Term Paper: FDR and LDB, War Leaders

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FDR and LDB, War Leaders

Franklin D. Roosevelt was considered by many to be an amazing leader. He was elected President of the United States for four terms, a feat unheard of even today. He also demonstrated many leadership qualities that made him stand out from past and current political leaders. Numerous scholars and research agree FDR was not just a strong political leader, but a good war leader as World War II began to hit the United States with Japan in full swing.

Lyndon B. Johnson had to take the reins of presidency when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Unlike his predecessors, not only did he have to quell the growing fears and anger of the American public, but he also had to deal with America's involvement in the Vietnam War. Many would argue his leadership during that time was ineffective because it led to several protests among American citizens and ultimately a horrific time in Vietnam for America's soldiers as the fight to end the spread of Communism ceased. But did that make him a weaker war leader than someone like Franklin D. Roosevelt?

Both FDR and LBJ were presidents during two difficult and lengthy wars. World War II was not only just a few decades after World War I, but it was also happening during a great change in America. The middle class was finally growing and people were beginning to become upwardly mobile. Similarly during the Vietnam War, America was attempting to find itself amidst foreign policy and political agendas. Both presidents had to face foreign threats and foreign policy. Both had to deal with beginning, taking action in the war.

Starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt, World War II had already started when he began his third term as President of the United States. During his third term Japan became an increasingly serious threat as Kamikaze pilots began surfacing, hitting allied vessels. When Pearl Harbor was struck down on December 7th, 1941, FDR knew he had to take action, and subsequently declared war on Japan as well as enabled America to become an active alliance member to Great Britain.

When FDR signed the declaration of war against Japan on December 11th, 1941, just four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR felt it was the right course of action. He feared Japan was most likely to attack the U.S. again and believed taking actions against Japan would protect America and its citizens. FDR assumed the most probable attack before Pearl Harbor by the Japanese would happen in the Dutch East Indies or Thailand. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, a few thousand American lives were lost with only dozens of Japanese deaths.

The Japanese specifically targeted Pearl Harbor to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Of the ships destroyed or damaged, sixteen warships, containing most of the fleet's battleships were lost. Three thousand American military personnel and civilians were also killed. The news struck America and its presidents hard with FDR calling Churchill to confirm the news. He stated: "We are all in the same boat now." Meaning he knew America had to take an active role in the war from that point forward.

The actions following the attack had the President summon his cabinet to evaluate the events and to examine a draft of his speech addressed the next day to Congress. Unlike LBJ who declared war on communism, FDR was more selective with outright rejection of declaration of war against Germany and Japan seeing Japan as the imminent threat. FDR's now famous "Infamy Speech" was seen as FDR's best move in regards to the declaration of war on Japan. In his speech he said "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan" (Congressional Record, n.d., p. 1). With his speech, he convinced Congress to pass a declaration of war against Japan just an hour after he gave the speech. Viewing the threat the Japanese posed, and being smart enough to pick and choose his battles, FDR proved he was a Great War leader from the very beginning. His actions helped push back Japanese threat which towards the end of World War II, included the use of atom bombs.

In 1942 Roosevelt constructed a new military command structure. The military command structure included newly appointed Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King who received complete control of the Navy and Marines. FDR then put General George C. Marshall in command of the Army along with receiving minimal control of the Air Force. The Air Force was commanded by General Hap Arnold.

From there, Roosevelt designed a new body labeled the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This body made the ultimate choices on American military strategy (Roosevelt & In Nixon, 1969, p. 112). One important thing to note of the leadership of FDR was not dominant in his actions with his decisions seldom overriding the decisions of his advisors. He also circumvented the State Department and directed high level diplomacy through his aides, like Harry Hopkins. Hopkins controlled $50 billion in Lend Lease funds allocated to the Allies, making him a person people listened to (Goodwin, 1994, p. 84).

Along with rising pro-war sentiment after the bombing, FDR also put into effect Japanese-American internment. On February 19, 1942, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 which transferred the "Issei" and "Nissei" or first born Japanese immigrants and the dual citizenship children into internment camps (Goodwin, 1994, p. 96). Subsequently after Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany declared war on the United States, Italians and Germans were also arrested or interned. He also worked with Stalin and Churchill in order to formulate effective military strategies during the war with deliver of military resources to Guadalcanal in October 1942 to prevent the Japanese from overrunning the area. "On the evening of November 28, 1943, the leaders of the Allied war effort-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, and Premier Josef Stalin-discussed the world's most destructive modern war." (Millett, Maslowski, & Feis, 2012, p. 65). His actions led to the Japanese Pacific offensive being stalled. Furthermore, the $50 billion in Lend Lease Funds served to aid the rest of the allied forces. His actions along with his humble and egalitarian efforts enabled the U.S. To take charge.

Lyndon B. Johnson was similar at the same time vastly different than Franklin D. Roosevelt. LBJ had to deal with the aftermath of a Presidential assassination and stopping the spread of Communism. Unlike FDR who took a passive, neutral approach before the war, LBJ was more active believing the "Domino Theory" would take effect in Vietnam if Communism was instilled in their society. He was adamantly supportive of South Vietnam against the NLF (National Liberation Front) (Caro, 1982, p. 38). Similarly to FDR who listened to his advisors, LBJ took an aggressive approach in dealing with the situation over in Vietnam by sending U.S. troops to strengthen the South Vietnam Army.

His actions however forceful were only done after he was elected for a second term. In fact a lot of his actions made him regretful because the American public felt so strongly against involvement in the Vietnam War. His support of "Operation Plan 34B" involved directing Asian mercenaries into North Vietnam to produce acts of sabotage. He also included in the reconnaissance program, the "USS Maddox" which was subsequently attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats. (Westheider, 2007, p. 103). This attack then prompted LBJ to order bombing raids on North Vietnam. Like FDR, LBJ did not want America or himself to appear "weak" and so took military action as seeing the only possible choice.

Many people when they think of LBJ as a war leader see the mistakes he made during his presidency in relation to the Vietnam War. America surrendered involvement in Vietnam, pulling back their troops and losing the war. Had he been victorious in the war, like FDR was during WWII, he may have been seen as a better war leader. That however still did not keep the Congress from supporting most of his actions and agreeing on the threat communism played in Vietnam.

One of the main reasons people felt LBJ was weak as a war leader was simply the speed in which he took action. He often waited until after the thought to commit to anything with the exception of the North Vietnamese attack on the "USS Maddox." He also did not appear firm in his actions or convictions. FDR quickly and clearly dealt with problems resulting from WWII with either taking a neutral stance or an aggressive one. LBJ's wavering sentiments is what caused people in America to lose faith in the cause America was fighting for in Vietnam, and possibly why America lost the Vietnam War.

Ultimately both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson were good presidents with considerable success in gaining re-election and passing important policies. They… [END OF PREVIEW]

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