Describe the American policy regarding the war in the period 1935-December 7-8, 1941. In what ways was FDR preparing for war before the attack on Pearl Harbor?
The emergence of political extremism (i.e. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin) in Europe produced no widespread call in the US for collective security or joint international action. It actually encouraged a rise in isolationist sentiment. American leaders sought to strengthen democracy at home rather than commit US resources abroad. For example, in 1935 Senator Gerald Nye, a North Dakota Republican, conducted a congressional investigation that revived disillusionment with US participation in World War I. Nye's committee concluded that profiteers, whom they called "Merchants of Death" (i.e. bankers, merchants, arms dealers) had maneuvered the US into a war to save their investments. Most of the committee's charges were doubtful, but they added momentum to the growing isolationist movement.
However much they opposed fascism and disapproved of aggression, Americans tried to stay clear of the crisis. In a series of Neutrality Acts congress sought to protect the nation by cutting the kind of contact that had compromised US neutrality in World War I. For example, the Neutrality Act (1935): prohibited arms shipments to either side in a war once the president declared belligerency; Neutrality Act (1936): prohibited loans to warring countries; Neutrality Act (1937): introduced "cash and carry" principle; countries at war would have to pay cash for US goods and carry them away on their own ships. It also warned Americans about traveling on foreign vessels of belligerents.
Apprehensive Americans were horrified as ...