Oral History Assignment
A World Gone Mad
It was your typical cold and miserable day in Fairbanks, Alaska when I called my great grandmother to talk about her childhood experience during World War II. We talked on the phone for almost twenty minutes. I was so fascinated with everything she was telling me. I called her a month in advance to ask her if I could interview her for my anthropology class. How I recorded the interview was I called my great grandma from my house phone and recorded our conversation with my iPhone. When I was completely done with my project, I shared my paper and the recorded interview with her and she absolutely loved it. After interviewing my great grandma, it made me want to dive deeper into why the United States didn’t get involved sooner.
When war broke out, there was no way the world could possibly know the levels of severity that the war would escalate to. Fortunately, one country saw and understood that Germany and its allies would have to be stopped. America’s involvement in World War II not only contributed in the eventual downfall of the insane Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich, but had also came at the precise time and moment. Had the United States entered the war any later 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 saved many lives. To try to understand this we must look both at the people and at the government’s point of view.
Just after war broke out in Europe, President Roosevelt quickly 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. Therefore, the Neutrality Act was passed by the senate in 1935. This act imposed a ban on shipments of weapons and war materials to hostile countries and discouraged travel by American citizens on the ships of countries engaged in war by specifying that they did so at their own risk (Neutrality Acts). The desire to avoid foreign conflicts of all kinds had been an American foreign policy for more than a century. Even if Roosevelt had wanted to do more in the 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 in their arsenal.
In September 1939 the Air Corps had only 800 combat aircraft, compared with Germany’s 3600 and Russia’s 10,000. American Military Aviation (AMA) in 1938 was only able to produce 1,800,300 less aircraft than Germany and 1,400 less than Japan. It 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 thoughts 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 1 had still not worn off, and entering a new war, they felt, would be foolish. To promote these principles the United States would have to avoid all "foreign entanglements". Why risk going to war, when it is contrary to American policy which most if not all Americans were in agreement with, 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 by what was happening elsewhere. It was Roosevelt’s view that the United States would fare well (economically speaking) whether Europe went to war or not. 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 most important markets of the United States during the 1930’s. American investments in Germany increased by forty per cent between 1936 and 1940.
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. It is very easy to point and accuse the United States of being selfish, but one has to understand that any negative actions 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? Probably not, 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. Unless American interests were directly threatened, Roosevelt hesitated to act.
On December 6, 1941, the Japanese Naval Air Force led a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, demolishing the port. Finally, President Roosevelt could wait no longer. America had now been attacked and not going to war would only endanger the United States more than it already was (World War II pg. 1-4). 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. 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 end the rule of Nazi Germany. The Americans upon declaring its Neutrality, gave additional encouragement to Japan and Germany to "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.
The United States did not directly join the war until December of 1941. In August of 1945, an event happened that would change the way we look and execute war tactics. The use of the atomic bomb was first introduced to war. Once Pearl Harbor was bombed the United States was ready to join a war that had been going on for an unbelievable amount of time. A surprise attack was not expected on the U.S. The Japanese took advantage of this and went full force into the invasion. This event was considered an act of war on the United States. Shortly after the bombing, the U.S. declared that they had officially entered the war. Soon after the U.S. began its involvement the war, they began a project called ;The Manhattan project.; This was a top-secret project that an estimated 600,000 people worked on. Some of them knew what they were working on but a greater percentage did not have the slightest idea what the consequences might be when the project was done. The first testing of the atom bomb was in July of 1945. The bomb was sent to New Mexico to be tested in a desert. It was set on top of a large tower and detonated. The test was a little more than stunning, in fact they had realized they had created the most destructive force the world had ever seen. The making of this bomb gave US the edge for the war. Japan did not know this, nor did they know the destructive power that the bomb would have. On August 6 1945, they found out what it was like. The bomb destroyed most of Hiroshima (Harry S. Truman). An estimated 80 thousand people died. The Japanese still did not give up, so a second bomb was to be dropped on Nagasaki. After this bomb, the Japanese decided to surrender. In the bombing of Nagasaki an estimated 60 thousand were killed or injured. The main reason the dropping of the bombs was authorized was that too many Americans would die invading Japan when dropping a few simple bombs would do the job with as little American casualties as possible.
Had the United States entered the war any earlier or later the consequences could have been much worse. Towards the end of the war Walter Lippmann, 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 superb job in bringing America into war when he did. Evidently, America entered World War 2 at the precise time and moment to take down Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, as well as the Japanese Empire.
Truman, Harry S. ;Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima Announcement.; Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima Announcement, 8/1/2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost, login.proxy.library.uaf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=pwh;AN=21212234;site=eds-live.
;World War II.; ;Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition;. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition, Mar. 2017, pp. 1-4. EBSCOhost, login.proxy.library.uaf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=khh;AN=85551395;site=eds-live.
“United States History.” Neutrality Acts, www.u-s-history.com/pages/h4319.html.