During World War II, Minnesotans came together to fight against the spread of oppression and tyranny in Europe and the Pacific.

World War II began in Europe on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded neighboring Poland. In response, England, France, and other allied European nations declared war on Germany two days later. More European countries were drawn into the conflict as Germany continued to expand its territory, supported by its ally, Italy. However, many Americans remained reluctant to get involved in what they saw as a foreign war.

While the war in Europe raged, Japan was also extending its power and control in Asia. In September 1940, the Japanese joined the Axis powers Germany and Italy. Japanese leaders hoped to deter the United States from entering the war by attacking the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese military launched a surprise air attack on the ships, ports, and airfields of the Pearl Harbor naval base. The bombardment destroyed 19 U.S. Navy ships, including 8 battleships, as well as more than 180 aircraft. Over 2,400 Americans were killed.

The American response to Pearl Harbor was immediate. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in a speech before the United States Congress:

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.

Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 8, 1941

He asked Congress to declare war on Japan and they did. Japan’s allies Germany and Italy then declared war on the United States in return, and the country finally became a major player in the worldwide conflict.

Here are some of the Minnesotans who served:

Start exploring this exhibit using the page links below: