Yes, Germany (and Italy) declared war on the United States, rather than vice-versa. I think it’s a mistake to assume we wouldn’t have ended up at war otherwise, however. It might have happened with different timing, but it would have happened.
I base this opinion on several factors.
(1) FDR was much more interested in suppressing the Nazis than the Japanese, even though we were more a Pacific power than a world power at the time. US foreign policy has always been very Euro-centric–this is still true–and there wasn’t much chance that we’d stay out of the war in Europe permanently.
(2) US forces had already been engaged in action against German forces, mainly in the Atlantic–part of keeping the Lend-Lease routes open. This wasn’t going to stop, and would likely have escallated even with a declaration of war.
(3) The Japanese attacked British possessions in the Pacific at the same time they attacked Pearl Harbor–we and the Brits were already de facto allies, and now we were going to be outright military allies against Japan. It’s not likely we could have fought a war with the British in the Pacific and remained neutral in Europe.
(4) Hitler already had a two-front war on his hands–a very bad maneuver on his part. Knowing that the US would most likely be at war with Germany eventually, it was better for him to start the festivities earlier, when we weren’t yet really prepared. If he waited, and allowed us to wipe up the Japanese first, he’d be facing a fully-mobilized opponent who could then turn it’s attention to him with no distractions.
As I said before, the timing of events might have been altered if Hitler had held off. We might have beaten the Japanese earlier, before turning our attention to the Germans. Maybe Hiroshima and Nagasaki wouldn’t have been A-Bombed…but maybe Berlin and Dresden would have been.
Alright, I’ve written enough to give people something to dispute me about. Have at it.
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