Collapse of Nazi Germany
Fall of Japanese and Italian Empires
Dissolution of the League of Nations
Creation of the United Nations
Emergence of the
United States and the
Soviet Union as superpowers
Beginning of the
Cold War (more...)
Commanders and leaders
Main Allied leaders
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Main Axis leaders
Casualties and losses
Over 61,000,000 (1937–45)
Over 12,000,000 (1937–45)
Campaigns of World War II
Denmark & Norway
France & Benelux
Western Front (1944–45)
South West Pacific
Mediterranean and Middle East
Horn of Africa
French West Africa
Chinese Civil War
Japan Border Wars
Events leading to World War II
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Trianon
Treaty of Rapallo
March on Rome
Occupation of the Ruhr
Pacification of Libya
Chinese Civil War
Japanese invasion of Manchuria
Nazis rise to power in Germany
Second Italo-Ethiopian War
Remilitarization of the Rhineland
Spanish Civil War
Second Sino-Japanese War
German occupation of Czechoslovakia
German ultimatum to Lithuania
British guarantee to Poland
Invasion of Albania
Pact of Steel
Invasion of Poland
Battle of Britain
Invasion of the Soviet Union
Attack on Pearl Harbor
World War II
A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
World War II (often abbreviated to WWII or WW2), also known as
the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945,
although related conflicts began earlier. The vast majority of the
world's countries—including all of the great powers—eventually
formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It
was the most global war in history; it directly involved more than 100
million people from over 30 countries. In a state of total war, the
major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and
scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the
distinction between civilian and military resources.
World War II
World War II was
the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million
fatalities, most of which were civilians in the
Soviet Union and
China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic
bombing, starvation, disease, and the first use of nuclear weapons in
Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan aimed to dominate
Asia and the Pacific and was
already at war with the Republic of
China in 1937, but the world
war is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939, the day of
the invasion of Poland by
Nazi Germany and the subsequent declarations
of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom. From late 1939 to
early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered
or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance
with Italy and Japan. Under the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August
1939, Germany and the
Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories
of their European neighbours, Poland, Finland, Romania and the Baltic
states. The war continued primarily between the European Axis powers
and the coalition of the
United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth,
with campaigns including the North Africa and East Africa campaigns,
the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz bombing campaign, and the
Balkan Campaign, as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic.
On 22 June 1941, the European
Axis powers launched an invasion of the
Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history,
which trapped the major part of the Axis military forces into a war of
attrition. In December 1941,
Japan attacked the
United States and
European colonies in the Pacific Ocean, and quickly conquered much of
the Western Pacific.
The Axis advance halted in 1942 when
Japan lost the critical Battle of
Midway, and Germany and Italy were defeated in North Africa and then,
decisively, at Stalingrad in the Soviet Union. In 1943, with a series
of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied invasion of Italy
Allied invasion of Italy which brought about Italian
surrender, and Allied victories in the Pacific, the Axis lost the
initiative and undertook strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the
Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union
regained all of its territorial losses and invaded Germany and its
allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in
Asia in South Central
China and Burma, while the Allies
crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands.
The war in
Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western
Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by
Soviet troops, the suicide of
Adolf Hitler and the subsequent German
unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. Following the Potsdam
Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of
surrender under its terms, the
United States dropped atomic bombs on
the Japanese cities of
Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August
respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent,
the possibility of additional atomic bombings and the Soviet invasion
Japan formally surrendered on 2 September 1945. Thus
ended the war in Asia, cementing the total victory of the Allies.
World War II changed the political alignment and social structure
of the world. The
United Nations (UN) was established to foster
international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The
victorious great powers—China, France, the Soviet Union, the United
Kingdom, and the United States—became the permanent members of the
United Nations Security Council. The
Soviet Union 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
European great powers waned, while the decolonisation of Africa and
Asia began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved
towards economic recovery. Political integration, especially in
Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and to create a
3 Pre-war events
3.1 Italian invasion of Ethiopia (1935)
Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War (1936–39)
3.3 Japanese invasion of
3.4 Soviet–Japanese border conflicts
3.5 European occupations and agreements
4 Course of the war
4.1 War breaks out in
4.3 Mediterranean (1940–41)
4.4 Axis attack on the USSR (1941)
4.5 War breaks out in the Pacific (1941)
4.6 Axis advance stalls (1942–43)
4.6.1 Pacific (1942–43)
4.6.2 Eastern Front (1942–43)
4.6.3 Western Europe/Atlantic and Mediterranean (1942–43)
4.7 Allies gain momentum (1943–44)
4.8 Allies close in (1944)
4.9 Axis collapse, Allied victory (1944–45)
6.1 Casualties and war crimes
6.2 Genocide, concentration camps, and slave labour
6.4 Home fronts and production
6.5 Advances in technology and warfare
7 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
See also: Timeline of World War II
Timelines of World War II
Europe air operations
United Kingdom home front
The start of the war in
Europe is generally held to be 1 September
1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland; Britain and
France declared war on Germany two days later. The dates for the
beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second
Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or even the Japanese
invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931.
Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the
Sino-Japanese War and war in
Europe and its colonies occurred
simultaneously and the two wars merged in 1941. This article uses the
conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World
War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October
1935. The British historian
Antony Beevor views the beginning of
World War II
World War II as the
Battles of Khalkhin Gol
Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between
the forces of
Mongolia and the
Soviet Union from May to September
The exact date of the war's end is also not universally agreed upon.
It was generally accepted at the time that the war ended with the
armistice of 14 August 1945 (V-J Day), rather than the formal
surrender of Japan, which was on 2 September 1945. A peace treaty with
Japan was signed in 1951. A treaty regarding Germany's future
allowed the reunification of East and
West Germany to take place in
1990 and resolved other post-
World War II
World War II issues.
Main article: Causes of World War II
World War I
World War I had radically altered the political European map, with the
defeat of the Central Powers—including Austria-Hungary, Germany,
Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire—and the 1917 Bolshevik seizure of
power in Russia, which eventually led to the founding of the Soviet
Union. Meanwhile, the victorious Allies of World War I, such as
France, Belgium, Italy, Romania and Greece, gained territory, and new
nation-states were created out of the collapse of
the Ottoman and Russian Empires.
League of Nations
League of Nations assembly, held in Geneva, Switzerland, 1930
To prevent a future world war, the
League of Nations
League of Nations was created
during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The organisation's primary
goals were to prevent armed conflict through collective security,
military and naval disarmament, and settling international disputes
through peaceful negotiations and arbitration.
Despite strong pacifist sentiment after World War I, its aftermath
still caused irredentist and revanchist nationalism in several
European states. These sentiments were especially marked in Germany
because of the significant territorial, colonial, and financial losses
incurred by the Treaty of Versailles. Under the treaty, Germany lost
around 13 percent of its home territory and all of its overseas
possessions, while German annexation of other states was prohibited,
reparations were imposed, and limits were placed on the size and
capability of the country's armed forces.
German Empire was dissolved in the German Revolution of
1918–1919, and a democratic government, later known as the Weimar
Republic, was created. The interwar period saw strife between
supporters of the new republic and hardline opponents on both the
right and left. Italy, as an Entente ally, had made some post-war
territorial gains; however, Italian nationalists were angered that the
promises made by Britain and France to secure Italian entrance into
the war were not fulfilled in 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 expansionist
foreign policy aimed at making Italy a world power, promising the
creation of a "New Roman Empire".
Adolf Hitler at a German
National Socialist political rally in
Nürnberg, August 1933
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 rearmament
campaign. 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 the Territory of the
Saar Basin was legally reunited with Germany and
Hitler repudiated the
Treaty of Versailles, accelerated his rearmament programme, and
To contain Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy formed the
Stresa Front in April 1935; however, that June, the United Kingdom
made an independent naval agreement with Germany, easing prior
restrictions. The Soviet Union, concerned by Germany's goals of
capturing vast areas of Eastern Europe, drafted a treaty of mutual
assistance with France. Before taking effect though, the Franco-Soviet
pact was required to go through the bureaucracy of the League of
Nations, which rendered it essentially toothless. The United
States, concerned with events in
Europe and Asia, passed the
Neutrality Act in August of the same year.
Hitler defied the Versailles and
Locarno treaties by remilitarising
Rhineland in March 1936, encountering little opposition. 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.
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 Party
Chinese Communist Party allies and new regional warlords. In 1931,
an increasingly militaristic Empire of Japan, 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.
Too weak to resist Japan,
China appealed to the
League of Nations
League of Nations for
Japan withdrew from the
League of Nations
League of Nations after being condemned
for its incursion into Manchuria. 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. After the 1936 Xi'an Incident, the
communist forces agreed on a ceasefire to present a united front to
Italian invasion of Ethiopia (1935)
Main article: Second Italo-Ethiopian War
Benito Mussolini inspecting troops during the Italo-Ethiopian War,
Second Italo–Ethiopian War
Second Italo–Ethiopian War was a brief colonial war that began
in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war began with the invasion
Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia) by the armed forces
Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia), which was launched from
Italian Somaliland and Eritrea. The war resulted in the military
occupation of Ethiopia and its annexation into the newly created
Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana, or AOI); in
addition it exposed the weakness of the
League of Nations
League of Nations as a force
to preserve peace. Both Italy and Ethiopia were member nations, but
the League did nothing when the former clearly violated the League's
Article X. Germany was the only major European nation to openly
support the invasion. Italy subsequently dropped its
objections to Germany's goal of absorbing Austria.
Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War (1936–39)
Main article: Spanish Civil War
The bombing of Guernica in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, sparked
Europe-wide fears that the next war would be based on bombing of
cities with very high civilian casualties
When civil war broke out in Spain,
Hitler and Mussolini lent military
support to the Nationalist rebels, led by General Francisco Franco.
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 Nationalists won the civil war
in April 1939; Franco, now dictator, remained officially neutral
World War II
World War II but generally favoured the Axis. His greatest
collaboration with Germany was the sending of volunteers to fight on
the Eastern Front.
Japanese invasion of
Main article: Second Sino-Japanese War
Japanese Imperial Army
Japanese Imperial Army soldiers during the Battle of Shanghai, 1937
In July 1937,
Japan captured the former Chinese imperial capital of
Peking 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. From September to November, the Japanese attacked
Taiyuan, as well as engaging the
Kuomintang Army around
Xinkou and Communist forces in Pingxingguan.
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. After the fall of Nanking, tens of
thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and
disarmed combatants were murdered by the Japanese.
In March 1938, Nationalist Chinese forces won their first major
victory at Taierzhuang but then the city of
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
continued the war.
Soviet–Japanese border conflicts
Red Army artillery unit during the Battle of Lake Khasan, 1938
Main article: Soviet–Japanese border conflicts
In the mid-to-late 1930s, Japanese forces in
Manchukuo had sporadic
border clashes with the
Soviet Union and the Mongolian People's
Republic. The Japanese doctrine of Hokushin-ron, which emphasised
Japan's expansion northward, was favoured by the Imperial Army during
this time. With the Japanese defeat at Khalkin Gol in 1939, the
ongoing Second Sino-Japanese War and ally
Nazi Germany pursuing
neutrality with the Soviets, this policy would prove difficult to
Japan and the
Soviet Union eventually signed a Neutrality
Pact in April 1941, and
Japan adopted the doctrine of Nanshin-ron,
promoted by the Navy, which took its focus southward, eventually
leading to its war with the
United States and the Western
European occupations and agreements
Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini, and Ciano pictured just
before signing the Munich Agreement, 29 September 1938
In Europe, Germany and Italy were becoming more aggressive. In March
1938, Germany annexed Austria, again provoking little response from
other European powers. Encouraged,
Hitler began pressing German
claims on the Sudetenland, an area of
Czechoslovakia with a
predominantly ethnic German population; and soon Britain and France
followed the counsel of British Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain and
conceded this territory to Germany in the Munich Agreement, which was
made against the wishes of the Czechoslovak government, in exchange
for a promise of no further territorial demands. Soon afterwards,
Germany and Italy forced
Czechoslovakia to cede additional territory
Hungary and Poland annexed Czechoslovakia's
Although all of Germany's stated demands had been satisfied by the
Hitler was furious that British interference had
prevented him from seizing all of
Czechoslovakia in one operation. In
Hitler attacked British and Jewish "war-mongers"
and in January 1939 secretly ordered a major build-up of the German
navy to challenge British naval supremacy. In March 1939, Germany
invaded the remainder of
Czechoslovakia and subsequently split it into
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and a pro-German client
state, the Slovak Republic.
Hitler also delivered the 20 March
1939 ultimatum to Lithuania, forcing the concession of the Klaipėda
Greatly alarmed and with
Hitler making further demands on the Free
City of Danzig, Britain and France guaranteed their support for Polish
independence; when Italy conquered Albania in April 1939, the same
guarantee was extended to Romania and Greece. Shortly after the
Franco-British pledge to Poland, Germany and Italy formalised their
own alliance with the Pact of Steel.
Hitler accused Britain and
Poland of trying to "encircle" Germany and renounced the Anglo-German
Naval Agreement and the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact.
German Foreign Minister
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop (right) and the Soviet
leader Joseph Stalin, after signing the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, 23
In August 1939, Germany and the
Soviet Union signed the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression treaty with a secret
protocol. The parties gave each other rights to "spheres of influence"
(western Poland and
Lithuania for Germany; eastern Poland, Finland,
Estonia, Latvia and
Bessarabia for the USSR). It also raised the
question of continuing Polish independence. The agreement was
Hitler because it assured that Germany would not have to
face the prospect of a two-front war, as it had in World War I, after
it defeated Poland.
The situation reached a general crisis in late August as German troops
continued to mobilise against the Polish border. In a private meeting
with the Italian foreign minister, Count Ciano,
Hitler asserted that
Poland was a "doubtful neutral" that needed to either yield to his
demands or be "liquidated" to prevent it from drawing off German
troops in the future "unavoidable" war with the Western democracies.
He did not believe Britain or France would intervene in the
conflict. On 23 August
Hitler ordered the attack to proceed on 26
August, but upon hearing that Britain had concluded a formal mutual
assistance pact with Poland and that Italy would maintain neutrality,
he decided to delay it.
In response to British requests for direct negotiations to avoid war,
Germany made demands on Poland, which only served as a pretext to
worsen relations. On 29 August,
Hitler demanded that a Polish
plenipotentiary immediately travel to Berlin to negotiate the handover
of Danzig, and to allow a plebiscite in the
Polish Corridor in which
the German minority would vote on secession. The Poles refused to
comply with the German demands and on the night of 30–31 August in a
violent meeting with the British ambassador Neville Henderson,
Ribbentrop declared that Germany considered its claims rejected.
Course of the war
Further information: Diplomatic history of World War II
War breaks out in
Soldiers of the German
Wehrmacht tearing down the border crossing
between Poland and the
Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig after the invasion,
On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland under the false pretext
that the Poles had carried out a series of sabotage operations against
German targets near the border. Two days later, on 3 September,
after a British ultimatum to Germany to cease military operations was
ignored, Britain and France, followed by the fully independent
Dominions of the British Commonwealth—
Canada (10 September),
New Zealand (3 September), and
South Africa (6 September)—declared war on Germany. However,
initially the alliance provided limited direct military support to
Poland, consisting of a cautious, half-hearted French probe into the
Saarland. The Western Allies also began a naval blockade of
Germany, which aimed to damage the country's economy and war
effort. Germany responded by ordering
U-boat warfare against
Allied merchant and warships, which was to later escalate into the
Battle of the Atlantic.
German tanks near the city of Bydgoszcz, during the Invasion of
Poland, September 1939
On 17 September 1939, after signing a cease-fire with Japan, the
Soviets invaded Poland from the east. The Polish army was defeated
Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on 27 September with final
pockets of resistance surrendering on 6 October. Poland's territory
was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union, with
Slovakia also receiving small shares. After the defeat of Poland's
armed forces, the Polish resistance established an Underground State
and a partisan Home Army. About 100,000 Polish military personnel
were evacuated to Romania and the Baltic countries; many of these
soldiers later fought against the Germans in other theatres of the
war. Poland's Enigma codebreakers were also evacuated to
On 6 October,
Hitler made a public peace overture to Britain and
France, but said that the future of Poland was to be determined
exclusively by Germany and the Soviet Union. Chamberlain rejected this
on 12 October, 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 bad weather forced repeated postponements until the
spring of 1940.
German and Soviet army officers pictured shaking hands—after Nazi
Soviet Union annexed new territories in Eastern Europe,
After signing the German–Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation
and Demarcation, the
Soviet Union forced the Baltic
countries—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—to allow it to station
Soviet troops in their countries under pacts of "mutual
assistance". Finland rejected territorial demands,
prompting a Soviet invasion in November 1939. The resulting Winter
War ended in March 1940 with Finnish concessions. Britain and
France, treating the Soviet attack on Finland as tantamount to its
entering the war on the side of the Germans, responded to the Soviet
invasion by supporting the USSR's expulsion from the League of
In June 1940, the
Soviet Union forcibly annexed Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania, and the disputed Romanian regions of Bessarabia,
Northern Bukovina and Hertza. Meanwhile, Nazi-Soviet political
rapprochement and economic co-operation gradually
stalled,[page needed] and both states began preparations
Main article: Western Front (World War II)
Map of the French Maginot Line
In April 1940, Germany invaded
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 from
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
10 May 1940.
Germany launched an offensive against France and, adhering to the
Manstein Plan also attacked the neutral nations of Belgium, the
Netherlands, and Luxembourg on 10 May 1940. That same day British
forces landed in Iceland and the Faroes to preempt a possible German
invasion of the islands. The U.S., in close co-operation with the
Danish envoy to Washington D.C., agreed to protect Greenland, laying
the political framework for the formal establishment of bases in April
1941. The Netherlands and Belgium were overrun using blitzkrieg
tactics in a few days and weeks, respectively. The
Maginot Line and the main body of 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. The majority
were taken prisoner, whilst over 300,000, mostly British and French,
were evacuated from the continent at Dunkirk by early June, although
abandoning almost all of their equipment.
On 10 June, Italy invaded France, declaring war on both France and the
United Kingdom. Paris fell to the Germans on 14 June and eight
days later France signed an armistice with Germany 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 3 July, the
British attacked it.
London after the German Blitz, 29 December 1940
The Battle of Britain began in early July with
on shipping and harbours. On 19 July,
Hitler again publicly
offered to end the war, saying he had no desire to destroy the British
United Kingdom rejected this ultimatum. The main
German air superiority campaign started in August but failed to defeat
RAF Fighter Command, and a proposed invasion was postponed
indefinitely on 17 September. The German strategic bombing offensive
intensified as night attacks on
London and other cities in the Blitz,
but largely failed to disrupt the British war effort.
Heinkel He 111
Heinkel He 111 bombers during the Battle of Britain
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 27 May 1941 by sinking the German battleship Bismarck.
Perhaps most importantly, during the
Battle of Britain
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
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
United States Navy was significantly increased. In September,
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 war. In
December 1940 he accused
Hitler of planning world conquest and ruled
out negotiations as useless, calling for the US to become an "arsenal
of democracy" and promoted the passage of
Lend-Lease aid to support
the British 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, with the exception of the Soviet Union,
not in the war which attacked any Axis Power would be forced to go to
war against all three. The Axis expanded in November 1940 when
Hungary, Slovakia and Romania joined the Tripartite Pact. Romania
would make a major contribution (as did Hungary) to the Axis war
against the USSR, partially to recapture territory ceded to the USSR,
partially to pursue its leader Ion Antonescu's desire to combat
Main article: Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of World War II
Soldiers of the British Commonwealth forces from the Australian Army's
9th Division during the Siege of Tobruk; North African Campaign,
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 because of Mussolini's jealousy of
Hitler's success but within days was repulsed with few territorial
gains and a stalemate soon occurred. The
United Kingdom responded
to Greek requests for assistance by sending troops to Crete and
providing air support to Greece.
Hitler decided that when the weather
improved he would take action against
Greece 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 his hold on Romanian oil.
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.
Afrika Korps soldiers, December 1941
The Germans soon intervened to assist Italy.
Hitler sent German forces
to Libya in February, and by the end of March the Axis had launched an
offensive which drove back the Commonwealth forces which 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 that fell later. The Commonwealth attempted to dislodge
Axis forces in May and again in June, but failed on both
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, because of developments in neighbouring Yugoslavia.
The Yugoslav government had signed the
Tripartite Pact on 25 March,
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 6 April Germany simultaneously invaded both
Yugoslavia 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
Yugoslavia, 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 attack on the USSR (1941)
Main article: Eastern Front (World War II)
European theatre of World War II
European theatre of World War II animation map, 1939–1945 — Red:
Western Allies and
Soviet Union after 1941; Green:
Soviet Union before
1941; Blue: Axis powers
With the situation in
Asia relatively stable, Germany,
Japan, and the
Soviet Union made preparations. With the Soviets wary
of mounting tensions with Germany and the Japanese planning to take
advantage of the European War by seizing resource-rich European
possessions in Southeast Asia, the two powers signed the
Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact
Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact in April 1941. By contrast, the
Germans were steadily making preparations for an attack on the Soviet
Union, massing forces on the Soviet border.
Hitler believed that Britain's refusal to end the war was based on the
hope that the
United States and the
Soviet Union would enter the war
against Germany sooner or later. He therefore decided to try to
strengthen Germany's relations with the Soviets, or failing that, to
attack and eliminate them as a factor. In November 1940, negotiations
took place to determine if the
Soviet Union would join the Tripartite
Pact. The Soviets showed some interest, but asked for concessions from
Finland, Bulgaria, Turkey, and
Japan that Germany considered
unacceptable. On 18 December 1940,
Hitler issued the directive to
prepare for an invasion of the Soviet Union.
German soldiers during the invasion of the
Soviet Union by the Axis
On 22 June 1941, Germany, supported by Italy and Romania, invaded the
Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, with Germany accusing the
Soviets of plotting against them. They were joined shortly by Finland
and Hungary. The primary targets of this surprise
offensive[page needed] were the Baltic region, Moscow and
Ukraine, with the ultimate goal of ending the 1941 campaign near the
Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line, from the Caspian to the White Seas.
Hitler's objectives were to eliminate the
Soviet Union as a military
power, exterminate Communism, generate
space") by dispossessing the native
population[page needed] and guarantee access to the
strategic resources needed to defeat Germany's remaining
Red Army was preparing for strategic counter-offensives
before the war,[page needed] Barbarossa forced the Soviet
supreme command to adopt a strategic defence. During the summer, the
Axis made significant gains into Soviet territory, inflicting immense
losses in both personnel and materiel. By the middle of August,
however, the German Army High Command decided to suspend the offensive
of a considerably depleted Army Group Centre, and to divert the 2nd
Panzer Group to reinforce troops advancing towards central
Leningrad.[page needed] The Kiev offensive was
overwhelmingly successful, resulting in encirclement and elimination
of four Soviet armies, and made possible further advance into Crimea
and industrially developed Eastern
Ukraine (the First Battle of
Soviet civilians in
Leningrad leaving destroyed houses, after a German
bombardment of the city; Battle of Leningrad, 10 December 1942
The diversion of three quarters of the Axis troops and the majority of
their air forces from France and the central Mediterranean to the
Eastern Front prompted Britain to reconsider its grand
strategy.[page needed] In July, the UK and the Soviet Union
formed a military alliance against Germany The British and
Soviets invaded neutral Iran to secure the
Persian Corridor and Iran's
oil fields. In August, the
United Kingdom and the United States
jointly issued the Atlantic Charter.
By October Axis operational objectives in
Ukraine and the Baltic
region were achieved, with only the sieges of
Leningrad[page needed] and Sevastopol continuing. A
major offensive against Moscow was renewed; after two months of fierce
battles in increasingly harsh weather the German army almost reached
the outer suburbs of Moscow, where the exhausted troops were
forced to suspend their offensive. Large territorial gains were
made by Axis forces, but their campaign had failed to achieve its main
objectives: two key cities remained in Soviet hands, the Soviet
capability to resist was not broken, and the
Soviet Union retained a
considerable part of its military potential. The blitzkrieg phase of
the war in
Europe had ended.[page needed]
By early December, freshly mobilised reserves[page needed]
allowed the Soviets to achieve numerical parity with Axis troops.
This, as well as intelligence data which established that a minimal
number of Soviet troops in the East would be sufficient to deter any
attack by the Japanese Kwantung Army,[page needed] allowed
the Soviets to begin a massive counter-offensive that started on 5
December all along the front and pushed German troops 100–250
kilometres (62–155 mi) west.
War breaks out in the Pacific (1941)
Main article: Pacific War
In 1939, the
United States had renounced its trade treaty with Japan;
and, beginning with an aviation gasoline ban in July 1940, Japan
became subject to increasing economic pressure. During this time,
Japan launched its first attack against Changsha, a strategically
important Chinese city, but was repulsed by late September.
Despite several offensives by both sides, the war between
Japan was stalemated by 1940. To increase pressure on
blocking supply routes, and to better position Japanese forces in the
event of a war with the Western powers,
Japan invaded and occupied
northern Indochina. Afterwards, the
United States embargoed iron,
steel and mechanical parts against Japan. Other sanctions soon
Chinese nationalist forces launched a large-scale counter-offensive in
early 1940. In August, Chinese communists launched an offensive in
Central China; in retaliation,
Japan instituted harsh measures in
occupied areas to reduce human and material resources for the
communists. Continued antipathy between Chinese communist and
nationalist forces culminated in armed clashes in January 1941,
effectively ending their co-operation. In March, the Japanese
11th army attacked the headquarters of the Chinese 19th army but was
repulsed during Battle of Shanggao. In September,
to take the city of Changsha again and clashed with Chinese
Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighters on the
Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft
carrier Shōkaku, just before the attack on Pearl Harbor
German successes in
Japan to increase pressure on
European governments in Southeast Asia. The Dutch government agreed to
Japan some oil supplies from the Dutch East Indies, but
negotiations for additional access to their resources ended in failure
in June 1941. In July 1941
Japan sent troops to southern
Indochina, thus threatening British and Dutch possessions in the Far
East. The United States,
United Kingdom and other Western governments
reacted to this move with a freeze on Japanese assets and a total oil
embargo. At the same time,
Japan was planning an invasion of
the Soviet Far East, intending to capitalize off the German invasion
in the west, but abandoned the operation after the sanctions.
Since early 1941 the
United States and
Japan had been engaged in
negotiations in an attempt to improve their strained relations and end
the war in China. During these negotiations
Japan advanced a number of
proposals which were dismissed by the Americans as inadequate. At
the same time the US, Britain, and the Netherlands engaged in secret
discussions for the joint defence of their territories, in the event
of a Japanese attack against any of them. Roosevelt reinforced
the Philippines (an American protectorate scheduled for independence
in 1946) and warned
Japan that the US would react to Japanese attacks
against any "neighboring countries".
USS Arizona during the Japanese surprise air attack on the
American pacific fleet, 7 December 1941
Frustrated at the lack of progress and feeling the pinch of the
Japan prepared for war. On 20
November a new government under
Hideki Tojo presented an interim
proposal as its final offer. It called for the end of American aid to
China and for the supply of oil and other resources to Japan. In
Japan promised not to launch any attacks in Southeast Asia
and to withdraw its forces from southern Indochina. The American
counter-proposal of 26 November required that
Japan evacuate all of
China without conditions and conclude non-aggression pacts with all
Pacific powers. That meant
Japan was essentially forced to choose
between abandoning its ambitions in China, or seizing the natural
resources it needed in the
Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies by force; the
Japanese military did not consider the former an option, and many
officers considered the oil embargo an unspoken declaration of
Japan planned to rapidly seize European colonies in
Asia to create a
large defensive perimeter stretching into the Central Pacific; the
Japanese would then be free to exploit the resources of Southeast Asia
while exhausting the over-stretched Allies by fighting a defensive
war. To prevent American intervention while securing the
perimeter it was further planned to neutralise the United States
Pacific Fleet and the American military presence in the Philippines
from the outset. On 7 December 1941 (8 December in Asian time
Japan attacked British and American holdings with
near-simultaneous offensives against Southeast
Asia and the Central
Pacific. These included an attack on the American fleet at Pearl
Harbor, the Philippines, landings in Thailand and Malaya and the
battle of Hong Kong.
These attacks led the United States, United Kingdom, China, Australia
and several other states to formally declare war on Japan, whereas the
Soviet Union, being heavily involved in large-scale hostilities with
European Axis countries, maintained its neutrality agreement with
Japan. Germany, followed by the other Axis states, declared war
on the United States in solidarity with Japan, citing as
justification the American attacks on German war vessels that had been
ordered by Roosevelt.
Axis advance stalls (1942–43)
Seated at the Casablanca Conference; US President Franklin D.
Roosevelt and British PM Winston Churchill, January 1943
On 1 January 1942, the Allied Big Four—the Soviet Union, China,
Britain and the United States—and 22 smaller or exiled governments
issued the Declaration by United Nations, thereby affirming the
Atlantic Charter, and agreeing to not to sign a separate peace
with the Axis powers.
During 1942, Allied officials debated on the appropriate grand
strategy to pursue. All agreed that defeating Germany was the primary
objective. The Americans favoured a straightforward, large-scale
attack on Germany through France. The Soviets were also demanding a
second front. The British, on the other hand, argued that military
operations should target peripheral areas to wear out German strength,
leading to increasing demoralisation, and bolster resistance forces.
Germany itself would be subject to a heavy bombing campaign. An
offensive against Germany would then be launched primarily by Allied
armour without using large-scale armies. Eventually, the British
persuaded the Americans that a landing in France was infeasible in
1942 and they should instead focus on driving the Axis out of North
Casablanca Conference in early 1943, the Allies reiterated the
statements issued in the 1942 Declaration by the United Nations, and
demanded the unconditional surrender of their enemies. The British and
Americans agreed to continue to press the initiative in the
Mediterranean by invading Sicily to fully secure the Mediterranean
supply routes. Although the British argued for further operations
in the Balkans to bring Turkey into the war, in May 1943, the
Americans extracted a British commitment to limit Allied operations in
the Mediterranean to an invasion of the Italian mainland and to invade
France in 1944.
Map of Japanese military advances, until mid-1942
By the end of April 1942,
Japan and its ally Thailand had almost fully
conquered Burma, Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, and Rabaul,
inflicting severe losses on Allied troops and taking a large number of
prisoners. Despite stubborn resistance by Filipino and US forces,
Philippine Commonwealth was eventually captured in May 1942,
forcing its government into exile. On 16 April, in Burma, 7,000
British soldiers were encircled by the Japanese 33rd Division during
Battle of Yenangyaung
Battle of Yenangyaung and rescued by the Chinese 38th
Division. Japanese forces also achieved naval victories in the
Java Sea and Indian Ocean, and bombed the Allied
naval base at Darwin, Australia. In January 1942, the only Allied
Japan was a Chinese victory at Changsha. These
easy victories over unprepared US and European opponents left Japan
overconfident, as well as overextended.
In early May 1942,
Japan initiated operations to capture Port Moresby
by amphibious assault and thus sever communications and supply lines
United States and Australia. The planned invasion was
thwarted when an Allied task force, centred on two American fleet
carriers, fought Japanese naval forces to a draw in the Battle of the
Coral Sea. Japan's next plan, motivated by the earlier Doolittle
Raid, was to seize
Midway Atoll and lure American carriers into battle
to be eliminated; as a diversion,
Japan would also send forces to
occupy the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. In mid-May,
Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign in China, with the goal of inflicting
retribution on the Chinese who aided the surviving American airmen in
Doolittle Raid by destroying air bases and fighting against the
Chinese 23rd and 32nd Army Groups. In early June,
its operations into action but the Americans, having broken Japanese
naval codes in late May, were fully aware of plans and order of
battle, and used this knowledge to achieve a decisive victory at
Midway over the Imperial Japanese Navy.
US Marines during the
Guadalcanal Campaign, in the Pacific theatre,
With its capacity for aggressive action greatly diminished as a result
of the Midway battle,
Japan chose to focus on a belated attempt to
Port Moresby by an overland campaign in the Territory of
Papua. The Americans planned a counter-attack against Japanese
positions in the southern Solomon Islands, primarily Guadalcanal, as a
first step towards capturing Rabaul, the main Japanese base in
Both plans started in July, but by mid-September, the Battle for
Guadalcanal took priority for the Japanese, and troops in New Guinea
were ordered to withdraw from the
Port Moresby area to the northern
part of the island, where they faced Australian and United States
troops in the Battle of Buna-Gona.
Guadalcanal soon became a
focal point for both sides with heavy commitments of troops and ships
in the battle for Guadalcanal. By the start of 1943, the Japanese were
defeated on the island and withdrew their troops. In Burma,
Commonwealth forces mounted two operations. The first, an offensive
into the Arakan region in late 1942, went disastrously, forcing a
retreat back to India by May 1943. The second was the insertion
of irregular forces behind Japanese front-lines in February which, by
the end of April, had achieved mixed results.
Eastern Front (1942–43)
Red Army soldiers on the counterattack, during the Battle of
Stalingrad, February 1943
Despite considerable losses, in early 1942 Germany and its allies
stopped a major Soviet offensive in central and southern Russia,
keeping most territorial gains they had achieved during the previous
year. In May the Germans defeated Soviet offensives in the Kerch
Peninsula and at Kharkov, and then launched their main summer
offensive against southern
Russia in June 1942, to seize the oil
fields of the Caucasus and occupy
Kuban steppe, while maintaining
positions on the northern and central areas of the front. The Germans
Army Group South
Army Group South into two groups:
Army Group A advanced to the
lower Don River and struck south-east to the Caucasus, while Army
Group B headed towards the Volga River. The Soviets decided to make
their stand at Stalingrad on the Volga.
By mid-November, the Germans had nearly taken Stalingrad in bitter
street fighting when the Soviets began their second winter
counter-offensive, starting with an encirclement of German forces at
Stalingrad and an assault on the Rzhev salient near Moscow,
though the latter failed disastrously. By early February 1943,
the German Army had taken tremendous losses; German troops at
Stalingrad had been forced to surrender, and the front-line had
been pushed back beyond its position before the summer offensive. In
mid-February, after the Soviet push had tapered off, the Germans
launched another attack on Kharkov, creating a salient in their front
line around the Soviet city of Kursk.
Western Europe/Atlantic and Mediterranean (1942–43)
8th Air Force
8th Air Force
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombing raid on the
Focke-Wulf factory in Germany, 9 October 1943
Exploiting poor American naval command decisions, the German navy
ravaged Allied shipping off the American Atlantic coast. By
November 1941, Commonwealth forces had launched a counter-offensive,
Operation Crusader, in North Africa, and reclaimed all the gains the
Germans and Italians had made. In North Africa, the Germans
launched an offensive in January, pushing the British back to
positions at the
Gazala Line by early February, followed by a
temporary lull in combat which Germany used to prepare for their
upcoming offensives. Concerns the Japanese might use bases in
Madagascar caused the British to invade the island in early
May 1942. An Axis offensive in Libya forced an Allied retreat
deep inside Egypt until Axis forces were stopped at El Alamein.
On the Continent, raids of Allied commandos on strategic targets,
culminating in the disastrous Dieppe Raid, demonstrated the
Western Allies' inability to launch an invasion of continental Europe
without much better preparation, equipment, and operational
In August 1942, the Allies succeeded in repelling a second attack
against El Alamein and, at a high cost, managed to deliver
desperately needed supplies to the besieged Malta. A few months
later, the Allies commenced an attack of their own in Egypt,
dislodging the Axis forces and beginning a drive west across
Libya. This attack was followed up shortly after by
Anglo-American landings in French North Africa, which resulted in the
region joining the Allies.
Hitler responded to the French
colony's defection by ordering the occupation of Vichy France;
although Vichy forces did not resist this violation of the armistice,
they managed to scuttle their fleet to prevent its capture by German
forces. The now pincered Axis forces in Africa withdrew into
Tunisia, which was conquered by the Allies in May 1943.
In early 1943 the British and Americans began the Combined Bomber
Offensive, a strategic bombing campaign against Germany. The goals
were to disrupt the German war economy, reduce German morale, and
"de-house" the civilian population.
Allies gain momentum (1943–44)
US Navy SBD-5 scout plane flies patrol over USS Washington and
USS Lexington during the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign,
Guadalcanal Campaign, the Allies initiated several
Japan in the Pacific. In May 1943, Canadian and
U.S. forces were sent to eliminate Japanese forces from the
Aleutians. Soon after, the U.S., with support from Australian and
New Zealand forces, began major operations to isolate
capturing surrounding islands, and breach the Japanese Central Pacific
perimeter at the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. By the end of
March 1944, the Allies had completed both of these objectives, and had
also neutralised the major Japanese base at Truk in the Caroline
Islands. In April, the Allies launched an operation to retake Western
New Guinea. In the Soviet Union, both the Germans and the Soviets
spent the spring and early summer of 1943 preparing for large
offensives in central Russia. On 4 July 1943, Germany attacked Soviet
forces around the
Kursk Bulge. Within a week, German forces had
exhausted themselves against the Soviets' deeply echeloned and
well-constructed defences and, for the first time in the war,
Hitler cancelled the operation before it had achieved tactical or
operational success. This decision was partially affected by the
Western Allies' invasion of Sicily launched on 9 July which, combined
with previous Italian failures, resulted in the ousting and arrest of
Mussolini later that month. Also, in July 1943 the British
firebombed Hamburg killing over 40,000 people.
Red Army troops, in a counter-offensive on German positions, at the
Battle of Kursk, 1943
On 12 July 1943, the Soviets launched their own counter-offensives,
thereby dispelling any chance of German victory or even stalemate in
the east. The Soviet victory at
Kursk marked the end of German
superiority, giving the
Soviet Union the initiative on the
Eastern Front. The Germans tried to stabilise their eastern
front along the hastily fortified Panther–Wotan line, but the
Soviets broke through it at Smolensk and by the Lower Dnieper
On 3 September 1943, the Western Allies invaded the Italian mainland,
following Italy's armistice with the Allies. Germany with the
help of fascists responded by disarming Italian forces that were in
many places without superior orders, seizing military control of
Italian areas, and creating a series of defensive lines.
German special forces then rescued Mussolini, who then soon
established a new client state in German-occupied Italy named the
Italian Social Republic, causing an Italian civil war. The
Western Allies fought through several lines until reaching the main
German defensive line in mid-November.
The Allied leaders of the Asian and Pacific Theatre: Generalissimo
Chiang Kai-shek, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and
Winston Churchill meeting
at the Cairo Conference, 25 November 1943
German operations in the Atlantic also suffered. By May 1943, as
Allied counter-measures became increasingly effective, the resulting
sizeable German submarine losses forced a temporary halt of the German
Atlantic naval campaign. In November 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt
Winston Churchill met with
Chiang Kai-shek in Cairo and then with
Joseph Stalin in Tehran. The former conference determined the
post-war return of Japanese territory and the military planning
for the Burma Campaign, while the latter included agreement that
the Western Allies would invade
Europe in 1944 and that the Soviet
Union would declare war on
Japan within three months of Germany's
Ruins of the Benedictine monastery, during the Battle of Monte
Cassino; Italian Campaign, May 1944
From November 1943, during the seven-week Battle of Changde, the
Japan to fight a costly war of attrition, while
awaiting Allied relief. In January 1944, the Allies
launched a series of attacks in Italy against the line at Monte
Cassino and tried to outflank it with landings at Anzio. By the
end of January, a major Soviet offensive expelled German forces from
Leningrad region, ending the longest and most lethal siege in
The following Soviet offensive was halted on the pre-war Estonian
border by the German
Army Group North aided by Estonians hoping to
re-establish national independence. This delay slowed subsequent
Soviet operations in the
Baltic Sea region. By late May 1944, the
Soviets had liberated Crimea, largely expelled Axis forces from
Ukraine, and made incursions into Romania, which were repulsed by the
Axis troops. The Allied offensives in Italy had succeeded and, at
the expense of allowing several German divisions to retreat, on 4
June, Rome was captured.
The Allies had mixed success in mainland Asia. In March 1944, the
Japanese launched the first of two invasions, an operation against
British positions in Assam, India, and soon besieged Commonwealth
positions at Imphal and Kohima. In May 1944, British forces
mounted a counter-offensive that drove Japanese troops back to
Burma, and Chinese forces that had invaded northern Burma in late
1943 besieged Japanese troops in Myitkyina. The second Japanese
China aimed to destroy China's main fighting forces,
secure railways between Japanese-held territory and capture Allied
airfields. By June, the Japanese had conquered the province of
Henan and begun a new attack on Changsha in the
Allies close in (1944)
American troops approaching Omaha Beach, during the invasion of
Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944
On 6 June 1944 (known as D-Day), after three years of Soviet
pressure, the Western Allies invaded northern France. After
reassigning several Allied divisions from Italy, they also attacked
southern France. These landings were successful, and led to the
defeat of the German Army units in France. Paris was liberated by the
local resistance assisted by the
Free French Forces, both led by
General Charles de Gaulle, on 25 August and the Western Allies
continued to push back German forces in western
Europe during the
latter part of the year. An attempt to advance into northern Germany
spearheaded by a major airborne operation in the Netherlands
failed. After that, the Western Allies slowly pushed into
Germany, but failed to cross the Ruhr river in a large offensive. In
Italy, Allied advance also slowed due to the last major German
German SS soldiers from the Dirlewanger Brigade, tasked with
Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupation, August 1944
On 22 June, the Soviets launched a strategic offensive in Belarus
("Operation Bagration") that destroyed the German Army Group Centre
almost completely. Soon after that another Soviet strategic
offensive forced German troops from Western
Ukraine and Eastern
Poland. The Soviet advance prompted resistance forces in Poland to
initiate several uprisings against the German occupation. However, the
largest of these in Warsaw, where German soldiers massacred 200,000
civilians, and a national uprising in Slovakia, did not receive Soviet
support and were subsequently suppressed by the Germans. The Red
Army's strategic offensive in eastern Romania cut off and destroyed
the considerable German troops there and triggered a successful coup
d'état in Romania and in Bulgaria, followed by those countries' shift
to the Allied side.
In September 1944, Soviet troops advanced into
Yugoslavia and forced
the rapid withdrawal of German Army Groups E and F in Greece, Albania
Yugoslavia to rescue them from being cut off. By this point,
the Communist-led Partisans under Marshal Josip Broz Tito, who had led
an increasingly successful guerrilla campaign against the occupation
since 1941, controlled much of the territory of
Yugoslavia and engaged
in delaying efforts against German forces further south. In northern
Serbia, the Red Army, with limited support from Bulgarian forces,
assisted the Partisans in a joint liberation of the capital city of
Belgrade on 20 October. A few days later, the Soviets launched a
massive assault against German-occupied
Hungary that lasted until the
fall of Budapest in February 1945. Unlike impressive Soviet
victories in the Balkans, bitter Finnish resistance to the Soviet
offensive in the
Karelian Isthmus denied the Soviets occupation of
Finland and led to a Soviet-Finnish armistice on relatively mild
conditions, although Finland was forced to fight their
Douglas MacArthur lands at Leyte, during the Battle of Leyte,
20 October 1944
By the start of July 1944, Commonwealth forces in Southeast
repelled the Japanese sieges in Assam, pushing the Japanese back to
the Chindwin River while the Chinese captured Myitkyina. In
September 1944, Chinese force captured the Mount Song to reopen the
Burma Road. In China, the Japanese had more successes, having
finally captured Changsha in mid-June and the city of Hengyang by
early August. Soon after, they invaded the province of Guangxi,
winning major engagements against Chinese forces at Guilin and Liuzhou
by the end of November and successfully linking up their forces
China and Indochina by mid-December.
In the Pacific, US forces continued to press back the Japanese
perimeter. In mid-June 1944, they began their offensive against the
Mariana and Palau islands, and decisively defeated Japanese forces in
the Battle of the Philippine Sea. These defeats led to the resignation
of the Japanese Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo, and provided the United
States with air bases to launch intensive heavy bomber attacks on the
Japanese home islands. In late October, American forces invaded the
Filipino island of Leyte; soon after, Allied naval forces scored
another large victory in the Battle of
Leyte Gulf, one of the largest
naval battles in history.
Axis collapse, Allied victory (1944–45)
Yalta Conference held in February 1945, with Winston Churchill,
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin
On 16 December 1944, Germany made a last attempt on the Western Front
by using most of its remaining reserves to launch a massive
counter-offensive in the
Ardennes and along the French–German border
to split the Western Allies, encircle large portions of Western Allied
troops and capture their primary supply port at
Antwerp to prompt a
political settlement. By January, the offensive had been repulsed
with no strategic objectives fulfilled. In Italy, the Western
Allies remained stalemated at the German defensive line. In
mid-January 1945, the Soviets and Poles attacked in Poland, pushing
from the Vistula to the Oder river in Germany, and overran East
Prussia. On 4 February, Soviet, British and US leaders met for
the Yalta Conference. They agreed on the occupation of post-war
Germany, and on when the
Soviet Union would join the war against
In February, the Soviets entered
Silesia and Pomerania, while Western
Allies entered western Germany and closed to the
Rhine river. By
March, the Western Allies crossed the
Rhine north and south of the
Ruhr, encircling the German Army Group B, while the Soviets
advanced to Vienna. In early April, the Western Allies finally pushed
forward in Italy and swept across western Germany capturing Hamburg
and Nuremberg, while Soviet and Polish forces stormed Berlin in late
April. American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe river on 25 April.
On 30 April 1945, the Reichstag was captured, signalling the military
defeat of Nazi Germany.
Several changes in leadership occurred during this period. On 12
April, President Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Harry S. Truman.
Benito Mussolini was killed by Italian partisans on 28 April. Two
Hitler committed suicide, and was succeeded by Grand
Admiral Karl Dönitz.
The German Reichstag after its capture by the Allied forces, 3 June
German forces surrendered in Italy on 29 April. Total and
unconditional surrender was signed on 7 May, to be effective by the
end of 8 May. German
Army Group Centre resisted in Prague until
In the Pacific theatre, American forces accompanied by the forces of
Philippine Commonwealth advanced in the Philippines, clearing
Leyte by the end of April 1945. They landed on Luzon in January 1945
and recaptured Manila in March following a battle which reduced the
city to ruins. Fighting continued on Luzon, Mindanao, and other
islands of the Philippines until the end of the war. Meanwhile,
United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) were destroying strategic
and populated cities and towns in
Japan in an effort to destroy
Japanese war industry and civilian morale. On the night of 9–10
March, USAAF B-29 bombers struck Tokyo with thousands of incendiary
bombs, which killed 100,000 civilians and destroyed 16 square miles
(41 km2) within a few hours. Over the next five months, the USAAF
firebombed a total of 67 Japanese cities, killing 393,000 civilians
and destroying 65% of built-up areas.
In May 1945, Australian troops landed in Borneo, overrunning the
oilfields there. British, American, and Chinese forces defeated the
Japanese in northern Burma in March, and the British pushed on to
Rangoon by 3 May. Chinese forces started to counterattack
Battle of West Hunan that occurred between 6 April and 7 June 1945.
American naval and amphibious forces also moved towards Japan, taking
Iwo Jima by March, and Okinawa by the end of June. At the same
time, American submarines cut off Japanese imports, drastically
reducing Japan's ability to supply its overseas forces.
Japanese foreign affairs minister
Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Japanese
Instrument of Surrender on board USS Missouri, 2 September 1945
On 11 July, Allied leaders met in Potsdam, Germany. They confirmed
earlier agreements about Germany, and reiterated the demand for
unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces by Japan, specifically
stating that "the alternative for
Japan is prompt and utter
destruction". During this conference, the
United Kingdom held its
general election, and
Clement Attlee replaced Churchill as Prime
The Allies called for unconditional Japanese surrender in the Potsdam
Declaration of 27 July, but the Japanese government rejected the call.
In early August, the USAAF dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Allies justified the atomic bombings as
a military necessity to avoid invading the Japanese home islands which
would cost the lives of between 250,000 and 500,000 Allied servicemen
and millions of Japanese troops and civilians. Between the two
bombings, the Soviets, pursuant to the Yalta agreement, invaded
Japanese-held Manchuria, and quickly defeated the Kwantung Army, which
was the largest Japanese fighting force. The
Red Army also
Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands. On 15 August 1945,
Japan surrendered, with the surrender documents finally signed at
Tokyo Bay on the deck of the American battleship USS Missouri on 2
September 1945, ending the war.
Aftermath of World War II
Aftermath of World War II and Consequences of Nazism
Defendants at the Nuremberg trials, where the Allied forces prosecuted
prominent members of the political, military, judicial and economic
Nazi Germany for crimes against humanity
The Allies established occupation administrations in Austria and
Germany. The former became a neutral state, non-aligned with any
political bloc. The latter was divided into western and eastern
occupation zones controlled by the Western Allies and the USSR,
accordingly. A denazification programme in Germany led to the
prosecution of Nazi war criminals and the removal of ex-Nazis from
power, although this policy moved towards amnesty and re-integration
of ex-Nazis into West German society.
Warsaw in January 1945, after the deliberate destruction of
the city by the occupying German forces
Germany lost a quarter of its pre-war (1937) territory. Among the
eastern territories, Silesia,
Neumark and most of
Pomerania were taken
over by Poland,
East Prussia was divided between Poland and the USSR,
followed by the expulsion of the 9 million Germans from these
provinces, as well as the expulsion of 3 million Germans from the
Czechoslovakia to Germany. By the 1950s, every fifth
West German was a refugee from the east. The
Soviet Union also took
over the Polish provinces east of the Curzon line, from which 2
million Poles were expelled; north-east Romania, parts
of eastern Finland, and the three
Baltic states were also
incorporated into the USSR.
In an effort to maintain world peace, the Allies formed the
United Nations, which officially came into existence on 24 October
1945, and adopted the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in
1948, as a common standard for all member nations. The great
powers that were the victors of the war—France, China, Britain, the
Soviet Union and the United States—became the permanent members of
the UN's Security Council. The five permanent members remain so to
the present, although there have been two seat changes, between the
China and the People's Republic of
China in 1971, and
Soviet Union and its successor state, the Russian
Federation, following the dissolution of the
Soviet Union in 1991. The
alliance between the Western Allies and the
Soviet Union had begun to
deteriorate even before the war was over.
Post-war Soviet territorial expansion resulted in Central and Eastern
European border changes, the creation of a Communist Bloc and start of
the Cold War
Germany had been de facto divided, and two independent states, the
Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic
were created within the borders of Allied and Soviet occupation zones,
accordingly. The rest of
Europe was also divided into Western and
Soviet spheres of influence. Most eastern and central European
countries fell into the Soviet sphere, which led to establishment of
Communist-led regimes, with full or partial support of the Soviet
occupation authorities. As a result, East Germany, Poland,
Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Albania became Soviet
satellite states. Communist
Yugoslavia conducted a fully independent
policy, causing tension with the USSR.
Post-war division of the world was formalised by two international
military alliances, the United States-led
NATO and the Soviet-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
United States led the occupation of
administrated Japan's former islands in the Western Pacific, while the
Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. Korea, formerly
under Japanese rule, was divided and occupied by the
Soviet Union in
the North and the US in the South between 1945 and 1948. Separate
republics emerged on both sides of the 38th parallel in 1948, each
claiming to be the legitimate government for all of Korea, which led
ultimately to the Korean War.
David Ben-Gurion proclaiming the Israeli Declaration of Independence
at the Independence Hall, 14 May 1948
In China, nationalist and communist forces resumed the civil war in
June 1946. Communist forces were victorious and established the
People's Republic of
China on the mainland, while nationalist forces
Taiwan 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 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
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. The UK and US
pursued a policy of industrial disarmament in Western Germany in the
years 1945–1948. Because of 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 Western Germany,
and was sped up by the liberalisation of European economic policy that
Marshall Plan (1948–1951) both directly and indirectly
caused. The post-1948 West German recovery has been called
the German economic miracle. Italy also experienced an economic
boom and the French economy 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
The Soviet Union, despite enormous human and material losses, also
experienced rapid increase in production in the immediate post-war
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.
Main article: Historiography of World War II
Casualties and war crimes
World War II casualties
World War II casualties and List of war crimes
§ 1939–1945: World War II
World War II
World War II deaths
Estimates for the total number of casualties in the war vary, because
many deaths went unrecorded. Most suggest that some 60 million people
died in the war, including about 20 million military personnel and 40
million civilians. Many of the civilians died because
of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and
Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war,
including 8.7 million military and 19 million civilian deaths. The
largest portion of military dead were 5.7 million ethnic Russians,
followed by 1.3 million ethnic Ukrainians. A quarter of the
people in the
Soviet Union were wounded or killed. Germany
sustained 5.3 million military losses, mostly on the Eastern Front and
during the final battles in Germany.
Of the total number of deaths in World War II, approximately 85
per cent—mostly Soviet and Chinese—were on the Allied side and 15
per cent were on the Axis side. Many of these deaths were caused
by war crimes committed by German and Japanese forces in occupied
territories. An estimated 11 to 17 million civilians died
either as a direct or as an indirect result of Nazi racist policies,
Holocaust of around 6 million Jews, half of whom were
Polish citizens, along with a further minimum 1.9 million ethnic
Poles. Millions of other Slavs (including Russians,
Ukrainians and Belarusians), Roma, homosexuals, and other ethnic and
minority groups were also killed. Hundreds of thousands
(varying estimates) of ethnic Serbs, along with gypsies and Jews, were
murdered by the Axis-aligned Croatian
Ustaše in Yugoslavia, and
retribution-related killings were committed just after the war ended.
Chinese civilians being buried alive by soldiers of the Imperial
Japanese Army, during the Nanking Massacre, December 1937
Asia and the Pacific, between 3 million and more than 10 million
civilians, mostly Chinese (estimated at 7.5 million), were killed
by the Japanese occupation forces. The best-known Japanese
atrocity was the Nanking Massacre, in which fifty to three hundred
thousand Chinese civilians were raped and murdered. Mitsuyoshi
Himeta reported that 2.7 million casualties occurred during the Sankō
Yasuji Okamura implemented the policy in Heipei and
Axis forces employed biological and chemical weapons. The Imperial
Japanese Army used a variety of such weapons during its invasion and
China (see Unit 731) and in early conflicts
against the Soviets. Both the Germans and Japanese tested such
weapons against civilians and, sometimes on prisoners of
Soviet Union was responsible for the
Katyn massacre of 22,000
Polish officers, and the imprisonment or execution of thousands
of political prisoners by the NKVD, in the Baltic states, and
eastern Poland annexed by the Red Army.
The mass-bombing of cities in
Asia has often been called a
war crime. However, no positive or specific customary international
humanitarian law with respect to aerial warfare existed before or
during World War II.
Genocide, concentration camps, and slave labour
Main articles: Genocide, The Holocaust, Nazi concentration camps,
Extermination camp, Forced labour under German rule during World War
II, Kidnapping of children by Nazi Germany, and Nazi human
Schutzstaffel (SS) female camp guards remove prisoners' bodies from
lorries and carry them to a mass grave, inside the German
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, 1945
The German government led by
Adolf Hitler and the
Nazi Party was
responsible for the Holocaust, the killing of approximately 6 million
Jews, as well as 2.7 million ethnic Poles, and 4 million others
who were deemed "unworthy of life" (including the disabled and
mentally ill, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals, Freemasons,
Jehovah's Witnesses, and Romani) as part of a programme of deliberate
extermination. About 12 million, most of whom were Eastern Europeans,
were employed in the German war economy as forced labourers.
In addition to Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet gulags (labour
camps) led to the death of citizens of occupied countries such as
Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as German prisoners of
war (POWs) and even Soviet citizens who had been or were thought to be
supporters of the Nazis. Sixty per cent of Soviet POWs of the
Germans died during the war.
Richard Overy gives the number of
5.7 million Soviet POWs. Of those, 57 per cent died or were killed, a
total of 3.6 million. Soviet ex-POWs and repatriated
civilians were treated with great suspicion as potential Nazi
collaborators, and some of them were sent to the
Gulag upon being
checked by the NKVD.
Prisoner identity photograph taken by the German SS of a Polish girl
deported as forced labour to Auschwitz, December 1942
Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, many of which were used as labour
camps, also had high death rates. The International Military Tribunal
for the Far East found the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1
per cent (for American POWs, 37 per cent), seven times that of
POWs under the Germans and Italians. While 37,583 prisoners from
the UK, 28,500 from the Netherlands, and 14,473 from the United States
were released after the surrender of Japan, the number of Chinese
released was only 56.
According to historian Zhifen Ju, at least five million Chinese
civilians from northern
Manchukuo were enslaved between 1935
and 1941 by the East
Asia Development Board, or Kōain, for work in
mines and war industries. After 1942, the number reached 10
million. The US Library of Congress estimates that in Java,
between 4 and 10 million rōmusha (Japanese: "manual labourers"), were
forced to work by the Japanese military. About 270,000 of these
Javanese labourers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in South
East Asia, and only 52,000 were repatriated to Java.
On 19 February 1942, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, interning
about 100,000 Japanese living on the West Coast.
Canada had a similar
programme. In addition, 14,000 German and Italian citizens
who had been assessed as being security risks were also interned.
In accordance with the Allied agreement made at the Yalta Conference
millions of POWs and civilians were used as forced labour by the
Soviet Union. In Hungary's case, Hungarians were forced to work
Soviet Union until 1955.
Main articles: German-occupied Europe, Collaboration with the Axis
Powers, Resistance during World War II, and Nazi plunder
Polish civilians wearing blindfolds photographed just before their
execution by German soldiers in Palmiry forest, 1940
In Europe, occupation came under two forms. In Western, Northern, and
Europe (France, Norway, Denmark, the Low Countries, and the
annexed portions of Czechoslovakia) Germany established economic
policies through which it collected roughly 69.5 billion reichmarks
(27.8 billion US dollars) by the end of the war, this figure does not
include the sizeable plunder of industrial products, military
equipment, raw materials and other goods. Thus, the income from
occupied nations was over 40 per cent of the income Germany collected
from taxation, a figure which increased to nearly 40 per cent of total
German income as the war went on.
Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences reported in 1995 civilian victims in the
Soviet Union at German hands totalled 13.7 million dead, twenty
percent of the 68 million persons in the occupied USSR
In the East, the intended gains of
Lebensraum were never attained as
fluctuating front-lines and Soviet scorched earth policies denied
resources to the German invaders. Unlike in the West, the Nazi
racial policy encouraged extreme brutality against what it considered
to be the "inferior people" of Slavic descent; most German advances
were thus followed by mass executions. Although resistance groups
formed in most occupied territories, they did not significantly hamper
German operations in either the East or the West until late
Japan termed nations under its occupation as being part of
the Greater East
Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, essentially a Japanese
hegemony which it claimed was for purposes of liberating colonised
peoples. Although Japanese forces were originally welcomed as
liberators from European domination in some territories, their
excessive brutality turned local public opinion against them within
weeks. During Japan's initial conquest it captured 4,000,000
barrels (640,000 m3) of oil (~5.5×105 tonnes) left behind by
retreating Allied forces, and by 1943 was able to get production in
Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies up to 50 million barrels (~6.8×10^6 t), 76
per cent of its 1940 output rate.
Home fronts and production
Military production during World War II
Military production during World War II and Home front
during World War II
Allied to Axis GDP ratio
In Europe, before the outbreak of the war, the Allies had significant
advantages in both population and economics. In 1938, the Western
Allies (United Kingdom, France, Poland and British Dominions) had a 30
per cent larger population and a 30 per cent higher gross domestic
product than the European
Axis powers (Germany and Italy); if colonies
are included, it then gives the Allies more than a 5:1 advantage in
population and nearly 2:1 advantage in GDP. In
Asia at the same
China had roughly six times the population of Japan, but only an
89 per cent higher GDP; this is reduced to three times the population
and only a 38 per cent higher GDP if Japanese colonies are
United States provided about two-thirds of all the ordnance used
by the Allies in terms of warships, transports, warplanes, artillery,
tanks, trucks, and ammunition. Though the Allies' economic and
population advantages were largely mitigated during the initial rapid
blitzkrieg attacks of Germany and Japan, they became the decisive
factor by 1942, after the
United States and
Soviet Union joined the
Allies, as the war largely settled into one of attrition. While
the Allies' ability to out-produce the Axis is often attributed to the
Allies having more access to natural resources, other factors, such as
Germany and Japan's reluctance to employ women in the labour
force, Allied strategic bombing, and Germany's late shift to
a war economy contributed significantly. Additionally, neither
Japan planned to fight a protracted war, and were not
equipped to do so. To improve their production, Germany and Japan
used millions of slave labourers; Germany used about 12 million
people, mostly from Eastern Europe, while
Japan used more than 18
million people in Far East Asia.
Advances in technology and warfare
Main article: Technology during World War II
B-29 Superfortress strategic bombers on the
Boeing assembly line in
Wichita, Kansas, 1944
Aircraft were used for reconnaissance, as fighters, bombers, and
ground-support, and each role was advanced considerably. Innovation
included airlift (the capability to quickly move limited high-priority
supplies, equipment, and personnel); and of strategic bombing
(the bombing of enemy industrial and population centres to destroy the
enemy's ability to wage war). Anti-aircraft weaponry also
advanced, including defences such as radar and surface-to-air
artillery, such as the German 88 mm gun. The use of the jet aircraft
was pioneered and, though late introduction meant it had little
impact, it led to jets becoming standard in air forces worldwide.
Advances were made in nearly every aspect of naval warfare, most
notably with aircraft carriers and submarines. Although aeronautical
warfare had relatively little success at the start of the war, actions
at Taranto, Pearl Harbor, and the Coral Sea established the carrier as
the dominant capital ship in place of the battleship.
In the Atlantic, escort carriers proved to be a vital part of Allied
convoys, increasing the effective protection radius and helping to
close the Mid-Atlantic gap. Carriers were also more economical
than battleships because of the relatively low cost of aircraft
and their not requiring to be as heavily armoured. Submarines,
which had proved to be an effective weapon during the First World
War, were anticipated by all sides to be important in the second.
The British focused development on anti-submarine weaponry and
tactics, such as sonar and convoys, while Germany focused on improving
its offensive capability, with designs such as the Type VII submarine
and wolfpack tactics. Gradually, improving Allied technologies
such as the Leigh light, hedgehog, squid, and homing torpedoes proved
V-2 rocket launched from a fixed site in Peenemünde, 21 June 1943
Land warfare changed from the static front lines of World War I
to increased mobility and combined arms. The tank, which had been used
predominantly for infantry support in the First World War, had evolved
into the primary weapon. In the late 1930s, tank design was
considerably more advanced than it had been during World War I,
and advances continued throughout the war with increases in speed,
armour and firepower.
At the start of the war, most commanders thought enemy tanks should be
met by tanks with superior specifications. This idea was
challenged by the poor performance of the relatively light early tank
guns against armour, and German doctrine of avoiding tank-versus-tank
combat. This, along with Germany's use of combined arms, were among
the key elements of their highly successful blitzkrieg tactics across
Poland and France. Many means of destroying tanks, including
indirect artillery, anti-tank guns (both towed and self-propelled),
mines, short-ranged infantry antitank weapons, and other tanks were
used. Even with large-scale mechanisation, infantry remained the
backbone of all forces, and throughout the war, most infantry
were equipped similarly to World War I.
Nuclear Gadget being raised to the top of the detonation "shot tower",
at Alamogordo Bombing Range; Trinity nuclear test, New Mexico, July
The portable machine gun spread, a notable example being the German
MG34, and various submachine guns which were suited to close combat in
urban and jungle settings. The assault rifle, a late war
development incorporating many features of the rifle and submachine
gun, became the standard postwar infantry weapon for most armed
Most major belligerents attempted to solve the problems of complexity
and security involved in using large codebooks for cryptography by
designing ciphering machines, the most well known being the German
Enigma machine. Development of
SIGINT (signals intelligence) and
cryptanalysis enabled the countering process of decryption. Notable
examples were the Allied decryption of Japanese naval codes and
British Ultra, a pioneering method for decoding Enigma benefiting from
information given to Britain by the Polish
Cipher Bureau, which had
been decoding early versions of Enigma before the war. Another
aspect of military intelligence was the use of deception, which the
Allies used to great effect, such as in operations Mincemeat and
Bodyguard. Other technological and engineering feats
achieved during, or as a result of, the war include the world's first
programmable computers (Z3, Colossus, and ENIAC), guided missiles and
modern rockets, the Manhattan Project's development of nuclear
weapons, operations research and the development of artificial
harbours and oil pipelines under the English Channel.
Air warfare of World War II
Bibliography of World War II
Declarations of war during World War II
Historiography of World War II
Home front during World War II
World War II
World War II battles
List of Allied
World War II
World War II conferences
World War II
World War II documentary films
World War II
World War II military operations
World War II
World War II military equipment
Military production during World War II
Naval history of World War II
Women in World War II
World War II
World War II in popular culture
World War II
World War II films
World War III
^ While various other dates have been proposed as the date on which
World War II
World War II began or ended, this is the time span most frequently
^ Upon his death in 1989, Emperor
Hirohito was posthumously proclaimed
Emperor Shōwa. While either use is considered acceptable, his English
name (Hirohito) is used here as it is this name by which he was known
to most of the West during World War II.
^ Gilbert 2001, p. 291.
^ James A. Tyner (3 March 2009). War, Violence, and Population: Making
the Body Count. The Guilford Press; 1 edition. p. 49.
^ Sommerville 2008, p. 5 (2011 ed.).
BBC - Tyne - Roots - Non-Jewish
Holocaust Victims : The
5,000,000 others". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
^ Barrett & Shyu 2001, p. 6.
^ Axelrod, Alan (2007) Encyclopedia of World War II, Volume 1.
Infobase Publishing. pp. 659.
^ a b The UN Security Council, retrieved 15 May 2012
^ Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council; José Manuel
Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission (10 December
2012). "From War to Peace: A European Tale". Nobel Lecture by the
European Union. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
^ Weinberg 2005, p. 6.
^ Wells, Anne Sharp (2014) Historical Dictionary of World War II: The
War against Germany and Italy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing.
^ Ferris, John; Mawdsley, Evan (2015). The
Cambridge History of the
Second World War, Volume I: Fighting the War. Cambridge: Cambridge
^ Förster & Gessler 2005, p. 64.
^ Ghuhl, Wernar (2007) Imperial Japan's World War Two Transaction
Publishers pg 7, pg. 30
^ Polmar, Norman; Thomas B. Allen (1991) World War II: America at war,
1941–1945 ISBN 978-0394585307
^ Ben-Horin 1943, p. 169; Taylor 1979, p. 124; Yisreelit,
Hevrah Mizrahit (1965). Asian and African Studies, p. 191.
For 1941 see Taylor 1961, p. vii; Kellogg, William O (2003).
American History the Easy Way. Barron's Educational Series. p. 236
There is also the viewpoint that both World War I and World
War II are part of the same "European Civil War" or "Second
Thirty Years War": Canfora 2006, p. 155; Prins 2002, p. 11.
^ Beevor 2012, p. 10.
^ Masaya 1990, p. 4.
^ "History of German-American Relations » 1989–1994 –
Reunification » "Two-plus-Four-Treaty": Treaty on the Final
Settlement with Respect to Germany, September 12, 1990".
usa.usembassy.de. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
^ Ingram 2006, pp. 76–8.
^ Kantowicz 1999, p. 149.
^ Shaw 2000, p. 35.
^ Brody 1999, p. 4.
^ Zalampas 1989, p. 62.
^ Mandelbaum 1988, p. 96; Record 2005, p. 50.
^ Schmitz 2000, p. 124.
^ Adamthwaite 1992, p. 52.
^ Preston 1998, p. 104.
^ Myers & Peattie 1987, p. 458.
^ Smith & Steadman 2004, p. 28.
^ Coogan 1993: "Although some Chinese troops in the Northeast managed
to retreat south, others were trapped by the advancing Japanese Army
and were faced with the choice of resistance in defiance of orders, or
surrender. A few commanders submitted, receiving high office in the
puppet government, but others took up arms against the invader. The
forces they commanded were the first of the volunteer armies."
^ Busky 2002, p. 10.
^ Andrea L. Stanton; Edward Ramsamy; Peter J. Seybolt (5 January
2012). Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa: An
Encyclopedia. p. 308. ISBN 9781412981767. Retrieved 6 April
^ Barker 1971, pp. 131–2.
^ Kitson 2001, p. 231.
^ Payne 2008, p. 271.
^ Payne 2008, p. 146.
^ Eastman 1986, pp. 547–51.
^ a b Guo 2005
^ a b Hsu & Chang 1971, pp. 195–200.
^ Tucker, Spencer C. (23 December 2009). "A Global Chronology of
Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East [6
volumes]: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East". ABC-CLIO.
Retrieved 27 August 2017 – via Google Books.
^ Yang Kuisong, "On the reconstruction of the facts of the Battle of
^ Levene, Mark and Roberts, Penny. The Massacre in History. 1999, page
^ Totten, Samuel. Dictionary of Genocide. 2008, 298–9.
^ Hsu & Chang 1971, pp. 221–230.
^ Eastman 1986, p. 566.
^ Taylor 2009, pp. 150–2.
^ Sella 1983, pp. 651–87.
^ Beevor 2012, p. 342.
^ Goldman, Stuart D. (28 August 2012). "The Forgotten Soviet-Japanese
War of 1939". The Diplomat. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
^ Timothy Neeno. "Nomonhan: The Second Russo-Japanese War".
MilitaryHistoryOnline.com. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
^ Collier & Pedley 2000, p. 144.
^ Kershaw 2001, pp. 121–2.
^ Kershaw 2001, p. 157.
^ Davies 2006, pp. 143–4 (2008 ed.).
^ Lowe & Marzari 2002, p. 330.
^ Dear & Foot 2001, p. 234.
^ Shore 2003, p. 108.
^ Dear & Foot 2001, p. 608.
^ Minutes of the conference between the Fuehrer and the Italian
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Count Ciano, in the presence of the
Reich Foreign Minister of Obersalzberg on 12 August 1939 in Nazi
Conspiracy and Aggression Volume IV Document No. 1871-PS
^ "The German Campaign In Poland (1939)". Retrieved 29 October
^ a b "The
Danzig Crisis". ww2db.com.
^ a b "Major international events of 1939, with explanation".
^ Evans 2008, pp. 1–2.
^ Jackson 2006, p. 58.
^ Weinberg 2005, pp. 64–5.
^ Keegan 1997, p. 35.
Cienciala 2010, p. 128, observes that, while it is true that
Poland was far away, making it difficult for the French and British to
provide support, "[f]ew Western historians of World War II ...
know that the British had committed to bomb Germany if it attacked
Poland, but did not do so except for one raid on the base of
Wilhelmshafen. The French, who committed to attack Germany in the
west, had no intention of doing so."
^ Beevor 2012, p. 32; Dear & Foot 2001, pp. 248–9;
Roskill 1954, p. 64.
^ Zaloga 2002, pp. 80, 83.
^ Hempel 2005, p. 24.
^ Zaloga 2002, pp. 88–9.
^ Budiansky 2001, pp. 120–1.
^ Nuremberg Documents C-62/GB86, a directive from
Hitler in October
1939 which concludes: "The attack [on France] is to be launched this
Autumn if conditions are at all possible."
^ Liddell Hart 1977, pp. 39–40.
^ Bullock 1990, pp. 563–4, 566, 568–9, 574–5 (1983 ed.).
^ Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of
Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk, L
Deighton, Jonathan Cape, 1993, p186-7. Deighton states that "the
offensive was postponed twenty-nine times before it finally took
^ Smith et al. 2002, p. 24.
^ a b Bilinsky 1999, p. 9.
^ a b Murray & Millett 2001, pp. 55–6.
^ Spring 1986, p. 207-226.
^ Hanhimäki 1997, p. 12.
^ Ferguson 2006, pp. 367, 376, 379, 417.
^ Snyder 2010, p. 118ff.
^ Koch 1983.
^ Roberts 2006, p. 56.
^ Roberts 2006, p. 59.
^ Murray & Millett 2001, pp. 57–63.
^ Commager 2004, p. 9.
^ Reynolds 2006, p. 76.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 122–3.
^ Dear & Foot 2001, p. 436. The Americans later relieved the
British, with marines arriving in Reykjavik on 7 July 1941 (Schofield
1981, p. 122).
^ Shirer 1990, pp. 721–3.
^ Keegan 1997, pp. 59–60.
^ Regan 2004, p. 152.
^ Liddell Hart 1977, p. 48.
^ Keegan 1997, pp. 66–7.
^ Overy & Wheatcroft 1999, p. 207.
^ Umbreit 1991, p. 311.
^ Brown 2004, p. xxx.
^ Keegan 1997, p. 72.
^ a b Murray 1983, The Battle of Britain.
^ a b c "Major international events of 1940, with explanation".
^ Goldstein 2004, p. 35. Aircraft played a highly important role
in defeating the German U-boats (Schofield 1981, p. 122).
^ Steury 1987, p. 209; Zetterling & Tamelander 2009,
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