World War II: The Anglo-American Alliance


Figure 1.--American and Britain were bound by a common language and culture, but in fact relatively few Britons and Americans knew each other. This changed during the War. Americans not only were deployed to Britain in large numbers, but many were actually billited in British homes. Just one example of the intimacy of the Anglo-American Alliance. Source: Imperial War Museum.

Britain and America during World War II formed the most important military alliance in the history of warfare. Never before had two countries so coordinated their industruial, scientific, and military operations to defeat a common enemy. There were important differences between the two nations Many World War II histories stress the common ties of language and culture that bound America and Britain and to often ignore the very real differences. The Alliance in fact was created out of mutual necesity. [Soybel] Differences between the two countries were resolved or put aside to achieve the overal objective--the unconditional surrender of NAZI Germany. America had the industry and resources to do that. The British at great cost had gained the expeience and the appreciation of NAZI strengths that America in 1942 still lacked. The Alliance was forned by the personal commitment of President Roosevelt and Primeminister Churchill. This personal relationship helped over come the very real differences between the two countries. The relationship began with aid to Britain, especially after the fall of France. A key factor in the Alliance was Lend Lease. Joint military planning began even before America entered the War and was based on agreement that the number one priority was the defeat of NAZI Germany. The Allied leaders met in a series of war conferences to make major decessions. The achievment of the alliance are very extensive and include victory in the North Atlantic, the key victory of the Western Allies. Specific achiievements of the Alliance are notable. The P-51 Mustang which broke the Luftwaffe was a marriage of an American air frame and a British engine. The very important code-breaking operation was an Anglo-American operation. Victory in the North Atlantic was an Anglo-Amerucan indertaking with an important Canaduian contribution. The British shared their scientific advances on radar abnd the United States developed the technology to mass produce radar sets. The D-Day invasion was a joint undertaking of breath taking proportions. It succeeded in large measure because the British managed to delay it until 1944 and America provided the air power to drive the Luftwaffe out of France as well as an abundance of supplies needed to cross the Channel. The Manhattan Project creating the atomic bomb was another joint undertaking.

Importance

Britain and America during World War II formed the most important military alliance in the history of warfare. Never before had two countries so coordinated their industruial, scientific, and military operations to defeat a common enemy. The British could have never reentered the Contginent without the Americans. The Americans would have had great difficulty even fighting the Germans without the British springboard.

World War I (1914-18)

Britain entered the World War to support France when the Germans invaded Belgium (August 1914). The European powers has developed a complicated alliance system which helped draw them into the War. One of the two most important was the German alliance with Austria Hungary. This in itself would have not led to war, but the Kaiser wrote Emperor Franz-Josef a blank check and that did lead to war. The other key alliance was the French alliance with Russia. America was a neutral country with a history of non-involvement in European affairs. From a very early point in the War, a primary British goal was to draw America into the War. A combination of deft British propaganda and wreckless German behavior from the bginning of the War meant that Americans despite a very large German population, was sympathetic to the Allies (Belgium, Britain, and France). Even so, the great majority of Americans were strongly determined to stay out of the War. In the end, America's entrance into the War had nothing to do ith the British. The Germans decided that they could win the War with an unrestructed submarine campaign against Britain an amassive summer offensive on the Western front. Despite victory on the Eastern Front, the Allied naval embargo was biting into the German war effort. The Grmans were desperate to end the war with one final massive offensive. Their assessment was that they could accomplish both before the United States could form an army and that even if America did form an army, the Kriegsmarine U-boats could prevent it from reaching France. The result was the Zimmermann Telegram and the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. It was a bold gamble on Germany's part and one which ultimately would mean the end of the German empire. America would join Britain and France in the War, but there was never any formal treaty of alliance signed--only a declration of war against Germany.

Differences

There were important differences between the two nations Many World War II histories stress the common ties of language and culture that bound America and Britain and to often ignore the very real differences. One of the major differences was the British Empire. At the time the Empire was still very important to Britain and most particularly to Churchill. America and President Roosevelt were very critical of imperialism. The Alliance in fact was created out of mutual necesity. [Soybel]

Attributes

America had the industry and resources to defeat NAZI Germany. Britain by the time America entered the War, had stopped the NAZIs at the Channel, but faced a European continent now dominated by NAZI Germany. The British at great cost, however, had gained the expeience and the appreciation of NAZI strengths that America in 1942 still lacked.

Roosevelt and Churchill

Roosevelt and Churchill first met during World War I. Roosevelt who was a junior official (Undersectratey of the Navy) remember, Chuchill who was a senior memember of the cabinet did not. The Anglo-Alliance was formed by the personal commitment of President Roosevelt and Primeminister Churchill. There was noo formal trearty, only the Atlantic Chrter and the personal commitment of the President and Preimeminister. Preime\nisyer Chamberlin was not anxious to involve the Americans as he persinally dealt with Hitler. comvinced that he could precent a war. President Roosevelt wrote to Churchill after he was recalled to the Admiralty in the opening days of the War. What followed was the development of a momentous personal relationship. This had to nbe done quietly as Chamberlain was still primeminister and not anxious to seek the President's councel. After exchanging letters and assisted by Harry Hopkins diplomacy, the two finally met at the Atlantic Conference off Canada, just before America entered the War (November 1941). This personal relationship helped over come the very real differences between the two countries. The personal commitment of the two leaders overcame the substantial differences between the two countries. Commanders who could not cooperate were replaced. Even Britain's most important commander was almost replaced because of his insubordinate behavior toward Eisenhower.

Pre-War Assistance

World War II histories often refer to Britain fighting alone. In fact Britain was never entirely alone. The relationship began with aid to the Allies even before the NAZIs launched the War. TZhe relationship with Britain deepened after the fall of France. American amended the Neutrality Acts. President Roosevelt saw to it that Britain received moth-balled destroyers for the Nattle of the Atlantic. The nost important assistance program was the passage of Lend Lease. America undertook the protection of Iceland, releaving British troops. And the President committed the American Navy to a shooting war in the Noth Atlantic months before the United states entered the War. These actions were virtual acts of war. Hitler who thought nothing of invading neutral countries which were not taking hostile acts, held off from retailating. U-boat commanders were even ordered to avoid action with the U.S. Navy. Hitler wanted to keep America out of the War as long as possible.

America Enters the War

Adolf Hitler on December 11, 1941, declared war on the United States. This conviently solved FDR's dilema of how to enter the war against the NAZIs when America had been attacked by the Japanese. Curiously, America was the only country on which Hitler ever declared war. The entry of America into the War changed all calculations of strategic ballance. The Soviets alone in 1941 were already out producuing the Germans in many areas such as tanks. The entry of America was to mean that German war production would be only a fraction of Allied production and that difference was already being felt on the battlefield. The story of American industry in the War is phenomenal. FDR in 1941 was already supplying Britain and the Soviets through Lend Lease. The declaration of war enabled FDR to harnass the vast American economy to war production. This was something that the Germans had still not done as late as 1942. Within the first year alone, America built 24,000 tanks and 48,000 planes. An impressive start, but just the beginning. American industry in 1942 equaled the armaments production of all three AXIS countries combined. And this was occurring at a time when the Societs alone, not to mention the British, were already out producuing the Germans. America in 1944 doubled its arms production again. [Fest, p. 656.] These were numbers the Germans could not hope to match. In no theater did these overwealming numbers show up more than the air campaign. At a time that the Luftwaffe could not fulfill its required role along the vast Eastern Front, a tidal wave of long range American bombers (B-19 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators) flowed into England, each had the range to hit every German city including Berlin. The American planes began arriving in England early in 1942. England became, in effect, a huge unsinkable air craft carrier in the North Sea. Combined with the RAF's new Avro-Lancasters, the Allies were building a massive air armada aimed at German industry.

Common Objective: Unconditional Surrender

Joint military planning began even before America entered the War and was based on agreement that the number one priority was the defeat of NAZI Germany. Differences between the two countries were resolved or put aside to achieve the overal objective--the unconditional surrender of NAZI Germany. Strangely this was not a carefully considered goal. In fact it seems to have been a goal set by President Roosevelt at the Casablanca Conference without even consulting Primeminister Churchill.

Conferences

Both the Allies and the Axis held a series of conferences to plan strategy and work out cooperative actions. The Allied conferences are better known in part because the Allies cooperative effort was much more involved than the Axis effort. The Allied conferences began in earnest with the meeting of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Placencia Bay and the signing of the Atlantic Charter (August 1941). The Allied conferences also were important in developing war strategy and cooperative efforts, but also helped shape the future of Europe after the War. Both the Allies and the Axis held a series of conferences to plan strategy and work out cooperative actions. The Allied conferences are better known in part because the Allies cooperative effort was much more involved than the Axis effort. The Allied conferences began in earnest with the meeting of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Plavencia Bay and the signing of the Atlantic Charter (August 1941). The Allied conferences also were important in developing war strategy and cooperative efforts, but also helped shape the future of Europe after the War. A Some of these conferences included other allies, includig the Soviets, but the Anglo-American consultations were central to the war in the west. The achievment of the alliance are very extensive and include victory in the North Atlantic, the key victory of the Western Allies. As a result the last two conferences, especially Yalta have proven to be very controversial. The Axis also had conferences, but they never approached the detailed cooperation and planning of the Allied conferences. As a result the last two conferences, especially Yalta have proven to be very controversial. The Axis also had conferences, but they never approached the detailed cooperation and planning of the Allied conferences.

Ulster

President Roosevelt had committed the U.S. to a shooting war in the North Atlantic by fall 1941. It was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, however, that finally brought America into the War (December 7, 1941). The Allies had already decided that defeating NAZI Germany would be the primary objective. Within a few weeks after the Japanese attack, the first of what would become a flood of Amerucan troops into Britain was underway. Even before this the Americans and British had been discussing the formation of the Vth U.S Army Corps at bases in Ulster (Morthern Ireland) and Scotland. Roosevelt and Churchill decided that U.S troops would take over the defence of Ulster which would free up British soldiers for deployment elsewherein other locations. Ulster was important because it provided air bases and sea bases to support the Atlantic convoys. It also provided staging nd training areas for American army units. The first Americans units left New York for Belfast (January 6, 1942). The first American landed at Belfast (January 26, 1942). He became something of a celeberty. Ironically that soldier was Milburn Henke, a naturalised citizen of German ancestry. Military facilities did not exist to accomodate the number of Americans who were arriving and the operations they wuld undertake. The Americans set about construct 26 new airfields and improving naval dock facilities at Derry. These facilities would play an important role in the critical Battle of the Atlantic, vital to ensure that Britain';s new American ally could project its power to Britain and beyond. .

Eighth Air Force

America began building in facilities in early 1942. American and British Chiefs of Staff on January 13, 1942 order the movement of US air forces to the United Kingdom to support the existing British air campaign against Germany. The first American airmen (1,400 men) sail for Northern Ireland on January 18. Major General Ira Eaker is appointed Commanding General, Bomber Command, US Army Forces in British Isles (USAFBI) and on January 31, 1942 ordered to the United Kingdom. The War Department officially states on April 7, 1942 that the 8th Air Force will be established in the UK. Lieutenant General Henry "Hap" Arnold on April 12 completes air plans for Operation BOLERO, the buildup of US armed forces in the UK for an attack on Europe. The advanced echelon of HQ 8th Air Force and bomber, interceptor and base commands, along with 15th Bombardment Squadron (Light), 2nd Air Depot Group, and a weather detachment totalling about 1,800 men, on April 27 sailed from Boston, Massachusetts for the UK. The 8th Air Force was to become the largest air unit ever committed to battle. It would play a fundamental role in taking the war to Hitler's 1,000 year Reich.

D-Day Buildup

The Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor finally brought Ameruca into gthe War (December 1941). President Roosevelt announced to Congress that he was authorizing the largest armaments production in the history of the United States (January 1942). American and their equipment began arriving in Britain within in weeks after Pearl Harbor (February 1942). the Americans were greeted with both relief and curiosity when they finally landed on British shores. Both America and Britian agreed that priority had to be given to Europe and defaetung the Germans first. The British accepted an American plan for a buildup of U.S. forces in the United Kingdom in preparation for a future trans-Channel invasion (April 1942). The plan was Operation Bolero and included construction of airfields from which to launch the bombing offensive, a small contingent of ground troops, and a force of 750,000 to participate in a cross-Channel invasion in early 1943. Detailed planning was underway (early May). Demands from other theaters caused a downward revision of the Bolero buildup (May 1942). General Marshall organized for an immediate buildup of American forces in Britain for an invasion of France. It soon became obvious that an invasion was not possible in 1942, but he pushed hard for an invasiin in 1943. Fortunately the British managed to delay the invasion until the Americans were more experienced and hige forces had been assembled. Many of the early arrivals were then commited to Operation Torch (November 1942). After this the D-Day buildup began. The British and Canadians were heavily deployed in Kent and Surrey where a German invasiin had been planned. The Americans thus were billeted to the west and north. This would determine the deployment of forces when the Allies finally invaded and the conduct of the Western camapign, nuch to President Roosevelt;s displeasure as he was more interested in northern Germany. The Americansservicemen were stationed from Scotland to Cornwall. The inexperienced U.S. Army was anxious to invade France and attack the Germans. The American military presence in Britain grew from a handful of men in early-1942 to over a million troops (February 1944). and another 0.5 million would pass through Britain. All this while, the Red Army coninued to wear th Germans down in the East. The American military forces rapidly expanded as the country mobilized for war.

Technical Achievements

Specific achievements of the Alliance are notable. The P-51 Mustang which broke the Luftwaffe was a marriage of an American air frame and a British engine. The very important code-breaking operation was an Anglo-American operation. Victory in the North Atlantic was an Anglo-Amerucan indertaking with an important Canaduian contribution. The British shared their scientific advances on radar and the United States developed the technology to mass produce radar sets. The Manhattan Project creating the atomic bomb was another joint undertaking.

Joint Military Operations

Britain's only significan land victory during World War II without the Americans was El Alemaine (October 1942). Mongomery was only able to accomplish it, however, with staggering quantities of American equipment and supplies. The following Operations-- Torch (November 1942), Sicily (July 1943), and Italy (September 1943) were all Anglo-American operations. The D-Day invasion was a joint undertaking of breath-taking proportions. It succeeded in large measure because the British managed to delay it until 1944 and America provided the air power to drive the Luftwaffe out of France as well as provide an abundance of supplies needed to cross the Channel. The ensuing lineration of France and the Low Lands and the invasion of Germany were all Anglo-Americam operations. Here we should mention that the British 8th Army had many units from other Allied countries including Australians, Canada, France New Zealanders, Palestinian Jews, Poles and others. The British armies in France had an important Canadian contribution. The Strategic Air Campaign and the Battle of the Atlantic were also joint military operations.

Personal Contacts

The Anglo-American alliance had a huge impact on the war. It was perhaps the most important alliance in human history. But something else very important occurred at the micro level. It brought Americans and Brits together together in large numbers for the first time since the Revolution. America had of course joined the Allies in World war I, by\ut the AEF went to France where the War on the Western Front was fought. Reklarively few American servicemen were stationed in Britain. This was not the case in Wirld War II. After Pear Harbor, large numbers of American servicemen were rushed to Britain. The powerful 8th Air Force was established in Bruitain aznd soon operatring from fields all over the country. The Army also built up in Britain. The first Army units were ciommitted to Operation Torch in North Africa (November 1942). But throughout 1943 and early 1944 men and material arrived in enormous quantities. It was here that the famous expression developed, "Over paid, over sexed, and over here." Probably the origin was the world War I song, "Over There" by Irving Berlin (1917). There were tensions, often among the higher ups. Here one of General Eisenhower's great achievements was how he managed the military alliance, with little help from commanders like Mobntgomery and Patton. For the most part the GI's and the British people hit it off. British children had seen Hollywood films and thought of both gangsters and cowbioys and Indians. Most met their first real American during the War. Most were enchanted by the optimistic, gum chewing GIs, and Yankee slang. The children sought out the GIs and the inevitable exchange of gum and Hershey bars. The GIs wiould show up at schools and children's centers to cheer up children, especially the children separated from their parents. The girls were also impressed and because most young men were in the services, the friendshio forms would lead to many GI msrriages. Many British families invited the GIs into their homes. Some were billited with families. The GIs for their part weren't impressed with the food and weather, but liked the British people. A lot of Americans had anti-British attitudes before the War. After tghe War, the only major group with anti-British attitudes were Irish-Americans.

Sources

Soybel, Phyllis L. A Necessary Relationship The Development of Anglo-American Cooperation in Naval Intelligence (Praeger, 2005), 190p.






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Created: 5:48 AM 4/1/2006
Last updated: 5:53 AM 12/5/2013