|World War II|
| Soviet Union|| Germany
|Commanders and leaders|
| Mikhail Tukhachevsky|| Paul von Hindenburg
|Casualties and losses|
World War II (WW2 or WWII), also known as the Second World War, was a global conflict that lasted from 1941 to 1945. It involved most of the world’s great powers.
In 1934, the majority of the high-ranking members of the German Nazi Party were assassinated by members of the German Communist Party. Key leaders, including Hitler, Himmer, Göring and Göbbels were killed in the beginning of what would be called Tragischewoche, or Week of Tragedy. At the end of the bloody, week-long civil war, a military dictatorship under Oskar von Hindenburg remained victorious. Hindenburg dissolved the Weimar Republic and declared the Deutsches Reich, or the German Empire. For the next decade, the new military government passed sweeping reforms and laws, subsidizing many businesses and revitalizing the long-abolished German military-industrial complex.
Soon afterwards, in 1935 the Treaty of Saar Basin was signed between Germany and France, returning Saarland from France to Germany. Soon afterwards, Hindenburg repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and officially began Germany’s rearmament program. Conscription was also initiated.
As a test of his power, Hindenburg remilitarized the Rhineland soon afterwards. He received little response from the rest of the European powers, who were desperate to avoid another Great War.
In 1938, Germany invaded Austria, annexing the small nation into Germany proper by August of 1939.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union pursued its own policy of expansion, creating the People’s Republic of East Turkestan in the East. The USSR also began funding Chinese communists against Chiang Kai-shek and his nationalist Kuomintang.
In 1935, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and the Red Army led a coup d’état against Stalin and the NKVD in the midst of Stalin’s purges. The Red Army quickly overran the Kremlin, and Stalin was executed on March 14, 1935. The NKVD was purged of Stalin supporters and Marshal Tukhachevsky was declared Chairman of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The Lithuania Crisis of 1940 set the stage for World War II, with Soviet troops facing off against Polish troops over the brief Polish occupation of Lithuania. Poland ultimately withdrew from Lithuania in return for a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. To protect themselves, Estonia and Latvia agreed to host Soviet troops and military bases.
The Republican Alcalá-Zamora regime in Spain invaded Portugal in 1940.
In the Far East, Japan sought its own policy of expansion, buying West Papua in 1934 from the Netherlands. In 1935, Japan invaded China. China capitulated in 1937, leading to the recreation of Imperial China as a Japanese puppet state. With the conquest of China, Japan created the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere under the banner of Pan-Asianism.
Course of the War
Invasion of the Soviet Union and rapid escalation (1941)
World War II officially began on September 19, 1941 with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Poland had signed an agreement with Germany allowing troops to be stationed in its country. German Army Group North led by Heinz Gundurian struck Soviet forces in Lithuania, while Army Group South led by Erich von Manstein made inroads into the Soviet Union itself. German forces were backed up by the Polish Army.
Two days after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Republic of France declared war on Germany. With the bulk of mobilized German forces in the East, French troops were able to advance rapidly through western Germany, taking Saarland and large swaths of the Rhineland. Stiff resistance around the Ruhr area stopped the French offensive, which largely relied on infantry and was unsuited for large-scale urban assault.
On September 25, Finland formally declared war and invaded the Soviet Union with a force of 225,000 infantry, 25 tanks, and 100 aircraft. The light army advanced towards Petroskoi, the capitol of Karelia. Initial progress was swift, but resistance stiffened dramatically as the small army approached the regional capitol.
The Netherlands experienced a mostly bloodless coup on November 3. The new government, headed by President Jan de Witt moved the capitol to Rotterdam. Two days later, on November 5, the new government of the Netherlands declared war on France, citing its “unprovoked invasion of its good friend and ally Germany” as its casus beli.
In Ireland, the Irish Corporatist Party banned the Labour Party and began deportation of British citizens. Within 24 hours, the Irish government established a secret alliance with Germany.
The Soviet Union quickly withdrew from Estonia and Latvia, recognizing the dire threat to their own nation. German advance was initially swift, but bogged down as they countered heavy resistance by Soviet forces inside Russia. Kiev was overrun by Army Group B on December 15, and the Ukrainian SSR ceased to exist as a polity by Christmas. Meanwhile, Army Group North roared through the Belorussian and Lithuanian SSRs, taking Minsk before the one-day Christmas ceasefire.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting occurred between French and Germany forces around the Ruhr industrial area. With most German forces mobilized in the East, Germany was unable to repulse French forces, while the skewed ratio between French infantry and tanks led to French troops being unable to take the Ruhr. An impasse of sorts was reached, although France retained Saarland and most of the Rhineland.
Soviet counterattack and stalemate
Socialist Turkey invaded the staunchly anti-communist Greece on January 3, 1942, rapidly advancing into the nation. An amphibious invasion of Athens occurred simultaneously with a land invasion through Alexandropoulos in the northeast. However, Athens remained out of reach of Turkish forces, who were unable to take the city in the face of fierce resistance by the Greek military and citizenry.
On February 28, Belgium declared war on the Soviet Union, sending 25,000 troops to the Eastern Front in support of Poland.
Italy joined Turkey in invading Greece on March 5, sending an army of 115,000 men and 240 tanks to assist the Turks. Large inroads had been made by early June, although Athens remained in control of Greek forces.
In the Soviet Union, the entirety of German Army Group North was surrounded in a brilliant counterstroke engineered by Marshal Georgy Zhukov. Faced with dwindling food and fuel, Marshal Gundarian attempted to break the encirclement via brute force. The attempt was partially successful, with 291,000 out of the original 600,000 men surviving. The casualty rate among tanks was slightly lower, with 781 out of 1,100 tanks surviving the breakthrough. The army group was scattered after breaking free, and an estimated 50,000 Germans were hunted down and killed in the ensuing battle. The majority of German tanks were able to make it back to friendly territory.
The destruction of Army Group North represented a significant turning point in the war. Fearing encirclement, Manstein and Army Group South retreated back to Kiev, where the Wehrmacht had set up High Command.
War in Africa
Taking advantage of the French invasion of Germany, Ethiopia invaded Djibouti; the invasion was easily repulsed by local French troops, who routed Ethiopia’s vaunted 400,000 man army via use of overwhelming force and mechanized armor.