Learn American History through 50 pop songs

World War II


World War II, or the Second World War, was a global military conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945 which involved most of the world's nations, including all of the great powers, organized into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis.


© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

War weary in the 1930’s, WWI had taken its toll
Neutrality acts passed by congress kept America’s focus at home
But unrest saturated Europe – Germany, Italy and Japan
Getting’ in on imperialism, getting’ their ‘fair share’ of land
As conflict rose and deepened America helped out the Allies
By arming Britain through the Lend-Lease Act and plan called Cash and Carry

WWII – a world at war
WWII – the world can’t take any more
We’re protecting what’s ours
We’re defending what’s theirs
Still in the end, 50 million dead

But alas neutrality from this war was not meant to be
December 7, 1941, a day which lives in infamy
There in Hawaii, the American Navy sat at anchor
When Japan attacked, killing 2400 at Pearl Harbor
And then we wanted in, every last American
We did our part for the war, saving metal, scraps, and tin

WWII – a world at war
WWII – the world can’t take any more
We’re protecting what’s ours
We’re defending what’s theirs
Still in the end, 50 million dead

And women filled the spots in the factories left vacant as the men went to war
They built guns and ships and trucks and planes, like Rosie the Riveter
The war was fought in Europe and in the seas of the vast Pacific
Here on our sacred soil for Japanese American’s it was tragic
Cause we were spooked by Pearl Harbor, and thought all Japanese were spies
So we built barbed wire internment camps and crowded them inside

WWII – a world at war
WWII – the world can’t take any more
We’re protecting what’s ours
We’re defending what’s theirs
Still in the end, 50 million dead

We rationed food and shoes and gas
Then on D-Day in Normandy the Allies advanced
We took back France
Then we needed to stop Japan
But did we do the right thing?
When we did the atom bomb thing?
The Enola Gay, a B-29 Bomber dropped two bombs
Little Boy and Fat Man, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Killing 100,000 people instantly – if they were lucky
Many thousands more died later

WWII – a world at war
WWII – the world can’t take any more
We’re protecting what’s ours
We’re defending what’s theirs
Still in the end, 50 million dead


WWII— World War II, 1939–45, was worldwide conflict involving every major power in the world. The two sides were generally known as the Allies and the Axis.

Neutrality Acts— The Neutrality Acts were laws that were passed by the United States Congress in the 1930s, in response to the growing turmoil in Europe that eventually led to World War II. They were spurred by the growth in isolationism in the US following its costly involvement in World War I, and sought to ensure that the US would not become entangled again in foreign conflicts.

Germany, Italy and Japan— The Axis powers (German, Italy, and Japan) comprised the countries that were opposed to the Allies during World War II.

Allies— The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War
(1939-1945). Britain, The USSR, and the United States were considered the big three of the allies.

Lend-Lease Act— Lend-Lease was the name of the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, France and other Allied nations with vast amounts of war material between 1941 and 1945 in return for military bases.

Cash and Carry— Cash and Carry was a plan in which the US, before its entrance into WWII, would supply American made munitions to the Allies, who would pay cash and carry them away on their own vessels.

Pearl Harbor— The attack on Pearl Harbor was an unannounced military strike by the Japanese navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941. It resulted in the United States' entry into World War II.

Rosie the Riveter— Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of the United States, representing the American women who worked in factories during World War II.

Internment Camps— Japanese internment was the forced relocation in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

D-Day— The Normandy invasion was a series of landings by the Allies on the beaches of Normandy, in northern France, that began on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day. This operation led to the liberation of France from the Germans and eventually the end of the European portion of WWII.

“The Enola Gay, a B-29 Bomber, dropped two bombs Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki”— During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against Japan in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By executive order of President Harry S. Truman the U.S. dropped "Little Boy" on the city of Hiroshima on Monday, August 6, 1945, followed by the detonation of "Fat Man" over Nagasaki on August 9. This brought the Pacific portion of WWII to an end.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

What event led the US to enter WWII? When and where did it occur?

Name three Axis powers and three Allied powers.

Tier 2 Questions

Compare and contrast the event that led to the United States entering WWI to the event that led the United States to enter WWII.

Tier 3 Questions

Do you think the US was justified in using the atomic bomb to bring an end to the war? Support your opinion with facts.

Test Prep Questions

1) The Neutrality Acts of 1935 and 1937 were intended to

  • (1) enforce the policies of the League of Nations
  • (2) stimulate economic growth in the United States
  • (3) avoid the policies that drew the nation into World War I
  • (4) support the use of peacekeeping troops in Europe

2) Which series of events leading to World War II is in the correct chronological order?

  • (1) Neutrality Acts → Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor → Lend-Lease Act → United States declaration of war on Japan
  • (2) Lend-Lease Act → Neutrality Acts → United States declaration of war on Japan → Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
  • (3) United States declaration of war on Japan → Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor → Lend-Lease Act → Neutrality Acts
  • (4) Neutrality Acts → Lend-Lease Act → Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor → United States declaration of war on Japan

3) Which change in American society occurred during World War II?

  • (1) African Americans were granted equality in the armed forces.
  • (2) Women were allowed to enter combat units for the first time.
  • (3) Congress enacted the first military draft.
  • (4) Women replaced men in essential wartime industries.

4) Which statement is best supported by the information on the map?

  • (1) Government officials used abandoned mining towns to house Japanese Americans.
  • (2) Western states did not support the decision to create the relocation centers.
  • (3) Relocation centers had to be placed near rivers.
  • (4) The government considered Japanese Americans a threat to national security.

5) The relocation camps shown on the map were mainly a reaction to the

  • (1) Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor
  • (2) capture of Japanese war prisoners
  • (3) need to train Japanese Americans for military service
  • (4) attacks by Japanese Americans on United States military bases

6) This telegram was sent as a response to the

  • (1) start of World War II
  • (2) attack on Pearl Harbor
  • (3) passage of a law to ban Japanese immigration
  • (4) drafting of Japanese Americans into the military

7) The Neutrality Acts of 1935–1937 were primarily designed to

  • (1) avoid policies that had led to United States involvement in World War I
  • (2) halt the spread of communism in the Western Hemisphere
  • (3) promote United States membership in the League of Nations
  • (4) stop Japan from attacking United States territories in the Far East

8) A main purpose of government-ordered rationing during World War II was to

  • (1) increase foreign trade
  • (2) limit the growth of industry
  • (3) conserve raw materials for the war effort
  • (4) encourage women to enter the workforce

“. . . The Director of the War Relocation Authority is authorized and directed to formulate and effectuate [implement] a program for the removal, from the areas designated from time to time by the Secretary of War or appropriate military commander under the authority of Executive Order No. 9066 of February 19, 1942, of the persons or classes of persons designated under such Executive Order, and for their relocation, maintenance, and supervision. . . .”

— Executive Order 9102, March 18, 1942

9) Shortly after this executive order was signed, federal government authorities began to

  • (1) move Japanese Americans to internment camps
  • (2) deport German and Italian aliens
  • (3) detain and interrogate Chinese immigrants
  • (4) arrest the individuals who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor

10) In the cartoon, most of the “diseases” refer to the

  • (1) military dictatorships of the 1930s
  • (2) Allied powers of World War II
  • (3) nations banned from the United Nations after World War II
  • (4) Communist bloc countries in the Cold War

11) Which action is most closely associated with the situation shown in the cartoon?

  • (1) signing of the Atlantic Charter
  • (2) passage of the Neutrality Acts of 1935–1937
  • (3) first fireside chat of Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • (4) declaration of war on Japan

12) The Neutrality Acts passed by Congress in the mid-1930s were efforts to

  • (1) avoid mistakes that led the country into World War I
  • (2) create jobs for the unemployed in the military defense industry
  • (3) support the League of Nations efforts to stop wars in Africa and Asia
  • (4) help the democratic nations of Europe against Hitler and Mussolini

Speaker A: “The current situation has necessitated that more women enter the workforce.”
Speaker B: “My family will have to get along without sugar and flour this week.”
Speaker C: “I say we should continue to support our president, even if a president has never been elected to four terms before now.”
Speaker D: “I support the government in everything it has to do, to be sure we are safe from fascism here at home.”

13) These speakers would have made these statements during

  • (1) World War I
  • (2) the Korean War
  • (3) World War II
  • (4) the Vietnam War

14) Which situation is Speaker B describing?

  • (1) destruction of crops during wartime
  • (2) need for importation of food products
  • (3) food rationing to support a war effort
  • (4) limitation of agricultural production through farm subsidies

15) In the 1930s, Congress attempted to avoid the situations that led to United States involvement in World War I by

  • (1) enacting a peacetime draft law
  • (2) passing a series of neutrality acts
  • (3) authorizing the deportation of American Communist Party members
  • (4) relocating Japanese Americans to internment camps

16) During World War II, the federal government used rationing to

  • (1) hold down prices of military weapons
  • (2) increase educational benefits for veterans
  • (3) increase imports of scarce products
  • (4) provide more resources for the military

17) Between 1934 and 1937, Congress passed a series of neutrality acts that were designed primarily to

  • (1) strengthen the nation’s military defenses
  • (2) provide aid to other democratic nations
  • (3) create jobs for unemployed American workers
  • (4) avoid mistakes that had led to American involvement in World War I

18) During World War II, posters of Rosie the Riveter were used to

  • (1) recruit women into wartime industries
  • (2) encourage women to serve in the armed forces
  • (3) promote women’s suffrage
  • (4) support higher education for women
  • Cash and Carry (1937)
  • Destroyers for Naval Bases Deal (1940)
  • Lend-Lease Act (1941)

20) Which change in United States foreign policy is demonstrated by the passage of these acts prior to World War II?

  • (1) a shift from neutrality toward more direct involvement
  • (2) an effort to become more neutral
  • (3) a movement from isolationism to containment of communism
  • (4) a desire to provide aid to both Allied and Axis powers

21) During World War II, many women experienced a change in role in that they

  • (1) served in military combat positions
  • (2) worked in jobs formerly held by men
  • (3) controlled most corporations
  • (4) chaired several congressional committees

Speaker A: “The use of the bomb shortened the war and saved American lives.”
Speaker B: “The United States might have been able to force the Japanese to surrender simply by demonstrating the power of the bomb on a deserted island.”
Speaker C: “The use of the bomb was justified because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”
Speaker D: “In Hiroshima, the bomb instantly incinerated more than 60,000 people. Most were civilians.”

22) These statements most likely were made during the

  • (1) Versailles Peace Conference (1919)
  • (2) 1920s
  • (3) Great Depression
  • (4) post–World War II period

23) During the early years of World War II, the Destroyer Deal and the Lend-Lease Act were efforts by the United States to

  • (1) help the Allies without formally declaring war
  • (2) maintain strict neutrality toward the war
  • (3) negotiate a settlement of the war
  • (4) provide help to both sides in the war

24) Prior to United States entry into World War II, Congress passed the Cash-and-Carry Act of 1939 and the Lend-Lease Act of 1941. These foreign policy actions showed that the United States

  • (1) gave equal support to both the Allied and Axis Powers
  • (2) attempted to contain the spread of communism
  • (3) maintained a strict policy of isolationism
  • (4) became increasingly drawn into the war in Europe

25) Which factor encouraged an American policy of neutrality during the 1930s?

  • (1) disillusionment with World War I and its results
  • (2) decline in the military readiness of other nations
  • (3) repeal of Prohibition
  • (4) economic prosperity of the period

26) Which statement identifies a change in American society during World War II?

  • (1) Economic opportunities for women increased.
  • (2) Government regulation of the economy decreased.
  • (3) The Great Depression worsened.
  • (4) Racial tensions were eliminated.


Historical Context: Since 1900, the mass media (newspapers, books, magazines, posters, photographs, newsreels, radio, films, and television) have had a significant influence on United States history and on American society.

Task: Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history, answer the questions that follow each document.

  • Discuss the role that the mass media has played in influencing United States history and/or American society since 1900. Use historical examples to support your discussion.

What was one purpose of this World War II poster?