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CL—American Reactions to Fascist Aggression
While America was preoccupied with problems of the Depression, Europe
faced the possibility of another world war. The fascist rulers of Germany and
Italy, Hitler and Mussolini, pursued aggressive foreign policies as a means of
strengthening support at home. Hitler, in particular, vowed to release Germany
from the hateful terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Mussolini similarly promised to
restore the glory of ancient Rome to modern Italy.
As the aggressions of these countries in Europe and a third, Japan, in Asia became more overt, the
United States found it increasingly difficult to ignore foreign affairs. The isolationism and disillusionment
of the 1920s began to waver before the attacks of those who would awaken America to her international
obligations. Distrust of foreign entanglement was deeply embedded in the American psyche, however,
and the country’s leaders faced a hard struggle to overcome it.
In foreign policy, as in pro football, there are offensive and defensive sides. Following World War
I, America adopted a strategy of isolation and seemed determined not to play the game. Some countries—
Germany, Italy, Japan—were on the offensive. When the United States finally entered the fray in the
1930s, her actions were defensive.
Part A
The following list includes American responses to a series of actions by aggressor nations in the pre-World
War II years. Write the name of the response in the appropriate place on the chart below in the column
labeled “American Responses.” Then, briefly describe the response.
Possible Responses:
□ President Roosevelt’s Quarantine Speech
□ “Moral embargo” of oil shipments to Italy
□ Cash and Carry policy
□ Embargo against Japan
□ Roosevelt’s letter to Mussolini and Hitler
asking for assurances against aggression
□ U.S. declared war on Japan
□ Stimson Doctrine
Fascist Aggression
Japan invades
Italy invaded Ethiopia
Rearmament of
Spanish Civil War
Japan invaded China
Hitler’s takeover of
Destroyer deal with Britain and Conscription
Neutrality Act of 1937
Atlantic Charter
Neutrality Acts of 1935 and 1936
U.S. froze German assets
U.S. Responses
Hitler’s invasion of
Hitler’s invasion of
Norway and the Low
Fall of France
Japan’s invasion of
Battle of Britain
Hitler’s invasion of
Japan attacked Pearl
Part B
1. It has been said that the Neutrality Acts made the U.S. marvelously prepared to avoid
another war like World War I. To what extent is this true?
2. President Roosevelt declined to invoke the Neutrality Acts because they worked to the
advantage of aggressors. Explain this position.
3. Which of the U.S. responses to fascist aggression marked the turning point in moving the
nation from neutrality to war?
4. To what extent was the reversal of neutrality in the best interest of the United States?
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