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081 Who did the United States fight in World War II?

81. Who did the United States fight in World War II?
Japan, Germany, and Italy

World War II, or the Second World War, was truly a global war, or a war that affected the whole world. Most of the powerful countries in the world were involved in the war in one of two alliances (or groups of countries that work together during a war): the Allies and the Axis. The Allies included the United States, the United Kingdom, the USSR (which would later become Russia and other countries), France, and Poland. The Axis included Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Membership or participation in each of the alliances was fluid, meaning that it changed over time as some countries became part of the Allies and the Axis and other countries left them. The United States was a late entrant to the war, meaning that the U.S. was not one of the first countries in World War II, but began fighting later. Most of the people in the United States wanted the country to follow isolationism, or a type of government that does not get involved in foreign affairs, or things that are happening in other countries. However, on December 7, 1941, Americans changed their mind, or changed what they thought about isolationism.

The United States had a naval base, or a place where the country’s military ships are kept, in a place called Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked (or fought against) Pearl Harbor. The Japanese bombed (or dropped weapons that explode) on Pearl Harbor, destroying many U.S. ships and planes and killing almost 2,400 Americans.

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor as a preventative measure, or something that might keep something else from happening. Although the United States wasn’t fighting in the war yet, the Japanese knew that the United States might become involved. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to try to make it impossible for the United States to enter the war. In fact, however, when they bombed Pearl Harbor, it was the final push, or the last thing that needed to happen, for the United States to decide to enter the war.


alliance – a group of people, organizations, or countries that work together, especially during a war
* Which countries does the U.S. have an alliance with right now?

fluid – able to change over time; not always the same; likely to change
* The number of employees at that company is fluid, with more employees in the summer and fewer employees during the rest of the year.

late entrant – a person, country, business, or organization that started doing something later, after others were already doing it
* Late entrants in the technology industry have to work harder than their competitors to sell their products, because customers are already familiar with other companies' products.

isolationism – a way of running a government so that the country does not get involved in things that are happening in other countries
* The country's leaders believe in isolationism, so it doesn't help any other countries when they are in trouble.

to change (one's) mind – to change one's opinion about something; to begin thinking about something differently
* At first Hiroshi said that he didn't want to go with us, but then he changed his mind.

naval base – a place where a country’s military ships are kept
* All of the soldiers are staying at the naval base until their ship can be fixed and they can sail again.

to attack – to fight; to do something to hurt a person or a place
* Our website is being attacked by someone who doesn’t want others to read our blog.

to bomb (a place) – to drop weapons or things that will explode over a building or an area of land
* In general, countries try not to bomb hospitals and schools.

preventative – something that might keep something else from happening; something that avoids something else
* She drinks lots of orange juice because she thinks that getting a lot of vitamin C is a type of preventative healthcare.

final push – the last thing that needs be done so that something else can happen
* The runner was extremely tired, but he made one final push at the end and won the race.