Europe first, also known as Germany first, was the key element of the grand strategy agreed upon by the United States and the United Kingdom during World War II. According to this policy, the United States and the United Kingdom would use the preponderance of their resources to subdue Nazi Germany in Europe first. Simultaneously, they would fight a holding action against Japan in the Pacific, using fewer resources. After the defeat of Germany—considered the greatest threat to the UK—all Allied forces could be concentrated against Japan.
Grand strategy or high strategy comprises the "purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community". Issues of grand strategy typically include the choice of primary versus secondary theaters in war, distribution of resources among the various services, the general types of armaments manufacturing to favor, and which international alliances best suit national goals. With considerable overlap with foreign policy, grand strategy focuses primarily on the military implications of policy. A country's political leadership typically directs grand strategy with input from the most senior military officials. Development of a nation's grand strategy may extend across many years or even multiple generations.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.
At the December 1941 Arcadia Conference between President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Washington, shortly after the United States entered the War, the decision for the "Europe First" strategy was affirmed. However, U.S. statistics show that the United States devoted more resources in the early part of the war to stopping the advance of Japan, and not until 1944 was a clear preponderance of U.S. resources allocated toward the defeat of Germany.
The First Washington Conference, also known as the Arcadia Conference, was held in Washington, D.C., from December 22, 1941 to January 14, 1942.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in Europe in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and British imperialist, for most of his parliamentary career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but for twenty years from 1904 was instead a member of the Liberal Party.
Germany was the United Kingdom's primary threat, especially after the Fall of France in 1940, which saw Germany overrun most of the countries of Western Europe. This left the UK alone in Europe to combat the Axis, until the Italian invasion of Greece. Germany's planned invasion of the UK, Operation Sea Lion, was averted by its failure to establish air superiority in the Battle of Britain, and by its marked inferiority in naval power. At the same time, war with Japan in East Asia seemed increasingly likely. Although the U.S. was not yet at war with either Germany or Japan, it met with the UK on several occasions to formulate joint strategies. In the March 29, 1941 report of the ABC-1 conference, the Americans and British agreed that their strategic objectives were: (1) "The early defeat of Germany as the predominant member of the Axis with the principal military effort of the United States being exerted in the Atlantic and European area;" and (2) A strategic defensive in the Far East."
The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.
The Greco-Italian War took place between the kingdoms of Italy and Greece from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. This local war began the Balkans Campaign of World War II between the Axis powers and the Allies. It turned into the Battle of Greece when British and German ground forces intervened early in 1941.
Operation Sea Lion, also written as Operation Sealion, was Nazi Germany's code name for the plan for an invasion of the United Kingdom during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. Following the Fall of France, Adolf Hitler, the German Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, hoped the British government would seek a peace agreement and he reluctantly considered invasion only as a last resort if all other options failed. As a precondition, he specified the achievement of both air and naval superiority over the English Channel and the proposed landing sites, but the German forces did not achieve either at any point during the war, and both the German High Command and Hitler himself had serious doubts about the prospects for success. A large number of barges were gathered together on the Channel coast, but, with air losses increasing, Hitler postponed Sea Lion indefinitely on 17 September 1940 and it was never put into action.
Thus, the Americans concurred with the British in the grand strategy of "Europe first" (or "Germany first") in carrying out military operations in World War II. The UK feared that, if the United States was diverted from its main focus in Europe to the Pacific (Japan), Hitler might crush both the Soviet Union and Britain, and would then become an unconquerable fortress in Europe. The wound inflicted on the United States by Japan at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 did not result in a change in U.S. policy. Prime Minister Churchill hastened to Washington shortly after Pearl Harbor for the Arcadia Conference to ensure that the Americans didn't have second thoughts about Europe First. In 1941, Roosevelt appointed John Gilbert Winant ambassador to Britain, and Winant remained in that post until he resigned in March 1946. In a 2010 book, Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, author Lynne Olson described Winant as dramatically changing the U.S. stance as ambassador when succeeding pro-appeasement ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. Also of note, in the spring of 1941, W. Averell Harriman served President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a special envoy to Europe and helped coordinate the Lend-Lease program. The two countries reaffirmed that, "notwithstanding the entry of Japan into the War, our view remains that Germany is still the prime enemy and her defeat is the key to victory. Once Germany is defeated the collapse of Italy and the defeat of Japan must follow."
Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power to become dictator of Germany, serving as Chancellor from 1933 and Führer ("Leader") from 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. He closely supervised military operations during the war and by December 1941 had full control of all strategic decisions, especially on the Eastern Front. He was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.
Pearl Harbor is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. It has been long visited by the Naval fleet of the United States, before it was acquired from the Hawaiian Kingdom by the U.S. with the signing of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is now a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet. The U.S. government first obtained exclusive use of the inlet and the right to maintain a repair and coaling station for ships here in 1887. The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941, was the immediate cause of the United States' entry into World War II.
John Gilbert Winant OM was an American politician with the Republican party after a brief career as a teacher in Concord, New Hampshire. John Winant held positions in New Hampshire, national, and international politics. He was the first man to serve more than a single two-year term as Governor of New Hampshire, winning election three times. Winant also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom during most of World War II. Depressed by career disappointments, a failed marriage and heavy debts, he died by suicide in 1947.
The Europe first strategy, in conjunction with a "holding action" against Japan in the Pacific, had originally been proposed to Roosevelt by the U.S. military in 1940.When Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, the United States faced a decision about how to allocate resources between these two separate theaters of war. On the one hand, Japan had attacked the United States directly at Pearl Harbor, and the Japanese Navy threatened United States territory in a way that Germany, with a limited surface fleet, was not in a position to do. On the other hand, Germany was universally considered the stronger and more dangerous threat to Europe because only the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union remained un-occupied by Nazi Germany; Germany's geographical proximity to the UK and the Soviet Union was therefore a greater threat to their survival.
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1868 until 1945, when it was dissolved following Japan's defeat and surrender in World War II. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was formed after the dissolution of the IJN.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, American planners foresaw the possibility of a two-front war. Chief of Naval Operations Harold Rainsford Stark authored the Plan Dog memo, which advocated concentrating on victory in Europe while staying on the defensive in the Pacific. However, the U.S. reassurance to the UK notwithstanding, the U.S.'s immediate concern was with Japan. As Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall later said, "we had a fair understanding of what we had best do rather than the necessity of engaging in prolonged conversations. . . . This understanding, which included a recognition that Germany was the main enemy and that the major effort would be made initially in Europe, was obviously not applicable in the present situation. Of first importance now was the necessity to check the Japanese."Nonetheless, Marshall and other U.S. generals advocated the invasion of northern Europe in 1943, which the British rejected. After Churchill pressed for a landing in French North Africa in 1942, Marshall suggested instead to Roosevelt that the U.S. abandon the Germany-first strategy and take the offensive in the Pacific. Roosevelt "disapproved" the proposal saying it would do nothing to help Russia. With Roosevelt's support, and Marshall unable to persuade the British to change their minds, in July 1942 Operation Torch was scheduled for later that year.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack, also known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor, led to the United States' formal entry into World War II. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.
The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) is the highest-ranking officer and professional head of the United States Navy. The position is a statutory office held by a four-star admiral who is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy. In a separate capacity as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the CNO is a military adviser to the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. The current Chief of Naval Operations is Admiral John M. Richardson.
Harold Rainsford Stark was an officer in the United States Navy during World War I and World War II, who served as the 8th Chief of Naval Operations from August 1, 1939 to March 26, 1942.
The Europe First strategy remained in effect throughout the war, however the terms "holding action" and "limited offensive" in the Pacific were subject to interpretation and modification by U.S. senior military commanders, and at allied leaders conferences. The strategic situation in the Pacific and related logistical requirements dominated the United States' actions after its entry into the war and led to an initial focus on the Pacific. Even in the later stages of the war, there was intense competition for resources as operations in both regions were scaled up.
The "Europe First" strategy did not go down well with factions of the US military, driving a wedge between the Navy and the Army. While USN Fleet Admiral Ernest King was a strong believer in "Europe First", contrary to British perceptions, his natural aggression did not permit him to leave resources idle in the Atlantic that could be utilized in the Pacific, especially when "it was doubtful when — if ever — the British would consent to a cross-Channel operation".King once complained that the Pacific deserved 30% of Allied resources but was getting only 15%. In spite of (or perhaps partly because of) the fact that the two men did not get along, the combined influence of King and General Douglas MacArthur increased the allocation of resources to the Pacific War.
General Hastings Ismay, chief of staff to Winston Churchill, described King as:
tough as nails and carried himself as stiffly as a poker. He was blunt and stand-offish, almost to the point of rudeness. At the start, he was intolerant and suspicious of all things British, especially the Royal Navy; but he was almost equally intolerant and suspicious of the American Army. War against Japan was the problem to which he had devoted the study of a lifetime, and he resented the idea of American resources being used for any other purpose than to destroy Japanese. He mistrusted Churchill's powers of advocacy, and was apprehensive that he would wheedle President Roosevelt into neglecting the war in the Pacific.
At the Casablanca Conference, King was accused by Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke of favoring the Pacific war, and the argument became heated. The combative General Joseph Stilwell wrote: "Brooke got nasty, and King got good and sore. King almost climbed over the table at Brooke. God, he was mad. I wished he had socked him."
The American people favored early action against Japan, In one of the few public opinion polls taken during the war, in February 1943, 53 percent of Americans said that Japan was the "chief enemy" compared to 34 percent choosing Germany. A later poll showed that 82 percent of Americans believed that the Japanese were more "cruel at heart" than Germans.As a consequence of the immediate threat and the need to contain Japan's advance across the Pacific, American resources allocated to the defeat of Japan initially exceeded those allocated to Europe. In the first six months the U.S. was in the war, the U.S. army deployed more than 300,000 soldiers overseas to the Pacific while less than 100,000 were sent to Europe. The U.S.'s first major offensive during World War II was in the Pacific: Guadalcanal in August 1942. Concurrently, Australian forces attacked and pushed back the Japanese in the Kokoda Track Campaign in New Guinea.
Three U.S. Army divisions were deployed to Australia and New Zealand in February and March 1942 at the request of Prime Minister Churchill so that divisions from those countries could remain on operations in the Middle East. Through this sizeable deployment to the Pacific, the U.S. aided the Europe First strategy by defending Australia and New Zealand and thus enabling experienced troops from those countries to remain deployed against German forces.Nonetheless, the inability of the two allies to mount an invasion of German-controlled northern Europe in 1943 permitted the U.S. to maintain more military forces arrayed against Japan than Germany during the first two years the U.S. was in the war. As late as December 1943, the balance was nearly even. Against Japan, the U.S. had deployed 1,873,023 men, 7,857 aircraft, and 713 warships. Against Germany the totals were 1,810,367 men, 8,807 airplanes, and 515 warships. In early 1944, the military buildup of American forces for the invasion of France shifted the balance of American resources toward the European theater and made Europe First a reality. However, despite the majority of American resources going into Europe in 1944, the U.S. still had sufficient resources to mount several major military operations in the Pacific that year: Saipan (June 1944); Guam (July 1944); Peleliu (September 1944); and the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte in October 1944.
In 1944 and 1945, the balance of U.S. resources shifted heavily toward Europe as the Europe First strategy became a reality rather than just a stated objective. At war's end in Europe, the U.S. Army had 47 divisions in Europe and 21 divisions, plus 6 Marine Corps divisions, in the Pacific. Seventy-eight percent of Army and Army Air Force manpower was deployed against Germany versus 22 percent deployed in the Pacific. The plan to invade Japan envisioned that 15 of the European divisions would be transferred to the Pacific.
The uncritical view that "Europe First" dictated the allocation of resources throughout the war has caused many scholars to underestimate the resources required to defeat Japan. For example, historian H. P. Willmott stated that the United States "allocated little more than one-quarter of her total war effort to the struggle against Japan."That may be an underestimate which does not take into account that, according to official U.S. statistics, 70 percent of the U.S. Navy and all the Marine Corps were deployed in the Pacific as well as the 22 percent of the Army deployed to the Pacific at the time of Germany's surrender in May 1945.
The Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from 28 November to 1 December 1943, after the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran. It was held in the Soviet Union's embassy in Tehran, Iran. It was the first of the World War II conferences of the "Big Three" Allied leaders. It closely followed the Cairo Conference which had taken place on 22–26 November 1943, and preceded the 1945 Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Although the three leaders arrived with differing objectives, the main outcome of the Tehran Conference was the Western Allies' commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany. The conference also addressed the 'Big Three' Allies' relations with Turkey and Iran, operations in Yugoslavia and against Japan, and the envisaged post-war settlement. A separate protocol signed at the conference pledged the Big Three to recognize Iran's independence.
The European Theater of Operations, United States Army (ETOUSA) was a United States Army formation which directed US Army operations in parts of Europe from 1942 to 1945. It referred to Army Ground Forces, United States Army Air Forces, and Army Service Forces operations north of Italy and the Mediterranean coast, in the European Theater of World War II. It was bordered to the south by the North African Theater of Operations, US Army (NATOUSA), which later became the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTOUSA).
The Cairo Conference of November 22–26, 1943, held in Cairo, Egypt, outlined the Allied position against Japan during World War II and made decisions about postwar Asia.
Operation Sledgehammer was a World War II Allied plan for a cross-Channel invasion of Europe, as the first step in helping to reduce pressure on the Soviet Red Army by establishing a Second Front, developed as a contingency alternative to Operation Roundup, the original Allied plan for the invasion of Europe in 1943. Allied forces were to seize the French Atlantic ports of either Brest or Cherbourg and areas of the Cotentin Peninsula during the early autumn of 1942, and amass troops for a breakout in the spring of 1943.
The First Quebec Conference was a highly secret military conference held during World War II between the British, Canadian,and United States governments. The conference was held in Quebec City, August 17, 1943 – August 24, 1943. It took place at the Citadelle and at the Château Frontenac. The chief representatives were Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, hosted by the Canadian Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) was the supreme military staff for the United States and Great Britain during World War II. It set all the major policy decisions for the two nations, subject to the approvals of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt.
The Casablanca Conference was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, French Morocco, from January 14 to 24, 1943, to plan the Allied European strategy for the next phase of World War II. In attendance were United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill. Also attending and representing the Free French forces were Generals Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud, though they played minor roles and were not part of the military planning. Premier Joseph Stalin had declined to attend, citing the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad as requiring his presence in the Soviet Union.
The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
Operation Roundup was the codename for a 1942 plan for an invasion of Northern France by Allied forces during World War II.
Tiger Force, also known as the Very Long Range Bomber Force, was the name given to a World War II British Commonwealth long-range heavy bomber force, formed in 1945, from squadrons serving with RAF Bomber Command in Europe, for proposed use against targets in Japan. The unit was scheduled to be deployed to Okinawa in the Pacific theatre in the lead-up to the Allies' proposed invasion of Japan. The unit was disbanded after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria ended the war.
The military history of the United States in World War II covers the war against Germany, Italy, and Japan, starting with the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. During the first two years of World War II, the United States had maintained formal neutrality as made official in the Quarantine Speech delivered by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, while supplying Britain, the Soviet Union, and China with war materiel through the Lend-Lease Act which was signed into law on 11 March 1941, as well as deploying the U.S. military to replace the British invasion forces in Iceland. Following the "Greer incident" Roosevelt publicly confirmed the "shoot on sight" order on 11 September 1941, effectively declaring naval war on Germany and Italy in the Battle of the Atlantic. In the Pacific Theater, there was unofficial early U.S. combat activity such as the Flying Tigers.
The Services Of Supply or "SOS" branch of the Army of the USA was created on 28 February 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department" and War Department Circular No. 59, dated 2 March 1942. Services of Supply became one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States on 9 March 1942. It was renamed the Army Service Forces on 12 March 1943, as it was felt that the term "supply" did not accurately describe its broad range of activities. From the day of inception in 1942 through the end of WWII, the SOS/ASF was commanded by Lieutenant General Brehon B. Somervell.
The presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt began on March 4, 1933, when he was inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States, and ended upon his death on April 12, 1945, a span of 12 years, 39 days. Roosevelt assumed the presidency in the midst of the Great Depression. Starting with his landslide victory over Republican President Herbert Hoover in the 1932 election, he would go on to win a record four presidential terms, and became a central figure in world affairs during World War II. His program for relief, recovery and reform, known as the New Deal, involved a great expansion of the role of the federal government in the economy. Under his steady leadership, the Democratic Party built a "New Deal Coalition" of labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans, and rural white Southerners, that would significantly realign American politics for the next several decades in the Fifth Party System and also define modern American liberalism.
The Allied leaders of World War II listed below comprise the important political and military figures who fought for or supported the Allies during World War II. Engaged in total war, they had to adapt to new types of modern warfare, on the military, psychological and economic fronts.
The Third Washington Conference was held in Washington, D.C from May 12 to May 25, 1943. It was a World War II strategic meeting between the heads of government of the United Kingdom and the United States. It was the third conference of the 20th century, but the second conference that took place during the US involvement in the Second World War. The delegations were headed by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, respectively.
The Second Washington Conference, did not have a code name because it was hastily called and was regarded at the time as a set of military staff conversations rather than a formal conference. The two delegations were led by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany at the outset of World War II it controlled to varying degrees numerous crown colonies, protectorates and the Indian Empire. It also maintained unique political ties to four semi-independent Dominions—Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand—as part of the Commonwealth. In 1939 the British Commonwealth was a global superpower, with direct or de facto political and economic control of 25% of the world's population, and 30% of its land mass.
The diplomatic history of World War II includes the major foreign policies and interactions inside the opposing coalitions, the Allies and the Axis powers. The military history of the war is covered at World War II. The prewar diplomacy is covered in Causes of World War II and International relations (1919–1939).
The third and fourth terms of the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt began on January 20, 1941, the date of Roosevelt's third inauguration, and ended with Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945. Roosevelt won a third term by defeating Republican nominee Wendell Willkie in the 1940 United States presidential election. He remains the only president to serve for more than two terms. Unlike his first two terms in office, Roosevelt's third and fourth terms were dominated by foreign policy concerns, as the United States became a belligerent in World War II in December 1941.