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American Neutrality between 1939 and 1941

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Introduction

            The outbreak of row, in Europe in 1939 posed a major challenge to America’s neutrality since its sympathies lay overwhelmingly with UK and its allies (National Endowment for the Humanities 1). The commitment of remaining neutral became more formidable, in 1940 when Hitler’s Germany was close to winning the war.  Public sentiments favored the neutrality of American, yet most Americans believed that German’s conquest posed a risk to national security (National Endowment for the Humanities 1). Immediately after WWI, America speedily reached a conclusion that its involvement, in the WWI had been a catastrophic mistake, which should never occur again (National Endowment for the Humanities 1).   The country embarked on a number of strategies and policies, which aimed at preventing war, in future.

A call for an international treaty to stop war and large scale disarmaments was reached at early, in 1930s by most European countries (Hofstadter 73).   Six years later, most nations had signed the Kellogg-Briand Treaty, in which states pledged to avoid confrontations with each other (National Endowment for the Humanities 1).   Conversely, events that happened in 1930, made America to think that such concurrences were insufficient.  In any case, Japan had not been deterred from taking up Machuria, in 1931 nor had German stopped from authorizing massive new arms buildup (National Endowment for the Humanities 1).  The American Congress responded by legislating the Neutrality Act, which banned loans and arms’ sales to states at war.  The Neutrality Act was in hope that this would remove potential reasons that US might have for taking part, in European conflicts. During the WWII, German defeated France and most Countries in Europe using the “Blitzkrieg Lighting War” tactic (United State Memorial 1).

Lighting war tactic entailed the massing of war planes, artillery and tanks (United State Memorial 2).  These forces broke through the enemy territories along a narrow front.  German’s air forces deterred the adversaries from closing the beach (United State Memorial 1).  By employing the Blitzkrieg tactic, German troops overran Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia and Greece (Hofstadter 73).  This paper examines the erosion of American neutrality toward the war, in Europe between September 1939 and December 7, 1941 explaining why and how this erosion occurred.

The erosion of American neutrality toward the war, in Europe between September 1939 and December 7, 1941 explaining why and how this erosion occurred

After the war broke out between Britain and France against Germany in 1939, President Roosevelt invoked the Neutrality Acts (Hearden 12). Roosevelt felt that conflicts, in European countries were fundamentally different from WWI. Roosevelt sought to support his allies while distancing US from actual participation.  Eventually, after German troops overran France, Roosevelt requested the Congress to pass a massive program of military aid to UK an effort dubbed “Lend-Lease.”( Hearden 19). The debate on how US should involve in the conflicts dividend the county.  The internationalists claimed that supporting Great Britain would lead to actual participation of US, in the war.  The isolationists argued that Roosevelt’s policies would subject the country to another disastrous foreign war.

Prior entering to WW II officially, America supported the allied armies by providing weaponry to Europe (Marszalek 56). Carry and Cash was a provision embedded to the 1939 Neutrality Act, which allowed America to sell weapons to European forces that were ready to pay up front.  In 1940, America signed the Destroyers for Bases Pack with the Great Britain allowing for the exchange of over fifty naval destroyers.  With the Lend Lease Act in place, the US’s pretense of neutrality had finally been eroded.  With erosion of Neutrality Act of 1937, America was able do adopt the cash and carry policy together with signing the Destroyers for Bases Agreement (Marszalek 76). The legislation of cash and carry policy replaced the Neutrality Act, which lapsed, in 1939 (Marszalek 46).

In the cash and carry policy, Roosevelt was allowed to supply and sell materials to nations, in Europe once the transport arranged had been reached (Marszalek 88). Although some viewed these provisions as a means of maintaining America’s neutrality, in practice, the US mainly supplied the materials to UK and France.  The Destroyers for Bases Accord was between US and Great Britain and was made, in 1940. Under the agreement, US would transfer about fifty destroyers in exchange of land rights held by British.  After the commencement of WWI, France was immediately overrun living British alone fighting against Germany (Hearden 29).  Although USA was sympathetic to UK’s plight, America polls at the time supported America’s isolation from European war (Marszalek 70).

The America was sucked further towards the war when its air force and navy started to escort British vessels, which transported ammunitions across the Atlantic defending them from German navy (Hearden 37).  The erosion of American neutrality was at its climax when in 1941; Roosevelt pronounced a shoot on sight plan following an assault on the USS Gree, which infuriated isolationist Senators (Remini 47). Churchill repeatedly tried to persuade President Roosevelt to engage, in the war. By August 1941, the two leaders had agreed on a post war charter (Hearden 35). Following the bombing of American fleet at pear Harbor early in December 1941, all the congressmen unanimously supported US direct participation in the war (Remini 64).

Hitler’s announcement of war against America came five days later and was indeed a blessing, in disguise for President Roosevelt. At this point, the erosion of American neutrality was at its full course as Roosevelt had legitimate reasons for pursuing the Germans.   Late in November 1942, an operation dubbed “Operation Torch” was launched and focused on invading North Africa where German forces were operating (Marszalek 75).  Allied troops gradually cornered Germany troops, in N. Africa who retread in Tunisia, in 1943.  The joint US-British triumph hard fought and costly was invaluable; in mobilizing America public opinion behind the conflict effort. Early in 1943, the start of a second front seemed to have been a divisive and pressing issue (Hearden 89). Although both leaders appreciated the urgent need to address the soaring conflicts, in Russia, the prevalence was to invade Italian mainland, which was successfully conquered, in June 1944.   The attack of Pearl Harbor in 1939 by Japan killing 2,000 people and destroying eight American battleships greatly harmed the Pacific fleet (Marszalek 138).  In 1941, the Berlin-Tokyo-Rome Axis was created.  This turns of developments further forced America to engage, in the war on two fronts the Pacific and Europe

Conclusion

            After the war emerged between Britain and France against Germany in 1939, President Roosevelt invoked the Neutrality Acts.  Roosevelt felt that conflicts in Europe were basically different from WWI. Roosevelt sought after supporting his cronies while isolating US from real involvement.  Ultimately, after German troops subdued France, Roosevelt requested the Congress to support a huge program of martial aid to UK dubbed “Lend-Lease.” The contest on how US should engage in the conflicts dividend the county.  The internationalists asserted that supporting Great Britain would lead to real participation of US, in the war.  The isolationists argued that Roosevelt’s policies would subject the country to another disastrous foreign war.

With the outburst of WWII, in September 1939, America initially took a neutral stance.  As Germany began to triumph long strings of wars in Europe, President Roosevelt sort ways of assisting British while distancing himself from the confrontations.  Initially, limited by the Neutrality Acts that constrained sales of arms, Roosevelt declared a massive support to Great Britain.  In 1939, the ideological resemblance between Britain and USA was unquestionable, yet most swathes of the America media, politicians and public were extremely isolationist. With hindsight, most Americans resented USA’s participation, in the WWII. The focus on domestic issues and desire to avoid international entanglements was widespread.  When conflict broke out, President Roosevelt appreciated that the war threatened America security and focused on helping the European countries without direct participation, in the war. This need increased in 1940 when France fell and left Britain lone democracy standing America and Nazi Germany. In 1929, Neutrality Act permitted the America to trade arms with belligerents so long as the recipient countries collected the paid in cash arms. In 1941, President Roosevelt made America the ‘arsenal of democracy’ by approving the Lend-Lease Act,  which allowed the selling, leasing, bartering, or lending of ammunition and arms to European countries at war (Marszalek 89). This paper has comprehensively discussed the erosion of American neutrality toward the war, in Europe between September 1939 and December 7, 1941 and explained why and how this erosion occurred.

 Works Cited

Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition. New York, A.A. Knopf, 1948.

Hearden, Patrick J.  Roosevelt Confronts Hitler: America’s Entry into World War II. Northern

Illinois Univ. Press, New Yolk CCL. May. 1987. Web. 11 April 2013.

Marszalek, John. F. The Jacksonian Promise: America, 1815–1840. New Yolk: Johns Hopkins

University Press, 1995.

National Endowment for the Humanities. Lesson 3: U.S. Neutrality and the War in Europe, 1939–1940.  Berlin Foundation. April.

2010. Web. 12 April 2013.

http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/us-neutrality-and-war-europe-1939-1940 United State Memorial. World War II in Europe. Washington DC: US, Memorial Press, 2008.

Remini, Robert V. The Legacy of Andrew Jackson: Essays on Democracy, Indian Removal, and

Slavery (1988). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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