5 Things You Didn't Know About World War II

On August 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced that Japan had unconditionally surrendered to the Allies, ending World War II.  You may know the major details of the war, but here are five things you probably didn't know about World War II.

 
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The U.S. Was Already Sort of Involved With the War Well Before Pearl Harbor Was Attacked The United States did not join the fighting in World War II until the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the country wasn't exactly neutral and uninvolved before then. The U.S. had started manufacturing equipment for Great Britain after the Neutrality Acts -- laws that stopped the U.S. from aiding warring countries -- were superseded by the Lend-Lease agreement, which did allow for loans or gifts of equipment. The U.S. was also working with Greenland on base construction and troop lodging, ostensibly to protect equipment covered by the Lend-Lease agreement.

The U.S. Joined the Fighting Late Because of a Small Army and Poor Economy Despite the manufacturing and base construction, the country did not enter the actual fighting until after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Part of the reluctance had to do with the poor state of the U.S. military at the time. It was small and not trained to handle a world war. The government did realize this was a problem and began training more men for potential conflicts in the late 1930s and 1940, even though the country still didn't plan to fight. There was also the question of finances because all that manufacturing was shoring up a weak, Depression-influenced economy. The money went right back into society instead of being funneled toward troops. While many in the government recognized that joining the war was inevitable, many others wanted to preserve the growing economy and prevent the military from being obliterated by larger forces.

 
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Food Rationing Continued in the United States Until 1947 -- and in the UK Until 1954 Both the U.S. and UK rationed goods from food to gas to clothes during World War II. But when the war ended, the rationing didn't end; in fact, much of it became stricter as countries tried to reopen supply lines, rebuild agricultural economies, and feed refugees. Rationing did lessen after a while, with various goods taken off the rationing list as the years went by, but food rationing in the U.S. didn't end completely until 1947, and rationing in the UK didn't fully end until 1954.

Chances Are Japan Was Just About Ready to Surrender Even Before the Bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima Did you learn in school that the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima brought a powerful Japan to its knees, forcing a surrender? The bombings were certainly devastating, but the country was already suffering and looking at a potential loss well before those two cities were destroyed. The repeated firebombings of other Japanese cities had destroyed a lot of infrastructure, and there's a theory now that the country was ready to surrender anyway.

Several Cities, and One State, Still Celebrate V-J Day V-J Day, the day that Japan surrendered, is celebrated as a state holiday called Victory Day in Rhode Island. You can also find local city celebrations around the country, including in Kansas, Indiana, and Connecticut.