World War II

"No human account ever could describe . . .

...the hardship, the sacrifice, the misery the men of this division alone experienced. No one who finished this retreat still alive will ever forget this Gathsename [place of suffering], because each village, each road, even each bush seared into his brain the memories of terrible hours, insufferable misery, of cowardice, despair and destruction."

— Anonymous Nazi Schutzstaffel staff officer

America Becomes a World Power

— from the series America in the 20th Century

One could argue that many issues of American foreign policy in the twentieth century had their origins in the emergence of the United States as a major world power at the end of the 19th century. The Spanish-American war was the great conflict of the era, Teddy Roosevelt its great warrior. For nationalist Americans, empire building was intoxicating. The Washington Post editorialized:

“A new consciousness seems to have come upon us—the consciousness of strength—and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our strength. . . . Ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new sensation. We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle. It means an Imperial policy, the Republic, renascent, taking her place with the armed nations.”

Of course, not everyone was infected with the blood fever. Sober citizens, Mark Twain among them, vehemently opposed American imperialism in general and the Spanish-American War in particular. With the benefit of more than a century of hindsight, we know the consequences of that "splendid little war" were monumental. Indeed, its lesson endures today: "'Tis much easier to win the war than to secure the peace."

World War II pilot, Elizabeth L. Gardner

Video Chapters

World War II is the sixth volume in the award-winning video series America in the 20th Century. The program provides a comprehensive overview of the global conflict—its causes, conduct, and aftermath. It traces the roots of the war from the failed peace after World War I and follows the events to their conclusion in 1945.

World War II is presented in nine video chapters. Preview them here or log in to the members-only Streaming Room™ to access the complete videos. Not a member? It's easy to subscribe now.

The Rise of Nationalism
The Rise of Nationalism
American Isolationism
American Isolationism
Achieving Victory in Europe
Achieving Victory in Europe
Clouds of War
Clouds of War
The Path to Infamy
The Path to Infamy
Achieving Victory in the Pacific
Achieving Victory in the Pacific
War Comes to Europe
War Comes to Europe
American Joins the War
American Joins the War
After the War
After the War

Join the Streaming Room™

Get instant access to our entire collection of award-winning video programs—more than fifteen hours of standards-based content—plus creative sound galleries, interactive timelines, primary source media, comprehensive ancillaries, and more.

No bells. No whistles. Just remarkable history and social studies content at the very best price.

Scroll Up