US Foreign Policy in the 1930s and 40s

revision cards on US Foreign Policy in the 1920s

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  • Created by: CARL
  • Created on: 05-04-12 13:40

Why did congress pass the Neutrality Acts between

  • Congress did not want to engage in hostilities and be drawn into a European war on any side.
  • traditional foreign policy was to remain isolationist
  • to stop American citizens travelling on ships of warring nations
  • to stop firms supplying arms to belligerents
  • to stop bankers giving loans to nations at war

Key point

Congress wanted to keep out of another war and they felt compelled to keep the USA neutral through a series of laws based on traditional foreign policy.


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How important was American public opinion as a rea

Factors suggesting importance of American public opinion as a reason for the USA to enter World War Two might include:

  • as early as the sinking of the Panay in 1937 there were calls for war against the Japanese from some members of the public and Congress
  • public opinion changed after 1939 and the war in Europe started this and put pressure on Congress
  • public joined Defend America by aiding the Allies and this created a powerful lobby group
  • public wrote letters to newspapers in 1940-1941 wanting USA to go to war
  • outrage by the public after Peal Harbour confirmed Roosevelt’s decision showing where their sympathies lay.
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Factors suggesting non importance might include:

Factors suggesting non importance might include:

  • public opinion was divided and there were a number of isolationists such as the America First Committee
  • public in 1937 only small percentage for war so easily ignored by Congress
  • many members of the public remembered deaths in World War One and so did not want another war
  • President Roosevelt was waiting to declare war and Pearl Harbour gave him the excuse.
  • President Roosevelt had imposed sanctions against Japan which had in effect caused the Japanese to react.

Public opinion changed once Hitler got to the Channel and this changed many isolationists’ views but the main event was Pearl Harbour.

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Why did the use of the atomic bomb in 1945 strengt

  • the USA was a world power because the War had not been fought on its territory and the atomic power indicated its superiority in terms of weaponry
  • the development of this technology before anyone else in 1945 made them into the first super power because they were technologically in advance of everyone else
  • the use of the atomic bomb showed the rest of the world and especially Russia that the USA was to be feared since it was so much more powerful than conventional weapons
  • the atomic bomb strengthened their ability to take on Communism anywhere in the world and impose their views/foreign policy.

Key point

it was the fact that the bomb was much more powerful than conventional weapons and it meant the USA could enforce its interests across the world.


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How important was President Franklin Roosevelt to

  • political factors – FDR made a number of important decisions which affected the status of the USA such as the Neutrality Acts in the 1930s. These meant the USA stayed out of the Second World War and could build itself up

  • entry into the Second World War. This enabled the USA to play a part in the war and show how powerful they were. The decision to concentrate on Europe before Asia in the war. This led to success in the war

  • military factor. He is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the USA helped win the war in Asia and Europe

  • economic factor. The New Deal. This started the USA off on its journey to world power after the Crash of 1929 because of FDR’s economic policy
  • personal factor. Entry into the war was partly due to FDR’s friendship with Great Britain
  • technological factor. Roosevelt agreed to the Manhattan Project.
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Roosevelt not important - other factors

political factor. FDR could not declare war without money agreed by Congress

events such as the Second World War and the bombing on Pearl Harbour are actions that force the USA out onto the world stage by other nations

the role of American public support is very important both on the home front and in fighting the Second World War

technological factor. The money generated from the war means the USA can finance research and design policies such as the atomic bomb

geographical factor. The fact the war is not fought on US soil means it can function and grow whilst Europe declines

economic factor. Resources such as plentiful supplies of oil, coal, timber are important throughout 30s and up to 1945 because the USA is self-sufficient.

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How far was American society changed by the impact

Factors suggesting American society was changed by the impact of the Second World War in the years 1941 to 1945 might include:

  • women moved into more jobs done traditionally by men
  • women and ethnic minorities did more work in factories and in skilled work within munitions
  • African Americans began to get desegregated opportunities to work with whites and to move into management, i.e. white collar jobs
  • opportunities to move from inner cities and the south meant horizons were broadened i.e. society increasingly urbanised.


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US society did not change

Factors suggesting American society was not changed by the impact of the Second World War in the years 1941 to 1945 might include:

  • white men dominated management jobs in the forces and elsewhere
  • At the end of the war gender roles reverted to the norm before the war i.e. women in their domestic roles and non-management positions
  • most ethnic minorities reverted to blue collar and often poverty
  • racism against American Asians increased during the war
  • little change to discrimination in the South.

Key point

Remember that the changes to American society were often short lived and reverted to the norm in 1945 for many women and ethnic minorities. Also it depended on the area of the country as to whether any change in society took place at all.


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Why did the US enter the Second World War?

Germans sinking US merchant ships taking supplies across the Atlantic

Japan's unreasonable demands on the United States (re- instating oil sales and dropping support of the Philippines and China)

German submarines beginning to shoot at US war ships

Historical ties with the UK

FDR warned that if Britain & the Royal Navy were destroyed then USA could be next.

Pearl Harbour being the ’spark’ that triggered war. USA declared war on Japan and days later Germany declared war on USA

Public opinion forced the government to enter the war after Pearl Harbour

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Impact of War

A good war?

How did The War affect America?
Although many American soldiers were injured and killed in the war, the impact on Americans back home was generally positive, as the US was too far away from Europe to suffer from bombing etc. America was far better off after the war than it had been before:

Economy - US was richer than before the war, lent money to other nations, US farming economy recovered, small boom during and after the war

Politically - US became a superpower(link to technology - bomb), helped set up UN, became World policeman, US military bases all around the world, US mainland was not affected by bombing

Technologically - Had in its possession the first atomic bomb, aircraft companies, new weapons, products were popular(link to economy and business)


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Reasons for isolationism in the 1930s

  • Belief that the depression had been caused by W.W.I.
  • Belief that Europe was unworthy of our support
  • Pacifism—people who hated and abhorred war
  • Belief that arms manufacturers, bankers had caused war
  • Belief that W.W.I. had been a tragic mistake for the U.S.
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Great resource thanks :) (y) 

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