The Allies Trade Space for Time
- The Allies had the advantage in terms of numbers. The United States was potentially the strongest military power on Earth.
- America’s jobs in WWII included feeding, clothing, arming, and transporting its own army, as well as providing resources to the Allies.
The Shock of War
- In World War I, immigrant loyalty was frequently questioned. In World War II, many ethnic groups were assimilated. In WWII, there was no government witch-hunting of minority groups like there had been in WWI.
- A big exception to this rule was the treatment of Japanese-Americans. As a byproduct of Pearl Harbor, there was immense racism against them, and internment camps were even built to oppress them. Supreme court case Korematsu v. U.S. upheld this treatment’s constitutionality.
- Many New Deal programs were shut down by the conservative Congress elected in 1942.
Building the War Machine
- The War Production Board supervised the surplus of arms production and halted the manufacture of nonessential war items like passenger cars as available raw materials were decreasing.
- Henry J. Kaiser: incredible ship builder
- There was a surge in inflation in 1942, but the Office of Price Administration brought it under control with extensive regulations. The War Labor Board imposed wage ceilings that labor unions were greatly opposed to.
- In June 1942, Congress passed the Smith-Connally Anti-Strike Act which authorized the federal government to seize and operate troubled industries. With this, the government took over the coal mines and for some time, the railroads.
Manpower and Womanpower
- WAACs (army), WAVES (navy), and SPARs (Coast Guard) are groups of “women in arms.”
- The draft of young men across the nation left farms and factories empty. To solve this problem, the U.S. established the bracero program, in which thousands of Mexican agricultural workers were invited from across the border to take over the farms.
- Over 6 million women got employed in jobs outside the home, many in factories. Even after the war, women kept their jobs and set up women’s roles in American society.
- The great majority of American women did not work for wages but rather retained their traditional roles. More women were pushed into industrial employment in Britain and the Soviet Union.
- During the immediate post-war period, there was a widespread rush into suburban domesticity and “the mothering of baby boomers.”
- Populations in boomtowns like LA, Detroit, Seattle, and Baton Rouge increased significantly at the end of the war.
- FDR gave the South an economic stimulus through providing defense contracts. Despite this, African Americans migrated to the West and North to look for jobs in war plants.
- A. Philip Randolph: head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; threatened massive “Negro March on Washington” in 1941 for equal job opportunities for blacks in defense industries. As a result, FDR created the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).
- Blacks were drafted but were normally assigned to service branches rather than combat units. Of course, segregation was still prevalent.
- The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in 1942.
- Because of the invention of the mechanical cotton picker, cheap labor was no longer needed. As a result, the northward migration of African-Americans accelerated after the war.
- War work also got thousands of Native Americans to leave their reservations and find employment in major cities. They also served in the armed forces. Comanches in Europe and Navajos in the Pacific were “code talkers” who used their native languages to hide American plans from the Germans and the Japanese.
Holding the Home Front
- Where the war ruined other countries, WWII actually invigorated the American economy and lifted the nation out of its depression.
- The war paved the way to the post-1945 era of big-government interventionism. Households were subject to the rationing system, many were working in the defense industries, etc.
- The wartime bill amounted to more than $330 billion which was 10x the direct cost of WWI and 2x as much as all previous federal spending since 1776. The national debt skyrocketed.
The Rising Sun in the Pacific
- With the assault on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched widespread and uniformly successful attacks on various Far Eastern bastions (American outposts of Guam, Wake, and Philippines and British port of Hong Kong and British Malaya, which provided critically important supplies)
- The Japanese soldiers entered Burma (Burma Road) while Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese ruler, was still resisting the Japanese invaders in China; Dutch East Indies fell as well
- General Douglas MacArthur tried to define the Philippine islands but the American surrender was inevitable and General MacArthur secretly headed off to Australia to head resistance there
Japan’s High Tide at Midway
- Japan invaded the island of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to threaten Australia; their onrush was finally checked in a naval battle fought on the Coral Sea in May 1942 where an American carrier task force inflicted heavy losses on the victory-flushed Japanese (aircraft)
- Japan then undertook to seize Midway Island (northwest of Hawaii) but Admiral Chester W. Nimitz at Midway from June 3-6, 1942 directed a victory against the invading fleet
American Leapfrogging Toward Tokyo
- In August 1942, American ground forces gained a toehold on Guadalcanal Island; after several desperate sea battles, the Japanese troops evacuated Guadalcanal in February 1943 (20,000 lost)
- American/Australian forces, under General MacArthur held onto New Guinea as the scales of war gradually began to tip as the American navy, including submarines, inflicted losses on Japanese supply ships and troop carriers (control of New Guinea completed by August 1944)
- The U.S. Navy with marines and army divisions had been “leapfrogging” the Japanese-held islands in the Pacific—reduce the fortified Japanese outposts on their flank
- Brilliant success crowned the American attacks when Admiral Nimitiz coordinated the efforts of naval, air, and ground units (Attu, Kiska, Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands; suicidal fights)
- Major islands of the Marianas fell to US attackers in July and August 1944 (bombing of Japan)
The Allied Halting of Hitler
- There were early setbacks for America in the Atlantic as Hitler entered the war with a formidable fleet of ultramodern submarines, which operated in “wolf packs” with frightful effect
- The tide of subsea battle turned with agonizing slowness—old techniques of escorting convoys of merchant vessels and dropping depth bombs were strengthened by air patrol, the newly invented technology of radar, and bombing of submarine bases (British code-breakers cracked the Germans’ “Enigma” codes and therefore pinpoint the locations of the U-boats in the Atlantic)
- Britain won the Battle of the Atlantic but the victory was narrow.
- The turning point of the land-air war against Hitler had come late in 1942 (raid on Cologne)
Germans under Marshal Erwin Rommel had driven eastward across North Africa into Egypt, perilously close to the Suez Canal—a breakthrough would have spelled disaster for the Allies. In October 1942 British general Bernard Montgomery delivered a withering attack at El Alamein
- In November 1942 the Russians unleashed a crushing counteroffensive that was never reversed
A Second Front from North Africa to Rome
- Soviet losses were staggering in 1942: millions of soldiers and civilians lay dead and Hitler’s armies had overrun most of the western USSR (at war’s end about 20 million Soviets perished)
- Many Americans were eager to begin a diversionary invasion of France in 1942 because they feared that the Soviets might make a separate peace as they had in 1918 in WWI
- Face with British indecision and lack of resources, Americans postponed an invasion of Europe
- An assaulted on French-held North Africa was a compromise second front; American general Dwight D. Eisenhower headed the secret attack started in November 1942—a joint Allied operation involving 400,000 men and 850 ships, the invasion was the largest waterborne effort
- The German-Italian army was finally trapped in Tunisia and surrendered in May 1943
At the Casablanca conference in Morocco, January 1943, the Big Two (Roosevelt and Churchill) agreed to step up the Pacific war, invade Sicily, increase pressure on Italy, and insist upon an “unconditional surrender” of the enemy—it steeled the enemy to fight a last-bunker resistance
- The Allied forces turned against Europe and Sicily fell in August 1943; shortly before, Mussolini was deposed and Italy surrendered unconditionally soon after in September 1943
- While the Italian second front opened Mediterranean and diverted some Germany divisions, it delayed the main Allied invasion of Europe by many months—allowing Soviet army to advance
D-Day: June 6, 1944
- Joseph Stalin refused to leave Moscow; Teheran, the capital of Iran, was finally chosen as the meeting place—discussions ran from November 28 to December 1, 1943
- Britain prepared nearly 3 million fighting men but the US provided most of the Allied warriors
- French Normandy was pinpointed for the invasion assault and on D-Day, June 6, 1944; the operation started and encountered resistance from Germans but had mastered air over France
- Most spectacular were the lunges across France by American armored divisions, commanded by General George S. Patton—retreat of German defenders was hastened when an American-French force landed in August 1944 on the southern coast of France and swept northward
- Paris was liberated in August 1944; Allied forces rolled irresistibly toward Germany and the first important German city (Aachen) fell to the
FDR: The Fourth-Termite of 1944
- Republicans met in Chicago with enthusiasm and nominated Thomas E. Dewey. As a governor of New York, he was a liberal and was for internationalism; he was put with isolationist ・ Senator John W. Bricker—platform called for an unstinted prosecution of war and for the reaction of a new international organization to maintain peace
- FDR was the “indispensable man” of the Democrats, but an unusual amount of attention was focused on the vice presidency; Henry Wallace had served four years as vice president and desired a renomination but the vice president went to Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri who had attained national visibility as the efficient chairman of a Senate committee on the war
Roosevelt Defeats Dewey
- Dewey took the offensive while Roosevelt was too consumed with directing the war to spare much time for speechmaking; Dewey criticized FDR’s reign and promised to fight the war better
- The CIO was organized to get around the law banning the direct use of union funds for politics.
- Roosevelt won primarily because the war was going well; foreign policy was a decisive factor
The Last Days of Hitler
- By mid-December 1944, Germany seemed to be wobbling on its last legs; the Soviet surge had penetrated eastern Germany and Germany western front seemed about to buckle under pressure
- Hitler staked everything on one last throw of his reserves; on December 16, 1944, Hitler’s objective was the Belgian port of Antwerp, key to the Allied supply operation
- The ten-day penetration was finally halted after a decision stood firm at Bastogne and the last gasp Hitlerian offensive was stemmed in the Battle of the Bulge (US troops to Rhine River)
- The Washington government had long been informed about Hitler’s campaign of genocide against the Jews and had been slow to take steps against it; Roosevelt’s government had bolted the door against large numbers of Jewish refugees but until war’s end, the full “holocaust” had not been known
- Soviets reached Berlin in April 1945 and captured the city; Adolf Hitler then committed suicide in an underground bunker on April 30, 1945 while tragedy struck in the United States
- President Roosevelt suddenly died from a massive cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945 while Vice President Truman took the helm; On May 7, 1945, the German gov’t surrendered unconditionally and May 8 was proclaimed V-E (Victory in Europe) Day
Japan Dies Hard
- Giant bomber attacks reduced the Japan’s fragile cities to cinders. A massive fire-bomb raid on Tokyo, March 9-10, 1945, gutted a quarter of the city and killed an estimated 83, 000 people
General MacArthur headed northwest for the Philippines but the Japanese navy wiped out his transports and supply ships and still won the clashes at Leyte Gulf (October 23-26, 1944)
- American fleets now commanded the western Pacific.
- MacArthur proceeded to capture Manila, which fell in March 1945 (60,000 American deaths)
- America’s attacks on Japan were getting worse with the addition of its attack of Iwo Jima.