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1941: Germany and Italy declare war on US

AUDIO : Roosevelt's declaration of war re-read by Irving Swanson

Germany and Italy have announced they are at war with the United States. America immediately responded by declaring war on the two Axis powers.

Three days ago, US President Franklin Roosevelt announced America was at war with Japan, the third Axis power, following the surprise attack on its naval base at Pearl Harbor.

Today Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, made his declaration first - from the balcony over the Piazza Venezia in Rome - pledging the "powers of the pact of steel" were determined to win.

Then Adolf Hitler made his announcement at the Reichstag in Berlin saying he had tried to avoid direct conflict with the US but, under the Tripartite Agreement signed on 27 September 1940, Germany was obliged to join with Italy to defend its ally Japan.

"After victory has been achieved," he said. "Germany, Italy and Japan will continue in closest co-operation with a view to establishing a new and just order."

He accused President Roosevelt of waging a campaign against Germany since 1937, blamed him for the outbreak of war in 1939 and said he was planning to invade Germany in 1943.

Over in Washington, President Roosevelt told Congress the free world must act quickly and decisively against the enemy.

"The forces endeavouring to enslave the entire world now are moving towards this hemisphere.

"Delay invites danger. Rapid and united efforts by all peoples of the world who are determined to remain free will ensure world victory for the forces of justice and righteousness over the forces of savagery and barbarism."

Resolutions against Germany and Italy were passed without debate. The only person who did not vote for war was pacifist Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin who had also voted against war with Japan.

In the Senate the vote was unanimous.

Both Democrats and Republicans have agreed to "adjourn politics" for the duration of the war and focus on national defence.

They have passed a new law which allows US servicemen to fight anywhere in the world.

Following the shock of Pearl Harbor, American citizens are flocking to volunteer for the US Navy and Marine Corps which do not take conscripts.

The US Army has already grown tenfold since the draft was introduced last year.

In Context
Ten days later, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington for the so-called Arcadia conference which resulted in the decision to pool British and US resources and develop a strategic policy that would win the war for the Allies.

They also agreed to dispatch US troops to Northern Ireland and Iceland, and finalised the United Nations Declaration which was issued on 1 January 1942.

In retrospect Hitler's decision to declare war on a major world power such as the US seems like a major strategic error.

But he could no longer ignore the amount of economic and military aid America was giving the UK and the Soviet Union via the lend-lease programme.

The German Navy had even fought US warships protecting British supply ships in the Atlantic. The US destroyer Reuben James was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine U-562 on 31 October 1941.

Hitler had been hostile to the USA since the early 1930s. He saw USA as an ideological enemy , racially mixed and therefore inferior.

He also assumed America would be busy fighting Japan while Germany concentrated on taking over the USSR. He would then tackle the British and Americans.


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