How and Why the USA Entered the Fray
Roosevelt and Churchill. Source: Churchill and the Presidents: Franklin Roosevelt - The Churchill Project - Hillsdale College
Choosing a Side?
Japan was to attack the USA at Pearl Harbor before declaring War. Hitler perhaps in coordination with Japan then declared war on the USA.
Technically speaking the USA did not choose a side but rather had a side chosen for her. The USA however under President Roosevelt had in effect placed both Germany and Japan in a situation whereby the USA was openly and aggressively hostile towards them. Without going to war with America Japan may have imploded. Germany in theory could have ignored American provocations and concentrated on matters at hand. Germany however could not have conquered Britain without a confrontation with America. Hitler thought that the USA would take much longer than it actually did to place itself on a war footing. Meanwhile he hoped the conquest of Europe would be complete, Germany would be much stronger.
The Soviet Union was not a Threat!
The Soviet Union was not a direct threat to the USA. It was a tiresome bother and an irritant but not much more than that. Conspiracy People and Right Wing Thinkers might describe Russia and Communism as undermining America and all Civilized values and so they may have been believed to be. Even so, the threat was not immediate. Russia at that time was not seriously encroaching on the American domain. The problem of Russia could also be dealt with in other ways not necessarily full-fledged bellicose ones. [This in fact is what ultimately happened.] Germany threatened to displace the USA on the World Scene altogether. A united Europe under Germany together with Japan might even threaten the USA itself! If Britain was conquered the British would carry on the war from Canada. Preparations for such an eventuality had already been made. It is hard to see how the USA could have kept out of it.
The Previous Experience of Word War-1
Before WW1 there were periods when it looked like Britain and the USA might go to war. The psychological preparations were in place especially on the American side. In fact anti-British sentiment continued into the 1960s and may have been a factor in the stand-down demanded by Eisenhower from Britain and France and Israel (versus Egypt) in the Suez Crisis of 1956. The USA entered WW1 towards its end in April, 1917. US casualties had been less than those of Australia. Nevertheless in many ways it was an American victory. Many Americans had supported Germany at the beginning but as the War progressed US public opinion had turned against her. This was due, among other factors, to German atrocities in Belgium; the sinking of an American passenger ship, the Lusitania, by a German U-boat; the pro-British and democratic beliefs of President Woodrow Wilson; and the efforts of Germany to induce Mexico to attack America. After the War the USA had withdrawn into herself. This policy of Isolation was paradoxically accompanied by US long-range intentions to be the dominant world power. The British Empire had reached the height of its expansion. In hindsight we now realize it was reaching its end. This was not so obvious in Britain at the time. When the USA entered the Second World war it received British agreement to let the Americans take the lead in world affairs.
Following the Outbreak of World War-2
At the outbreak of the Second World the Germans had even more factors going for them than before the first one. Russia and the threat of Communism were perceived as a serious threat to Religion, family values, social stability, and everything else. Prejudice against Jews was very strong, much stronger than previously. The War of Germany was considered a War against the Jews from the beginning. On the one hand, German anti-Jewish legislation, was not considered a negative factor in the eyes of many BUT the excesses were not tolerable, as discussed below. The strong and numerous American German, Irish, Italian, communities were all sympathetic to the Axis BUT here again only to a certain degree.
Before the War the US Congress had passed Neutrality Acts aimed to keep America out of any future conflict. President Roosevelt had declared himself on the side of Neutrality. Early German military successes raised the specter of a world dominated by Axis forces. Britain stood alone. In the eyes of many in the USA the British were fighting the War on their behalf. There was also the Japanese factor. Japan had been faced with a choice between expanding northward at the expense of Russia or southwards ultimately eliminating America from that sphere. The Japanese lost an unofficial mini-war against Russia, the "Soviet-Japanese Border War," 1932-1939. After that the Japanese decided to concentrate on the conquest of China and southeast Asia. Japan became a threat to the USA in the Pacific. Japan was linked with Germany. At some time or other conflict with Japan was henceforth inevitable.
The Guiding Lights of the USA threatened by German Military Success
In retrospect the Foundation Values of America at that time were the following:
Judeo-Christian Culture - this came to mean a concern for the Jews.
European, especially British, Heritage
The Axis were against Democracy. They were inimical to the Jews. Germany threatened British and West European Civilization. The Axis threatened to impede economic progress from the American point of view.
Four Great Americans Presidents as sculpted at Mount Rushmore. Theodore Roosevelt, cousin of FDR, is second from the right. Source:
President Roosevelt as Epitome of the USA
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was a cousin of Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin is often counted one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, while his cousin Theodore is ranked as number four. See: Historical rankings of presidents of the United States - Wikipedia.FDR was of Old American Dutch stock. He had led the USA out of a Depression and instituted numerous social reforms. When FDR ran for the presidency in 1940 (his third term out of four) he promised the American people that the country would be kept out of war. Two months after being re-elected Roosevelt, in response to an appeal from Winston Churchill, informed the American People, "If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will be in a position to bring enormous military and naval resources against this hemisphere,” and “We are the Arsenal of Democracy. Our national policy is to keep war away from this country.”
Churchill and Roosevelt
FDR had initiated a correspondence with Winston Churchill 8 days after Britain and France had declared war on Nazi Germany and while Churchill was still only First Lord of the Admiralty, i.e. Head of the Navy. It was not until until May 10, 1940, that Churchill became PM. [Rooosevelt himself had once served as Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, 1913–1919. He claimed to have 10,000 books about naval matters in his private library and to have read nearly all of them]. Churchill understood that Roosevelt might eventually bring the US into the War on the side of Britain. Roosevelt did not deny it but kept making demands for British concessions. Nevertheless a strong bond developed between the two. This involved among other matters a secret correspondence of 1,700 letters and telegrams. See Franklin D. Roosevelt - Wikipedia.============
Crown Princess Märtha (1901-1954) was the wife of the Crown Prince and designated successor to the Throne of Norway. Martha had initially taken refuge in Sweden. She was a member of the Swedish Royal Family. In Sweden the Crown Princess was under pressure to return to Norway and let the Germans crown her son as King. Meanwhile, her husband, the Crown Prince, was leading Norwegian resistance from Britain. Joining him was not feasible at the time so Martha went to the USA where for a time she lived with her children in the White House.
The USA Enters the War
On September 2, 1940, as the the Battle of Britain intensified, the USA had agreed to give several old destroyers to Britain in return for British Bases on islands in the Atlantic. Some of the destroyers were never even delivered. The real point of the agreement was to establish American military and naval bases alongside British ones. This meant the British bases would effectively be under US protection!
In January 1941 the USA started the Lend-Lease program that in simple terms gave Britain an open check to order what goods and weapons it needed from the USA and not pay for it. Russia also benefited from the same arrangement after the German invasion in June 1941. On 7 July 1941 American troops relieved British ones in the occupation of Iceland facing German occupied Norway.
The Crown Princess of Norway, Martha, being a refugee from her own country at that time, was residing with her children in the White House as a guest of the President. She was active in arousing American support for Norway and against Germany. Also in July 1941, Churchill and Roosevelt held in secret the first of their 11 meetings. The Atlantic Charter was a statement issued on 14 August 1941 that set out American and British goals for the period following the end of World War 2. It made it clear that the USA was supporting Britain. In September 1941, after German provocations, Roosevelt declared that the "U.S. Navy would assume an escort role for Allied convoys in the Atlantic as far east as Great Britain and would fire upon German ships or submarines (U-boats) of the Kriegsmarine if they entered the U.S. Navy zone." This "shoot on sight" policy against German ships, in effect, was a declaration of Naval War against German Shipping.
In July 1941 Roosevelt stopped the sale of oil to Japan. This deprived the Japanese of more than 95 percent of their oil supply. On December 7, 1941, came Pearl Harbor and the War with Japan. On December 7, 1941, Italy and Germany declared war on the USA.
Concern for the Jews as a Factor
The anti-Semitism of American ethnic groups was a passing phenomenon to a degree. Germans who had immigrated to the USA were of mostly of a different stock from Germans in Germany. Today German Americans represent ca.17% of the total U.S. population, and Irish Americans ca. 10%. At the time in question the said percentages would have been higher. Both the German and Irish communities has a disproportionate influence on the American public. They were not on the whole anti-Jewish but had been aroused by agitators from outside. Germans who migrated to the USA before ca. 1900 had not, on the whole, been anti-Jewish, on the contrary. They were different in this respect from the Germans of Germany, see Stan NADEL, "Jewish Race and German Soul in Nineteenth Century America," American Jewish History, September, 1987. So too with the Irish. Both groups would put America first at all events.
Roosevelt himself was mildly anti-Semitic. He did not particularly want to see too many more Jews in America. He did however have some Jews in his administration and among his advisers such as Felix Frankfurter, Benjamin Cohen, Henry Morgenthau, and Louis Brandeis. Apart from these Jews however there were also blatant Judeophobes in positions of authority and influence. See: FDR wanted Jews ‘spread thin’ and kept out of U.S., documents reveal
FDR and Henry Morgenthau, Jr. ca. 1940. Source: Dynasty - Tablet Magazine
In January 1944 Henry Morgenthau presented the President with the Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews. Nevertheless, more than 200, 000 Jews were saved during the War by US intervention. While Roosevelt may have had his reservations he would not have wanted their destruction. He would probably have known about Nazi extermination policies almost from the beginning. The attitude of both Churchill and FDR towards the Jews may be summarized in an unpublished poem by Rudyard Kipling that Churchill sent to Roosevelt.
But all the course
of Time makes clear
(except the Hun)
It does not pay to interfere
With Cohen from Jerusalem.
For the poem in full, see (after scrolling down a little): Kipling on Jews and Zionism
US War Poster. Source: A Gallery of WWI Posters
An Economic Imperative in Hindsight?
In ADDITION to all the Above, another factor that may have helped Roosevelt go ahead with a belligerence attitude towards the Axis, may be inferred by what came after. Roosevelt in the first of his four terms as President had begun to take the USA out of a very severe Depression of almost disastrous proportions. The economy recovered, numerous social reforms were put in place, and benign Government involvement increased. Matters went ahead for the better. The more that was done came the knowledge of what was still possible and needed. There were impediments. Bureaucratic regulations, opposition from political elements, legal problems, business opposition, interested parties, and so on all combined to hold social improvement and the economy back. Consequent reforms were not as fast nor as complete as they Roosevelt wanted. With Lend Lease followed by War all this changed for the better. Workers had jobs with plenty of overtime and rising salaries. Production increased all down the line. New methods and numerous innovations were adopted. Governmental authorities worked hand in hand with business and Labor. A regulated boom resulted. Roosevelt with his hands on experienced from beforehand may have had an insight that all this was a possibility. The War turned it into reality. FDR must have understood that something like this could happen.
The USA entered World War-2 on the side of Britain due to geo-political reality, its own interests, belief in Democracy, the personal predilections of its leader, and a host of other factors. It was something the American People came to want and could not really avoid.