Ari Rubin 4/20/07 Sweeney-9 Title “ To a greater or lesser extent, three factors were involved in explaining American entry into

WWII.” Assess the relative importance of the following factors in America’s decision to go to war. -National Security -Economic Factors -Democratic Values At the time of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, most Americans probably never imagined that in just over twenty years, the United States would be back in another foreign conflict, this time claiming the lives of over 400,000 American servicemen. The gruesome images and testimonies of soldier’s who experienced The Great War had the American public retreating into an isolationist mentality, and very turned off by the thought of war. These pacifist principles were further reinforced by the media, through novels such as All Quiet on the Western Front or Walter Millis’ America’s Road to War. As Hitler and the Nazis rose to power in Europe, and the possibility of another world war lingered in the air, the American youth demonstrated their unwillingness to go to war. Congress even passed a series of neutrality acts to insure the United States’ isolationist policy. Throughout these pacifist demonstrations and the passing of anti-war legislation, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt performed several actions which would in effect negate the nation’s isolationist actions. As time went on and the war continued in Europe, the threat to national security and democratic values increased, and the United States became closer and closer to entering the war. The wartime economy, which existed only on the grounds of preparedness and aid to the allies, was booming, and finally bringing a complete recovery from the depression. The American public clearly favored the Allied powers, and entrance to World War II became inevitable. Although improving economic conditions and the threat to national security prompted American support for the Allies, the United States entered World War II in order to preserve democratic values worldwide. As Germany and Japan continued to strike relentlessly and successfully, the threat to national security and the economy became more apparent and helped push the United

States into war. The Germans found success in their blitzkrieg strategies, and their Uboats continued to terrorize the Atlantic, much like they had before World War I. Document B describes the increase in the nation’s naval strength by detailing FDR’s actions with the navy before the United States’ entrance to the war. “`A navy second to none,’ said he, was needed as a `contribution to world peace’ (Document B)”. This threat on the Atlantic affected the United States’ trade and personal safety. Without safe waters for trade, the United States would lose large sums of money on sunken imports and exports. By terrorizing the waters, German U-boats could control the United States’ trade, and dictate their economy’s success or failure. Because of this threat to the economy, FDR knew a large and strong navy was essential to the nation’s success. A strong navy could protect trade in the Atlantic, much like the United States had fought so hard for twenty years before1. Safe trade was not the only reason FDR increased the United States’ naval strength and size. With Nazi forces continually winning in and the lack of British success in fighting, an eventual Nazi invasion of the United States was a realistic possibility to the American public. Wendell Willkie expresses these fears in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1940, when he describes what effects the loss of the British fleet would have on America. “If the British Fleet were lost or captured, the Atlantic might be dominated by Germany…This would be calamity for us. We might be exposed to attack on the Atlantic (Document D)”. Because the British navy had always been so strong and successful patrolling the Atlantic, the United States was able to concentrate their Naval fleet on the Pacific, with large bases on several islands including the Philippines and Hawaii. With the increased Nazi threat in the Atlantic, the United States was forced to take action, and make changes to their foreign policy. No longer could they stay in a state of isolation, relying on methods such as “lend and lease” to aid the allies. The United States needed to increase their involvement in the war against Germany, by increasing their naval size and upgrading to policies such as “shoot on sight”, in order to insure their safety. The United States’ economy benefited immediately from this increased involvement in the war. While New Deal programs still were in effect all across the
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FDR formally expresses his desire for free and safe trade several years later in the Atlantic Charter.

country, World War II proved to be the ultimate solution to the Great Depression. The effects of World War II on industry is shown in Document G. From 1939-1941, the index of manufacturing output increases by fifty percent, corporate profits nearly double, and business failures decrease dramatically. These economic benefits are a direct result from the United States preparedness for the war. The war required large masses of manufacturing, which fueled corporate profits and industrial progress. While men were drafted into the selected services, women and minorities filled the positions these men once held. Productivity was at a high, and the nation worked hard to support the unified cause. By entering the war, the United States was able to reap the benefits of various economic factors, including the preservation of free trade and the increase in industry, which helped the United States become a powerful and prosperous nation. Although the United States prospered during this time period, the need for protection of democracy from Nazi and Japanese domination ultimately forced the United States into World War II. As a country which had experienced such prosperity and success with the direction of democratic ideals, the United States had long been a promoter of democracy. In the previous century, the United States had imperialistically invaded the Philippines and Central America, hoping to create democratic governments around the world. The United States acted as the guardian of democracy, and attempted to protect and spread its ideals. World War II was no different. With fascist dictatorships threatening to conquer the world, the United States knew intervention was essential, or else, their superior form of government could become lost. In Document F, FDR reveals his priority for the preservation of democracy by expressing his “determination that the democratic cause shall prevail (Document F)”. In his speech to Congress, FDR goes on to promise “ships, planes, tanks, and guns” and even goes as far as to say this is the United States’ “purpose”. The United States did experience a growth in economy while protecting their shores, but their primary goal in entering World War II was to preserve the ideals of democracy. This platform was expressed throughout the nation in the months before the United States entered the war. To counter anti-war demonstrations which swept college campuses across the nation, World War II was turned into an ideological fight rather than just simply a war against evil, as seen in Document C. In this ad from The New York

Times, the alternative to American intervention is presented, which is the eventual loss of the Allied forces. The ad describes Nazi and Japanese aims to wipe democracy “from the face of the earth”, presenting the public with an alternative which is accompanied with primitive government and chaos. This ad reflects public opinion of the consequences of the loss of democracy worldwide. From 1937 to 1941, the United States transformed into a nation ready for war due to a series of domestic and foreign events. The contrast between the Neutrality Acts of the mid 30’s to FDR’s declaration of war on December 8, 1941 reflects this transformation and shows the nation’s change in mentality. Significant foreign aggressions, such as the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, or the German takeover of Poland, suggested the possibility of threat to America, but not until the bombing of Pearl Harbor was this threat truly felt. Pearl Harbor can be identified as the single event which ultimately forced the United States into the war, but at the time of the attack, the United States was already at war. Men were drafted into the selected services, the raging industrial economy foreshadowed war, and the United States’ foreign policies clearly favored the allies. It was only a matter of time until the United States joined her allies in defense of democracy and freedom for the greater good of mankind.