The United States as a World Power

America Claims an Empire

American Imperialism

1867 - 1898

Throughout 19th century, the U.S. became interested in imperialism (policy in which a strong nation extends its economic, political, or military control over weaker territories)

1867 - William Seward arranges for the U.S. to buy Alaska from the Russians. This proved profitable because Alaska was rich in timber, minerals, and oil.

1867 - U.S. claimed the uninhabited Midway Islands (in the Pacific Ocean)

1887 - U.S. builds a naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

1891 - the queen of Hawaii tries to remove the property-owning qualifications for voting. As a result, business groups organized a reveloution in which they overthrew the queen. A temporary government (led by Sanford B. Dole) is set up.

1897 - William McKinley is elected president, and he favored the annexation of Hawaii.

1898 - Hawaii is claimed as an American territory, but Hawaiians never had a chance to vote.

Spanish-American War

1895 - 1899

Yellow Journalism - sensational/exaggerated style of news, used to lure and/or enrage readers. William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer both practiced Yellow Journalism in their newspapers. They helped to instigate U.S. intervention in Cuba.

1895 - Jose Marti launches a revolution in Cuba.

1897 - William McKinley takes office at a time when demand for intervention in Cuba is rising due to Yellow Journalism.

1898 - the U.S.S. Maine is ordered to Cuba to bring home U.S. citizens, but the ship exploded in the harbor of Havana. Newspapers claimed the Spanish were responsible.

1898 - the U.S. declares war on Spain, and sent a fleet to fight the war in the Philippines. Commodore George Dewey gives the order to open fire on the Spanish fleet in Manila. They destroyed the Spanish fleet and joined forces with Filipino rebels led by Emilio Aguinaldo. Later, Spanish troops in Manila surrender to the U.S.

1898 - U.S. blockaded Cuba and sent forces to fight the war in the Caribbean. They won many victories.

1898 - Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the 15-week long Spanish-American War. It also turned the islands of Guam (Pacific) and Puerto Rico (West Indies) to the U.S. With this, Spain also sold the Philippines to the U.S.

1899 - Despite the political, moral, and economic controversy, the Senate approves the Treaty of Paris, expanding the United States empire to Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.

Acquiring New Lands

1899 - 1900

Jose Marti - Cuban patriot who led the movement for independence from Spain. He also predicted that the U.S. would only replace Spain and dominate Cuban politics.

1899 - the U.S. took the same role as Spain did in Philippines (imposing their authority). So the Filipinos, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, rebelled, causing the Philippine-American War. The U.S. won.

1899 - Secretary of State John Hay issues the "Open Door Notes", a series of letters to leaders of imperialist nations proposing that they share their trading rights w/ the U.S. (intended to ensure no single nation could have a monoploy on trade w/ China)

1900 - Congress passes Foraker Act, ending military rule of Puerto Rico and setting up a civil government, in which the U.S. appoints the governor and upper house of the legislature. Puerto Ricans could only elect members of the legislature's lower house.

1900 - Britain, France, Germany, & Japan join forces in the Chinese capital to put down the Boxer Rebellion (a rebellion by a secret society that killed foreigners).

America as a World Power

1901 - 1915

Dollar Diplomacy - the policy of using the U.S. government to guarantee loans made to foreign countries by American business people.

1901: William McKinley is assassinated, making Theodore Roosevelt the president.

1904: The Roosevelt Corollary is added to the Monroe Doctrine (which demanded European nations stay out of Latin American affairs), allowing for the U.S. to use force to protect its interests in Latin America.

1903 - 1913: U.S. planned to build a canal through Panama, but first had to support a Panamanian rebellion against Colombia (whch at the time ruled Panama). Panama won its independence with help from the U.S. Construction for the Panama Canal begins, but the workers on the canal faced many hardships, including accidents and disease.

1914: The Panama Canal is finished and opened for business, creating faster travel between the Atlantic/Pacific Oceans.

1914: The U.S. denied recognition to any nation that it viewed as being against U.S. interests. And because the Mexican government, headed by Victoriano Huerta, came to power with violence, they denied Mexico recognition. In April, one of Huerta's officers arrested a small group of American sailors. President Wilson used this as an excuse to intervene in Mexico.

1915: The Huerta government collapsed and Venustiano Carranza become President of Mexico. Wilson withdrew U.S. troops and formally recognized the Carranza government.

World War I

WWI Begins

1907 - 1917

Nationalism, or a devotion to the interests/culture of one's nation, led to ethnic rivalries. Mainly being the rivalry between Russia and Austria-Hungary over influence of Serbia (which is in the Balkans)

1907: By this year, there were two major European defense alliances:
- Triple Entente (A.K.A. "Allies") consisted of Britain, France, and Russia.
- Triple Alliance consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. This alliance later changed to the "Central Powers" with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire.

1914: Heir to the Austrian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated by a Serbian nationalist while visiting Bosnia. Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, and the alliance system pulled many other nations into the conflict.

1915: Although the U.S. was neutral in the war, it had stronger economic ties to the Allies than the Central Powers. The U.S. shipped millions of dollars of war supplies to the Allies.

1916: Wilson is re-elected, and gave a speech calling for "a peace without victory..." suggesting that neither side would impose harsh terms on the other. He hoped that all nations would work together for peace, democracy, freedom of seas, and reduced armaments.

1917: Germans ignore Wilson's call for peace and continued unrestricted submarine warfare, announcing to sink ALL ships in British waters.

1917: Zimmerman Note - a telegram from Germany proposing an alliance with Mexico. In it, Germany promised to help Mexico regain territory in the U.S. if they declared war. It was intercepted by British agents, causing public outrage with U.S.

1917: Wilson officially declares war with his "world safe for democracy" speech, reflecting the belief that the U.S. had to enter the war to ensure future peace/freedom.

American Power tips the Balance

1917 - 1918

Selective Service Act of 1907 - required men to register with the government to be randomly selected for military service.

1917: Transporting men, food, and equipment over the ocean was difficult because of German sub activities. So the U.S. changed its industrial production techniques by:
- Campaigning to emphasize importance of shipyard workers.
- Reducing construction time by having parts built elsewhere and assembling them at the yard.
- Taking private/commercial ships and converting them for transatlantic war use.

1917: to counter Germany's U-boat attacks on merchant ships, a U.S. vice admiral convinced the British to use the Convoy System, in which destroyers would escort merchant ships.

1918: Germany surrenders and signs the armistice (truce) that ended WWI on November 11th.

WWII Looms

Dictators Threaten World Peace

1921 - 1939

Nationalism - loyalty to one's country above all else.

The Treaty of Versailles was seen by the Germans as unfair since it stripped them of their territories and blamed them for WWI. This in turn caused anger instead of peace.


1922: Russian civil war results in the establishment of a communist state (Soviet Union)

1924: Joseph Stalin takes power in Russia. He focused on agricultural/industrial growth, and abolished privately owned farms. He successfully turned the Soviet Union into one of the worlds largest industrial powers.

1939: Stalin also eliminated anyone who threatened his power, making the Soviet Union a totalitarian government (gov. that has complete control over citizens)


1921: Unemployment, inflation, and the threat of communism were problems in Italy. Benito Mussolini used this as an opportunity to gain followers and establish a Fascist Party (Fascism stressed nationalism and placed interests of state above those of individuals)

1922: Mussolini marched on Rome, where he was appointed head of the government. Calling himself "Il Duce" (the leader) he extended Fascism, but only by destroying all opposition, making Italy a totalitarian state.


1919: Adolf Hitler joins the Nazi Party, where he quickly became the leader, calling himself "Der Fuhrer" (the leader). He established Nazism (German version of fascism) and set forth 3 goals:
- Uniting all German-speaking people in one large empire
- Enforcing racial "purification" (he thought blue-eyed/blond-haired Aryans were the "master race". "Inferior races" included Jews, Slavs, and all nonwhites)
- Gaining national expansion by any means.

1932: Germany is in poor economic condition from war debts. Many unemployed Germans joined Hitler's private army ("storm troopers" or "brown shirts").

1933: Nazi Party becomes the strongest party in Germany, allowing Hitler to be appointed chancellor. Once in power, Hitler dismantled the democratic Weimar Republic and established the Third Reich, which he said would last a thousand years.


1931: Nationalistic military leaders were trying to take control of imperial Japan. These leaders wanted national expansion, and so they attacked and seized control of the Chinese province: Manchuria. The success of the invasion put the militarists in control of Japan's government.


1933-1937: Arguments broke out in the U.S. that the country had been "dragged" into WWI. Antiwar/isolationist feelings were stronger than ever in the U.S., even though President Roosevelt opposed isolationism and wanted to take a stand against aggression.

The Holocaust

1935 - 1942

SS - Hitler's elite Schutzstaffel, or "security squadron", which was used to round up Jews during the Holocaust.

1935: The Nuremberg Laws go into effect, stripping Jews of their German citizenship, jobs, and property.

1938: "Night of Broken Glass" - Nov. 9-10 Nazi storm troopers attacked Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues across Germany. Hundreds of Jews were killed/injured, thousands were arrested, and hundreds of synagogues were burned.

U.S. did not accept Jewish immigrants because fear of less jobs during the Great Depression. The U.S. only allowed certain (exceptional) people, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, ect...

1939: Hitler imposes his "Final Solution" - the genocide of "inferior races". During this time, Jews, Gypsies, Freemasons, and Jehovah's Witnesses were condemned to death.

1939: Many Jews were also sent to ghettos (crowded, segregated areas in certain Polish cities). Others were dragged from their homes and herded onto trains to be shipped to concentration camps (labor camps)

1942: The Final Stage of the "Final Solution" goes into effect, establishing death camps where Jews would be sent to and killed in poison gas chambers. The largest death camp was called Auschwitz.

1942: Not only did they gas prisoners in the death camps, but they also shot them, hanged them, and even experimented on them. Many were used to test methods of sterilization, which interested some Nazi doctors in their search for ways to improve the "Master Race"

War in Europe

1938 - 1940

1938: Hitler, wanting to expand the Third Reich, unifies Germany and Austria. (Austrians favored unification, making the task easy)

1938: Hitler prepares to annex west Czechoslovakia (AKA Sudetenland), but he first invited French premier Edouard Daladier and British prime minister Neville Chamberlain to a meeting. He got them to sign the Munich Agreement, giving Sudetenland to Germany without war.

1938: Winston Churchill (Chamberlain's political rival) disliked the signing of the Munich Agreement, calling it shameful appeasement.

1939: Hitler invades the rest of Czechoslovakia.

1939: Germany signs nonaggression pact with Russia, allowing Hitler to safely invade Poland. This was the first time the "blitzkrieg" strategy was used, in which fast tanks and powerful aircrafts take the enemy by surprise and quickly crush all opposition with overwhelming force.

1940: Britain & France set up a defenses on the Maginot Line (fortifications along France's eastern border). Instead of coming from the east, the Germans sent tanks through the supposedly impassible Ardennes woods in the northeast. Italy joined the Germans and invaded France from the South. France soon fell. French general Charles de Gaulle fled to England, claiming "France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war."

1940: Battle of Britain - since Germany could not match the naval power of the British, they also launched an air war with their invasion. Thousands of German planes bombed London over several months. The Royal Air Force (RAF) fought back with the advantage of radar. The RAF fought so well, Hitler called off the invasion.

America Moves Toward War

1939 - 1941

1940: Germany, Italy, and Japan signed a mutual defense treaty. These 3 nations became known as the Axis Powers. Their alliance was aimed at keeping the U.S. out of the war, because if America declared war on any of them it would be faced with a two-ocean war, having to fight on both Atlantic and Pacific.

1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt breaks the tradition of 2-term presidency, and is elected to a 3rd term.

1941: Lend-Lease Act is passed, allowing the U.S. to lend or lease arms and supplies to "any country whose defense was vital to the United States."

1941: Hitler breaks his nonagression pact with Russia, and invades the Soviet Union. At this point the U.S. starts sending lend-lease supplies to the Soviets, providing aid to Stalin.

1941: Roosevelt and Churchill met secretly on the USS Augusta, and settled on a joint declaratin of war aims, called the Atlantic Charter. This became the basis for "A Declaration of the United Nations".

1941: German U-boats started sinking U.S. ships. The Senate responds by repealing the ban on arming merchant ships, making the U.S. in a state of undeclared naval war with Hitler.

1941: Japan bombs Pearl Harbor (the largest U.S. naval base in the Pacific). The damages suffered from the surprise attack were immense. Isolationist feelings were no more after this attack - most americans supported entering the war.

1941: On December 8th, the U.S. officially declares war on Japan. Three days later, the rest of the Axis declared war on the United States.

The U.S. in World War II

Mobilizing for Defense

1941 - 1944

1941: Because of Pearl Harbor, there were many eager young volunteers who wanted to go to war. To meet the needs of fighting a war on two fronts, they also expanded the Selective Service System to draft more soldiers.

1941: Many minority groups were reluctant to joining the war effort because of the discrimination of the time. But despite this, still many Mexican Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans volunteered.

1942: Many different factories for many different industries were converted to war production. Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser had massive shipyards that built cargo carriers, tankers, transports, and aircraft carriers at extremely fast rates due to the use of prefabricated parts that were assembled at his shipyards.

1942: After Albert Einstein warned Roosevelt that the Germans could create a powerful weapon from splitting uranium atoms, the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) started developing an atomic bomb under a program known as the Manhattan Project.

1942: War Production Board (WPB) ensured the armed forces and war industries received enough resources. They decided which companies would convert to wartime production and also sent raw materials to key industries. The WPB also organized nationwide drives to collect scrap iron, tin cans, paper, rags, ect...

1942-1944: Despite initial worries to the contrary, there were still millions of workers able to labor in war industries. Many of these workers included women and minorities.

War for Europe & North Africa

1941 - 1945

1941: After the U.S. declared war, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt met to discuss war plans. Churchill ended up convincing Roosevelt that they should first focus on Europe before Japan.

1942 - 1943: Battle of the Atlantic - knowing that U.S. supplies were vital to Britain and the Soviets, Hitler ordered submarine raids against ships from America's east coast. These raids were successful for months, until the U.S. started organizing convoys with destroyers and airplanes, both of which had advanced tracking (sonar/radar). They also started producing more ships than they lost. This turned the tide against the German U-boats. Hitler ultimately lost.

1942 - 1943: Battle of Stalingrad - Hitler wanted to destroy Stalingrad (a major Russian industrial center). The Germans bombed the city nightly and fought through each house. Stalin refused to let his namesake city fall and ordered his men to defend no matter what. When another winter came, the Soviets rolled in new tanks to surround the city, trapping the Germans and cutting off their supplies. Hitler ordered his men to stay and fight, but the cold/starving German troops eventually surrendered.

1942 - 1943: American General Dwight D. Eisenhower leads Allied troops in invading Axis-controlled North Africa. The Allies achieved victory.

1942 - 1944: The Italian Campaign - Churchill suggested that it would be safest to first attack Italy before Germany. And so they started with capturing Sicily. After which, the Italian government forced Mussolini to resign. The new King labeled Mussolini as the "most hated man in Italy".

1944: D-Day - As part of Operation Overlord (a plan to liberate France from the Nazis), General Eisenhower led the largest land-sea-air operation in army history on June 6, 1944. This massive attack (in which soldiers parachuted behind enemy lines followed by thousands of soldiers from sea) was only the first day in Operation Overlord. It took another few months before France was fully liberated.

1944: FDR and his running mate Senator Harry S. Truman are elected to an unprecedented fourth term.

1944: Battle of the Bulge - Hitler ordered a last desperate offensive, in which his troops would break through Allied lines and attempt to recapture a port. He hoped this would split American/British forces and disrupt their supplies. The Germans were pushed back after a month, suffering heavy losses.

1944: Allied troops pushed eastward into Germany, while the Soviets pushed westward through Poland. The Allies discovered and liberated the death camps, finally realizing the true horrors of the Nazis.

1945: The Soviet army stormed Berlin for the final battle. Several days later, Hitler wrote his last address before shooting himself. On May 8, 1945 the Allies celebrated V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day). General Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich.

Many minority units received awards and honors throughout the war, including the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron (Tuskegee Airmen), the all-black 92nd Infantry Division (The Buffaloes), the all Mexican-American Company E of the 141st Regiment 36th division, and the 100th Battalion of Hawaiian Nisei (Nisei meaning American citizens whose parents emigrated from Japan). The 100th was later merged with the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team (the most decorated unit in U.S. history)

The Home Front

1941 - 1944

1941 - 1944: The domestic economy did great during the war, and there were a lot more working opportunities. Many more women also took the opportunity to work, and did jobs that had not been done by women before.

1941 - 1944: The war also caused one of the greatest mass migrations in American history. Many families migrated to find work elsewhere, and towns with defense industries had the biggest population booms.

1942: Although African Americans moved all throughout the country, racial tensions were still present. This caused civil rights leader James Farmer to found an interracial organization called the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

1942: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caused a panic in the U.S., which led to the order of Japanese Internment (confinement) on Hawaii. Roosevelt later signed an order to remove anyone of Japanese ancestry from several Western states. About 110,000 Japanese Americans were shipped to remote "relocation centers" (prison camps).

1943: A massive riot between blacks and whites erupts at a Detroit beach. The fighting lasted for 3 days.

1943: In Los Angeles, the "zoot-suit" riots broke out, in which several sailors reported that they were attacked by zoot-suit-wearing Mexican Americans. This caused mobs of whites to enter Mexican neighborhoods and started beating anyone wearing zoot-suits.

1944: Korematsu v. United States - case where Japanese Americans challenged the justice of relocation. The Supreme Court decided that evacuating Japanese Americans to camps was of "military necessity".

War in the Pacific

1942 - 1945

1942: General Douglas MacArthur commanded Allied forces in the battle against the Japanese for control of the Philippines. By 1942 American/Filipino forces had lost, and Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to leave. MacArthur complied, but declared he would return.

1942: Admiral Chester Nimitz (commander of U.S. Pacific naval forces) moved to defend the island of Midway. The Americans attacked the Japanes fleet with torpedo planes & dive bombers while their planes were still on the decks of their carriers. The "Battle of Midway" was a major loss for Japan, marking a turning point in the Pacific War.

1942: After the Battle of Midway, the Allies adopted the strategy of "island hopping" - going from island to island and winning territory back.

1942: The first Allied offensive begins as thousands of troops stormed Guadalcanal. By the time the Japanese left, they nicknamed it the "Island of Death" because of the bad conditions from weather, wild-life, ect...

1944: Battle of Leyte Gulf - Allied troops and ships moved in on the Leyte Islands (Philippines). General MacArthur returned for this battle. The Japanes used kamikaze tactics to defend, but still had major losses in their defeat.

1944: Allies begin their attack on the strategically critical (but heavily defended) island of Iwo Jima. There were extremely heavy losses on both sides, but the Allies managed to succeed.

1945: Battle for Okinawa - U.S. Marines invaded the island of Okinawa. The Japanes used many kamikaze attacks to sink or damage hundreds of ships. Almost 8,000 marines died to take the island, but over 100,000 Japanese died, including 2 generals.

1945: The Yalta Conferance takes place, where Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin discussed postwar plans. The results were that Germany would be divided into 4 occupied zones, the Soviet Union would help in the war with Japan, and a new world peace-keeping organization would be formed (The United Nations, or UN)

Manhattan Project - secret U.S. government project to develop the first atomic bomb. American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer was the research director on the project.

1945: President Truman decides to use the atmoic bombs. Japan was warned that they would face a "prompt and utter destruction" if they did not immediately surrender. After Japan refused to surrender, the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Japan was still hesitant to surrender, and so a few days later another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Emperor Hirohito then agrees to surrender on September 2, 1945.

1945: Nuremberg Trials - after the discovery of the death camps, remaining Nazis were put on trial for their crimes throughout the war. Some got to go free, but many were sentenced to prison. Only 12 were sentenced to death.

In the years following war, Japan was occupied by U.S. forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Many Japanese officials were tried for crimes against civilians or P.O.W.'s. MacArthur also reshaped Japan's economy and government, by introducing free-market practices and calling for a new constitution. This led to a remarkable economic recovery and introduced a democratic government with more rights.