USA Declaration of War


  • 2020 2018 2017

    I brought this up in reply to another post, but please comment;

    Another fact we must consider is that even after Pearl Harbor, clearly Japan and the USA were at war, but the USA did not then pre-emptively declare war on Germany, but waited for Hitler to honor his alliance.

    An alliance has a meaning, which is that the ally would come to the aid of the other nation if it were attacked.  This is why the alliances that created tripwires in WW1 and WW2 were so fraught, because in ww1 others declared war in a cascade fashion to honor their alliance, whereas, in WW2 Britain (and France) did not truly honor their promises to Poland and Czechoslovakia because they had no practical way of doing so (which implicates what one should consider when entering alliances in the first place).

    However, an alliance does not necessarily imply that the other nation (Germany) must declare war on the target of aggression from the other ally.    So Japan’s war on the US, as the aggressor, does not necessarily mean that Germany was legally required to declare war on the US.  However, it did so, to fully honor the Tripartite Pact’s concept of mutual assistance, in the goal of domination within each Axis’ Sphere of Influence.

    The USA may not have declared war on Nazi Germany.  Seeing Japan as the conceptually easier and more important target, the US may have tried to take advantage of peace with Germany to defeat Japan singly, or force Germany’s hand in a later declaration.    Still, there were many incidents and moves (neutrality patrol) that stepped America towards open war with Germany, though these moves were still intentionally limited and equivocal.

    The USA committed at early Allied conferences to defeat Germany first (KGF), 80/20 say, then proceeded to actually deploy 60-70% of its economic power to the war in the Pacific first.    The reasons are clear;  Japan was the more immediate threat, it had an extremely powerful and deep navy that could not be ignored in America’s key Sphere.

    I am not saying that war with Nazi Germany was not eventually inevitable, just that the USA may not have decided to declare war, and let Hitler do that dirty deed for them.


  • 2020 2018 2017

    To Wit;

    “When Pearl Harbor happened, we [Roosevelt’s advisors] were desperate. … We were all in agony. The mood of the American people was obvious – they were determined that the Japanese had to be punished. We could have been forced to concentrate all our efforts on the Pacific, unable from then on to give more than purely peripheral help to Britain. It was truly astounding when Hitler declared war on us three days later. I cannot tell you our feelings of triumph. It was a totally irrational thing for him to do, and I think it saved Europe.” John Galbraith

    “In fact, Hitler’s declaration of war came as a great relief to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who feared the possibility of two parallel but disconnected wars – the UK and Soviet Union versus Germany in Europe, and the US and the British Empire versus Japan in the Far East and the Pacific. With Nazi Germany’s declaration against the United States in effect, American assistance for Britain in both theaters of war as a full ally was assured.”


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017

    One could argue that the US gave Germany Casus Belli many times over before 11 December 1941. The Germans state as much in their declaration of war (text from Wikipedia):

    @German:

    MR. CHARGE D’AFFAIRES:

    The Government of the United States having violated in the most flagrant manner and in ever increasing measure all rules of neutrality in favor of the adversaries of Germany and having continually been guilty of the most severe provocations toward Germany ever since the outbreak of the European war, provoked by the British declaration of war against Germany on September 3, 1939, has finally resorted to open military acts of aggression.

    On September 11, 1941, the President of the United States publicly declared that he had ordered the American Navy and Air Force to shoot on sight at any German war vessel. In his speech of October 27, 1941, he once more expressly affirmed that this order was in force. Acting under this order, vessels of the American Navy, since early September 1941, have systematically attacked German naval forces. Thus, American destroyers, as for instance the Greer, the Kearney and the Reuben James, have opened fire on German submarines according to plan. The Secretary of the American Navy, Mr. Knox, himself confirmed that-American destroyers attacked German submarines.

    Furthermore, the naval forces of the United States, under order of their Government and contrary to international law have treated and seized German merchant vessels on the high seas as enemy ships.

    The German Government therefore establishes the following facts:

    Although Germany on her part has strictly adhered to the rules of international law in her relations with the United States during every period of the present war, the Government of the United States from initial violations of neutrality has finally proceeded to open acts of war against Germany. The Government of the United States has thereby virtually created a state of war.

    The German Government, consequently, discontinues diplomatic relations with the United States of America and declares that under these circumstances brought about by President Roosevelt Germany too, as from today, considers herself as being in a state of war with the United States of America.

    Accept, Mr. Charge d’Affaires, the expression of my high consideration.

    December 11, 1941.
    RIBBENTROP

    So, to some extent, it was when will the US enter the war not if they enter the war. The Germans (and the Italians, same day) doing the declaring on the US first was an unexpected stroke of good luck for the Allies in the end - but it didn’t feel that way in '42…


  • 2020 2018 2017

    Indeed, sir, the USA engaged in a highly selective “neutrality” in both wars, but to its own benefit.  The laws of war became a kind of weapon of war, by the 20th century, as formal declarations still echoed traditions since ancient times yet brushfire or proxy wars and incidents remained opening acts.

    The casus belli (case for war, not cause for war) is reduced to internal political argument and marketing mechanism–can we sell the latest provocation as first, and severe (Lusitania)

    I agree with you about timing and certainty,…but if cynical USA minds had their (supposed, isolationist) way, that America would have only entered the whole “world” war upon its ashes, ie 1945?

    And yes, the declaration of war from the current, most successful and diverse military power on the biggest streak in history (so far) is not a welcome thing no matter how powerful you believe you are.



  • I find this topic very interesting.

    Just read Fatal Choices by Ian Kershaw, where he explain USAs path to war.

    Roosevelt and his administration wanted to support UK and France from day 1, but 83 % of the opinion was against US joining a new European war. The Americans would only defend the American continents, if they were attacked. They did not want to get killed in Europe. But, they had noting against helping the Allies with money and stuff, so Roosevelt established the Cash and Carry act to sell weapons to UK, and later when UK was short of cash, Roosevelt come up with the Lend and Lease. He also send out long range patrols to sink German subs up to 300 miles off the US coast. Home water at that time in international law was considered to be like 100 miles off a coast, so Germany had reasons to complain. Roosevelt actually made up a new word, the non belligerent status. A word not in the international Haag convention. Not a true neutral, but not at war neither. With A&A language we would call it pro Allies neutral. And frankly, I think that the US player should be activated as soon UK is able to place a unit there in non combat. This last line was about our A&A game, not the real war.

    In 1939 the US Army was not very strong, only 140 000 men. Of this only 4 divisions were combat ready, but with French artillery from WWI, and Brody helmets, also WWI. If Roosevelt had joined the war at this time, Marshall warned that they might be attacked by Germany, Italy and Japan, in a joined Operation, and that a successful defense was not a sure thing.

    In mai 1940, when France was attacked, USA was still not strong enough to join, at this time the army was only 250 000 men or something, I write from memory, must check this number later. But, Roosevelt did mobilize all US military forces, and raise the military outlays by 5 times, and he also sent a gift of 50 old Destroyers to UK, for free. From that point, Hitler claimed that US was no longer a neutral, and he had to figure the US strength into his calculating. That is why it suddenly got urgent to invade Russia. Hitler needed the Russian resources and oil to have a fighting change against a hostile USA.

    In fall 1941, general Marshall at last informed Roosevelt that the Army was ready to fight. From this point, Roosevelt was out looking for an excuse to attack any of the Axis. US entry was not far away. The casus belli was just around the corner. Some weeks later USA joined.

    Just my 2 cents man.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @taamvan:

    The USA committed at early Allied conferences to defeat Germany first (KGF), 80/20 say, then proceeded to actually deploy 60-70% of its economic power to the war in the Pacific first.    The reasons are clear;   Japan was the more immediate threat, it had an extremely powerful and deep navy that could not be ignored in America’s key Sphere.

    The overall “Hitler first” strategy of the Allies made good sense, politically and militarily.  Politically, Hitler was loathed and feared to a degree and in ways that have few parallels.  And unlike the more collectively-perceived Japanese leadership, he was a single individual with a high public profile, so it was easy and convenient to motivate the population of the US, the UK and the USSR by characterizing WWII (as Churchill often did) as “a war against Hitlerism and all it stands for.”  Militarily, Germany outnumbered Japan in sheer number of divisions and outweighed Japan in terms of its greater degree of mechanization, so it was by far the greater threat overall.  All that being said, however, the US did indeed devote more resources to the Pacific War than a pure “Hitler first” strategy would have implied.  One of the important reasons for this was that the US, like the UK, was a major maritime nation and thus was by necessity a major naval power, and therefore that it had to devote a good percentage of its wartime armament program to naval resources.  Naval forces – and especially major combat vessels like carriers, battleships and cruisers – had a more immediate and direct application to the war in the Pacific, which was primarily a naval conflict, than was the case for the war in Europe, which was primarily a land war.  It was sensible for the US to put its major naval forces to good use in the Pacifc right away, rather than waiting to apply them to the war in Europe, for which the US and the UK would not be fully ready for a couple of years.  And the US, in any case, had other motivations to devote a good percentage of its wartime effort against Japan, even as it geared up for a land war in Europe and as, in the intrerim, it began to wage an air war in Europe.  The US has traditionally viewed the Pacific as an American lake (in a manner of speaking, given that this “lake” covers about a third of the Earth’s surface), so Japan’s advances there were seen as a direct attack against an American sphere of interest.  Moreover, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor had had a much more visceral impact on the American public than Hitler’s subsequent declaration of war against the US.  Hitler’s declaration was done on paper (uncharacteristically for him), in what could be called the traditional and proper manner.  Pearl Harbor, by contrast, was perceived in the US as an act of perfidy which violated the principles of fair play and good sportsmanship – principles that many American learn to value as kids when they’re playing little league baseball – so the Pacific War was, from the start, seen in the US as a war to avenge a treacherous affront against the entire nation.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16

    This is a very interesting thread.

    To add to the points already made:

    • G was also a greater threat than J in 1941 as it had a perceived possibility of capturing both London and Moscow.
    • The UK and US were always happy for R to bear the brunt of allied losses. Once the war on the eastern front had turned, the G first strategy would have offered fewer advantages to the US, except to constrain R gains at the end of the war.
    • In the same vein much effort was expended to gain R’s entry to the war against J towards the end. It was hoped that defeat in Manchuria would add to the possibility that J might surrender without US troops landing on the J mainland.
    • By contrast the US could not hope that either of its allies would take the brunt of the war against J in the Pacific.

  • 2020 2018 2017

    Good points, after Germany committed to full unrestricted submarine warfare to besiege the UK, the USA had to intervene in that course of events or lose its key ally.

    so foolish of Kriegsmarine and H to lose the battlecruisers and makes First/Second Happy Time seems like a diversion of resources, then there may have been a more credible medium/long term threat to the allied lifeline without these unsustainable efforts

    With a timely and immediate entry of the US into the Atl. war (as actually occurred), they deployed tons of planes and ships, and technology, that wasn’t effective at first but needed to mature and develop to defeat the submarine threat on one hand, while demolishing the Japanese Navy with the other.


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