World War Two: A Very Brief History

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World War Two: A Very Brief History

Table of contents :
Introduction to World War II
1. The World Before The War
2. Sliding Towards War
3. Initial Axis Success
4. The Tide Begins to Turn
5. Allies Gain The Upper Hand
6. Allies Make Their Move
7. Defeat of the Axis Army
8. Continuing War with Japan
9. After the War

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WORLD WAR TWO A Very Brief History Mark Black All Rights Reserved © Very Brief History

The Very Brief History Series Want to learn more about history, but don’t think you have the time? Think again. The Very Brief History series is intended to give the reader a short, concise account of the most important events in world history. Each book provides the reader with the essential facts concerning a particular event or person; no distractions, just the essential facts, allowing the reader to master the subject in the shortest time possible. With The Very Brief History series, anyone can become a history expert! To find out more:

Table of Contents The Very Brief History Series Introduction to World War II 1. The World Before The War 2. Sliding Towards War 3. Initial Axis Success 4. The Tide Begins to Turn 5. Allies Gain The Upper Hand 6. Allies Make Their Move 7. Defeat of the Axis Army 8. Continuing War with Japan 9. After the War

Introduction to World War II World War II was the most destructive, devastating conflict in world history, with major battles stretching across the world; this was truly a global conflict in every sense. An estimated 17 million soldiers were killed on all sides, with civilian casualties reaching more than double that figure in the Soviet Union and China alone. The conflict started in 1939 and continued until 1945, although it had its roots in a series of events that took place much earlier. Almost all of the world’s nations were involved in the conflict, with the eventual victors putting in place a new world order that would endure for decades.

1. The World Before The War The world was a fairly chaotic place after the end of World War I with the collapse of empires and governments. New countries were created after the war as a result of the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire and the Austria-Hungary Empire. In addition to the creation of new countries, old countries gained more territory as a result of winning World War I. France, Italy, Greece, Romania and Belgium were five of the countries that gained more territory. The German Empire The German Empire ended as the result of the 1918-1919 German revolution, which created the Weimar Republic, a democratic government. During the time between the two wars, people on the right and left as well as supporters of the new republic continued to battle and fight. The Nazi party rose during this time and as the economy became worse, support for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis began to rise. Hitler made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic in 1923 and Hitler ended up spending five years in prison for treason. In late January of 1933, Hitler was elected the new Chancellor of Germany and was the head of a coalition government. Four weeks after becoming the new Chancellor, the Reichstag fire broke out. Hitler used this fire, which was deliberately set, to attack the communists and limit their power in the government where they currently held about seventeen percent of the seats. Hitler was able to get the Reichstag Fire Decree passed which suspended civil liberties and Hitler then convinced the populace that the fire was the beginning of a communist revolution that needed to be stamped out. The Nazi’s were able to use this fire to arrest thousands of communists and gain enough support so that the Nazi party gained a majority of seats in the government in the March 5 election. This increase in the number of seats, allowed Hitler to pass the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, which allowed him to rule by decree. Hitler got rid of democracy and began to rearm the nation as well as increasing the size of the army through conscription.

Italy Although Italy was on the winning side of the war and gained some extra territory as a result of this, the Italian nationalists felt that the promises which were made by Britain and France in order to convince Italy to enter the war were not kept. Benito Mussolini capitalized on this discontent and the strong sense of nationalism sweeping through Italy to lead the Fascist movement to power in 1922. Mussolini sought to turn Italy into a world power through an aggressive foreign policy. He repressed liberal forces and got rid of representative democracy. Later, Italy joined forces with the United Kingdom and France to form the Stressa Front a treaty negotiated in the town of Stressa which aimed at containing Germany which was rapidly building its military forces. This treaty was severely damaged when the United Kingdom unilaterally agreed to allow Germany to increase the size of its Navy. The United Kingdom did not inform the other Stressa Front countries about this until after the agreement with Germany had been established. In October 1935, Italy, pursuing its aggressive foreign policy stance, attacked and invaded Ethiopia. Both countries were members of the League of Nations, a multi-governmental organization aimed at ensuring that another world war did not occur. The weakness of the league was exposed by its inability to prevent the conflict between two of its member states. Italy ended up occupying Ethiopia and merged it into the other colonies of Italian East Africa. Germany was the only European country to support the attack on Ethiopia. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, both Germany and Italy supported the fascist Nationalist forces against the Spanish Republic who were being backed by the USSR. During this war, both sides were able to test a number of new weapons and methods of warfare during this war. One example of this can be seen in the April 1937 bombing of the town of Guernica by the German Condor Legion. This bombing raised the concern that civilians would now be targeted during conflicts. In 1936, Germany and Italy entered into a treaty forming the Rome-Berlin Axis. This treaty stated that both countries would have a common foreign policy.

Japan In the mid 1920s, the Kuomintang (KMT), in concert with their Chinese communist allies, had attempted to defeat the Chinese warlords and unite all of China. Unfortunately, the two allies would soon become foes and began to fight each other. In 1931, Japan seeing China in disarray, used the Mukden Incident, or Manchurian Incident, as an excuse to invade Manchuria and set up a puppet government. The Mukden incident was a manufactured incident by the Japanese which occurred when a Japanese army officer detonated a small amount of explosive near a railroad owned by Japan’s South Manchuria Railway. Even though no one was hurt and there was minimal damage, in fact a train passed by on the tracks a few minutes after the explosion, the Japanese government accused Chinese dissidents of placing the bomb and invaded. China was too weak to fight Japan so they requested help from the League of Nations but Japan simple withdrew from the League after their actions were condemned. Japan and China continued to fight a number of battles until a peace treaty was signed in 1933 which allowed Japan to keep the territory that it had conquered. On November 25, 1936, Japan and Nazi Germany joined forces in the AntiComintern Pact, and in 1937, they were joined by Italy. The reason behind this pact was to fight the influence of the Communist International, an organization which was directed by Moscow and whose aims included the overthrow of non-communist states and the development of an international Soviet republic. It was also around this time that the KMT and the Communists stopped fighting each other in an effort to show a united front in order to meet Japanese aggression. Following the signing of this pact, Japan continued its aggression against China. In July 1937, the Japanese manufactured another incident, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, to justify further aggression. The roots of the incident can be found in the Boxer Protocol treaty signed shortly after the Boxer Rebellion . As a result of this treaty, China had to allow countries who had embassies in Beijing to station guards along certain parts of the railway between Beijing and Tianjin. These countries were also able to perform military exercises without informing the other countries. At the time of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the Japanese had increased the size of its

deployment far beyond that allowed under the Boxer Protocol and vastly outnumbered the deployment of other countries. The Japanese had been performing night manoeuvres without informing the Chinese government. The local Chinese forces ended up exchanging gunfire with the Japanese although this was fairly limited. Then it was discovered that a Japanese soldier was missing and the Japanese insisted on searching for their missing soldier. This was agreed to but both sides continued to rush reinforcements to the area. While the Japanese investigators were looking for the soldier, members of the Japanese Army opened fire and the Japanese infantry attacked the bridge. Although a ceasefire was quickly established, both sides continued to build up their forces and there were repeated violations of the ceasefire which eventually broke out into all out war. On July 29, 1938, Japan continued its aggression in Asia by attacking the USSR although the Japanese Army was stopped at Lake Khasan. The Japanese claimed that this battle was a draw and continued their aggression by attacking Mongolia where once again the Japanese were defeated by the Soviet Army.

2. Sliding Towards War Germany and Italy continued to grow more aggressive in Europe. Germany invaded and took over Austria with out much of a response from either the League of Nations or other European powers. Hitler then began to push towards taking over part of Czechoslovakia. Germany claimed the area of Czechoslovakia known as Sudetenland which way made of people with an ethnic German background. Even though the government of Czechoslovakia opposed the annexation, France and England agreed to Germany taking over this area as long as they didn’t attempt to take over any more land. Germany didn’t concern itself with this condition and soon took over the rest of the country in March 1939. The German government split Czechoslovakia into two parts: the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the Slovak Republic, which was basically a puppet state of Germany. Shortly after the complete annexation of Czechoslovakia, Italy took over Albania. These actions by both Germany and Italy caused a lot of concern so France and Britain agreed to help defend the Polish government against attack. After the actions by Italy, this protection was also given to Romania and Greece. Germany and Italy responded by signing an agreement which became known as the Pact of Steel which encouraged military and economic cooperation. Germany also entered into a non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This treaty also agreed to split up Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Finland and Estonia into Soviet and German “spheres of influence”. On September 1, 1939, Slovakia and Germany invaded Poland and as a result, France and Britain declared war on Germany. Even though these countries declared war on Germany, they didn’t offer very much support to Poland. The French sent a small attack force into Saarland and both Britain and France set up a naval blockade in an effort to negatively affect Germany’s economy and war effort. On September 17, the Soviet Union joined Germany in the invasion of Poland and the country was divided between the two countries. Slovakian and Lithuania also received small parts of Poland. The Poles refused to surrender even though their country was

completely occupied. They organized a Polish Underground State as well as an underground Home Army. In addition to this, many soldiers were evacuated to the Baltic countries and later ended up fighting the Germans in other areas. At the same time, Japan attacked Changsha, an important Chinese city although they were not able to take it over and ended up being beaten back in late September. The Soviet Union then forced the Baltic countries, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Finland, to accept Soviet troops being stationed in their countries. Finland refused territorial demands made by the Soviet Union and ended up being invaded in November 1939. The Soviet invasion ended once Finland made a number of concessions to the Soviet Union. As a result of this invasion by the Soviets, France and the United Kingdom, sought the removal of the USSR from the League of Nations. The war was basically at a standstill in Western Europe. The British deployed a number of troops to Western Europe but neither they nor the Germans attacked the other until April 1940. In February 1940, the Soviet Union and Germany agreed to a trade treaty which saw German military and industrial equipment going to the Soviets and raw materials going to the Germans. This trade pact was an attempt by Germany to deal with the Allied blockade, which was stopping all raw materials from entering Germany. In April 1940, the Allies were attempting to block shipments of iron ore coming into Germany from Sweden. In an effort to ensure that these shipments would continue, Germany invaded both Denmark and Norway. Denmark surrendered quickly but Norway attempted to fight off the German invasion. Even with Allied support, Norway was unable to resist the German advance and within two months, Germany had taken over the country. The British people were upset at the inability of the Allies to stop the German invasion and on May 10, 1940, they voted in a new prime minister, Winston Churchill to replace Neville Chamberlain. Fearing that Germany was planning to invade Iceland, Britain invaded the country first. In April 1940, the British launched their invasion of Iceland where they met little resistance other than a complaint lodged by the Prime Minister of Iceland for Britain’s violation of Iceland’s sovereignty and neutrality. The British offered compensation for any damage as well as a number of business agreements. The British also stated that they would not

interfere with the government or other affairs of Iceland and that they would leave the island at the end of the war. Given these guarantees, the Icelandic government cooperated with the invaders although they insisted on keeping their neutral status.

3. Initial Axis Success On May 10, 1940, Germany once again went on the offensive. They attacked France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The Germans quickly overran Luxembourg with in a day and the Netherlands in a few days. The Belgians were able to hold out a bit longer but also succumbed to the German attack within a few weeks. The Germans were also able to bypass the Maginot Line, a line of tank obstacles, machine gun posts and concrete fortifications that were built in an effort to protect France from attack after the First World War. The Germans were able to swing through the Ardennes region, an area of forests, hills and ridges, which French planners of the Maginot Line thought would provide a barrier to any attack from armoured vehicles. Once the Germans bypassed the Maginot Line, they were able to continue the attack on France and conquer it within six weeks. During this attack, the British were forced to retreat from Dunkirk as the Germans threatened to overrun France and the defending armies. Luckily for the British, the Germans did not press the attack on the British forces and they were able to evacuate the majority of the army back to Britain. On June 10, 1940, the Italians invaded France as well and declared war on both France and the United Kingdom. France surrendered to the invading armies twelve days later. France was then divided into three parts: a German occupation zone, an Italian occupation zone and an unoccupied southern part of France which was to become the headquarters for Vichy France, the government of France which collaborated with the German occupation force. After the surrender of France, Churchill was concerned about the intact French fleet. He was worried that the fleet would end up in German hands and increase their ability to fight at sea and possibly shift the balance of power. To combat this threat, Churchill ordered that the French fleet, which was stationed in Algeria, be attacked on July 3, 1940. The attack came as a complete surprise to the French since they were not expecting that the British, their erstwhile ally, would attack them. As a result of this attack, 1297 French seamen were killed and a further 350 were wounded. One French battleship

was sunk and five other ships were damaged. Two British servicemen were also killed in the attack and six aircraft were lost. As the Battle of France was coming to an end, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Soviets then took over the Romanian area of Bessarabia. This helped lead to the disintegration of the Nazi-Soviet agreements relating to economic cooperation and political rapprochement. Once France was subdued, Germany began to prepare for the invasion of Britain by utilizing an air campaign to weaken British defences. Germany was unable to destroy the British air defences or force them to the negotiating table so the planned invasion of Britain by Germany was called off in September. Although the invasion of Britain was cancelled the Germans had more success battling the British Royal Navy. The Germans had gained access to a number of French ports when they conquered France and they were able to use U-boats to attack and sink British ships in the Atlantic. Italy also kept up the attack and began making incursions into the Mediterranean. The Italians attempted to lay seize to Malta in June and took over British Somaliland in August. They also began making attacks into British-held Egypt in September. Japan was also keeping up the pressure on China by taking control of a number of bases in the north of French Indochina. The United States had not entered the war yet but they did take a number of steps to help both China and the Western Allies. The Americans had passed the Neutrality Act in August 1935 in response to the turmoil happening in Europe. The Neutrality Act restricted the American government’s ability to give loans or credits to belligerents as well as placing an embargo on the arms trade. In November 1939, the Neutrality Act was changed so that allies could make “cash and carry” purchases. Cash and carry meant that the allies had to pay for goods immediately and they also needed to provide their own transportation to carry the goods. The Americans also stopped trading iron, steel and mechanical parts to Japan after Japan invaded Indochina. In addition the making these changes in their trade, the United States

government also increased the size of their navy and agreed to trade American destroyers for the right to set up naval or air bases in a number of British territories. Although the American government was making efforts to help the war effort, the majority of Americans were opposed to becoming directly involved in the conflict. Later, in March 1941, the Americans were to continue their support of the Allies by introducing the Lend-Lease policy which allowed the American government to send more aid to the Allies. By the end of September 1940, the three Axis powers signed another treaty called the Tripartite Pact. This pact stated that any country, other than the Soviet Union, which attacked any of the Axis powers would be at war with all three countries. In November, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania became part of the Tripartite Pact. Italy attempted to invade Greece in October 1940 but they were unsuccessful and were pushed back to Albania where both sides settled into a stalemate. In December 1940, the Allies began to make moves against Italian forces in Egypt and East Africa and were able to push the Italian forces all the way back into Libya. The Italian Navy ran into a number of difficulties at this time. In battles with the Royal Navy, the Italian Navy lost three battleships at Taranto and several warships were disabled at the Battle of Cape Matapan. As the Allies began to experience more success against the Italians, troops from the Africa campaigns were sent to help the Greeks in early 1941. The Germans quickly responded with Hitler sending troops to Libya to launch an attack on the reduced forces. In less than a month, the Germans were able to push the Commonwealth forces back into Egypt and although the Allies attempted to regain lost territory on two different occasions, once in May and once in June, they were unable to take back the territory. At the same time that this was occurring, Bulgaria joined the Tripartite Pact and Hitler sent troops to invade both Greece and Yugoslavia. They quickly conquered Crete, a Greek island, and by the end of May the Allies were forced to evacuate. Of course, it wasn’t all bad for the Allies. They did experience a number of successes. One of the biggest and possibly the most important successes came during the Battle of Britain when the Royal Air Force was able to defend against the Luftwaffe air attacks and stop Germany’s plan for invasion. Other successes included stopping a coup in Iraq. The coup was supported by German aircraft flying out of Syria which was controlled by

Vichy France at the time. After the coup was put down, the Allies and the Free French attacked Syria and Lebanon so that these countries could no longer be used as a staging ground for further attacks by German forces. One other major success which gave the British public a big morale boost was the sinking of the Bismarck, the German flagship. The Asian offensive had turned into a stalemate between China and Japan in 1940 although Japan had gained control over southern Indochina. This allowed Japan to block Chinese supply routes as well putting them in a better position should the Japanese end up fighting the Western Allies. The Japanese were also following a scorched earth policy in China to retaliate against the Chinese communists who had attacked Japanese interests in central China. The policy was called the Three Alls (Kill all, burn all, loot all) and was aimed at limiting the resources available to the communists. During this time, conflict also broke out between the Chinese nationalists and the Chinese communists, which resulted in the end of any cooperation between the two. The Soviet Union was becoming concerned about the motives of the Germans and Japan was getting ready to seize European possessions in Southeast Asia so the two countries signed a Neutrality Pact in April 1941 to free both countries up to follow through with their plans. At the same time that the Soviet Union and Japan were signing their Neutrality Pact, Germany was preparing to attack the USSR by concentrating troops on the Soviet border. Germany Attacks Russia Operation Barbarossa commenced on June 22, 1941 with Germany, the other European Axis members and Finland attacking the Soviet Union. Over four million troops participated in the attack. By attacking the Soviet Union, Hitler hoped to gain access to the resources Germany needed as well as eliminate any threat by the Soviet Union as a military power. Hitler also hoped to gain Lebensraum or “living space” by moving Germans into the newly conquered territory. Even though the Red Army had some suspicions about Germany’s motives and had been preparing for the possible invasion, Stalin did not expect the attack to happen until Germany had defeated England and France. The

surprise attack by the German Army forced the Soviet supreme command to rely on a defensive strategy. The offensive by the Axis into Soviet territory enjoyed some initial successes and caused the Soviet Union to suffer large losses of personal and equipment. Germany was able to surround Leningrad and eventually take over Kiev as well as making steady advances towards Moscow although the defense of Kiev by the Soviet Army did slow down the German army’s advance on Moscow. By October 1941, the German army was only fifteen miles from Moscow and as a result, orders were given for Moscow to be evacuated. Stalin remained in Moscow in an effort to raise morale and insisted on conducting the defense of Moscow himself. All decisions had to be cleared by him first. Troops stationed in Moscow were able to withstand the Axis attacks and on December 4, 1941, Stalin ordered his troops to attack the German Army. The German Army was caught by surprise and ended up being pushed back two hundred miles although the Germans were not ready to give up on their ambition of conquering the Soviet Union. During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin had been asking for the Allies to attack the Axis army in France but the Allies claimed that they needed more time to prepare. As a result, the main war zone in Europe was focused on the Eastern front and ended up with millions of Soviet casualties. The War in Asia As Germany was experiencing success in its attack of the Soviet Union, the Japanese decided to pursue their expansionist goals in Asia. The Dutch government refused to give up control of its colonies, the Dutch East Indies, to the Japanese but they did agree to give the Japanese oil supplies, which were needed to launch their invasion. Vichy France also gave its support to the Japanese and agreed to their take over of French Indochina. The United Kingdom, the United States and other European countries froze all of Japan’s assets in response to their invasion of Indochina and the United States placed an oil embargo on Japan. This was particularly important because the United States supplied eighty percent of Japan’s oil needs. This embargo forced Japan to decide between giving up their territorial ambitions in Asia and China or seize the necessary resources by force.

In order to follow through with their plan, the Japanese needed to quickly seize European colonies in Asia which would give them a defensive perimeter all the way into the Central Pacific. This would allow the Japanese to get the necessary resources from Southeast Asia and allow them to conduct a defensive war against the Allies. To achieve this goal, the Japanese made near-simultaneous attacks on Pearl Harbour and Hong Kong as well as landings in Thailand and Malaya. Attack on Pearl Harbour The attack on Pearl Harbour occurred on December 7, 1941 although since Japan is in a different time zone, it actually happened on December 8, 1941 for Japan. The Japanese decided to attack Pearl Harbour in an effort to destroy the American fleet so that the Americans would not be able to respond to the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. The Japanese also hoped that the attack would give the Japanese military enough time to strengthen its position and increase its naval strength. The attack was also intended to be a blow to the morale of the Americans and hopefully would lead them to staying out of the war. The Japanese did have some concerns about the success of the attack. The Japanese military recognized that most of the ships anchored in Pearl Harbour were in shallow water. This would make it easier for the Americans to salvage and repair the ships. Also, Japan knew that many of the American crews would survive because most of them would be on shore leave or they could be rescued from the Harbour after the attack. One other disadvantage the Japanese faced in their attack was that three of the U.S.’s aircraft carriers would not be in Pearl Harbour during the attack. Even with these concerns the Japanese decided to continue with the attack. In fact, they were so optimistic about the course of the war—they believed that it would be a short war with the Japanese victorious—that they decided they could safely ignore the navy yard, submarine base and oil tank farms that were at Pearl Harbour. The Japanese felt they could ignore these because they believed that the war would be over before these facilities could benefit the Allies. The attack occurred in the morning and was conducted by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes launched from six aircraft carriers. The attack came in two waves and lasted two hours. The Japanese severely damaged or sunk all eight of the U.S. Navy’s battleships. In addition to the

battleships, the Japanese were able to sink or destroy three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer as well as destroying 188 aircraft. 2,402 Americans were killed and another 1,282 were wounded in the attack. The Japanese only suffered minimal casualties with 65 Japanese being killed along with the destruction of 29 aircraft and 5 midget submarines. One Japanese sailor was also captured. The American people were shocked by the attack and whereas before the American people were against the war they were now willing to support it. As a result of this attack, the United States declared war on Japan. On December 11, 1940, Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States and the United States reciprocated with their own war declaration later that day. Attack on Hong Kong In addition to the attack on Pearl Harbour, the Japanese also launched an attack against the British held colony of Hong Kong. The attack occurred approximately eight hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour. The Japanese sent 20,000 men on the attack as well as six fighter/bomber squadrons. The Japanese quickly gained the upper hand and the defenders had to retreat from the mainland of Hong Kong to Hong Kong Island. The Japanese continued on the offensive and soon surrounded the island. The Japanese commander, Lieutenant-General Taikaishi Sakai, demanded the surrender of the island and stated that he would destroy the island with artillery and aerial bombardments if the defenders didn’t surrender. Sir Mark Young, the island’s governor refused the Japanese commander’s demand and as a result the island was bombed by the Japanese who then followed up with an attack on December 18. The defenders soon ran short of both ammunition and fresh water and were forced to surrender on December 25, 1941. The invasion lasted for 18 days and 4,500 British and Commonwealth troops were killed with another 6,500 taken prisoner while the Japanese lost 2,750 men. Once the Japanese gained control of Hong Kong, the civilian population had to endure almost four years of murder, rape and looting at the hands of the Japanese.

Other Attacks by the Japanese Hong Kong and Pearl Harbour were not the only places that Japan attacked on December 8. They also attacked Thailand and Malaya at the same time. In the beginning, the Japanese had attempted to negotiate a treaty with Thailand in which Thailand would grant access to their ports and railways to the Japanese as they attacked Malaya. In return, Thailand would be given Burma’s Shan State and some other territory in Malaya. The Japanese were unable to come to an agreement so the Japanese simply invaded Thailand and took it over. The invasion of Thailand was almost over before it began. There was fierce resistance in Southern Thailand but within hours of the invasion, there was a ceasefire as Thailand agreed to allow Japan to use Thailand as a staging ground to attack Malaya. Japan occupied Thailand for the rest of the war. The invasion of Malaya occurred soon after Thailand conceded defeat to the Japanese. The Japanese invaded Malaya from the north and quickly overcame the defenders. The Japanese continued their advance through Malaya towards Singapore and didn’t run into any significant problems until they reached Johor. In Johor, the Japanese ran into a strong defence from the Australian 8th Division. After fierce fighting, the Japanese were able to force the Australians to retreat to Singapore. By January 31, 1942, the Japanese were in control of the Malay Peninsula and were preparing to attack Singapore. The Japanese army attacked Singapore on February 7, 1942 and gained control of the island by February 15. Approximately 130,000 Commonwealth soldiers were captured by the Japanese during the invasion of Malaya and Singapore. The defeat was called the “worst defeat” and “largest capitulation” in British history by Winston Churchill. The Japanese continued their advance and by the end of April 1942, Japan had almost full control over Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, Burma and Rabaul. In May of the same year, the Japanese were able to gain control of the Philippines and forced the Philippine government into exile. The Japanese also won a number of naval battles in the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea. They were even able to bomb a naval base situated in Darwin, Australia.

4. The Tide Begins to Turn In Asia, Japan finally experienced a defeat when they attempted to capture Port Moresby, in the Australian Territory of New Guinea. The Japanese viewed this attack as an important strategic manoeuvre because it would have isolated Australia and New Zealand by cutting communications and supply lines from the United States. The United States learned of the Japanese plan and sent two carrier task forces as well as an Australian/American cruiser force to contest the Japanese offensive. Both sides suffered heavy damages as a result of a two day engagement between the naval forces of the two opposing forces. The damage suffered by the Japanese forces necessitated the proposed invasion of Port Moresby to be called off. The Japanese then decided to attack the Midway Atoll in an attempt to eliminate the threat posed by the United States. Unfortunately for the Japanese, the Americans had broken their naval codes so the American Navy knew the date and location of the planned attack. This enabled the American Navy to set up an ambush for the Japanese forces which led to a decisive victory for the Americans. Four Japanese aircraft carriers and one heavy cruiser were sunk during the attack while the American fleet lost one aircraft carrier and one destroyer. This defeat severely limited the ability of the Japanese to continue their offensive in Asia but they still decided to make another attempt at capturing Port Moresby. With their naval losses, the Japanese had to attempt an overland attack while the Americans planned to invade the Solomon Islands in an effort to capture Guadalcanal. The Americans needed to first capture Guadalcanal before they could attempt to capture the Japanese base, Rabaul, which was their main base in Southeast Asia. The attack by the Japanese on Port Moresby and the attack by the Americans and Australians on Guadalcanal both started in July but even though the Japanese soldiers were within sight of Port Moresby, the Japanese were forced to withdraw troops from Port Moresby to reinforce the troops fighting in the Battle of Buna-Gonan, part of the campaign to take over Guadalcanal,. This withdrawal of troops from Port Moresby allowed the defenders to fight off the Japanese attack.

The Battle of Buna-Gonan was characterized by poor intelligence, inhospitable conditions, lack of supplies and high casualties. The Japanese were more numerous and had better defensive positions than the Allies had anticipated and although the Allies were eventually successful in taking over New Guinea, it came at a high cost. Over 33,000 Americans and Australians fought in this battle and over 3, 000 of them were killed with another 5,500 wounded. The Allies were eventually able to defeat the Japanese at Guadalcanal in early 1943. This set the stage for the eventual push into Japanese positions throughout Asia. In the Soviet Union, the Axis continued to have success against the Soviets. The Germans successfully attacked the Soviet Army that was defending the Kerch Peninsula which resulted in the Soviet Army losing over 170,000 men who were either killed or captured and an unknown number wounded. The Germans launched their summer offensive in 1942 in an effort to seize the Cuacasus oil fields and the Kuban steppe. The Germans were able to advance all the way into Stalingrad by August 23 and the Soviet Army decided to make a strong defense of Stalingrad which forced the Germans to fight throughout the streets. The casualty rate was extremely high and even thought the German Army was able to raise their flag over government buildings on September 26, 1942, the city was not completely conquered and fighting continued. Stalin then ordered more troops into the city to fight the Germans. Even though the Soviets lost more men, they had more men to lose and eventually the German Army was encircled and starved into surrender on February 2, 1943. The battle of Stalingrad was one of the deadliest and bloodiest fights of the whole war with some people estimating the number of casualties at almost two million. The German Army suffered so many loses that they were never able to regain their previous strength and they were unable to gain anymore significant victories in the East. The Eastern front was also pushed back to a point past where it had been before the Germans started their summer offensive. Of course, it wasn’t going completely the Allies way as could be seen by the results of the Dieppe Raid which was the only major offensive to take place in Western Europe during 1942. The raid did not achieve any of its objectives and the Allied Army suffered an almost sixty percent casualty rate although

the raid did influence how later offensives would be planned. The Allies also started to experience more success in North Africa. In November 1941, the Allies launched a counter attack that was so successful that the Allies regained all the territory that the Germans and Italians had conquered. In May 1942, the British invaded Madagascar because of concerns that the Japanese might use the island to launch attacks given that it was held by Vichy France at the time and Vichy France had already been cooperating with Japan in its attacks in Southeast Asia. The Axis did strike back at the Allied forces and were able to push the Allies back into Egypt where the Axis Army was finally stopped at El Alamein. The Germans attempted to attack El Alamein again in October of 1942. The Allies were able to successfully fight off the invading army and the victory at El Alamein gave the Allies a big psychological boost as this was the first major German offensive where the Allies had won a decisive victory. The defeat also ended the Axis plans for conquering Egypt and the Suez Canal as well as ending the possibility of the Axis Army attacking the Middle East’s oil fields by going through North Africa. The Allies were also able to hold off Germany’s siege on Malta although that victory came at a great cost. The Allies also landed forces in Vichy France’s territories of Morocco and Algeria, which resulted in the two countries joining forces with the Allies. The German forces had to withdraw to Tunisia where they were eventually defeated in May 1943. Hitler was angry about Morocco and Algeria changing sides so in retaliation, Vichy France, which had been nominally independent, was occupied by German forces. Vichy France did not resist this occupation but they did decide to sink their fleet in an effort to stop the German forces from capturing it.

5. Allies Gain The Upper Hand After the Allied conquest of Guadalcanal, the Allies continued to press the Japanese by initiating several campaigns. The Allies were able to remove all Japanese troops from the Aleutians as well as isolate one of the Japanese main bases at Rabaul by capturing the islands that surround it. The Allies were also able to make inroads into the outer perimeter of the Japanese defences by capturing the Gilbert and Marshall Islands in March of 1944. In addition to these successes, the Allies also attacked Truk which was a major naval base for the Japanese fleet. The Allies attack sunk three Japanese light cruisers, three auxiliary cruisers and four destroyers. Two submarine tenders, three smaller warships, an aircraft transport and 32 merchant ships were also sunk. Almost 250 Japanese aircraft were also destroyed during the attack. The success of this attack eliminated the base as a threat to the Allies during their continued advance into Japanese territory. In China, during a seven week battle at Changde in November 1943, the Chinese were able to fight the Japanese to a basic stalemate with heavy loses on both sides. Losses on both sides have been estimated to be around forty to fifty percent. The Japanese had initially been able to take control of the city but the Chinese counter-attack was able to retake the city. During this attack, the Japanese used both biological and chemical weapons to attack the Chinese but were unable to retake the city. In India, the Japanese attacked India to limited success. In March 1944, the Japanese attacked the British at Assam, India and was able to lay siege to Commonwealth forces stationed at Imphal and Kohima. The British counterattacked in May 1944 and were able to drive the Japanese Army back to Burma. On July 4, 1943, the Germans attacked the Soviets that were positioned around the Kursk Bulge. After a week of combat, the German Army wore themselves out in an attempt to defeat the defences built by the Soviets. Hitler ended up having to cancel the operation without the operation achieving any significant success. The Soviets counter-attacked the Germans on July 12, 1943 and defeated them. This victory gave the Soviets momentum on the Eastern Front and was the beginning of the end of German superiority in the

Eastern Front. The Germans attempted to fortify the Eastern Front to prevent the Soviets from breaking through but to no avail. The Soviets were able to break through the line at Smolensk and at Lower Dnieper. The Lower Dnieper offensive was one of the largest in World War II and included almost four million men on both sides. The casualties on both sides are estimated to be between 1,700,000 to 2,700,000 men. The Soviets were able to force the German Army out of the Leningrad area and continued to push back the Eastern Front. In May 1944, the Soviet Army had taken over Crimea and forced the Germans out of the Ukraine. The Soviets also made attacks into Romania but were held off by the Axis army. In North Africa the German forces at Tunisia were caught in a pincer movement by two Allied armies. The Germans found themselves outmanned and outgunned with no option left but surrender. On May 13, 1943, the Axis troops surrendered and the Allies captured over 270,000 Axis troops. After this surrender, the Allies were able to conquer all of the remaining Italian colonies in Africa. Once the Axis forces had surrendered in Africa, the Allies were able to turn their attention to Italy. They bombed Rome on May 16, 1943 and then attacked Sicily on July 10. After taking over Sicily, the Allies then began an invasion of the Italian mainland and were able to capture Rome on June 4. With the Allies threatening to take over all of Italy, and discontented with Mussolini’s rule, the Italian king resumed power and had Mussolini arrested. The Italian government then signed an armistice agreement with the Allies. Germany responded to the armistice by disarming Italian forces under their command and taking military control over parts of Northern Italy. The Germans also sent in a special forces contingent to rescue Mussolini. Once rescued, Mussolini set up a new Italian state, called the Italian Social Republic, in German controlled part of Italy. As a result, the Allies still needed to fight their way through part of Italy and it took the Allies twenty months to reach the northern borders of Italy. In the Atlantic, the Germans also began to suffer a number of losses. By May 1943, the German’s lost a number of submarines and had to halt their Atlantic naval campaign which allowed more supplies to reach the Allies.

6. Allies Make Their Move As the Allies experienced more and more success, they made the move to invade German held territory in Europe. On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded northern France as several Allied divisions from Italy moved to invade southern France. The landings were successful and the Allies were able to push the German Army out of France. Paris was liberated on August 25, 1944 by the local resistance and the Free French Forces. The Soviets also launched an attack into German held territory on June 22. This attack was for the most part a complete success. The Soviets were able to drive German troops out of western Ukraine and eastern Poland. This led to a number of uprisings against German rule in Poland although a number of these uprisings, particularly the ones in Warsaw and Slovak were not successful. The Soviets also moved into eastern Romania and defeated a large number of German troops. This led to a successful uprising in Romania and Bulgaria which was followed by both countries joining the Allies. The Soviets also moved into Yugoslavia in September 1944, which resulted in German forces needing to be rushed from Greece, Albania and other parts of Yugoslavia to stop the invasion. The Soviets were able to liberate Belgrade on October 20 and they launched another offensive into Hungary a few days later. This offensive lasted until February 1945 when Budapest fell to the Soviets. Although the Soviets had a lot of success in the Balkans, they did not enjoy the same success in Finland. The Finnish resistance was able to hold off the Soviet invasion and to break the deadlock, a Finish-Soviet armistice was signed which led to Finland switching sides to become a member of the Allied forces. In Southeast Asia, the Allies continued to attack the Japanese and force them back. In June 1944, the Americans attacked the Mariana and Palau islands. In what became know as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Americans soundly defeated the Japanese who lost three aircraft carriers and approximately 500 to 650 aircraft. This defeat resulted in the Japanese no longer being able to mount large scale carrier attacks. The occupation of

Mariana and Palau also gave the United States air bases from which they could launch bomber attacks into parts of Japan. Soon after this victory, the Americans launched another attack on the island of Leyte with the goal of eliminating Japan’s access to vital oil supplies. The Battle of Leyte Gulf was actually four different engagements and was the first time that the Japanese used kamikaze attacks. It was also the largest naval battle of the war and possibly the largest in history as Japan threw all its remaining major warships into the battle in hopes of fighting off the American invasion. The Japanese were so outnumbered that the Allies had more ships than the Japanese had aircraft. After the four engagements, the Japanese had lost 26 warships while the Americans only lost 6. After the defeat, most of the remaining Japanese warships remained in port for the rest of the war because of lack of fuel.

7. Defeat of the Axis Army Germany was not ready to give up yet and made one last attempt to defeat the Allies on the Western Front. On December 16, 1944, the Germans using its remaining military force attempted to break through the Western Allies and capture Antwerp which was the primary supply port for the Allies. The German high command hoped that by capturing Antwerp, they would be able to force a political settlement instead of having to suffer an unconditional surrender. By January, the Allies had completely fought off the German attack and Germany was unable to obtain any of their strategic objectives. In Italy, the German’s defensive line was able to hold off the Allies attack although they were not able to make any counter attacks. The Soviet Union attacked Poland in January 1945 and pushed the Germans all the way back to the Oder river in Germany. The Soviets also took over East Prussia. As the prospect of a defeat of the Axis loomed, the U.S., Soviet and British leaders met in Yalta. During the Yalta Conference, the three governments agreed on how Germany would be governed after the war. It was decided that Germany would be split into four occupied zones and other conditions related to ruling Germany were also decided. The leaders of the Yalta Conference also set a timeline for when the Soviet Union would join in the war to defeat Japan. The Soviets continued their push by invading Silesia and Pomerania as the Western Allies attacked western Germany all the way to the Rhine River. Both armies continued advancing into Germany as the Western Allies pushed past the Rhine and closed around the German Army Group B while the Soviets moved into Vienna. The Western Allies also made a big push in Italy and quickly crossed through western Germany. The Soviets continued advancing through to Berlin in late April and met up with the Allies on April 25 at the Elbe River. The Third Reich was effectively defeated with the Allies capturing the Reichstag in Berlin on April 30, 1945 During this time, Mussolini was killed on April 28 by the Italian resistance and Hitler killed himself on April 30, 1945, the same day that the Soviets captured the Reichstag. Hitler’s command was taken over by Grand Admiral Karl Donitz who agreed to the surrender of the German forces.

8. Continuing War with Japan Although Germany had surrendered, Japan continued to fight on even though the Allies were making advances into Japanese held territory on all fronts. The Allies advanced through the Philippines capturing Manila in March, 1945 although fighting did not end in the Philippines until the end of the war. The Allies were also able to clear out Leyte by April 1945 In March, British, American and Chinese forces attacked and defeated Japanese forces in Burma and invaded Rangoon by May 3, 1945. The Australians took over the oilfields in Borneo in May as well. The Chinese also began a counterattack in West Hunan. The Americans were able to take over Iwo Jima in March and Okinawa in June as well as beginning to bomb Japanese cities. They were also able to cut off Japan’s access to imports. As Japan lost more and more territory, the Allied leaders met in Potsdam, Germany on July 11, 1945. At this meeting, the Allied leaders continued to endorse the previous agreements concerning Germany and demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan. If Japan refused to surrender then they faced “prompt and utter destruction”. Use of Atomic Bombs Japan refused to surrender unconditionally so the Allies continued with the attack. The Allies began a firebombing campaign, which destroyed a number of Japanese cities, but this still did not convince the Japanese to surrender. The Allies began to plan for an invasion of Japan but this was viewed as being too costly in terms of men and resources. As a result, it was decided to drop atomic bombs on Japan. The Allies chose Hiroshima as the first target to be bombed and the bomb was delivered by the Enola Gay and two other aircraft. As the three planes approached Japan, Japan’s early warning system detected their approach and an alert was broadcast to a number of cities, including Hiroshima. When the radio operator in Hiroshima realized that there were only a small number of planes approaching, he cancelled the air raid alert although the regular alert

was broadcast recommending that if a B-29 was actually spotted then people should head to an air raid shelter. The three planes delivering the atomic bomb, known as “Little Boy”, without the Japanese attempting to intercept them, because the Japanese had decided to ignore small formations of planes in an effort to conserve fuel and aircraft. The bomb was dropped at 8:15 and although the target was the Aioi Bridge, crosswinds resulted in the bomb detonating over the Shima Surgical Clinic. The bomb was equivalent to 13 kilotons of TNT and destroyed everything within a radius of 1.6 km. The bomb also caused fires across 11 square kilometres. It is estimated that approximately 12 square kilometres of Hiroshima were destroyed. It is also estimated that over 69 percent of the buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed with another six to seven percent damaged. Almost 30 percent of Hiroshima’s population died immediately when the bomb was detonated. This meant that approximately 70,000 to 80,000 people died from the blast with another 70,000 people injured. By the end of 1945, it is estimated that approximately 90,000 to 166,000 people died from the bomb and its after effects. The after effects of the bomb included burns, radiation and related diseases. The bombing of Nagasaki occurred on August 9, 1945. A B-29 plane named Bockscar, carried the atomic bomb known as “Fat Man”. Originally, the city Kokura was planned to be the main target but when Bockscar flew over the city, the city was obscured by 70 percent cloudcover. The orders required a visual attack so it was decided to bomb the secondary target, Nagasaki. It was decided that Nagasaki would be bombed with a radar approach if the city was obscured by cloud cover. Again, the Japanese sighted the approaching planes and sounded an air raid alert but the “all clear” signal was given shortly after the alert. At 10:53, the two approaching planes were spotted but it was assumed that they were only on a reconnaissance mission so no air raid warning was sounded. At 11:01, a break in the cloud cover allowed the bombardier to visually sight the target and the bomb was dropped. The bomb was equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT and was dropped over the Nagasaki industrial valley. It exploded 460 metres above the ground between

the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works. The area where the bomb exploded was actually three kilometres from the planned target. Nagasaki was protected from the full effects of the blast by the intervening hills since the blast was mainly confined to the Urakami Valley. The number of immediate deaths as a result of the bomb is estimated at between 40,000 to 75,000 people with total deaths possibly reaching 80,000 by the end of 1945. The bomb destroyed approximately a radius of 1.6 kilometres and there were fires across the northern part of the city stretching over 3 kilometres south from the blast site. Six days after the Americans dropped the “Fat Man” on Nagasaki, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender with the official instrument of surrender being signed on September 2, 1945. Most of the images taken showing the effects of the two bombs were censored and the only visual image presented to the public was the image of the mushroom cloud that developed after the detonation of the bombs. The images were also censored in Japan during the occupation although some images were published in Japanese magazines before the Allies took control of the publications. The Allied occupation was charged with censoring anything "that might, directly or by inference, disturb public tranquility" and it was decided that images of the bomb’s effects would disturb the public.

9. After the War After the war ended, an occupation administration was set up in Austria and Germany. Austria became a neutral state whereas Germany was divided into two occupation zones. The eastern occupation zone was controlled by the Soviet Union and the western occupation zone was controlled by the Western Allies. Germany became two independent states as a result of this division. Germany became the Federal Republic of Germany in the West and the German Democratic Republic in the East. Germany ended up losing almost a fourth of its pre-war territory as Poland took over the territories of Silesia, Neumark and Pomerania. Poland and the Soviet Union also divided East Prussia between them. After Poland and the Soviet Union took control of these territories, they made over nine million Germans leave these provinces. Three million Germans were also forced to leave the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union also took over the Polish territory which was east of the Curzon line. The Curzon line was a line established by the Allied Supreme Council after World War I and was supposed to become a future border. When the Soviets took this territory over, they expelled approximately two million Poles from the territory. The Soviets also took over eastern Romania, three Baltic states and part of eastern Finland. The world became divided between two military alliances, NATO, which was led by the United States, and the Warsaw Pact, which was led by the Soviet Union. There was a lot of tension between these two military alliances which led to years of military competition, the Cold War as well as an arms race. The United States occupied Japan and governed the islands in the Western Pacific that used to be held by Japan while the Soviets took over Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. Japan used to occupy Korea and at the end of the war, Korea was divided in half between the United States and the Soviet Union. These two countries controlled the two Koreas from 1945 to 1948. The two independent states that developed after 1948 both claimed to be the legitimate rulers over all of Korea and this dispute led to the Korean War which began in 1950.

In June 1946, after the Japanese left China, the Communists and Nationalists restarted the civil war that was put on hold when Japan invaded. The Communists were ultimately victorious and they created the People’s Republic of China while the Nationalist forces were forced to retreat to Taiwan in 1949. In the Middle East, tensions also continued to rise, particularly after the Arab League rejected the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. The creation of the state of Israel led to the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948. There is some dispute over the number of casualties as a result of the war mainly because many of the deaths were not reported. Most scholars estimate that approximately sixty million people died during the war. This sixty million can be broken down to twenty million soldiers and forty million civilians. The civilian deaths were mainly caused by bombing, genocide, massacres, disease and starvation. Most of the deaths occurred on the Allied side. The Allies suffered approximately eighty-five percent of the deaths and the Axis lost approximately fifteen percent. Most of the losses suffered by the Allies were Soviet or Chinese. The Soviets lost 5,756,000 ethnic Russians and 1,377,000 ethnic Ukrainians. The Soviets suffered so much during the war that one fourth of all Soviet citizens were killed or wounded. Germany lost approximately 5.3 million men, mainly on the Eastern Front fighting the Soviets. The Germans and Japanese were also responsible for a number of civilian deaths. The Holocaust killed between eleven to seventeen million people and approximately 7.5 million Chinese died under Japanese occupation After the war, both German and Japanese soldiers and officials were charged with war crimes for their actions during the war. This was the first time that the losers of a war were placed on trial for war crimes. The main trial at the Nuremberg Trials charged 23 high-ranking Germans with a number of different charges. These charges included crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity included the new crime of genocide which related to Germany’s attempt to exterminate the Jews. These 23 people were also charged with abuse and murder of prisoners and the killing of civilians. Some of the defendants killed themselves before trial while others either admitted or denied any guilt.

Twelve of the defendants were sentenced to death while another seven were given various prison sentences ranging from life imprisonment to ten years. Three other defendants were acquitted. Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial was one of a number of trials conducted by countries aimed at punishing the Japanese for their conduct during the war. The Tokyo War Crimes Trial was the main trial which tried high ranking officials. The Tribunal categorized the crimes that people could be charged with into three categories. Class A crimes were designated as being a conspiracy to start and wage war. Class B crimes were for crimes against humanity such as mass murder, rape and torture while Class C crimes dealt with people who were involved in the planning and organizing of these war crimes or failing to prevent them. Twenty-eight defendants were charged with Class A offences at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal while over 5,700 Japanese were charged with Class B and Class C offences at other war crimes trials. Of the twenty-eight defendants charged with Class A offences, seven of them were sentenced to death and sixteen were sentenced to life sentences. Two of the defendants were sentenced to shorter prison terms and one person was found to be mentally incompetent and unable to stand trial. Of the 5,700 Japanese that were tried in other war crime trials, 4,400 people were convicted and approximately 1000 Japanese defendants were sentenced to death. There has been some dispute over the fact that none of the Allies have ever been charged with war crimes. Some of the actions by the Allies that could have been subject to war crimes trials include the deliberate targeting of civilians, the mass rape of women by the Soviet Army and the Japanese American internment in the U.S. Some scholars have also suggested that the firebombing of Dresden, Hamburg and Cologne could also be considered as war crimes. World War 2 had a devastating effect on the world. Millions of people were killed and whole cities were destroyed. It also led to a dramatic restructuring of the world with much of the world aligned between the two new superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. It also lead to the creation of the United Nations which took the place of the League of Nations.

It is hoped that the United Nations will have more success in averting another world war.