America Moves Towards War

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					Yeam/Saxon/Sandt                                                                            WW2

America Moves Towards War
World War II officially began when German troops attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, and
two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. For more than two years the United
States debated its course of action. Most Americans held two contradictory positions. The
overwhelming majority supported the Allies. A 1939 poll showed that 84% wanted an Allied
victory, 2% supported the Nazis, and 14% had no opinion. Even so, most Americans did not
want to be drawn into another European war.

The 1940 Election
While the war expanded in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, the United States
prepared for the 1940 election. Would Roosevelt seek an unprecedented third term? The war in
Europe convinced him that he should run. The platforms of the Democratic and Republican
parties differed only slightly. Both pledged aid to the Allies but stopped short of calling for
American participation in the war. The 1940 election resulted in a 55% of the popular vote and
an even more lopsided victory in the Electoral College for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Lend-Lease Act
With the election behind him, Roosevelt concentrated on persuading the American people to
increase aid to Britain, whose survival he viewed as the key to American security. In November
1939 FDR had won a bitter battle in Congress to amend the Neutrality Act of 1935 to allow the
Allies to buy weapons from the United States – but only on the cash-and-carry basis established
for nonmilitary goods in 1937. In March 1941, with German submarines sinking British ships
more rapidly than they could be replaced, and Britain no longer able to afford to pay cash or
arms, Roosevelt convinced congress to pass the Lend-Lease Act. The legislation authorized the
president to “lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of” arms and other equipment to any country
whose defense was considered vital to the security of the United States. In a press conference
designed to build popular support for the plan, Roosevelt had used the analogy of lending a
neighbor a garden hose to put out a fire: “I don‟t say to him, …„Neighbor, my garden hose cost
me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.‟ … I don‟t want $15 – I want my garden hose back after
the fire is over.” To administer the program, Roosevelt turned to the former relief administrator
Harry Hopkins, who became one of his most trusted advisors during the war years. After
Germany invaded the soviet Union in June 1941, the United States extended lend-lease to the
Soviet Union, which became part of the Allied coalition.

In his State of the Union address to Congress in January 1941, Roosevelt had connected lend-
lease to the defense of democracy at home as well as in Europe. He spoke abut what he called
“four essential human freedoms everywhere in the world” – freedom of speech and expression,
freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Although Roosevelt avoided
stating explicitly that America had to enter the war to protect those freedoms, he intended to
justify exactly that, for he now regarded US participation as inevitable. And, indeed, the
implementation of lend-lease marked the unofficial entrance of the United States into the
European war.
   Yeam/Saxon/Sandt                                                                             WW2

   The Atlantic Charter
   The United States became even more involved in August 1941, when Roosevelt and the British
   Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, conferred secretly aboard a battleship off the Newfoundland
   coast to discuss goals and military strategy. It was the first time the two world leaders had met.
   Their joint press release, which became known as the Atlantic Charter, provided the ideological
   foundation of the Western cause and of the peace to follow. Like Wilson‟s Fourteen Points, the
   charter called for postwar economic collaboration and guarantees of political stability to ensure
   that “all men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.” The
   charter also supported free trade, national self-determination, and the principle of collective

   As in World War I, when Americans started supplying the Allies, Germany attacked American
   and Allied ships. By September 1941 Nazi submarines and American vessels were fighting an
   undeclared naval war in the Atlantic, unknown to the American public. Without an actual enemy
   attack, however, Roosevelt still hesitated to ask Congress for a declaration of war.

   Research the answers to the questions that correspond with the timeline along the left.

1939   Congress passes Neutrality Act          1. What did the Neutrality Act allow?

1940   Axis powers form alliance.              2. Who were the Axis powers? What did their alliance
                                               mean for the United States?

1941   Congress passes Lend-Lease Act          3. What did the Lend-Lease Act do?

       Germany invades USSR.

       Japan takes over French military
       bases in Indochina.

       Congress extends the draft.             4. What did the United States do to protest Japan‟s action?

       Churchill and Roosevelt draft the
Yeam/Saxon/Sandt                                                                         WW2

   Atlantic Charter.

   “A Declaration by the United          5. What pledges were contained in the Atlantic Charter?
   Nations” is signed by the Allies.

   Hideki Tojo becomes Japan‟s prime

   US Senate allows arming of
   merchant ships.
                                         6. Who were the Allies?
   Japan launches a surprise attack on
   Pearl Harbor.

   As US declares war on Japan,
   Germany, and Italy declare war on

                                         7. What did the attack do to the US Pacific fleet?

                                         8. Why did Germany and Italy declare war on the United