Did the U.S. declare war on Germany (1941)?

A couple of times I’ve gotten into debates on whether or not it takes two declarations of war (one from each side) to make a war. I say it doesn’t. Germany declared war on the U.S. on December 11th, and I don’t think the U.S. ever returned the favor. But I’m not sure … U.S. declaration of war on Germany is never mentioned anywhere, but maybe it’s thought to be too much a technicality to bear mentioning.

The U.S. and Japan both declared war on each other, so clearly two declarations can happen. I was just wondering if, in the traditional way of warmaking, each side was supposed to declare, or if one would suffice.

Germany declared war on us and we returned the favor.

Yeh, and I believe there was ONE vote against going to war; a woman who was a die-hard pacifist.

Edith Keeler? Well heck, I thought she died in that car wreck…. :wink:

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

I think you all speak of Jeanette Rankin, Republican from Montana. She was in the Congress for two non-consecutive periods, and she voted against both the 1918 declaration of war with Germany and the 1941 declaration of war against Japan (or so I thought). As usual, I hadn’t heard of her voting against war with the Third Reich, because I didn’t know we made any such declaration.

The Congress passed a declaration of war against Germany on December 11, 1941 at the request of President Roosevelt.
It was S.J. Res 119. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with one no vote in the House.
The Declaration of war against Italy was S.J. Res 120.

Does that mean that every country involved in World War II declared war on every country aligned with its opponents? That must have made diplomats very busy!

If you look at the list below (disregarding countries that were occupied very quickly)

Allies: France, Great Britain, USSR, USA, China, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Poland, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, …

Japan, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Thailand, Burma, Philippines,…

Who could keep track of all these declarations of war?

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Japan, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Thailand, Burma, Philippines,…

Philippines? Weren’t they a U.S. territory at the start of the war? Did the Japanese install a puppet government and have it declare war?

While we’re on the subject, weren’t Slovakia and Croatia part of Yugoslavia at the begining of the war?

Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia, and Croatia was part of Yugoslavia. Germany cut these countries up and set up puppet states in them. Czecho was annexed, Slovakia was the puppet state. Yugoslavia was dished out to various German allies, including Italy and Romania if I remember correctly. Croatia’s pro-German fascists were installed as puppets.

I have no idea about the Phillipines, but it would be Axis SOP to install pro-Japanese types and arm them.

As far as I remember, the only “independent” countries that joined the axis were Bulgaria, Romania, and maybe Hungary. Most of the others had been occupied by an axis power or “coerced” in some other way (e.g. the Philippines). I don’t know how much those countries actually participated in the war effort.

I believe that Nazi Germany even tried to get Vichy France to declare war against England, but (for once) marshall Petain put his foot done and refused.

The list of the allied countries is actually much larger, due in part to the colonial possessions of France and Great Britain, and also because the USA tried to encourage the American countries to join the allies. Many South American countries remained neutral until the very end of the war and only declared war on the Axis powers because otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed in the group of countries trying to start the UN. Argentina is one example of this situation (declared war against Germany in 1945).

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

The Philippines weren’t a full country during WWII. They were an American commonwealth. They achieved full independence in 1946. They did have an assembly and a president, but they had significant limitations on their power.

No. For example, Russia and Japan had entered into a Neutrality Pact, and thus they did not declare war on each other, at least, not in 1941.

In early 1945, when it was obvious that Germany was going to lose the war, the U.S. wanted Russia to join the war against Japan. Particularly prior to the fall of Okinawa there was concern about how to stage an invasion of Japan, and Russia’s participation in the war in the Pacific was thought necessary to speed up the end of that war. Indeed, in either late Spring or early Summer of 1945, Russia declined to renew the Neutrality Pact, which was deemed a clear signal to Japan that Russia would soon be joining the war against it. Stalin had given some assurances to the U.S. that Russia would enter the Pacific Theatre once the German war was over, and it was generally thought in higher levels of the U.S. government that Russia would enter the war in August or so of 1945. Indeed, intercepted Japanese reports indicated that significant men and equipment were moving slowly east across Russia in June, or so, to position themselves for an attack on Japan.

However, the U.S. was concerned about the negative potential consequences of Russia entering the war against Japan, including the possibility of communism taking hold in Japan following the war, and of the U.S. being thought to be beholden to Russia in some way for its support. Plus, by mid-June, 1945 or so, the U.S. had “The Bomb,” and there is some support for the notion that it wanted to use that weapon to “send a message” to the world (read: Stalin) that the U.S. was not to be messed with. A demonstration of power, as it were. By late June at the latest the U.S. was not pushing Russian entry into the Japanese Theatre so strongly, as plans to utilize the atomic bomb were already being considered. At the moment I can’t remember whether Russia had technically actually declared war on Japan before the bomb was used, but I don’t think so. I’d have to go look it up.

So the (after all this!) short answer to your question is, no, all of the Allied and Axis powers did not immediately declare war on each other in 1941.


Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939 - exactly one week after the U.K. declared war on September 3. This was the first time Canada had declared war - in WWI, we were automatically at war when the British Government declared war, on behalf of the Empire.

I don’t know what the dates were for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the other independent Commonwealth countries at that time, but I assume they would each have passed a separate declaration.