This chapter covers American involvement in World War II and its effects on the United States. At the height of the depression, America tried to legislate isolation from any future foreign conflicts by enacting a series of Neutrality Acts, but as wars broke out first in Asia and Africa and then in Europe, the United States gradually amended these laws or President Roosevelt managed to find ways to moderate their effects. Even before Pearl Harbor, the United States was involved in a naval conflict with Germany in the North Atlantic. U.S. policy sought to deal with Hitler’s Germany as the most serious enemy, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor partly changed that. The United States and its allies were on the defensive until mid-1942, when the North African counter-offensive, the Battle of Stalingrad in Soviet Russia, and the Coral Sea-Midway victories in the Pacific marked the turning of the tide. The war became a battle of production, with the United States possessing enormous advantages. While the United States fought the war for democracy, some constituencies still had to fight for democracy at home. The home front’s involvement in the war changed the lives of many women and African Americans, who became essential to the wartime economy. Japanese Americans, mostly from the West Coast, experienced a humiliating and unjust detention even as many of their sons served with distinction in Europe. The United States became the world’s greatest single power and stood at the center of global politics. Roosevelt and his successor, Harry Truman, worked with a range of politicians and experts to develop a new foreign policy to face these changing conditions.
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
Discuss the problems in American communities created by wartime changes. Use the Los Alamos scientists as your example.
Trace the changes in American policy from isolationism to involvement in the war in Europe and Asia, as well as reactionary critics to the policy.
Summarize the effects of the war on the home front, including business, labor, the family, and various ethnic groups.
Describe the effects the war had on men and women in uniform.
Outline the strategies needed to win the war in both Europe and the Pacific.
Explain what significant technological and political changes developed in the last stages of the war.
Compare the U.S. involvement in World War I and World War II in terms of the foreign and domestic policies that were developed, and the effects of those policies on the nation. (Review Chapter 22.)