Home > Encyclopedia > World War II

World War II

The German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 led Britain and France to declare war. After a period known as "The Phoney War" Hitler's forces invaded Belgium, the Netherlands and France on 10 May 1940. In spite of appeals from the French, America offered no assistance and France fell by late June. The British were driven back to their island and came close to being overwhelmed that summer as the Germans mounted wave after wave of aerial attacks in the Battle of Britain. During this period Germany and the Soviet Union were linked in a non-aggression pact. Italy had entered the war on the German side and General Tojo (Tojo, Hideki) of Japan negotiated the Tripartite Pact with those two countries. In south Asia Japan sought to extend her control, but the United States did little to oppose this. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Roosevelt, Franklin D.) was restricted by popular distaste for foreign affairs but on winning the election of 1940 was able to get the Lend-Lease Act through Congress and thus assist his future allies. On 22 June 1941 Germany invaded Russia. At the same time Britain and the Free French were heavily engaged in North Africa against the Italians and Germans. Japanese plans to attack the Dutch, British and Americans in the Pacific theatre were neglected or unnoticed. After the attack on Pearl Harbor the proposal to declare war on Japan still managed to attract one vote against in the House of Representatives, that of Jeanette Rankin, on the grounds that the whole thing was British propaganda. The damage to America's Pacific Fleet was serious but not fatal, and the United States was enraged. As some of the Japanese themselves had anticipated, they had managed to create an implacable enemy.

See also: Japan; Lend-Lease Act; Pacific Fleet; Pearl Harbor; Roosevelt, Franklin D.; Tojo, Hideki