The Politics of War

United States History

Allied military efforts were accompanied by a series of important international meetings on the political objectives of the war. The first of these took place in August 1941, before U.S. entry into the war, between President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill -- at a time when the United States was not yet actively engaged in the struggle and the military situation seemed bleak.

Meeting aboard cruisers near Newfoundland, Canada, Roosevelt and Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter, a statement of purposes in which they endorsed these objectives: no territorial aggrandizement; no territorial changes without the consent of the people concerned; the right of all people to choose their own form of government; the restoration of self-government to those deprived of it; economic collaboration between all nations; freedom from war, from fear and from want for all peoples; freedom of the seas; and the abandonment of the use of force as an instrument of international policy.

In January 1943 at Casablanca, Morocco, an Anglo-American conference decided that no peace would be concluded with the Axis and its Balkan satellites except on the basis of "unconditional surrender." This term, insisted upon by Roosevelt, sought to assure the people of all the fighting nations that no separate peace negotiations would be carried on with representatives of Fascism and Nazism; that no bargain of any kind would be made by such representatives to save any remnant of their power; that before final peace terms could be laid down to the peoples of Germany, Italy and Japan, their military overlords must concede before the entire world their own complete and utter defeat.

At Cairo, on November 22, 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill met with Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek to agree on terms for Japan, including the relinquishment of gains from past aggression. At Tehran on November 28, Roosevelt, Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin agreed to establish a new international organization, the United Nations. In February 1945, they met again at Yalta, with victory seemingly secure, and made further agreements. There, the Soviet Union secretly agreed to enter the war against Japan not long after the surrender of Germany. The eastern boundary of Poland was set roughly at the Curzon line of 1919. After some discussion of heavy reparations to be collected from Germany -- payment demanded by Stalin and opposed by Roosevelt and Churchill -- the decision was deferred. Specific arrangements were made concerning Allied occupation in Germany and the trial and punishment of war criminals.

Also at Yalta it was agreed that the powers in the Security Council of the proposed United Nations should have the right of veto in matters affecting their security.

Two months after his return from Yalta, Franklin Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing in Georgia. Few figures in U.S. history have been so deeply mourned, and for a time the American people suffered from a numbing sense of irreparable loss. Vice President Harry Truman, former senator from Missouri, assumed the presidency.

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Source: U.S. Department of State