An ignorant question about Pearl Harbor

I was just watching NBC’s Olympic coverage and a Tom Brokaw report about the German seige on Great Britain during WWII. I am definitely undereducated when it comes to world history, and I was finding most of it fairly fascinating. The latter part of the report talked about Churchill’s urgent desire to get the US involved in the war because he didn’t believe Britain would survive fighting off the Germans alone (even though Germany ultimately turned its attention to fighting the Russians, apparently).

There was brief mention at the end of the report about Churchill’s relief that the US joined after the Pearl Harbor attack. But one of the things I found myself wondering was whether there is any documentation of Hitler’s feelings about America’s lack of involvement prior to the attack, and how he and the Germans felt once the US joined the fray. Did they see America’s involvement as a threat? Had they hoped America would stay out of it altogether? Did they care?

Pearl Harbor did not create a state of war between the US and Germany. The US initially only declared war on Japan. Hitler unilaterally declared war on the US four days later; oddly enough, honoring Germany’s alliance with Japan even though Japan had not aided Germany’s war effort up to that point.

Lend-Lease, among other nonmilitary moves, meant that the US was nominally on the side of Britain and Russia. Hitler had no particular desire to be at war with the US, but he, and the Germans in general, didn’t consider the US to be much of a threat: its army was tiny, its air force small and obsolete, and only its navy in any kind of fighting shape. It was reasonable–though incorrect, as it turned out–to assume that America wouldn’t be able to mobilize and field armies on two global fronts in less than a couple of years. So in 1941, Hitler was willing to tolerate the US’s support of Britain and Russia, especially since he had reduced Britain to no more than a nuisance and he was crushing Russia. Even in December 1941, after the setbacks in front of Moscow, Hitler still thought he was very close to victory. Therefore, and because he thought America wouldn’t be a factor before he finished off Russia, he felt free to declare war on the US. He might have made a different decision in, say, December 1942.

Attacking Russia was Hitler’s entire purpose in going to war. He only attacked France because they and the UK declared war on Germany after the invasion of Poland, once that was done it was straight onto his original goal, Russia. He would love to have not gone to war with the UK at all, as he saw them as fellow aryans.

Question seems to assume the US declared war on Germany, but that is not so - Hitler DoWed the US a few days after Pearl.

I didn’t mean to make it sound like I thought the US declared war on Germany. Only that the US involved themselves in “the war” in a general sense. But I had no idea who made the declaration, so thank you for the clarification.

The alliance between Germany and Japan was a defensive one. Japan wasn’t obligated to fight the Soviet Union and Germany wasn’t obligated to fight the US since in both cases it was the Axis power who started the fighting.

Hitler’s ‘Second Book’ makes it clear that he regarded war with the United States, which would probably be allied with the British Empire, as inevitable some day, though preferably not soon, and that knocking out the Soviet Union from the equation was an urgently required precursor to this.

Hitler’s belief (and others thought the same) was that it would take the United States two or three years to gear up to its full military potential. So Hitler’s plan was to keep the United States out of the war while he finished off Britain and the Soviet Union. Then attack the United States and defeat it before it had a chance to build itself up.

But once Japan attacked the United States, Hitler figured America was going to build up its military anyway for that war. And he figured the United States would beat Japan and then Germany would be facing a fully armed America by itself in a few years. So Hitler decided it made more sense to fight the United States now, while it was under-armed and he had Japan fighting on his side.

And, as greenslime pointed out, Hitler probably felt the war was going his way in December 1941. His army had overrun a huge portion of the Soviet Union and was fighting in the outskirts of Moscow. He probably thought it was just going to be mopping up at this point.

[QUOTE=Askance;15375203. He would love to have not gone to war with the UK at all, as he saw them as fellow aryans…[/QUOTE]

That is what Hitler claimed at the time, that the British were kindred to the Germans. He was only appealing to the sizable number of pacifists and Nazis in England to force a peace treaty, giving him time, which he would not have honored once he had finished off the Soviets.
As far as the U.S. goes, remember that he was injured as a private in the German army during WWI. He held grudges. He made France sign their surrender in the same train car that Germany signed the Armistice. His dream was to bring the same humiliation to England, and eventually America.

It’s probably also relevant to mention that the U.S. was involved in an undeclared war of sorts with Germany in the Atlantic - the occupation of Iceland and combat involving U-Boat attacks on American ships, the USS Reuben James and other ships escorting convoys against U-Boats firing on U-Boats and being fired upon.

The German navy had become increasingly frustrated with the US’s quasi-involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic, but because America was still officially neutral, the U-boats couldn’t openly attack US ships or fight the US escorts of the convoys headed to Britain. The U-boat campaign was still going strong in late 1941, and as others pointed out, Hitler thought that the USSR would be collapsing before the US could commit in any significant force. If they could starve the UK out before that, then any US involvement wouldn’t really matter.

eta: Or what wevets said.

Another common tactic was for American ships and planes to patrol the Atlantic. When they spotted German submarines, they would radio the location to the Royal Navy so they could move in and attack.

As people have said, Hitler believed 2 things:

  1. that it would take several years for the USA to convert to effective war production.

  2. that the USA was already fighting against Germany (Lend-Lease, embargoes, Atlantic U-boat war, etc.) as much as it could.

So he didn’t see any downside to declaring war on the USA. And there were some obvious upsides: now U-boats could fight back against US ships, and they also had great success against American shipping along the east coast, and they could expel the American embassy in Berlin full of evesdropping spies.

In the weeks before Pearl Harbor, the American War plan for a global war, Rainbow 5 had been leaked to the press, probably by FDR. The plan stated that in the event of a World War the US would have a Europe first strategy and attack Germany in Africa and Europe. So Hitler knew that Americans were making plans to attack him already. Since he already felt they were against him, he probably felt there was little downside in declaring war. He may have also hoped it would convince Japan to attack Russia.

The Brits were in no immediate danger of invasion after they won the Battle of Britain in late '40, and everybody knew it. Yanks always seem to massively underestimate the importance of the BoB, no doubt because it only involved a handful of Yanks and zero US materiel.

The BoB proved that the Nazi war machine could be defeated. That was HUGELY important news to the entire world in late 1940. Between the RN and the RAF, there was no possibility of the Nazis being able launch a cross-channel invasion after 1940.

What Churchill feared, and the reason he was desperate to get the US involved, was that the USSR would collapse. Hitler and Churchill both hated the Soviets, both thought they were subhuman, and they both fully expected the USSR to lose within a year or so. At which time, Germany could have rested and rearmed for a while before turning back towards the UK with the entire industrial output of occupied Europe. At which point, even the RAF and the RN might not have been enough to hold off an invasion forever.

GB was never in danger of German invasion. And, yes, GB decisively defeated the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. However, this is not the main threat that GB faced-it was starvation of food and raw materials, from German U-boats. The K had no indigenous petroleum in those days-all of it came from the USA, Iran, and Burma. So, the RAF would have had empty gas tanks without support in shipments of aviation fuel. Also, GB was almost capable of feeding itself-but they needed imports of stuff like diamonds, tungsten, copper, rubber, in order to keep the war industries going.

A wacko like Hitler saw the world as a struggle between the Aryans and the Jews. He saw Jews as having both a Bolshevik branch in Russia and a Capitalist branch in the west. He saw FDR not as someone who wanted to save the British, as Roosevelt claimed, but to take their place with the largest empire in the world.
John Toland’s biography on Hitler says that on November 28th, 1941 Germany’s foreign minister Ribbentrop met with a Japanese general named Oshima. Ribbentrop urged the Japanese to declare war on the United States and great Britain, saying Germany would also declare war. Oshima was surprised that Hitler had said there was no chance of Hitler making a separate peace with America.
When Hitler got news that Pearl Harbor was bombed, Field Marshal Keitel was surprised to Hitler Hitler stunned by the news. Keitel had the impression that Hitler was relieved of a nightmar e burden by the news. To German diplomat Walther Hewel, Hitler was ecstatic, saying Germany now had a partner who hadn’t lost in 3,000 years.
Hitler was upset that the U.S. was already in a sort of undeclared war in the Atlantic. He felt he couldn’t use the loophole in the Tripartite pact saying that Japan had to be attacked for Germany to support her. He also felt that news of a powerful new ally would boost morale after the recent setbacks on the Russian front. His diplomatic office was strongly against the move and so were generals like Jodl and Warlimont.
Hitler knew very little about America, although as a boy he like the western novels of Karl May. He really believed the “stab in the back” nonsense about Jews and Bolsheviks undermining the Germans in World War I when it was the superior resources of the Allies who sent the Kaiser skedaddling to the Netherlands. He saw the Americans as soft and nowhere nearly as good as German soldiers. He may also have had a landlubber’s perspective of seeing oceans as barriers instead of highways once you build some good ships.

Hitler both hated Communism and thought all Russians were untermenschen or subhuman. Churchill hated Communism but I’ve seen no evidence at all that he considered Russians, even Communist Russians, to be subhuman.

Care to provide a cite?

No it wasn’t, it was to defeat the Communists, and occupy European Russia and make it into a German colony, emptying by any means. He would love to have not had to go to war with the UK or the US.

Churchill was a 19th century English aristocrat. He felt that everyone who wasn’t English or of English ancestry was a lesser being. Have you ever read any biogs of Churchill? He was a terrible snob and deeply racist.

Now, he was a great war leader and the right man for the job, and he did do a great job, but he was also deeply flawed.

Does this quote sound like Hitler to you?

It does to me. But it’s Churchill, “Zionism versus Bolshevism”, Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 1920. Google it for proof.

Just Google “Churchill racist” for plenty more cites. Unfortunately, a lot of them will be from neo-Nazi scum trying to insinuate that Churchill was “worse than Hitler”, but a bit of diligence will amply demonstrate that the Hitler-lovers don’t need to make up any quotes to prove that Churchill was incredibly racist.

Some possibly not-so-well-known tings:

  1. America was a *de facto *ally of the British at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. American neutrality then was like Russian neutrality in Syria - officially in effect, but everyone knows it’s routinely violated. The previously aforementioned Lend-Lease, as well as Atlantic patrols, aid to Russia, as well as a small but noticeable number of American volunteers to the British side (sometimes going thru Canada) made it clear that the Germans would have to fight us sooner rather than later.
  2. The Manhattan Project (building nuxe) was not a secret - details were, but it was well known to the Germans (and I suppose the Japanese) that America was working on a WMD. Of course, both Germany and Japan were also racing to build their versions too. If u were going to have an enemy who could develop a terrible weapon which the Germans thought (wrongly) would be turned over to the Brits, it’d make sense to make war on that enemy as well.
  3. American Isolationists naively believed that were we to stay out of it, they’d simply leave us alone. In fact, the Germans had plans for attacking once they completed some long-range weapons (1 plane, called ‘the New York bomber’, would reach sub-orbital height, go 1/2way around the world in sub-space, then drop out of the stratosphere to bomb Manhattan - or Oak Ridge - or Chicago - or other strategic sites). War on America was in the plans, even without Hitler’s 2nd book (the sequel to Mein Kampf).
  4. Notes from the notorious Wannsee Conference had stats on Jewish population everywhere, including the U.S. Naturally, they were to be exterminated as well, once war in Europe was over.
  5. There was a plan to link up with the Japanese armies in India - there was even a Free Indian (anti-British) army that rebelled with the goal of driving the British out. At the time of Pearl Harbor, the battle of El Alamein was still months away, the Germans were racing thru Libya toward Egypt, and the possibility of Rommel taking all North Africa, going thru Israel then the oilfields of Arabia on the way East, was a very real one. Thus, they were de facto fighting America anyway. There was also a plan to bomb the Panama Canal, then undisputably an American possession.

In short, not only was the outcome of ww2 much more harrowing & close than we were taught in school, but the die for involvement was cast long before Pearl Harbor.