Causes of World War II
• The Germans resented the unfair Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. They elected Adolf Hitler as dictator. He promised to make Germany a world power.
• Then Hitler took over part of another country. In response, European leaders appeased him—they gave him what he wanted in hopes of keeping the peace.
• Hitler eventually invaded Poland, leading England and France to declare war in 1939.
• At first, the United States remained neutral in World War II.
• However, under FDR’s Lend-Lease Program, the U.S. provided weapons and aid to the Allies, including England and France.
U.S. Enters War after Pearl Harbor Attack
• Germany’s ally, Japan, made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941.
• President Roosevelt, calling it “a day that will live in infamy,” encouraged Congress to declare war on Japan. The U.S. thus entered World War II.
The Home Front
• 16 million American men fought in World War II. There were over 1 million casualties.
• Gasoline and food were rationed (limited) by the government, and people planted “victory gardens” to provide for their families during this time of sacrifice.
• People bought war bonds to fund the American war effort.
• Women took over factory work at home while their husbands were away.
• Japanese-Americans faced discrimination during the war. They were suspected of being spies, so they were evicted from their homes and sent to internment camps during war.
World War II: The Action
• In the war, the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) fought the Allies (USA, England, France, Soviet Union).
• In Europe, Hitler controlled much of the continent until the Allies launched a surprise invasion of France on D-Day. The war ended in Europe in May 1945.
• In the Pacific, Japan drove the Allies south to Australia before the Allies rallied. They fought back and were preparing to invade Japan in August 1945.
• Harry Truman became president when Roosevelt died in April 1945. He learned that scientists working on the “Manhattan Project” had developed an atomic bomb.
• Truman decided to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.
• The bomb killed over 100,000 people, mainly civilians. Truman decided it was a better choice than invading Japan—he believed more people would have died in an invasion.
After the War
• The United Nations formed after the war to allow for international peacekeeping talks.
• In the Nuremberg Trials, Germans were tried for their involvement in the Holocaust.
The Cold War
• Immediately after World War II, the U.S. and Soviet Union became fierce rivals. The U.S. had a democratic government, while the Soviet Union had a communist government. Their rivalry, which almost led to a violent war, was called the Cold War.
• The U.S.’s main strategy during the Cold War was to prevent the spread of communism. This strategy was called containment.
• Early in the Cold War, the U.S. gave economic aid to democratic countries, hoping to prevent them from becoming communist. This aid was called the Marshall Plan.
• During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union installed nuclear weapons in Cuba and aimed them at the U.S. In this crisis, the world came dangerously close to nuclear war.
• The U.S. fought violent wars in Korea and Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism.
• Many Americans protested the Vietnam War. They said the war was a civil war, and the United States should not have interfered.
• Protests led to the “hippie” peace movement and the Kent State shootings.
Ending the Cold War
• In the 1970s, President Nixon agreed to ease tensions with communist governments in a program called détente.
• The Cold War ended in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union broke up.