Social Studies - 2017-18

USII.7a - Causes of American involvement in WWII

The student will demonstrate knowledge of the major causes and effects of American involvement in World War II by

a)  identifying the causes and events that led to American involvement in the war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Blooms Level: Remember

Adopted: 2008


Big Themes/Concepts: War vs. Peace, Global Economy, Leadership, Individual, Order vs. Chaos, Power, Authority

Economic devastation and political instability can lead to radical leaders taking power. 

The failures of post-World War I policies led to World War II.

Wars are considered “just” when people believe they must defend their way of life.

The act of war creates economic, political, and social benefits and costs. 

Politicians make concessions to foreign powers in order to avoid conflict.


Political and economic conditions in Europe following World War I led to the rise of fascism and to World War II.

The rise of fascism threatened peace in Europe and Asia.

As conflict grew in Europe and Asia, American foreign policy evolved from neutrality to direct involvement.

Is war ever justified?

Did the benefits of World War II outweigh the costs?

Is it the responsibility of democratic nations to bring about democracy in the world?  

What might motivate one society/nation to want to control another?

How did post-World War I Europe set the stage for World War II?

How did the rise of fascism affect world events following World War I?

How did American policy toward events in Europe and Asia change over time?


Causes of World War II

·  Political instability and economic devastation in Europe resulting from World War I:

  Worldwide depression

  High war debt owed by Germany

  High inflation

  Massive unemployment

·  Rise of Fascism:

  Fascism is political philosophy in which total power is given to a dictator and individual freedoms are denied and nationalism and, often, racism are emphasized.

  Fascist dictators included Adolf Hitler (Germany), Benito Mussolini (Italy), and Hideki Tojo (Japan).

  These dictators led the countries that became known as the Axis Powers.

The Allies

·  Democratic nations (the United States, Great Britain, and Canada) were known as the Allies. The Soviet Union joined the Allies after being invaded by Germany.

·  Allied leaders included Franklin D. Roosevelt and, later, Harry S. Truman (United States), Winston Churchill (Great Britain), and Joseph Stalin (Soviet Union).

Gradual change in American policy from neutrality to direct involvement

·  Isolationism (Great Depression, legacy of World War I)

·  Economic aid to Allies

·  Direct involvement in the war

War in the Pacific

·  Rising tension developed between the United States and Japan because of Japanese aggression in East Asia.

·  On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor without warning.

·  The United States declared war on Japan.

Germany declared war on the United States.

Make connections between the past and the present. (USII.1b)

Sequence events in United States history. (USII.1c)

Interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives. (USII.1d)

Analyze and interpret maps that include major physical features. (USII.1f)


World War II, Pearl Harbor, instability, depression, inflation, unemployment, Fascism, nationalism, dictator, Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Hideki Tojo, Axis Powers, isolationism, aggression, Soviet Union, Battle of Midway, Eastern Europe, atomic bomb, D-Day, anti-Semitism, Aryan supremacy, boycott, concentration camps, internment camps, death camps, liberation, home front, defense plants, Rosie the Riveter, racial barriers. 

Updated: Aug 17, 2017