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The Nation Mobilizes

In the European theater, American forces took some time to organize. The first task was the keep Britain supplied with American equipment, ammunition and food against the menace of German submarines. The Battle of the Atlantic lasted the length of the war, and saw many allied ships go to the bottom. Concurrently, an industrial battle occurred. Unreachable by bombs, the United States turned out ships, tanks, guns, ammunition and aircraft, food, and supplies on a scale never before seen. The Nazis were skilled propagandists, but they had no chance against the power and sophistication of Hollywood.

The British had already been fighting the Germans for three years. These included the desperate days of the Battle of Britain in 1940 and the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt in October and November of 1942, considered by many to be the turning point of the war. American land involvement first came about just as El Alamein ended. American and British forces invaded French North Africa in order to help clear the Germans and Italians from the continent. Once the German left North Africa, the Allies invaded Sicily in 1943, then began the slow and difficult re-conquest of mainland Italy. At the same time, operating out of England and Scotland, American and British air forces began the systematic destruction of the German Reich by strategic bombing from the air. By the turn of 1943, the Soviet Union, another of the Allies, had also turned the tide against Germany on its own front in the east.

Although the last armed conflict between Americans and British ended in 1814, the two English-speaking Allies did not always work together smoothly. Several million American service men were stationed in England in preparation for the invasion of Europe, “oversexed, overpaid, and over here” as some Britons complained. The Supreme Commander for the Allies, American General Dwight David Eisenhower, had the diplomatic skill to force both British and American generals to cooperate. D-Day, the joint invasion of Normandy in France by the Allies, came about on June 6, 1944. Fighting was difficult for the eleven months that followed, but, squeezed by the Allies from both east and west, Germany surrendered in May of 1945. The division of Germany, Berlin, and most of Europe between the United States, Britain, and France on the one side, and the Soviet Union on the other, marked the end of the alliance and the beginning of a 45-year “Cold War” between east and west.

Despite the wartime brutality and excesses of both Germany and Japan, the United States treated both enemies with extreme magnanimity after their defeat, building up both Japan and West Germany as economic bulwarks against the new enemy, the Soviet Union. In Europe, a good part of these efforts came under the aegis of the Marshall Plan of 1948 to 1952. In all, the United States spent over $25 billion on European recovery efforts within a few years of the end of the war.

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