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Americans were so preoccupied in the major battle for economic survival during the 1930s, that many found it difficult to realize Europe, once so remote, and safely distant, was now coming dangerously near. Events in other parts of the globe could not be ignored forever. Blatant aggression characterized the years leading up to America's entrance into World War II.

The primary cause for alarm was the power politics of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and the Japanese military. Mussolini came to power in the year 1922 and for a time, some Americans thought well of him. However in 1935, he picked a quarrel with the primitive kingdom of Ethiopia, whose armed forces still used spears and muzzle-loading rifles. The world waited to see what the League of Nations would do about the aggression.

Although the U.S. invoked an arms embargo and the League imposed economic sanctions, Italy was not to be put off. In particular, France was worried the pressure would drive Mussolini closer to Hitler. In a six-month campaign, Italy completed it conquest.

Japanese generals and admirals who had been making and breaking governments in their homeland since 1900 occupied Manchuria in 1931 and followed up the gain with a drive into China in 1933. America, struggling through the worst of the depression, stood by and did nothing, despite protests of the Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson.

In Germany, Adolf Hitler, an Austrian who had been a corporal in the German army in World War I, had been attempting to gain power with his National Socialist Party since 1923. In the early days of the Nazi movement, Hitler had posed as the champion of the workers and many flocked to his banner. By the year 1933, his great speaking ability, widespread unemployment and the business community's fear of the German Communist Party enabled him to emerge as chancellor and soon after as dictator.

When war-hero President Paul von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler became der Fuhrer, which means "the leader." He quickly rearmed Germany despite the Treaty of Versailles.

In the U.S., Japan and Italy seemed far away, but the boldness of Hitler seemed to be a much greater concern. His policy of anti-semitism sent up a red flag throughout the Jewish community. In addition, Hitler's effective assistance to rebel General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War beginning in 1936, was added proof of his growing power.

Hitler soon remilitarized the Rhineland, against the advice of his own generals, while France and Britain did nothing. Screaming the German people wanted "guns instead of butter," he annexed Austria in 1938. After he took Austria, Hitler claimed he was satisfied and didn't want any more territory in Europe. But in true dictator fashion, he broke his word and went after Czechoslovakia.

To save the peace, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain flew to Germany, where he met with Hitler and Mussolini in Munich. A pact was made which gave Hitler the land he wanted. Chamberlain returned to London and gave his now famous "peace in our time," speech. Sadly, he was wrong. After Hitler took the Czech borderland, he invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. The Czech nation disappeared from the map and the Czech people were under the control of the Nazis.

America watched Hitler with trepidation, but stayed neutral. Meanwhile there was more trouble in Asia. Japan, Hitler's Axis partner, was on the move again. In 1937, Japan invaded China for a second time, capturing some important cities. Then, in 1940, the Japanese invaded the French colony of Indochina. Valuable rubber trees grew there and the Japanese needed rubber for their industries.

To stop the Japanese, the U.S. sent guns to the Chinese and cut off trade with Japan. The Japanese saw that the United States was not going to let them conquer the Far East and decided to strike first. They attempted to destroy American power in the Pacific by bombing Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The next day, America entered the war.