World War 2


When war broke out, there was no way the world could possibly know the
severity of this guerre. Fortunately one country saw and understood that Germany
and its allies would have to be stopped. America’s Involvement in World War
two not only contributed in the eventual downfall of the insane Adolph Hitler
and his Third Reich, but also came at the precise time and moment. Had the

United States entered the war any earlier the consequences might have been
worse. Over the years it has been an often heated and debated issue on whether
the United States could have entered the war sooner and thus have saved many
lives. To try to understand this we must look both at the people’s and
government’s point of view. Just after war broke out in Europe, President

Roosevelt hurriedly called his cabinet and military advisors together. There it
was agreed that the united states stay neutral in these affairs. One of the
reasons given was that unless America was directly threatened they had no reason
to be involved. This reason was a valid one because it was the American policy
to stay neutral in any affairs not having to with them unless American soil was
threatened directly. Thus the provisional neutrality act passed the senate by
seventy-nine votes to two in 1935. On August 31, Roosevelt signed it into law.

In 1936 the law was renewed, and in 1937 a "comprehensive and permanent"
neutrality act was passed (Overy 259). The desire to avoid "foreign
entanglements" of all kinds had been an American foreign policy for more than
a century. A very real "geographical Isolation" permitted the United States
to "fill up the empty lands of North America free from the threat of foreign
conflict"(Churchill 563). Even if Roosevelt had wanted to do more in this

European crisis (which he did not), there was a factor too often ignored by
critics of American policy-American military weakness. When asked to evaluate
how many troops were available if and when the United States would get involved,
the army could only gather a mere one hundred thousand, when the French, Russian
and Japanese armies numbered in millions. Its weapons dated from the First World

War and were no match compared to the new artillery that Germany and its allies
had. "American soldiers were more at home with the horse than with the tank"

The air force was just as bad if not worse. In September 1939 the Air Corps had
only 800 combat aircraft again compared with Germany’s 3600 and Russia’s

10,000. American military Aviation (AMA) in 1938 was able to produce only 1,800,

300 less than Germany, and 1,400 less than Japan. Major Eisenhower, who was
later Supreme commander of the Allied forces in the second World War, complained
that America was left with "only a shell of military establishment" (Chapman

234). As was evident to Roosevelt the United States military was in no way
prepared to enter this European crisis. Another aspect that we have to consider
is the people’s views and thought’s regarding the United States going to
war. After all let us not forget that the American government is there "for
the people and by the people" and therefore the people’s view did play a
major role in this declaration of Neutrality. In one of Roosevelt’s fireside
chats he said "We shun political commitments which might entangle us In
foreign wars...If we face the choice of profits or peace-this nation must
answer, the nation will answer ‘we choose peace’ ", in which they did. A
poll taken in 1939 revealed that ninety-four per cent of the citizens did not
want the United States to enter the war. The shock of World War one had still
not left, and entering a new war, they felt, would be foolish. In the early
stages of the war American Ambassador to London was quoted saying "It’s the
end of the world, the end of everything" ( Overy 261). As Richard Overy notes
in The Road to War, this growing "estrangement" from Europe was not mere
selfishness. They were the values expressed by secretary of state, Cordel Hull:

"a primary interest in peace with justice, in economic well-being with
stability, and conditions of order under the law". These were principles here
on which most Americans (ninety-four percent as of 1939) agreed. To promote
these principles the United States would have to avoid all "foreign
entanglements", or as Overy puts it "any kind of alliance or association
outside the Western Hemisphere". Instead the United States should act as an
arbiter in world affairs, "encouraging peaceful change where necessary" and
most and for all discouraging aggression (Overy 263). Why risk going to war,
when it is contrary to American policy which most if not all Americans were in
agreement with and not mentioning the fact that the American military was in
shambles. Yet another factor that led to this decision of Neutrality by

President Roosevelt was the American Economy. The health of the American economy
could not be jeopardized, whatever was happening elsewhere. It was Roosevelt’s
view that the United States would fare well (economically speaking) whether

Europe went to war or not. "Gold was flowing in from Europe’s capitals;
orders were mounting daily for equipment and supplies of all kinds; America was
building a battleship for Stalin, aero-engines for France" (Overy 277). For
most of the 1930’s the United States traded as openly with Germany and Japan,
as it did with any other country. Japan relied on fuel oil and scrap iron until

1941. Germany was one of the United States’ "most important markets"
during the 1930’s. American investments in Germany increased by forty per cent
between 1936 and 1940 ( Wilson 291). America was steadily regaining the
prosperity that had diminished during World War 1. The real concern of American
business was not "the rights or wrongs of trading with fascism" but the fear
that commercial rivals such as Japan and Germany would exclude American goods
from Europe and Asia altogether (273). It is very easy to point and accuse the
united states of being selfish, but one has to understand that any negative
actions made would have resulted in the United States being almost if not
completely out of the economic race. Would the United States have been as
prosperous as it is today had they intervened any earlier? They probably would
have not because at that time in history America needed a boost to return to its
earlier status of being economically stable which Germany and its allies so
adequately provided. Therefore President Roosevelt was not about to go to war
with all axis powers thereby jeopardizing not only the safety of the American
people but also the American economy which was so essential to a large and
complex country that the United States was at the time. Unless American
interests were directly threatened, Roosevelt hesitated to "push the button"
( Churchill 542). On December 6, 1941 the Japanese Airforce led a surprise
attack on Pearl Harbor, completely eradicating the port. Finally President

Roosevelt could wait no longer. America was now involved and not going to war
would only endanger the United States more than it already was. On the following
day Roosevelt argued that the attack "had given us an opportunity". Congress
approved the declaration of war with only one dissenting voice. Eleanor

Roosevelt noted that the effect of the Japanese attack was "to release my
husband from months and pent-up tension and anxiety". Andrew Wheatcroft says
in his book The Road To War, " It is tempting to see Pearl Harbor as the
crisis that Roosevelt was waiting for and did nothing to prevent". America’s
most vital interest, defense of American soil, had been challenged. At last

America had to go to war and eventually bring an end to the rule of nazi

Germany. The Americans upon declaring its Neutrality, gave additional
encouragement to Japan and Germany to in a way "take over the world", and to

Nazify it. Hitler had convinced himself that America had declined in the

1930’s because of social crisis. This misconception also led Japan to confront
the United States in 1941. Had the United States entered the war any earlier or
later the consequences could have been much worse (If possible). Towards the end
of the war Walter Lippmann, A reporter for the Herald Tribune recalled his
experience: "When I attempt to compare the America in which I was reared with
the America of today, I am struck by how unconcerned I was as a young man with
the hard questions which are the subject matter of history. I did not think
about the security of the republic and how to defend it" . Franklin Delano

Roosevelt did think about the security of the republic and defended it
magnificently. Leading the United States every step of the way President

Roosevelt did a superior job in bringing America into war when he did. Evidently

America entered World War 2 at the precise time and moment to once and for all
take, down Adolph Hitler and the third Reich.