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  The History of America at War - Focus: WWII  
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When war broke out in Europe yet again, the U.S. was initially unwilling to once again go to war. Yet, failure of the post-WWI peace and the Great Depression combined to create a very strong isolationist sentiment in the U.S. Roosevelt also foresaw the great difficulties he would have in convincing the American public to commit men and money to the war effort.

The European portion of the Second World War was a direct result of two factors. First, an abusive "peace" imposed by the Treaty of Versailles made Germany susceptible to the rise of fascist powers. Secondly, France, Germany, and Russia had all lost an entire generation of their nation's youth in the first War. This immense loss made these countries very reluctant to resume making similar payments. This reluctance gave Adolph Hitler the opportunity to do what the Allies feared most--rearm Germany! By the time the Allies had generated the will to resist Germany, Hitler had already annexed Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. The occupation by force of Poland in September 1939 finally brought the formal declaration of war on Germany by Great Britain and France. Germany was joined via treaty agreements with Italy and Japan to form the Axis Powers. Opposing the Axis Powers were France, Great Britain, Russia, the United States, and numerous other nations (known as the Allied Powers).

In the Pacific region, Japan had continued her efforts to "grow" in the early 1930's by invading and occupying the Manchuria region of China. The U.S. strongly protested this aggression, and eventually began to use various means, primarily economic sanctions, to convince Japan to withdraw from China. Tensions continued to heighten until Japan, wanting to eliminate their only real military threat, initiated hostilities with the bombing of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at PearlHarbor on December 7, 1941.

By attacking Pearl Harbor Japan solved half of the President's problem. On December 8,1941, one day after the Pearl Harbor attack, the U.S. declared war on Japan. But what about Europe? How was FDR going to convince the American people to join the allies in Europe? Once again the enemy answered this question when three days after the U.S. declared war on Japan, Hitler declared war on the United States!

Unlike the other twentieth century wars, our reasons for becoming involved in the Second World War were quite clear. We had been attacked and were forced to retaliate. Eventually, our war aims were satisfied. Germany surrendered in May 1945. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons, Japan capitulated in August of the same year. However, once again, differing visions of what constitutes a better peace marked the beginning of a long “Cold War” between the Allies and the Soviet Union.