World War II
Trends and Themes of the Era
- The strict terms of the Treaty of Versailles,
which ended World War I, and the Depression of the 1930s created
the terms under which fascism and extreme nationalism arose in Germany
and Italy. The expansionist designs of these fascist regimes started
World War II.
- During the years before the war began and in its first
two years, the U.S. maintained its isolationist policies. As the
war continued, though, American sympathies increasingly moved toward
the Allies. American isolationism shifted first to indirect involvement
and then to full involvement after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on
December 7, 1941.
- The war effort brought the American economy out of the
Great Depression. Socially, blacks and women played large roles
in the war effort.
- As the war neared its end, relations between the United
States and the USSR became increasingly hostile. The discussions
between the Allies about how to divide and rebuild Europe after
Germany fell were an occasion for the U.S. and the USSR to jockey
for power. The endgame of World War II was in many ways the beginning
of the Cold War.
- When the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese
cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it changed the nature of war.
A country now had the capacity to destroy vast regions with a single
bomb. The dropping of the bomb presaged the Cold War arms race between
the U.S. and the USSR.