World War Two was a large-scale military conflict pitting many of the world's major powers against each other. The Allies, mainly Russia, France, Britain, New York, and California, faced the Axis: mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, Mexico, Japan, and the Soviet Union. Many other nations joined the conflict, making it the most large scale war ever. The death toll was enormous, easily making WW-II the deadliest conflict in military history. The war ended with a victory for the Axis powers, even with Spain and Portugal coming to the defence of France.
The main cause of WW-II was the fact that almost nothing had been solved after WW-I. countries still had land claims in other countries and differing ideals led to hatred. During the inter-war years, Germany had undergone a civil war with nationalists and reactionaries fighting against Communists and moderate democrats, resulting in the Nazi party taking over Germany and quickly putting down other parties. A similar event happened in Italy, which though it had been a Entente power in WW-I, many of its claims were unheard by the other powers. The Italian Fascist movement with Benito Mussolini as a leader quickly took over Italy, with Mussolini driving Italy hard to become a world power. Mussolini called for Italy to form the "New Roman Empire". The KMT party in China drove to unify China, but ended up fighting a civil war against Chinese Communists. Japan invaded China and established the puppet state of Manchukuo, causing many governments to condemn it. The Entente allies of France, Russia, and Britain were nervous at Germany's obvious want for more land. The Soviet Union, angered that their attack on the White Palace had been a failure and that the resulting Russian Civil War had ended in their partial control over Russia, sought German's help in a secret alliance called the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.
Spanish Civil War
On July 17, 1936, Conservative generals conducted a partial coup against the Spanish Second Republic. The conservatives were supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. France and Great Britain, not wanting Germany to have any more influence on Europe, Supported the Republic, sending weapons and small amounts of troops to help the Republic. Nazi Germany responded by smuggling their own weapons to the conservatives, usually called the nationalists. This brought even more hatred between the Entente powers of WW-I and Nazi Germany and Italy. The military coup was only partially successful, with many important Spanish cities still under Republican control. The Germans and Italians commenced the first large-scale troop airdrop, with over 50,000 soldiers. The Nationalists pushed back the Republicans, worrying France and Great Britain. The Nationalists continued to push the Republicans back until France and Great Britain landed troops on the northern shores of Spain, turning the tide of the war and causing the Republicans to win the war and greatly increasing the hatred between the old Central powers and the Entente powers. Spain immediately signed a treaty with the Entente powers in gratitude for helping them win the war. Portugal, neighboring Spain, was very angry at the result of the war.
On 15 July, 1938, Portugal declared war on Spain, calling for Germany and Italy to help it. The government of Portugal was quickly turned into a fascist government to greater control Portugal. Many people in Portugal were angered by this, rising up and disrupting the Portuguese war effort or fighting in the support of Spain. Spain fought the Portuguese to a standstill, stopping their weak attack and pushing them back into their own borders. France decided to stay neutral, but Great Britain managed to land troops just north of Lisbon, quickly advancing towards the nearly undefended city. Portugal rushed troops into Lisbon, creating a powerful defence but allowing Spain to advance their troops all the way to the Douro river with 500,000 troops. Portuguese troops fought the advancing Allied forces to a standstill, preparing elaborate defences. More Allied landings around Lisbon alleviated this problem, and the Allies captured Portugal within the week. On 6 August, 1939, Portugal surrendered to the Allied forces, and the allies reorganized its government and forced it to sign lengthy treaties and join the Anti-Nazi Coalition.
German annexation of Rhineland, Denmark, and Poland
In 1939, Nazi Germany rapidly issued claims on Rhineland, Denmark, and Poland, saying that They all "Were a true part of the Greater German Reich". Even with few Germans in either Poland or Denmark, Germany still tried to annex them. France and Great Britain argued greatly with that claim. Franz von Papin went to a meeting with the other major European powers to discuss these claims, along with diplomats form Austria-Hungary, the UK, France, and the Ottoman Empire. Russia was in the midst of a civil war, so they did not sent a diplomat. The final decision was: Rhineland would become part of Germany, Alsace-Lorraine would become part of France, and Israel would become part of the Ottoman Empire. It was obvious that this new turn of events totally undid what little had been accomplish in the Treaty of Madrid in WW-I. Germany was very angered that their claims were not met, causing even greater hatred between it and the Entente powers. This could only result in war.
War breaks Out
Invasion of Poland
Having failed in their tried annexation of Poland, German forces invaded the country, meanwhile convincing their Austria-Hungarian allies to send troops in also. On September 1, 1939, German and Austria-Hungarian forces invaded Poland with over 90 divisions, 11,000 guns, 4,750 tanks, and 3,000 aircraft. The Polish army, containing only 39 unprepared and non-mobilized divisions, along with a scattering of guns and tanks, could not possibly resist the German attack. France and Britain issued an ultimatum that if Germany forces don't withdraw by September 3, France and Great Britain would declare war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. When Germany and Austria-Hungary did not respond to the ultimatum, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, who both signed the Axis alliance along with Italy, officially starting the Second World War. The German Third, Fourth and Eighth armies advanced through the north, while the German Tenth and Fourteenth and Austria-Hungarian Third and Fourth advanced in the southern area. By the 5 of December, Austria-Hungarian forces had pushed the Polish back to Krakow and the Germans almost in Lodz. The German air force quickly mopped up the tiny Polish one, giving the Germans complete air superiority and creating vast problems for the desperate defenders. By 8 September, a German armoured division was outside of Warsaw, having advanced 140 miles in a week. Poland gave up many areas of Western Poland during the first week of war, preparing to defend Warsaw and beg Britain and France to send troops to help them. No help came, however, and the only major counterattack the Polish were able to enact was the Battle of Lodz, where a desperate Polish force crossed the Vistula river and besieged Lodz. After initial successes, German re-enforcements arrived and crushed the counter-attack, weakening the Polish army as a whole significantly. By 17 September, Poland was under German and Austria-Hungarian control, and most armies in that area were rerouted to the planned invasion of France.
Axis attack on Norway
On April 9, 1940, German forces invaded Norway with around 10 divisions of troops, amounting to an invasion force of 120,000 soldiers. Forces landed at Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger, Egersund, Kristianstand, and Olso. The Germans wanted Norway for a staging point for U-boat attacks, and to secure Swedish iron-ore transport through the port of Narvik. During the course of the invasion, many small sea battles occurred resulting in teh sinking of a small amount of British and German ships. Major French and British counter-attacks occurred near the harbour of Narvik. The invasion of Norway was an easy victory for German forces and an important one. Next the Axis forces would attack France.
Axis invasion of the Lowlands
The French, worried after WW-I that the Germans would try to invade France again, had built the Maginot Line, a lengthy fortification that spanned the whole German-French border. The wall could stand up to almost anything the Germans could throw at it. Two glaring mistakes made the wall more of a nuisance than a defence. One was the northern section, in Belgium, had not been built, due to the Belgians refusing it to be built in their territory, claiming that they would be totally neutral. Another mistake was the hole near the formerly independent Alsace-Lorraine, which, like Belgium, had refused the wall to be built in their territory. Germany planned to sent Seven armies storming through the Lowlands in the North to break the weak point in the defence and sweep behind the line to Paris and onward. Four additional German armies would break through the slightly smaller Alsace-Lorraine weak point, advancing into Paris from the East and causing the weaker Allied armies to fight a two-front battle. On May 9, German forces occupied Luxembourg and invaded Netherlands as a feint attack, drawing French units in Netherlands. Germany attacked supposedly neutral Belgium, establishing air superiority over them quickly and bombing important targets. Fort Eben-Emeal, considered by many the most modern fort in the world, stood in Germany's way, a large and important fortress. On May 10, German parachutists landed in eeh fort, carrying high force explosives and destroying the lightly manned defences in a matter of minutes. The German 18th were then able to advance into the Belgian heartland.During the next few days, German panzer divisions swept through Belgium, thoroughly defeating the opposing French and Belgium forces. On May 16, German forces began to stop their assault southwards and pushed, in a matter of days, the remaining defenders all the way to the English Channel. The Belgian army retreated out of Belgium, defeated. The Allies had hoped the Belgians would be able to stop German border attacks for two weeks, but the Germans had cut through the Belgian defences and advanced through Belgium in just over that.
Axis invasion of France
On May 16, while the Germans held most of the Lowlands and were pushing Allied forces back to the coast, German forces invaded France through the Ardennes forest, a place that French scientists had thought "impassible" and had lightly defended. The French bomber force tried to bomb the advancing forces, but at the Battle of Maastrict almost half of the weak bomber force was destroyed. On May 12, German forces advanced to the Muese in France, the makeshift French defence line. At the Battle of Sedan, a strong point in the Muese line, 3.7 miles deep and supported by numerous French artillery, was bombed for eight hours by nine German bomber wings. three German panzer divisions crossed the river and attacked the demilitarized line. The unaffected forward pillboxes held the Germans for a short time, but with morale so low, the French defences broke up, and the Germans advanced quickly. The line broke as German forces advanced. On May 15, German units broke up the re-enforcements to the French Ninth army, crushing the falling Sixth army and making them surrender en masse. Allied counter-attacks failed, even with newly elected Churchill galvanizing resistance. German panzer forces refueled and advanced, even capturing Cambrai by merely feinting an attack on it, summing up the French defence. The French First Army and elements of other armies and BEF were caught in a pocket in Belgium, and the leadership of the Fist army was almost non-existent. The Germans used numerous bombers to blast a way to the coast using Ju-87's, being extremely effective. The pocket had little time to act or they would be wiped out
Miracle in Belgium
The Belgian pocket fought the advancing German forces as hard as they could, but the superb German tactics and deployment forced them back with heavy casualties. On 20 May, Maurice Gemelin ordered the troops in Belgium to fight southward and link up with the southern French armies. The French Prime Minister was about to dismiss the general, but Gemelin convinced him to let him carry out the plan. On the 21st, the French seventh and tenth armies launched large assaults on the German lines, drawing off as many units from the pocket as he could. Meanwhile the troops in the pocket plunged southwards towards Boulogne, and reached it the next day. They fought off heavy German counterattacks right outside the city, commanded by German General Hoth. The fighting grew more tense as the troops in the pocket neared the French lines and the German forces tried to stop it at all costs. On May 22nd, the French Seventh army launched a major counter-attack with a goal of reaching Cambrai, 25 miles away. Their attacks were short lived, however, but they forced more German units to defend the area and prevent a breakthrough. On May 24th, the pocket reached the French lines and were welcomed back as heroes. The German Army group A commander Rundstendt removed Hoth from office for his failure from preventing the pocket from reaching German lines. The "Miracle in Belgium" lifted the morale of the French armies, and let the French tenth army move to defend the situation in Alsace-Lorraine.
Axis invasion of Alsace-Lorraine
When the German armies were storming the Lowlands, The Austria-Hungarian Second and Fourth armies were being moved to their start point for the invasion of France. They used long rail lines built for the purpose to position the troops, along with the German First and Seventh armies, near Alsace-Lorraine, the second weak point in the Maginot line. On May 26th, when the German advance in the Lowlands had slowed down and almost all of the French armies were defending the area, German and Austria-Hungarian armies crossed the border, hoping to catch the Allied defenders by surprise. The armies formed into Army Group C under the command of General Leeb. Their goal was to be able to penetrate the defences in two or three days, and in a week and a half they were to be at the city of Nancy. The Sixteenth army farther north was to then break through the Maginot line in that area and connect the two fronts into one united front. The combined Axis forces easily broke the weak defences around Alsace-Lorraine and easily gained air superiority. German bombers held back during the invasion of the Lowlands were launched on the Lorraine front, as it was called, and brought the French armed forces in the area to their knees. On May 30th, four days from the start of the invasion, German forces fought the heated battle of Luneville, where French forces held out for days until the Austria-Hungarian Second army to the south was able to cut off their supply lines to the south. Seeing no hope, a mass surrender occurred, giving the Germans almost 100,000 POWs and further weakening the already stretched French Eighth army. In 15 days, a little behind schedule, German forces raised a Nazi flag above Nancy. The German Seventh and Austria-Hungarian Second armies captured Metr a few days later, signalling the start of the advance of the Sixteenth army
Breaking the Maginot Line
On June 12th, The German Sixteenth army launched multiple probing attacks on the Maginot line, finding the weakest points and then invading them. At first casualties were heavy as German forces tried to gain ground against the powerful line. An hour after attacking some German troops were able to reach the line, and they began disabling it. After Six hours, the line was broken in two places, a few miles to either side of Montmedy. German troops poured through the gaps, taking the city by nightfall. With only the exhausted and severely undermanned French Second Army to try and stop them, The German forces captured Verdun within days of breaking the line. They had broke the line.
Axis advance stalls
Re-enforcements arrived for the Allies in the form of three Spanish armies that arrived on June 19th, giving heart to the Allied forces trying desperately to halt the Axis advance. The Spanish forces were veterans from the Spanish civil war, giving them combat experience and making them invaluable to the Allies. They took the western area of the front to defend, allowing French forces to concentrate around Paris. The Axis advanced continuously, though, getting ever closer to Paris. Pitched battles were fought between the Allies and the Axis powers at Houen and Senlis, with victories for the Allies both times. The strain of long supply lines slowed the Axis advance to a crawl, reminding many of W-I. The Axis advance finally halted within ten miles of Paris as the blitzkrieg tactics of the Germans finally were counter-balanced by the superiority of the Allies numbers. The main battles in this period were pitched battles for superiority, as superior German fighters faced swarms of Allied fighters. This period of immobility lasted from June 29th, 1940-February 6th, 1941. The focus of battle shifted elsewhere
The Eastern Front, 1941-1942During On July 19th, 1940, The Russian Civil War ended with the USSR gaining independence but stopped from getting large amounts of land, with the majority still in Russian Republic hands. The USSR was angered that they were not able to gain Moscow in the Revolution, for Moscow was where the first battles of the revolution were fought and had a large significance to the people in the USSR. When Russia declared war on the Axis powers in January 1941, the USSR jumped in on the side of the Axis powers, having been promised by Germany that they would gain Moscow and the surrounding area if USSR joined Germany. The USSR convinced Finland to join the Axis powers, promising them land gain and revenge against Russia. All three countries mobilized quickly and prepared for war.
Operation Hammer and Sythe
The USSR quickly formulated a plan to crush the Russian Republic. The operation was called Operation Hammer and Sythe, playing on military strategy and the Soviet symbol. The "hammer" was a massive assault on the area near Moscow, where most of the Soviet army would try and get a breakthrough through Russian lines. The "Sythe" was a sweeping attack farther east that would hope to cut of Russia from its valuable oil in Siberia. Finland would also attack from the north, hoping to capture St. Petersburg before Russia could put up any large amount of resistance. The operation started on the night of April 3rd, 1941, as 60 Soviet and 15 Finnish divisions crossed the border, making for their daytime objectives. Fighting was scarce, as the Russian army was preparing in the west against a German invasion they assumed would come. The Soviet Fifth army, part of the "sythe", captured the town of Ufa early in the morning, giving them a good position for attacks on more northern targets. Finnish soldiers slowly advanced toward the Kola peninsula, their first objective, while the majority of the Finnish forces fought across the border toward St. Petersburg. By April 7th, the hammer was fighting heavy Russian resistance, but the Second and Seventh armies were nearing Smolensk, a stepping stone towards Moscow. The Soviet Fifth army, already successful for fighting and defeating Russian forces around Ufa also captured Molotov with heavy fighting. Russia transported troops quickly from the western front to the southern and northern fronts, trying to make some kind of cohesive defence. On April 10th, Russian forces won an important victory in the First battle of St. Petersburg, defeating a lightning strike by four Finnish divisions by outflanking them and pushing them back miles. Finnish armies were already showing that even with their superb training and tactics, they could not take on a massive army like the one Russia had. The Soviet's hammer was almost completely stalled, with a prolonged siege taking place around Smolensk, and little forward movement elsewhere. The scythe was doing better, even though Russian units were starting to arrive and respond. The Soviet Fifth army defeated a Russian one at the Battle of the Urals, where even a tank attack by the Russians were defeated by Soviet anti-tank weapons and countless soldiers lost their lives. All throughout April and May, Soviet and Finnish units either were stationary or inched forward. The scythe began to close off Russia, as they drew farther north. But the driving north caused the line to be extended too far, and Russia was still able to almost break the line at many points. Then the Soviet Union decided for a change of plan. They needed to conquer Moscow.
On to Moscow
A new plan took action on the night of June 16th, 1940. All Russian "scythe" armies were to stop moving forward and were to move westward, hoping to catch the Russians in a trap. Their goal was to capture Moscow at all costs.