World War II
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.
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