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C O U R S E 
The Modern World: Global History since 1760
Prof. Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
America's Entry into World War II
Notes taken on April 7, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
Critical gambles at the end of 1941
the grand strategy for the U.S. up to 1941 was "Germany First", so why did the war with Japan begin?
America hoped to deter Japan from attacking
put sanctions on Japan constraining oil and vital resources
wanted to keep the Japanese from attacking the Soviet Union, which succeeded (!)
America prodded Japan making it clear that if they meddled in the Pacific, they would have to deal with America
America hoped this would deter Japan from attacking America, but it didn't
what went wrong
America underestimated the fatalism of the Japanese leadership
GAMBLE #1: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor
Germans then declared war on the U.S.
had promised the Japanese they would do this
Japanese were victorious in the beginning of the war but not so much America had to fight Japan first and then Germany
GAMBLE #2: Germany gambled that it would rapidly defeat the USSR, but this went wrong
Germany vs. Russia was an extraordinary conflict
consider how modern armies in 1941 moved
army division was about 12,000 men
to move, they basically had to "go on a camping trip" for weeks, for months, carrying all their materials
had backups behind the armies to take care of the front
the reality of a "camping trip" is you are tired, you don't get much sleep, you're cold and think about hot food, shelter, getting out of the rain, day in and day out, plus, occasionally, people are trying to kill you
then there is the challenge of keeping up with the supplies off-road
German army of 1941 used millions of horses, but much of the supplies had to be hauled over land by humans
occasional explosives sending shards of metal in every direction
it was dangerous to be on foot, but to be in an armored vehicle, you were an easy target
Germans are making extraordinary headway against a surprised Soviet army
but their challenge is to great
but the Germans push beyond their limits
1941: into Ukraine, east past Crimea, Hitler's generals want one more desperate attempt to capture Moscow
but winter 1941 sets in
soldiers are scattered all over the countryside
they are very vulnerable
December 5, 1941: Soviets hit Germans very hard
by early 1942 Germans' position is worse than if they had just dug in for the winter
GAMBLE #3: Germans and Japanese can pin the Americans down in the Pacific so that American military power won't make a signficant difference in the rest of the world
this gamble fails but it was a close call
Japanese victory at Pearl Harbor is substantial but incomplete because:
1. American aircraft carriers were not in the harbor but out of at sea, and they became the trump cards during the war
2. Japan didn't get the oil
for the Americans to supply their ships in the Pacific, they can't carry the oil from California
so they use Hawaii as a giant fueling station, but the Japanese didn't bomb these facilities, although that would have been crippling for the United States
Japan's choices after early 1942
Japan had an advantage
options going into the war
1. big attack to occupy Hawaii, driving the U.S. back to California
2. attack Australia
3. raid around the Indian ocean and attack England in India
4. attack Soviets
they decide to do options 1-3
by choosing all three, they overextended themselves
the Midway operation was key
Japanese were defeated in a close call
American in an intelligence coup was able to read messages of what the Japanese would do before it happened
Japanese 4 aircraft carriers against 3 aircraft carriers
American destroyed all 4 carriers and lost only one
by 1942 all powers are now locked in a global, total war