Game Changers

Top 5 Significant Aspects of World War II

1) Adolf Hitler / Leader of the Nazi Party

Individual


Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party, was one of the most powerful and infamous dictators present throughout the 20th century. Hitler’s main belief was that the German race was superior, and that Jews and other cultural groups were a threat to such supremacy. Due to this belief, Hitler instituted concentration camps in which over 6 million innocent people were killed. Under his control, Germany invaded Poland, marking the beginning of World War II in 1939.

  • Within Hitler's Order of the Day to the German Troops on the Eastern Front, Adolf Hitler addresses the people of Germany, informing them of barbaric behavior by the enemy. Through applying fault to the enemy, Hitler effectively convinces the German public that the Soviet Union is, indeed, the enemy, possessing different intentions than Germany. Specifically, Hitler states “for this enemy [the Soviet Union] does not consist of soldiers, but a majority of beasts…” (Hitler). This quotation illustrates Hitler’s perspective on the enemy, as he goes so far as to dehumanize troops of the Soviet Union. Such a practice was common for Hitler, as he often included insults directed towards enemy troops in his speeches to the German public. In another address, Hitler claims “I saw my enemies in Munich, and they are worms” (Hitler). This quote reiterates the belief of German supremacy. Through the comparison of these two primary source quotations, it is apparent that belittling the enemy was a tactic which Hitler frequently used throughout his speeches. Such demeaning language was effective in persuading the German public that enemy troops should not be considered human if they do not agree with the opinions of Germany.

2) Franklin D. Roosevelt / President of the United States

Individual

Primary Source “I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • Origin — The origin of this primary source quotation was the Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation, given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the day after the Japanese military conducted a surprise attack on an American Naval base.
  • Purpose — The purpose of Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation was to provide President Roosevelt with an opportunity to inform American citizens of the events which occurred at Pearl Harbor, at which thousands of American soldiers were killed as a result of bombings conducted by Japan. Additionally, this speech served as a formal declaration of war with Japan, officially announcing the United States’ involvement as an Ally power in World War II.
  • How it contributes to the historical narrative — Specifically, this quotation contributes to Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation as this was a prominent declaration. As a whole, the speech is an informant, providing a platform for which the events of Pearl Harbor could be explained to the American public. After providing background information, the President continues by discussing the betrayal experienced on behalf of the Japanese army. Through closing his speech with a formal declaration of war, Roosevelt ensures that his purpose for the historical narrative is communicated effectively.
  • Historical significance — This quotation is historically significant as it served as a formal declaration of war between the United States and Japan. As noted by President Franklin within this address, the United States believed that they were on good terms with Japan prior to the surprise attack. It can be determined that the attack of Pearl Harbor directly lead to the President’s decision to enter the United States into World War II. Though previously having maintained an isolationist mindset, America was forced to shift its perspective as a result of the events which occurred at Pearl Harbor. This meant that the United States would enter the war as an Ally power.
  • Value — President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States. He resided in office prior to World War II, and continued his leadership position until his death near the end of the war. The President is a valuable source as he is responsible for foreign affairs, and is thus familiar with the relationship that the United States’ maintains with each country. Additionally, as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, the President maintains the power to decide whether or not our nation will become involved in war. As this source was a direct speech delivered by the President, it can be ensured that the American public received information first-hand as it was delivered. This aids in the value of the source as there is no room for misinterpretation.
  • Limitations — Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation can be considered limited as it only presents an American perspective. This means that the audience is not informed of the Japanese motivation behind the attack of Pearl Harbor. Instead, Roosevelt provides justification as to why this event was enough to declare war on Japan.

There exists an interconnectedness between American and Japanese perspectives upon engaging in the war. Both Japan and the United States maintained the perspectives that it was because of external influences that they were forced to engage in war with one another. Specifically, the US supplying of materials to China (who was at war with Japan), as well as the freezing of Japanese assets and denial of oil by the United States were factors which enraged the Japanese. Thus, it is a popular belief that these factors served as motivation for Japanese to ignite conflict with the United States. On the other hand, the United States entered the war in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This means that America was forced into joining the war as their country was threatened. Clearly, the perspectives of these two countries are interconnected as both believe that it was the intervention of the other force which contributed to their involvement in World War II.

3) Japanese military targets U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor

Event

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military conducted a surprise attack on the American Naval base residing in Pearl Harbor. Japanese fighter planes raided the base, dropping bombs which resulted in the death of more than 2,000 American soldiers (Pearl Harbor). The day after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the Congress, proposing that the United States officially declare war on Japan. This was blatantly addressed in the Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation, in which Franklin D. Roosevelt announced “I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire” (Roosevelt). Therefore, it can be determined that the attack of Pearl Harbor directly lead to the President’s decision to enter the United States into World War II. Though previously maintaining an isolationist mindset, America was forced to shift its mindset as a result of the events which occurred at Pearl Harbor.

4) "D-Day" / The United States' invasion of Normandy, France

Event


“D-Day occurred on June 5, 1944, and marked the invasion of Normandy, France by Ally troops. The American military in conjunction with British, Canadian, and Free French soldiers, launched an attack on the French town of Normandy with hopes of gaining an Allied foothold in Europe. The objective of the raid was to establish a viable and supportable beachhead in France. The D-Day operations consisted of over 160,000 troops and 5,000 ships, what would become the largest invasion of all time (Bekke). Though approximately 10,000 Allied casualties were suffered, the Ally powers were able to gain a foothold in Europe, thus providing them with a western front. The invasion of Normandy affected the course of the war as the Allies, with aid granted through this occupation, were able to pursue further into Europe.

Below is a graphic organizer depicting the similarities and differences between two Ally invasions of France


  • Normandy (D-Day) and Dieppe
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5) The United States drops the atomic bomb on Hiroshima

Technology

Prior to its development by the United States, atomic weaponry had not existed. In fact, the United States remains the only country to utilize an atomic body during wartime. The United States successfully created the weapon in July 1945, when it was tested for the first time. This technological development was a landmark advancement in science, far surpassing any similar bombs utilized in the past. In fact, in his statement to the American people, in which he announced the bombing of Hiroshima, President Truman explained that the atomic bomb “had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT” (Truman). Further, he compared the American advancement to prior technology utilized in warfare. Specifically, he noted how the bomb had “more than two thousand times the blast power of the British "Grand Slam" which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare” (Truman). This primary source quotation supports how technology changed and progressed throughout time. Such a claim is evident as the American development is far superior to its former British counterpart. While both weapons served the same purpose, additionally time enabled further innovation to occur. As a result, the United States revolutionized modern technology by creating a new category of weaponry.

At this period in time, Nazi Germany had already been defeated by Ally powers. Conflict in the Pacific, however, continued as the war between Japan and the United States progressed. In an effort to preserve the lives of American soldiers, President Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Consequently, over 80,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians were killed, with tens of thousands of more dying later as a result of radiation poisoning (History). Clearly, such an action had a tremendous impact on the course of the war, leading to the surrender of the remaining Axis power, Japan. Though successful in achieving its goal (getting the Japanese to surrender while preserving American lives), not everyone agreed with the use of the atomic bomb. In fact, there were different interpretations of this event as many believed that its use came with many ethical implications to consider. Not only would the weapon result in the death of enemy soldiers, but would compromise the lives of innocent civilians as well. Various individuals believed that the use of the atomic bomb was unnecessary as Japan was already on the verge of surrender when the events occurred. Short term, the use of the atomic bomb was successful in ending World War II. It is believed, however, that its use was accompanied by severe consequences in the long run. Specifically, the use of the atomic bomb is a factor which contributed to the cold war. Additionally, implementing this new form of weaponry introduces the risk of provoking a nuclear war. Chief of Staff William Leahy admitted that "The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening” (Leahy). This source contributes to the idea that this event came with repercussions for the future, and that although beneficial at the time, the use of the atomic bomb may spark further conflict in the future.

Sources

Adolf Hitler. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/adolf-hitler


Adolf Hitler Speeches. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015 from http://www.enotes.com/topics/adolf-hitler-131285


Announcing the Bombing of Hiroshima. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/truman-hiroshima/


Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/atomic-bomb-dropped-on-hiroshima


Bakke, C. (22 June 2010). Dieppe & D. Day. Retrieved May 5, 2015 from https://prezi.com/ylfvuigc34mi/dieppe-d-day/


D-Day. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/d-day


Franklin D. Roosevelt. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/franklin-d-roosevelt


HIROSHIMA. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.doug-long.com/quotes.htm


Kellar, D. (n.d.). Dieppe and D-Day. Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.beingthechange.ca/articles/dieppe_and_d-day.pdf


Montz, S. (n.d.). The Diary of Sidney J. Montz. Retrieved May 5, 2015 from http://www.nationalww2museum.org/education/for-teachers/lesson-plans/d-day-diary.pdf


Pearl Harbor. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/pearl-harbor


Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrpearlharbor.htm


WW2 Quotes. (2015, April 22). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.secondworldwarhistory.com/ww2-quotes.asp