Chapter 3 - The Cold War Builds From the Hitler-Stalin Pact to the Iron Curtain 1939 to 1950

with Italy hesitatingly joining Nazi Germany. The U.S. Congress quickly agreed to Roosevelt’s Request for a Declaration of War against Germany and Italy and the United States rapidly became engaged in an all-out war against Germany and Japan on multiple global fronts.

Soviet “Neutrality” and Allied Warfare Against Japan Compared. The Soviet Union knowingly initiated its neutrality pact with Imperial Japan despite Japan’s Axis alliance with Hitler, Japan’s prior invasion of China and its atrocities there, and Japan’s growing military threat to the United States and other Pacific nations. For the next four and a half years of America’s and it’s democratic allies’ bitter war and sacrifice in the Pacific theater, the Soviet Union sat out this war and maintained its neutrality toward Japan. In November 1941, Stalin sufficiently trusted Imperial Japan to move 40 Soviet divisions from eastern Siberia to launch a December 6 attack on German forces nearing Moscow. Stalin’s action saved Moscow but removed any remaining military concerns Japan might have had about potential Soviet moves against Japan as they attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7. Until the last hours of the Second World War, the Soviet Union did nothing to deter or challenge Japan or to help defend the nations targeted by Japan’s aggression, including China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. While the Soviet Union thus continued to appease Japanese imperial power, U.S. naval, ground, and air forces, in conjunction with those of the other Pacific nations under attack, fought with great sacrifice and hard-won bitter step-by-step battles against Japanese forces. The individual fronts ranged from the Southeast Asian jungles to China, from island to island in the Pacific, and included years of unrelenting U.S. bomber raids directed against military bases and the war industry in the Japanese homeland.

The Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Surrender. On August 6, 1945, the United States struck the city of Hiroshima and its industrial and naval targets with an atomic bomb. Truman’s strategic and moral calculus was to replace the need for a U.S. invasion of Japan, which at the time was projected to cost up to one million American and three million Japanese casualties. The bomb fatally shook the Japanese military government’s will to fight and precipitated its imminent decision to meet the Allies’ long-standing demand for unconditional surrender. On August 9, a second U.S. atomic strike on the city of Nagasaki forced a Japanese cabinet decision to offer such surrender, and U.S. occupation forces arrived in Japan on August 26. The formal surrender document was signed on September 2 in Tokyo Bay on the U.S. battleship Missouri under the aegis of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur. Signatories included U.S., British, French, Chinese, and Soviet representatives. It is notable that only after the U.S. used the world’s first atomic weapon did the Soviet Union, while in talks with Japan on August 8, break its 1941 neutrality pact with Tokyo in line with an earlier Soviet promise to the Allies to enter the war against Japan within ninety days of Germany’s surrender (May 9, 1945). Soviet forces entered Manchuria in northern China and engaged weakened Japanese “Kwantung Army” garrisons stationed there. At the same time, the Soviet Union seized Japan’s Kurile Islands shortly before Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies.

3. U.S. “Lend-Lease” Military and Economic Aid to Western Allies and the Soviet Union Indispensable for Victory and Soviet Survival

Soviet and post-Soviet Russian leaders claim that the Soviet war against Germany was the single most decisive factor in defeating the Axis powers. Yet, notwithstanding the importance of Russia in waging the heroic Great Patriotic War against the Nazi invaders after June 1941, it is an important historical reality that Stalin’s elimination of perceived internal political and military opponents and his twenty-two months of collaboration with the Axis powers contributed directly to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and to Hitler’s ability to overrun Western Europe in 1940 and later drive far into Soviet territory. It is also important to recognize that the Western democracies and the Soviet Union itself survived the initial Nazi victories first because of critical direct U.S. “Lend Lease” aid to the democracies beginning very early in the Second World War and, after June 1941, sending such aid to the Soviet Union, and second because of the democracies multi-front warfare against both Germany and Japan.

The U.S. Arsenal of Democracy. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States after September 1939 rapidly built up armaments production, literally became the “arsenal of democracy” and helped Great Britain and France resist Nazi Germany in spite of the U.S. Neutrality Act of 1935 imposed by an isolationist-minded U.S. Congress. In 1940 the U.S. re-instituted the military draft and Roosevelt sent U.S. Navy convoys across the dangerous waters of the Atlantic Ocean patrolled by German submarines, to bring

[Book pg. 50]