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The United States Wins World Leadership In War
1. The Japanese Attack on
In the autumn of 1941 most Americans believed that the greatest chance of involvement of the United States in a shooting war lay in the activities of Germany on the high seas and in the Nazi advances in Europe. So long had American attention been riveted upon the successes of the Rome-Berlin partnership that events in the Orient often were submerged or pushed into the background. However, the significance of the enlargement of the Rome-Berlin pact to include Imperial Japan on September 27, 1940 had not been lost to sight even in the midst of the greater emphasis upon the disasters of the spring and summer of 1940 in Europe. This treaty pledged the three powers to make joint cause against any nation not then a belligerent which should make war on any one of the signatory countries-Germany, Italy, and Japan. Russia was expressly exempted and it was obvious that the tripartite treaty was a clear warning to the United States that if she joined Britain, or any of the other European nations, against Hitler or Mussolini the Americans would face a two-front war. Likewise, if the United States attempted to oppose Japan, Germany and Italy would be obligated to join their Tokyo allies, thus taking off some of the pressure the Americans might otherwise be able to exert against the powerful Oriental kingdom.
Japan's mounting ambitions in the Pacific and her aims of expansion in South Asia posed a clear threat to British, French, and Dutch possessions in those areas. With Britain desperately concerned in her fight for survival, with the
RussoJapanese Neutrality Pact 1941
Netherlands under the rule of the Nazi conquerers, and with France held powerless by the Vichy-Hitler collaboration, Japan could afford to gamble on a strike to the south, if only the United States could be kept out of the way by intimidation, diplomacy, or actual military force. As another aspect of the RomeBerlin-Tokyo combination's warning to the United States, a Russo-Japanese neutrality pact was signed in Moscow on April 13, 1941, thereby increasing the freedom allowed Japan to move unmolested in the Orient while the West was busy with its own quarrels.
By the early autumn of 1941 Japanese-American relations had worsened progressively after every action by the State Department to counter Japanese moves against the segments of the Chinese nation which had not yet succumbed to Japanese conquests in the 1931-1941 period. The American decision on July 15, 1941 to freeze Japanese assets in the United States and later trade embargo actions by the State Department served to widen the breach between Tokyo and Washington.
settlement with the United States. Japanese troops were already in French Indochina, occupying bases conceded by the French government on July 23, 1941. When the United States made removal of these troops a part of the general request that Japan withdraw her forces from China and announce her support of the nationalist government of China, the Japanese negotiators were faced with a difficult decision-whether to prolong the discussions or to admit failure and leave the future developments to the military. This American proposal of November 26, 1941 was publicly rejected by the Foreign Minister in Tokyo on December 1st. But Kurusu and Nomura were instructed to continue talks with the Americans. President Roosevelt, meanwhile, had been informed of Japanese plans to invade Thailand, the
personal appeal to
independent kingdom formerly known as Siam, from the Japaneseheld positions in Indochina. When Tokyo declined to furnish satisfactory explanations, the President sent a personal message to Emperor Hirohito on December 6, 1941, asking the Japanese sovereign to help preserve peace by withdrawing the Japanese forces from Indochina. But the note was unavailing and, as a matter of fact, the Japanese war machine was already in motion-although, of course, a last minute decision by the ruling groups in Japan could have turned it aside from its goals if there had been any disposition to do so.
United States authorities misjudge Japan's target
The Americans, or at least those in informed circles, were not lulled into a sense of false security by the willingness of the Japanese envoys to continue talks. There was widespread belief that the Japanese would strike when they believed negotiation could accomplish nothing fruitful. But most authorities expected that the blow would fall in South Asia or somewhere in the island areas adjacent to the Japanese homeland. The fact that Pearl Harbor, and the American fleet based there, constituted the initial target gave the Japanese the advantage of surprise. However, nothing the Japanese might have imagined could probably have proved more unfortunate for them. With this one blow, damaging as it was to American naval power in
the Pacific, Japan's ambitious military planners succeeded in uniting the American people in a determination to avenge what they recognized as a viciously executed attack delivered with skill, but with total disregard for the decencies of international behavior.(44)
In this atmosphere of stunned surprise, but with grim realization of the course ahead, President Roosevelt went to Congress on December 8, 1941. There he asked that the members recognize the state of war in which the nation found itself after the sudden attack.
War with Japan
DECLARATION OF WAR WITH JAPAN, WASHINGTON, DECEMBER 8, 1941: Whereas the Imperial government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against ... the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved . . . That a state of war between the United States and Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared. . . The Senate adopted the resolution by a vote of 82 to 0; the House approving, 388 to 1.1 On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy fulfilled their obligations in the 1940 treaty with Japan by announcing that they regarded them
War with Germany and Italy
selves as at war with the United States. Immediately, the American Congress voted, in each case unanimously, that, since a state of war existed by act of the Axis powers, the United States could do nothing but adopt resolutions declaring war upon the European partners of our Oriental adversary.
Thus, the nation which had struggled with the problems of peace, war, neutrality, and isolationism for more than twenty years since the close of World War I was embarked upon a globally extended course to determine whether the aims and principles for which the United States stood could be maintained in a world of totalitarian regimes bent on conquest, expansion, and ruthless domination.
2. The Declaration of the
United Nations: 1942
With the United States finally in the war, allied unity became of paramount importance.
1 The one dissenting vote was cast by Miss Jeanette Rankin, (Minnesota Republican) who had cast a negative vote in 1917 against war with Germany.
Shortly after America's entry into the conflict,
A declaration of allied unity
Prime Minister Churchill paid a visit to the United States. He was received with great enthusiasm and delivered a spirited address to a joint session of the American Congress. While in Washington Churchill joined with President Roosevelt and representatives of other powers arrayed against the Axis nations in discussing measures to promote the unity all realized would be required in the fight ahead. Out of these conferences came the United Nations declaration which was signed by 25 nations and later adhered to by 21 others.
THE UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION, WASHINGTON, JANUARY 1, 1942: Each Government pledges itself to employ its full resources, military or economic, against those members of the Tripartite Pact and its adherents with which such government is at war. . . . Each Government pledges itself to cooperate with the Governments signatory hereto and not to make a separate armistice or peace with the enemies.
This declaration is not to be confused with the Charter of the United Nations Organization which did not come into existence until near the end of the war.2 The 1942 pronouncement was a statement of the unity with which the allied nations proposed to fight the war and to make the peace. The choice of the term "united" had valuable propaganda aspects and served to provide a rallying point, perhaps as intangible as Churchill's "V for victory" gesture, but equally effective in lifting the spirits of peoples and nations then suffering under the blows inflicted by the Axis forces.
At almost the same time as the united nations were declaring their intent, Western Hemispheric solidarity was reinforced at a meeting in Brazil.
The western hemisphere proclaims
THE ACT OF RIO DE JANIERO, RIO DE JANIERO, JANUARY 28, 1942: . . . I. The American Republics reaffirm their declaration to consider any act of aggression on the part of a non-American state against one of them an act of aggression against all of them. . . . II. The American Republics reaffirm their complete solidarity and their determination to cooperate jointly for their mutual protection until the effects of the present aggression against the Continent have disappeared. III. The American Republics. . . recommend the breaking of their diplomatic relations
2 See p. 101 below.
with Japan, Germany and Italy [by states not already at war]. . . . IV. Finally, the American Republics declare that, prior to the reestablishment of the relations referred to . . . they will consult among themselves in order that their action may have a solidary character.
The "Grand Alliance"
With these two statements, the United States was in effect a member of two great alliances pledged to wage war until victory had been achieved. It was likewise committed to carry this spirit of unity into the making of the peace. Even so, the United States shied away from a formal military alliance, recalling in the midst of global war its 150-year old aversion to "foreign entanglements."(45) However, American involvement was as complete and as wholehearted as if a binding alliance had been forged. What Winston Churchill so aptly called "The Grand Alliance" was from the beginning of 1942 a controlling factor in the prosecution of the war. American adherence to the agreements of the United Nations Declaration meant that another step had been taken by this nation on the road to world leadership.
Later in 1942, Secretary Hull outlined the objectives of the war as they appeared to the United States.
SECRETARY CORDELL HULL'S RADIO ADDRESS, WASHINGTON, JULY 23, 1942: The conflict now raging . . . is not a war of nation against nation. . . . On the side of our enemies
War objectives of the United States
.. it is an attempt to conquer and enslave this country and every country. On our side, the side of the United Nations, it is . . . a life-and-death struggle for the preservation of our freedom, our homes, our very existence. We are united in our determination to destroy the world-wide forces of ruthless conquest and brutal enslavement. . . . With victory achieved our first concern must be for those whose sufferings have been almost beyond human endurance. . . . Victory must be followed by swift and effective action to meet . . pressing human needs.... During this period of transition the United Nations must continue to act in the spirit of cooperation which now underlies their war effort -to supplement and make more effective the action of countries individually in re-establishing public order, in providing swift relief, in meeting the manifold problems of readjustment. . . . It is plain that some international agency must be created which can -by force, if necessary-keep the peace among nations in the future. There must be international cooperative action to set up the mechanisms which
can thus assure peace. This must include eventual adjustment of national armaments in such a manner that the rule of law cannot be successfully challenged and that the burden of armaments may be reduced to a minimum. . . . It is plain that one of the institutions which must be established and be given vitality is an international court of justice. It is equally clear that, in the process of re-establishing international order, the United Nations must exercise surveillance over aggressor nations until such time as the latter demonstrate their willingness and ability to live at peace with other nations. How long such surveillance will need to continue must depend upon the rapidity with which the peoples of Germany, Japan, Italy, and their satellites give convincing proof that they have repudiated and abandoned the monstrous philosophy of superior race and conquest by force and have embraced loyally the basic principles of peaceful processes. excessive trade barriers . . . must be reduced, and practices which impose injuries on others and divert trade from its natural economic course must be avoided. . . . Continuous self-development of nations and individuals in a framework of effective cooperation with others is the sound and logical road to the higher standards of life which we all crave and seek. . . .
Relief and rehabilitation for the allied nations
In this spirit of united effort the nations opposing the Axis carried on the war through the disheartening months of early 1942. The United States expanded the scope of its lend-lease program, with arrangements for sending equipment and supplies to its allies in every theater of war. Likewise, plans to provide for the relief and rehabilitation of the peoples of less fortunate regions were undertaken. Pending the organization of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, familiarly known as UNRRA, the United States set up an Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations with Herbert H. Lehman, former governor of New York State, as its Director. The aim of this office and of its successor, UNRRA, was to alleviate the suffering, privation, dislocation, and disease affecting the peoples of areas overrun by war or threatened by the secondary effects of the global strife. In the name of humanity, the united nations acted in concert to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and other forms of relief in many corners of the world. Just as they combined their military efforts to fight the enemy, the united nations consolidated their physical and spiritual resources to offer aid and hope to those peoples left in need by
the fortunes of war. This international effort was well within the aims of American foreign policy and there was every disposition on the part of the American people to support governmental action to strengthen our allies through the avenues open to UNRRA.
Thus, as we shall see in a later section, the military, political, and social implications of the wartime partnership of the united nations foreshadowed the creation of the United Nations Organization in 1945.3 Before that date, however, serious strains developed from time to time, endangering the future of international cooperation.(46) Nevertheless, the common experiences of allies during the fighting years served to strengthen the determination of individuals and governments to make the victories of peace as enduring as the victories of war.
3. Beginning the March toward Ultimate Victory
The allies plan to take the initiative
On the wideflung military fronts the dismal happenings of late 1941 and early 1942 left the allied nations little else but hope for the ultimate triumph of their cause. (47) The immediate realities of combat against Axis forces in the far reaches of the Pacific as well as in Europe, North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, and on the Atlantic overshadowed diplomatic measures. Almost to the end of 1942 defeat and retreat was the unrelieved refrain for the allies. The need for some dramatic and bold stroke to reverse the tide occupied the allied planners for many months. During this time Winston Churchill made a second visit to the United States and in a series of meetings between members of his staff and their American counterparts the program for seizing the initiative was begun. Russian and Chinese representatives also conferred on global planning with the British and Americans.
At the time of Churchill's trip to Washington in June 1942 the British armies were being driven back in Libya by the desert forces of Germany and Italy. The hard-pressed Russians were clamoring for a second front in Europe to relieve the impact of Nazi attacks. And the Japanese campaigns against the islands of the Southwest Pa
3 See pp. 99-102 below.
cific were threatening the sub-continent of Australia. The claims of each of these areas had to be considered, but allied resources could not be spared for all.
French North Africa was chosen as the area of allied attack. The military and political reasons dictating this decision are familiar to students of the war. The vast holdings of The France on the African continent importance of were a prize in their own right. If French the Vichy government, then in preNorth and carious control of much of the West Africa French overseas empire in North
Africa, were to succumb to Hitler's pressures and relinquish Morocco, Algeria, and French West Africa to the Germans, the cause of the allies would suffer great damage. If the forces of French resistance based in far-off Brazzaville, in French Equatorial Africa, were abandoned, eliminated, or isolated, valuable allied possessions along the west coast of Africa would fall victims to the Nazi expansion. And with the Axis in command of most of Africa down to and beyond the Equator, the vital air and sea routes across the south Atlantic would come within easy range of Axis submarines, air fleets, and surface raiders. Moreover, if the Mediterranean and its supporting land areas could not be secured from the Axis, any campaigns for the liberation of Europe would be rendered incalculably difficult, if not impossible, to conduct.
However, among other considerations, there was one question of great weight. The anti-Vichy French, represented by such elements as the Free French, the French leaders in exile, and some French military units that had escaped the Nazi occupation of European France, were supporters of the United Nations cause, although there had been no pro-ally French government to sign the Declaration of 1942. An abortive British attack on Dakar, the African point nearest South America, September 22-25, 1940, had angered the French defenders of that important base. Would allied attacks on French North African ports and cities bring similar reactions and vitiate allied unity? From intelligence information, strengthened by secret reconnaissance, allied planners believed that an invasion in force at a number of French North African points would be welcomed
by the populace and meet with only a limited. resistance from the troops stationed in those
Timed to coincide with the advance of General Bernard Montgomery's predominately British forces from El Alamein, a vast invasion force approached North Africa from the United States and the United Kingdom. On November 8, 1942 landings at Casablanca, Oran, Algiers, and several other coastal points occupied most of the strategic ports of French Morocco and Algeria. At some points the resistance encountered was formidable, at others it was comparatively light. Within three days the allied forces had overcome the defenders and arranged an armistice on November 11th. Admiral Jean-François Darlan, Vichy representative in Algiers, signed the armistice, and the allied forces, mostly British and American units, assumed control of the valuable territories of French Morocco, Algeria, and French West Africa. This victory by the allied armies aroused popular enthusiasm in the United Nations countries as the first great triumph after a long series of reverses. But it carried with it serious complications.
The allies work with Admiral Darlan
Admiral Darlan, who had quickly transferred his allegiance from Vichy to the Anglo-American cause in North Africa, was continued in control as Chief of State, despite the protests of General Charles de Gaulle, popular but temperamental leader of the Free French military forces. All through 1940 and 1941 the United States had maintained diplomatic relations with the Vichy government of Marshal Henri-Phillippe Pétain. Several times during the war the American State Department had used its contact with Vichy to prevent German domination of the Pétain-Laval1 administration from going to the extremes it might have attempted had not this restraint been present. Nevertheless, the United States also gave aid and comfort to the Free French movement and to General de Gaulle.
With the invasion of North Africa this diplomatic balancing act was no longer necessary. The
4 German pressure had forced Marshal Pétain to reinstate Pierre Laval to the Vichy governing council, Apr. 14, 1942. On Nov. 17 Pétain gave Laval added powers in answer to German demands.