1 World War II World War II was fought from 1939 until 1945 in Europe, East Asia, North Africa, and in many places throughout the Pacific Ocean. It was caused by Germany's imperialistic desire for more territory. The war officially began with the invasion of Poland by German troops in Important events during World War II include the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, D Day, VE Day, and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. Invasion of Poland In years before World War II, Germany's leader, Adolf Hitler, wanted his country to control more land. To this end, Hitler pursued a policy of territorial aggression during the late 1930s. Examples of German aggression included the re militarization of the Rhineland, the annexation of Austria, and the occupation of Czechoslovakia. At first, Hitler's actions were met with very little resistance by other nations because world leaders wanted to avoid another world war. This policy is often referred to as appeasement. Following the invasion of Czechoslovakia, world leaders began to understand that the policy of appeasement had failed. The French and British agreed to enter into an alliance with Poland, the country which seemed to be the next likely target of Germany's expansionist aims. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, On September 3, both Great Britain and France declared war on Germany in retaliation. The Blitz and the Battle of Britain The term "the Blitz," a shortened form of the German word "Blitzkrieg" (lightning war), commonly refers to the bombing of Great Britain by Nazi Germany during World War II. This period was part of the larger Battle of Britain, or the effort by the German Air Force (the Luftwaffe) to gain air superiority over the British Royal Air Force (RAF) during the summer and fall of Ultimately, Nazi Germany desired control of British airspace in order to launch Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious and airborne invasion of Great Britain. The video below shows a newsreel clip from the aftermath of one of the many bombings of London in The RAF utilized a new technology, radar (radio detection and ranging), in order to increase air defense capabilities. The British used radar to detect incoming air attacks, allowing planes from the RAF to take off in order to defend Britain's airspace before German planes were even visible to the naked eye. As a result, the Germans took heavy casualties, and by early 1941, the invasion of Great Britain was postponed indefinitely. Operation Barbarossa In June of 1941, Hitler broke the non aggression pact with the Soviets by invading the U.S.S.R. in a campaign known as Operation Barbarossa. Though the Germans were initially successful in conquering large areas of the Soviet territory, the Red Army did not collapse as Hitler had believed they would. Additionally, the onset of the harsh Russian winter slowed the German advance almost to a halt. This delay allowed the Red Army time to regroup. Though the Germans were successful in reaching
2 the outer limits of Moscow, the Soviet capital, they were then turned back by the Red Army and eventually forced to retreat. Operation Barbarossa changed the scope of World War II for Germany because it resulted in the opening of second front in Eastern Europe. This move went against Hitler's earlier stated aims of wanting to avoid the mistakes of the Germans in World War I, most notably having to fight a two front war. Pearl Harbor Prior to the beginning of World War II, tensions had built between the United States and Japan due to Japanese territorial aggression in China and the Pacific. In 1940, the Japanese entered World War II on the side of Nazi Germany. In early 1941, the U.S. ceased exporting oil to Japan, an action meant as a punitive measure and one that further escalated tensions between the two countries. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese had hoped to destroy the U.S. Navy with the attack but failed to do so. The next day, on December 8, 1941, the U.S. declared war on Japan and entered World War II. Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7, 1941 a date which will live in infamy the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire. President Roosevelt's Speech to Joint Session of Congress, December 8, 1941 The picture used here is a famous image from the attack of Pearl Harbor. It shows a burning U.S. naval vessel, the U.S.S. West Virginia. The Battle of Midway The Battle of Midway was a naval battle fought from June 4 7, 1942, near the Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The battle began as a Japanese attack on United States forces in an attempt to cripple the
3 power of the U.S. in the Pacific. Though the battle ended in heavy losses on both sides, it was a major victory for the United States and has been called the turning point of the war in the Pacific. The Battle of Stalingrad The Battle of Stalingrad was an important event during World War II for a number of reasons. Fought from July 17, 1942, until February 2, 1943, the Soviet victory during the battle made it a major turning point of the war because of its devastating effect on the German Army. Many historians believe the Germans were never able to recover following the battle, and the weakening of the German forces allowed the Allies to successfully invade Western Europe in The battle was also the bloodiest in human history, with over 1.5 million combined casualties. D Day On June 6, 1944, the Allied forces landed on the beaches in Normandy, France, marking the beginning of Operation Overlord. Also known as D Day, Operation Overlord was the code name for the invasion of Western Europe by the Allies in their campaign to liberate Europe from the Nazis. The invasion at Normandy was one of the largest amphibious assaults ever conducted and was an important point in the war. Many historians call D Day the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. The picture used here is a famous image taken from the one of the five main landing points, code named Omaha Beach. Omaha Beach saw some of the worst casualties of the D Day invasion. The Battle of the Bulge The Battle of the Bulge, initially known as the Ardennes Offensive, began on December 16, The battle was a major campaign launched by the Germans through the Ardennes Mountains in an attempt to defeat the Allies on the Western Front. Hitler believed that Allied troops were not very powerful in Western Europe, and a major offensive would cause their alliance to fall apart. In reality, the battle became the last major German offensive. With the German Army greatly weakened after the failed attack, the Allied forces were able to push further into Europe and re take conquered land.
4 Battle of Iwo Jima The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought from February to March of 1945 on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. Some of the worst fighting of World War II occurred during this battle, with approximately 6,000 American soldiers killed and another 19,000 injured. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers fighting on the island, approximately 20,000 were killed during the battle. The picture used here shows American soldiers raising a flag over the island during the battle. VE Day Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945, which has become known as VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day. This day only marked the end of the European side of the war, however, and the war continued against Imperial Japan in the Pacific. Battle of Okinawa The Battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, was fought from March to June of 1945 on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The battle is well known for being the largest amphibious assault of the Pacific Theater as well as having some of the highest casualties of any battle of World War II. During the battle, approximately 100,000 Japanese soldiers were killed. Casualties for the Americans totaled nearly 50,000 with approximately 12,000 soldiers killed in action. Though World War II began in September of 1939, the United States did not officially enter the fight until December of 1941.Before this time, despite stating an official policy of neutrality, the United States in fact helped the Allied Powers Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China by lending money and supplies needed for the war effort. The lesson below explains the domestic impact of World War II in more detail. Isolationism Isolationism can be defined as a policy in which a nation refrains from getting involved in military alliances, as well as the belief that a nation should avoid all wars that do not include territorial selfdefense. The United States followed a policy of isolationism after World War I. During the 1930s, the United States passed a series of laws called the Neutrality Acts that were based on this policy. These laws were partially a response to growing conflicts in the countries of Europe and Asia that eventually led to the outbreak of World War II. The Neutrality Acts of 1935 prohibited American trade with any nation that was participating in a war. In 1937 and 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt convinced Congress to pass new laws that
5 allowed the U.S. to trade with other nations that paid cash and transported their own goods, an idea known as the "cash and carry" clause. On October 5, 1937, President Roosevelt gave a speech known as the Quarantine Speech. In this speech, Roosevelt called for an international "quarantine of the aggressor nations" and expressed a desire to end the isolationist policies that had existed since the end of World War I. The Lend Lease Act By 1941 Great Britain could no longer afford to follow the cash and carry method. Great Britain was running out of money, and President Roosevelt was determined to help the British effort. He asked Congress to enact a policy that would allow the U.S. to give, lease, lend, or sell war supplies to countries fighting in the war. The Lend Lease Act of 1941 was a piece of federal legislation that allowed the United States to give aid to countries fighting in World War II. When the act was passed, the United States was not yet fighting in the war, but many people in the country believed the U.S. should help the war effort in some way. Fireside Chats President Roosevelt utilized available media to comfort the nation during a difficult time. Beginning during the years of the Great Depression, Roosevelt broadcast a series of 37 radio speeches, known as the "fireside chats," between 1933 and 1944 in order to keep the nation informed on a variety of topics. For example, on Tuesday, December 9, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt gave a radio speech regarding the declaration of war on Japan and the U.S. entry into World War II. "Germany First" Shortly after the United States entered the war, Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met at the Arcadia Conference in Washington, D.C. At this conference, the two leaders agreed on a strategy known as "Germany First." Both leaders felt that Germany was the primary target, and the war efforts of both countries should be focused on the European Theater. This meant that Japan and the Pacific Theater would take on a secondary importance. Four Freedoms
6 On January 6, 1941, President Roosevelt gave his famous "Four Freedoms" speech during the 1941 State of the Union Address. In the speech, Roosevelt stated all human beings have a right to four basic freedoms. These include: the freedom of speech the freedom of religion the freedom from want the freedom from fear Historians believe this speech was meant to help increase support for U.S. involvement in World War II. It was later embraced by the United Nations, which based the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the freedoms. The image below is a poster from World War II. The original painting was created by artist Norman Rockwell and was based on Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech. The United States Office of War Information used the image as part of its propaganda campaign. Economic Impacts Entry into the war in 1941 pulled the United States economy out of thegreat Depression. Though government spending during the New Deal of the 1930s helped the economy, it could not compare with the massive flow of spending that started as soon as the United States entered the war. The United States began to ration supplies such as gasoline, nylon, rubber, meat, butter, and many food products in order to conserve these items for the war effort. Factories switched from production of consumer goods to production of military goods. Many women entered the workforce for the first time, taking over jobs left vacant by enlisted men who were fighting overseas.
7 "Rosie the Riveter" (pictured below) is a World War II era icon. She symbolizes the millions of American women who worked in heavy industry during this time. Executive Order 8802 On June 25, 1941, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, which prohibited racial discrimination in war related industries. This order was largely in response to pressures from activists such as A. Philip Randolph. Randolph was a civil rights leader who worked to end racial discrimination in the war industries and the armed services. 442nd Regimental Combat Team The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was a highly decorated unit that fought in Europe during World War II and was composed entirely of Japanese Americans. For its size and time in combat, the group is the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Tuskegee Airmen The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II. Established in 1941, they were placed under the command of Benjamin O. Davis, one of the few African Americans who had graduated from West Point at that time. The group was known for having an excellent combat record, but their crowning achievement was their near perfect record escorting bombers and other airborne military missions. The Tuskegee Airmen were active until Navajo Code Talkers Sending messages of military intelligence that could not be broken by the enemy during World War II became increasingly difficult, especially in the Pacific Theater. By 1942, the Allied Powers had yet to create a code for sending messages that could not be broken by the Japanese military. The codes became increasingly complex and therefore more difficult for Allied field units to decode. A single message could take upwards of 2 hours of decoding, costing precious time to troops in the
8 field. Because of this, many Allied military leaders argued that a better way to communicate needed to be devised. Phillip Johnston, a civilian living in California who had grown up on the Navajo reservation, approached the U.S. military with a proposition. Because the Navajo language has no alphabet and was almost impossible to master without early exposure, it had great potential to be shaped into an indecipherable code. In 1942, members of the Navajo tribe were enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps to be trained to head out into the field. Known as the Navajo Code Talkers, this group would work in the field as interpreters of the code. The code started with approximately 200 words, growing to 600 by the end of the war, and took Navajo words to represent military terms that they resembled. For example, the Navajo word for "turtle" was used to represent a tank. The code talkers were not allowed to write any part of the code down as a reference and had to rapidly recall every word even while in the field. The code talkers were able to decipher a code in 20 seconds, when the same code would have taken a coding machine over 30 minutes to decipher. The Navajo code to this day remains perhaps the only military code in history that was indecipherable to enemy intelligence. Internment Even before the United States entered World War II, anti foreign sentiments ran high throughout the country. Because of this, Italian Americans and German Americans were faced with persecution early in the war. Similar to the later internment of Japanese Americans, around 11,000 German Americans and a few hundred Italian Americans were placed in internment camps during the war. Unlike the small Japanese American population, however, the population of German and Italian Americans was very large, which meant the U.S. government was unable to send all German and Italian Americans to internment camps. Fearful of another attack by the Japanese on the West Coast, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942.This order established military zones that restricted residence within these areas. Though the government gave no explicit instructions to restrict a specific group of people, many American officials questioned the loyalty of Japanese Americans to the United States. The Executive Order was therefore used to restrict Japanese Americans from the West Coast and, as a result, the United States government placed many Japanese Americans into "War Relocation Camps" until the war was over. Approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans were placed in the 10 camps created throughout the country. This process is usually referred to as Japanese American internment. Internment was upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of Korematsu v. United States. The development of the atomic bombs at the end of World War II has been a heated topic in the years since the war. The following lesson describes the development and use of the atomic bombs and discusses a small part of the controversy surrounding their deployment at the end of the war. Developing the Atomic Bombs On August 2, 1939, prominent scientist Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt warning about the implications of the development of nuclear technology. In the letter, Einstein stated that extremely powerful bombs could be constructed from radioactive elements like uranium and that German scientists were already working on developing such a weapon.
9 One main result of the letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt was the establishment of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The Manhattan Project, led by theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, was given the task of developing the world's first atomic bomb. Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki The Potsdam Declaration was issued on July 26, 1945, and called for the immediate, unconditional surrender of Japanese forces. The language of the declaration was harsh, stating that Japan must surrender unconditionally or face "prompt and utter destruction." Japanese leaders refused to acknowledge the declaration. On August 6th and 9th, the only atomic bombs ever used in warfare were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects of the bombs were devastating. More than 70,000 people died in Hiroshima and another 75,000 died in Nagasaki. Both cities were almost completely destroyed, and more people later died due to the effects of radiation poisoning. Six days after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers. August 15, 1945, also known as Victory over Japan Day, marked the official end of World War II. Controversy President Harry S. Truman, along with other Allied leaders, made the decision to drop the bombs because of the belief that their use would force the Japanese to surrender quickly. Above all else, Truman and the Allied leaders wanted to avoid an invasion of the Japanese home islands at all costs, though the planning of such an invasion was already underway. This operation, code named Operation Downfall, was predicted to cause as many as a million casualties for the Allies and an even higher number for the Japanese. A controversy sprang up almost immediately after the atomic bombs were dropped. Those against the use of the atomic bombs at the end of World War II stated that the bombs were militarily unnecessary. People who supported this argument believed Japan would have surrendered eventually even without the use of the bombs.