The Road to World War II

Why did the United States go from a policy of neutrality to joining World War II?

Actions in Europe & the Pacific

Mussolini (Facist) rises to power in Italy


Took power because Italy was going through an economic depression and he rose as a strong leader who claimed he could take control of the situation. He marched on Rome with his supporters and legally gained control of the government.

Stalin (Communist) rises to power in Soviet Union


Stalin wanted to make them a great industrial nation by taking over agriculture and industry. He eliminated all opponents and in 1939 he established a totalitarian government.

Hitler (Nazi) rises to power in Germany


Hitler became a prominent leader of the Nazi party and developed ideas about Germany's future. He advocated the purification of the Aryan race. In 1933 he was appointed chancellor of Germany of aimed to build up the military and conquer surrounding territories.

Nuremberg Laws implemented


Jewish people were forced to wear the yellow star so that they could be identified. Their homes, businesses, and property began to be taken from them.

Concentration camps are established


Jewish people were sent to concentration camps where they worked 7 days a week from dawn to dusk or until death. They were starved and humiliated.

Hitler takes over Austria


Hitler wanted to absorb Austria and Czechoslovakia into the Third Reich. They were unopposed.



Known as the "night of broken glass" - Nazi troops attacked Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues. Many were killed/murdered.

Hitler takes the Sudetenland


Hitler wanted to take a portion of Czechoslovakia with numerous Germans known as the Sudetenland. France and Britain met with Hitler and signed the Munich Agreements - agreeing to let him take the Sudetenland as long has made no further expansion. Churchill felt this was a shameful policy of "appeasement" and Hitler went back on his promise, taking the rest of the country.

Hitler signs non-aggression pact with Stalin


Hitler wanted to take over Poland. Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler and they agreed to split the country between the two nations.

Hitler begins the Final Solution


Hitler decided that he would now kill the entire population of Jews that remained in Germany which would end in 1942.

Francisco Franco takes over Spain in a civil war


Franco was a Spanish general that led an army of rebels against the government. He was assisted by the Soviet Union.

Jewish ghettoes are established


Segregated Jewish cities in Poland were established. Many were forced to work for Germany industry and virtually starved.

Hitler takes over Poland


Germany used a new military policy known as blitzkrieg to take the country by surprise. They bombed and sent in tanks. Two days after the attacks Britain and France declared war on Germany.

Battle of Britain


Intimidated by the British naval forces, the German air force Luftwaffe, began to bomb Britain in an attempt to destroy the RAF.

Hitler takes over France


Italy and Germany joined forces which made it difficult to fight back. In less than a week French and British forces had to flee to Britain. A Nazi controlled government controlled the country. Charles de Gaulle set up an exiled government in Britain.

Tripartite Pact


Germany, Italy and Japan signed a mutual defense treaty known as the Tripartite Pact. They aimed to keep the US out of the war by agreeing to defend each other in case of an attack.

Rise of Tojo


Hideki Tojo became prime minister of Japan. He met with the emperor and promised that he would preserve peace with the Americans. Throughout the Pacific Japan was expanding their empire by taking over European colonies and attacking China. The US responded by cutting of trade with the country, seemingly halting their oil imports.

Final Stage


Germans built six death camps where they shot them, gassed them, and even injected them with poison. To cover the evidence they created crematoriums to burn the bodies. They killed not only Jews but supporters, gypsies, homosexuals, people with mental and physical disabilities, and non-Aryans.

American Response

What actions was America taking that led them into war?

Kellog-Briand Pact


Signed by 62 countries and declared that war would not be used as an instrument of national policy

Good Neighbor Policy


Roosevelt removed armed forces from Latin America to show that he wanted to avoid war.

Nye Committee

1934 - 1936

Hearings against bankers and arms dealers that were accused of pushing America into World War I.

Neutrality Acts


Acts that aimed to keep the US out of future wars - banned arms sales to any nation at war.

St. Louis sent back to Europe


German Jewish refugees fled to the United States but despite their immigration papers they were not allowed to set foot on American land and were sent back to Europe.

Cash-and-Carry Policy


Roosevelt persuaded Congress to pass a cash-and-carry provision that allowed warring nations to buy arms if they paid in cash and carried them away on their own ships. This allowed us to supports France and Britain while keeping us out of where.

Selective Service Act


Nazi victories in 1940 worried the US so Congress boosted defense by passing the first ever peace-time military draft.

Lend Lease Act


Allowed the US to lend military weapons to Britain and France to prevent war from spreading to the United States.

Wolf Pack Attacks


Attacks by German u-boats that attacked British ships that carried lend-lease weapons. Roosevelt gave the Navy permission to attack German boats in self-defense.

Atlantic Charter


Roosevelt secretly met with Winston Churchill to discuss war matters. Churchill wanted military commitment but had to settle for post-war goals. He promised to try and force an incident.

Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941

Japan attacks the US naval base at Pearl Harbor and drew the US into war.