"May the year 1940 be pointed to by our children as another period when democracy justified its existence as the best instrument of government yet devised by mankind." Pres. Franklin Roosevelt concluded his State of the Union Address (delivered on January 3, 1940) with these words of cautious optimism. Contemporary totalitarian governments — Stalin's communist regime in the USSR and the fascist governments of Germany, Italy, and Japan — dealt in political repression to control their own citizens and military aggression (in the case of the fascist axis) in an attempt to control the world. By fall 1939 Nazi Germany had invaded Poland; and by the time Roosevelt delivered his 1941 State of the Union Address, Germany occupied most of western Europe and had placed England under a state of siege. Fascist Italy under Mussolini had conquered Ethiopia and occupied Albania. And the fascist military government in Japan had instituted its own plans to control China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific.
The threat of world domination would test the will and courage of the United States government, its citizens, and especially the allied nations who were in immediate peril. Within the United States the moral dilemma hearkened back to the American Civil War, the fight for the abolition of slavery, and its horrific personal cost.