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Militarism contributed a great deal to the origins of World War II. This was true of both Japan and Germany.
Militarism can be defined as the glorification of the military and the willingness or even desire to use military force to gain more power for a country. Both Japan and Germany exhibited these characteristics. In Germany, Hitler argued that military force was a way of proving the superiority of the German people. This clearly glorified military action and made military aggression desirable. In Japan, the military was seen as the true defenders of the Japanese emperor and the Japanese nation. The military had relatively free rein to do as it wanted. Both Hitler and the Japanese glorified their militaries and the aggressive actions they both took helped to bring about WWII.
Militarism was important in contributing to WWII. Hitler always appeared in military uniform and did not let the public forget that the German army did not lose in the field, but rather the civilian leadership "betrayed" the army at Versailles. Hitler also used the creation of munitions as a way to increase employment in Nazi Germany. American visitors to Nazi Germany who did not see the early stages of the Holocaust admired the efficiency of the German workforce--they did not realize that the workforce was making weapons for an imminent war. Military parades would be a sign of Nazi party strength throughout the time the party maintained power.
In Japan, the military was promoted as a way for the country to ensure its continued growth. Japan felt cheated at the Washington Naval Conference, as the size of its navy was less than the size of the rival British and American fleets. Japan looked to the rest of Asia for natural resources, and saw the European colonial interests there as interlopers in land that should belong to Japan. The army and navy competed with each other for resources, and Japan soon found itself as a military dictatorship with the Emperor Hirohito serving as a figurehead.
Just as it was in World War I, militarism was one of the causes of World War II. After World War I ended, Germany had its military reduced significantly. However, when the Weimar Republic collapsed, and when Germany faced major economic problems in the 1920s, Germany turned to a totalitarian form of government eventually led by Adolf Hitler. Hitler pledged to restore German pride, which he felt was disrespected in the Versailles Treaty. One way to do this was to build up Germany’s military. Building up the military also would help to ease the effects of Germany’s depression since jobs would be created in the defense and military industries. When Germany began to build up its military, nothing was done to stop them.
Italy also felt it was disrespected by the Versailles Treaty. Italy believed it would get more land than it got from the Versailles Treaty. When Mussolini came to power, he talked about restoring Italian pride and returning Italy to the glory days of the Roman Empire. He, also, began to build up Italy’s military.
The Japanese leaders also built up their military. Japan had felt it was given unequal treating in the agreements made at the Washington Naval Conference. Japan was unhappy it could only have three warships for every five warships Great Britain and the United States could have. The leaders began to build up the military, and when the Japanese Prime Minister objected to the invasion of Manchuria, he was assassinated. This put the military in charge of Japan.
Usually, when a country builds up its military, it has a reason for doing this. Germany, Italy, and Japan eventually formed an alliance that was called the Axis Powers. They not only built up their military, they began to use it. Each country invaded other reasons prior to the start of World War II. Japan invaded Manchuria and China. Italy invaded Ethiopia and Albany. Germany moved its military into the Rhineland and invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland prior to the start of World War II. Militarism was definitely a factor in leading to the outbreak of World War II.
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