The Onset of War
A. Nazi Aggression and War in Europe
1. Australian Anschluss: America passively watched Hitler’s campaign dominate Europe.
In 1938, he bullied Austria into accepting incorporation into the Nazi Third Reich.
2. Appeasement: British P.M. Neville Chamberlain offered Hitler Sudetenland if he agreed
to leave the rest of Czechoslovakia alone. Hitler agreed then conquered Czechoslovakia
the following year.
3. Nazi-Soviet Alliance: Hitler negotiated with soviet premier Joseph Stalin offering
concessions in exchange for Stalin’s promise that he would refrain from joining Britain
and France in opposing Germany’s invasion of Poland.
4. Blitzkrieg: At dawn Sept. 1, 1939 Hitler unleashed the blitzkrieg on Poland then
Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and Netherlands, Luxembourg and France. Hitler now had a
European empire stretching from Poland to France.
5. Battle of Britain: New British P.M. Winston Churchill vowed that Britain, unlike France,
would never surrender to Hitler. U.K. bombarded but not defeated. Need help to hang
B. From Neutrality to the Arsenal of Democracy
1. Revising Neutrality: Congress revised the neutrality legislation in Nov ’39 to allow
belligerent nations to buy arms on a cash-and-carry basis. Churchill needed ships,
planes and guns but lacked funds. FDR devised scheme to swap fifty destroyers for
American access to British bases in the western hemispheres.
2. Lend-Lease Act: After winning a 3 term in ’40 FDR proclaimed that the US must
become “the great arsenal of democracy” In Jan. 1941 FDR proposed the Lend-
Lease Act which allowed the British to obtain arms from the US w/o paying cash,
instead promising to reimburse them when the war ended. FDR promised to protect
Four Freedoms throughout the world. [Freedom… of speech/expression, to worship
God in his own way, from want, and from fear…]
3. Hitler Attacks the Soviets: After failing to conquer UK Hitler launched a surprise attack
on the Soviet Union. Soviets joined the Allies.
4. Atlantic Charter: FDR and Churchill met in August of 1941 and signed the Atlantic
Charter, which called for freedom of the seas and the right of national self-determination.
C. Japan Attacks America
1. Japanese Imperialism: Japan wanted to rule over all of Asian and establish the Greater
East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. U.S. demanded they stop their aggressive behavior.
Japan refused and entered into a defensive alliance with Germany and Italy, the
Tripartite Pact. 2. Trade Embargo: U.S. discovered that Japan planned to invade Dutch East Indies and
announced a trade embargo that denied Japan access to materials essential for its war
3. Pearl Harbor: On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the American fleet at
Pearl Harbor (in Hawaii) and sank or disabled 18 ships, killing more than 2,400
Americans. On December 8, 1941 the United States declared war on Japan. On
December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on US. US fighting war on two fronts.
The Home Front
A. Building a Citizen Army:
Selective Service Act (1940) register men of military are who could be drafted into
military service. 2/3 of the more than 16 million men and women who served in uniform
during WWII were male draftees. Prohibited discrimination “on account of race or color.”
B. Conversion to a War Economy
1. War Production: Factories converted from producing consumer goods to war material,
and production was ramped up to record levels. In order to oversee military production,
FDR called upon business leaders to head new gov’t agencies.
2. Union Membership: Wartime employment swelled union membership. Federal gov’t
forced employers to recognize unions and asked unions not to strike.
3. Arsenal of Democracy: U.S. industry produced more than double the combined
production of Germany, Japan, and Italy. Thousands of aircraft, 100,000 armored
vehicles, and 2.5 million trucks rolled off American assembly lines.