World War II
World War II was a global conflict fought between the Allied powers including the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, Australia, Canada and many other nations and the Axis powers (mainly Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan). The war is usually considered to have started on September 1, 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. During the war, eight major world powers fought, along with several lesser states joining with one side or the other. On the side which lost were the Axis Powers Germany, Japan, and Italy. Against them were the Allied Powers United States, Great Britain and the Commonwealth, the Soviet Union, France, and China (which was friendly to the West at the time.) Russia entered the war after Germany launched an attack codenamed Barbarossa, while Britain declared war in reaction to Germany's aggression against Poland.
The causes of World War II are complicated. The immediate causes of World War II are generally held to be the Japanese attacks on China, the United States, the British and Dutch colonies; and the German invasion of Poland on the 1st September 1939. Following the two day deadline for the withdrawl of German forces, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand declared war on Germany, followed quickly by France, South Africa, Canada and Nepal.
One major cause of German aggression may be the fervent Nationalism that became the norm in Germany post-World War I. Germans were eager to reaffirm their position as a major player on the world stage.[Citation Needed]
The major tactical innovation of the war was the use of combined arms warfare, typified by the German doctrine of blitzkrieg. In this style of warfare armor, infantry, artillery and air power (see Luftwaffe) all coordinate to achieve overwhelming superiority at point on the enemy lines. Armor and fast-moving infantry units then exploit the gap and penetrate deep behind enemy lines. The objective is to cause a widespread collapse of the enemy's ability to fight. It was particularly effective during the early stages of the war, before the Allies developed effective countermeasures.
War in Europe 1939-1941
The French and British were initially reluctant to honour promises to the Polish government, avoiding serious consideration of an invasion of Germany. The British failed send land forces in time to support the Poles (see Western betrayal). The French mobilized slowly and then launched a token offensive in the Saar. The Meanwhile, on September 8, the Germans reached Warsaw, having slashed through the Polish defenses.
Following the completion of the invasion of Poland, German forces regrouped and Allied forces remained defensive, leading US commentators to dub it the Phoney War. This perception was not shared in Finland, which fought a Soviet invasion start on 30 November 1939. Despite the overwhelming numbers of the Red Army, the Finnish resistance was strong and the battle was hard fought before the Soviet army took control.
May 10 1940 marked the end of any accustion of a phoney war, with the invasion of France by Germany, via The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Beligium. Resistance by the British armies and French armies proved weak and the occupation of France began. British troops were able to evacuate mainland Europe at Dunkirk. France was divided into the northern Occupied France and the collaborationist Vichy regime in the south of France, including Corsica.
The collapse and occupation of France, together with Germany's alliance with the Soviet Union, fascist Italy, benevolent neutrality of fascist Spain and Portugal, with little of Europe outside of Axis hands led many to assume that the United Kingdom had been defeated. Indeed it would appear that the, seemingly foolish, decision of the relatively weak United Kingdom to continue the war took the Axis powers off guard. This decision ensured the remaining British Empire was still involved in the war, with Japan threatening many British possessions in Asia.
In 1940 Denmark and Norway were invaded by German forces, to preempt a British occupation of Norway. Norway also contained a source of Heavy water, possibly crucial in the construction of an atomic weapon. This was soon followed by the British invasion of neutral Iceland (the invasion of Denmark by German forces marks the start of an independent Iceland).
With Britain the sole opposing European nation, the Battle of Britain commenced. The Luftwaffe attempted to achieve aerial dominance over the south of Britain, in order to allow a sea based invasion of Britain to proceed. For many months the Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe fought for dominance, with the resilience of the RAF, with British, Canadian and Polish pilots forced a rethink of German tactics. The period that followed is known as the Blitz, where the RAF and Luftwaffe attempted to undermine the infrastructure of the opposing country. This was a period of great economic devastation, which took both countries a considerable period to recover from. More seriously it led to huge numbers of civilian deaths.
1941 marked the major turning point in the war in Europe, when the Germans put aside plans for an invasion of Britain and undertook Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of the Soviet Union. In a war of major turning points, this was the most significant in Europe. This miscalculation diminished the Germans armies capacity as they a war against the Soviet Union (known as the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union) demanded huge dedication of resources and later in the war permitted an invasion of mainland Europe by Allied Forces on D Day.
The end of World War II in Asia
On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress, the Enola Gay, dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Then, on August 9, a B-29 dropped the second atomic bomb. On August 20 the Japanese government told the United States they were ready to accept the terms which the Allies proposed. The next day, the Allies replied, saying the authority of the emperor would be "subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers." On August 14 the Japanese government agreed to this.
Then, September 2, 1945, the Japanese government, along with all it's military forces, formally surrendered to the United States. This happened in a ceremony aboard an American battleship, the Missouri, on Tokyo Bay, where the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed. This was the ending of World War II, after six years almost to the day.
Fall Out From World War II
- British Empire
The war effectively bankrupted Britain, which started the process of discarding its empire. It was not until 2007 Britain finished paying off the loans to the USA which it had taken to fight Nazi Germany.
- Supermecy of the USA in the Western World
Whilst most countries had seen their economies demolished by the war, the USA had industrialised heavily and gained financial gains from sales of arms to other Allied countries.
- Supremecy of the Soviet Union in the Eastern World.