In 1938, in Munich, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made a deal with Adolph Hitler allowing Nazi Germany to annex Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Hailed as a hero for his diplomacy at the time, Chamberlain is now widely reviled for his policy of “appeasement” to Nazi aggression. Yet one year later, Chamberlain would lead Britain into war against Germany in defense of Poland once it became clear that appeasement had failed. By contrast, the US did little to halt Hitler’s initial expansion, and entered into the war only gradually, attempting, until attacked directly, to sway the outcome without going to war itself. Never again would the US remain so aloof for so long from such a momentous international affair. As such, the Second World War represents a turning point in American foreign affairs, and it is perhaps hard for us to understand why the US took so long to take effective action against the Axis Powers.
Using the primary sources listed below, explore the evolution of American foreign policy over the course of the 1930s. What arguments were made in favor of isolationism? How and why did America’s isolationist stance erode entering into the 1940s?
After considering how America entered into the war, review the war’s impact on the United States. Address the changes which the war effected on American society generally, along with its specific impact on Japanese Americans, African Americans, women, and servicemen. What role did these groups play in the war? How lasting were the changes brought about by the war for these groups? In your response, draw from material from at least THREE of the following documents and videos:
a. World War II: The road to war
b. World War II: The world at war
c. Des Moines speech
d. The Nye report
e. Address of the President delivered by radio from the White House
f. Neutrality act
g. Neutrality act
h. Lend-lease act