Causes of World War II
Rise of Totalitarian Regimes
Political dictatorships grew as people searched for stability and solution to the economic problems of the Great Depression. The end result was a combination of the authoritarian rule combined with a new type of ruthless tyranny which reached its worst point in Nazi Germany and Stalin in the Soviet Union. It was Hitler’s aggression toward Poland that triggered World War II. The horrors of this time period are a disturbing chapter in history.
German U-Boats in the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic was not about the most powerful navy, or about battles fought between battleships and submarines. But the Battle of the Atlantic was a quiet war waged by German U-Boats against Britain’s supply ships. For nearly six years, Germany launched over 1,000 U-Boats into combat, in an attempt to isolate and blockade the British Isles, trying to force the British out of the war. It was a fight which nearly destroyed the shipping lanes of Great Britain, cutting off supplies of food, fuel and raw materials needed to continue fighting.
Cash and Carry Policy
The purpose of this policy was to maintain neutrality between the United States and European countries while giving aid to Britain by exploiting the fact that Germany had no funds and could not reliably ship across the British-controlled Atlantic. Various policies, such as the Neutrality Acts of 1935, 1936, and 1937, forbade selling implements of war or lending money to belligerent countries under any terms. The U.S. economy was rebounding at this time, following the Great Depression, but there was still a need for industrial manufacturing jobs. The cash and carry program helped to solve this issue and in turn Great Britain benefited from the purchase of arms and other goods.
Lend-Lease Act of 1941
the Lend-Lease Act was the principal means for providing U.S. military aid to foreign nations during World War II. It authorized the president to transfer arms or any other defense materials for which Congress appropriated money to the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States. By allowing the transfer of supplies without compensation to Britain, China, the Soviet Union and other countries, the act permitted the United States to support its war interests without being overextended in battle.
Bombing of Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The barrage lasted just two hours, but it was devastating: The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight enormous battleships, and more than 300 airplanes. More than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died in the attack, and another 1,000 were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan; Congress approved his declaration with just one dissenting vote. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States, and again Congress reciprocated. More than two years into the conflict, America had finally joined World War II.