During the 1930's Axis aggression occurred in Manchuria, Spain, Ethiopia and China with little response from the rest of the world. But when Hitler's Nazi forces invaded Poland in September 1939 the war began. The United States stayed out of the fighting until Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor , Hawaii on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The next day the U.S. Congress declared war on Japan at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who called that Sunday "a date which will live in infamy." Eight battleships, three cruisers, four other vessels, and 188 airplanes were destroyed. 2,403 U.S. lives were lost.
When the U.S. entered the war, Germany and Italy had taken over almost all of Europe and North Africa. England (the United Kingdom) was the only remaining democracy fighting back. Japan had taken large parts of Asia, including much of China, Burma, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the East Indies. Vast areas of the Pacific were controlled by its navy. The U.S. struck back at an island north of Australia called Guadalcanal with a hard-fought victory in August of 1942. Also that year the U.S. joined its allies England and France in fighting the Axis in North Africa. The allies of the united States during the war were: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, China and France.
In 1943 the Allies invaded Italy and the Italian army surrendered; and the Russians defeated the Germans at Stalingrad and pushed back the invasion of their country which Hitler had begun in 1941. Also the war in the Pacific was turned around as the Americans moved west towards Japan taking back island after island as they went.
The Allies attack on Hitler's Europe came on D-day, June 6, 1944, at Normandy, France. Under the leadership of U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower, history's largest invasion by sea succeeded in spite of a long, deadly defense by the Germans. With the U.S., England and Canada attacking from the west and Russia from the east, Nazi Germany collapsed and Adolph Hitler committed suicide in April 1945. Germany surrendered on May 8, VE Day (for Victory in Europe). Sadly, President Roosevelt had died only weeks before the victory.
Roosevelt's Vice president, Harry S. Truman, now became the President. As the new Commander-in Chief, he now had the job of ending the war with Japan. Even though Japan was now hopelessly defeated, its leaders refused to surrender; hundreds of Japanese were arrested just for talking about it. To end the war, Truman used a new weapon, the atomic bomb. On August 6, it was dropped on Hiroshima, where it killed 80,0000 people, including the Second Japanese Army. Another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 8. 100,000 people were killed. Finally, on August 15, the Emperor of Japan announced his surrender. This was VJ-Day (Victory in Japan). World War II was over.
Fifty million people were dead. Whole nations were laid waste and would take decades to recover. To avoid future wars a new world organization was chartered in June 1945 even before the war's end. This was the United Nations. Its purposes were: for countries to discuss world problems, to provide economic aid to many countries, and to occasionally take action. The U.S. Senate ratified the United Nations Charter in July and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt became our first Ambassador to the United Nations.
Colonies: areas settled and ruled by another country.
Propaganda: an organized campaign to change people's opinions.
Nazis: a German political party that believed Germans were superior and should rule over others.
Fascists: political parties that want a rigid one-party government under a dictator.
Aggression: attacking and harming others.
Democracy: government by a majority vote of the people.
Allies: those who help each other in a war.
Invasion: entering another country with armed forces.
Collapsed: fallen down
Surrender: to give up in a fight
Atomic bomb: a powerful explosive device that unleashes nuclear energy.
Chartered: writing and signing a document that starts an organization.
Charter: a document that begins an organization by stating its purpose.