United

States would succeed Britain as the leader of Western capitalist democracies, replacing the old British

imperial system with one based on free trade and decolonization. The goals of the Atlantic Charter had

explicitly included self-determination, self-government, and free trade. In 1941, although Roosevelt had

yet to meet Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, he had confidence that he could forge a positive relationship

with him, a confidence that Churchill believed was born of naiveté. These allied leaders, known as the Big

Three, thrown together by the necessity to defeat common enemies, took steps towards working in concert

despite their differences.

Through a series of wartime conferences, Roos

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