The Cost of Neutrality

Unit 11 – World War II
The Cost of Neutrality
The 1930s National Neutrality Debate
A. Stimson Doctrine, 1931
• Response to Japan in Manchuria
• The Stimson Doctrine was a policy of the United States
government, enunciated in a note of January 7, 1932 to
Japan and China, of non-recognition of international
territorial changes effected by force.
B. Historic Tradition of Neutrality
• Washington, Jefferson, Monroe
1930s Diplomacy
C. Nye Committee “merchants of death”
• The Nye Committee studied the causes of U.S. involvement
in WWI between 1934 and 1936.
• Ninety-three hearings questioned more than two hundred
witnesses – found little evidence
• Committee reported that between 1915 and April 1917, the
U.S. loaned Germany 27 million dollars ($27,000,000).
• In the same period, the US loaned the UK and its allies 2.3
billion dollars ($2,300,000,000), or about 85 times as much.
• The conclusion has been drawn that the U.S. entered the
war because it was in its commercial interest for the UK not
to lose.
D. Neutrality Act 1935
• President can proclaim a state of war and forbid munitions
sales to either side. U.S. citizens travel on belligerent ships
at their own risk. Response to Italy in Ethiopia.
E. Neutrality Act 1936
• Additional provision of no loans or credit to belligerents
• Response to Spanish Civil War
F. Neutrality Act 1937
• Authorized President to designate “cash and carry” items
• Travel on belligerent ships unlawful
American Isolationism 1930 – 1941
G. Quarantine Speech
• Response to Panay incident –
• The Panay incident was a Japanese attack on the U.S.
Navy gunboat Panay while she was anchored in the
Yangtze River outside of Nanjing on December 12, 1937.
• Japan and the United States were not at war at the time.
The Japanese claimed that they did not see the U.S. flag
painted on the deck of the gunboat, apologized and paid an
• Nevertheless, the attack and reports of the Nanking
Massacre caused U.S. opinion to turn sharply against the
• As FDR said,
“The peace, the freedom, the security of ninety per cent of
the population of the world is being jeopardized by the
remaining ten per cent who are threatening a breakdown of
all international order and law. Surely the ninety per cent,
who want to live in peace under law and in accordance with
moral standards that have received almost universal
acceptance through the centuries, can and must find some
way to make their will prevail.”
Rise of Fascism and Nationalism
H. Neutrality Act of 1939 – to sell arms – “cash & carry”
The Neutrality Act of 1939 amended the earlier legislation in
recognition of the imminent Nazi threat to western Europe's
democracies. Although the Act permitted all belligerents to
be supplied on a “cash and carry" basis, this benefitted the
UK and France since they controlled the sea lanes.
However, U.S. vessels were forbidden to enter combat
zones and U.S. citizens continued to be barred from sailing
on belligerent vessels.
The act was amended in November 1941 to remove these
restrictions following the passage of the Lend-Lease Act.
Lend Lease Act
The program was administered by Harry Hopkins and
proved essential in funding the war efforts of Britain and
China, and of great assistance as well to the Soviet
The act, generally known as “lend-lease,” is officially
“Further to promote the defense of the United States,
and for other purposes.”
Earlier, the 1940 Destroyers for Bases Agreement had
seen 50 obsolete destroyers transferred to the Royal
Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy in exchange for
base rights in the Caribbean.
• In exchange for Lend-Lease, the British had to accept that
they would NOT export any Lend-Lease matériel.
• When the Bill for Lend-Lease was passed in the American
House of Representatives, it was given the “symbolic
number” 1776 – the date of American independence from
America First Committee
America First Committee
Opposed all Aid to
Britain - Called FDR a
“War Monger”
J. Pearl Harbor – The End of Neutrality
On the morning of December 7, 1941, planes and midget
submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy began a
surprise attack on the U.S. under the command of Vice
Admiral Chuichi Nagumo.
This attack brought the United States into World War II.
At 6:00 a.m. on December 7th, the six Japanese carriers
launched a first wave of 181 planes composed of torpedo
bombers, dive-bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters.
The Japanese hit American ships and military installations
at 7:53 a.m. They attacked military airfields at the same
time they hit the fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor.
Overall, twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific fleet were
damaged and the death toll reached 2,400.
K. Why did the Japanese attack?
Escalating tensions since the early 1930s.
Japanese sought to extend hegemony in Asia.
The invasion of China confirmed U.S. fears that the
Japanese would not be satisfied until they controlled
Eastern Asia and the Pacific.
The creation of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo military alliance
materialized in Japan’s control of French Indochina in the
summer of 1941.
The British and U.S. responded with an embargo,
blocking the trade of rubber and oil – both necessary for
industrialization and militarization.
After fruitless attempts at negotiation to forestall war,
Japan deemed war with the U.S. as inevitable if it were to
realize its foreign policy objectives.
Salvaged from the floor of Pearl Harbor, the anchor of the battleship
USS Arizona is displayed at the entrance of the USS Arizona Memorial
Visitor Center operated by the National Park Service. The anchor was
cast in Chester, Pennsylvania, and weighs 19,585 pounds.
Photographer: Bill Dasher. Courtesy Impact.
FDR’s Declaration of War
Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Japan
December 8 , 1941
Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Speaker, and Members of the
Senate and House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7,
1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of
America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and
air forces of the Empire of Japan.
America’s Entry into the War