World War II

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What impact did the Pearl Harbor attack have on World War II?

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The attack on Pearl Harbor had a momentous impact on the course of World War II (1939–1945). By the time of the attack in December 1941, the war had been going on for more than two years in Europe and even longer in Asia. The attack ended President Franklin D. Roosevelt's dilemma over American entry into the war. He had been helping the Allies in their fight against the Axis in different ways. FDR was convinced that Adolph Hitler had to be stopped, but he knew that isolationism was very strong politically in America. After the Japanese attack, Hitler, an ally of Japan, declared war against the United States. The Japanese attack and Hitler's war declaration completely ended American neutrality.

Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese navy, was not enthusiastic about going to war against the United States. He had lived in America, so he knew how formidable an enemy it could be. Nevertheless, he followed orders and carried out the attack. The Japanese won almost all of the battles between the two forces until mid-1942. After that point, the US sunk four Japanese carriers at the Battle of Midway. Momentum swung to the American side for the remainder of the war.

In Europe, the US joined Britain and the Soviet Union in their war against Hitler. American troops were sent to Africa, Italy, and France as progress was made against Germany. The USSR was primarily responsible for the defeat of Germany, though. And the the US fought most of the key battles against Japan. In 1945, both Germany and Japan surrendered.

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What major events in World War II were affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Almost all major events in World War II after December 7, 1941 were affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This is because the attack on Pearl Harbor (and Hitler’s ill-advised declaration of war on the US) got the United States into the war.  US participation in the war had a tremendous impact on the war both in the Pacific and in Europe.

Until the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was not directly involved in WWII.  American public opinion was strongly opposed to participation in the war.  The US was giving “Lend-Lease” aid to the Allies, but it was not fighting.  In December of 1941, England was the only power fighting Germany in Western Europe.  The Soviet Union was fighting hard against the German invasion of the USSR, but the outcome of that campaign was very much in doubt. 

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, everything changed.  Now, the world’s biggest economy was in the war on the Allied side.  Every battle in the Pacific was essentially caused by the attack on Pearl Harbor because that started the war in the Pacific.  However, we must also note that the war in Europe was affected.  Without the US, it is likely that there would have been no invasion of North Africa, no invasion of Italy, and no D-Day invasion of France. 

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor got the US into the war.  Therefore, every event that the US took part in, and even every event that was affected by the US being in the war, was affected by Pearl Harbor.

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