WWII German decleration of war on US

Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. after the U.S. decalred war on thier ally, Japan. I heard it said on these boards that Germany was, in essence, required to do so, by treaty with Japan.

However, I’m beginning to wonder about some of this.

Firstly, Hitler showed us he wasn’t above breaking a treaty. He did, after all, violate his nonagression treaty with Stalin by invading the USSR.

That being said, was Japan really providing anything of import to Germany? Because if not, I can’t see why Germany would want to declare war on the U.S in December 1941. They would have had a much easier time subduing the UK without the U.S. in the war. What would have been the consequences of Hitler telling Japan to take the treaty and stuff it? It’s not like the Japanese were going to open up yet another front and attack Germany.

In the end, I can’t see what Hitler gained out of declaring war on the U.S. So, why’d he do it? Or did he really think he was going to beat the U.S.?

Zev Steinhardt

IIRC, from “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, it was because of Russia. Hitler was under the impression that if he declared war on the US, Japan would assist Hitler with the Russians. This, of course, never came to fruition. I don’t remember there being any formal agreement between Germany and Japan to this end, but I believe this was the original intent. Germany, it has been proposed, was duped by Japan in this regard.

IIRC, the treaty that created the Axis required the members to join a fight if one was attacked; since the Japanese did the attacking, it’s been interpreted in the past that Hitler’s declaration of war on the U.S. was not actually required by the treaty.

Chandeleur is absolutely right. In addition, the German staff grossly underestimated America’s industry, believing that the (accurate) US government estimates were clumsy propaganda. Another factor is that the United States was already supplying Britan and the USSR via lend-lease. Hitler may have seen full participation as inevitable.

As an aside, the Tripartite Pact didn’t obligate Germany to declare war on the US. Article three limited assistance to being attacked, not attacking. Source.

I thumbed through The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, trying to find a relatively small passage that summed up the reasons for Hitlers decisions. Obviously, there were many, many factors at play here, but I found two that came close to what I was looking for.

At Nuremberg, Ribbentrop (speaking on this subject) pointed out:

And from Shirer, this:

The winter of 1941/42 pretty much marked the turning point in the war for Germany on the Russian front. It’s easy to see why he would have been looking for any hope and assistance with the Russians, and Japan’s entry into the war must have seemed like fortunate timing, indeed.

Japan and Russia actually had a signed non-aggression pact. IIRC, it stood until Russia declared war on Japan in the last moments of the war.

As I recall, without looking anything up, the Russo-Japanese non-aggression pact expired in 1945, and Russia let it do so before coming into the war against Japan in, what, the last week?

While it is often pointed out that the Soviets did not declare war on Japan until after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, (and that they then hurried to secure as much of Manchuria as possible before the Japanese surrendered), it should also be recalled that Stalin had agreed to enter the war against Japan, provided he was allowed three months from the defeat of Germany. The German surrender occurred May 7, Hiroshima was bombed August 6, and the U.S.S.R. declared war on Japan on August 8. (I seem to recall that the five-year non-aggression pact between the Soviets and the Japanese should have run to 1946, but that Molotov declared it null in April, 1945, even before the final collapse of Germany.)

In perhaps my largest contribution ever to the SDMB, I found this a while ago:

"In December 1941, and throughout the war, the actual primary U.S. justification for the total war with Germany was not based on Hitler’s declaration. Rather, it was based on the U.S. blame of Germany for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Most Americans charged that Germany was guilty of that attack either because Germany was a material accomplice of Japan, or because Germany actually controlled a subservient Japan. Many Americans even said that German military forces had actually participated in the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. charge that a complicit and conspiratorial Germany was guilty of the attack on Pearl Harbor was a charge that launched the United States into total war in Europe in December 1941, and it was a charge that endured throughout the war.[3]

This fact is evidently why no history book ever has, or ever could credibly focus on Hitler’s declaration of war, and its being an important historical event. The reason is because Hitler’s declaration had, in reality, no important effect upon the American people, politics, or government in December 1941. This is why there has never been a history book focused on what Hitler’s declaration meant to Americans, which in itself is a stunning void considering how much importance historians have imputed to it. Their imputation also seems to be the reason why no historian has ever revealed that on December 12, 1941 the German government actually denied that it had declared war on the United States the day before. This denial was acknowledged by the American public and was understood to be a virtual retraction of Hitler’s declaration of war. This is abundantly demonstrated by the contemporary evidence."


Hitler also had a fascination with certain mystical things and the concept of destiny - and I believe he said something shortly after the declaration to the extent of “We are now going to war alongside an ally who hasn’t been defeated in 3000 years. We can’t lose.”

Hitler also had a fascination with certain mystical things and the concept of destiny - and I believe he said something shortly after the declaration to the extent of “We are now going to war alongside an ally who hasn’t been defeated in 3000 years. We can’t lose.”