Chapter 35: FDR and the Shadow of War 1933-1941

The London Conference:
  • Summer 1933 - 66 nation London Economic Conference - wanted to stabilize values of national currencies to attack global depression
  • FDR, wanting inflation, and much more worried about America's domestic issues, withdrew US from the conference
  • This led to an unsuccessful conference, nationalism, and further US isolationism.

Freedom for (from?) the Filipinos and Recognition for Russians:

  • The Philippines was an economic liability -> Tydings-McDuffie Act 1934: independence for Philippines after 12 years of economic protection/guidance from US (1946) - relinquish army bases but navy to be decided
  • Selfish move for US, Japan was now interested in the free Philippines and the fact that US had given up control in the east and shrunk into isolation
  • FDR recognized "diplomatically" the Soviet Union in 1933. Anticommies gasped, but he did it because they'd be good to trade with, and they were a friendly counterweight to Germany and Japan.

Becoming a Good Neighbor:

  • FDR eager to join Latin Americans to defend Western Hemisphere - enforced good neighbor policy, 1933 declared nonintervention
  • 1934 took marines out of Haiti, released Cuba from Platt amendment (but kept Gitmo), loosened grip on Panama
  • Mexican government seize US oil properties, FDR worked out a settlement instead of using armed intervention

Secretary Hull's Reciprocal Trade Agreements:

  • SoS Cordell Hull + FDR + Congress = Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act 1934 (to lift American export trade - relief and recovery), gave FDR power to lower tariff by up to 50% provided that the other country involved would have similar reductions.
  • 21 countries by 1939 participated in this reciprocal trade w/ the US -> US foreign trade increased!!

Impulses Toward Storm-Cellar Isolationism:

  • Fascism in Europe: Hitler-Germany, Mussolini-Italy. Communism: Joseph Stalin-USSR. (spurred by bad economy and need for nationalism)
  • Japan militaristic - 1934 terminated naval disarmament agreement, started pumping out battleships.
  • America wanted to stay out! Remembering Allies' debts from WWI, 1934 Johnson Debt Default Act - prevent nations from borrowing further from US.
  • People wanted a constitutional amendment to keep out of war (except in case of invasion or popular referendum)

Congress Legislates Neutrality:

  • Senate Committee (Sen. Gerald Nye) appointed to investigate munitions manufacturers being the cause for entry into war.
  • Neutrality Acts of 1935, 1946, and 1937: when President proclaimed existence of foreign war, no American could sail on a belligerent ship, sell or transport munitions to a belligerent, or make loans to a belligerent
  • Abandoned freedom of the seas. While neutrality was now legally ok, was it morally? By doing nothing, US allowed dictators to get pretty far; treated evil countries the same as poor victims, could have helped defeat totalitarians.

America Dooms Loyalist Spain:

  • Fascist Fransisco Franco (aided by Hitler, Mussolini, and even Soviet Russia) overthrows Spanish democratic government in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
  • US had relations w/ Loyalist government, but Congress and FDR declared arms embargo to Loyalists and rebels alike.
  • US so determined to stay out of war, it allowed a fellow democracy to crash and burn. (FDR regretful). Also allowed US navy to decline in strength (for isolation and to spare tax-payer). Finally in 1938, Congress passes billion dollar Naval Construction Act. Late!!

Appeasing Japan and Germany:

  • 1937 Japan invaded China - FDR said it wasn't legit war yet - didn't cut off munitions
  • 1937 Chicago, FDR made "Quarantine Speech" - called for positive endeavors (economic embargoes) to quarantine aggressors -> isolationist outraged, FDR retreated
  • Japanese sunk American boat Panay in Chinese waters. Tokyo apologized and payed indemnities (this made the Japanese hate Americans and hang them whenever they had a chance)
  • Hitler breaks Versailles Treaty, invades Rhineland, wipes out Jews w/ Holocaust, invades Austria, wanted Sudetenland (next to Czechoslovakia) next.
  • 1938 Conference in Munich, Germany. W European democracies "give" Hitler Sudetenland as a "concession" in hope he would stop there. He didn't. He invadee Czechoslovakia next.

Hitler's Belligerency and US Neutrality:

  • Aug 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact
  • Hitler seizes Poland, Britain and France declare war
  • FDR issues neutrality proclamations. America firmly against Nazi and France and Britain desperately needed aid
  • => Neutrality Act of 1939: European democracies could buy American war materials on a "cash-and-carry" basis - they would have to transport in their own ships (to avoid attacks on US ships), and they had to pay in cash (to avoid debt). President could forbid US merchant ships from "war zones"
  • Improved moral and economic position (almost miraculously solved the unemployment of the depression)

The Fall of France:

  • Soviets attack Finland (US gives them $30 million for "nonmilitary" supplies), but Finland got owned.
  • Hitler took Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, then FRANCE!
  • Britain was all that was left (Winston Churchill) - what if Hitler got the British navy??
  • FDR put $37 billion into creating a two-ocean navy (to protect from Japan too), and airfleets.
  • Peacetime draft - 1.2 million troops and 800,000 reserves in training each year
  • Orphaned European colonies in Latin America - would Germany take control of them? -> Havana Conference 1940: US and those colonies must uphold Monroe Doctrine!

Bolstering Britain with the Destroyer Deal (1940):

  • German air attacks on Britain - they needed help!
  • Interventionists (Defend America by Aiding the Allies) "all methods short of war" (majority of Americans) vs. Isolationists (America First) - America should concentrate on defending themselves (supported by aviator Charles Lindbergh)
  • FDR decided to give Britain 50 destroyers left over from WWI, in exchange for 8 defensive bases. (Didn't ask Congress).

FDR Shatters the Two-Term Tradition (1940):

  • Republicans ran Wendell L. Willkie - novice in politics, dynamic personality, liberal. Platform against FDR's "dictatorship" and the New Deal (only opposed to inefficiencies and extravagances, not necessarily the idea of it). Made Bryan-like speeches.
  • FDR decided to go for 3rd term, mainly b/c of war - finish what he's started, switching mid-conflict would be difficult.
  • Both promised to stay out of war and strengthen national defenses (similar foreign policy)
  • FDR won, but it was closer than before (449 to 82)

Congress Passes the Landmark Lend-Lease Law:

  • FDR Lend-Lease Bill: lend American arms to democracies, and have them (or equivalents) returned once the war ended - "to further promote the defense of the US," "send guns not sons"
  • Won in Congress with great majorities. $50 billion worth of arms was sent by 1945.
  • This was an economic declaration of war, and abandonment of neutrality
  • Germany recognized this as unofficial declaration of war - May 1941 sunk Robin Moor - US merchant ship

Hitler's Assault on the Soviet Union Spawns the Atlantic Charter:

  • Hitler wanted to crush Stalin (get oil from USSR, etc.)
  • June 1941 attacked USSR. Wanting to keep Soviets and Nazis throat to throat as long as possible, US gave USSR billions in lend-lease.
  • Aug. 1941 - Atlantic Conference - Winston Churchill and FDR met on a warship in Newfoundland.
  • =>Eight-Poin Atlantic Charter (like Wilson's 14 Points): self-determination, people's right to choose their government, goals for disarmament and peace -> "general system of general security" (new League of Nations). Recognized by US, Britain, and later Soviet Union

US Destroyers and Hitler's U-boats Clash:

  • FDR decided to have US warships escort British with lend-lease shipments (who'd get suck by German boats) as far as Iceland.
  • Greer taunted U-boat, was attacked. FDR proclaimed shoot-on-sight policy. Kearny battle. Reuben James sunk.
  • 1941 retracted Neutrality Act of 1939 - merchant ships could now be armed, could enter combat zones w/ munitions for Britain.

Surprise Assault on Pearl Harbor:

  • Nazi-ally Japan depended on American steel, oil, gasoline, 1940 embargo on Japan-bound supplies.
  • 1941 negotiations. US: if you clear out of China, we'll renew limited trade relations. Japan: Hell no, we fight.
  • Dec 7, 1941 - Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii :(
  • Dec 11, 1941 Germany and Italy declare war, US Congress unanimously accepts

America's Transformation from Bystander to Belligerent:

  • Pear Harbor may have destroyed much of the Pacific fleet, but it blasted isolationists into silence and united Americans for war.
  • What led US to war? Supporting policies to help democracy and defeat dictatorship: British escorts=>German attacks. Japan embargoes=>retaliation.