now hear this!

TL;DR APUSH Chapter 34

The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during the years 1933-1941.

DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 34.


In the 1930s, Americans only cared about themselves. FDR’s only problem was the Depression. But once the US was provoked, into war they went!

The all-too-real story of the attack on Pearl Harbor

The US wasn’t alone in their depression– the whole world was feeling it. The London Economic Conference in 1933 wanted to do away with that. Their main objectives were to stabilize the nations’ currency and revive world trade. FDR decried the conference and boycotted it. Because FDR couldn’t play well with the other kids, the US suffered big time.

The US also turned its back on its imperialism. The Tydings-McDuffle Act in 1934 would guaranteed the Filipinos independence after twelve years. But hey, it was something! The Philippines had become a liability and the US kept on pouring money into it. Earlier in 1933, FDR recognized the USSR as a nation. Amid protests from conservatives and Catholics, FDR thought this move would inspire trade between the two nations.

Back at the ranch, the US also pulled out of Latin America and instated the ‘Good Neighbor’ policy, which was made only because FDR wanted close-to-home allies. FDR followed it up by attending the Inter-American Conference in 1936. The ultimate test of this policy came in 1938 when the Mexicans took over American oil properties. They finally reached an deal in 1941, much to the undelight of the oil companies.

The New Deal’s trade policy sure was something. Heading it was Sect. of State Hull. The Reciprocal Trade Agreement of 1934 enacted lower tariffs. No less than twenty-one other countries joined their lead and soon US trade was popping!

Boo-yeah!Goddamnit. We were on a roll! Thanks to our unorganized textbook, let’s talk about something COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. The USSR was formed in 1918 with Vlad Lenin, though Joey Stalin would later lead. Over in Italy, Ben Mussolini emerged as the guy in charge in 1922. Finally, bad ol’ Al Hilter came into power in 1933. Hitler was the worst by far because was a great orator, he had impulsive, powerful thoughts, as well as a puny mustache.

Hitler had taken the Germans by storm and took Germany out of the League of Nations in 1933. He followed this up by allying with Italy three years later. Out East, Japan said ‘Oh fuck that’ to all the treaties it had agreed to and left the League in 1935. They later formed an alliance with Italy and Germany in 1940 with the Tripartite Pact.

Italy took over long-desired Ethiopia in 1935. If Italy had been restricted oil, this never would have happened. The US’ only response to all this came with the Debt Default Act in 1934, which made it against the law for nations with debt to borrow US money. Americans also wanted to make it illegal for Congress to declare war except when the US was invaded.

Senator Gerald Nye the Science Guy began to investigate munitions companies. Neutrality Acts in 1935, 1936, and 1937 made it so that the US would be kept out of wars and certain restrictions could only be set up after the President acknowledged there was a foreign war.

Over in Spain, fascist rebels took down the republican gov’t. The fascists were helped by the Nazis and Italians. The US declared an arms embargo on both the fascists and republicans, which helped the former win. The US still didn’t want to increase its arms production and wouldn’t do anything until 1938, when they reconstructed their navy.


The opening of WWII is said to have started with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. The Japs also sank an American gunboat, but after a few payments and apologies, no harm done! In Europe, Hitler violated the hated Treaty of Versailles and marched right into the Rhineland. He also invaded Austria in what was thought to be his final invasion.

Nope. He pleaded with France and Britain for the German-inhabited Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. They appeased him in the Munich Pact and he claimed that this was the end of his invading. Ha. Hahaha. On September 1, 1939, he invaded Poland.

Hitler broke all German bowling records when he bowled a 325

Back in the USSR, Stalin formed a non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939. This gave Hitler free reign to invade Poland with Stalin’s help. Britain and France, who had agreements with Poland, declared war! The US was reluctant to help but eventually allowed European powers to buy resources only if they could pay in full and transport the stuff themselves.

While Hitler took on France, the USSR closed in on Finland, whom the US gov’t granted $30 million for non-military supplies. Germany also invaded Denmark and Norway just for the hell of it. Now, all that stood in the way of total totalitarianism in Europe was Great Britain. If Britain wasn’t able to hold the Nazis back, the US would surely fall as well.

FDR called on the US to build huge airfleets and an even huger navy. The sum for all this was five times the cost of the New Deal’s annual budget. They also passed a provisional draft in 1940 to prepare for war. Latin America was also put on high alert.

Hitler started his air attacks on Britain in August 1940 and many Americans grew sympathetic. But many still opposed war in Europe and instead wanted the US to tighten its shore in case of a German naval attack. Charles Lindbergh, a Nazi sympathizer, was among the isolationists. The US would eventually give Great Britain fifty old WWI battleships, which was obviously in violation of our neutral position.

Heading into the 1940 election, FDR faced tough competition in Wendell Willkie, a fellow liberal. The GOP claimed that FDR was on his way to dictatorship and that his New Deal was pure socialism.  Willkie supported the New Deal beyond its inefficiencies. But, in the end, the Dems supported FDR.  Both men claimed they would stay out of the war. Many people felt that FDR’s experience was needed. FDR probably wouldn’t have run if there hadn’t been a threat of war.

New Dealin' like a boss

FDR’s new plan was to lease and lend American arms to overseas democracies. Once the fighting was over, the US would get the weapons back. This was put into law with the passing of the Lend-Lease Bill in 1941. It was praised as a way of staying out of the war. The bill marked the end of the US’ ‘neutrality’. The bill would also readied US production companies for war. Hitler saw this as an unofficial declaration of war and began attacking US ships.

Remember that pact that the USSR and Germany made? Well that was blown to pieces. Neither country liked each other and once Hitler took control of the Balkans amidst Stalin’s protests, the pact was off. In June of 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Now that the USSR was no longer helping the Nazis, we began to help them and loaned them $1 billion. The Atlantic Conference was held later that year in August between FDR and Churchill.

From the Conference sprung the Atlantic Charter, similar to Wilson’s Fourteen Points. It stated that no imperialistic annexation would be recognized and that any changes to a country’s government or territory would have to be OK’d by its inhabitants. Finally, the Charter had a goal of total disarmament and peace through a new League of Nations (the UN).

Most of the arms we shipped to Britain were sunk by German submarines. FDR then sent along a convoy of destroyers to aid the armless merchant ships. After a shoot-on-sight policy was established by the Nazis, the Neutrality Act of 1939 was ditched and merchant ships could be armed.


In late 1940, the US began its first embargoes on Japan, who were dependent heavily on steel, iron, oil, and gas– all from the US. After the embargo of oil, tensions rose until the powers of the two countries met in early December 1941. We insisted they leave China and they refused. Out of nowhere, they attacked our naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. 3,000 men died and most of our Pacific ships were destroyed. Thankfully, our largest aircraft carriers were off base at the time.

Damn Japs!

All allies of Japan, including Italy and Germany, would pay! On December 11th, we formally declared war on the Axis. Similar to 9/11, the Pearl Harbor attack riled Americans and brought up patriotism like morning wood. Though most citizens had wanted to do the most possible without going to war, they were now ready to fight.

Side note:

Whenever I think of Hitler’s speeches, a quote comes to mind: “He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.” – Michel de Montaigne, father of the modern essay.


About Fred Ayres

Fred studied neuroscience and economics at Wesleyan University. He writes about education, science, and the economy.


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