December 11, 1941: Germany and Italy Declare War on the U.S.

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A Brief History

On December 11, 1941, dictators Adolf Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy made an enormous blunder, perhaps one that cost them the World War II, when they declared war on the United States.

Digging Deeper

(Summary  and translation of the above video: Hitler speaks to the Reichstag and, in the presence of the Italian and Japanese ambassadors, declares war on the U.S., calling American President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) a war agitator and a hypocrite.)

The declaration came just 3 days after the U.S. had declared war on Japan the day after having been attacked at Pearl Harbor. (Of course, Japan had declared war on the U.S. immediately after the attack.) Although Germany and Italy had a mutual defense pact with each other and with Japan, in which they vowed to defend each other if they were attacked by another country, since Japan had attacked the U.S. and thus initiated hostilities, Germany and Italy were not obligated to also declare war on the U.S.

Apparently, at that point in World War II, the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and now Japan) must have thought things were going well enough to risk inviting the direct involvement of the United States, an industrial power house whose population was greater that that of Germany and Italy combined.  In their deliberations, the Axis warlords also seemed to have neglected the fact that at that time, the American industrial plants could not directly be attacked by ground, sea or even air due to technology not yet being advanced enough to easily reach them without interception.

With Great Britain still not conquered and with the Soviet Union just revving up its engines to go, prudence should have dictated a bit more caution on the part of Hitler and Mussolini, but this, of course, that was not their forte.

As it turned out, the U.S. supplied a peak military strength of about 10 million men to the Allied effort, as well as a stunning amount of weapons and supplies.  Not to be discounted was also the contribution of American ingenuity to the mix, especially in the race to create the first atom bombs.  Had Germany not been defeated early in 1945, the Germans may well have suffered the indignity of being the first nation nuked.

The lessons to be learned here are to “not count your chickens before they are hatched,” and to never think an enemy is defeated before they actually are.  These realizations should still have been apparent from World War I, when the contributions of the United States pushed the balance firmly in the Allies’ favor.  Perhaps another lesson to be learned is to not allow megalomaniac dictators to run your country!

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Historical Evidence

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.