Exam preparation materials

Chapter 18

Fighting for Good in World War II: 1940-1945

In This Chapter:

● Avoiding the war

● Getting involved under the table

● Taking care of business at home

● Rolling into battle on both sides of the globe

● Emerging as a world power who can’t go back to isolation

America’s self-absorbed it’s-all-about-me attitude in the 1920s contributed to the nation getting kicked in the butt by the Great Depression (see Chapter 17). As if that wasn’t bad enough, the same kind of me-first isolationist impulse on an international scale helped get the country socked in the kisser by World War II. The U.S. came out of this two-ended attack stronger than ever because Americans learned to fight back together and take the lead in solving world problems that they couldn’t escape.

True to the modern social history approach, the big AP exam won’t expect you to know all the battles, generals, and airplane names. You do need to understand what led up to the biggest war in history, plus the course of the conflict and its main high points and outcomes. Because of their age, the Test Masters who put the finishing touches on the AP History Challenge almost certainly know people who lived through World War II. They’ll expect you to take this chapter’s topic as seriously as they do.

Backpedaling from the Brink of War

After World War I, Americans tried to crawl back into bed and pull the isolationist covers over their heads. With the nightmare of the Great Depression already disturbing their sleep, the last thing they wanted was to get out of bed to see what all that international yelling was about. The U.S. wasn’t looking for trouble, but no matter how hard the country covered its ears, trouble seemed to be looking for them from overseas.

Conferring with words, deferring with action

At first, President Franklin Roosevelt was all in favor of the London Economic Conference (1933), which convened to get the nations of the world working together on solutions to the Depression. Maybe he thought they were going to send him some money.

When he discovered the Conference just wanted to fix the value of gold, Roosevelt backpedaled fast. He had been lowering the value of gold in the U.S. to get more dollars in circulation; the last thing he wanted was an agreement that would fix the dollar-to-gold ratio and take away his money-juggling trick. Even though the Conference may have helped the rest of the world, Roosevelt blew it off because it didn’t help the United States.

Other nations noticed the selfish stance of the U.S. and started to act like little brats, too. Not only did the London Economic Conference fall apart without the United States, but it also made countries that much more determined to go it alone and shoot anybody who got in their way.

Getting along with Latin America

The U.S. was a little chummier with Latin America. Roosevelt initiated a Good Neighbor Policy (1933) that pledged the United States to work with Central and South American nations to protect the hemisphere.

The idea of working together peacefully was a marked departure from previous U.S. policy, which had usually involved the Marines’ polite invitations to cooperate, delivered on the point of a bayonet. In the 1930s, the U.S. removed troops from Haiti, Panama, and Cuba, holding on to the base at Guantanamo, Cuba, as a naval keepsake. When Mexico grabbed American-owned oil wells in their country, the U.S. gritted its teeth but didn’t intervene.

Franklin Roosevelt flew down to Argentina for the Inter-American Conference (1936) and received cheers as he announced friendly aid and cooperation. With the beginnings of World War II thundering in Europe, the United States agreed to share responsibility for the Monroe doctrine with Latin American countries in the Havana Conference (1940).

Japan eyes the Philippines

Following through on the promise the U.S. made when they took the Philippines from Spain, Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934), which promised the islands their freedom in 1946 after a final 12-year tune-up. Despite the fact that World War II filled up a large chunk of that time with a Japanese military occupation of the Philippines, the U.S. kept its promise.

In the meantime, the United States’ willingness to free the Philippines made Japan think the U.S. really didn’t care that much about the islands. By promising to be nice later, the U.S. unintentionally let Japan believe that America may be easy to push around.

Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act

In another make-nice bid, Congress let the president set tariff-lowering deals with other countries under the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (1934). This measure reversed some of the self-absorbed damage of the Hawley-Smoot law and started the U.S. and the world on a decreasing-tariff trend that led to the free trade policies that most nations enjoy today.

Although reciprocal trade was hardly enough to make the world peaceful, it was a step in the right direction. Over the protests of vehement anti-communists, Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union in 1933, something that would come in handy later when the U.S. needed allies in World War II.

Hitter and Mussolini (and sometimes Franco)

Meanwhile in Europe, bad guys were moving into the neighborhood. Benito Mussolini, the strutting proponent of Fascism, had taken over Italy in 1922. Looking for something strong and glorious to do, Mussolini invaded the independent African kingdom of Ethiopia in 1935, sending Italian soldiers in tanks and planes to fight people armed with spears. The League of Nations, without American support, did little but bluster to stop Mussolini.

Adolf Hitler, the 20th century’s worst bad guy, took over Germany in 1933. After quickly getting rid of his country’s struggling democracy, Hitler revived the German economy with dictatorial control and projects like the world’s first national freeway system (the autobahn) and commissioning the world’s first specially created “people’s car” (the Volkswagen). Ominously, he also began an ever-tightening persecution of Jewish people and other minorities. Western democracies tried to overlook Hitler’s crimes because they thought he would fight Communism.

In 1936, Hitler and Mussolini aligned themselves as the Axis powers. Soon they had a joint project. The democratic government of Spain was fighting a civil war with would-be dictator General Franco. Germany and Italy jumped in on Franco’s side, sending troops, planes and tanks. The elected democratic government got some help from the Soviet Union and individual volunteers from many countries including the United States. The governments of France, Britain, and the United States refused to get involved to save the Spanish government, but Germany and Italy had no such hesitation about destroying it. After three years of brutal fighting — including the bombing of civilians by Germany and Italy — Franco won.

The Neutrality Acts

As the dictators increased their power, the United States increased its effort to build itself a better shell. Congress passed separate Neutrality Acts for three years in a row starting in 1935, in an attempt to avoid the kind of economic entanglement that had led to the U.S. being drawn in to World War I.

These neutrality acts said that when the president proclaimed the existence of a foreign war, no American could loan money, sell weapons, or even sail on a ship belonging to one of the fighting sides. These rules were a step back from the freedom of the seas for which the U.S. had fought major wars in the past. The Neutrality Acts made no distinction between good guys and bad guys; the United States wasn’t going to help anybody.

By not working for good, the neutrality acts gave the advantage to dictatorships. The United States’ hideout also included a refusal to prepare for any possible war. Throughout most of the 1930s, the American army contained fewer than 200,000 men, smaller than the armies of Poland or Turkey.

Watching the Flames of War Grow Higher

The military leadership of Japan wanted to control China, and it launched an invasion of that country in 1937. The United States forgave Japan after the Japanese apologized for sinking an American gunboat on a Chinese river. In 1940, Japan became a formal ally of Nazi Germany and Italy.

Meanwhile in Europe, Adolf Hitler gobbled up territory from countries on both sides of Germany. At first, his moves were tentative. When Hitler’s troops marched into the demilitarized Rhineland region of Germany in 1936, they had orders to turn right around and go home if anybody stood up to them. Nobody did.

In March of 1938, the German army took over Austria without a fight. At the Munich Conference in September of that year, England and France agreed to let Hitler take over the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia. This sellout by the democracies only bought peace for a few months. Negotiating with Hitler was like trying to stop a wolf by throwing meat. In August of 1939, anti-Communist Hitler stunned the world by signing a treaty with Joseph Stalin, leader of the big Communist Soviet Union. One week later, Hitler invaded Poland.

Britain and France take a stand

Finally England and France had had enough; they declared war on Germany, and the greatest conflict in history was under way. After several months of preparation, Hitler’s well-organized forces swept across Holland and Belgium into France. By the summer of 1940, Hitler and his Italian buddy Mussolini controlled all of Europe except for the home islands of Britain 35 miles across the English Channel.

Hitler pounded Britain with planes to destroy the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and prepare the islands for German invasion. In the Battle of Britain (1940), the RAF, down to its last few planes, heroically defended its island nation. As the bombs fell, bulldog Prime Minister Winston Churchill told the British people to conduct themselves so that if Britain “lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” It was.

The U.S. takes a tentative step toward War

By 1938, the United States finally acknowledged that trouble may be coming its way, so it started to build up the Navy to sink any bad guys before they could get to American shores. With Europe under Nazi control and America’s mother country Britain fighting for its life, the U.S. passed its first peacetime draft in September of 1940, beginning a slow process to bring millions of men into the armed forces.

"Any aid short of war"

Also in September, President Roosevelt took the dramatic step of sending 50 old destroyers to Britain in exchange for some defensive bases in the Atlantic. He didn’t wait for Congress: His old friend Churchill had asked him to act now. Aid wasn’t that easy; an America First (1940) organization led by aviation hero Charles Lindbergh opposed any help for Britain that may draw America into the war. A law to continue the draft passed by only one vote. Despite Lindbergh’s popularity, a majority of Americans now favored helping the fight with “any aid short of war.”

In the middle of the drama came a presidential election. Franklin Roosevelt decided he had to run again for an unprecedented third term. He won easily despite some uneasiness about electing anybody three times; the Democrats also maintained their majority in Congress.

Lend-Lease Bill

Britain was running out of money as well as supplies. A newly reelected Roosevelt introduced the Lend-Lease Bill (1941), which allowed the U.S. to lend or lease military supplies to Britain and other countries America supported without payment. This move was as close to declaring war as the nation could come without actually pulling the trigger; the hope was that other democracies would do the fighting for America. Lend-Lease had the additional advantage of tooling up U.S. defense plants to operate at full production before the country eventually ended up in the war.

Question: What was the purpose of the Lend-Lease Bill ("1941)?

Answer: The purpose of Lend-Lease was to get desperately needed supplies to the Allies without payment in advance.

Hitter invades the Soviet Union

In June of 1941, less than two years after he had shocked the world by signing a peace treaty with his Communist enemy the Soviet Union, Hitler shocked the world again by invading his Soviet treaty buddies with a huge army. Having conquered most of Europe, Hitler thought he could get away with anything. In addition, he sincerely hated Communists (and basically anyone who got in his way).

Hitler was sure his genius planning would have the German army safely in Moscow before the first snows fell. During the first weeks of the invasion, the Germans won so much territory that it looked like those dreams may come true. The Soviet Union seemed to be on the brink of collapse.

Against the nightmare scenario of the Soviet Union folding like it did in World War I, Churchill met with Roosevelt on a battleship off Canada. They weren’t supposed to be allies; after all, the U.S. was still officially neutral and not at war. The two took the unusual step as unofficial buddies of drafting the Atlantic Charter (1941). The Charter said that all people had the right to choose their own government, especially to reinstate the democratic governments that dictators had taken away. It also called for disarmament and peace overseen by an international organization.

When they had time to catch their breath, the leaders of the Soviet Union signed on to the Charter later in 1941. The United States was in the interesting position of dictating war aims for a conflict it was not fighting. The charade got even thinner when America started to convoy supplies as far as Iceland through the German submarine packs with a shoot-to-kill order against attacking U-boats.

Japan attacks Peart Harbor

In the Pacific, the U.S. also managed to twist the imperial tail of Japan without actually attacking. In late 1940, the United States cut off the shipment of scrap iron and other industrial supplies to Japan; in mid-1941, America froze Japan’s investments in the U.S. and cut off all gas and military supplies. The Japanese war machine was going to grind to a halt without either buying supplies from the U.S. or stealing them from the lightly guarded Dutch West Indies.

America said it would turn on the supplies again if Japan backed out of China, but that would be a loss of both honor and hard-won territory. Japan pretended to negotiate and got ready for a surprise attack against the United States.

Early on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, with most of the U.S. Pacific Naval Fleet rocking gently at anchor in the tropical breezes of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Japanese carrier planes flew in low to drop bombs that sank or disabled almost the whole fleet and killed 2,500 Americans. Unfortunately for the Japanese, they missed sinking the most valuable ships in the Pacific navy, three aircraft carriers that weren’t in the harbor at the time. In months to come, these ships would come looking for the Japanese. Given that the U.S. had had no experience at being invaded for the last 125 years, the attack on Pearl Harbor came as a shocking surprise. Within days, the United States was at war with Japan, Germany, and Italy.

Having trouble remembering who’s on what side? The major players in World War II were JIG versus SUB. The Axis Powers were Japan, Italy, and Germany against the Allies, who were the Soviet Union, the United States, and Britain. Hokey but useful.

Fighting to Win on the Home Front

Having had a couple of years to contemplate, Britain and the U.S. had already agreed to put most of their efforts into beating Germany first. Although you may be inclined to chase the wasp that has just stung you, you’re better off to go after the biggest hive first. Plus, little Britain and the almost-overwhelmed Soviets were politely saying, “Hey, can we get some help over here?” Sure, but first the Unites States had to figure out how to feed and equip all three countries, plus ship its fighting forces and supplies half way around the world in two directions.

The treatment of Japanese Americans

The American mainland home front was pretty steady, with no real challenge from enemy bombs or sabotage. However, out of paranoia and racism, the U.S. government herded over 100,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps just to be safe. Most of them were American citizens; none of them were ever proven to be a real danger to the United States. They were politely treated for the most part, but many of them lost the small farms they had managed to buy before the war, when they had grown most of the West Coast’s green beans, tomatoes, and strawberries. They appealed their internment to the Supreme Court in the case of Korematsu v. United States (1944), and the Court ruled that the internment was legal.

Despite their harsh treatment, thousands of Japanese Americans volunteered for the army and fought bravely in Europe. After the war, they went back to their normal lives. Thirty years after the War, the United States apologized and paid the Japanese Americans who were still around a small compensation.

Question: What was the Supreme Court decision in Korematsu v. United States?

Answer: The Supreme Court held that the internment of Japanese Americans on the

West Coast of the United States during World War II was legal.

Production kicks off

Production of war material made the United States what President Roosevelt called the “arsenal of democracy.” For starters, the U.S. launched almost 3,000 Liberty Ships, each capable of carrying 10,000 tons of cargo anywhere in the world. On those ships went more than 2 million machine guns, billions of bullets, four times as many tanks as the dictators produced, twice as many fighter planes, four times as many bombers, and five times as many heavy guns and trucks.

Farmers hauled in record billion-bushel wheat crops by using machinery to replace manpower. Rationing held down domestic consumption to speed food to American soldiers and their allies. Government agencies worked to keep a lid on wages and prices. Labor unions grew, but their leaders mostly kept their men off the picket lines and on the job. To encourage worker cooperation, Congress passed the Smith-Connally Anti-Strike Act (1943), which allowed the government to take over industries tied up by strikes.

The federal government took over the coal mines and for a short period even ran the railroads. Most of the time, the federal government did not need to step in: business and labor worked together for the war effort. Over all, American workers cooperated with the war effort by having even fewer work stoppages than laborers in besieged Britain.

During the war, thousands of Mexican farm workers entered the United States, partly as a replacement for the interned Japanese. They never left.

Workers built liberty ships cheaply and quickly. In a break with tradition, they welded the ships together instead of riveting them. Ship building used to take months, but Liberty ships were ready in six weeks.

Women made up a third of the civilian work force; most of these women had never held a job outside their homes before. They welded the Liberty ships that supplied the armies of democracy. After the war, two thirds of the women quit their jobs to return to housework, but they didn’t forget their successful employment. Working women became a natural part of the United States’ economy in the 1960s, about the time the daughters of the women who helped win World War II came of age.

The U.S. fights discrimination in defense industries

Despite massive federal investment for industrial plants in the Southeast, millions of blacks left the land of their former enslavement to take new manufacturing jobs in the North and California.

Cotton-picking was over as an occupation in the South after the invention of a machine to do the work. Within a generation, a majority of Southern blacks gave up their rural homes and gravitated toward the city. This migration was so large that it rivaled the influx of immigrants at the beginning of the 1900s.

Under pressure from the nation’s only black union, the Roosevelt administration forbade discrimination in defense industries. This was the first time black workers had been given a fair shake in major industries, and they responded by going to work in record numbers.

Minorities contribute in the armed forces

The American record on discrimination was not as good in the armed forces. Blacks fought in segregated units, often in service rather than combat jobs; however, they did have a limited but proud record as fighter pilots, soldiers, and sailors. In 1948, three years after the end of the war, the armed forces became the first major institution in the United States to be officially desegregated.

More than 25,000 American Indians served in the armed forces during World War II. In both Europe and the Pacific, they made special contributions as code talkers who relayed radio messages in Indian languages that enemy troops couldn’t understand. After the war, American Indians migrated from reservations to cities in record numbers.

Hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans served in the armed forces, making up around 3 percent of the army. Although they faced discrimination in housing, education, and even veterans services after the war, they fought back through legal defense organizations.

Mexican American school children had to attend so-called Mexican schools in California. In 1947, the Mendez v. Westminster court ruling declared that segregating children of “Mexican and Latin descent” in the state of California was unconstitutional. This ruling helped lay the foundation for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) case that ended official racial segregation for all minorities in the United States public school system.

America finally recovers from the Depression

The United States gross national product (the value of its output of goods and services) doubled during World War II. Although the Depression had hit the U.S. harder than most countries, America recovered strongly during the war. People were working decent jobs and had money to spend; average pay by the end of the war was almost twice as much as it was at the beginning.

As the only industrialized nation not being bombed, the U.S. outproduced the rest of the world. Millions of people were either in the armed forces or employed by defense industries supported by federal contracts. The federal Office of Scientific Research and Development (1941) spent billions of dollars on university research and technical innovation, including the top secret Manhattan Project (1941) to develop the atomic bomb.

This flood of war spending, not the modest streams of help from New Deal programs, was what finally brought a complete end to the Great Depression. The war cost more than the total of every penny the government had ever spent since the American Revolution. As terrible as it was, World War II lifted up the United States both as an international power and as the world’s richest economy. The same people who started the New Deal in the face of the Depression ran America during World War II.

The optimistic can-do attitude the United States gained from its trials in war and the Depression buoyed the nation for the rest of the century.

Question: What was the economic condition of the U.S. home front during World War II?

Answer: The U.S. home front economy completely recovered from the Great Depression and boomed during World War II.

Following the Fight in the Pacific

After Pearl Harbor, the situation looked bleak for the Allies. Japan had conquered most of the East Asia, including the American possessions of the Philippines, Guam, and the Wake Islands and the European possessions of Hong Kong, Singapore, the East Indies, and Indochina. The Japanese said they wanted to start an Asian commonwealth run by Asians, but in fact their rule was often more brutal to the natives than that of the Europeans they replaced.

The Philippines fell to Japan in 1942 after five months of resistance; General Douglas MacArthur was relocated at the last minute to lead the U.S. Pacific forces in Australia. The Japanese fought their way to islands just off Australia before they ran in to the slowly growing strength of the Allied forces.

In the naval battle of the Coral Sea (May, 1942), the first battle in history in which the ships never saw each other and all the fighting was done by planes, the combined U.S. and Australian forces fought the Japanese to a standstill and prevented an invasion of southern New Guinea that would have threatened Australia.


The tide began to turn for real in the Battle of Midway (1942). In this second all-carrier battle, the U.S. defended an island outpost west of Hawaii with everything that could float. The Japanese lost four aircraft carriers and many of their carefully trained pilots; the Americans lost just one carrier. With its greater population and production power, America was on the offensive in the Pacific from Midway on.


The first real land fighting was an American attack on the small island of Guadalcanal (1942) that threatened the shipping of supplies to Australia. It took months, but the Americans finally drove the Japanese off the island. The U.S. hopped from island to island across the South Pacific, refusing to back down from the fight-to-the-death resistance by the Japanese, but never backing off. By the end of 1944, the U.S. had won islands close enough to the Japanese homeland to serve as launching fields for around the clock bombing of Japan itself. American submarines and planes sunk Japanese supply ships at a rapid rate.

Hunting Hitler in Europe

The first challenge the U.S. faced in fighting for Europe was getting supplies through the wellarmed wolf packs of German submarines. In the first months of the war, the Germans sunk more than 500 American merchant ships faster than the U.S. could rebuild them. Without supplies, Britain couldn’t continue fighting.

Faced with a high tech sub threat, the U.S. and Britain devised cutting-edge solutions. The British broke the German codes so the Allies had an idea of where the German submarine packs were hiding. Patrol planes and convoys equipped with sonar attacked the subs.

Over a year, the tables turned. The German subs had to draw back as the Allies sunk more than a hundred of their undersea boats, in some months at the rate of almost one a day. With fewer German subs, Allied supply ships were safer; their losses decreased from the equivalent of 75 Liberty ships sunk a month to fewer than 20. Although the Germans kept up their submarine attacks at a low level for the rest of the war, the time for subs to make a real difference had passed.

The British attack from the air

The British believed that heavily bombing German cities would break the German will to fight (even though when the Germans bombed Britain, it only made the British tougher). Britain sent more than 1,000 bombers to attack the German city of Cologne.

Now that America was in the war, the Germans were under constant attack from the British at night and the Americans by day. Heavy conventional bombing didn’t break the Germans’ will to fight or even stop production; the Germans made planes and submarines until the end of the conflict. What bombing did do was open up a second front in the air before the Allies invaded Europe while only Soviet troops were fighting on the ground in the first front against the Germans.

Allied strategic air attacks forced the Germans to spend limited resources on protecting civilians with their guns and fighter planes. Domination of the air over the battlefield by Allied tactical planes meant the Germans had to give up lightning raids in the open and settle down to trench warfare, much like in World War I. The Allies remained free to move.

The Soviets fight back

After giving ground to early German attacks, the Soviets caught a break by way of intensely harsh weather. One of the earliest, coldest, and snowiest winters in Soviet memory broke over German troops, who didn’t have winter equipment because Hitler had expected them to win long before the weather got cold. When the snows hit, the Germans were so close to taking Moscow that they actually stole tickets from the end of the Moscow tram line, but the Soviets threw their last fresh troops (who just happened to include Cossack ski troops) into the battle and pushed the Germans away from their capital.

The Germans held on deep in the Soviet Union for another year, but after a heroic defense the Soviets launched a counterattack late in 1942. From then on, it was a slow and costly three year fight to Berlin. The Soviets lost 27 million people in World War II, more than 50 times as many people as the U.S. lost. Through 1943, Britain and the United States had lost only a few thousand soldiers in Europe. The Soviets pleaded for a second front in Europe to take some of the pressure off their army.

The Allies advance: D-day and Normandy

The Western allies took two and a half years to launch their D-day invasion; meanwhile they nipped away at the outskirts of Europe. The Allies invaded North Africa in November of 1942, and by the following summer they’d defeated the German and Italian armies there. Churchill and Roosevelt met in the newly liberated city of Casablanca to plan the rest of the war. The Allies next invaded Italy. Although the Italians were happy to get rid of Mussolini and called it quits by September of 1943, the Germans fought on in Italy until almost the end of the war.

In June of 1944, the Allies launched a massive invasion of Normandy in France. Over 3 million men had assembled in Britain for the cross-channel push. Thousands died on the beaches, but the Allies pushed inland. A second, smaller invasion came from the south of France. Paris was liberated in August of 1944, and the first major German city fell to the Allies in October.

In the U.S., Franklin Roosevelt won reelection for an unprecedented fourth term as the Allied armies rolled toward victory. Hitler counterattacked at the Battle of the Bulge (1944) in December, but this move merely hastened the end of the war by using up his reserves. By April of 1945, the Soviets and their Western allies were in Berlin, and Hitler had committed suicide. Franklin Roosevelt had died of a stroke a few days before.

Revealing the Horror of the Holocaust

After Hitler’s death, the world began to face the terrible crime of the Holocaust. Almost every Jew the Nazis could find in Europe had been murdered in cold blood, 6 million people in all.

In addition, Hitler and his willing German and European accomplices had murdered another 5 million political opponents, prisoners of war, Gypsies, Freemasons, disabled children, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, among others. The United States struggled with the fact that the country had been unwilling to allow refugees from Europe to seek safety in the U.S. before the war. After they knew about the death camps and the killing of families and children, many Americans made a simple pledge: never again. The experience of World War II influences America’s international policy to this day.

The Japanese fight on

By the summer of 1945, the Allies had defeated Germany, and U.S. forces were within bombing range of Japan. Authorities as diverse as future Nobel Prize winner William Shockley and ex-President Herbert Hoover estimated that the planned U.S. land invasion of Japan would cost 1 million U.S. casualties and up to 10 million Japanese lives. The Japanese military was training all civilians — including children — to fight to the death.

The United States had just completed the first test of the new atomic bomb. The Soviet Union was attacking the Japanese army through China, and the U.S. didn’t want to give the Soviets time to make territorial claims. After dropping warning leaflets, the U.S. exploded an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing around 130,000 people. The Japanese still didn’t surrender. Three days later, the Americans dropped another bomb over Nagasaki that killed an additional 60,000 people.

Question: Why did the United States drop the atomic bomb on Japan?

Answer: To end the war, stop Soviet expansion, and ultimately save lives.

The ending was deadly, but at least it was actually the end to years of global suffering during World War II. The dictators’ threat to democracy was so serious that some have called the Allies’ defense of international freedom the Good War.

Before World War II, only a handful of democracies existed throughout the world. Now, most of the countries in the world hold democratic elections (or at least pretend to). Before World War II, the world was an international jungle — every nation for itself. Now, although pain and conflict are certainly still plentiful, the United Nations and other international organizations at least try to call attention to abuses and occasionally take real action.

The United States was changed as much as any part of the globe by World War II. Thrust into world leadership, America could never go back to the dream of isolationism.

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