America and the Origins of World War II, 1933-1941: New Perspectives in History

By Arnold A. Offner | Go to book overview

III Between Peace and War, 1939-1941

Once war began in Europe, the Roosevelt administration and probably most of the American people feared that a German victory over England and France (which did surrender in June 1940), combined with Japan's conquest of China, would leave Europe and Asia in the hands of two aggressive "Axis" powers, and the United States isolated and vulnerable. But neither the Roosevelt government nor the American people ever found a satisfactory way to resolve the dilemma created by their desire to remain neutral in the world conflict yet support one side over the other. This problem is dealt with skillfully and honestly in Part III in selections from William E. Leuchtenburg Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 ( 1963) and William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason The Undeclared War, 1940-1941 ( 1953). Leuchtenburg, in two of his chapters -- "The Fascist Challenge" and "An End to Isolation" -- deals with the repeal of the arms embargo neutrality legislation in September 1939, the "stormcellar" neutrality position of the United States up to the German blitzkrieg of 1940, and then the gradually hardening American line toward Japan and the linking of the German and Japanese peril in the fall of 1940. Following his re-election in November 1940, Roosevelt for the first time began to fashion a global foreign policy and "quasi belligerency shaded into war." The excerpts from Langer and Gleason pick up the story of "The Shooting War" and the American resolve to defeat Germany by aiding England, and carry it through the increasing involvement of the United States in belligerent activities through convoying British supplies, German assaults on American ships, Roosevelt's less than candid report on the Greer incident to justify "shoot on sight" orders to the Navy, and finally the arming of American merchant ships and declaration of the end of combat zones. By autumn 1941 the United States and Germany were engaged in undeclared war in the Atlantic. Roosevelt accepted this state of affairs, indeed intended it, and yet there remained his belief, shared by many others, that the war in Europe could be resolved without

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America and the Origins of World War II, 1933-1941: New Perspectives in History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • I - The Old Historical Debate 1
  • II - The Consensus on Appeasement, 1933-1938 25
  • III - Between Peace and War, 1939-1941 77
  • IV - The Nuances of Negotiations, 1941 125
  • V - The Axis and Aggression, 1941 157
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 222
  • List of Persons 227
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