The United States Enters the War
Japan had sought to become a dominant force in Asia in order to increase its influence and acquire the raw materials it lacked. The small island believed that it had to expand and seize other parts of Asia such as China and the Pacific islands. Nationalism had grown in Japan during the 1930s just as it had in Germany. Loyalty toward Emperor Hirohito was drilled into young children, who revered the man not only as a leader, but as a god. When Japan attacked China, it found itself fighting not one but two governments — the Chinese Nationalists, led by Chiang Kaishek, as well as the Chinese Communists with their leader Mao Tsetung. America preferred the Nationalists, yet was determined to remain neutral.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
Relations between the United States and the Japanese had weakened prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. The United States, along with much of the rest of the world, had condemned the expansion of Japanese power in Asia and the South Pacific. Government officials believed a Japanese attack was fairly imminent, but strongly suspected that it would occur in the South Pacific islands (such as the Philippines). As the Japanese attacked Oahu on that peaceful Sunday, the new radar technology had detected blips on the screen, but most believed they were U.S. aircraft.
The USS Arizona Memorial was established to honor the servicemen who perished during the surprise attack on December 7, 1941. More than 1,000 sailors went down with the sunken ship and remain buried at sea. The hull lies about forty feet beneath the memorial and can be seen from above.
The attack crippled nearly all of the U.S. battleships, with the
In 1940, FDR made history, for never before had a president served longer than two terms, or eight years. President Roosevelt's leadership was pulling the nation out of its economic depths, and the public rewarded him with a third term. Seeing Europe embroiled in conflict, Roosevelt tried his best to remain neutral, though he viewed the world stage cautiously. When France fell in 1940, he did whatever he could within his neutral status to aid the beleaguered British. But no one could deny the prudence of appropriating funds for American warships and airplanes. Congress passed the first-ever peacetime draft. Still, isolationists believed that the oceans on either side of the American continent would protect it from war. Many of them, including the prominent Charles Lindbergh, spoke out in an organization called America First, filled with isolationists who wished to prevent U.S. entry into the growing conflict.
That sentiment changed dramatically on what would otherwise have been a restful Sunday. On December 7, 1941, Japanese dive-bombers and torpedo planes launched a surprise early-morning attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (then a territory). The air raid sank most of the American Pacific fleet of ships and destroyed aircraft on the ground. It also killed more than 2,300 servicemen and nearly 100 civilians. President Roosevelt, reflecting the mood of an outraged nation, called on Congress the next day with these remarks:
Three days after the Hawaiian attack, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Suddenly thrust into the Second World War, Americans found themselves immersed in the war effort, with emotions running high. During the early months of 1942, more than 100,000 Japanese Americans (though they were U.S. citizens) found themselves relocated into internment camps. Anti-Japanese sentiment crossed to hysteria as these citizens were forced to leave their homes and jobs to live under the harsh conditions of the camps. It's reported that President Roosevelt opposed this relocation measure, but that he bowed to public pressure. After he was re-elected in 1944, Roosevelt ordered the camps closed.