Germany and Italy in 1930 were determined to use military conquest to regain territory. The major democracies were distracted by economic problems at home. As the fascist movement spread through Europe, a similar movement occurred in Japan.

  • Japan Seeks an Empire

    The Japanese government moved to democracy in the 1920s, signing treaties with China and others such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war. However Japan’s parliamentary system had issues, putting strict limits on the powers of the prime minister and cabinet. Also, civilian leaders (democracy – prime minister, cabinet) had no control over the armed forces- the armed forces only listened to the emperor.

    • Militarists Take Control of Japan
      • While Japan was prosperous, the civilian democratic government ruled. However, during the Great Depression of 1929, the Japanese blamed their government. Unlike Fascists in Europe, these militarists wanted to restore traditional control of the government to the military. The emperor became the symbol of power.
      • Emperor Hirohito won popular support from the army leaders. These militarists were extreme nationalists and planned to take over China and create an empire. This would provide Japan with raw materials and give Japan room to grow.
    • Japan Invades Manchuria
      • Japanese businesses were branched out in Manchuria, which had many iron and coal resources. In 1931, Manchuria was seized by the Japanese army, against the wishes of the Japanese parliament. The army created a puppet government and sent Japanese engineers and technicians in large numbers to build industrial factories and mines.
      • This attack on Manchuria challenged the League of Nations. Many nations protested but Japan ignored them and withdrew from the League in 1933.
    • Japan Invades China
      • In 4 years, a war between Japan and China started from a small border incident. The Japanese forces swept through China, as the Chinese army was not well equipped or trained.
      • Beijing, Nanjing, and other major cities fell to the Japanese in 1937. The northern cities were taken and Jiang Jieshi had to move west. They setup a new capital at Chongqing. The Chinese guerrillas led by Mao Zedong (Communist) continued to fight on the northern front.
  • European Aggressors on the March

    The League’s failure to stop the Japanese encouraged European Fascists to start military movement. Mussolini, the Italian leader wanted an empire in Africa like Britain and France.

    • Mussolini Attacks Ethiopia
      • Ethiopia was an independent nation, which was one of the last three in Africa. The Ethiopians had resisted the Italians in the 1890s. Mussolini started another invasion in 1935. The Italian planes, tanks, guns, and poison gas crushed the Ethiopian spears and swords.
      • The Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie appealed to the League. Despite the League’s condemnation, no one did anything and Italy continued to invade. By giving in to Mussolini, the League of Nations were trying to preserve peace.
    • Hitler Defies Versailles Treaty
      • Hitler’s goal was to undo the Versailles treaty. The treaty limited the German army size, and in 1935, Hitler decided to ignore these restrictions. The League only mildly protested.
      • Their failure to stop Germany emboldened Hitler, allowing him to enter the 30-mile wide neutral zone around the Rhine River (Rhineland). This zone was designed to be a buffer between Germany and France. This invasion stunned France but they were still unwilling to risk war. The British wanted appeasement, giving in to keep peace.
      • Even Hitler would have backed down if either France or Britain had challenged him. However, they did not and this kicked off the war. Hitler became more powerful and France was in a vulnerable position. Hitler speed up his expansion.
      • Hitler and Mussolini reached an agreement in 1936, forming the Rome-Berlin Axis. Germany also made an agreement with Japan, forming the Axis Powers.
    • Civil War Erupts in Spain
      • In Spain, the republic was formed in 1931. However in 1936, the army leaders started a revolt, trying to create Fascist-style governments.
      • Hitler and Mussolini tried to help Francisco Franco, leader of the revolting Nationalists. They sent troops, tanks, and airplanes to help. The Republicans, supporters of the elected government, received almost no help from the other European nations. Only the Soviet Union sent equipment and advisors. In 1939, the Republicans collapsed and Spain fell to Franco, the Fascist dictator.
  • Democratic Nations Try to Preserve Peace

    Instead of fighting back, Britain and France continued to make concessions with he Fascists, trying to keep peace. They tried to avoid war as they were still going through economic issues and still remembered the horrors of WWI.

    • United States Follows an Isolationist Policy
      • Most Americans believed in isolationism and wanted to remain neutral. In 1935, Congress passed 3 Neutrality Acts, banning loans and selling arms to nations at war.
    • The German Reich Expands
      • In 1937, Hitler decided to take over Austria and Czechoslovakia, making them part of the Third Reich (German Empire). While the Treaty of Versailles banned a union between Austria and Germany, Austrians wanted this and Hitler annexed Austria. France and Britain did not do anything.
      • Hitler began to look at Czechoslovakia. The Czechs did not want to be ruled by Germany and turned to France for help.
    • Britain and France Again Choose Appeasement
      • France and Britain were about to prepare for war when Mussolini proposed the Munich Conference in 1938, At this conference, Germany, France, Britain, and Italy met to try and keep peace. Britain and France agreed to give Hitler the Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia). In exchange, Hitler would respect Czechoslovakia’s new borders.
      • 6 months later, Hitler broke the agreement and took Czechoslovakia. Mussolini took Albania. Hitler tried to take Poland, and Poland turned to Britain and France. However, Hitler was convinced that Britain and France would not risk war.
    • Nazis and Soviets Sign Nonaggression Pact
      • Britain and France talked with the Soviet Union about stopping Hitler. Stalin talked with both Britain and France AND Hitler. Hitler and Stalin made an agreement not to attack each other. Their leaders signed a nonaggression pact, and the Axis Powers continued unchecked.