The U.S. in World War II - History with Mr. Shepherd
The U.S. in World War II 1941-1945 A Two Theatre War As an Allied Power the U.S. had two regions of the globe where they would have to fight. They would have to assist the other Allies in Europe and North Africa as well as defend themselves in the Pacific. The focus in the beginning was decided by the Allies to be the defeat of the Axis in Europe, not the defeat of Japan
The European and North African Theatre The situation in Europe was dire by 1942. By 1941 Hitler turns his sights on the USSR. Prior to this point Hitler and Stalin had a nonaggression pact, stating that they would not attack each other. By 1942 Hitler had made large gains into Soviet territory and Stalin is urging the Allies to open up a second front with Hitler Nazi troops in Stalingrad. Some of the bloodiest fighting in history took place during the Battle of Stalingrad. Ultimately, Stalingrad does not
fall and marks the beginning of the end of Hitlers ambitions in the USSR. The European and North African Theatre Despite Stalins demands for a second front to press the Germans, FDR decides to commit U.S. forces to North Africa and then Italy. By controlling the Mediterranean Basin, Axis forces threatened the oil supply of Britain through the Suez Canal. Operation Torch
Operation Torch, led by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, focused on defeating German forces in North Africa Led by Gen Rommel, aka the Desert Fox, the German forces were attempting to push the British out of Egypt to get the Suez Canal The British had successfully held the area and with US assistance defeated Rommel
in May of 1943 Pushing into Italy After securing North Africa, Roosevelt and Churchill turned to Italy. As they begun the attack on Sicily FDR and Churchill called on the Italian people to live for Italy not to die for Mussolini. The Italians rose up and overthrew Mussolini, but
Hitler sent in forces to hold Italy. The fighting was long and Operation Overlord Operation Overlord was the launching of this operation is commonly referred to as D-Day and is the invasion at Normandy (Northern France). It is led by the newly appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Gen. Eisenhower. This is the second front Stalin has been calling for June 6, 1944 is the day that the landing took place and while successful, little went as planned.
Battle of the Bulge The fighting in Europe, while costly in terms of Allied lives, was generally pushing the Germans back This trend of Germans losing ground was tested during the Battle of the Bulge. In a massive counter-offensive in December 1943 German forces threatened to take back much of the territory they had lost. Battle of the Bulge Named the Battle of the Bulge because of the
inward bulge of the Allied lines in the face of the German advance. A turning point is the at the city of Bastogne where a surrounded and outgunned US force held out until reinforced. By the end of Jan. 1944 the Allied losses are pushed back and the defeat of Germany is close at hand The Pacific Theatre
The success of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor had caused great damage to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The damaged fleet, plus the decision to focus most resources in the European theatre meant that operations were slow to begin in the Pacific. During this time Japan is able to make some large territorial gains They take the US holdings of Wake Island and Guam, they take Hong Kong and Singapore from the British and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) The Pacific Theatre Japanese advances peak with the capture of the US held Philippines,
forcing the retreat of Gen. MacArthur. The captured US forces, which did not include MacArthur, numbered 10,000 US troops and 60,000 Filipino troops. They were captured on the Bataan Peninsula and the march of these prisoners to the prison camps becomes known as Bataan Death March Thousands of soldiers perish on this march, starved or shot along the way Treatment in the POW camps for the survivors was not much better The Pacific Theatre
Followed by the low point of losing the Philippines, a positive action occurred. The daring Doolittle Raid, led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle was an air raid in which 16 American bombers reach and bomb Tokyo and other Japanese cities While not inflicting major physical damage, the psychological affects on both the Americans and Japanese were profound It gave Americans something to celebrate It gave the Japanese something to worry about. Their worry and anger would lead to miscalculations in the future.
The Turning Point Americans got something else to cheer about when Admiral Nimitz uses his aircraft carriers to halt the Japanese advance at the Battle of Coral Sea The real turning point however was the Battle of Midway, 1942 After breaking the Japanese code Naval Intelligence was able to provide Adm. Nimitz with detailed Japanese attack plans. Using this information Nimitz launched a trap that soundly defeated the Japanese, destroying 4 aircraft carriers. Japan no longer holds naval superiority in the Pacific
Island Hopping With the Japanese advance halted and their removal of naval superiority the US begins its advance They use a tactic called island hopping where they attack and secure island targets that they knew they could defeat Then they would move on to the next target This inflicted losses on the Japanese that they could not replace. US forces also suffered losses, but the industrial power of America meant that these losses were replaced and reinforced. Island Hopping
The first US target was the Solomon Islands where they fought for the island of Guadalcanal. Fought on land, air, and sea the battle lasted for six months before Japan retreated. The next big target was the Philippines. MacArthur had promised to those he left behind that he would return. In the Battle of Leyte Gulf the Allied naval forces destroy the last significant force of the Japanese Navy. After months of hard ground fighting MacArthur took the Philippines back in 1944 Iwo Jima,1944 and Okinawa,1945 To establish an air base to continue bombing Japan, the US took Iwo
Jima. The Japanese were dug in and fought fiercely from hidden tunnels and bunkers, American casualties nearly 7,000 in the capture of the island Okinawa was to be the launching point for the final invasion of Japan The Japanese were again dug in and used caves and tunnels to make the Americans fight for every yard. This becomes the bloodiest task in the Pacific, the Japanese lost 110,000 in the fight to the death
President Truman In April of 1945, during his fourth term as President, FDR suffers a cerebral hemorrhage and dies. This puts the presidency and the war in the hands of Harry Truman Harry Truman was the 33rd President and ultimately decided to use the atomic weapon against Japan Ending the War With Japan
With the Nazi surrender in May of 1945 Truman puts all of his focus and energy on ending the war with Japan The Japanese continue to fight a losing war and will not agree to an unconditional surrender Truman is wanting to avoid a ground invasion of Japan and is even coordinating with the USSR to get them to start fighting Japan Then an explosion unlike any before it occurs in New Mexico Truman has another option, and a
hard choice. Ending the War With Japan President Truman gathered advisers to help him decide if using the bomb on a civilian target would be the best choice Projections for a ground assault of mainland Japan were gruesome considering how hard fought Iwo Jima and Okinawa had been Ultimately Truman decided that
while horrible, using the atomic bomb would save hundreds of thousands of American lives and Japanese lives as well Ending the War With Japan On August 6, 1945 an American B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay released an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. 90% of the city was destroyed and 80,000 people are killed instantly
Japan still refuses to surrender August 9, Bockscar drops a second bomb over Nagasaki. 40,000 people are killed instantly August 15, Emperor Hirohito instructs his military to lay down their arms and agree to the unconditional surrender The formal end of the war is September 2, 1945
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