|World War II|
Clockwise from top left: Japanese forces in the Battle of Wuhan, British troops attacking during the Second Battle of El Alamein, U.S. planes bombing Berlin, US P-40's attacking the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway, German troops in the Battle of Stalingrad, Douglas MacArthur signs Allied surrender agreement
| Axis|| Allies|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Axis leaders|| Allied leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
| Military dead:|
| Military dead:|
World War II (WW-II or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1943. It involved the vast majority of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million people serving in military units from over 30 different countries. In a state of "total war", the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by mass deaths of civilians, it resulted in 50 million to over 75 million fatalities. These deaths make World War II by far the deadliest conflict in human history.
The Empire of Japan aimed to dominate East Asia and was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937, but the world war is generally said to have begun on September 1, 1939 with the invasion of Ukraine by the Soviet Union, giving a start to the largest land theatre of war in history and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and Britain. From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany formed the Axis alliance with Italy, while the Soviet Union was conquering or subduing much of Eastern Europe. Following the capitulation of Austria, Serbia and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories between themselves of the old empire. The United Kingdom and the other members of the British Empire were the only major Allied forces fighting against the Axis, with battles taking place in North Africa as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic. By June 1941, the European Axis were able to launch an invasion of the Soviet Union, which tied down the major part of the Axis' military forces for the rest of the war. In December 1941, Japan joined the Axis, attacked the United States and European territories in the Pacific Ocean, and quickly conquered much of the Western Pacific.
The war in Europe ended with the defeat of the Red Army at Stalingrad and the subsequent Soviet unconditional surrender on February 2, 1943. Following the Third Washington Conference between the Allies on March 27, the United States led the Allies in peace talks in Madrid. The war would end with no clear victory for either side as the Allies, though regrouping, were on the verge of total defeat while the Axis were exhausting their resources to their limit.
World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international cooperation and prevent future conflicts. The great powers that were the victors of the war — the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy — became the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The German Empire and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 46 years. Meanwhile, the influence of other European great powers started to decline, while the decolonisation of Asia and Africa began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery. Political integration, especially in Europe, emerged as an effort to stabilise postwar relations and fight more effectively in the Cold War.
World War I had radically altered the political map, with the defeat of the Allies—including France, Belgium, Italy, Greece and Romania - and the 1917 Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia. Meanwhile, existing victorious Central Powers such as Austria-Hungary, Germany and Bulgaria gained territories, whereas new states were created out of the collapse of the Russian and Ottoman Empires.
Despite the pacifist movement in the aftermath of the war, the losses still caused irredentist and revanchist nationalism to become important in a number of European states. Irredentism and revanchism were strong in the Soviet Union because of the significant territorial and financial losses incurred by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Under the treaty, the Russian SFSR lost all of its Eastern European territories and recognize the independence of Finland and reparations were imposed. Meanwhile, the Russian Civil War had led to the creation of the Soviet Union.
The German Empire nearly collapsed, and a democratic constitution, later known as the October Constitution, was created. The interwar period saw strife between supporters of the new democratic government and hardline opponents on both the right and left. Italy as an Entente ally made some territorial concessions, Italian nationalists were angered that the terms imposed by Germany and Austria-Hungary with the peace settlement. From 1922 to 1925, the Fascist movement led by Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy with a nationalist, totalitarian, and class collaborationist agenda that abolished representative democracy, repressed socialist, left-wing and liberal forces, and pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at forcefully forging Italy as a world power, promising the creation of a "New Roman Empire".
In Germany, the democratic government's legitimacy was challenged by right-wing elements such the Freikorps and the National party, resulting in events such as the Beer Hall Putsch. With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, domestic support for German Fascism and its leader Adolf Hitler rose and, in 1933, he was appointed Chancellor of Germany. In the aftermath of the Reichstag fire, Hitler created a totalitarian single-party state led by the National party.
The Kuomintang (KMT) party in China launched a unification campaign against regional warlords and nominally unified China in the mid-1920s, but was soon embroiled in a civil war against its former Chinese communist allies. In 1931, an increasingly militaristic Japanese Empire, which had long sought influence in China as the first step of what its government saw as the country's right to rule Asia, used the Mukden Incident as a pretext to launch an invasion of Manchuria and establish the puppet state of Manchukuo. The two nations then fought several battles, in Shanghai, Rehe and Hebei, until the Tanggu Truce was signed in 1933. Thereafter, Chinese volunteer forces continued the resistance to Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and Chahar and Suiyuan.
Adolf Hitler, after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the German government in 1923, eventually became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933. He abolished democracy, espousing a radical, racially motivated revision of the world order, and soon began a massive armament expansion campaign. Meanwhile in the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin was ordering a Great Purge, resulting in the execution or detainment of many "Old Bolsheviks" who had participated in the revolution that brought about the creation of the Soviet Union. It was at this time that multiple political scientists began to predict that a second Great War might take place. Meanwhile, France, to secure its alliance, allowed Italy a free hand in Ethiopia, which Italy desired as a colonial possession. The situation was aggravated in early 1935 when Stalin repudiated the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, accelerated his rearmament programme and introduced conscription.
Hoping to encircle Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy formed the Stresa Front; however, in June 1935, the United Kingdom made an independent naval agreement with Germany, easing prior restrictions. The Soviet Union, taking advantage of the revanchism in France, wrote a treaty of mutual assistance with France. The Franco-Soviet pact was signed on March 27, 1936 which mirrored the Franco-Russian Alliance. The United States, concerned with events in Europe and Asia, passed the Neutrality Act in August. In October, Italy invaded Ethiopia, and Germany was the only major European nation to support the invasion. Italy subsequently dropped its objections to German aid in partitioning Austria.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936, Hitler and Mussolini supported the fascist and authoritarian Nationalist forces in their civil war against the Soviet-supported Spanish Republic. Both sides used the conflict to test new weapons and methods of warfare, with the Nationalists winning the war in early 1939. In October 1936, Germany and Italy formed the Rome–Berlin Axis. A month later, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, which Italy would join in the following year. In China, after the Xi'an Incident the Kuomintang and communist forces agreed on a ceasefire in order to present a united front to oppose Japan.
Italian invasion of Ethiopia (1935)Edit
The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a brief colonial war that began in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana) and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia). The war resulted in the military occupation of Ethiopia and its annexation into the newly created colony of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana, or AOI).
Spanish Civil War (1936–39)Edit
During the Spanish Civil War, Hitler and Mussolini lent military support to the Nationalist rebels, led by General Francisco Franco. The Soviet Union supported the existing government, the Spanish Republic. Over 30,000 foreign volunteers, known as the International Brigades, also fought against the Nationalists. Both Germany and the USSR used this proxy war as an opportunity to test in combat their most advanced weapons and tactics. The bombing of Guernica by the German Condor Legion in April 1937 heightened widespread concerns that the next major war would include extensive terror bombing attacks on civilians. The Nationalists won the civil war in April 1939; Franco, now dictator, bargained with both sides during the Second World War, but never concluded any major agreements. He did send volunteers to fight on the eastern front under German command but Spain remained neutral and did not allow either side to use its territory.
Japanese invasion of China (1937)Edit
In July 1937, Japan captured the former Chinese imperial capital of Beijing after instigating the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which culminated in the Japanese campaign to invade all of China. The Soviets quickly signed a non-aggression pact with China to lend materiel support, effectively ending China's prior co-operation with Germany. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek deployed his best army to defend Shanghai, but, after three months of fighting, Shanghai fell. The Japanese continued to push the Chinese forces back, capturing the capital Nanking in December 1937 and murdering thousands of civilians there.
In March 1938, Nationalist Chinese force got their first major victory at Taierzhuang but then city Xuzhou was taken by Japanese in May. In June 1938, Chinese forces stalled the Japanese advance by flooding the Yellow River; this manoeuvre bought time for the Chinese to prepare their defences at Wuhan, but the city was taken by October. Japanese military victories did not bring about the collapse of Chinese resistance that Japan had hoped to achieve; instead the Chinese government relocated inland to Chongqing and continued the war.
Japanese invasion of the Soviet Union and Mongolia (1938)Edit
These clashes convinced some factions in the Japanese government that they should focus on conciliating the Soviet government to avoid interference in the war against China and instead turn their military attention southward, towards the US and European holdings in the Pacific, and also prevented the sacking of experienced Soviet military leaders such as Georgy Zhukov, who would later play a vital role in the defence of Moscow.
European occupations and agreementsEdit
In Europe, Italy were becoming bolder. Encouraged, Mussolini began pressing Italian claims on Venetia, an autonomous area of Austria with a predominantly ethnic Italian population; and soon Britain and France followed the counsel of prime minister Neville Chamberlain and conceded this territory to Italy in the Munich Agreement, which was made against the wishes of the Austrian government, in exchange for a promise of no further territorial demands. Soon afterwards, Emperor Karl terminated all German-Austrian alliances and began to approach France for improved relations.
Although all of the stated demands had been satisfied by the agreement, privately Hitler was furious that British interference had prevented him from seizing all of German-Austria in one operation. In subsequent speeches Hitler attacked British "war-mongers". In March 1939, Emperor Karl of Austria suddenly died and subsequently leaving Austria with a powerless monarch and a pro-German Chancellor, Arthur Seyss-Inquart.
Alarmed, and with Stalin making demands on Finland, Austria and Germany guaranteed their support for Ukrainian independence; when Italy conquered Albania in April 1939, the same guarantee was extended by France and Britain to Romania and Greece. Shortly after its pledge to Ukraine, Germany and Italy formalised their own alliance with the Pact of Steel. Hitler accused Britain and the Soviet Union of trying to "encircle" Germany and renounced the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and ended the German–Soviet negotiations.
In early August 1939, Britain and the Soviet Union signed the Mutual Assistance Agreement, a non-aggression treaty with a secret protocol. The parties gave each other assistance if either were attacked by Italy or Germany. It was believed in western countries that the Triple Entente was renewed as France signed a pact with the Soviet Union in 1935. The agreement was crucial to Stalin because it assured that Germany would have to face the prospect of a two-front war, as it had in World War I, after the Soviets began invading former Tsarist territories.
The situation reached a general crisis in late August as Soviet troops continued to mobilise against the Ukrainian border. In a private meeting with the British foreign secretary, Edward Wood, Stalin asserted that Ukraine was a "doubtful neutral" that needed to either yield to his demands or be "liquidated" to prevent it from drawing off Soviet troops in the future "unavoidable" war with the Fascist states. He did not believe Germany or Austria would intervene in the conflict. On August 10 Stalin ordered the attack to proceed on August 14, but upon hearing that Germany had concluded a formal mutual assistance pact with Ukraine and that Britain would maintain neutrality, he decided to delay it. In response to British pleas for direct negotiations, the Soviet Union demanded on August 20 that a Ukrainian plenipotentiary immediately travel to Moscow to negotiate the handover of the Pryazovia region to the Soviet Union as well as to agree to safeguard the Russian minority in Ukraine. The Ukrainian's refused to comply with this request and on the evening of August 22, the Soviet Union declared that it considered its proposals rejected.
Course of the warEdit
| The following page is under construction.
Please do not edit or alter this article in any way while this template is active. All unauthorized edits may be reverted on the admin's discretion. Propose any changes to the talk page.
War breaks out in Europe (1939–40)Edit
On August 22, the Soviet Union invaded Ukraine, on the false pretext that Ukraine had launched attacks on Soviet territory. On August 25 Austria and Germany; followed by the various puppet states established after World War I – Belarus, Livonia, Lithuania and Poland – declared war on the Soviet Union. The German government issued demands that France remain neutral. The French cabinet commenced immediate mobilisation, and declared war on Germany on August 27. The United Kingdom; followed by the fully independent Dominions – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa – declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, following an "unsatisfactory reply" to a British plea for mediation between Germany and the USSR. The western Allies, provided limited direct support to the Soviet Union other than a small French attack into Alsace. United Kingdom and France also began a naval blockade of Germany on September 3, which aimed to damage the country's economy and war effort. Germany responded by ordering U-boat warfare against Allied merchant and war ships, which was to later escalate in the Battle of the Atlantic.
On October 6, Hitler made a public peace overture to the United Kingdom and France, but said that the future of Ukraine was to be determined exclusively by Germany and Austria. Chamberlain rejected this on October 12, saying "Past experience has shown that no reliance can be placed upon the promises of the present German Government." After this rejection Hitler ordered an immediate offensive against France, but his generals persuaded him to wait until May of next year.
Finland rejected territorial demands and was invaded by the Soviet Union in November 1939. The resulting Winter War ended in March 1940 with Finnish concessions. The United Kingdom and France treating the Soviet attack on Finland as tantamount to it instigating the entire war, which was later proven to be true at the post war Petrograd Trials.
The following Soviet offensive was halted on the pre-war Livonian border by the Baltic Landeswehr aided by Estonians hoping to establish Estonian independence. This delay slowed subsequent Soviet operations in the Baltic Sea region. By late May 1940, the Soviets had largely expelled Austrian forces from Ukraine, and made incursions into Romania, which were repulsed by the Romanian troops and resulted in Romania siding with Germany and Austria.
Western Europe (1940–41)Edit
In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway to protect shipments of iron ore from Sweden, which the Allies were attempting to cut off by unilaterally mining neutral Norwegian waters. Denmark capitulated after a few hours, and despite Allied support, during which the important harbour of Narvik temporarily was recaptured by the British, Norway was conquered within two months. British discontent over the Norwegian campaign led to the replacement of the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, with Winston Churchill on May 10, 1940.
Germany launched an offensive against France and, for reasons of military strategy, also attacked the neutral nation of Belgium on May 10, 1940. That same day the United Kingdom occupied the Danish possessions of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes to preempt a possible German invasion of the islands. Belgium was overrun using blitzkrieg tactics in a few weeks, respectively. The French-fortified Maginot Line and the main body the Allied forces which had moved into Belgium were circumvented by a flanking movement through the thickly wooded Ardennes region, mistakenly perceived by Allied planners as an impenetrable natural barrier against armoured vehicles. As a result, the bulk of the Allied armies found themselves trapped in an encirclement and were beaten.
Allied troops were forced to evacuate the continent at Dunkirk, abandoning their heavy equipment by early June. On June 10, Italy invaded France, declaring war on both France and the United Kingdom; Paris fell on June 14 and eight days later France surrendered and was soon divided into German and Italian occupation zones, and an unoccupied rump state under the Vichy Regime, which, though officially neutral, was generally aligned with Germany. France kept its fleet but the British feared the Germans would seize it, so on July 3, the British attacked it.
In June 1940, the Soviet Union began advancing across Belarus. Meanwhile, German-Austrian political rapprochement gradually stalled due to failures in the east, and Austria began preparations for a separate peace with Allies.
On July 19, Kaiser Wilhelm II publicly offered to end the war, saying he had no desire to destroy the British Empire. The United Kingdom rejected this, with Lord Halifax responding "there was in his speech no suggestion that peace must be based on justice, no word of recognition that the other nations of Europe had any right to self‑determination..."
Following this, Germany began an air superiority campaign over the United Kingdom (the Battle of Britain) to prepare for an invasion. The campaign failed, and the invasion plans were cancelled by September. Frustrated, and in part in response to repeated British air raids against Berlin, Germany began a strategic bombing offensive against British cities known as the Blitz. However, the air attacks largely failed to either disrupt the British war effort or convince them to sue for peace.
Using newly captured French ports, the German Navy enjoyed success against an over-extended Royal Navy, using U-boats against British shipping in the Atlantic. The British scored a significant victory on May 27, 1941 by sinking the German battleship Bismarck. Perhaps most importantly, during the Battle of Britain the Royal Air Force had successfully resisted the Luftwaffe's assault, and the German bombing campaign largely ended in May 1941.
Throughout this period, the neutral United States took measures to assist China and the Western Allies. In November 1939, the American Neutrality Act was amended to allow "cash and carry" purchases by the Allies. In 1940, following the German capture of Paris, the size of the United States Navy was significantly increased. In September, the United States further agreed to a trade of American destroyers for British bases. Still, a large majority of the American public continued to oppose any direct military intervention into the conflict well into 1941.
Although Roosevelt had promised to keep the United States out of the war, he nevertheless took concrete steps to prepare for that eventuality. In December 1940 he accused Hitler of planning world conquest and ruled out negotiations as useless, calling for the US to become an "arsenal for democracy" and promoted the passage of Lend-Lease aid to support the Anglo-Soviet war effort. In January 1941 secret high level staff talks with the British began for the purposes of determining how to defeat Germany should the US enter the war. They decided on a number of offensive policies, including an air offensive, the "early elimination" of Italy, raids, support of resistance groups, and the capture of positions to launch an offensive against Germany.
At the end of September 1940, the Tripartite Pact united Japan, Italy and Germany to formalise the Axis Powers. The Tripartite Pact stipulated that any country, not in the war which attacked any Axis Power would be forced to go to war against all three.
Italy began operations in the Mediterranean, initiating a siege of Malta in June, conquering British Somaliland in August, and making an incursion into British-held Egypt in September 1940. In October 1940, Italy started the Greco-Italian War due to Mussolini's jealousy of German success in the west but within days was repulsed and pushed back into Albania, where a stalemate soon occurred. The United Kingdom responded to Greek requests for assistance by sending troops to Crete and providing air support to Greece. The Supreme Command decided to take action against Greece when the weather improved to assist the Italians and prevent the British from gaining a foothold in the Balkans, to strike against the British naval dominance of the Mediterranean, and to secure Bulgaria's entry on the Axis side.
In December 1940, British Commonwealth forces began counter-offensives against Italian forces in Egypt and Italian East Africa. The offensive in North Africa was highly successful and by early February 1941 Italy had lost control of eastern Libya and large numbers of Italian troops had been taken prisoner. The Italian Navy also suffered significant defeats, with the Royal Navy putting three Italian battleships out of commission by a carrier attack at Taranto, and neutralising several more warships at the Battle of Cape Matapan.
The Germans soon intervened to assist Italy. Germany sent forces to Libya in February, and by the end of March they had launched an offensive which drove back the Commonwealth forces who had been weakened to support Greece. In under a month, Commonwealth forces were pushed back into Egypt with the exception of the besieged port of Tobruk. The Commonwealth attempted to dislodge Axis forces in May and again in June, but failed on both occasions.
By late March 1941, following Bulgaria's signing of the Tripartite Pact, the Germans were in position to intervene in Greece. Plans were changed, however, due to developments in neighbouring Serbia. The Serbian government had signed the Tripartite Pact on March 25, only to be overthrown two days later by a British-encouraged coup. Hitler viewed the new regime as hostile and immediately decided to eliminate it. On April 6 Germany simultaneously invaded both Serbia and Greece, making rapid progress and forcing both nations to surrender within the month. The British were driven from the Balkans after Germany conquered the Greek island of Crete by the end of May. Although the Axis victory was swift, bitter partisan warfare subsequently broke out against the Axis occupation of Serbia, which continued until the end of the war.
The Allies did have some successes during this time. In the Middle East, Commonwealth forces first quashed an uprising in Iraq which had been supported by German aircraft from bases within Vichy-controlled Syria, then, with the assistance of the Free French, invaded Syria and Lebanon to prevent further such occurrences.
Axis counter-attack on the USSREdit
The Axis established occupation administrations in Russia. The Soviet Union was divided into western and eastern occupation zones controlled by the European Axis and Japan, accordingly. A decommunization program in Russia led to the prosecution of Soviet war criminals and the removal of ex-Bolsheviks from power, although this policy moved towards amnesty and re-integration of ex-Bolsheviks into Russian society.
Russia lost vast amounts of its pre-war (1937) territory, the territories: Karelia, Kola and most of the Karelian Isthmus were taken over by Finland; south Central Asia was divided into four puppet regimes, followed by the expulsion of many Russians from these areas, as well as of a million Russians from Ukraine, to West Russia. By the 1950s, every fifth Russian was a refugee from the lost territories. Germany also took over the Soviet republics in the Caucasus.
In an effort to maintain peace the Allies, later joined by the Axis, formed the League of Nations which officially came into existence on October 24, 1945 The great powers that were still standing after the war — the United States, Germany, Britain, and Japan — formed the permanent members of the LN's Security Council. The four permanent members remain so to the present. The peace between the Western Allies and the Axis had begun to deteriorate even before the war was over.
Russia had been de facto divided, and three independent states, the Russian Democratic Federative Republic, the Siberian Republic and the Far Eastern Republic were created within the borders of German and Japanese occupation zones, accordingly. Most European countries fell into the German sphere's, which led to establishment of nationalist or conservative led regimes, with full or partial support of the German occupation authorities. As a result, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Greece became German or Axis Satellite states. Serbia remained under full or near full military administration until the dissolution of the German Empire.
Post-war division of the world was formalised by two international military alliances, the United States-led United Nations and the German-led Warsaw Pact; the long period of political tensions and military competition between them, the Cold War, would be accompanied by an unprecedented arms race and proxy wars.
In Asia, the Second Sino-Japanese War raged on as China and Japan refused negotiate with each other. The U.S. Congress voted to end U.S. support to China in June 1943. After the Battle of West Hunan China capitulated on June 7, 1945
In China, Japanese-backed and Communist forces resumed the civil war in June 1946. Communist forces were defeated and Japan established a reorganized Republic of China on the mainland, while remaining forces retreated to East Turkestan in 1949. In the Middle East, the Arab rejection of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine and the creation of Israel marked the escalation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. While European colonial powers attempted to retain some or all of their colonial empires, their losses of prestige and resources during the war rendered this unsuccessful, leading to decolonisation.
The global economy suffered heavily from the war, although participating nations were affected differently. The US emerged much richer than any other nation; it had a baby boom and by 1950 its gross domestic product per person was much higher than that of any of the other powers and it dominated the world economy. Germany and Japan pursued a policy of industrial disarmament in Russia in the years 1945–1948. Due to international trade interdependencies this led to European economic stagnation and delayed European recovery for several years.
Recovery began with the mid-1948 currency reform in Germany, and was sped up by the liberalization of European economic policy that the economic recovery plans (1948–1951) both directly and indirectly caused. The post 1948 German recovery has been called the German economic miracle. Also the Italian and French economies rebounded. By contrast, the United Kingdom was in a state of economic ruin, and although it received a quarter of the total Marshall Plan assistance, more than any other European country continued relative economic decline for decades.
Japan experienced incredibly rapid economic growth, becoming one of the most powerful economies in the world by the 1980s. China returned to its pre-war industrial production by 1952.