The Road to War While the Depression was taking place world wide, so was the prospect of war.
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Dissention in Europe had brought about many changes in the social/political scene. Fall out from WWI, the Great Depression, and the immigrant problem within the European countries forced the established governments to deal with these problems or be voted out.
Since WWI, most of the European countries, except Russia, were some form of Democracy, Germany, France, Spain, England, etc.
Many of the countries that were forced to pay reparations were unable to due to the Depression. This caused many of the “loans” given by US banks & private citizens to fall through. England & France stated they could only pay the US when they received reparation payments from Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, etc.
Most of these countries were already financially devastated before the Depression.
Government officials were elected by popular vote.
A young, WWI veteran, Adolf Hitler, began his political career in the 1920’s. He was a failed artist, who was caught up in the anti-immigrant feelings that were very prominent in Germany. He slowly gets a small following of like-minded “thugs” that become known as the “Brown Shirts” ( later they would be called the SA). This is the fore runner of the SS.
They had the same agreements with Czech., Lithuania, etc., but left them high & dry.
The US had treaties with these nations also, did nothing about it. Abandoned Spain, Czech., etc.
But now England & France are in the war, what does the US do?
US considered it a “European War” & not our problem. Even though the US did sympathize with the western European democracies (those that were left). Plus the fear of the growing dictatorships threatened national security. But not enough to get the US actively involved.
The Neutrality Act of 1935 – outlawed the sale of weapons & ammo to countries that the Pres. deemed a state of war existed.
The US hoped to remain neutral at all costs. Increasing isolationist sentiment growing within the US
Dec. 12, 1937 – Japanese bombers attack & sink the USS Panay, an American gunboat, that was anchored on the Yangtze River. The Japanese apologized, claiming they thought it was a Chinese ship (it had been flying the US Flag). They made reparations, but animosity was growing against Japan & quickly.
The Ludlow Amendment – 1938 – would require a public referendum for a declaration of war, except when attacked. It did not pass, but came very close. An indication of how much the US wanted to stay out of the impending war.
The Neutrality Act of 1939 – England & France would be allowed to send ships to the US, & purchase any supplies (with CASH) that they needed. US ships were not allowed to dock at ports of countries that were at war. All of this was brought on by Germany’s invasion of Poland.
US opinion began to swing in favor of helping the Allies, & less isolationism.
May 10 – German troops take Belgium & the Netherlands, who were neutral.
May 21 – German forces now blocked the English Channel. At Dunkirk, the German Army blocked the retreat of English, French & Belgian forces. The English military “drafted” every ship in the area –literally- to try & get the men off the beaches. German tanks, artillery & infantry slaughtered 100,000’s. Only 388,000 made it to England.
Summer 1940 – the Royal Air Force (RAF) faced its greatest challenge to date. The German Luftwaffe (Air Force) launched a massive assault on England.
German bombers destroyed cities in England, completely eradicating sections of major cities.
The Canadian RAF & Australian Air Force, along with US volunteers, fought off the numerically & technologically superior Luftwaffe.
Had it not been for the new invention, RADAR, England would have lost.
Germany had to wait before invading England.
FDR & Winston Churchill had been in secret negotiations on ships located in the North Atlantic. At these meetings, later to be part of the Atlantic Charter, it was agreed that the US would give England destroyers in exchange for 99 yr. lease on naval & air bases in English colonies & territories. The 50 ships they received were pre-WWI vintage (some Spanish-American War) ships.
Sept. 16, 1940 – the 1st peace-time conscription. All men aged 21-35 had to register for a year’s military service stateside.
Internationalists – felt that the US national security demanded that we help England. The civilian counterpart were called The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, mainly located on the East & West coasts & in the South.
Isolationists – felt the US was being pulled into another needless war. Their civilian counterpart were called The America First Committee. Mainly located in the upper Mid-West, & had Herbert Hoover & Charles Lindbergh in their ranks.
Lend-Lease Program – Jan. 10, 1941, authorized the Pres. to sell, transfer, exchange, lend, lease, or otherwise dispose of arms & other equip. & supplies to any country whose defense the Pres. deems vital to the defense of the US.
Hitler was actually doing well, (at this point he could have won) until he got a little too greedy & made a costly mistake.
Aug. 1941 – Churchill & FDR met secretly off the coast of Newfoundland (have been since 1940).
This charter called for the self-determination of all people, equal access to raw materials, economic cooperation, freedom of the seas, & a system of general security. 15 nations backed the Charter, this will lay the groundwork for the United Nations.
Sept. 4, 1941 – U-Boats attack the USS Greer, a destroyer in the North Atlantic.
Sept. 11- 18, 1941, FDR issues orders for US Naval ships to “shoot on sight” any German or Italian ships of was in US defended waters. Also, that same week, the US Navy began to escort merchant ships to Iceland.
Oct. 17, 1941 – the USS Kearny is heavily damaged while attacking U-Boats.
Oct. 31, 1941 – the USS Reuben James is sank, killing 115 men.
The Japanese had moved themselves into several strategic positions in southeast Asia over the last 30 years. Rapidly becoming the dominant force in Asia & the Pacific.
After the French surrender, the Vichy government, a puppet government of French officials who have taken sides with Germany, Japan forced the Vichy to allow Japanese airfields to be built in French-Indochina, (Vietnam, Laos, & Cambodia).
Since Aug. 1941, the Japanese Premier, Fumimaro Konoye, & his ambassadors had been in talks with the US Sec. Of State Cordell Hull, concerning US & Japanese relations. Hull demanded the Japanese leave China in order to maintain good relations with the US. The Japanese Militarists were unwilling to do that. Konoye, wanted peace above all else, had to obey the Emperor & his ruling party, the Militarists.
But he still maintained talks with the US.
The opposite end of the scale for the Japanese government was the Japanese War Minister- Hideki Tojo. He felt that the Japanese should go to war & prove their superiority. He, as well as most of the high command, were descendants of the Samurai class, or of the Gunbatsu warlords that invaded China in the later 1800’s – early 1900’s.
They had a warrior tradition & felt anything less than battle was dishonorable.
Once again, Konoye & Tojo squared off. Tojo agreed to remove his troops from China over the next 25 years, if the US would stop helping China.
Konoye knew the US would not accept this. Oct. 15, 1941 – Premier Konoye resigned.
Oct. 16, 1941 – Tojo is made Premier & now the Militarists have full control of the Japanese Council.
Nov. 20, 1941 – a Japanese envoy met with FDR & Hull with Tojo’s plan. This is thought to be part of the attack plan. To keep the US occupied with peace talks, while the Japanese prepare to attack. The Plan stated that Japan would invade no more territory, if the US would stop helping China, restore trade relations & help Japan get supplies from the Dutch Indies. If so, Japan would pull out of Indochina immediately & slowly everywhere else as soon as peace was made with China.
That same day, the Japanese Navy left Japan, headed for Hawaii. Specifically for the key US Naval base in the Pacific – Pearl Harbor.
US & British forces in the Pacific & Asia knew the war was close. But they had no idea it was already headed towards them.
Most felt the Dutch & British Indies were the target, not the US.
Dec. 7, 1941 – that Sunday morning, Japanese planes were the first of the assault to hit Oahu, Hawaii. The Japanese had planned for a 3 pronged attack, hit the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor, the US Army post at Schofield Barracks, & the US Army Air Corps Bases at Wheeler & Hickham. Japanese bombers hit these targets as planned. Planes flew from the south & attacked Pearl Harbor & Hickham, and to get across the Kahuku mountain range to attack Schofield Barracks & Wheeler, the planes flew through Koli Koli Pass and attacked.
The Japanese attack, which lasted a little over 2 hours, sank 3 battleships & 16 other ships, but the aircraft carriers were already out to sea. The Army Air Corps, fearing sabotage, parked all the planes in small, easily guarded groups. Making it very easy for the Japanese bombers to destroy most of the planes.