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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 10/19

The chapter “A People’s War” within Howard Zinn’s PHUS and the article “World War Two Was Not a Just War” by David Swanson both provided immense insight on the United States’ true motives and contributions during World War II. Both readings directly contradicted the information surrounding World War II that I previously learned in my history classes. First off, Zinn and Swanson both argue that Franklin D. Roosevelt provoked Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and knew of Japan’s impending attack on Pearl Harbor before it occurred. For example, Zinn mentions that “Japan’s strike against the American naval base climaxed a long series of mutually antagonistic acts [between the United States and Japan]” and that FDR, “repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor” (Zinn, 411). I was very surprised to learn that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was not actually the shocking, sudden attack that it is depicted as in many American history textbooks. I don’t necessarily  understand and agree with FDR’s supposed actions of instigating such an atrocious attack from the Japanese and not alerting the American people and troops prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. Secondly, both Zinn and Swanson oppose the United States decision to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki after witnessing the horrific effects of the first atomic bomb, which they unleashed on Hiroshima. Zinn explains that the second atomic bomb largely targeted innocent civilians in Hiroshima, and “no one has ever been able to explain why it was dropped” (Zinn, 424). Zinn and Swanson’s viewpoints regarding atomic bombs which the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki largely differ from previous narratives surrounding the atomic bombs that I learned in high school as I was taught that the atomic bombs were essential in order to conclude World War II. Lastly, both Zinn and Swanson argue that the United States engagement in World War II was harmful due to the damage that they inflicted throughout the world. I always perceived the United States efforts in World War II as heroic and never really considered the fact that “U.S escalated the targeting of civilians, extended the war, and inflicted more damage than might have occured, had the U.S done nothing, attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence” (Swanson).

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2 Comments

  1. Thomas Bennett Thomas Bennett

    It is controversial whenever presidents choose to use deceit in order to make a tactical leadership decision or move. If I remember correctly, manipulative was in our initial list of leadership qualities. There is no doubt that Roosevelt manipulated the American people in order to increase the support for WWll. Leadership starts to get complicated once a leader is allowed to mislead their own followers as it often leads to corruption. Despite the fact that he lied to the American people to get there, it is arguable that the result of the US entering WWll was a massive increase in American global power. Maybe by manipulating the country he placed the US economy in much better place than it would have been and prevented further annihilation of European Jews. Or maybe his lies resulted the use of 2 atomic bombs and the destructive Cold War. It is hard to determine whether his or any leaders lies can be justified, but the gray area that things like manipulation exists in can be what makes a great or horrific leader.

  2. Pierce Kaliner Pierce Kaliner

    I am a very big fan of FDR, and I think that he was an excellent president, but I didn’t know that he knew about Pearl Harbor. The more I think about it though it makes complete sense, Roosevelt was itching to go to war. And, this gave him a reason to go to war that an isolationist Congress could agree with. But, as I attempt to corroborate evidence I continue to see that this is a conspiracy theory, and I lost some respect for Zinn.

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