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Why America won the second world war

  1. Aug 12, 2005 #1
    This thread is created to allow Smurf to teach me why America won the second world war :biggrin:
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2005 #2
    Or, more historically accurate, why America's involvement in the war may have been a deciding factor, but was not the deciding factor. It's even arguable that America's involvement prolonged the war and caused more bad than good.
  4. Aug 12, 2005 #3
    Now, you'll have to bare with me, I'm going to be very thurough with this and will probably spend half an hour tracking down an official source for most of my information just so I can say 'Ha!' at the end of it.
  5. Aug 12, 2005 #4
    Now, in the previous thread you said this:
    This is one of my absolute favorite examples of propoganda, lies, deceit and how history is written by the victors.

    Now, be back in half an hour....


    Okay, the errors in this statement are:
    1. The prevailing connotation that Roosevelt was against going to war in Europe and East Asia.
    2. The prevailing assumption that Churchill wanted Roosevelt to go to war in Europe and East Asia.
    3. Confusion with what Roosevelt wanted to do, and what he was able to do, as well as what he campaigned for to win the election vs. what he wanted to do after he won.
    4. The odd statement that implies America was afraid Germany or Japan would invade America 'next'.

    Which one do you want me to tackle first?
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2005
  6. Aug 12, 2005 #5
    Start with 1 please :)
  7. Aug 12, 2005 #6
    Okay. The most controversial thing about FDR (in my opinion) is that he campaigned on the promise to keep America out of foreign wars "At all costs". Remember at this time the USA was extremely isolationist and (frankly) racist. It still had segregation and refused rights to 'non-christian' immigrants. People didn't want to go over seas to fight in what they considered, non-of-their-business.

    Then, after winning that campaign he turns around and pushes, pokes, nudges and shoves the US into war every way he can think of. Don't ask me for motivation, I'm still trying to peice all of that together myself, but I'll let you know once I think I have a consistant theory.

    Having said that, there is plenty of evidence to show Roosevelt's intentions were far from 'neutrality', since opening a secret channel with Churchill, Roosevelt did several very questionable acts:
    1. The exchange of American destroyers for British bases, September, 1940. - This was a clear departure from neutrality and was also a violation of some specific American laws.
    2. The Lend-Lease Act in March, 1941. - In complete contradiction to the Neutrality Act, this made the United States a partner in the economic war against the Axis Powers globally.
    3. The secret American-British staff talks in Washington in January - March, 1941. - Carefully concealed from congress at the time. At this time the administration spokesmen were still assuring everyone that there were no warlike implicationsof the Lend-Lease Act.
    4. The inauguration of "naval patrols" for the purpose of reporting the presence of German submarines to British warships, in the Atlantic in April, 1941.
    5. Sending American laborers to Northern Ireland to build a naval base.
    6. The occupation of Iceland by American troops in July, 1941. (I do hope you don't need an explanation for this one)
    7. The Atlantic Conference between Roosevelt and Churchill, August 9-12, 1941.
    8. The orders to American warships to shoot at sight at German submarines, announced September 11, 41. (this is when hostilities actually started, not when war was declared after pearl harbour)

    There are more, but I want to move on. Provoking Japan into war was the idea of a guy called Henry Stimson, who was his secretary at the time. You may recognise his name on the Stimson doctrine, issued to China and Japan in 1939, basically stating that the USA did not recognize Manchuria as Japanese territory. He was, needless to say, also a main force behind the oil embargo on Japan.

    More importantly, there were some papers, called the McCollum Memo. In this, McCollum states "It is not believed that in the present state of political opinion the United States government is capable of declaring war against Japan without more ado", followed by 8 suggested courses of action. McCollum explains his proposal in no uncertain terms: "If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better." (how comical). Viewable here. But also here.

    'nuff said really... Damn! 4 minutes too long.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2005
  8. Aug 12, 2005 #7
    One man discussions are pretty boring you know....
  9. Aug 12, 2005 #8
    According to the documentary the people of American did not want to join in with the war and Rosenvelt agreed with this. His own aides described him as a BS'er saying that anything that Rosenvelt said could be taken with a pitch of salt.

    The documentary also said, in agreement with you, that warships were exchanged for bases.

    Dispite American supply ships being blown up by the Germans they didn't join in although "The orders to American warships to shoot at sight at German submarines,"

    Instead, FDR funded the Russains' to fight from another front.

    The only reason American joined in was because of the attack on Pearl Harbour. If the Japanese hadn't made the tactical error of not finishing the job then America's naval fleet would have been decimated and would not have been able to join in anyway.

    Have you watched the documentary? I'm not saying that everything on there is true because I'm not in a position to be certain.
  10. Aug 12, 2005 #9
    Can you explain in more detail? I certainly wouldn't trust his speeches or anything, but in what context were they saying that?

    Well I'd hopeso, the destroyer for bases exchange is taught in every history textbook worth 40 pence.

    Doesn't make it peacefull just because war wasn't declared. The USA had hostilities towards Germany far before pearl harbour. I believe (but have no evidence for) FDR's plan was to escalate this into war with Germany, but Japan got involved and everything happened earlier.

    The Lend-Lease program you mean? I'll get to the details of that later.

    Well, that's arguable. The American fleet would have eventually rebuilt (the US industrial capacity was way beyond Japan's) and the USA still had their pacific fleet fully intact. I doubt you could knock out the US quite that easily.

    I've watched a lot of Documentaries, which one are you refering too?


    Any questions?
  11. Aug 12, 2005 #10


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    So far, so good, Smurf. One little comment on Pearl Harbor:

    Pearl Harbor actually helped the US more than it helped Japan. And I don't just mean that a good kick in the butt got us off our chair and motivated us. Tactically, as well: It forced us to lean on naval aviation before we really wanted to and we quickly became good at it. It also forced us to enter the war slowly while the fleet was rebuilt (the only ship that didn't get back into service was the Arizona itself) and while our manufacturing capacity kicked-out ships like gingerbread cookies.

    Well, two things:
    Something to remember, politicians will say damn near anything to get elected as long as they can qualify it enough to avoid an outright lie. Roosevelt could reasonably claim he did do everything possible to stay out of the war "at all costs" because that's a statement open to interpretation. There is a reason he didn't say "under any circumstances"...

    Ok, two and a half things.... Whether or not he wanted to go to war, the fact of the matter is that the US had a pretty big fleet in 1940 and a lot more ships under construction. Curious for a country that was not expecting to fight...
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2005
  12. Aug 12, 2005 #11


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    The sizes of the naval fleets of the US, Britain, and Japan were established by the Kellogg-Briand treaty of the 1920's. I don't believe the size or building rate of the US fleet was in violation of this treaty.
  13. Aug 12, 2005 #12


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    Japan ended the treaty (Washington Naval Treaty) in 1936. ONE LINK I just found says the treaty actually helped the US's conversion to a carrier-dominant fleet because it focused more on battleships (since, at the time, they were dominant). Since we were above the tonnage limit in the 20s, battleships were converted to carriers.

    Anyway, the US did a lot of shipbuilding in the late 1930s, which, to me, indicates preparation for a war they considered a good possibility.

    However, people at the time may have just considered that an arms race and not an actual precursor to war - I just don't know.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2005
  14. Aug 12, 2005 #13
    Smurf – the history is good but the reasons for a particular action/inaction are not so straightforward. Don’t have time now but I’ll try to respond more in the late evening. In the meantime I suggest some research on the Roosevelt philosophy leading into the present day neo-con philosophy as well as the 1930’s Communist influence on Roosevelt’s staff/advisors. Roosevelt did run on an anti-war platform while fully intending to go to war, most Republicans of the day were avid isolationists and later referred to the war as “Roosevelt’s war”.

    Smurf, your posts have much improved lately.
  15. Aug 12, 2005 #14


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    My father, a naval officer, told me the Navy, including himself, firmly believed that war with Japan was inevitable. Japan's determination to become a great power meant that she had to obtain a secure source of oil. The nearest was in southeast Asia, which she would therefore have to conquer. But the Phillipine Islands, a US occupancy, lay athwart that path of conquest, and therefore Japan and the US would have to come into conflict.

    You are right about the carriers. The K-B treaty did not specify them, and both Japan and the US took advantage of this. Several other factors affected naval construction in the thirties: the conversion from steam to diesel power, electrification of onboard systems, and so on. WWI era destroyers (four stackers) became totally obsolete and had to be replaced. A new doctrine affecting cruisers meant new ships conforming to the doctrine (heavy guns at the cost of every other kind of arm) had to be built, and so on. I don't think the Navy saw itself as being in an arms race with anybody, but just fulfilling its felt needs. Roosevelt, a former Under Secretary of the Navy, was willing to back them. Naval construction was a desired source of jobs during the depression.
  16. Aug 12, 2005 #15
    This is a good point, I hadn't thought about that. It was probably a fairly big factor contributing the America's success (well, the speed of, at least)
    You know, I find it odd that everyone full accepts the US policy of carrier-dominated fleets and emphasis on aviation. Now, I'm not questioning the policy today, but in WW2-era it seems less effective. I can't think of or find a single Battleship that was sunk by anything other than another battleship except in extreme circumstance (i.e. Yamato was attacked by 3-400 aircraft, sunk in port, already severly wounded) with the single exception of the Bismark, which was chased all the way around the british isle. It seems to me that a battleship, on the high seas, was still quite a formidable force.

    Food for thought, anyway.
    Indeed, That was probably one of the main motivators for the Japanese to go to war with the USA. However, It's not a certainty as there was oil elsewhere in East Asia, namely French indochina (which it had already aquired) and the Dutch East Indies (which it had already planned to take for rubber).
  17. Aug 12, 2005 #16


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    Sure, battleships were amazingly powerful, but it has to be relatively close for it to exert its power. On the other hand, carriers can wield influence over an immense amount of territory, and aren't as exposed to counterattack.

    As I understand, battleships of the era could easily dominate the carriers of the era if they get close, but that's a big if.

    I imagine that the reason so few battleships were sunk is because they weren't the main targets. :tongue2:
  18. Aug 12, 2005 #17
    That, and the speed of the aircraft. The carrier's strength was mobilitiy, as opposed to combat prowess.

    Battleships actually have pretty amazing range. Now, I'm not saying that Battleships could dominate the seas with a few quick modifications, but (!) had the USA put as much resources into developing Battleships as they did into developing and building Carrierrs, then perhapse they could have become a much more influencial part of Naval tactics.

    I would attribute it more to the Axis' unwillingness to risk taking them out of port. It seems like everyone was so scared of Britain and USA's navy they barely ever tried confronting it outside of the Sub war.
  19. Aug 12, 2005 #18


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    Oh, I don't doubt that, but Naval officers don't write national policy. Whether (when) FDR beleived it or not is something that is tough to know for sure.
    Even if it did take several hundred planes, carrier forces had a relatively easy time with battleships, precisely because a battleship's guns have a range of ~30 miles and a carrier's planes have a range of ~300 miles. The battle of Leyte gulf (really, 4 battles in one) was the decisive engagement of the Pacific war and in one of the bigger battles, the battleship Mustashi was sunk by carrier air power. Sunk or not, Yamato was taken out of the battle and would never fight again.

    Anyway, the importance of carriers wasn't just in fighting other warships - they also were critical for supporting the Marines in their island-hopping. And they made quick work of support ships.
  20. Aug 13, 2005 #19
    I also think the carriers where quite superior in the pacific war. They where always the ones to be attacked first and airplains (and submarines) often made the only damage to enemy ships. Battleships where mainly used to bombard islands before invasion. And to name a few more, Prince of Wales and her other english friend where sunk by japanese torpedo-bombers.

    In my understanding carriers where one of the most revolutionary military advances in ww2.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2005
  21. Aug 13, 2005 #20
    Number 2

    2. The prevailing assumption that Churchill wanted Roosevelt to go to war in Europe and East Asia.

    Churchill was not against the USA joining the war against Germany, in Europe. What he was against was the USA's constant attempts to provoke Japan into war. Stimson had been advocating war with Japan since 1931 (Under Hoover, oddly enough).

    Now, Hitler had never included Great Britain in his plans for lebensraum and had often regarded them as a potential ally in the war, possibly thinking to use British planes and tanks against his most despised enemy - the USSR.

    After the fall of France, Hitler systematically attempted to attain white peace with Great Britain, and the British government (now led by Churchill) systematically shut him down. Hitler was dumbfounded as to why Churchill would want to contnue the fight, when he lost patience he ordered the bombing raids on the British Isles that would lead to the Battle of Britain.

    Churchill had many reasons for doing this, probably the most prominent being:

    1) British honour. The British were pretty embarassed, having betrayed parts of Europe over and over again to appease Hitler. Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria were all sacrificed and when France surrendered it was a huge moral hit to those still wanting to resist the Nazis.
    2) Stalin. Churchill was anticipating the non-aggression pact being broken the moment one of them had nothing better to do.
    3) Mussolini. Mussolini, oddly enough, continued secret contact with the British. He wanted Britain to sue for Peace and he had no intention of declaring war on Hitler. He just wanted Italy to come out on top.
    4) The British Empire. The Empire was still fully intact and had huge amounts of manpower and resources. Churchill felt confident that they would win the U-Boat war and was possibly planning his own D-Day when Stalin and Germany went to war. This might be why he continued secret contact with Mussolini.
    5) Ultra. The single greatest secret weapon of the war. The British were already capable of breaking all the German codes, this was a huge advantage.

    Roosevelt's plan to enter the European theatre was somewhat confusing, and probably foolish. Roosevelt should have realised that war with Japan would not mean war with Germany because the tripart pact was not a true military alliance, but a mutual defence treaty. Common sense should dictate this as well because when Germany declared war on the Allies and the USSR, Japan did neither. Roosevelt probably had other motives to wanting a war with Japan as well, but I won't get into that now.

    Great Britain was against war with Japan.

    After WW1 the British High Command realised that the Empire could not singlehandedly sustain it's self against all the new rising powers in the world. Most noticably, it was unanimously agreed that Great Britain could not win a war both in Europe and in the far East at the same time. Priority would be given to fighting war in one theatre, and avoiding war in the other.

    -Britain was still trying to ally Japan in 1939
    -When America started stepping up aid to Japan’s enemies, Britain cut back.
    -When FDR froze Japanese assets, and called for a total embargo on Japan, even including food; all of the Allies resisted. (The Dutch could sell their oil to Britain instead, that wasn’t the point, they didn’t want war with Japan.)
    -British forces continued to be moved away from India, Australia, and other parts of the Empire untill Pearl Harbour.

    If Churchill did support FDR's provokation, he was a fool as his entire General Staff would've opposed him. Actually, the General staff did almost forced Churchill's resignation after the signapore surrender. The Empires of Europe had so much more to lose than the USA did.

    America bringing Japan into the war helped 3 parties: America, the Soviet Union, and Germany.

    After Japan declared war on the allies there was much dissent in the British General staff towards America, and Churchill for letting it happen. Churchill and Roosevelt were branded as a traitors to the Empire in many circles for quite some time. It did end eventually, after all, History is written by the victors.
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