.. overwhelming German force. The point of no return had been crossed, and Europe had fallen into the clutches of war for the second time in the century. Great Britain still remembered the horrors of World War I, and when Germany began to renew its sense of militarism, Britain was hesitant to start another war. Instead of using force, the British leaders, including prime minister Neville Chamberlain, sought a diplomatic solution to conflicts.
When Germanys ambitions were to capture the area known as Sudentland, in Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain held several meetings with Hitler and other nations, desperately trying to prevent an armed conflict with Germany. Chamberlain believed that by granting Hitlers demands, he could avoid a war with Germany (Elliot 73-74). He was sorely mistaken. Even after all the negotiation and bargaining, Hitlers forces eventually overtook the entire nation of Czechoslovakia by force. When it became clear that Hitler next planned an invasion of Poland, Great Britain had no choice but to issue a threat of war if Germany went through with the operation. The threat was simply disregard, and the attack on Poland was carried out as planned.
On September third, 1939, two days after the Polish invasion began, Chamberlain gave a speech in which he finally stated that, ‘This country is at war with Germany..'(Wernick 8). The joint declaration of war on Germany with France became official the same day. In spite of efforts to avoid combat, the fears of the British people had come true on that day. The United States of America, like Great Britain, had hoped to avoid bringing the horrors of war to its people. For many years after the development of tensions in Europe and the Far East, the leaders of the U.S.
had done nearly everything possible to remain neutral. For them, too, the memories of World War I were still fresh in mind. Although the U.S. did participate in such affairs as the temporary peace treaty that prevented the capture of Shanghai by the Japanese, the U.S. was determined to prevent the need for its troops to be placed in the way of danger(Ienaga 66).
And so it would have remained, if it were not for one incident that would change the lives of many in the United States. The morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 began as any other day in Pearl Harbor, a U.S. naval base in Hawaii. At 7:49, the Japanese fleet of carriers that had been making its way toward the Hawaiian Islands sprang into action. Wave after wave of Japanese aircraft screamed into the harbor and pounced on the American fleet as it sat helpless (Ienaga 136).
No one saw the attack coming, so defense to the brutal assault was minimal. In the aftermath of the carnage, the final tallies shocked the nation. Five U.S. battleships and ten warships had been destroyed, and three more battleships were severely damaged. The human death toll was also high.
Over 2,400 American soldiers were slaughtered in the strike. Franklin D. Roosevelt wasted no time in reacting to the attack on Pearl Harbor. By the afternoon of December 7th, Roosevelt had ordered protection for Washington D.C., major cities along the western coast, major bridges, and dozens of other security precautions in the event of another wave of enemy aggression (Bailey 20). The next day, Roosevelt delivered a speech to congress asking for a declaration of war. The beginning of the speech would become famous in American history.
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.. (23) Less than an hour after Roosevelt gave his powerful speech, congress voted to declare war on Japan. The declaration was signed by Roosevelt himself at 4:10 that afternoon (23). In the space of only two days, the United states had gone from a neutral spectator to a major participant in World War II. The United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan were four of the largest countries that became heavily involved in the second world war.
But, many more nations played smaller roles in the event. For inezce, Italy was an ally of Germany and Japan, having signed the Triparte Pact in 1940. But, the Italians were less than essential to Hitlers domination of Europe, and Benito Moussolini, dictator of Italy, suffered many humiliating defeats at the hands of the allies (Keegan et al). Another country that played a role in the war in Europe was the U.S.S.R. Once considered neutral in the war because of a nonaggression treaty with Germany, the Soviet Union was drawn into the fighting on June 22, 1941, when the German offensive code-named Operation Barbarossa began. The German forces planned to attack the Soviets at three points – Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad, and was expected to be completed in 6 weeks. The Russians proved tenacious, however, and defended their capital and country with great effort, eventually halting the German advance.
France was a third major European state that was caught up in the chaotic beginnings of World War II. Allied with Great Britain, France joined in the battle of Europe after the invasion of Poland in 1939. Unfortunately, Hitlers forces eventually invaded France, ending their ability to fend off the attacks of the Axis powers. Germanys invasion of Poland in late 1939 is considered the major event that set World War II in motion. But, like many other events in history, there is more to the story. Dozens of smaller occurrences pushed the world closer and closer to the brink of war over a period of many years.
The results of each of these incidents culminated in total warfare that turned half of the world into a battleground. Several major countries were plunged into chaos and disorder, and the scars and horrible memories of the nightmare that was World War II are something that can never be erased or forgotten. — Works Cited Bailey, Ronald H. The Home Front: U.S.A. Morristown: Silver Burdett Co., 1977. Elliott, Brendan John.
Hitler and Germany. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. Ienaga, Saburo. The Pacific War, 1931-1945. New York: Random House, 1987. Keegan, John.
Who Was Who in World War II. New York: Crescent, 1984. Ross, Stewart. Causes and Concequences of World War II. Austin: Steck-Vaughn, 1996.
Snyder, Louis L. The War – A Consice History. New York: Julian Messner Incorporated, 1960. “Some Japaneese Still Dont Get It.” Wisconsin State Journal. [Madison] 14 September 1995.
Sutel, Seth. “Japaneese Official Puts New Spin on World War II.” The Capital Times. [Madison] 5 June 1994. Wernick, Robert. Blitzkrieg. Morristown: Silver Burdett, 1977.