Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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December 8, 1945

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As a nation the United States had distanced itself from foreign entanglements after its participation in the Great War or World War One. In that conflict it had endured tragic losses and victory had brought intangible gains. The pervasive mood of the nation was that America had been drawn into a conflict not of its own making and that the goals of the other belligerents largely were self-serving. Many regarded WWI as a struggle over colonial empires. America enjoyed an immense and largely self-sufficient land mass and possessed relatively few colonial outposts. Consequently throughout the twenties and thirties most Americans were content to go it alone and not be caught up in the machinations of global politics.

American isolationism had strong roots in the Midwest, including Illinois. Colonel Robert McCormick's Chicago Tribune was an outspoken leader in the American First movement. When Roosevelt ran for reelection against Wendell Willkie in 1940 both advocated material aid to the Allied cause but Roosevelt was more adamant in his support. Roosevelt took the state by 95,000 votes but failed to carry downstate counties. American opinion changed only after its Pacific fleet was attacked without provocation at Pearl Harbor. From that point on the United States became the dominant Allied partner and its sheer numbers of fighting men and equipment and supply determined Allied victory.

With victory came responsibility. Large portions of Europe and Asia faced starvation and the United States was the only country capable of feeding them. The Soviet Union, an ally during the war, was abrogating previous agreements by effectively annexing portions of captured nations. America alone could counter this aggression. Although public pressure was forcing Truman to return most servicemen home as soon as possible, the United States was the only power in possession of the atomic bomb. Stalin respected the strength that this terrible weapon afforded the Americans. Most in this country came to believe that their isolation from world affairs had contributed to the outbreak of WWII. And like it or not most were committed to their country's international leadership after 1945.

Points to Consider

Locate Blue Island on a map.

What did the "Raw Deal" refer to?

How could "foreign minded politicians" have reduced the value of Charles Todd's life insurance by thirty-five percent?

Why was Mr. Todd so negative towards Great Britain?

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