WWII Game Changers
Renee Fraley B4
4. Lend-Lease Act
- The Lend lease Bill provided military support to Great Britain, in the form of supplies, as they were waging war with Germany and other axis powers. It was significant because, without American assistance, Britain would have been more subject to defeat from Germany, completely changing the outcome of the war. No American convoys were sent overseas for fear of thousands of casualties and definite involvement in a war that the United States was originally planning to stay relatively neutral in. This legislation was met with strong opinions, especially from isolationists. They believed that if the Lend Lease Act was employed, it would cause the United States to abandon its neutral position. Senator Burton Wheeler of Montana insisted at a news conference for the proposed bill that, “It gives to one individual the dictatorial power to strip the American Army of our every tank, cannon, rifle, or antiaircraft gun,” (Lend-Lease). Wheeler is a useful source in understanding the view of the opposition, as it can be concluded that some critics saw this act as a proclamation of war that would deplete necessary American war materials. However, others argued that helping Britain would be like helping ourselves, as they were a key ally and had the potential to stop the dangerous growth of the Germany empire. For example, another senator argued that, “These materials would be more useful to the defense of the United States if they were used in Great Britain than if they were kept in storage here…” (Lend-Lease). Clearly, there was opposition and support for the Lend-Lease bill, but ultimately it was concluded that Britain needed supplies as one of our allies and possible victims of Germany.
- The Lend-Lease Act differed greatly from the Neutrality Acts of 1935 and 1936, which prohibited munitions, arms, and any other potential war materials from being shared with belligerents. The Neutrality Acts of 1935 read, “The President shall proclaim such fact, and it shall thereafter be unlawful to export arms, ammunition, or implements of war from any place in the United States, or possessions of the United States, to any port of such belligerent states, or to any neutral port for transshipment to, or for the use of, a belligerent country,” (The Neutrality Act of 1935). The conditions of these acts are the exact opposite of the Lend-Lease bill, which allowed the President to order the exportation of war materials to belligerent states to help in their fight against the enemy. In a sense, this new legislation permitted the United States to show their stance in WWII and engage themselves in the fight without having to put soldiers on the ground.
5. Japan Invades China (July 7, 1937)
- The invasion of China was the beginning of a series of events that eventually led to Pearl Harbor and the United States declaring war on Japan. Important Chinese cities were completely destroyed by huge forces of Japanese soldiers. The Japanese were deliberate and ruthless in their attack, ransacking towns of all usable materials and killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians. This destructive attack was an attempt by Japan to expand and show their strength as a world power after years of complete isolation, but it just resulted in restrictions on goods from the United States. It was clear to the American government that Japan was threatening the safety of the Asian continent and rest of the world, so trade sanctions and prohibition of exportation of vital supplies were put into place. Because Japan has minimal sources of natural resources, they rely on the exportation of goods from other countries to obtain necessary materials. Therefore, new regulations meant trouble for Japan, their supply of essential goods, and their war efforts. Without the harsh expansion efforts in Asia, including the invasion of Manchuria and China, economic sanctions, Pearl Harbor, and the United States declaration of war on Japan could have all been avoided.
3. United States Declares War on Japan (December 8, 1941)
- The reason for the declaration of war on Japan derives from Pearl Harbor, when Japanese fighter planes spontaneously bombed an American naval base in Hawaii. Victims of this attack included twenty warships, hundreds of airplanes, and thousands of dead and wounded soldiers. Japan’s goal of this attack was to destroy America’s Pacific fleet so they lacked the supplies necessary to fight back. This was also an act of revenge against the United States for trade sanctions that were created in reaction to Japan’s aggressive behavior in Asia. Like Germany, they had ambitious plans to expand greatly into surrounding areas to deep demographic and monetary benefits from the new markets. Also like Germany, Japan portrayed a false image of peace with their civil discussion with the United States in months prior to Pearl Harbor. According to Franklin D. Roosevelt, “During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace,” (Franklin D. Roosevelt). Hitler pretended to be in support of an abstention of violence in Europe with the Non-Aggression Agreement, but then turned on his word just like the Japanese. However, the United States limited Japan’s access to vital materials, such as oil and money, in attempts to hinder their expansion and attacks on neighboring nations. Nevertheless, this only inspired Japan to fight back with determination and vigor, even bringing the war to American soil during Pearl Harbor. A child in Japan at the time of Pearl Harbor recalls, “The first thing our teacher said was ‘Japan started the war against America’ and all of us were so excited, clapping our hands with joy,” (Japan’s War in Color). Even young school children immediately responded to the news of Pearl Harbor with happiness and anticipation for the war to come. This is significant because it shows that even young children, who usually have a loose understanding of international conflict, are excited for the destruction of American forces. The leader of Japan at the time said, “It is time for the one hundred million of us Japanese to sacrifice everything for our country’s cause,” (Japan’s War in Color). Although Pearl Harbor crippled United States forces, it was a defining moment for Japan and one that united the country in national pride. They were even more spiritually prepared to show off their strength in war and fight against the United States.
2. Germany Invading Poland (September 1, 1939)
- The German invasion of Poland was essentially the event that sparked WWII, as Germany broke the promises made in the Non-Aggression Agreement just a week after it was created. Of course this immediately impacted Poland and instilled a fear into countries around the world, but it also began a war that changed Europe and the rest of the globe forever. Hitler launched a full-scale attack on Poland, breaching their borders with a million troops plus Slovakian support. Although Britain and France agreed to send support, because of their pact of 1939, the Blitzkrieg or “Lighting War” strategy of Germany was no match for the allied forces. In former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s speech in 1939, he says “…The German Government have created conditions, namely, an aggressive act of force against Poland threatening the independence of Poland, which call for the implementation by the Government of the United Kingdom and France of the undertaking to Poland to come to her assistance,” (Neville Chamberlain). Britain and France had no choice but to help Poland in this time of destruction, though the country was inevitable consumed by Germany. Russia then attacked the Eastern region of Poland and it was clear that a crisis that started in Poland was soon to involve the whole world. Poland fell under ruthless foreign control in just a matter of weeks, but this was just a short beginning to the plan for huge expansion and conquering of Europe by the Germans.
- The invasion of Poland dramatically effected the world at that time and for years to come, for WWII would have never occurred if Germany did not attack the country and reveal their plan to take over all of Europe. Chamberlin described Hitler and his evil intentions as, “not hesitant to plunge the world into misery in order to serve his own senseless ambitions…” (Neville Chamberlain). The safety and peace of the world was compromised by Adolf Hitler just to fulfill his goals of having a powerful empire, first demonstrated in the invasion of Poland. This event made it apparent to all that Germany was ready to forge a path of violence and destruction that would eventually include countries from all regions of the globe. Chamberlain continues his remarks about Germany declaring, “As long as that Government exists and pursues the methods it has so persistently followed during the last two years, there will be no peace in Europe. We shall merely pass from one crisis to another, and see one country after another attacked by methods which have now become familiar to us in their sickening technique,” (Neville Chamberlain). Similar to Poland, other nations, such as France, Britain, Yugoslavia, Denmark, and Belgium were attacked by Germany as part of its massive expansion efforts.
1. Development of the Atomic Bomb
- The development of the atomic bomb was a significant event that had a huge impact on WWII and years to come. Seeing that Germany was more advanced in nuclear weaponry and Japan was far from surrendering, the United States focused on creating a nuclear weapon to match the progress of Germany and bring WWII to a close. The journey to creating the war-ending atomic bomb began with the Manhattan Project, involving thousands of scientists, many laboratories, testing sites, and years of work. Eventually, atomic bombs were created that were later dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, successfully ending the second world war. By the time of the bombings, Germany had previously surrendered and the war in Europe was winding down, but the Japanese were still ruthlessly fighting. One soldier declared, “What fools the enemy are! The Japanese Army will stick it out to the end. This position will be defended with our lives,” (Blair). It was clear that major steps needed to be taken to terminate conflict with Japan, and the most suitable option was an atomic bomb. Historian, Dr. Conrad Crane, explains the effectiveness of the nuclear weapons saying, “We knew it was a war ending weapon, that’s what it was built for,” (Nuclear Bomb on Hiroshima). Crane taught at the United States Military Academy and is one of the most knowledgeable on strategic bombing, including the atomic bomb. Thus, he is a trustworthy source on the development and effect of the atomic bomb, but did not live during that time period, which prohibits him from giving a firsthand account of this technological feat at the time of WWII. The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the outcome of the war tremendously, preventing a costly invasion of Japan that would have resulted in thousands of American deaths. “Truman was elated when he announced to the crew that we had a powerful new weapon and the war would certainly end – invasion [of Japan] would not be necessary” (Nuclear Bomb on Hiroshima) says former Naval intelligence officer, Geroge Elsey, who summarizes the great impact of the atomic bomb. Elsey directly witnessed the reactions of white house officials, including President Harry Truman, recalling how there was unmistakeable feeling of joy knowing that a future crisis had been averted. He is a notable source, as he delivered the first account of the Hiroshima bombing with the man who gave the executive order to employ that bomb. Unlike Crane, he actually played a role in the formation of the atomic bomb and attacks on Japan. He is an expert on this subject and can give an accurate account of this event based on his own experiences. In conclusion, the development of the atomic bomb was a vital invention that completely changed the outcome of the war and allowed America to evade disaster.
"Franklin D. Roosevelt for a Declaration of War." The History Place - Great Speeches Collection. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2015.
"Lend-Lease." United States History. U-s-history.com, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015.
"The Neutrality Act of 1935." Digital History. Digital History, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
"Neville Chamberlain on the Nazi Invasion of Poland." The History Place - Great Speeches Collection: Neville Chamberlain Speech - On Hitler's Invasion of Poland. The History Place, n.d. Web. 04 May 2015.
"Nuclear Bomb on Hiroshima." WW2history.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2015.