Part III of ‘Why did Hitler declare war on the US?’
Back to PART II: The ‘undeclared war’ of the USA against Germany
The road to the ‘real’ World War.
At the beginning of August 1941, however, the situation changed. Chief of the German General Staff Franz Halder noted ‘colossus Russia has been underestimated’. It was to be foreseen that the war would last over the winter and would lead to a wear struggle.
Subsequently, in Japan, the government changed by the taking over of power of the well-known ‘Hardliner’ Tojo, since there were no acceptable conditions for Tokyo in the negotiations with Washington. Therefore, in the middle of November 1941, the department for foreign armies in the Japanese General Staff asked their German colleagues whether, if there were no peaceful agreement between Japan and the USA, Germany would enter the war, and none of the axis partners would make a separate peace with the Anglo-Americans.
On the very next day the German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop replied that this was self-evident for Germany. Japan was now pushing for an instrumental agreement to complement the Three-Party Pact. The German government did not yet know at this time that the last deadline for the Japanese for an agreement with the USA was on November 25, 1941, after which war was inevitable for them.
But for the new agreement, for which also Italy has to be consulted, a few details had to be clarified. At the beginning of December, Hitler was on a trip to the Russian Front, and for days he seemed to be cut off from all communications.
Therefore, the new agreement could no longer be signed until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.
When Hitler received the news of the Japanese attack, he was particularly happy. Now the war had become a ‘real’ World War. ‘If we win this match, then nothing more is in the way for the dream of the world’s dominion’, was his opinion.
‘We can not lose this war, for we now have an ally with Japan, which has never been defeated in history.’
He also greatly exaggerated the impact of the Japanese attack on the US Pacific Fleet, as well as the military and economic potential of Japan. For Hitler, the German situation, which had been under great pressure before Moscow, seemed to have greatly improved. He arrived at Berlin in full optimism on December 9.
His idea was to be able to end the ‘latent, undeclared war’ with the USA, and to give the German U-boats free hand in the Battle of the Atlantic, without endangering all possible limitations and disadvantages.
He was now able to repay to Roosevelt and react to his rage, which was set up for many months.
Pearl Harbor now offered the opportunity to declare war. Hitler made this decision without delay and without any conversation with a confidant. Hitler’s attitude may play a further role in the fact that a power of magnanimity can not be declared war, but is itself doing so. He did not want to wait until Roosevelt had the American people and the congress ready, in turn, to declared war on Germany.
Three days before Pearl Harbor, there were still sensational announcements in the US press about a ‘Victory Program’ in which an American expeditionary force should fight in Europe. It was therefore probable that Roosevelt, after he had declared war on Japan, would do so sooner or later against the other Axis nations.
Hitler’s declaration of war to the USA
That it still lasted until the 11th of December, up to the declaration of war to the United States, was due to Hitler’s careful preparation for his speech, to which he attached great importance. And he wanted to sign the agreement with Japan beforehand, so that Tokyo could not withdraw from the war through a negotiating peace. Thus, he declared the war to the United States only when he had the Japanese confirmation document.
The Americans should have to wage a war on two oceans, and this would give Germany the time to break the Russian resistance or to impose a negotiation peace on Stalin at least.
For Hitler, the declaration of war on the USA was exactly what he wanted. He only anticipated the inevitable, but not necessarily in a wise way.
Hitler had already considered the possibility of a failure in the autumn of 1941, when he remarked that the German people, if they did not prove themselves strong enough, deserved to be destroyed by a stronger power. He seemed to have recognized at this moment that the total victory in the East had become impossible, and that the war with the USA became inevitable.
In Washington, Roosevelt could after Pearl Harbor – without meeting any resistance, of course – declare war on Japan at the Congress. His Foreign Minister, Hull, had later looked through, ‘we thought it is necessary that Germany and the other Axis nations would declare war on us by themselves, and we should not do so.’
The American government could have this certainty because they could read the secret code of the Japanese Embassy and were informed of the modifications of the Three-Party Pact by the negotiations between Tokyo and Berlin.
Thus, in the end, Hitler took over Roosevelt from possible difficulties before Congress and the American people in a declaration of war against Germany.