The brutal aggression of Nazi Germany against Poland in 1939 eradicated almost all hopes of peacefully coping with Hitler’s regime. The Allied forces, which consisted of countries with different political structures, rapidly started to prepare for the World War. For example, USSR, being a strict socialist dictatorship, tried to start tacit mobilization before the Nazi Germany invasion because Wehrmacht forces stood right on the borders (Kotkin 1183). At the same time, there was no question of life or death for the US for a considerable long time. Nevertheless, the capitalist economy put some pressure on the government because the president did not have an opportunity to start forced mobilization without proper justification and incentives for business. In this essay, some details on the US mobilization process will be laid out. The success of mobilization efforts in the US resulted from the unity and patriotic feelings of many Americans who believed in their government.
Pre-Pearl Harbor Mobilization
The mobilization experience during the First World War showed the American authorities what improvements should be made. In many ways, the First World War was some preparatory period when the US officials tried to ensure population acceptance through patriotic appeals and regulate state-business relationships during wartime (Keene 99). Though not a huge contribution to the success of World War I, it taught the US the lesson that economic mobilization sometime before the war was badly needed. The reason is that the government, civilians, and the army are highly interconnected during wartime mobilization – all should work in a well-prepared mechanism that cannot break down. Therefore, Franklin Roosevelt’s administration initiated the 1939 Protective Mobilization Plan and the 1933 Industrial Mobilization Plan, which built the bridge between the American military and industry (Altman 62). The radical shifts of Roosevelt to the wartime economy generated the great American war machine: in the two years, the army increased from 240,000 to 1.4 million (Altman 62). Thus, the capitalist economy of the US showed that it holds the top-tier place in the world.
The new plans made the US extensively mobilize even before any plans for real war were made. The major characteristic of mobilization in the US is that it was in the process while there were no direct threats in the future. The great number of tanks, military aircraft, and ammunition constructed during the American mobilization’s first years were distributed to Allied powers through Lend-Lease (McMeekin 219). This strategy implied aid to the Allies with American-made arms and was signed in March 1941. In this situation, the US officials showed tolerance to any states who fought against the Axis powers, so even the USSR received many weapons.
In telling the history of wartime mobilization, it is necessary to consider societal changes. The background of the Second World War was the period of the Great Depression when millions lost their jobs, and the economic growth in the US rapidly declined. Many people found themselves in a situation of social misery and marginalization (McMeekin 32). Although the Franklin Roosevelt administration prepared and implemented the New Deal plan, the wartime mobilization forced them to curtail these policies. Social mobilization highly reduced the unemployment rate: at the beginning of 1939, it was 17.61%, while in May 1942, it had become 1.22% (FRED Graph). It can be explained by a large number of orders and loans from the state to business.
US participation in war officially started after the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces in December 1941. Before this attack, Roosevelt’s Victory Program was introduced, requiring numerous new arms to be produced (Folly 24). The great demand for arms and the federal offense made by the Japanese attack triggered US citizens to arrange the home front. The patriotic feelings of Americans were the key element of unprecedented war machine functioning. People highly limited their consumption, reduced the time for leisure activities, and increased their work time. A great role during wartime was played by women who replaced some men in the workplace (Folly 55). It shows how people believed in their mission to protect the American dream and liberty.
Nevertheless, there can be no excuses for using nuclear weapons during the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Many historians formed a consensus that it was unnecessary to use the atomic bomb to defeat Japan (Folly 133). These events have left a black mark of shame on American history. No hardships of national mobilization can provoke the use of weapons of mass destruction. The ideas of democracy, freedom, and equality do not find any intersection with the events of August 1945 in Japan.
To sum up, World War II can be rightfully named “Total War”. The US learned the lessons of the First World War, which showed that all spheres of people’s lives should be mobilized for successful results. The giant American economy in the mobilized form presented the great war machine with no competitors. It was achieved by the mutual agreement between American citizens and Roosevelt’s administration that administered the change in the economy. Nevertheless, Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb against Japanese cities was a grievous final of the fight for American freedom.
Altman, Robert. US Army Interwar Planning: The Protective Mobilization Plan. 2014. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Master’s thesis.
Folly, Martin. The United States and World War II: The Awakening Giant. Edinburgh University Press, 2002.
“FRED Graph.” Economic Research, 2022.
Keene, Jennifer. The United States and the First World War (Second Edition). Seminar Studies, 2022.
Kotkin, Stephen. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941. Penguin Press, 2017.
McMeekin, Sean. Stalin’s War: A New History of World War II. Basic Books, 2021.