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Chapter 34 - Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Shadow of War

I. The London Conference

  1. The 1933 London Conference composed 66 nations that came together
    to hopefully develop a worldwide solution to the Great Depression.
    • President Franklin D. Roosevelt at first agreed to send Secretary
      of State Cordell Hull, but then withdrew from that agreement and
      scolded the other nations for trying to stabilize currencies.
    • As a result, the conference adjourned accomplishing nothing, and furthermore strengthening American isolationism.

II. Freedom for (from?) the Filipinos and Recognition for the Russians

  1. With hard times, Americans were eager to do away with their
    liabilities in the Philippine Islands. And, American sugar producers
    wanted to get rid of the Filipino sugar producers due to the
    competition they created.
  2. In 1934, Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act, stating that the
    Philippines would receive their independence after 12 years of economic
    and political tutelage, in 1946.
    • Army bases were relinquished, but naval bases were kept.
  3. Americans were freeing themselves of a liability and creeping into
    further isolationism Meanwhile, militarists in Japan began to see that
    they could take over the Pacific easily without U.S. interference or
  4. In 1933, FDR finally formally recognized the Soviet Union, hoping
    that the U.S. could trade with the U.S.S.R., and that the Soviets would
    discourage German and Japanese aggression.

III. Becoming a Good Neighbor

  1. In terms of its relations with Latin America, the U.S. wanted to be
    a “good neighbor,” showing that it was content as a
    regional power, not a world one.
  2. In 1933, FDR renounced armed intervention in Latin America at the
    Seventh Pan-American Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, and the
    following year, U.S. marines left Haiti.
  3. The U.S. also lifted troops from Panama, but when Mexican forces
    seized Yankee oil properties, FDR found himself urged to take drastic
    • However, he resisted and worked out a peaceful deal.
    • His “good neighbor” policy was a great success, improving the U.S. image in Latin American eyes.

IV. Secretary Hull’s Reciprocal Trade Agreement

  1. Secretary of State Hull believed that trade was a two-way street,
    and he had a part in Congress’s passing of the Reciprocal Trade
    Agreements Act in 1934 which activated low-tariff policies while aiming
    at relief and recovery by boosting American trade.
    • This act whittled down the most objectionable schedules of the
      Hawley-Smoot law by amending them, lowering rates by as much as half,
      provided that the other country would do the same toward the United
  2. The Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act reversed the traditional
    high-tariff policy that had damaged America before and paved the way
    for the American-led free-trade international economic system that was
    implemented after World War II.

V. Storm-Cellar Isolationism

  1. After World War I, many dictatorships sprang up, including Joseph
    Stalin of the Soviet Union, Benito Mussolini of Italy, and Adolph
    Hitler of Germany.
    • Of the three, Hitler was the most dangerous, because he was a great
      orator and persuader who led the German people to believe his
      “big lie,” making them think that he could lead the country
      back to greatness and out of this time of poverty and depression.
  2. In 1936, Nazi Hitler and Fascist Mussolini allied themselves in the Rome-Berlin Axis.
  3. Japan slowly began gaining strength, refusing to cooperate with the
    world and quickly arming itself by ending the Washington Naval Treaty
    in 1934 and walking out of the London Conference.
  4. In 1935, Mussolini attacked Ethiopia, conquering it, but the League
    of Nations failed to take effective action against the aggressors.
  5. America continued to hide behind the shell of isolationism,
    believing that everything would stay good if the U.S. wasn’t
    drawn into any international embroilments.
    • The 1934 Johnson Debt Default Act forbade any countries that still owed the U.S. money from borrowing any more cash.
  6. In 1936, a group of Princeton University students began to agitate
    for a bonus to be paid to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFWs) while the
    prospective front-liners were still alive.

VI. Congress Legislates Neutrality

  1. The 1934 Nye Committee was formed to investigate whether or not
    munitions manufacturers were pro-war, existing for the sole purpose of
    making more money and profits, as the press blamed such producers for
    dragging America into the First World War.
  2. To prevent America from being sucked into war, Congress passed the
    Neutrality Acts in 1935-37, acts which stated that when the president
    proclaimed the existence of a foreign war, certain restrictions would
    automatically go into effect: no American could legally sail on a
    belligerent ship or sell or transport munitions to a belligerent, or
    make loans to a belligerent.
    • The flaw with these acts was that they were designed to prevent
      America from being pulled into a war like World War I, but World War II
      would prove to be different.

VII. America Dooms Loyalist Spain

  1. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Spanish rebels led by the
    fascist General Francisco Franco rose up against the leftist-leaning
    republican government.
    • In order to stay out of the war, the U.S. put an embargo on both
      the loyalist government, which was supported by the USSR, and the
      rebels, which were aided by Hitler and Mussolini.
    • During the Civil War, the U.S. just stood by while Franco smothered
      the democratic government. America also failed to build up its fleet,
      since most people believed that huge fleets led to huge wars.
      • It was not until 1938 that Congress passed a billion-dollar naval construction act, but then it was too little, too late.

VIII. Appeasing Japan and Germany

  1. In 1937, Japan essentially invaded China, but FDR didn’t call
    this combat “a war,” thus allowing the Chinese to still get
    arms from the U.S., and in Chicago of that year, he merely verbally
    chastised the aggressors, calling for “a quarantine” of
    Japan (through economic embargoes, perhaps); this was his famous
    “Quarantine Speech.”
    • The Quarantine Speech asked for America to stay neutral but to morally side against the fascist nations.
    • However, this speech angered many isolationists, and FDR backed down a bit from any more direct actions.
  2. In December 1937, the Japanese bombed and sank the American
    gunboat, the Panay, but then made the necessary apologies,
    “saving” America from entering war.
    • To vent their frustration, the Japanese resorted to humiliating white civilians in China through slappings and strippings.
    • The Panay incident further supports America’s determination to stay neutral.
  3. Meanwhile, Hitler was growing bolder and bolder after being allowed
    to introduce mandatory military service in Germany, take over the
    German Rhineland, persecute and exterminate about six million Jews, and
    occupy Austria—all because the European powers were appeasing
    • They naively hoped that each conquest of Germany would be the last.
  4. However, Hitler didn’t stop, and at the September 1938 Munich
    Conference, the Allies agreed to let Hitler have the Sudentenland of
    neighboring Czechoslovakia, but six months later, in 1939, Hitler
    pulled the last straw and took over all of Czechoslovakia.
    • British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to England and
      gave his infamous claim that he’d achieved “peace in our
      time”—true, but it proved to be a short time.

IX. Hitler’s Belligerency and U.S. Neutrality

  1. On August 23, 1939, the U.S.S.R. shocked the world by signing a nonaggression treaty with Germany.
    • Now, it seemed that Germany could engulf all of Europe, especially
      without having to worry about fighting a two-front war in case Russia
      fought back.
    • In essence, the nonaggression pact opened the door to Poland.
  2. In 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and France and Britain finally
    declared war against Germany, but America refused to enter the war, its
    citizens not wanting to be “suckers” again.
    • Americans were anti-Hitler and anti-Nazi and wanted Britain and
      France to win, but they would not permit themselves to be dragged into
      fighting and bloodshed.
  3. European powers needed American supplies, but the previous
    Neutrality Acts forbade the sale of arms to nations in war, so a new
    Neutrality Act of 1939 allowed European nations to buy war materials,
    but only on a “cash-and-carry” basis, which meant Europeans
    had to provide their own ships and pay for the arms in cash.
    • Since the British and French controlled the seas, the Germans couldn’t buy arms from America, as it was intended.

X. The Fall of France

  1. After the fall of Poland, Hitler positioned his forces to attack
    France which led to a lull in the war (so that men could move) that was
    pierced only by the Soviet Union’s attack and conquering of
    Finland, despite $30 million from the U.S. (for nonmilitary reasons).
  2. Then, in 1940, the “phony war” ended when Hitler
    overran Denmark and Norway, and then took over the Netherlands and
    • Blitzing without mercy, he then struck a paralyzing blow toward France, which was forced to surrender by late June of that year.

b. The fall of France was shocking, because now, all that stood
between Hitler and the world was Britain: if the English lost, Hitler
would have all of Europe in which to operate, and he might take over
the Americas as well.

  1. Finally, Roosevelt moved and called for the nation to massively
    build up its armed forces, with expenses totaling more than $37
    million. He also had Congress pass the first peacetime draft in U.S.
    history on September 6, 1940.
    • 1.2 million troops and 800,000 reserves would be trained.
  2. At the Havana Conference, the U.S. warned Germany that it could not
    take over orphan colonies in the Americas, as such action
    wouldn’t be tolerated.

XI. Bolstering Britain with the Destroyer Deal (1940)

  1. Now, with Britain the only power fighting against Germany, FDR had
    to decide whether to remain totally neutral or to help Britain.
    • Hitler launched air attacks against the British in August 1940 and
      prepared an invasion scheduled to start a month later, but the
      tenacious defense of the British Royal Air Force stopped him in the
      aerial Battle of Britain.
  2. Those who supported helping Britain formed the Committee to Defend
    America by Aiding the Allies, while those for isolationism (including
    Charles A. Lindbergh) were in the America First Committee, and both
    groups campaigned and advertised for their respective positions.
  3. Britain was in dire need for destroyers, and on September 2, 1940,
    FDR boldly moved to transfer 50 old-model, four-funnel destroyers left
    over from WWI, and in return, the British promised to give the U.S.
    eight valuable defensive base sites stretching from Newfoundland to
    South America.
    • These would stay in American ownership for 99 years.
    • Obviously, this caused controversy, but FDR had begun to stop
      playing the silly old games of isolationism and was slowly starting to
      step out into the spotlight.

XII. FDR Shatters the Two-Term Tradition (1940)

  1. In 1940, it was thought that Robert A. Taft of Ohio or Thomas E.
    Dewey would be the Republican candidate, but a colorful and magnetic
    newcomer went from a nobody to a candidate in a matter of weeks.
    Wendell L. Willkie, became the Republican against Democratic candidate
    Franklin D. Roosevelt, who waited until the last moment to challenge
    the two-term tradition.
    • Democrats felt that FDR was the only man qualified to be president, especially in so grave of a situation as was going on.
  2. Willkie and FDR weren’t really different in the realm of
    foreign affairs, but Willkie hit hard with his attacks on the third
  3. Still, FDR won because voters felt that, should war come, FDR was the best man to lead America.

XIII. Congress Passes the Landmark Lend-Lease Law

  1. Britain was running out of money, but Roosevelt didn’t want
    all the hassles that came with calling back debts, so he came up with
    the idea of a lend-lease program in which the arms and ships, etc. that
    the U.S. lent to the nations that needed them would be returned when
    they were no longer needed.
    • Senator Taft retorted that in this case the U.S. wouldn’t
      want them back because it would be like lending chewing gum then taking
      it back after it’d been chewed.
  2. The lend-lease bill was argued over heatedly in Congress, but it
    passed, and by war’s end, America had sent about $50 billion
    worth of arms and equipment.
    • The lend-lease act was basically the abandonment of the neutrality policy, and Hitler recognized this.
    • Before, German submarines had avoided attacking U.S. ships, but
      after the passage, they started to fire upon U.S. ships as well, such
      as the May 21, 1941 torpedoing of the Robin Moor.

XIV. Hitler’s Assault on the Soviet Union Spawns the Atlantic Charter

  1. On June 22, 1941, Hitler attacked Russia, because ever since the
    signing of the nonaggression pact, neither Stalin nor Hitler had
    trusted each other, and both had been plotting to double-cross each
    • Hitler assumed his invincible troops would crush the inferior
      Soviet soldiers, but the valor of the Red army, U.S. aid to the
      U.S.S.R. (through lend-lease), and an early and bitter winter stranded
      the German force at Moscow and shifted the tide against Germany.
  2. The Atlantic Conference was held in August 1941, and the result was
    the eight-point Atlantic Charter, which was suggestive of Woodrow
    Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Main points included…
    • There would be no territorial changes contrary to the wishes of the natives.
    • The charter also affirmed the right for people to choose their rulers (self-determination).
    • It declared disarmament and a peace of security, as well as a new League of Nations.
  3. Critics charged that “neutral America” was interfering, ignoring that America was no longer neutral.

XV. U.S. Destroyers and Hitler’s U-Boats Clash

  1. To ensure that arms sent to Britain would reach there, FDR finally
    agreed that a convoy would have to escort them, but only as far as
    Iceland, as Britain would take over from there.
  2. There were clashes, as U.S. destroyers like the Greer, the Kearny, and the Reuben James were attacked by the Germans.
  3. By mid-November 1941, Congress annulled the now-useless Neutrality Act of 1939.

XVI. Surprise Assault at Pearl Harbor

  1. Japan was still embroiled in war with China, but when America
    suddenly imposed embargoes on key supplies on Japan in 1940, the
    imperialistic nation had now no choice but to either back off of China
    or attack the U.S.; they chose the latter.
  2. The Americans had broken the Japanese code and knew that they would
    declare war soon, but the U.S. could not attack, so based on what the
    Japanese supposedly planned, most Americans thought that the Japanese
    would attack British Malaya or the Philippines.
  3. However, the paralyzing blow struck Pearl Harbor, as on December 7,
    1941, Japanese air bombers suddenly attacked the naval base located
    there (where almost the entire U.S. fleet was located), wiping out many
    ships and killing or wounding 3,000 men.
  4. The next day, the one after “a date which will live in
    infamy” (FDR), the U.S. declared war on Japan, and on December
    11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S.

XVII. America’s Transformation from Bystander to Belligerent

  1. Up until the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, most Americans still
    wanted to stay out of war, but afterwards the event sparked such
    passion that it completely infuriated Americans into wanting to go to
  2. This had been long in coming, as the U.S. had wanted to stay out of
    war, but had still supported Britain more and more, and the U.S. had
    been against the Japanese aggression but had failed to take a firm
    stand on either side.
  3. Finally, people decided that appeasement didn’t work against
    “iron wolves,” and that only full war was needed to keep
    the world safe for democracy and against anarchy and dictatorship.
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