The Good War
Fighting for a Better Life in World War II
We are fighting today for security, for progress and for peace, not only for
ourselves, but for all men, not only for one generation but for all generations.
We are fighting to cleanse the world of ancient evils, ancient ills.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1942
People see a new world is needed.… But they are skeptical as hell.
Citizen Response to Office of War Information Survey, 1943
PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT declared that the United States was determined not only to win World War II but also to secure the peace that would follow. To win the war would be tough. By early 1942, Nazi Germany had conquered most of Europe. Following a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese crushed the Americans in the Philippines and the British at Singapore. The United States began to mobilize, but it would be months before its forces were ready to take on the enemy. In the meantime, it counted on its chief allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, to carry on the fight. As for securing the peace, the Roosevelt administration planned to succeed where Woodrow Wilson had failed, by making sure that this time the United States would commit to the role of international peacekeeper. FDR was confident that the economic and military power of the United States would ensure its postwar dominance over the alternative agendas of its wartime allies. American internationalism presumed American leadership.
The Roosevelt administration was well aware that it would have to persuade the American people to commit to an internationalist foreign policy. Still disillusioned from their experiences in World War I, Americans