WWII: Europe: Germany; Nazi Hierarchy: Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Hess

WWII: Europe: Germany; Nazi Hierarchy: Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Hess


(September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945)

The Participants

The Axis Powers: Tripartite Pact of Nazi Germany, the Empire of Japan, and the Kingdom of Italy, with the affiliate states of the Kingdoms of Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Thailand, Yugoslavia, and their colonies

The Allied Powers: United States, USSR, United Kingdom and her territories, Greece, France, China, Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Philippines, and Cuba

The Events Leading Up to American Involvement in World War II

March 5, 1933 – December 7, 1939

Adolf Hitler Comes to Power

“Germany is arming fast and no one is going to stop her. That seems quite clear.” – Winston Churchill, 1934. 

In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, a beacon of hope for a people suffering from the defeat of the last World War. This was during the Great Depression, when Germans had to wheelbarrow around nearly-useless Deutsche Marks. Hitler continually pushed for more power and challenged the peace of theTreaty of Versailles, signed at the end of World War I. 

Hitler’s actions against the Jewish people were swift and heartless. He saw them as an illness, a threat to the perfect “Aryan” race that needed to be eliminated. They were identified, their businesses were boycotted, they were ejected from their jobs, and they were denied citizenship in their own country. 

Hitler Moves Against Other Countries

“If you have sacrificed my nation to preserve the peace of the world, I will be the first to applaud you. But if not, gentlemen, God help your souls.” – Jan Masaryk, Czech ambassador to Britain, September 1938

Hitler set his sights on other countries. He reclaimed Saarland from French and British rule and claimed he would not make another attempt on France’s land holdings. Shortly after, he retook Rhineland from the Allies, again promising no more invasions. Hitler followed this up by annexing Austria and taking part of Czechoslovakia. Still, the Allies did not take action.

During this time, a number of other wars were rising among the would-be Axis powers. Japan seized Manchuria from China in 1931. Italy invaded and defeated Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935. In 1939, Nazi Germany moved against Poland, which finally incited an Allied response. Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 1, 1939. 

U.S. “Neutrality”

 “…it’s come at last. God help us all.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 1, 1939

War broke out in Europe and Asia, but the U.S. remained neutral at the beginning of the war as it had during World War I. Many prominent voices supported U.S. isolationism. However, the U.S. did provide aid to its Allies, exchanging U.S. destroyers for British bases, and creating the Lend-Lease Act, which leased war materials to Britain. 

Bradley County during World War II

December 7, 1941 – September 2, 1945

Pearl Harbor 

A day which will live in infamy.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

On December 7, 1941, Japan dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The surprise attack killed 2,403 Americans, destroyed three ships completely, damaged fourteen other Naval vessels, and destroyed 188 aircrafts. 

Bradley County Citizens on the Warfront

“Boys, we are in a jam, but we’ve been in jams before, but remember one thing, we are American soldiers. Let’s play it that way to the very end of the script.” – Major Paul M. Jones, recipient of the Purple Heart and Silver Star after his POW Japanese steamer was gunned down by a U.S. submarine, October 1944

Sergeant Paul B. Huff

Corporal Paul B. Huff received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service as a parachute infantryman. He joined the Army in June 1941 and was sent overseas to England a year later. In 1944, his battalion served as shock troops at the invasion of Anzio. Corporal Huff volunteered to lead a team of six men to determine the locations of German units attacking his battalion. After being bombarded by mortar and machine gun fire, Huff advanced alone to protect his patrol. He moved through a minefield to the nearest machine gun position, killed the German crew, and drew fire from other enemy crews, helping his men determine the strength and location of the enemy. Huff then led his men to safety and reported on the positions of the enemy. He himself returned to the battlefield to assist in routing an enemy company of 125 German soldiers. 

Major Paul M. Jones 

Major Jones was a POW(Prisoner of War) for three years after being captured by the Japanese. A Japanese steamer, transporting him and other POWs, was hit by an American submarine. He was one of four to survive. He received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star, and the Bradley County Chapter of Disabled Veterans was named in his honor. 

Roosevelt’s Shock Troops: The 30th

Cleveland’s National Guard, the 30thDivision, was sent to Normandy on the frontlines in 1944. They were the first U.S. troops to enter Belgium and Holland. They held their ground against German attack in Montain, France. For a week, they were bombarded and lost 1800 men, but the Germans eventually gave up their effort and retreated. They were one of the first to break through the Siegfried Line, a fortification constructed by the Germans in France. And for their attacks on Hitler’s best troops, the Germans termed them “Roosevelt’s Shock Troops.” 

All in all, the 30th’s soldiers won 8,242 medals. 

Women in Action

Women’s Army Corps

“Their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable.”– General Dwight D. Eisenhower on the WAC. 

World War II heralded a new place for women in war. With a shortage of manpower, women once again took to traditionally-masculine vocations to make up for the holes in the workforce. They made up to 65% of the aviation work force and Rosie the Riveter propaganda recruited women for munitions work. In addition, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was created in May 1942 and later promoted to an authorized branch of the U.S. Army in July 1943. 

Over 150,000 women participated in the army in non-combat positions: switchboard operators, mechanics, bakers, postal clerks, drivers, stenographers, clerk, typists, seamstresses, and dozens more. Other branches of the military began their own Women’s Corps, including the Navy, the Coast Guard, the Marines, and the Airforce. The WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots) were the first women to fly American military aircrafts. 

Gray Ladies

The Gray Ladies originated around the time of World War I as women who served their community, particularly the medical communities, without having medical training. These women, called the Hostess and Hospital Service Recreation Corps and named for the color they wore, were responsible for hospitality services in healthcare facilities and private homes. These women would provide personal non-medical services to patients, such as writing letters, reading, tutoring, shopping, acting as guides and hostesses, and providing information. 

The Gray Ladies went through an arduous training process, required to be versed in hospital organization, ethics, psychiatry, and occupational therapy. 

Civilian Support, Propaganda, and the Homefront Defense

War changed the daily lives of the average American. The U.S. once again instituted a draft, which would originally call for men 18-21, but eventually expand for men 18-65. Various commodities were rationed, beginning with sugar in May 1942, quickly followed by coffee and red meat. Gasoline, a vital source of fuel on the war front, was restricted at home, with individuals being given ration booklets determining the amount of gasoline they could use in a week. The national speed limit was lowered to 35 mph and carpooling was encouraged. 

Wartime Propaganda 

A number of departments in the U.S. government were in charge of information dissemination and propaganda during wartime. The Office of Censorship loomed over the Bureau of Motion Picture Affairs to make sure no film would show the United States in a negative light. The Office of War Information controlled and distributed the information given to the American public. 

The Cleveland-Bradley County Red Cross

Women could support the war effort from home without enlisting by making dressings for surgical supplies, sewing garments and kit bags for soldiers, and enrolling in first aid and home nursing classes. 

Citizens Defense and Service Corps

The Citizens Defense Corps was a volunteer protective service for the community. They protected the community against air raids, sabotage, fires, and other disasters. 

Citizens Service Corps spearheaded at-home safety, working in emergency and relief organization, running war bond campaigns, acting as members of rations boards, and various other activities. They also collected salvage, held war relief drives, and supported the American Red Cross War Fund. The Cleveland Public Library also had a Victory Book drive to send books overseas.  

The End of the War

September 2, 1945

Overcome by Allied forces and the Soviet Union, German forces offered their total and unconditional surrender in May of 1945 after the capture of Berlin. However, the war in the Pacific raged on for a few more months. Japan refused to surrender alongside Germany and, in response, The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August. The Soviets were also turning their attention to Japan. Fearing more atomic bombings, Soviet invasions in Japanese-held China, Japan conceded. It wasn’t until September of 1945 that Japan signed surrender documents, ending the war.