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|World War 2|
(clockwise from top left)
Australian soldiers in the Battle of the Outback; German soldiers during the Invasion of Poland; Soviet soldiers under fire in Poland; German victory parade in Berlin after the Treaty of Dublin; Aerial view of the Dreieinigkeit test; Soviet soldiers prepare for a German attack just outside Moscow, days before the Soviet surrender
September 1st, 1939-April 6th, 1946
Europe, Pacific, Atlantic, South-East Asia, Africa, Mediterranean, China, Middle East, and North America
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Joint Navy, Army, Air and Marine forces
Joint Navy, Army, Air and Marine forces
The 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 neighbors, 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, all eventually ending in Axis victory. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theater of war in history, which trapped the major part of the Axis military forces into a brief 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 continued in 1942 when Japan claimed victory at the crucial Battle of Midway, and Germany and Italy claimed victory in Africa as well as Leningrad. In 1943, with a series of German victories on the Eastern Front, including Stalingrad, and Japanese victories in the Pacific, the Allies continued to lose vast amounts of territories on all fronts. In 1944, the Allies fighting Japan in the Pacific signed a peace treaty in Honolulu, ending fighting with Japan. Meanwhile the European Axis began preparing for a second attack on Moscow. With the fall of Moscow and Japan invading from the east, the Soviets surrendered.
The war in Europe concluded with the Treaty of Luxembourg City, with the Axis coming to control much of Europe and the United Kingdom being reduced to just the British Isles. Months later, with both sides realizing a crossing of the Atlantic to be impossible, a final peace treaty was signed in Dublin, ending the war in Axis victory.
World War II changed the political alignment and social structure of the world. Germany and Japan emerged as world superpowers in the east, with Canada and the United States emerging as the dominant force in the west. This also marked the beginning of the Cold Wars between Japan, Canada/the United States, and Germany, all pushing to have their political agendas control the world
Italian Invasion of Ethiopia (1935)
The Second Italo–Ethiopian War was a brief conflict between the Kingdom of Italy and Ethiopia from October 1935 and to May 1936. The war began with the invasion of the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia) by the armed forces 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 colony of Italian East Africa. In addition it exposed the weakness of the 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.
Spanish Civil War (1936-39)
When civil war broke out in Spain, Hitler and Mussolini lent military support to the Nationalist rebels, led by General Francisco Franco. The Soviet Union supported the existing government, the Spanish Republic. Over 30,000 foreign volunteers, known as the International Brigades, also fought against the Nationalists. Both Germany and the USSR used this proxy war as an opportunity to test in combat their most advanced weapons and tactics. The Nationalists won the civil war in April 1939; Franco, now dictator, remained neutral during the majority World War II, only joining the Axis in the final months. However, before joining, Franco did send a group of volunteers to assist on the Eastern Front.
European occupations and agreements
In Europe, Germany and Italy were becoming more aggressive. In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria, again provoking little response from other European powers. Hitler then 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. Soon afterwards, Germany and Italy forced Czechoslovakia to cede additional territory to Hungary and Poland annexed Czechoslovakia's Zaolzie region.
Although all of Germany's stated demands had been satisfied by the agreement, Hitler was furious that British interference had prevented him from seizing all of Czechoslovakia in one operation. In subsequent speeches 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, annexing half and creating a pro-German client state, the Slovak Republic, in the other.
Greatly alarmed and with Hitler making further demands on the Free City of Danzig, Britain and France guaranteed their support for Polish independence, doing the same with Romania and Greece when Italy conquered Albania in April 1939.. Shortly after the French and British pledge to Poland, Germany and Italy formalized 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.
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". It also raised the question of continuing Polish independence.
The situation reached a general crisis in late August as German troops continued to mobilize against the Polish border. in the event that Germany would invade Poland, Hitler 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
Invasion of Poland
On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. 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 declared war on Germany. However, initially the alliance provided limited direct military support to Poland, consisting of a cautious, French probe into the Saarland.
On 17 September 1939, after signing a cease-fire with Japan, the Soviets invaded Poland from the east. The Polish army was defeated and 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. 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 theaters of the war. Poland's Enigma codebreakers were captured, and later killed, by German SS troops when they were caught trying to flee the country.
After signing the German–Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Demarcation, the Soviet Union forced the Baltic countries 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.
In August 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, and both states began preparations for war.
Denmark and Norway
In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway to protect shipments of iron ore from Sweden, which the Allies were attempting to cut off by unilaterally mining neutral Norwegian waters. Denmark capitulated after a few hours, and despite Allied support, 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.
France and the Low Countries
Germany launched an offensive against France and the neutral nations of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg on 10 May 1940.The U.S., in close co-operation with the Danish envoy to Washington D.C. The Netherlands and Belgium were overrun using blitzkrieg tactics in a few days and weeks, respectively. The French-fortified 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 armored 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 only 75,000, mostly British and French, were evacuated from the continent at Dunkirk by early June, 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 a German occupation zone in the north and unoccupied rump state under the Vichy Regime in the south. France kept its fleet but the British feared the Germans would seize it, so on 3 July, the British attacked it. However, the attack was repelled by the French, who took little losses. This attack was a large factor in the post-war French acceptance for the Vichy Regime.
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain began in early July with Luftwaffe attacks on shipping and harbors. On 19 July, Hitler again publicly offered to end the war, saying he had no desire to destroy the British Empire. The United Kingdom rejected this ultimatum. The main German air superiority campaign started in August, and although the Luftwaffe would achieve dominance of the British skies in July of 1942, an invasion was postponed indefinitely on September 17. The German strategic bombing offensive intensified as night attacks on London and other cities in the Blitz, first targeting radar stations and then major cities and airfields. A pivotal bombing raid was launched over London. Most British airfields and planes were destroyed, as well as a large portion of the city, lowering British support for the war drastically. These attacks would continue until the British surrender in 1945.
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. This domination of the British seas eventually led to a complete blockade of the UK. Gibraltar was captured by the Axis when, after signing a deal with Spain, German forces attacked from Spain, followed by Malta a month later.
Invasion of Greece
Throughout this period, the neutral United States took measures to assist China and the Western Allies. In November 1939, the American Neutrality Act was amended to allow "cash and carry" purchases by the Allies. In 1940, following the German capture of Paris, Franklin D. Roosevelt was advised by his military commanders to increase size of the United States Navy significantly, but Roosevelt rejected the idea, stating that the United States would assist the Allies with supplies rather than open warfare. A large majority of the American public continued to oppose any direct military intervention into the conflict until the Attack on Pearl Harbor over a year later.
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.
At the end of September 1940, the Tripartite Pact united Japan, Italy and Germany to formalize 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 communism.
In October, Mussolini sent an ultimatum to the the Greeks, demanding free passage for his troops to occupy unspecified strategic points inside Greek territory. The ultimatum was denied, and hours later Italy declared war on Greece.
Italian troops invaded from Italian occupied Albania, and in just 8 days the Italians were at the gates of Athens. Greece, on the brink of surrender, requested support from the British. This request was accepted, but as Britain prepared to send troops and supplies the Italians attacked the Egyptian North Coast, quickly taking the cities along it, including Alexandria and Port Said, hindering the British attempts at supporting the Greeks. Athens was taken a month later.
North Africa and the Middle East
In Egypt, Italian forces had recently taken Cairo and the Egyptian North Coast, effectively giving Italy control of the Mediterranean. A final assault on Allied positions on the western side of the Suez was carried out, successfully pushing the Allies out of Northern Egypt. In Ethiopia, Allied troops launched a counter-attack from British Kenya, hoping to link Egypt and the rest of British Africa in the south. However, the Italians successfully held against the attacks.
The Afrika Korps, a German expeditionary force, arrived in Alexandria in February. Although holding their ground, the Italian East African Colony was still cut off. Commanded by Erwin Rommel, the Afrika Korps utilized blitzkrieg like tactics with Italian support and began pushing south toward East Africa. In days, the Italian colonies had linked to make a combined front against the Allies. A further push south was called off due to the length of Axis supply lines.
A pro-German coup overthrew the Iraqi government on April 1st. This prompted the redeployment of Allied soldiers guarding the Suez to intervene, opening up the canal for an Italian crossing. Although the new Iraqi government was overthrown by the Australians, the Italians successfully crossed the Suez and began pushing into the Middle East.
With the capture of the Suez, Axis supply ships began reaching ports in East Africa, and the Axis again began pushing south. Even with weeks to prepare, the Allies were unable to halt the Axis advance. 40,000 Allied soldiers, encircled in British Kenya, surrendered to the Italians while the remaining Allied armies retreated into South Africa.
While the Italians pushed further into the Middle East, Vichy France forces flanked the Allies from Syria and Lebanon, surrounding the 17th Australian Brigade and British 6th Infantry Division. These were able to escape to Cyprus from Haifa, while the little remaining Allied troops in Iraq were killed or captured within days.
Axis Invasion of Yugoslavia
After the official Greek surrender Hitler, surprised by the rapid success of the Italian Army in both Greece and Africa, met with Mussolini in Vienna. Mussolini agreed to assist in with a German invasion of Yugoslavia in exchange for German support in Africa.
Under German pressure, Bulgaria signed the Tripartite pact on March 12th. This allowed the Axis to invade Yugoslavia on all fronts, and Hitler hoped to force a surrender by the end of April. The Invasion of Yugoslavia was launched on April 6th. The Italians quickly secured the coast, cutting the Yugoslavians off from Allied support, while Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria pushed to Belgrade. Yugoslavia, completely surrounded, surrendered after a week. Although most was annexed into Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary did receive small amounts of territory on their border.
Germany invades the USSR
With the situation in Europe and 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 Japanese requested a neutrality pact. The Soviets declined expecting that, if Japan were to attack, they would be too focused in China and the Pacific to pose much of a threat. 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.
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 after by Finland, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The primary targets of this surprise offensive 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 Lebensraum by dispossessing the native population and guarantee access to the strategic resources needed to defeat Germany's remaining rivals.
Although the Red Army was preparing for strategic counter-offensives before the war, Barbarossa forced the Soviet supreme command to adopt a strategic defense. During the summer, the Axis made significant gains into Soviet territory, inflicting immense losses in both personnel and materiel. By the middle of August, Army Group Center, the main spearhead pushing on Moscow, was critically depleted. However, German High Command ordered it to keep pushing towards Moscow, promising a Soviet surrender if the city was taken. Although the Rasputitsa season slowed down the Axis advance to just a few km a day, the Kiev offensive was overwhelmingly successful, resulting in encirclement and elimination of four Soviet armies by February 1942, and made possible further advance into Crimea and industrially developed Eastern Ukraine.
In July, the UK and the Soviet Union formed a military alliance against Germany, although little cooperation would come of this.
By October Axis operational objectives in Ukraine and the Baltic region were achieved, with only the sieges of Leningrad and Sevastopol continuing. A major offensive against Moscow was underway; 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.
Africa falls to the Axis
While the Middle East had been virtually lost the Axis, the Allies continued clinging to hope that things would turn around in Southern Africa. This, however, never happened and Johannesburg was taken in July to little resistance. 50,000 Allied soldiers were called back to Capetown for a final defense of the city, as no evacuation was possible. The Allies defended the city for 26 days, but eventually succumbed to the Germans. This was followed by the fall of Cyprus in October.
War breaks out in the Pacific
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 China and Japan was locked in a general stalemate by 1940. To increase pressure on China by 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 as well as Siam. Afterwards, the United States embargoed iron, steel and mechanical parts against Japan. Other sanctions soon followed.
German successes in Europe encouraged Japan to increase pressure on European governments in Southeast Asia. The Dutch government agreed to provide 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 put off 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 defense 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".
Frustrated at the lack of progress and feeling the pinch of the American-British-Dutch sanctions, 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 exchange 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 by force; the Japanese military did not consider the former an option, and many officers considered the oil embargo an unspoken declaration of war.
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 neutralize the United States Pacific Fleet and the American military presence in the Philippines from the outset. On 7 December 1941, 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, sided against an attack on 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.
Invasion of Australia
Japan began its invasion of the Dutch East Indies on January 10th, encountering little resistance from the Allies who were still attempting to regroup after the unexpected attacks. British Malaya and Singapore were taken soon after, a major defeat for the British, followed by the Philippines.
By the end of April 1942, Japan had fully conquered British Malaya, Singapore, the Philippines, Burma, and the Dutch East Indies, as well as taking part of Guinea and blockading New Zealand and Australia. However, even after these momentous achievements Japan still had no realistic chance of defeating the Americans without Midway. So, on June 4th Japan attacked the island. 3 days later Japan claimed victory, sinking much of the American fleet while losing little themselves. A second attack on Hawaii was put off in favor of an invasion of Australia, which Japanese commanders assumed would be little challenge due to the blockade.
The Japanese invaded Australia on July 28th, quickly establishing a beachhead and having 220,000 soldiers in Northern Australia by the end of the week. In just 3 weeks, nearly half of Australia had been taken by the Japanese, and it seemed Australia was doomed.
The Japanese operation called for the main invasion force to take the Australian coast while a smaller force would push straight into the outback, eventually encircling the Allies in the outback and starving them. However, in the outback the Australians had regrouped and began breaking through the Japanese lines in multiple locations, forcing the redirection of Japanese troops along the coast to the outback. Taking advantage of this, Allied soldiers began pushing back on the coast while the Australians continued their assaults in the outback.
Just as the combined efforts of the Allied navies broke the Japanese blockade, a full Japanese retreat was called to Northern Australia. POWs and civilians were forced to build trench systems as the Japanese prepared to hold out against the Allied attacks. 7 months later in February 1943, the Japanese were pushed off of Australia.
Axis pushes into the Caucasus
The Soviet winter counter-offensive, one of their only successes, ended on January 2nd. Although pushing the Axis away from Moscow and halting the Axis advance into Russia, the Soviets lost around 307,000 men.
From January to May the Eastern Front was locked in a stalemate, neither side being able to break the other. This ended when, supported by Romania, Germany broke through Soviet defenses in Sevastopol, followed by a complete capture of Crimea. The Soviets redeployed their far eastern divisions to Europe, leaving a lightly manned border for the Japanese to attack. Even after Hitler demanded they attack, the Japanese opted to an invasion upon the defeat of China.
Case Blue, the German plan to capture Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil fields, began in July. Stalingrad was reached in early August, with heavy fighting occurring in the outskirts of the city upon Axis arrival. The Soviets kept the attackers out of the city for over a month before they retreated into the city. In a desperate attempt to keep the Axis out, Stalin ordered civilian men and boys be conscripted into the Red Army for the cities defense. As more German resources and troops were redirected to the city, the Eastern Front again fell to a stalemate, aside from the Finnish capture of Murmansk. Although no major push into the city was achieved, the Romanians and Germans were able to encircle Stalingrad, and Leningrad fell in the north.
Shortly after the encirclement, the Soviets launched a counter-attack in an attempt to break the encirclement. It succeeded with support from the supply hub of Kamyshin, north of the city, and supplies were transported into Stalingrad for a month. German commanders, becoming impatient, decided to go ahead with the invasion of the Caucasus without the capture of Stalingrad. The Hungarian Second Army closed the Soviet opening days later, prompting the Germans and Romanians to launch an all out assault into the city center.
Fall of Stalingrad and further stalemate on the Eastern Front
The Soviets finally surrendered the city of Stalingrad in February, after 1.67 million soldiers and untold amounts of civilians were killed. For the rest of 1943, the Eastern Front remained locked in a stalemate. The few attacks launched by Germany ended in Soviet victory, and the only German operation in 1943 was the invasion and occupation of Iceland.
Final battles of the Pacific
Before the Japanese defeat in Australia, most soldiers had expected the Germans and Japanese to control the Eastern Hemisphere by the end of the year. but Allied victory on the island provided a sliver of hope that not all would be lost. In Canada, the United States, and Australia support for the war rose to an all time high, and in New Zealand thousands of soldiers flocked to recruiting offices to join the army. As well, the Japanese were unable to make major pushes into British India.
As embarrassing of a defeat Australia was, Japan still seeked domination of the Pacific elsewhere, and so the Aleutian Islands Campaign was launched. Only a few thousand troops were sent, as the operation was meant to draw American troops from Hawaii. Once a sufficient amount had left Hawaii, the Japanese pulled out of the island and launched a full scale invasion of Hawaii in May. The Allies pulled out of the island in August, and Japan offered surrender.
Peace in the Pacific
With the capture of Chongqing by the Japanese, the Chinese officially surrendered in February 1944. Now, the majority of the Japanese Army was available for redeployment in the Pacific. Fearing another attack on the Australian, or even American, mainland, Roosevelt agreed to meet for peace discussions. On March 5th an agreement was reached in Honolulu, officially ending hostilities in the Pacific.
Fall of the Soviet Union
Hitler, furious at Japans peace, demanded the Japanese attack the Soviets. They complied, invading on April 12th. The Japanese advanced rapidly into Eastern Russia, surrounding and taking Vladivostok in 2 months. meanwhile, the Germans launched a second assault on the city, first shelling and bombing it heavily. The next 3 months brought some of the most brutal fighting of the war, with Soviet soldiers fighting to the death for every inch of their capital. During the last few days, the Soviets held only the Kremlin. The Germans tried multiple attempts to storm the building, but after realizing the Soviets wouldn't surrender, German commanders ordered the building be destroyed. With the destruction of the Kremlin Moscow was taken, and the Soviet Union surrendered the next day, with Stalin and Molotov being sent to Berlin of execution.
Final peace treaties
Shortly after the Soviet surrender, the Kriegsmarine had achieved a blockade of the UK, while the Luftwaffe virtually controlled the British skies. For months, Britain was starved from the sea and attacked from the skies without any means of defense. Attempts to break the blockade by the Royal Navy failed, and as more and more British civilians demanded peace, Winston Churchill and the other European Allied leaders reluctantly agreed to meet the Axis in Luxembourg City. An agreement was reached for peace on September 22nd, officially ending the war in Europe.
Naval battles in the Atlantic continued for another 7 months between the Axis and remaining Allied Powers, before both sides agreed to a ceasefire in Dublin. After nearly 7 years, war had ended.
Germany established occupation zones in the annexed Russian territories under the names of Moskowien, Ukraine, Ostland, and Kaukasus. Ostland was annexed into the Reich in December 1948, while the rest remain under German occupation governments.
Germany also annexed Denmark, Norway, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and took Alsace Lorraine from France. Italy received most of Yugoslavia and Greece, splitting the former with Hungary and Bulgaria, and the latter with Bulgaria. Hungary received Vojvodina, while Bulgaria took Vardar Macedonia, the Morova Valley, and Western Thrace. Romania, for all its contribution, received just Moldova. Finland also took the Murmansk Oblast and Karelia.
East Asia and the Pacific fell under Japanese control (with the exception of British India, Australia, and New Zealand), although Japan opted to turn much of its conquered territory into puppet states while only directly annexing the Chinese coast, Indochina, Hainan, and the territory surrounding Vladivostok.
The end of the war also prompted French, Dutch, and British colonies to overthrow their weak colonial overlords. India fought for independence from 1944 to 1946, eventually becoming Free India, the Caribbean Federation was formed from the European islands in the region, as well as the Guianas. Belize and Jamaica peacefully broke away from the British, and South Africa was "set free" from British rule, becoming the Orange Free State in 1948. As well, the American controlled Philippines became the Second Philippine Republic, and the Dutch East Indies became the United Islands of Indonesia, under Japanese puppet governments.
The post-war world became dominated by 3 main powers:
- The United States (and arguably Canada) leading the remaining Allies in the Americas as well as Australia and New Zealand
- Germany leading the Axis Powers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa
- Japan and its allies in East Asia and the Pacific, later forming the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
In the UK and France, fascist governments took power. The French Petain regime was put into power following the Treaty of Luxembourg City, and has generally swayed the French people to its viewpoint as most felt abandoned and betrayed by the Allies. Oswald Mosley was elected leader of the United Kingdom in 1946, promising the British people to rebuild the country and restore the Empire to its former glory. Britain was officially formed in 1948, with Mosley a its dictator.
With their vast resources, both Germany and Japan have been able to make great strides in rebuilding territory under their or their Allies control, while still being able to sustain order and a powerful army.
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 starvation.
The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, including 8.7 million military and 24 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 2.3 million military losses, mostly on the Eastern Front.
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, including the 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 in occupied Yugoslavia.
In 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 Sakusen. General Yasuji Okamura implemented the policy in Heipei and Shantung.
Axis forces employed biological and chemical weapons. The Imperial Japanese Army used a variety of such weapons during its invasion and occupation of China and in conflict with the Soviets. Both the Germans and Japanese tested such weapons against civilians and, sometimes on prisoners of war.
Genocide, concentration camps, and slave labor
The German government led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party is 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 laborers. These killing continue to this day, and even Italy has publicly states that the experiments are "Uncivilized on the highest levels" and has requested many times that Germany stop these killings to no response.
In addition to Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet gulags (labor 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. 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.
Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, many of which were used as labor camps, also had high death rates. It was estimated that 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.
At least five million Chinese civilians from northern China and 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 and likely continues to grow. The US Library of Congress estimates that in Java, between 4 and 10 million rōmusha (Japanese: "manual laborers"), are forced to work by the Japanese military.
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 Europe, occupation came under two forms. In Western, Northern, and Central 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.
In the east, 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 West until after the war.
In Asia, 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 colonized 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 of oil left behind by retreating Allied forces, and by 1943 was able to get production in the Dutch East Indies up to 50 million barrels, 76 per cent of its 1940 output rate.
Advances in technology and warfare
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 centers to destroy the enemy's ability to wage war). Anti-aircraft weaponry also advanced, including defenses 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, first in Germany.
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 and Pearl Harbor, established the carrier as the dominant capital ship in place of the battleship.
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, armor and firepower.
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 forces.
Other technological and engineering feats achieved during, or as a result of, the war include the world's first programmable computers, guided missiles and modern rockets, and the Uranprojekt's development of nuclear weapons.