World War II (1933–1945) for AP U.S. History
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Summary: Throughout the 1930s the United States followed a foreign policy based on isolationism, which emphasized noninvolvement in European affairs. After Adolph Hitler became the Nazi dictator of Germany, some Americans believed that he was a reasonable man who could serve as a European bulwark against Stalin and the Soviet Union. After World War II began in Europe, President Roosevelt sensed that America would eventually be drawn into it and began Lend-Lease and other measures to help the British. The December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor mobilized American public opinion for war. American fought on two fronts during the war: against the Germans and the Italians in Europe and against the Japanese in the Pacific. In Europe, U.S. forces and their British and Soviet allies eventually invaded Germany and crushed the Nazis. In the Pacific, superior American air and sea power led to the defeat of the Japanese. The decision to drop the atomic bomb on two Japanese cities is still considered controversial by some historians today; at the time, President Truman decided to drop the bomb based on calculations of the human cost of an American invasion of Japan. Americans contributed greatly to the war effort at home through rationing, working extra shifts, and the purchase of war bonds. As a result of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the two major world powers.
Isolationism: American foreign policy of the 1920s and 1930s based on the belief that it was in the best interest of the United States not to become involved in foreign conflicts that did not directly threaten American interests.
Yalta Conference: meeting held at Yalta in the Soviet Union between President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in February 1945; at this meeting critical decisions on the future of postwar Europe were made. At Yalta it was agreed that Germany would be divided into four zones, that free elections would take place after the war in Eastern Europe, and that the Soviet Union would join the war against Japan.
Bataan Death March: after the Japanese landed in the Philippines in May 1942, nearly 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners were forced to endure a 60-mile forced march; during this ordeal, 10,000 prisoners died or were killed.
Manhattan Project: secret project to build an atomic bomb that began in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in August 1942; the first successful test of a bomb took place on July 16, 1945.
Rosie the Riveter: figure that symbolized American working women during World War II. After the war, women were expected to return to more traditional roles.
Double V Campaign: campaign popularized by American black leaders during World War II emphasizing the need for a double victory: over Germany and Japan and also over racial prejudice in the United States. Many blacks who fought in World War II were disappointed that the America they returned to still harbored racial hatreds.
Internment Camps: mandatory resettlement camps for Japanese-Americans from America's West Coast, created in February 1942 during World War II by executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt. In 1944, the Supreme Court ruled that the camps were legal.