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WW2: The Road to War Video Guide
Worldwide economic hardships in the 1920’s and 30’s took a terrible toll. After World War One,
discontent among the poor and unemployed in Europe allowed compelling rulers like Adolf
Hitler and Benito Mussolini to gain enormous power. These dictators promised their people
better lives and that their country would have more prominence on the world stage. All the
citizens had to do . . . was obey. Similarly, the nationalistic military leaders of Japan convinced
their citizens that Japan should expand her territories and ultimately, rule over the entire Far East.
The resulting war would not mean better lives for the people of Europe or Asia. Instead, millions
were killed and injured in battle, while millions more perished due to hunger, torture and racial
and ethnic prejudice. Initially Americans were not willing to get involved in the conflict
overseas but ultimately, the United States would have to play a deciding role in ending, World
War Two.
The signing of the peace treaty at Versailles signaled the official end of World War One -optimistically called, "The War to End All Wars." But even during World War One President
Woodrow Wilson had feared the war was more about power and territory than peace...
"...Is the present war a struggle for a just and secure peace or only for a new balance of
powers..." – Woodrow Wilson
1. What was one of the goals of the Treaty of Versailles?
As a result of the re-mapping, Germany lost territory to its surrounding countries. The treaty
demanded Germany accept full blame for World War One and pay huge sums of money, called
reparations, to the victorious nations. Germany was also stripped of much of its military power
and forced to demilitarize the area near the border of France known as the Rhineland.
2. The intention of the Treaty of Versailles was largely to punish Germany for World
War One but also to create new democracies and self-determination in Europe.
However, in the end, why did democracy not flourish? What did it do instead?
In Russian, Stalin means "Man of Steel." The Soviet Union’s communist leader, Joseph Stalin,
certainly lived up to his name. During his rule the Soviet Union achieved unprecedented power...
but at the cost of freedom for its people.
He launched a brutal transformation of Soviet agriculture through collectivization.
3. What is collectivization?
He also took control of manufacturing and production creating huge government controlled
industries. Stalin created a "Police State"
4. What happens in a police state?
5. In 1930 Stalin began “The Big Purge.” What happened during “The Big Purge?
Historians estimate between eight to thirteen million people were killed.
6. By 1939 Stalin had firmly established a _______________, communist government;
with complete control over its citizens… all opposition was crushed.
In Italy, similar events unfolded shortly after World War One. In 1919, Dictator Benito
Mussolini, Il Dulce, or “The Chief” as he was called - began his rise to power. Mussolini
became popular because he promised Italians he would rebuild Italy and create a new Roman
7. Mussolini created a political movement called _______________and in 1921 he
became a member of the Italian parliament.
In 1922, he and thousands of his Fascist supporters, known as the Blackshirts, marched into
Rome demanding the Italian King give him power to lead the government. Not wanting to start a
civil war, the King conceded. Mussolini was sworn in as Prime Minister in October 1922.
8. How were Stalin and Mussolini alike?
9. At the end of World War One, Adolf Hitler was just another jobless solider
wandering around Germany. In 1919 he joined a small political party called, The
National Socialist German Worker – The _______________party.
Like Communists in the Soviet Union and Fascists in Italy, the Nazis practiced an extreme form
of Nationalism – believing that the interests of their country were more important than any others
– even more important than personal rights and freedoms. Hitler quickly rose to power to
become the NAZI party’s leader, or "Fuhrer."
In his two-volume book, Mein Kampf, "My Struggle" in English, Hitler spelled out his Nazi
beliefs. He sought to unite all German-speaking people into a national state. He also maintained
that the German, or "Aryan" race, was superior to all others.
Hitler thought his "Master Race" deserved more land, even if it meant taking it by force. The
economic hardships in Germany in the early nineteen thirties helped Hitler and the Nazi party
gain power. In 1932 roughly six million Germans were jobless, and Hitler's promise to restore
German pride and stature in the world appealed to them. As head of the NAZI Party, Hitler was
appointed German chancellor in January 1933. He quickly put an end to the faltering Weimer
democracy and established his "Third Reich," a totalitarian regime with himself as dictator.
10. How did Hitler capitalize on hate and racism? Who did he blame and why? What
happened to them as a result?
11. The discrimination escalated in November of 1938. Rampaging mobs attacked Jews
in the street, in their homes and at their places of work and worship. Nearly 100
Jews were killed, more than 1,000 synagogues burned and over 7000 Jewish
businesses were destroyed. This came to be called _______________- or "night of
broken glass.”
12. Jewish property was seized and Jews, Gypsies, and other groups considered unfit
for Hitler's master race were sent to concentration camps - over the course of the
war, six million Jews and five-million others were murdered by the Nazis. This
became known as the _______________.
The extent of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps would not be fully realized until the
war ended in 1945.
Though the young Emperor Hirohito led Japan, the true power during the 1930’s was in the
hands of the Japanese military.
The country was gripped in a frenzy of nationalism, and like Germany and Italy, desired more
land and resources for its growing population.
13. In a surprise attack, September 1931, Japan invaded the Chinese province of
14. Why did Japan invade Manchuria? How did the world’s nations respond?
By 1936 the clouds of war encircled the globe.
15. Germany and Italy formed an alliance which Japan later joined. What was the
name of this alliance? Why did they call it this?
The extreme political philosophies that emerged during these troubled times appealed to many
people worn down by economic hardship. But the overly patriotic beliefs of nationalism…the
acceptance of totalitarianism…the militant and racist fascist beliefs of the Nazis… and the
Communist doctrines of state-controlled property and government all contributed to a worldwide
16. Why did Benito Mussolini create war abroad?
Claiming Ethiopia as their territory, the Italian military invaded the African country easily
defeating the poorly equipped nation.
The following year, Civil war erupted in the democracy of Spain between forces loyal to the
government and those supporting Fascist dictator Francisco Franco.
17. What were the two sides that were created?
These alliances were a preview of the coalitions that would form during World War Two.
Meanwhile, in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, Adolf Hitler began to re-build the German
military. He re-militarized the Rhineland with a series of defenses along the border of France.
The League of Nations did nothing to respond to Hitler’s enormous build up of military might.
Emboldened, on March 12, 1938 Hitler annexed Austria, marching over the border and
occupying the country with a full-scale invasion.
He then demanded Czechoslovakia surrender control of the Sudetenland. Once part of Germany,
the Sudetenland was remapped as a territory in Czechoslovakia after World War I. Hitler
believed it was the right of the Germans to take this land back. Britain and France had to
respond to Hitler’s aggression, but they faced a difficult decision; rather than risk another war
with Germany, they signed the Munich Agreement, forcing Czechoslovakia to relinquish the
Sudetenland to the Germans. In return, Hitler promised that this would be his last territorial
Britain's prime minister, Neville Chamberlain felt appeasement of Hitler was a victory, and
received a hero's welcome when he arrived home.
“I had another talk with the German Chancellor HerrHitler… We regard the agreement signed
last night, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples,
never to go to war with one another again.” – Neville Chamberlain
Not all Englishmen agreed that appeasement was a victory. Winston Churchill, Chamberlain's
eloquent political rival, and later Prime Minister, chastised Chamberlain and the French Prime
The policy of appeasement failed. Germany soon took over the rest of Czechoslovakia.
18. In August of 1939, the Nazis and the Soviets signed a _______________, vowing they
would never attack each other.
The pact between these two powers shocked the rest of the world. Stalin, though he hated the
Nazis signed to avoid war. But the non-aggression pact also contained a secret agreement, which
allowed the Soviet Union territorial control of the eastern half of Poland and the Baltic States in
the event of a war. Later, Stalin would learn a bitter lesson. Treaty or not, Hitler could not be
Despite the troubling hostilities across the Atlantic, most Americans remained staunchly against
involvement in any overseas struggles.
19. Describe the American foreign policy since the 1920s.
20. In 1928, the US signed the _______________and was eventually joined by 61 other
nations in a pledge to never make war again.
21. What kind of rumors spread about Americans and World War One? What was
found out?
The American public's outrage only added to the anti-war sentiment. Clearly, Americans had no
taste for another war.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was well aware of the country’s feelings.
22. In 1935 Congress passed the Neutrality Acts. What did the Neutrality Acts do?
But by 1937 Roosevelt found it increasingly difficult to support isolationism. When Japan again
invaded China in July of 1937, FDR ignored the neutrality acts, sending arms to aid China.
Flooded with protests accusing him of leading America into war FDR backed off, while tensions
mounted in Europe and Asia.
“I have been compelled to contrast our peace with very different scenes that are being enacted in
other parts of the world.” – FDR
In contrast to the turbulent events occurring overseas, America was at peace. The country was
climbing out of the Great Depression and people were beginning to again enjoy the fruits of a
prosperous society.
On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered his troops into Poland. The German Air force, the
Luftwaffe, dropped a torrent of bombs on Poland’s cities, while German tanks rolled across the
23. It was the first use of the Germany military strategy called what? Describe it.
Two days later, both Britain and France declared war on Germany. Two weeks later, the Soviet
Union invaded eastern Poland. World War Two had begun.
24. Despite the declarations of war, the next few months saw only an ominous calm
settle over the _______________- a labyrinth of defense fortifications along the
eastern border of France. French, British and German troops waited for something
to happen. Many began to call this the "_______________."
As the months passed however, the Nazis were planning their next acts of aggression. Beginning
in April of 1940 the Nazis began their conquest of Western Europe. In a massive demonstration
of “Blitzkrieg” they invaded Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg. The
Germans ultimately set their sights on the conquest of France.
25. French British and Belgian troops were stationed along the entire border of France
including the Maginot line, though they left one area vulnerable, the
26. Why did the French think that it would work? What really happened? Where did
they retreat to?
Pinned to the sea, hundreds of thousands of troops were trapped. Surrounded by the Nazis, the
soldiers seemed doomed. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed for help.
27. How did the country respond to Churchill’s appeal for help?
Their heroics saved the soldiers, but they couldn’t save Paris…
On June 21, 1940, the French capitol fell to the Nazis. Hitler dictated his terms of surrender to
the French government. Germany had succeeded in conquering Western Europe. Only Great
Britain remained.
The British people led by Prime Minister Winston Churchill were defiant.
"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields
and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender." – Winston Churchill
Undeterred by Churchill’s rhetoric, Hitler pressed on. In the Battle of Britain the German
Luftwaffe was ordered to bomb England. Between June and September of 1940, German planes
pounded British targets. On just one evening alone in mid-August over one thousand Luftwaffe
bombers invaded the skies over England. Germany soon began concentrating her air-fury on the
city of London. Londoners found refuge from the blitz in air raid shelters and underground train
stations. Frightened parents sent children out of the city to friends and relatives, in the
The attacks were relentless; but despite the overwhelming number of German planes, Great
Britain’s Royal Air Force, the "RAF" fought back courageously.
28. Using newly developed _______________technology, the British were able to detect
Luftwaffe planes coming over the English Channel. Early warning stations were set
up along the English coast to detect the enemy and pin point German planes in the
On September 15, 1940 the RAF shot down the most German planes in a single day of battle.
Defeated, Hitler called off his invasion, for the time being. Addressing the British people,
Winston Churchill gave thanks. But bravery alone could not win the war. Britain was crippled
with no more resources to build the planes and ships needed to withstand Germany's next attacks.
Winston Churchill turned to America, and FDR, for help.
In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt was reelected to a third term as President – the only American
president ever to serve more than two terms. Roosevelt would not commit troops to the overseas
battlefield, but he vowed to help the British in their life-or-death struggle against Hitler's regime.
“I ask this congress for authority and for funds, sufficient to manufacture additional munitions
and war supplies of many kinds, to be turned over to those nations which are now in actual war
with aggressor nations. Our most useful and immediate role is to act as an arsenal for them as
well as for ourselves.” – FDR
29. With FDR's urging, what did Congress pass? What did it allow FDR to do?
Not all Americans were united in their support of the president. Charles Lindbergh the first man
to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1927 was a staunch opponent of America’s involvement in the
Despite opposition from Lindbergh and others, the Lend-Lease Act was funded with seven
billion dollars. By the time World War Two was over the bill would total fifty billion dollars.
30. Why did the Soviet Union change sides during World War II?
Hitler hadn't counted on the harshness of the Russian terrain and the bravery of the Russian
soldiers. Military resistance and brutal winter weather took a toll on the Germans and their
invasion ground to a weary halt.
America now sent Lend-Lease supplies to the Soviet Union as well as to Great Britain. But for
American aid to help either nation, shipping lines across the Atlantic Ocean had to remain open.
Hitler's submarines prowled the Atlantic in "wolf packs" torpedoing supply ships.
FDR ordered the Navy to protect all Lend-Lease shipments and allowed American warships to
attack German submarines, in self-defense. In July 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill finally met
face-to-face in Argentia Bay off Newfoundland. They agreed to issue a joint declaration on the
goals of the war.
31. What was their agreement called? What did it do? Eventually how many countries
signed this agreement? What were they called?
In the same month that Churchill and Roosevelt were meeting in the Atlantic the Japanese were
escalating their aggressions in the Pacific. Japan seized French Indochina - causing President
Roosevelt to declare an embargo on goods being sent to Japan, including oil. Japan badly
needed oil to defend herself from enemies or to wage war.
Relations with Japan became even more strained. The United States demanded Japan leave the
axis powers and withdraw from China and Indochina.
32. Japan's military leaders assured Emperor Hirohito they would make one more
attempt to avoid war with the United States. However, what did they really do?
33. One month later, on December 6th, what was FDR shown?
It was obvious; war with Japan was inevitable.
December 7th dawned bright and sunny over the American Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
But shortly before 8am, terror struck from the sky.
Launching a surprise attack, over 300 Japanese warplanes bombed and torpedoed the base at
Pearl Harbor. 200 aircrafts were destroyed and 20 ships sunk or damaged.
By the time it was over, 2400 Americans were dead; over 1100 wounded; and the entire Pacific
fleet crippled.
34. “December 7, 1941 _______________, the United States of America was suddenly and
deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. Japan has
therefore undertaken a surprise offensive, extending through out the Pacific area. The
facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves.” – FDR
The raid on Pearl Harbor caused more damage to the U.S. Navy in personnel and equipment than
all the losses suffered during the entire First World War. Three days later, Germany and Italy
supported Japan by declaring war on the United States.
The attack on Pearl Harbor shocked and enraged the American people. The time for isolation
was clearly over, now it was time for unity, now it was time to fight.
America’s massive investment in ships, tanks and the materials of war would bring an end to the
Great Depression. It would also help unify a people through patriotism and sacrifice.