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American History 2--HIST 2112 (OER): Chapter 24: World War II

American Yawp Chapter Summary

The 1930s and 1940s were trying times. A global economic crisis gave way to a global war that would become the deadliest and most destructive in human history. Perhaps 80 million lost their lives during World War II. The war saw industrialized genocide and nearly threatened the eradication of an entire people. It also unleashed the most fearsome technology that has ever been used in war. And when it ended, the United States found itself alone as the world’s greatest superpower. Armed with the world’s greatest economy, it looked forward to a prosperous consumers’ economy. But of course the war would raise as many questions as it would settle: World War II unleashed new social forces at home and abroad that would confront generations of Americans to come. Read more from Chapter 24 of the American Yawp.

Things to Consider

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. What factors contribute to traditional U. S. isolationism?
  2. How did the U. S. become involved in the European theater?
  3. Which enemy, Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, was considered the most dangerous?
  4. Why did the U. S. emerge from the Second World War as the world’s most powerful nation?
  5. How did the China – U.S. relationship complicate things in the Pacific Theater?
  6. Why did the U. S. drop two atomic weapons on Japanese cities?

Learning Objectives and Assessment

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Distinguish between primary and secondary materials and decide when to use each
  • Explore the complexity of the human experience, across time and space
  • Develop a methodological practice of gathering, sifting, analyzing, ordering, synthesizing, and interpreting evidence
  • Evaluate a variety of historical sources for their credibility, position, significance, and perspective

Course Objectives

  • The student will understand the domestic and international impact of U.S. involvement in World War II.

Videos, Maps and Images

Maps: Pacific Theater

  1. Japanese expansion before Pearl Harbor
  2. Japanese offensive 1941-42
  3. Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor
  4. U. S. strategy in the Pacific Theater
  5. Battle of Midway
  6. Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns
  7. U. S. firebombing of Japanese cities

Maps: European Theater

  1. Hitler’s expansion
  2. Anschluss with Austria
  3. Munich Crisis:  Sudetenland
  4. Hitler – Stalin Non-Aggression Pact
  5. Nazi – Soviet dismemberment of Poland
  6. Nazi invasion of Western Europe
  7. Battle of Britain
  8. Operation Barbarossa
  9. Normandy invasion
  10. Post-war division of Europe


  1. Crash Course:  A War for Resources
  2. Crash Course:  World War II
  3. Khan Academy: World War II
  4. The Rape of Nanking
  5. Pearl Harbor Attack/FDR’s speech
  6. FDR's declaration of war against Japan
  7. Battle of Iwo Jima
  8. Firebombing of Japanese cities
  9. Hitler’s diplomacy
  10. The Munich Crisis, 1938
  11. Nazi – Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
  12. Animated of World War II:  European Theater
  13. The Yalta Conference

Images: Pacific Theater

  1. Tojo
  2. Tojo’s trial
  3. Tojo’s execution
  4. Admiral Yamamoto
  5. Hirohito, Japanese Emperor
  6. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
  7. General George Marshall
  8. Admiral Ernest J. King
  9. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
  10. General Douglas MacArthur

Images: European Theater

  1. Adolf Hitler
  2. Heinrich Himmler
  3. Hermann Goering
  4. Joseph Goebbels
  5. Benito Mussolini
  6. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
  7. Prime Minister Winston Churchill
  8. General Secretary Joseph Stalin
  9. General Charles de Gaulle
  10. General Dwight D. Eisenhower
  11. General Bernard L. Montgomery
  12. FDR
  13. Yalta Conference:  Churchill, FDR, Stalin
  14. President Harry S. Truman
  15. Potsdam Conference
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