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German Nationalism in World War II and America's Fight Against It

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From 1939-1945, almost every known part of the world was embroiled in a conflict that reached a global-scale, instigated by a single man who sought to claim land he believed was his for the taking: Adolf Hitler, the father of the German 3rd Reich. Using the people’s anger at the Allies for their humiliation & shaming of Germany in the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler manipulated their anger and hatred of the West by promoting Aryan supremacy and German nationalism, uniting the German people in their struggle to regain what they lost, which, most importantly included land. This campaign of repossession threatened the Western Hemisphere, and as such stirred Europe into once again joining forces and battling the Nazis by both land and sea. The United States, however, was the sleeping giant that the Axis powers wanted to avoid waking, only after numerous incitements, did they realize they did the exact opposite: the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan being the one that initiated America’s call of duty. The U.S.’ intervention in the war was the do-or-die factor that might’ve possibly changed the course of history as we know it. It was the most significant foreign policy decision because of how it dug the U.S. out of the Great Depression, resulted in the development of the atomic bomb which created the image of the U.S. a global superpower, and increased job opportunities for women & African-Americans.

The United States had made the decision to intervene with their Allies during WWII mainly because they were provoked by the Axis powers, not because of any heartfelt sympathies towards the victims of Nazi targeting’s [Jews, Catholics, gays, gypsies etc.] and didn’t pay any mind to the Holocaust when it was first heard. The Axis powers, knowing that if the United States were to get involved it would be even more difficult to succeed in the war, attempted to the U.S.’ military, the largest in the world, in order to prevent any military campaigns in the future if it happened they got involved. The incident that really shook the foundations of the U.S.’ policy of isolationism was the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, which especially shocked the nation when the U.S. and Japan were engaged in diplomacy during the war to reach a peaceful resolution: “Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack” (Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor Speech, December 8th 1941). Afterwards, both Japan and Germany declared war on the U.S. and it didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter. Anti-Japanese feeling had begun to grow, and as a result, the United States began a policy of internment for anyone with Japanese ancestry. The Japanese thought that if they had targeted the U.S. military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, they would destroy the Allied forces’ chance for help from one of the strongest countries in the world, which at the time, followed a policy of isolationism since their last march into Europe, which had an ugly ending for all sides involved.

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The era immediately before the Great Depression, the Roaring Twenties, was an economic boom and period of prosperity for the United States. Opportunity was everywhere, right up until the Stock Market Crash of October 1929, which many historians mark as the official day the Great Depression began. Followed by almost a decade of unemployment, homelessness, starvation, among other social problems, the United States suffered from economic hardships that made it fall from grace as the leading power in the world. The United States was skeptical about getting involved in WWII, afraid of losing more money and the respect of other nations if they didn’t win the war. Also, since the last time they were involved in a conflict of this size, they didn’t want another death toll that was in the millions because of a meaningless war. Since the Allies were indebted to the U.S. for enormous loans taken out to fund the war, America thought that in order to ensure that they would be able to pay them back if they won, decided that entering the war, knowing they were a force to be reckoned with, would financially secure themselves in their backing of their Allies. On the contrary, WWII actually helped America fully recover, with industries dealing with weapons and machines being restored for wartime purposes: “The federal government emerged from the war as a potent economic actor, able to regulate economic activity and to partially control the economy through spending and consumption. American industry was revitalized by the war, and many sectors were by 1945 either sharply oriented to defense production (for example, aerospace and electronics) or completely dependent on it (atomic energy)” (Tassava, Christopher. “The American Economy during World War II”. EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. February 10, 2008.)

The United States hadn’t begun trying to develop an atomic weapon until Albert Einstein, renowned physicist who, being a Jew, was forced to flee Germany in the wake of a Nazi takeover, sent President Roosevelt a letter informing him that Hitler had a research team ready to use nuclear power against the Allies. Roosevelt, heeding Einstein’s advice to start up their own team, created the Manhattan Project for that very purpose. The United States then became involved in a nuclear arms race with Germany, Russia, & Japan in attempting to weaponize nuclear energy to gain the upper hand in the war. Since Germany had driven out its scientists, most of whom were Jewish, the competition was really between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to see who would have the better hand in the end. This only furthered the tension between the U.S. and USSR, especially afterwards when the Cold War took place. “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five (Sagan, http://todayinsci.com, n.d.). Mr. Sagan does a good job of illustrating the futility of the arms race, with this contest to see who can stockpile the most nuclear missiles clearly a bad idea for international relations. The United States did end up being the ones who created, and unfortunately used, an atomic weapon for the first time, with disastrous results: “I saw a bright blast, and I saw yellow and silver and orange and all sorts of colors that I can’t explain. Those colors came and attacked us, and the ceiling beams of the wooden school along with the glass from the window pane all shattered and blew away all at once” (Seni Tienabeso, 2010). Here, Michiko Kodoma portrays the horrible events that happened that day, with the burst of destructive colors forever changing her life. Although this only led to even more confrontations, the fact that the U.S. possessed such a deadly weapon only earned it the fear and respect of other nations in the international community as a superpower not to be trifled with.

During WWII, when American men were being drafted to patriotically serve their country, the number of vacant jobs drastically increased as men were the primary jobholders in the country. The federal govt., requiring manpower to run the labor-intensive industries needed to create weapons and machines for the war, turned to women and minorities in their hour of need. Using icons such as Rosie the Riveter to inspire women to join the workforce in the absence of their husbands, as well as offering African-Americans the opportunity to earn wages and get themselves out of unemployment, the U.S. began to rely more and more on other populations to keep things running at home: “Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home” (Staff, 2010). For African-Americans, particularly women as men had begun to be allowed to join the U.S. military, which at the time was segregated. Believing that they needed all the help they could get, industries began hiring anyone willing to work, with racism still intact, but job discrimination thrown out for the time: “When the United States entered in the Second World War, these previously displaced black workers found new opportunities in the war industries… It is important to understand that these women had to fight to obtain and keep their jobs” (Brittany Bussell, 2007) Being selected to work in the fields of welding, machine-operating, or any vocational work, was being able to work in an environment that’s hostile, not only because of racial prejudice, but also because equipment failure and accidents made getting killed on the job more common than it should be. The United States was slowly moving towards civil rights, but full equality for all people was still unavailable at this time, with white women being classified as higher on the social ladder than African-Americans.

The United States proved to be a force to be reckoned with during this period of strife, as with their aid, the Allied forces worked together to fight off the conquering forces of Nazi Germany, whose ultimate goal was to spread their ideology of racial superiority, Aryanism, & their twisted versions of German values. Their involvement in the war was significant because it brought about many social changes on the homefront, including dragging the U.S. out of the Great Depression, the creation of the atomic bomb which had earned America the fear and respect of the international community, especially the communist USSR, which became nervous because of their strained relationship with the democratic-capitalist U.S.; and the fact that so many Americans deprived of their full rights as citizens because of their race or gender were permitted to work in positions that were almost exclusively reserved for men, only proves that changes in society were not only possible, but happening fast. WWII had done a lot to solve America’s problems at home, despite all the atrocities that came as a result of this global conflict. Despite America’s late entrance into the war, they were the deciding factor between winning and losing the war, for which losing would be catastrophic for not only the Allies, but the world.

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