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Military Role of the USA During World War II  


Zoha Bharwani Hunter Compton Sara Farooqui Rohon Joshi Jordan Lindsay Gayathri Reddy Sydney Rosen


Pearl Harbor: USA Goes to War in the Pacific

Below: The Mitsubishi Zero was the main Airplane of the Japanese air force during the attack on Pearl Harbor and throughout the war. (LIFE)

Right: Americans raising the Flag on Iwo Jima after their victory. (LIFE)

On the morning of December 7th, 1941 Japan launched a surprise attack against the American naval base in Hawaii. Simultaneously, attacks were launched against United States and British Territories. The Japanese succeeded in sinking four American battleships and eight other American military ships as well as destroying 188 American fighter planes. The toll was 2,402 Americans dead and 1,282 wounded. On December 8th the United States declared war on Japan (Benson, Brannen, Valentine).

Iwo Jima: The Beginning of the End The United States had recognized that the island of Iwo Jima represented a tactical strong point for attacks on mainland Japan, and decided to capture the entire island and its three airfields. This would become the first attack on Japanese soil, and lead to intense fighting. The Japanese were isolated in caves and bunkers leading to large casualties on both sides. The lack of backup for the Japanese and U.S. air superiority led to an overall American victory (Heinl, 450-451).

Japan and the Atomic Bomb The United States had seen that the Japanese would continue to fight until they were conquered. It seemed the only way to end the war was either for Japan to surrender or for the United States to invade mainland Japan. So the United States decided to use the newly developed atomic bomb to force Japan to surrender. Two atomic bombs were dropped on the towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the 15th of August 1945, the Japanese surrendered, concluding the Second World War (Cavendish).

Amusing   Planet   Atomic  Archive  

The Manhattan project had yielded two atomic bombs; Little Boy (above), which was dropped on Hiroshima, and Fat Man (left and below), which was dropped on Nagasaki.



Excerpt from the Last Will of Adolf Hitler “I myself and my wife - in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years' service to my people.” Given in Berlin, 29th April 1945, 4:00 a.m., Signed: A. Hitler  

USA’s Role in the War in Europe The United States was a major factor in winning the world war against the Germans, due to the fact that they were ‘a sleeping bear’ that could out-manufacture anything. In order to prevent Germany from crushing any more countries, the United States started to use something called the ‘lend-lease’ policy, which allowed countries which needed supplies to receive them. Mostly Britain, the USSR, and China received these, as they were facing the horn of German, Italian and Japanese attacks (Friedman 8182).

Left: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, Germany (LIFE).

The most pivotal thing that the United States did to completely change the tides of battle was Operation Overlord (more commonly known as the D-Day landings). The United States sent over 3,000,000 troops at the end of the invasion. The next major battle was the Battle of the Bulge, when Germany attempted to punch a hole through French defense near the previously mentioned Ardennes. The USA helped in a sudden reinforcement, and the German army was completely stopped. This battle was the most costly battle in all of WWI, with over 610,000 dying. This battle was the one of the most closing

battles of the war in Europe. News also came that Hitler had killed himself. On May 8, 1945, the War in Europe ended (MacDonald 118-120).

Right: A Boat approaching Normandy on the war changing D-Day landings (LIFE).

Right: The rockets exploding into the air on D-Day (1944). (Library of Congress)

USA’s Role in the Air War The advancement of air power as a way to attack enemies was one of the most important strategic and technological developments of World War II. The use of planes first gained military importance during WWI when planes were used to locate enemies. Later, machine guns were added to the planes. During this time, the damage that air warfare could do was quickly recognized. It pointed to the future in the way that air warfare became very important during WWII (Cavendish).


Above: USS Hornet taking off, on its way to take part in Doolittle Raid – April 1942 (LIFE)

Airpower was used mainly for the following: fighter combat (fighting in the air), strategic bombing (destroying enemies’ economy and will to start war rather than just attacking the military forces by using their bombs or machine guns), air support (when aircraft assists naval/ground forces), and reconnaissance (locating where enemies are) (Cavendish).

Left: American bomber. Part of the United States Army Air Force – 1942. (LIFE)

At the beginning of the war, Germans were the most skilled at air warfare. In fact, by 1940, almost the whole German air force, the Luftwaffe, protected their own fighters by being structured around them. The Luftwaffe was the most powerful air force in the world before the war (Cavendish). The United States really started to utilize airpower when it attacked Japan on April 18, 1942, almost five months after Pearl Harbor. The Doolittle Raid was the first U.S. air raid on Japan. This was quite a successful attack as the “16 fighter planes hit Tokyo and other targets” (Berger, 554). Right: Pilots aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier receive last minute instructions before taking off to Tokyo 1945. (LIFE)

Some Examples of how the U.S. Air Warfare affetced the War: • In February of 1944, the Battle of Saipan occurred in Japan. The U.S. captured Japan mainly using its airbase. • In March of 1945, the Operation Meetinghouse Raid happened in Tokyo. The U.S. bombed the city, killing over 80,000 people. The strategic bombing tactic was used. • August 6 & 9 of 1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. • December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor Attack. (Wright)

USA’s Role in The War at Sea Much of World War II was fought at sea. Naval warfare progressed dramatically during this war. To start with, there were the German U-boats. They were mainly submarines used to destroy supplies from the United States. For example, during the Battle of the Atlantic took place at sea between 1939 and 1945, the United States supplied Great Britain Right: Coast Guardsmen on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Spencer watch the explosion of a depth charge which blasted a Nazi U-boat's hope of breaking into the center of a large convoy. (LIFE)

with 50 destroyers even though it had not officially entered the war yet. It was a vital war that the Allies needed to win or they would lose their power over the pacific. The United States helped them to gain that victory. After the United States officially entered the war, several German U-boats were dispatched to the coast of America and the Caribbean (Pendergast, Slovey, 123-124).

One of the most important battles at sea in World War II was the Battle of Midway, fought from June 4th to June 7th, 1942. Before this battle, Japan had power over the entire Pacific, including the Philippines. Japan had hoped to destroy the United States navy, so it set course for Midway Island. Japan planned that on its way to Midway Island, the United States would be sunk from underneath by Japanese submarines and from above by Japanese aircrafts. Unfortunately for them, the Left: Sixteen-inch guns of the U.S.S Iowa firing during battle drill – 1942. (LIFE)

United States knew of the attack and was prepared. In the end, the Battle of Midway was a very decisive victory for the USA and turned the tables of the war (Pendergast, Slovey 133-136). Right: U.S. Coast Guard watch explosion of Nazi U-Boat – 1943. (LIFE)

Works Cited Friedman, Max Paul. "Lend-Lease." Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003. 81-82. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Feb. 2014. Heinl, Robert Debs, Jr. "Iwo Jima." Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 4. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003. 450-451. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. MacDonald, Charles B. "Normandy Invasion." Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 6. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003. 118-121. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. "Pearl Harbor Attack." UXL Encyclopedia of U.S. History. Sonia Benson, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine. Vol. 6. Detroit: UXL, 2009. 1205-1207. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. "The Air War." History of World War II. Vol. 3: Victory and Aftermath. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2005. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Mar. 2014. "The Air War over Europe, 1939-1941." History of World War II. Vol. 1: Origins and Outbreak. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2005. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. "The European Air War, 1944–1945." History of World War II. Vol. 3: Victory and Aftermath. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2005. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

"The War at Sea." World War I Reference Library. Ed. Sara Pendergast, Christine Slovey, and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 1: Almanac. Detroit: UXL, 2002. 123-136. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. Wright, John. Access to History for the IB Diploma: The Second World War and the Americas 1933-45. London: Hodder Education, 2013. Print.

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Military Role of the USA During World War II