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#191: US Declares War on Japan, Germany and Italy

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Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, center, walking through a desert village in Egypt
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, center, walking through a desert village in Egypt

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

(MUSIC)

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December of nineteen forty-one was one of the most successful surprise attacks in the history of modern warfare. Japanese warships, including several aircraft carriers, crossed the western Pacific to Hawaii without being seen. They launched their plannoes on a quiet Sunday morning and attacked the huge American naval and air base at Pearl Harbor

(SOUND: Pearl Harbor attack)

ANNOUNCER: "We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin: The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by air, President Roosevelt has just announced."

ANNOUNCER: "The attack apparently was made on all naval and military activities on the principal island of Oahu. A Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor naturally would mean war."

STEVE EMBER: Many of the American sailors were asleep or at church. They were unprepared for the attack. In fact, some people outside the base thought the Japanese planes must be new types of American aircraft on training flights. The sounds of guns and bombs soon showed how wrong they were.

The Japanese planes sank or seriously damaged six powerful American battleships in just a few minutes. They killed more than three thousand sailors. They destroyed or damaged half the American airplanes in Hawaii.

The USS California after being struck by a torpedo and a bomb during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
The USS California after being struck by a torpedo and a bomb during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

American forces, caught by surprise, were unable to offer much of a fight. Japanese losses were very low.

There was so much destruction at Pearl Harbor that officials in Washington did not immediately reveal the full details to the public. They were afraid that Americans might panic if they learned the truth about the loss of so much military power.

The following day, President Franklin Roosevelt went to Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Japan.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: "Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

"Yesterday, December seventh, nineteen forty-one -- 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. The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor, looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific ...

"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory...

"We will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us ...

"I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, nineteen forty-one, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire."

STEVE EMBER: The Senate approved President Roosevelt's request without any opposition. In the House of Representatives, only one congressman objected to the declaration of war against Japan.

(MUSIC)

Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Congress reacted by declaring war on those two countries.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended the long American debate over whether to become involved in the Second World War. American politicians and citizens had argued for years about whether to remain neutral or to fight to help Britain and France and other friends.

An American soldier in training
An American soldier in training

Japan's aggressive attack at Pearl Harbor united Americans in a common desire for military victory. It made Americans willing to do whatever was necessary to win the war. And it pushed America into a kind of world leadership that its people had never known before.

President Franklin Roosevelt and his advisers had to make an important decision about how to fight the war. Would the United States fight Japan first, or Germany, or both at the same time?

Japan's attack had brought America into the war. And it had severely damaged American military power. But Roosevelt decided not to strike back at Japan immediately. He would use most of his forces to fight Germany.

There were several reasons for Roosevelt's decision. First, Germany already controlled much of Europe, as well as much of the Atlantic Ocean. Roosevelt considered this a direct threat. And he worried about possible German intervention in Latin America.

Second, Germany was an advanced industrial nation. It had many scientists and engineers. Its factories were modern. Roosevelt was concerned that Germany might be able to develop deadly new weapons, such as an atomic bomb, if it was not stopped quickly.

Third, Britain historically was one of America's closest allies. And the British people were united and fighting for their lives against Germany. This was not true in Asia. Japan's most important opponent was China. But China's fighting forces were weak and divided, and could not offer strong opposition to the Japanese.

(MUSIC)

Adolf Hitler's decision to break his treaty with Soviet leader Josef Stalin and attack the Soviet Union made Roosevelt's choice final. The American leader recognized that the Germans would have to fight on two fronts: in the west against Britain and in the east against Russia.

He decided it was best to attack Germany while its forces were divided. So the United States sent most of its troops and supplies to Britain to join the fight against Germany.

American military leaders hoped to attack Germany quickly by launching an attack across the English Channel. Stalin also supported this plan. Soviet forces were suffering terrible losses from the Nazi attack and wanted the British and Americans to fight the Germans on the west.

However, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other leaders opposed launching an invasion across the English Channel too quickly. They worried that such an invasion might fail, while the Germans were still so strong. And they knew this would mean disaster.

For this reason, British and American forces decided instead to attack the Italian and German troops occupying North Africa.

British forces had been fighting the Italians and Germans in North Africa since late nineteen forty. They fought the Italians first in Egypt and Libya. British forces had successfully pushed the Italians across Libya. They killed more than ten thousand Italian troops and captured more than one hundred thirty thousand prisoners.

But the British success did not last long. Hitler sent one of his best commanders, General Erwin Rommel, to take command of the Italians. Rommel was brave and smart. He pushed the British back from Libya to the border with Egypt. And in a giant battle at Tobruk, he destroyed or captured more than eight hundred of Britain's nine hundred tanks.

(SOUND: Rommel's tanks)

Rommel's progress threatened Egypt and the Suez Canal. So Britain and the United States moved quickly to send more troops and supplies to stop him.

Slowly, British forces led by General Bernard Montgomery pushed Rommel and the Germans back to Tripoli in Libya.

Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel

In November nineteen forty-two, American and British forces commanded by General Dwight Eisenhower landed in northwest Africa. They planned to attack Rommel from the west, while Montgomery attacked him from the east.

But Rommel knew Eisenhower's troops had done little fighting before. So he attacked them quickly before they could launch their own attack.

A major battle took place at Kasserine Pass in western Tunisia. American forces suffered heavy losses. But in the end Rommel's attack failed. Three months later, American forces joined with Montgomery's British troops to force the Germans in North Africa to surrender.

The battle of North Africa was over. The allied forces of Britain and the United States had regained control of the southern Mediterranean Sea. They could now attack Hitler's forces in Europe from the south.

(SOUND)

The Allies wasted no time. They landed on the Italian island of Sicily in July of nineteen forty-three. German tanks fought back. But the British and American forces moved ahead. Soon they captured Sicily's capital, Palermo. And within weeks, they forced the German forces to leave Sicily for the Italian mainland.

In late July, Italy's dictator, Benito Mussolini, was overthrown and placed in prison. The Germans rescued him and helped him establish a new government, protected by German troops. But still the Allies attacked.

They crossed to the Italian mainland. The Germans fought hard. And for some time, they prevented the allied troops from breaking out of the coastal areas.

The fighting grew bloodier. A fierce battle took place at Monte Cassino. Thousands and thousands of soldiers lost their lives. But slowly the allies advanced north through Italy. They captured Rome in June of nineteen forty-four. And they forced the Germans back into the mountains of northern Italy.

The allies would not gain complete control of Italy until the end of the war. But they had succeeded in increasing their control of the Mediterranean and pushing back the Germans.

One reason Hitler's forces were not stronger in Africa and Italy was because German armies also were fighting in Russia. That will be our story next week.

(MUSIC)

Our program was written by David Jarmul. You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.666321.live. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English.

___

This was program #191. For earlier programs, type "Making of a Nation" in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.

1941年12月日本對珍珠港的突然襲擊是現代戰爭史上最成功的偷襲之一。包括數艘航空母艦在內的日本軍艦悄無聲息地穿越西太平洋,星期日早晨,向美軍位于夏威夷的重要??哲娛禄卣渲楦郯l動突然襲擊。

播音員說,"我們打斷本節目的正常播出,插播一條特別新聞:羅斯??偨y宣布,日本向夏威夷珍珠港發動進攻。很顯然,日本進攻目標是瓦胡島上所有海軍及軍事設施,日本對珍珠港的進攻,自然意味著戰爭。"

那時,許多美國水兵正在睡覺或禮拜,他們毫無準備。事實上,海軍基地以外的一些人看到日本飛機,還以為是美國空軍的訓練飛行。當轟炸聲響起時,大家才恍然大悟。在短短幾分鐘內,日本飛機就擊沉或嚴重損毀了六艘美國戰艦,炸死3000多名美國水兵,摧毀或嚴重損壞了美國在夏威夷軍事基地一半的飛機。

日本的突然襲擊,讓美軍措手不及,日本人員傷亡非常少。珍珠港遭受巨大損失,華盛頓沒敢將細節公諸于眾,以免公眾知道美國遭受如此重大的軍事損失而陷入恐慌。第二天,富蘭克林.羅斯??偨y前往國會,要求向日本宣戰。

富蘭克林.羅斯福說:"尊敬的副總統先生、尊敬的眾議院議長先生、各位參議員和眾議員:昨天,也就是1941年12月7日是我們的國恥日,這一天,我們美利堅合眾國遭到日本海軍和空軍有預謀的突然襲擊。美國一直與日本保持和平,還應日本政府要求,與日本政府在就維護太平洋的和平進行談判。

羅斯福說:針對這次有預謀的侵略,無論需要多長時間,正直的美國人民必將取得徹底勝利。我們不僅要盡全力保護好自己,而且還要確保這種背信棄義的行為不再危及我們的安全。我要求國會宣布,由于日本無端、卑鄙地發動突襲,自1941年12月7日這一天起,美國與日本處于戰爭狀態。"

參議院全票通過羅斯福的要求,眾議院只有一票反對。三天后,德國和意大利向美國宣戰,國會以向這兩個國家宣戰作為回應。日本偷襲珍珠港結束了美國國內長期以來關于是否應當參加二戰的爭論。美國政界和公眾多年來一直圍繞保持中立還是幫助英法和其他盟友作戰而爭論不休。

日本偷襲珍珠港,促使美國人團結一致,爭取軍事勝利,讓美國人為取得戰爭勝利而不惜任何代價,也把美國推向了世界領導的地位,這是美國人從未體驗過的。羅斯福和他的助手們面臨一個重要決定。美國是先打日本?還是先打德國?或是同時跟日德兩國開戰呢?

雖說是日本的進攻把美國拖入戰爭,并對美國軍力造成嚴重打擊的,但羅斯??偨y決定不立即對日本進行還擊,而是先集中主要力量,對付德國。

羅斯福這樣決定有幾方面原因:首先,德國已經控制歐洲大部分領土和大西洋的大部分海域,羅斯福認為這對美國是最直接的威脅,而且他還擔心德國會干涉拉美事務。

其次,德國是一個發達的工業化國家,擁有大批科學家、工程師和現代化工廠。羅斯福擔心,如果不盡快阻止德國,德國可能會研制出新型的致命武器,如原子彈。

第三,英國長期以來一直是美國最親密的盟友之一,英國人民正團結一致抵抗德國的進攻。而在亞洲卻不然,日本的主要對手是中國,但中國的抵抗力量卻很薄弱,而且處于分裂狀態,無法對日本形成強有力的抵抗。

羅斯福認識到,德國必須兩條戰線同時拉開:在西線對付英國,在東線對付俄羅斯。羅斯福認為,德國軍事力量分散時,與德國作戰是最好時機。所以,美國將大部分軍隊和軍備派往英國,與英軍一起對付德國。

美軍指揮官希望能盡快渡過英吉利海峽進攻德國。斯大林也支持這一計劃。蘇聯的軍事力量在納粹德國進攻下損失慘重,因此希望英美在西線向德國發動進攻。

然而,英國首相丘吉爾和其他領導人則反對立即渡過英吉利海峽進攻德國。他們擔心,德軍力量眼下依然十分強大,一旦進攻失敗,后果將不堪設想。

基于這個原因,英國和美國決定先打擊意大利和德國控制的北非。1940年下半年以來,英軍一直在北非與意大利和德國軍隊作戰。英軍先在埃及和利比亞與意大利軍隊作戰并取得勝利,將意大利軍隊趕出了利比亞,消滅了一萬多意大利軍隊,并俘獲了13萬意大利戰俘。

但是英軍的勝利并未持續多久。希特勒派他最優秀將領之一,埃爾溫.隆美爾將軍接管意大利軍隊。隆美爾英勇善戰,把英軍趕出利比亞,直到埃及邊境。在托布魯克戰役中,他摧毀或俘獲了英軍九百輛坦克中的八百多輛。

隆美爾的進攻威脅到了埃及和蘇伊士運河,英國和美國因此迅速向北非增派軍隊和物資,設法阻止隆美爾進攻的步伐。慢慢地,由蒙哥馬利將軍領導的英軍把隆美爾壓回到利比亞首都的黎波里。

1942年11月,艾森豪威爾領導的美英聯軍在非洲西北部登陸,計劃從西面向隆美爾發動進攻,與此同時,蒙哥馬利從東線發動進攻。但是隆美爾知道艾森豪威爾的軍隊沒打過仗,所以在艾森豪威爾還未發起進攻前就先發制人。

一場主要戰役在突尼斯西部的卡塞林上演。美軍遭受重大損失,但最后,隆美爾的進攻以失敗告終。三個月后,美軍與蒙哥馬利領導的英軍會合,迫使北非的德軍投降。北非戰役結束了,英美聯軍重新控制了地中海南部,他們下一步準備從南面進攻位于歐洲的希特勒軍隊。

盟軍沒有浪費時間,1943年7月他們在意大利西西里島登陸。德國坦克發起反擊,但英美聯軍繼續前進,不久就占領了西西里島的首府巴勒莫。幾星期內,英美聯軍就迫使德軍放棄西西里,撤回意大利內陸。

7月下旬,意大利獨裁者墨索里尼被推翻,并被關進監獄。德國把他營救出來,在德軍保護下,幫他建立了新政權。但盟軍繼續進攻。英美聯軍向意大利本島推進,德軍發起激烈還擊,一度將盟軍阻止在沿海區域。

戰斗進入白熱化,蒙特卡西諾發生激戰,成千上萬士兵陣亡。但盟軍慢慢在意大利向北推進。1944年6月,盟軍占領了意大利首都羅馬,將德軍趕到了意大利北部山區。

直到二戰結束前,盟軍也未完全控制意大利,但盟軍成功地加強了對地中海的控制,并壓制了德國的進攻。非洲和意大利的德軍之所以不那么強大,一個主要原因是德國同時在與蘇聯作戰。

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