America in the Modern World
"The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms."
Harry S. Truman
Message to Congress, March 12, 1947
To the American public of 1914, the outbreak of the war came as a rude shock. At first the conflict itself seemed remote, but before it had been raging very long American leaders and the public at large felt its effects increasingly in both economic and political life. By 1915 American industry, which had been mildly depressed, was prospering again with munitions orders from the Western Allies. Public passions were aroused by the propaganda of both sides, and both British and German acts against American shipping on the high seas brought sharp protests from the Wilson administration. But as the months passed, disputes between American and German leaders moved more and more into the foreground.
In February 1915, German military leaders announced that they would destroy all merchantmen in the waters around the British Isles. President Wilson warned that the United States would not forsake its traditional right of trade on the high seas and declared that the nation would hold Germany to "strict accountability" for the loss of American vessels or lives. The German government answered that the Allied blockade of Germany was an even more ruthless way of waging war than the unrestricted use of the submarine, since it threatened to bring starvation to vast numbers of civilians, while submarine warfare affected only those who chose to risk their lives on the Atlantic. However, submarine warfare was spectacular, while the blockade was slow and silent. American opinion was aroused to a high pitch of indignation in the spring of 1915 when the British liner Lusitania was sunk with nearly 1,200 people, including 128 Americans, aboard.
Under the stress of wartime emotion, President Wilson was unable to follow a consistent policy. From the time of Jefferson, no American President had been more sincerely devoted to the cause of peace. But he was also convinced that a German success would mean the victory of militarism in Europe, endangering not only American security but also his own dream of world peace. These fears seemed to be confirmed by the ruthlessness of submarine warfare. But on May 4, 1916, when the German government pledged that submarine warfare would henceforth be limited in accordance with American demands, the submarine problem seemed to be solved. Wilson was able to win his campaign for reelection that year, in good part on the strength of his party's slogan, "He kept us out of war." In January 1917, in a speech before the Senate, he called for a "Peace without victory" which, he declared, was the only kind of peace that would last.
Nine days later, notice was received from the German government that unrestricted submarine warfare would be resumed. In the United States this announcement was commonly considered to have made war inevitable. On April 2, 1917, after five American vessels had been sunk, Wilson appeared before Congress to ask for a declaration of war. Immediately the American government set about the task of mobilizing its military resources, its industry, labor and agriculture. Soon one massive convoy after another was sailing from American ports and, by October 1918, there was an American army of over 1,750,000 soldiers, in France.
The first of the American forces to make itself felt was the navy, which performed a crucial task in helping the British break the submarine blockade; then in the summer of 1918, during a long-awaited German offensive, fresh American troops played a decisive part on land. In November, an American army of over a million took an important part in the vast Meuse-Argonne offensive which cracked the vaunted Hindenburg line.
As a wartime, leader Wilson himself was immensely effective. One of his greatest contributions to an early conclusion of the war was his eloquent definition of the war alms of the Allied powers. From the beginning he insisted that the struggle was not being waged against the German people but against their autocratic government. In January 1918, he submitted to the Senate his famous Fourteen Points as the basis for a just peace. He called for the abandonment of secret international understandings, a guarantee of freedom of the seas, the removal of economic barriers between nations, reduction of national armaments, and an adjustment of colonial claims with due regard to the interests of the inhabitants affected. Other points, more specific in character, were designed to assure European nationalities self-rule and unhampered economic development. In his fourteenth point, Wilson formulated the keystone of his arch of peace-the formation of an association of nations to afford "mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike."
By the summer of 1918, when Germany's armies were being beaten back, the German government appealed to Wilson to negotiate on the basis of the Fourteen Points. After assuring himself that the request came from representatives of the people rather than of the military clique, the President conferred with the Allies who acceded to the German proposal. On this basis, an armistice was concluded on November 11.
It was Wilson's hope that the final treaty would have the character of a negotiated peace, but he feared that the passions aroused by the war would cause his allies to make severe demands. In this he was right. Persuaded that his greatest hope for the peace of the world, the League of Nations, would never be realized unless he made concessions to the demands of the Allies, he traded away point after point in the peace negotiations at Paris. Some negative points Wilson did accomplish: he denied Flume to Italy, resisted Clemenceau's demand to detach the entire Rhineland from Germany, prevented France from annexing the Saar Basin, and frustrated a proposal to charge Germany with the whole cost of the war. But in the end there was little left of his positive proposals for a generous and lasting peace but the League itself, and Wilson had to endure the final irony of seeing his own country spurn League membership. In critical moments his own political judgment also forsook him. He made the capital political mistake of failing to take a leading member of the opposition Republican Party to Paris on his Peace Commission, and when he returned to appeal for American adherence to the League, he refused to make even the moderate concessions that were necessary to win ratification from a predominantly Republican Senate. Having lost in Washington, he carried his case to the people on a tour through the country, pleading his cause with great eloquence. On September 25, 1919, physically ravaged by the rigors of peacemaking and the pressure of the wartime presidency, he suffered a crippling stroke at Pueblo, Colorado, from which he never recovered; and in March 1920, the Senate, in its final vote, rejected both the Versailles Treaty and the League Covenant. From this point the United States withdrew deeper and deeper into a policy of isolation. The idealistic mood passed with Wilson, and an era of apathy followed.
In the presidential election of 1920, Wilson's own party nominated Governor James M. Cox of Ohio, who had not been associated prominently with the Wilson administration. The overwhelming victory of the Republican nominee, Warren G. Harding, testified to the general repudiation of Wilsonianism. Although Harding had refused to commit himself clearly on the League issue during the campaign, his foreign policy, and that of his Republican successors, hewed generally to the isolationist line.
This election was the first in which women throughout the nation voted for a presidential candidate. During the war, Wilson had championed a federal amendment to permit women to vote, and the great contributions of American women to the war effort dramatized both their civic capacities and their right to the ballot. Congress submitted the Nineteenth Amendment to the states in June 1919, and it was ratified in time to permit women to vote the following year.
Fostered by the general prosperity which prevailed at least in the urban areas of the country, the tone of American governmental policy during the twenties was eminently conservative. It was based upon the belief that if government did what it could to foster the welfare of private business, prosperity would trickle down to all ranks of the population.
Accordingly, Republican policies were intended to create the most favorable conditions for American industry. The tariff acts of 1922 and 1930 brought tariff barriers to new heights, guaranteeing to American manufacturers in one field after another a monopoly of the domestic market. The second Of these tariffs, the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930, embodied rates so high that over a thousand American economists petitioned President Hoover to veto it, and subsequent events bore out their prediction that the act would provoke costly retaliation by other nations. The federal government also ,started a program of tax reduction. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon believed that high income taxes would prevent the rich from investing in new industrial enterprises, and Congress in a series of laws passed between 1921 and 1929 responded favorably to his proposals that wartime taxes on income, excess profit taxes, and corporation taxes be repealed outright or drastically reduced.
Private business was given substantial encouragement throughout the twenties. The Transportation Acts of 1920 had already restored to private management the nation's railroad system which had been under strict governmental control during the war. The Merchant Marine, which had been owned and in a considerable measure operated by the government from 1917 to 1920, was sold to private operators. Construction loans, profitable mail-carrying contracts, and other indirect subsidies were also provided. Perhaps the most outstanding support of private business came in the field of electric power. Two great nitrate plants had been built by the government during the war at the foot of Muscle Shoals, a 37-mile stretch of rapids in the Tennessee River, and a series of dams had also been built along the river to generate power. A measure providing for public generation and sale of power passed both houses of Congress in 1928, but President Hoover returned it with a stinging veto. Later, during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency, the model TVA experiment was built out of the Muscle Shoals project.
Meanwhile, policies of the Republican administrations met with mounting criticism in the field of agriculture, for it was the farmers who shared least in the wellbeing of the twenties. The period 1900 to 1920 had been one of general farm prosperity and rising farm prices. The unprecedented wartime demand for American farm products had provided a great stimulus to production. Farmers had opened up poor lands never before cultivated or long allowed to remain idle. As the money value of American farms doubled and in some areas trebled, farmers began to buy goods and machinery they bad never been able to afford. But at the end of 1920, with the abrupt cessation of wartime demand, the commercial agriculture of staple crops fell into a state of poverty. When the general depression came in the 1930's, it merely aggravated a condition already serious.
Many things accounted for the depression in American agriculture, but preeminent was the loss of foreign markets. American farmers could not easily sell in areas where the United States was not buying goods because of its own import tariffs. The products of Argentinian and Australian cattle raisers; Canadian and Polish bacon manufacturers; Argentinian, Australian, Canadian, Russian, and Manchurian grain farmers; and Indian, Chinese, Russian, and Brazilian cotton producers were replacing American exports. The doors of the world market were slowly swinging shut.
Another development of the twenties, the restriction of immigration, marked a significant change in American policy. During the first fifteen years of the twentieth century, over 13,000,000 people came to the United States. For some time, public sentiment against unrestricted immigration bad been growing. The United States no longer thought of itself as having a great internal empire to settle, and it was not so willing to accept new immigration. Through a series of measures culminating in the Immigration Quota Law of 1924, the annual number of immigrants was limited to 150,000, to be distributed among peoples of various nationalities in proportion to the number of their countrymen already in the United States in 1920. This measure made immigration selective; since the stream now largely came from southern and eastern Europe instead of from the north and west, and by drastically limiting numbers, it put a stop to one of the great population movements of world history, a process three centuries old. From 1820 to 1929, over 32,000,000 persons from Europe had come to the United States, where they had found new homes and built new lives and contributed richly to its culture.
As the stream of immigration slowed to a mere trickle, a small but significant movement of Americans to Europe was taking place. The emigrés were writers and intellectuals; their quest was not part of a great migratory movement but a criticism of national failings. Dissatisfied with the United States as a home for art and thought, they emigrated chiefly to Paris. The very prosperity of the age seemed to give substance to the charge that the United States had an excessively materialistic culture. Perhaps even more urgent than this charge was the charge of Puritanism. The symbol of this Puritanical character was the prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquor, which, after almost a century of agitation, had finally been imposed in 1919 by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Prohibition had been intended by its advocates to eliminate the saloon and drunkenness from America, but it created thousands of illicit drinking places and opened a profitable career in criminal business to bootleggers. Moreover, the existence of a law so widely violated was morally hypocritical. To many Americans, prohibition was comparable in its significance to the widespread political corruption of the Harding era. Relentless criticism became the dominant note in American literature. H. L. Mencken, a journalist and critic, unsparing in denunciations of American life and character, became immensely popular; and perhaps no serious novelist had a wider audience than Sinclair Lewis, whose satires on American middle-class life in such novels as Main Street and Babbitt became landmarks in the national consciousness. It is ironic that these criticisms of America by Americans should have been made during the nation's period of greatest prosperity; the depression, and after it the menace of militarism and Fascism from abroad, brought American intellectuals back to their country with renewed affection and respect for both its humane and democratic traditions and its great inheritance of material resources.
During the twenties, it seemed as if prosperity would go on forever; even after the stock market crash in the fall of 1929, optimistic predictions continued to come from high places. But the depression deepened rapidly and steadily; the economic life of the country spiraled dizzily downward, millions of investors lost their life savings, business houses closed their doors, factories shut down, banks crashed, and millions of unemployed walked the streets bitterly in a hopeless search for work. In American national experience, there had been nothing except the long-forgotten depression of the 1870's to compare with this.
As the people rallied from the initial shock and sought to examine the sources of their difficulties, they began to recognize unhealthy trends that had been unobserved beneath the prosperous facade of the 1920's.
The core of the trouble had been the immense disparity between the productive powers of American industry and the ability of the American people to consume. Great innovations in productive techniques had been made during and after the war, with the result that the output of American industry had soared far beyond the purchasing capacity of American workers and farmers. The savings of the wealthy and middle classes, increasing far beyond the possibilities of sound investment, had been drawn into frantic speculation on the stock market or in real estate. The stock market collapse, therefore, had been merely the first of several detonations in which a flimsy structure of speculation had been leveled to the ground.
The presidential campaign of 1932 took the form of a debate over the causes and possible remedies of the Great Depression. Herbert Hoover, whose misfortune it had been to enter the White House only eight months before the stock market crash, had struggled tirelessly to set the wheels of industry in motion again, but he had done so within the limits of a traditional conception of the proper role of the federal government which prevented him from taking drastic action. His Democratic opponent, Franklin D. Roosevelt, already popular as governor of New York state during the developing crisis, argued that the depression had grown out of underlying flaws in the American economy which had been aggravated by Republican policies during the twenties. President Hoover replied that the American economy was fundamentally sound but that it had been disturbed by the repercussions of a worldwide depression, the causes of which could be traced back to the World War. Behind this argument lay a clear implication: Hoover would prefer largely to depend on the natural processes of recovery to take place, while Roosevelt was prepared to use the authority of the federal government for bold experimental remedies. The election resulted in a smashing victory for Roosevelt, who received 22,800,000 votes to Hoover's 15,700,000.
To the problems of the hour the new President brought an air of cheerful confidence which quickly rallied the people to his banner. Before he had been long in office, that bewildering complex of reforms which is known as the New Deal was well on its way. Actually this was a sharp acceleration of certain types of reform that bad been growing for fifty years. In a certain sense, it can be said that the New Deal merely introduced into the United States types of reform legislation that had already been familiar to Englishmen, Germans, and Scandinavians for more than a generation. Moreover, it represented a culmination of a long-range trend towards the abandonment of laisser-faire, which could be traced back to the regulation of the railroads in the 1880's and the flood of state and national reform legislation of the WilsonTheodore Roosevelt era. What was most novel about it was the speed with which it accomplished what elsewhere had taken whole generations. Many of the New Deal reforms were hastily drawn and weakly administered; some of them actually contradicted each other. But some confusion was natural when a situation so difficult was being remedied in such haste. During the entire New Deal period, despite all its speed in decision and execution, the democratic process of public criticism and discussion was never interrupted or suspended; indeed, the New Deal brought a sharp revival of interest in his government on the part of the individual citizen.
When Roosevelt took the presidential oath, the banking and credit system of the nation was in a state of paralysis. With astonishing rapidity the sound banks were reopened for business. A policy of moderate currency inflation was launched in order to start an upward movement in commodity prices and also to afford some relief to debtors. More generous credit facilities were made available, both to industry and agriculture, through new governmental agencies. Savings bank deposits up to $S,000 were insured. Severe regulations were imposed upon the manner in which securities could be sold in the stock exchange.
In agriculture, far-reaching reforms were instituted. After the Agricultural Adjustment Act (passed by Congress in 1933) was nullified three years later by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, Congress passed a more effective farm-relief act, providing that the government make money payments to farmers who would devote part of their land to soil-conserving crops or otherwise cooperate in the long-range agricultural goals of the program. By 1940, nearly six million farmers had joined in this program and were receiving federal subsidies. The new act likewise provided loans on surplus crops, insurance for wheat, and a system of planned storage to ensure an "ever normal granary" for the nation and the farmers. As a result of these measures, the prices of agricultural commodities rose, and economic stability for the farmer began to seem possible.
Attempts were also made to bring independence to farm tenants. The federal government subsidized the purchase of farms for tenants on easy terms. It refinanced farm loans and so brought relief to the holders of farm mortgages. Money was lent directly to farmers by the newly created Commodity Credit Corporation. Simultaneously an effort was made, under Secretary of State Cordell Hull, to restore some foreign markets by reciprocity agreements designed to break down the economic autarchy toward which the United States had been tending under the high-tariff regime. Under the terms of the Trade Agreements Act of June 1934, Secretary Hull negotiated unconditional most-favored-nation reciprocity treaties with Canada, Cuba, France, Russia, and some twenty other countries. Within a year, American trade had improved materially, and by 1939 farm income was more than double what it had been seven years before. The New Deal program for industry went through an experimental phase in the opening years of the Roosevelt administration. In 1933 a National Recovery Administration was set up, based essentially upon the idea that the crisis could be resolved by limiting production and fixing higher prices; but even before the NRA was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in May 1935, it was widely considered to be unsuccessful. By this time a movement toward recovery had already begun under the spur of other administration policies, and the administration soon reversed itself and began to act on the assumption that administered prices in certain lines of business were a severe drain on the national economy and a barrier to recovery.
In the meantime, however, much progress toward recovery had been made. Billions of dollars were spent by the federal government on relief for the unemployed, on public works, and on work for the conservation of national resources. Through these "pump-priming" expenditures, new demand was created at home for the products of American industry. Organized labor also made greater gains during the New Deal period than at any previous time in American history. Section 7(a) of the NRA had guaranteed to labor the right of collective bargaining, and in July 1935, to replace the labor provisions of the defunct NRA, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, which set up a labor board to supervise the process of collective bargaining. Elections were administered by the Labor Board, and workers were assured the right to choose the organization that should represent them in dealing with employers. The American Federation of Labor, with its principle of craft unionism, was slow to organize the unorganized. When some of the mass unions became dissatisfied with this condition, they broke away, formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and carried on a spectacularly successful organizing drive, particularly in basic industries like automobiles and steel. Under the spur of CIO competition, the AF of L also grew. Where there had been 4,000,000 organized workers in 1929 there were 11,000,000 in 1939 and 16,000,000 in 1948. Labor's power increased not merely in industry, but also in politics, as organization brought a growing sense of a common political interest. It exercised this power largely within the framework of the two major parties, however, and while the Democratic Party generally received more union support than the Republican Party, no Labor Party as such emerged.
The threat of old-age unemployment and dependency, long a subject of public discussion, was dealt with in the Social Security Act of 1935, which assured modest retirement allowances at the age of sixty-five to many kinds of workers. The insurance fund for this purpose was built up by contributions from workers and employers. Unemployment compensation for active workers of all ages was to be administered by the states with funds provided by a compulsory federal payroll tax. By 1938 every state had some form of unemployment insurance.
The recurrent droughts of the 1930's led to the enactment of an Omnibus Flood Control Bill which provided for the construction of a series of large reservoir and power dams and of many thousand smaller dams. Because of their abundant resources, Americans had been grossly careless of their natural wealth. In many regions, soil erosion was beginning to cut deep, ugly gaps upon the face of the earth. To combat it, particularly on the plains of the midwest, a gigantic program of soil conservation was accelerated, which included the planting of an immense shelter belt of trees. Other important work involved the elimination of stream pollution; the creation of fish, game, and bird sanctuaries; the conservation of coal, petroleum, shale, gas, sodium, and helium deposits; the closure of certain grazing lands to homestead entries; and the vast increase of national forests.
Of all these measures, possibly that which had the greatest future importance was the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which undertook at once to make the project a comprehensive laboratory for social and economic experimentation. In addition to the main dams at Muscle Shoals in Alabama, a series of tributary dams were constructed -Norris, Pickwick, Chickamauga, and others. These darns were used not only for the improvement of navigation, flood control, and nitrate production, but for the generation of electric power. The government constructed some five thousand miles of transmission lines and sold power to nearby communities at rates sufficiently low to permit widespread consumption. A subsidiary to TVA financed rural electrification. The TVA also withdrew marginal lands from cultivation, helped marginal farmers find new farmland, conducted agricultural experiments particularly in connection with the use of phosphate fertilizer, and promoted public health and recreational facilities.
Almost all the work of the New Deal was carried on under the stress of urgent criticism not only from the Republican Party, but often from within the Democratic Party itself. In the election of 1936, when the New Deal was attacked by President Roosevelt's opponent, Governor Alfred M. Landon of Kansas, Roosevelt won an even more decisive victory than that of 1932. (Subsequent Republican presidential candidates, Wendell Willkie in 1940 and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944 and 1948, made it clear that there were many New Deal accomplishments of which they approved.)
From 1932 to 1938, in every organ of public opinion, debates raged over the meaning of New Deal policies in national political and economic life. As time went on, it was obvious that the American conception of government was changing, that greater governmental responsibility for the welfare of the people was winning increasing acceptance. Some New Deal critics argued that the extension of governmental functions on such a scale must end in undermining all the liberties of the people. President Roosevelt, and with him a host of followers, stoutly insisted that measures which fostered economic well-being would strengthen liberty and democracy. In a radio address of 1938, he told the American people: "Democracy has disappeared in several other great nations, not because the people of those nations disliked democracy, but because they had grown tired of unemployment and insecurity, of seeing their children hungry while they sat helpless in the face of government confusion and government weakness through lack of leadership in government. Finally, in desperation, they chose to sacrifice liberty in the hope of getting something to eat. We in America know that our democratic institutions can be preserved and made to work. But in order to preserve them we need ... to prove that the practical operation of democratic government is equal to the task of protecting the security of the people.... The people of America are in agreement in defending their liberties at any cost, and the first line of that defense lies in the protection of economic security."
Impressive as was Franklin Roosevelt's domestic program, like Wilson's more than a decade before, it was overshadowed by the clamor of foreign affairs before his second term was well under way. Across the seas, little noticed by the average American, there had risen a new threat to peace, to law, and ultimately to American security the totalitarianism of Japan, Italy, and Germany. Early in the thirties, the first of these nations struck. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria, crushed Chinese resistance; a year later she set up the puppet state of Manchukuo. Italy, having succumbed to Fascism, enlarged her boundaries in Libya and in 1935-36 reduced Ethiopia to subjection. Germany, where Adolf Hitler had organized his National Socialist party and seized the reins of government, reoccupied the Rhineland and undertook largescale rearmament.
As the real nature of totalitarianism became clear, and as Germany, Italy, and Japan continued their aggressions, attacking one small nation after another, American apprehension turned to indignation. In 1938, after Hitler had incorporated Austria into the Reich, his demands for the Sudeten land of Czechoslovakia made war seem possible at any moment. The American people, disillusioned by the failure of the crusade for democracy of the first World War, announced that under no circumstances could any belligerent look to them for aid. Neutrality legislation, enacted piecemeal from 1935 to 1937, prohibited trade with or credit to any belligerent. The objective was to prevent, at almost any cost, the involvement of the United States in a non-American war.
Both President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull from the first opposed this legislation. The President now undertook the task of bringing the American people to a realization of the destruction these forces were working and of arming America morally and materially, He had done much to strengthen the American navy; he had refused to recognize the puppet state of Manchukuo. Together with Hull he had made significant progress in establishing solidarity among the nations of the western hemisphere through the good-neighbor policy. When the Hull reciprocal trade treaties were reaffirmed in 1935, the United States concluded treaties with six Latin-American nations, pledging the signatories to recognize no territorial changes effected by force.
As totalitarian policy became more aggressive and Hitler thundered against Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France, the American spirit hardened. The first impulse of Americans was to stay out of the European conflict; but after a time they were convinced that a combination of powers which threatened everyone's security also threatened their own.
This conviction quickened, as the fall of France demonstrated the might of the Nazi military machine. When the air attack upon Britain began in the summer of 1940, few Americans were any longer neutral in thought. The United States joined the Latin-American republics in extending collective protection to the possessions of the democratic nations in the western hemisphere. The United States and Canada set up a joint Board of Defense. Congress, confronted with the mounting crisis, voted immense sums for rearmament. In September 1940, the first peacetime conscription bill in American history was enacted.
The 1940 presidential election campaign demonstrated an overwhelming unity of American sentiment. Roosevelt's opponent, Wendell Willkie, supported the President's foreign policy, and since he also agreed with a large part of Roosevelt's domestic program, he lacked a compelling issue, and the November election yielded another impressive majority for Roosevelt. For the first time in American history, a President was elected to a third term in the White House.
While most Americans anxiously watched the course of the European war, tension mounted in the Far East. Eager to take advantage of an opportunity to improve her strategic position, Japan boldly announced a "New Order" in which she would exercise hegemony over the whole of the Far East and the Pacific. Helpless to resist, Britain receded, withdrawing from Shanghai and temporarily closing the Burma Road. In the summer of 1940 Japan won from the weak Vichy government permission to use airfields in French Indo-China. After the Japanese joined the Rome-Berlin Axis in September, the United States imposed an embargo on the export of scrap-iron to Japan.
By 1940, it seemed that the Japanese might turn southward toward the oil, tin and rubber of British Malaya and the Netherlands Indies. In July 1941, when the Vichy government permitted the Japanese to occupy the remainder of Indo-China, the United States froze Japanese assets. On November 19, after General Tojo's government had taken office in Japan, a special envoy, Saburo Kurusu, arrived in the United States. Kurusu announced that the purpose of his mission was to arrive at a peaceful understanding, and on December6, President Roosevelt sent a personal appeal for peace to the Japanese Emperor. On the morning of December 7 came the Japanese answer-a shower of bombs on the American base at Pearl Harbor.
As the details of the Japanese raids upon Hawaii, Midway, Wake and Guam came blaring from American radios, incredulity turned to anger at what President Roosevelt called the "unprovoked and dastardly" attack. On December 8, Congress declared a state of war with Japan; three days later Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
The onset of war came to the American people as a great philosophical defeat. They had never liked or accepted militarism, and so far as it was possible, the Constitution of the United States placed the stamp of civilian control upon American life, Thus, in America the war was everywhere looked upon as a grim and unfortunate but necessary turn in the nation's history. No American could think of the war as having any goal other than lasting peace. On December 9, when President Roosevelt delivered his war message to the American people, he reminded them: "The true goal we seek is far above and beyond the ugly field of battle. When we resort to force, as now we must, we are determined that this force should be directed towards ultimate good as well as against immediate evil. We Americans are not destroyers -we are builders."
The nation rapidly geared itself for an effort that called for the mobilization of its manpower and its entire industrial capacity. On January 6, 1942, President Roosevelt announced production goals which in ordinary times would have staggered the nation. He called for delivery in that year of 60,000 planes, 45,000 tanks, 20,000 antiaircraft guns, and 18,000,000 deadweight tons of merchant shipping. All the nation's activities - farming, manufacturing, mining, trade, labor, investment, communications, even education and cultural undertakings - were in some fashion brought under new and enlarged controls. Money was raised in enormous sums; great new industries were created; striking new techniques were developed, as in the mass production of ships and planes; major shifts in population took place. Under a series of conscription acts, the armed forces of the United States were brought up to a total of 15,100,000. By the end of 1943, approximately 65,000,000 men and women were either in uniform or in essential occupations.
Soon after the United States was drawn into the war, it was decided that the essential military effort of the Western Allies was to be concentrated in Europe where the core of enemy power lay. In the meantime, the Pacific theater of war was to be secondary. Nevertheless, during the dark year, 1942, some of the first important American successes came out of actions in the Pacific. These were primarily accomplishments of the navy and its carrier-borne aircraft. In May 1942, heavy Japanese losses in the battle of the Coral Sea forced the Japanese navy to give up the idea of striking at Australia; in June, carrier planes inflicted severe damage on a Japanese flotilla off Midway Island; in August came a unified army-navy action which resulted in an American landing on Guadalcanal and another naval victory, the battle of the Bismarck Sea. The hope of further victories was increased as the navy began to swell with incredible rapidity as a result of intensified shipyard production.
In the meantime, military supplies had begun to flow to the European theater. In the spring and summer of 1942, strengthened by American materiel, British forces broke the German drive aimed at Egypt and pushed Rommel back into Tripoli, ending the threat to Suez. On November 7, 1942, an American army landed in French North Africa. After bitter battles, severe defeats were inflicted on Italian and German armies, 349,000 prisoners were taken, and by midsummer of 1943 the south shore of the Mediterranean was cleared of Fascist forces. In September, the new Italian government under Marshal Badoglio, signed an armistice, and in October, Italy declared war on Germany. While hard-fought battles were still raging in Italy, Allied forces made devastating air raids on German railroads, factories, and weapon emplacements. Deep in the continent, German oil supplies were hit at Ploesti in Rumania.
Late in 1943, after much Allied debate over strategy, it was decided to open a Western Front which would force the Germans to divert far larger forces from the Russian front than could be engaged in Italy. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander, and the immense preparations were hastened. On June 6, while a Soviet counteroffensive was under way, the first contingents of an American and British invasion army landed on the beaches of Normandy under the protection of a greatly superior air force. The beachhead was held; more troops were poured in; many contingents of German defenders were caught in pockets by pincers movements; and at last the Allied armies began to move across France and into Germany, making their way always against the most tenacious defense. Paris was retaken on August 25. At the gates of Germany the Allies were delayed by stubborn counteraction, but in February and March, 1945, troops were pouring into Germany from the west and German armies were reeling back in the east. On May 8 all that remained of the Third Reich surrendered its land, sea, and air forces.
In the meantime, great progress had been made by American forces in the Pacific. As American and Australian troops fought their way northward along the island ladder through the Solomons, New Britain, New Guinea and Bougainville, the growing naval forces gnawed away at Japanese supply lines. In October 1944 came the naval victory in the Philippine Sea. Further action on Iwo Jima and Okinawa suggested that Japanese resistance might long continue despite the ultimate hopelessness of the Japanese position; but the war was brought to an abrupt end in August when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan formally surrendered on September 2, 1945.
Allied military efforts were accompanied by a series of important international meetings that dealt with the political aspects of the war. The first of these took place in August 1941 between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at a time when the United States was not yet actively engaged in the struggle, and the military situation of Britain and Russia seemed very bleak. Meeting aboard cruisers near Newfoundland, Roosevelt and Churchill issued a statement of purposes - the Atlantic Charter - in which they endorsed these objectives: no territorial aggrandizement; no territorial changes that do not accord with the wishes of the people concerned; the right of all people to choose their own form of government; the restoration of self-government to those deprived of it; economic collaboration between all nations; freedom from war, from fear, and from want for all peoples; freedom of the seas; the abandonment of the use of force as an instrument of international relations.
The next great Anglo-American conference took place at Casablanca in January 1943. Here it was decided that no peace would be concluded with the Axis and its Balkan satellites except on the terms of "unconditional surrender." The purpose of this term, which originated with Roosevelt, was to assure all the people of the fighting nations that no peace negotiations would be carried on with representatives of Fascism and Nazism; that no bargain of any kind could be made by such representatives to save any remnant of their power; that before final peace terms could be laid down to the peoples of Germany, Italy, and Japan, their military overlords must concede before the entire world their own complete and utter defeat.
At Quebec in August 1943, an Anglo-American conference discussed plans for action against Japan and other aspects of military and diplomatic strategy; and two months later, the foreign ministers of Britain, the United States, and Russia met at Moscow; they reaffirmed the unconditional surrender policy, called for the end of Italian Fascism and the restoration of Austria's independence, and endorsed future postwar collaboration among the powers in the interest of peace. At Cairo, where Roosevelt and Churchill met with Chiang Kai-shek, terms for Japan were agreed upon which involved the relinquishment of gains from past aggression. At Teheran on November 28, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin reaffirmed the terms of the Moscow conference and called for a lasting peace through the agency of the United Nations. Almost two years later, in February 1945, they met at Yalta with victory seemingly secure and made further agreements: Russia secretly agreed to enter the war against Japan not long after the surrender of Germany; the eastern boundary of Poland was set roughly at the Curzon line of 1919; after some discussion of heavy reparations in kind to be collected from Germany, demanded by Stalin and opposed by Roosevelt and Churchill, the decision was deferred; specific arrangements were made concerning Allied occupation in Germany and governing the trial and punishment of war criminals; the principles of the Atlantic Charter were reaffirmed in relation to the people of liberated areas. It was readily agreed that the powers in the Security Council of the United Nations should have the right of veto in matters affecting their security. After much difference of opinion in which Roosevelt was ranged on one side and Stalin and Churchill on the other, it was agreed that all the powers would support the Soviet Union's demand for two additional votes in the United Nations Assembly, based on the great populations of the Ukraine and Byelorussia.
Only two months after his return from Yalta, Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing at his "little White House" in Georgia. Few figures in American history have been so deeply mourned both at home and abroad; and for a time the American people suffered from a sense of great and irreparable loss. Democratic leadership, however, rests upon no man's indispensability; it was not long before Roosevelt's successor, Harry S. Truman, was offering effective leadership based upon the essential objectives of New Deal domestic and foreign policy.
By July 1945, when Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union met in conference again at Potsdam, Germany had surrendered. The general election in Britain took place midway in the conference, with the result that while both Churchill and Clement Attlee attended the first half, Attlee alone remained to conclude the negotiations. Although some aspects of the war in the Pacific were discussed, the essential purpose of the meeting was to formulate an occupation policy and a program for the future of Germany. It was agreed that sufficient industrial capacity should be left to Germany for an ample peacetime economy but that there should be no margin of surplus available to rebuild a war machine. Known Nazis were to be tried, and where trials established that they had taken part in the senseless slaughter that had been called for in the Nazi plan, they were to suffer the death penalty. The necessity of assisting in the re-education of a German generation reared under Nazism was agreed upon, as well as the broad principles governing the restoration of democratic political life to Germany. Much time was spent discussing the reparations claims against Germany. The removal of industrial plant and property by the Soviet Union from the Russian-occupied zone was provided for, as well as some additional property from the western zones; but the Russian claim, already raised at Yalta, for reparations totaling $10,000,000,000 remained a subject of controversy. In November 1945, at Nuremberg, the criminal trials that were provided for at Potsdam took place. Before a group of distinguished jurists from Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States, the German leaders were accused not only of plotting and waging aggressive war but also of violating the laws of war and humanity. The trial lasted more than ten months and resulted in the conviction of all but three of the defendants.
While the Potsdam talks were proceeding, representatives of 51 nations were in session at San Francisco, drawing up the framework of the United Nations. After eight weeks of work, the United Nations Charter was completed, an outline for world organization providing an agency for the peaceful discussion of international differences and a hope for a peaceful world.
At home the American government faced pressing problems, many of which are too recent for adequate historical evaluation. Demobilization of soldiers, reconversion of industry, industrial disputes and labor policy, price and rent controls, the formulation of an over-all federal policy to realize full employment of the American labor force -such were the matters with which the Truman administration had to cope. As the immediate difficulties of postwar adjustment passed, however, it became clear that the American economy was emerging from the war stronger than at any time in its history. National income, which had been 72.5 billion dollars in 1939 had risen to 182.8 billion dollars in 1945. Moreover, the distribution of this increased income showed an improvement in the situation of low-income families.
Among the most vital and far-reaching problems confronting the nation and the world was the development and control of atomic energy. In July 1946, Congress created a five-man United States Atomic Energy Commission to control the domestic aspects of nuclear energy. It was specified that civilians, rather than military men, be entrusted with this power. At the opening sessions of the UN Atomic Energy Commission in June, Bernard Baruch presented on behalf of the United States a proposal that an international authority be created to exercise control of all atomic-energy activities potentially dangerous to world security and to control, inspect, and license all other atomic activities. It was suggested that the atomic bomb be outlawed and that the international authority should have power to punish violations of the agreement. The United States promised to stop manufacturing bombs, dispose of its stock of bombs' and make available to the world its scientific information-but not until the international authority was in effective operation. Gromyko, the Soviet spokesman, opposed the broad international control advocated by the American government, objecting particularly to a stipulation in the Baruch plan that no veto of the acts of the new atomic authority be permitted. He proposed instead that all the powers simply renounce the atomic weapon without providing for international controls or inspection. The plan put forward by the United States was approved by a majority group of the UN Atomic Energy Commission, by a 10-0 vote, the USSR and Poland abstaining. The minority, which had originally rejected the American proposals, continued to attack these proposals rather than the later decisions of the majority of the Commission. As the work of the committees progressed throughout 1947, the American findings were incorporated as part of a wider survey, and the United States delegation became, not the proponent of a preconceived system, but merely a cooperating member of the majority group. It soon became clear, as discussions continued on atomic control and other aspects of disarmament, that the path of peace could not be made smooth until these and other differences could be worked out. Much concern was felt in the United States as more and more of Europe fell under the control of pro-Soviet governments under circumstances in which the freedom of the people to choose had been impaired. By the spring of 1947, these included Finland, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Rumania, and Bulgaria, as well as the Russian-occupied zones in Germany and Austria. In the spring of 1947, when a crisis in Greece promised further penetration, President Truman appeared before Congress to ask for approval of a $400,000,000 program for economic and military aid for Greece and Turkey. "I believe," he declared, "that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." This statement of policy, known as the Truman Doctrine, became the subject of wide debate in the United States, but the appropriations were voted by Congress on May 15.
Greece and Turkey were not the only European nations needing economic assistance. The disparity between the strong economic condition of the United States and the difficulties of the European nations that were attempting to repair the devastation of the war underlined the responsibilities of the United States and the need for statesmanlike action. On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a new approach in a commencement address at Harvard University. "It is logical," he said, "that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist."
It was Marshall's conception that all Europe should benefit by the economic aid called for in his plan, including the Soviet Union and the nations under her influence. Although Britain and France responded promptly and enthusiastically to his invitation and called upon the Soviet Union to join them, Molotov attacked the Marshall plan as an "imperialist plot." The Plan likewise fell under criticism in the United States, as many Senators questioned the immense outlay of American funds that it required. The debate was resolved when Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, a Republican leader and former isolationist, came to the support of Marshall and enlisted many of his colleagues in a firm endorsement of the principle of a bipartisan foreign policy. In April 1948, Congress passed an act creating the European Recovery Program, under which the United States was committed to a four-year plan of economic aid to sixteen European countries. Five billion dollars were allotted for the first year. By April 1949, the first anniversary of ERP, there were tangible signs of increasing recovery in western Europe. The total output of factories and mines, for example, was fourteen percent higher than the 1947 figures and nearly equal to those of 1938, the most nearly normal prewar year. The flow of ERP-financed products to western Europe from the farms, forests, mines, and factories of the western hemisphere rose steadily. From April 1948 through the end of February 1949, it involved the delivery of $4,566,730,000 worth of goods and services.
As the world moved into the second half of the twentieth century, it was clear to the great majority of Americans that the political, economic, and moral isolation of the United States had completely come to an end. At home, the nation was concerned with strengthening reforms which had begun during the New Deal era. Abroad, it was committed above all to an economically healthy and politically free western Europe as the core of a better future for the world. In a memorable message to Congress in January 1949, President Truman called for a continuation of aid to free peoples and reaffirmed American faith in democratic principles. "Democracy alone," he said, "can supply the vitalizing force to stir the peoples of the world into triumphant action, not only against their human oppressors, but also against their ancient enemies - hunger, misery, and despair. Events have brought our American democracy to new influence and responsibilities."