Storm clouds were darkening around the world. While Americans struggled to make ends meet during the Great Depression, fascism swept Italy and Germany. Elsewhere, militarists consolidated their hold on the Japanese government. Soon fears of fascist domination were realized as nations fell, hapless victims to new aggressive leaders. Remembering the scars caused by World War I, Americans hoped against hope to remain aloof from the increasingly dangerous world.
While Fascist aggressors were chalking up victories across Europe, America, Britain, and France sat on the sidelines. The desire to avoid repeating the mistakes of World War I was so strong, no government was willing to confront the dictators. Economic sanctions were unpopular during the height of the Great Depression. The Loyalists in Spain were already receiving aid from the Soviet Union; therefore, public opinion was against assisting Moscow in its "private" war against fascism. As the specter of dictatorship spread across Europe, the West feebly objected with light rebukes and economic penalties with no teeth.
The goals for the Japanese attack were simple. Japan did not hope to conquer the United States or even to force the abandonment of Hawaii with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States was too much of a threat to their newly acquired territories. With holdings in the Philippines, Guam, American Samoa, and other small islands, Japan was vulnerable to an American naval attack. A swift first strike against the bulk of the United States Pacific Fleet would seriously cripple the American ability to respond. The hopes were that Japan could capture the Philippines and American island holdings before the American navy could recuperate and retaliate. An impenetrable fortress would then stretch across the entire Pacific Rim. The United States, distracted by European events, would be forced to recognize the new order in East Asia. All these assumptions were wrong.
World War II was fought over differences left unresolved after World War I. Over 400,000 Americans perished in the four years of involvement, an American death rate second only to the Civil War. Twelve million victims perished from Nazi atrocities in the Holocaust. The deaths of twenty million Russians created a defensive Soviet mindset that spilled into the postwar era. After all the blood and sacrifice, the Axis powers were defeated, but the Grand Alliance that emerged victorious did not last long. Soon the world was involved in a 45-year struggle that claimed millions of additional lives the Cold War.
Japan had an advance pledge of support from Hitler in the event of war with the United States. Now President Roosevelt faced a two-ocean war a true world war. Despite widespread cries for revenge against Japan, the first major decision made by the President was to concentrate on Germany first. The American Pacific Fleet would do its best to contain Japanese expansion, while emphasis was placed on confronting Hitler's troops.
The large population, generous natural resources, advanced infrastructure, and solid capital base were all just potential. Centralization and mobilization were necessary to jump-start this unwieldy machine. Within a week of Pearl Harbor, Congress passed the War Powers Act, granting wide authority to the President to conduct the war effort. Throughout the war hundreds more alphabet agencies were created to manage the American homefront.
The time had finally come. British and American troops had liberated North Africa and pressed on into Italy. Soviet troops had turned the tide at Stalingrad and were slowly reclaiming their territory. The English Channel was virtually free of Nazi submarines, and American and British planes were bombing German industrial centers around the clock.
Pearl Harbor was only the beginning of Japanese assaults on American holdings in the Pacific. Two days after attacking Pearl Harbor, they seized Guam, and two weeks after that they captured Wake Island. Before 1941 came to a close, the Philippines came under attack. Led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Americans were confident they could hold the islands. A fierce Japanese strike proved otherwise.
Many Americans worried that citizens of Japanese ancestry would act as spies or saboteurs for the Japanese government. Fear not evidence drove the U.S. to place over 127,000 Japanese-Americans in concentration camps for the duration of WWII.
In this activity, students watch film clips from the documentary The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter, decode a propaganda poster, and analyze statistics about working women during World War II. Parts of this activity can be completed without the film.
This is a technology-dependent lesson that students can guide at their own pace of exploration and learning. Students share what they learn through the use of Twitter (or alternative classroom sharing medium like TodaysMeet). The use of a social sharing platform like Twitter gives students a place for sharing with a wider audience, for more effective means of communication with each other, for incorporating viewpoints from all students in the classroom, and a means to reference thinking and learning by the use of a hashtag at a later time. Students will understand the role the Allied Air Forces played in the Normandy Invasion. Teachers can use this as a stand-alone lesson or offer more structure by guiding students through each source, one by one. Teachers may learn more about the Eighth Air Force by accessing the ABMC’s Strategic Bombing Campaign Interactive.
Ways to use the reading " Home was a Horse Stall" about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II in the classroom
In this lesson students analyze a propaganda poster, a photograph, and a poem to understand the tensions unleashed by the entry of African Americans into the industrial workforce during World War II.
During World War Two, a fierce battle between American and Japanese forces on Kwajalein atoll left a trail of debris on the deep lagoon floor. This lagoon now has one of the largest collections of well-preserved aircraft in the world. In this video, as part of the first ever film crew allowed onto this secret military base, Jonathan explores a B-25, F4-U Corsair and Dauntless dive bomber still sitting on the bottom of the ocean, as if ready to take off. Please see the accompanying study guide for educational objectives and discussion points.
This course focuses on the Great Depression and World War II and how they led to a major reordering of American politics and society. We will examine how ordinary people experienced these crises and how those experiences changed their outlook on politics and the world around them.
This Anne Frank unit is designed with several lessons of various lengths. These lessons are usable in many different disciplines. Using one, several, or all of the lessons will address the unit's objectives to some degree. Students will accomplish some or all of the objectives depending on the number and nature of the lessons in which they participate.
In this 28 day unit, students will gain background information on historic wars, compare different genres presentations of events, recognize different points of view, research an essential question, compile evidence, create warrants that lead to a claim which answers the essential question, and write an argumentative essay.
This collection uses primary sources to compare American responses to Pearl Harbor and September 11. Digital Public Library of America Primary Source Sets are designed to help students develop their critical thinking skills and draw diverse material from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. Each set includes an overview, ten to fifteen primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide. These sets were created and reviewed by the teachers on the DPLA's Education Advisory Committee.