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Man reading war news aboard streetcar. San Francisco, California

[Detail] Reading war news aboard streetcar. San Francisco, California

Historical Issue Analysis and Decision-Making

In the earliest days of U.S. involvement in the war, Americans were already thinking ahead to the end of the war and, assuming an Allied victory, the decisions that would then face the United States. How should the vanquished countries be treated? What kind of peace would follow the war? Would the United States take part in a world organization if one were again formed?

Views on these issues were quite varied, as the examples below demonstrate:

"Reverend John Espey Watts: A peace should be written that will look at the countries that we have defeated as human beings and not as a bunch of people or a nation of people that we want to enslave as our servants. . . . Versailles should not be repeated. . . .If our country and our United States is allowed to have weight in peace terms, I do not believe that Versailles Treaty would be repeated. . . . I think that President Roosevelt has already put as much emphasis upon peace as he has upon war and he is looking towards the peace. . ."

From "Man-on-the-Street", Austin, Texas, December 9, 1941 (AFS 6372A)

"J.C. Brodie: Well, the Germans, the only way to keep out of war with Germany is to do away with Germany entirely and put them under other governments and have no Germany at all. As long as there's a Germany there'll be wars. Twenty-three or four years ago we whipped Germany, she throwed up the sponge and they're right back worse than ever."

From "Man-on-the-Street", Austin, Texas, December 9, 1941 (AFS 6370B)

"Jack Carlyle: Let's go in there and cut off a few heads, and blow up a few towns, and really show them what the losing end of a war looks like. . . . When this war is over, I think the United States should take over the Western Hemisphere: Canada, Mexico, South America. At least control South America, and some bases down there. If we're going to have to police the world, why, we should at least have charge of half of it. . . ."

From "Dear Mr. President", Fayetteville and Farmington, Arkansas, January or February 1942 (AFS 6429B)

"Philip Galvine: Well, what I want to know is steps that have been taken to win the war, what steps are going to be taken to win the peace? What is there that's going to guarantee us that the boys that do come back, if they do come back, will not come back as charitable hospital patients in veterans hospitals or else come back as gangsters like they did after last war because they're aren't afraid to kill, a new gangster era."

From "Dear Mr. President", Minneapolis, Minnesota, January or February 1942 (AFS 6427A)

"Frederick Hodge: Well, I think the only, as has been said, I think the only cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy. . . . In a way, when we get them at the peace table — I like that term — I don't believe that we should bomb Japanese cities. That's too much the Hitler way of executing hostages. That is the execution of the innocent for all of the evil that have been done by others. But I think that we should absolutely draw a line and we should see to it that the guilty are punished."

From "Man-on-the-Street", Buffalo, New York, December 1941 (AFS 6454B)

Carefully read these comments on the end of war. Identify as many different questions on which U.S. leaders would have to make decisions at the end of the war. For each question, note the positions being advocated by the interviewees.

Find out how U.S. leaders actually answered the questions you have identified. For example, what did the United States do to ensure that returning soldiers were successfully reintegrated into civilian life? How would you evaluate the decisions made at the end of World War II? How do you think Reverend John Espey Watts, J.C. Brodie, Jack Carlyle, Phillip Galvine, and Frederick Hodge would evaluate those decisions?