World War II
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|World War II|
| World War II montage image|
Clockwise from top: Allied landing on Normandy beaches on D-Day, the gate of a Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz it states Arbeit Macht Frei "Work will make you free", Red Army soldiers raising the Soviet flag over the Reichstag in Berlin, the Nagasaki atom bomb, and German police entering Austria.
| Allied powers:
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| Joseph Stalin
|| Flag of Germany Adolf Hitler|
|Casualties and losses|
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|Campaigns and theatres of World War II|
| Europe |
Poland – Phony War – Denmark & Norway – France & Benelux – Britain – Eastern Front – North West Europe (1944–45)
World War II (abbreviated WWII or WW2), or the Second World War, was a World war|worldwide military conflict which lasted from 1939 to 1945. World War II was the amalgamation of two conflicts, one starting in Asia as the Second Sino-Japanese War and the other beginning in Europe with the Invasion of Poland (1939)|Invasion of Poland.
This global conflict split a Participants in World War II|majority of the world's nations into two opposing camps: the Allies of World War II|Allies and the Axis Powers|Axis. Spanning much of the globe, World War II resulted in the deaths of over World War II casualties|60 million people, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.<ref name=WWII: C&C />
World War II was the most widespread war in history, and mobilized more than 100 million military personnel from 61 nations. Total war erased the distinction between civil and military resources and saw the complete mobilization of a nation's economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities for the purposes of the war effort; nearly two-thirds of those killed in the war were civilians. The Holocaust, which was largely conducted in Eastern Europe, resulted in the systematic killing of around or even more than six million Jews and other social and political minorities by Axis forces.
The conflict ended in an Allied victory. As a result, the United States and Soviet Union emerged as the world's two leading superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War for the next 40 years. Self determination gave rise to decolonization|decolonization/independence movements in Asia and Africa, while Europe itself began traveling the History of the European Union|road leading to unification.
Before the war
The main starting points of World War II are generally held to be the German and Russian Invasion of Poland (1939)|invasion of Poland, as well as the Japanese attacks on China, the [United States]], and the United Kingdom|British and Netherlands|Dutch colonies. All of the attacks resulted from the leadership of authoritarian ruling elites in Germany and Japan. World War II began after these acts of aggression were met with an official declaration of war or armed resistance.
Cause of war in Europe
Germany and France had been struggling for dominance in Continental Europe for fifty years, and fought two previous wars, the Franco-Prussian War, and World War I. Meanwhile the power of the Soviet Union threatened to eclipse them both as industrialization spread to this massive country. World War I had been a preemptive war by Germany against the precursor to the Soviet Union, the Russian Empire,<ref> Fromkin, David. 2005. Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? (Paperback) Vintage; Reprint edition (March 8, 2005) ISBN 978-0375725753 </ref> but it ended in catastrophe for the Germans, with millions dead, the loss of some peripheral territory, and economic hardships.
In the six years preceding World War II, Adolf Hitler, leading the Nazi Party, took power in Germany and eliminated its democratic government, the Weimar Republic. As stated in Mein Kampf, an autobiographical book outlining his plans for the future, Hitler's goal was to invade and conquer lands around Germany, and to make them German. He railed against Communists and ethnic minorities, such as Jews. After taking power, he prepared Germany for another war with large political rallies and speeches.
The Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939 saw a democratic government supported largely by the Soviet Union and other members of the League of Nations get overthrown by a Nazi supported Falange|fascist political party led by Francisco Franco|General Franco.
During the late 1930s Hitler abrogated the Treaty of Versailles, which had brought peace after WWI. He Remilitarization of the Rhineland|re-militarized the Rhineland, and increased the size of the German army, navy, and air force.
The British and French governments followed a policy of appeasement in order to avoid a new European war, out of concern for perceived war-weariness of their populations due to the huge death tolls of the first World War. This policy culminated in the Munich Agreement in 1938, in which the seemingly inevitable outbreak of the war was averted when the United Kingdom and France agreed to Germany's annexation and immediate occupation of the Sudetenland|German-speaking regions of Czechoslovakia. In exchange for this, Hitler gave his word that Germany would make no further territorial claims in Europe.<ref>Chamberlain's radio broadcast, [27 September 1938</ref><ref>Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War. (6 volumes). (1948-1953). ISBN 978-0395416853</ref> Neville Chamberlain|Chamberlain declared that the agreement represented "peace for our time." In March 1939, Germany invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia, effectively killing any notions of appeasement.
The failure of the Munich Agreement showed that negotiations with Hitler could not be trusted, as his aspirations for dominance in Europe went beyond anything that the United Kingdom and France would tolerate. Poland and France pledged on May 19, 1939 to provide each other with military assistance in the event either was attacked. The British had already offered support to Poland in March.
On August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Pact included a secret protocol that would divide Central Europe into German and Soviet areas of interest, including a provision to partition Poland. Each country agreed to allow the other a free hand in its area of influence, including military occupation. The deal provided for sales of oil and food from the Soviets to Germany, thus reducing the danger of a British blockade such as the one that had nearly starved Germany in World War I. Hitler was then ready to go to war with Poland and, if necessary, with the United Kingdom and France. He claimed there were German grievances relating to the issues of the Free City of Danzig and the Polish Corridor, but he planned to conquer all Polish territory to incorporate it into the Deutsches Reich|German Reich. The signing of a new alliance between the United Kingdom and Poland on August 25 did not significantly alter his plans.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, causing France and the United Kingdom to declare war. The United Kingdom brought with it the huge British Empire, and most members of the Commonwealth of Nations|British Commonwealth joined the war soon after.
Cause of war in Asia
Following the policies adopted after the Treaty of Versailles by occidental powers toward the recognition of Japan as a colonial power, many politicians and militarist leaders such as Fumimaro Konoe and Sadao Araki promoted the idea that Japan had a Hakko ichiu|right to conquer Asia and unify it, under the rule of Emperor Hirohito.
Japan Mukden Incident|invaded Manchuria in 1931 and Second Sino-Japanese War|China in 1937 to bolster its meager stock of natural resources, to relieve Japan from overpopulation|population pressures and to extend its colonial realm to a wider area. The Empire of Japan|Japanese made initial advances but were stalled in the Battle of Shanghai. The city eventually fell to the Japanese in December 1937, with the capital city Nanjing. As a result, the Chinese Nationalist government moved its seat to Wuhan and then to Chongqing for the remainder of the war. Conquered areas of China became subject to a harsh occupation, with many Japanese war crimes|atrocities against civilians, most notably the Nanking Massacre|Rape of Nanking and frequently used Japanese war crimes#Use of chemical weapons|chemical weapons. Neither Japan or China officially declared war, for a similar reason—fearing declaration of war would alienate Europe and the United States.
In Spring 1939, Soviet and Japanese forces clashed in Mongolia. The growing Japanese presence in the Far East was seen as a major strategic threat by the Soviet Union, and Soviet fear of having to fight a Two-front war|two front war was a primary reason for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the Nazis (other historians mention Munich Agreement as a supposition to this pact). The Japanese invasion of Mongolia was repulsed by Soviet units under GeneralGeorgiy Zhukov. Following this battle, the Soviet Union and Japan were at peace until 1945. Japan looked south to expand its empire, leading to conflict with the United States over the Philippines and control of shipping lanes to the Dutch East Indies. The Soviet Union focused on the west, leaving only minimal troops to guard the frontier with Japan.
Japanese forces invaded French Indochina on September 22, 1940. The United States (after having renounced the U.S.-Japanese Trade pact|trade treaty of 1911), United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands (which controlled the petroleum|oil of the Dutch East Indies), reacted in 1941 by instituting embargoes on exports of natural resources to Japan. The western powers also began making loans to China and providing Flying Tigers|covert military assistance.
Japan was faced with the choice of withdrawing from China and Indochina, negotiating some compromise, buying what they needed somewhere else, or going to war to conquer territories that contained oil, iron ore, bauxite and other resources. Japan's leaders believed that the existing Allies were preoccupied with the war against Germany, and that the United States would not be war-ready for years and would compromise before waging full-scale war. Japan thus proceeded with its plans for the Greater East Asia War in the Pacific|war in the Pacific by launching nearly simultaneous attacks on Malaya, Thailand, Hong Kong, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Wake Island.
For propaganda purposes, Japan's leaders stated that the goal of its military campaigns was to create the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. This, they claimed, would be a co-operative league of Asian nations, freed by Japan from European imperialist domination, and liberated to achieve autonomy and self-determination. In practice, occupied countries and peoples were completely subordinate to Japanese authority.
Course of the war
Open hostilities were expressed in military combat for over six years, with the first years of the war dominated by the Axis. Continental Europe was quickly overrun by Germany, and Great Britain stood alone until the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The United States, which had been helping Great Britain with material aid, also entered the war in 1941, bringing manufacturing capacity and manpower that helped to overwhelm Germany and Japan. 1942 was pivotal, with Germany and Italy suffering defeats in Russia and North Africa from which they never recovered. With the Allied Allied invasion of Italy|invasion of Italy in 1943 and Battle of Normandy|France in 1944, the final phases of the war were set in motion. Soviet troops simultaneously advanced through Eastern Europe culminating in the Battle of Berlin and the destruction of the Third Reich.
In the Asian theater, Japan had been occupying parts of mainland China for six years before open combat broke out in 1937 as a result of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Chinese forces were able to limit the Japanese advance by 1941, but Japanese troops controlled the most populous and economically productive areas of the country. On the 7th and 8th of December of that year, Japan launched simultaneous attacks on Hong Kong, Shanghai, the Philippines, Thailand, and Hawaii, and quickly expanded their empire from the central Pacific, to New Guinea, to Burma. Subsequently, the United Nations was incipiently formed (initially as ABDA), leading to the decisive battles of Battle of the Coral Sea|Coral Sea and Battle of Midway|Midway in June 1942. Moderate successes on both sides drew the conflict out until 1944, when the Allies were able to gain control of Battle of Saipan|Saipan and the Philippines and begin conducting bombing runs on the Japanese home islands, ultimately leading up to the dropping of two atomic bombs and the Japanese surrender.
War breaks out in Europe
On September 1, 1939, Germany Invasion of Poland (1939)|invaded Poland, using the false pretext of a faked "Gleiwitz incident|Polish attack" on a German border post. The United Kingdom and France gave Germany two days to withdraw from Poland. Once the deadline passed on September 3, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand declared war on Germany, followed quickly by France, South Africa, Canada and Nepal. Immediately, Great Britain began seizing German ships and implementing a blockade.
Despite the Franco-Polish Military Alliance|French and Polish-British Common Defence Pact|British treaty obligations and promises to the Polish government, both France and Great Britain were unwilling politically to launch a land invasion of Germany. The French mobilized slowly and then mounted only a short Saar Offensive|token offensive in the Saar; neither did the British send land forces in time to support the Poles (see Western betrayal). Meanwhile, on September 8, the Germans siege of Warsaw|reached Warsaw, having slashed through the Polish defenses.
On September 17, the Soviet Union, pursuant to its invasion of Poland (1939)|secret agreement with Germany, Soviet invasion of Poland (1939)|invaded Poland from the east, throwing Polish defenses into chaos by opening the second front. A day later, both the Polish president and commander-in-chief fled to Romania. On October 1, hostile forces, after a one-month siege of Warsaw, entered the city. The Battle of Kock (1939)|last Polish units surrendered on October 6. Poland, however, never officially surrendered to the Germans. Some Polish troops Romanian Bridgehead|evacuated to neighboring countries. In the aftermath of the September Campaign, History of Poland (1939–1945)|occupied Poland managed to create a powerful Polish Secret State|resistance movement and Polish contribution to World War II|contributed significant military forces to the Allies for the duration of World War II.
After Poland fell, Germany paused to regroup during the winter of 1939–1940 until April 1940, while the British and French stayed on the defensive. The period was referred to by journalists as “the Phoney War” or the “Sitzkrieg” because so little ground combat took place. During this period the Soviet Union attacked Finland on November 30, 1939, which started the Winter War. Despite outnumbering Finnish troops by 4 to 1, the Red Army found the attack embarrassingly difficult, and the Finnish defense prevented an all-out invasion. Finally, however, the Soviets prevailed and the Moscow Peace Treaty|peace treaty saw Finland cede strategically important border areas near Leningrad.
Germany invaded Denmark and Norway on April 9, 1940, in Operation Weserübung. Denmark did not resist, but Norway fought back. The Norwegian defense was undermined by the collaboration of Vidkun Quisling, whose name is now synonymous with "traitor". The United Kingdom, who had forces ready to help the Norwegians, landed in the north. By late June, the Allies were defeated and withdrew, Germany controlled most of Norway, and the Norwegian Army had surrendered, while the The Royal Family|Norwegian Royal Family escaped to London. Germany used Norway as a base for air and naval attacks on Arctic convoys of World War II|Arctic convoys headed to the Soviet Union. Norwegian partisans would continue to fight against the German occupation throughout the war.
Germany's Atlantic Wall
The Germans ended the Phoney War on May 10, 1940 when they invaded Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. The Netherlands was quickly overwhelmed and the Netherlands|Dutch city of Bombing of Rotterdam|Rotterdam was destroyed in a bombing raid. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French Army advanced into Flanders] and planned to fight a mobile war in the north, while maintaining a static continuous front along the Maginot Line further south. The Allied plans were immediately smashed by the most classic example in history of Blitzkrieg.
In the first phase of the invasion, Fall Gelb, the Wehrmacht's Panzergruppe von Kleist, raced through the Ardennes, a heavily forested region which the Allies had thought impenetrable for a modern, mechanized army. The Germans broke the French line at Sedan, France|Sedan, held by reservists rather than first-line troops, then drove west across northern France to the English Channel, splitting the Allies in two.
The BEF and Military of France|French forces, encircled in the north, were evacuated from Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo. The operation was one of the biggest military evacuations in history, as 338,000 British and French troops were transported across the English Channel on warships and civilian boats.
On June 10, Italy joined the war, attacking France in the south. German forces then continued the conquest of France with Fall Rot (Case Red). France signed an armistice with Germany on June 22 1940, leading to the direct German occupation of Paris and two-thirds of France, and the establishment of a German puppet state headquartered in Vichy, France|southeastern France known as Vichy France.
Germany had begun preparations in the summer of 1940 to invade the United Kingdom in Operation Sealion|Operation Sea Lion. Most of the British Army's heavy weapons and supplies had been lost at Dunkirk. The Germans had no hope of overpowering the Royal Navy, but they did think they had a chance of success, if they could gain air superiority. To do that, they first had to deal with the Royal Air Force (RAF). The ensuing contest in the late Summer of 1940 between the two air forces became known as the Battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe initially targeted RAF Fighter Command aerodromes and radar stations. Hitler, angered by retaliatory bombing raids on Berlin, switched his attentions towards the bombing of London, in an operation known as The Blitz. The Luftwaffe was eventually beaten back by Hawker Hurricane|Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfire|Spitfires, while the Royal Navy remained in control of the English Channel. Thus, the invasion plans were postponed indefinitely.
After France had fallen in 1940, the United Kingdom was out of money. Franklin Roosevelt persuaded the United States Congress|U.S. Congress to pass the Lend-Lease|Lend-Lease act on March 11 1941, which provided the United Kingdom and 37 other countries with US$50 billion dollars in Military technology and equipment|military equipment and other supplies, US$31.4 billion of it going to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Canada operated a similar program that sent $4.7 billion in supplies to the United Kingdom.
Apart from Italy, Western Europe saw very little fighting from September 1940-June 1944. British and Canadian forces launched a small raid on the occupied French seaport of Dieppe, Seine-Maritime|Dieppe, on August 19, 1942, whose aim was to test and gain information for an invasion of Europe which would happen later in the war. The Dieppe Raid was a total disaster but it provided critical information about amphibious tactics which would be utilized later in Operation Torch and Battle of Normandy|Operation Overlord.
In December 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the United States into the war, Churchill and Roosevelt met at the Arcadia Conference. They agreed that defeating Germany had priority over defeating Japan. To relieve German pressure on the Soviet Union, the United States proposed a 1942 cross-channel invasion of France. The British opposed this, suggesting instead a small invasion of Norway or landings in French colonial empires|French North Africa. The Declaration by United Nations|Declaration by the United Nations was issued, and the Western Allies invaded North Africa first.
With the entry of the United States into the War, the aerial war turned in favor of the Allies by late 1942. The U.S. air force began the first daylight bombing of Germany, which allowed far more precise targeting, but exposed the bombers to more danger than night bombing. Meanwhile the British and the Canadians targeting German cities and war industries for night bombing. This effort was orchestrated by Arthur Travers Harris|Air Chief Marshall Harris, who became known as "Bomber Harris". Additionally, Winston Churchill ordered "terror raids" intended to wipe out whole cities in one go, by incendiary devices causing firestorms, thus depriving German workers of their homes. Mass raids involving upwards of 500 to 1000 heavy bombers at a time were undertaken against airfields, industrial centers, submarine bases, rail-marshalling yards, oil depots and, in the later stages of the war, launching sites for weapons such as the V-1 missile (nicknamed 'doodlebug'), the V-2 rocket and a jet-engined plane, the Messerschmitt Me 262. The Luftwaffe was overwhelmed and by 1945, all major German cities were burnt-out ruins.
The Allies also began sabotage missions against Germany such as Operation Anthropoid in which Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Final Solution was assassinated in May 1942 by Czech resistance agents trained in Canada and flown in from the United Kingdom. Hitler ordered severe reprisals against the occupants of the nearby Czechoslovakian village of Lidice. All the while, the Allies continued to build up their forces in the United Kingdom for an eventual invasion of Western Europe which was planned for late spring or early summer of 1944.
Battle of the Atlantic
In the North Atlantic, German U-boats attempted to cut supply lines to the United Kingdom by sinking merchant ships. In the first four months of the war they sank more than 110 vessels. In addition to supply ships, the U-boats occasionally attacked British and Canadian warships. One U-boat sank the British aircraft carrier|carrier HMS Courageous (50)|HMS Courageous, while another managed to sink the battleship HMS Royal Oak (1914)|HMS Royal Oak in her home anchorage of Scapa Flow.
In addition to U-boats, surface raiders posed a threat to Allied shipping. In the South Atlantic, the German pocket battleship German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee|Admiral Graf Spee sank nine British British Merchant Navy|Merchant Navy vessels. She was tracked down off the coast of South America, then engaged by the cruisers HMS Ajax (22)|HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter (68)|HMS Exeter, and HMNZS Achilles (70)|HMNZS Achilles in the Battle of the River Plate, and forced into Montevideo|Montevideo Harbor. Rather than face battle again, Captain Langsdorff made for sea and Scuttling|scuttled his battleship just outside the harbor.
On May 24, 1941, the German battleship German battleship Bismarck|Bismarck left port, threatening to break out into the Atlantic. She sank HMS Hood|HMS Hood, one of the finest battlecruisers in the Royal Navy. A massive hunt ensued, in which the German battleship was sunk after a 1,700-mile (2,700 kilometer) chase, during which the British employed eight battleships and battle cruisers, two aircraft carriers, 11 cruisers, 21 destroyers, and six submarines. Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal|HMS Ark Royal struck the Bismarck, causing her rudder to jam and allowing the pursuing Royal Navy squadrons to sink her.
In the summer of 1941, the Soviet Union entered the war on the side of the Allies. Although the Soviets had tremendous reserves in manpower, they had lost much of their equipment and manufacturing base in the first few weeks following the German invasion. The Western Allies attempted to remedy this by sending Arctic convoys of World War II|Arctic convoys, which travelled from the United Kingdom and the United States to the northern ports of the Soviet Union - Arkhangelsk|Archangel and Murmansk. The treacherous route around the North Cape, Norway|North Cape of Norway was the site of many battles as the Germans continually tried to disrupt the convoys using U-boats, bombers, and surface ships.
Following the entry of the United States into the war in December 1941, U-boats sank shipping along the East Coast of the United States and Canada, the waters around Newfoundland, the Battle of the Caribbean|Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. They were initially so successful that this became known among U-boat crews as the second happy time. Eventually, the institution of shore Blackout (wartime)|blackouts and an interlocking convoy system resulted in a drop in attacks and U-boats shifted their operations back to the mid-Atlantic.
On May 9, 1942 the destroyer HMS Bulldog|HMS Bulldog captured a German U-Boat and recovered a complete, intact Enigma Machine, an encryption device. The machine was taken to Bletchley Park, England, where it was used to break the German History of cryptography#World War II cryptography|code. Thereafter the Allies enjoyed an advantage in that they could intercept and understand some German radio communications, directing naval forces to where they would be most effective.
The turning point of the Battle of the Atlantic (1939-1945)|Battle of the Atlantic took place in early 1943 as the Allies refined their naval tactics, effectively making use of new technology to counter the U-Boats. The Allies produced ships faster than they were sunk, and lost fewer ships by adopting the convoy system. Improved anti-submarine warfare meant that the life expectancy of a typical U-boat crew would be measured in months. The vastly improved German Type XXI submarine|Type 21 U-boat appeared as the war was ending, but too late to affect the outcome.
In December 1943, the last major sea battle between the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine|German Navy took place. At the Battle of North Cape, Germany's last battlecruiser, the Scharnhorst, was sunk by HMS Duke of York|HMS Duke of York, HMS Belfast|HMS Belfast, and several destroyers.
Control of Southern Europe, the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa was important because the British Empire depended on shipping through the Suez Canal. If the canal fell into Axis hands or if the Royal Navy lost control of the Mediterranean, then transport between the United Kingdom, India, and Australia would have to go around the Cape of Good Hope, an increase of several thousand miles.
Following the French surrender, the British Attack on Mers-el-Kébir|attacked the French Navy anchored in North Africa in July 1940, out of fear that it might fall into German hands. This contributed to a souring of British-French relations for the next few years. With the French fleet destroyed, the Royal Navy battled the Italian fleet for supremacy in the Mediterranean from their strong bases at Gibraltar, Malta, and Alexandria, Egypt.
Italian troops crossed into Egypt from Libya to attack British bases in September 1940, thus beginning the North African Campaign. The aim was to capture the Suez Canal. British, British Indian Army|Indian and Australian Army|Australian forces counterattacked in Operation Compass, which stopped in 1941 after numerous Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) forces were transferred to Greece to defend it from German attack. German forces (known later as the Afrika Korps) under General Erwin Rommel landed in Libya in February 1941 to renew the assault on Egypt.
Rommel's forces advanced rapidly eastward, laying siege to the vital seaport of Tobruk. Two Allied attempts to relieve Tobruk were defeated, but a larger offensive at the end of the year (Operation Crusader) repelled Rommel's forces after heavy fighting.
In April-May 1941, there was a short Anglo-Iraqi War|war in Iraq that resulted in a renewal of British occupation. In June, Allied forces Syria-Lebanon campaign|invaded Syria and Lebanon, and captured Damascus on June 17]. Later, in August, UK and Red Army troops Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran|occupied neutral Iran, securing its oil and a southern Military Supply Chain Management|supply line to the Soviet Union.
At the beginning of 1942, the Allied forces in North Africa were weakened by detachments to the Far East. Rommel once again recaptured Benghazi. He then defeated the Allies at the Battle of Gazala, and captured Tobruk along with several thousand prisoners and large quantities of supplies, before driving deeper into Egypt.
The First Battle of El Alamein took place in July 1942. Allied forces had retreated to the last defensible point before Alexandria and the Suez Canal. The Afrika Korps, however, had outrun its supplies, and the defenders stopped its thrusts. The Second Battle of El Alamein occurred between October 23 and November 3. Lieutenant-General Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein|Bernard Montgomery was in command of Allied forces known as the Eighth Army (United Kingdom)|Eighth Army. The Allies took the offensive and, despite initially stiff German resistance, were ultimately triumphant. After the German defeat at El Alamein, the Axis forces made a successful strategic withdrawal to Tunisia.
Operation Torch was launched by the U.S., British and Free French forces on November 8, 1942, to gain control of North Africa through simultaneous landings at Casablanca, Oran and Algiers, followed a few days later by a landing at Annaba|Bône, the gateway to Tunisia. The local forces of Vichy France put up minimal resistance before submitting to the authority of Free French Forces|Free French General Henri Giraud. In retaliation, Hitler invaded and occupied Vichy France. The German and Italian forces in Tunisia were caught in the pincers of Allied advances from Algeria in the west and Libya in the east. Rommel's tactical victory against inexperienced American forces at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass only postponed the eventual surrender of the Axis forces in North Africa in May 1943.
Italy had gained control of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland during the colonial Scramble for Africa, and had taken Ethiopia prior to the outbreak of World War II during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War (1935–1936). These three colonies were reorganized into the dominion of Italian East Africa. During the war they fought against British forces from British Somaliland, Kenya and the Sudan.<ref name=CS-EVENTS-OF-1940> </ref> <ref name=WWII-IN-AFRICA-JULY-1940></ref> After initial successes, they were driven back, eventually fighting a guerrilla war in Ethiopia until surrendering in September 1943, when Italy switched to the Allied side.
In September 1940, Allied forces failed during the Battle of Dakar to take the capital of Senegal from the Vichy French troops defending it; French West Africa remained Vichy until the Operation Torch landings in North Africa in November 1942. Yet in November 1940|November, the Allies succeeded in the Battle of Gabon, solidifying control over French Equatorial Africa for the Free French Forces.
Madagascar, as a French colony, was considered enemy territory by the British after the creation of the collaborationist Vichy regime. It was also the suggested land to which European Jews should be deported, in an anti-Semitic proposition known as the "Madagascar Plan." While the British still controlled Egypt and the Suez Canal, such German plans were impossible, and eventually they were shelved in favor of a genocidal campaign, which was termed the "Final Solution." With the advent of the Japanese entrance to the war in December 1941, and the Battle of Singapore|surrender of Singapore in February 1942, the Allies became increasingly worried Madagascar would fall to the Axis. Therefore, they conducted an invasion known as Operation Ironclad in May 1942. Fighting lasted there against the Vichy French defenders until November, who were backed by several Japanese submarines. In December, French Somaliland was also taken by the British.
After the landings of Operation Torch, the remainder of Vichy territories in Africa came under the control of the Allies. With the southern continent generally secure, apart from the Italian insurgency in Ethiopia, the Allies turned their attention to other theatres.
Balkan and Mediterranean campaigns
Greco-Italian War|Italy invaded Greece on October 28, 1940, from Italian occupied Albania, but was quickly repulsed. By mid-December, the Hellenic Army|Greek army advanced into southern Albania, tying down 530,000 Italian troops. Meanwhile, in fulfillment of Britain's guarantee to Greece the Royal Navy struck the Italian fleet in the Battle of Taranto on November 11, 1940. Torpedo bombers from British aircraft carriers attacked the Italian fleet in the southern port of Taranto. One battleship was sunk and several other ships were put temporarily out of action. The success of aerial torpedoes at Taranto was noted with interest by Japan's naval chief, Yamamoto, who was considering ways of neutralizing the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Mainland Greece eventually fell to a German invasion from the East, through Bulgaria.
Germany also Battle of Crete|invaded Crete, significant for the large-scale use of German paratroopers. Crete was defended by about 11,000 Greek and 28,000 ANZAC troops, who had just escaped Greece without their artillery or vehicles. The Germans attacked the three main airfields of the island of Maleme, Rethimnon, and Heraklion. After one day of fighting, none of the objectives were reached and the Germans had suffered appalling casualties. German plans were in disarray and the German commander, General Kurt Student, was contemplating suicide. During the next day, through miscommunication and failure of Allied commanders to comprehend the situation, Maleme airfield in western Crete fell to the Germans. The loss of Maleme enabled the Germans to fly in heavy reinforcements and overwhelm the Allied forces on the island. However, due to the heavy casualties suffered by the parachutists, Hitler forbade further airborne operations.
The war between the Allied and Italian navies swung decisively in favor of the Allies on March 28, 1941, when Admiral Cunningham's ships encountered the main Italian fleet south of Battle of Cape Matapan|Cape Matapan, at the southern extremity of the Greek mainland. At the cost of a couple of aircraft shot down, the Allies sank five Italian cruisers and three destroyers, and damaged the modern battleship Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto|Vittorio Veneto. The Regia Marina|Italian Navy was emasculated as a fighting force, and the Allied task of moving troops across the Mediterranean to Greece was eased.
On April 6, 1941, German, Italian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian forces invaded Yugoslavia, ending with the surrender of the Yugoslav army on April 17, and the creation of client states in Independent State of Croatia|Croatia and Nedić's Serbia|Serbia. Also on April 6, Germany invaded Greece from Bulgaria. The Greek army defending the Metaxas Line was outnumbered and outmaneuvered by the rapid German advance through Yugoslavia and collapsed. Athens fell on April 27, yet the United Kingdom managed to evacuate over 50,000 troops.
Resistance broke out in Yugoslavia in mid-1941, centered around two movements, effectively a civil war: the Communist-led Partisans (Yugoslavia)|Partisans, commanded by Tito, and the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland|royalist Chetniks led by Draža Mihailović. The two paramilitaries Republic of Užice|briefly cooperated in 1941 but soon fell out, with the Chetniks assuming a more ambivalent role, frequently siding with the occupying forces against the communists.
There were Seven anti-partisan offensives|seven major anti-Partisan offensives specifically aimed at the destruction of all Partisans in Yugoslavia, as well as List of anti-Partisan operations in Yugoslavia|numerous minor offensives. These major offensives were typically combined efforts by the German Wehrmacht, the German Waffen SS|SS, the Italian fascism|Fascist Italians, the Ustase|Ustaše, the Croatian Home Guard, the Serbian Volunteer Corps, the Serbian State Guard, the History of Independent Bulgaria#World War II and after|Bulgarians, and the Hungarians. At times the Royalist [hetniks agreed to participate against the Partisans. The major offensives included two larger efforts: Fall Weiss (1943)|Fall Weiss (Plan White) and Operation Schwarz (Operation Black). These were known in the Yugoslav annals as the 4th Offensive (Battle of Neretva) and the 5th Offensive (Battle of Sutjeska).
Eventually the Yugoslav Partisans, lead by Josip Tito, were recognized as the de facto rulers of the regions liberated from Axis control. On 16 June 1944, the The Treaty of Vis|Treaty of Vis was signed between the Partisans and the Royal Government, officially making the Partisans the regular army of Yugoslavia. By the end of August, Tito was appointed as the Chief-of-Staff of the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland, although Mihajlović and many Chetniks continued fighting their own resistance until their final defeat in the Battle on Lijevča field by a Croatian coalition.
As the Red Army]advanced into the Balkans, Romania left the Axis on August 23, Bulgaria on September 9, and German troops abandoned Greece on October 12. Concurrently, Yugoslav Partisans shifted operations into Serbia, freed Belgrade on October 20 with Soviet help, and assisted the National Liberation Army of Albania|Albanian Resistance rout the Germans by November 29. By year end, the Partisans controlled the eastern half of Yugoslavia and the Dalmatian coast, and on March 20, 1945 they mounted their final push westwards.
The surrender of Axis forces in Tunisia on May 13, 1943, yielded some 250,000 prisoners. The North African war proved to be a disaster for Italy, and when the Allies invaded Sicily on July 10 in Allied invasion of Sicily|Operation Husky, capturing the island in a little over a month, the regime of Benito Mussolini collapsed. On July 25, he was removed from office by Victor Emmanuel III of Italy|Victor Emmanuel III, the King of Italy, and arrested with the positive consent of the Great Fascist Council. A new government, led by Pietro Badoglio, took power and declared ostensibly that Italy would stay in the war. Badoglio had already begun secret peace negotiations with the Allies. When the Allies began invading mainland Italy on September 3, 1943, Italy surrendered within five days of Allied advances. The royal family and Badoglio government escaped to the south, leaving the Italian Army|Italian army without orders, while the Germans took over the fight, forcing the Allies to a complete halt in the winter of 1943–44 at the Gustav Line south of Rome.
In the north, Mussolini, with Nazi support, created what was effectively a puppet state, the Italian Social Republic or Italian Social Republic|Republic of Salò, named after the new capital of Salò on Lake Garda.
In May and June 1943 the main corps of the Partisans (Yugoslavia)|Yugoslav Partisan was encircled and nearly annihilated by German forces in the Sutjeska offensive in eastern Bosnia. The core forces around Tito successfully broke through the encirclement, and the tide turned in their favor. After Italy capitulated, the guerrillas took and held on to several Adriatic islands, notably Vis (island)|Vis, which became an Allied air force base. At the Tehran Conference the Allies recognized the Partisans as the legitimate Yugoslav fighting force.
Following Italy's surrender, German troops took over the defense of the Italian Peninsula|Italian peninsula and established the Gustav line in the southern Apennine Mountains south of Rome. The Allies were unable to break this line, and so attempted to bypass it with an amphibious landing at Anzio on January 22, 1944. The landing, named Operation Shingle, quickly became encircled by the Germans and bogged down, leading Churchill to comment, "Instead of hurling a wildcat onto the shore all we got was a stranded whale."
Unable to circumvent the Gustav line, the Allies again attempted to break through with Battle of Monte Cassino|frontal assaults. On February 15, the monastery of Monte Cassino, founded in 524 by St. Benedict was destroyed by American B-17 Flying Fortress|B-17 and B-26 Marauder|B-26 bombers. Crack German paratroopers poured back into the ruins to defend it. From January 12 to May 18, it was assaulted four times by Allied troops, for a loss of over 54,000 Allied and 20,000 German soldiers.
After months, the Gustav line was broken and the Allies marched north. On June 4, Rome was liberated, and the Allied army reached Florence in August. It then was held at the Gothic Line on the Tuscan Apennines. This last major defensive line, just south of Bologna, was penetrated during the autumn but there was no decisive breakthrough until April 1945. Churchill had hoped that a breakthrough in the autumn of 1944 would open the way for the Allied armies to advance north eastwards through the 'Ljubljana Gap' to Vienna and Hungary to forestall the Russians advancing into Eastern Europe (although the US Chiefs of Staff had until mid September strongly opposed the idea)<ref>Orgill, The Gothic Line, pp114-115</ref>. Paradoxically therefore the major long-term impact of the remarkable German defense in the autumn and winter of 1944 was to facilitate the post-war domination of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union. In the winter and spring of 1944-45, extensive partisan activity in northern Italy took place.
Allied advances in the winter of 1944–45 up the Italian peninsula had been slow because of the mountainous terrain and troop re-deployments to France. But by April 9, the 15th Army Group|British/American 15th Army Group broke through the Gothic Line and attacked the Po River|Po Valley, gradually enclosing the main German forces. Milan was taken by the end of April. The U.S. Fifth Army|U.S. 5th Army continued to move west and linked up with French units while the British entered Trieste and met up with the Yugoslav partisans. A few days before the surrender of German troops in Italy, Italian partisans captured Mussolini trying to make his escape to Switzerland. He was executed, along with his mistress, Clara Petacci. Their bodies were taken to Milan and hung upside down on public display. General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, who had taken command of the Axis forces in Italy after Kesselring had been transferred to Army Group West at the end of 1944, signed the instrument of surrender on behalf of the German armies in Italy on April 29 formally bringing hostilities to an end on May 2.<ref>Blaxland, p.277</ref>
By the Spring of 1944, the Allied preparations for the invasion of France and the initial stages for the liberation of western Europe (Operation Overlord) were complete. They had assembled around 120 Divisions with over 2 million men of which 1.3 million were Americans, 600,000 were British and the rest were Canadians, Free French and Polish units. The invasion, code-named Operation Neptune but commonly referred to as D-Day, was set for June 5th but bad weather postponed the invasion to June 6, 1944.<ref name="war5">Richard Overy|Overy, Richard</ref> Almost 85-90% of all German troops were deployed on the Eastern Front and only 400,000 Germans in two armies, the German Seventh Army and the newly created Fifth Panzer Army was all that Germany could spare to defend against the allied invasion. The Germans had also constructed an elaborate series of fortifications along the coast called the Atlantic Wall to deter the invasion but in many places the Wall was incomplete. The Allied forces under supreme command of Dwight D. Eisenhower had launched an elaborate deception campaign to convince the Germans that the landings would occur in the Calais area which caused the Germans to deploy large parts of their forces in that sector. Only 50,000 Germans were deployed in the Normandy sector on the day of the invasion.
The invasion began with 17,000 air borne troops being dropped in Normandy to serve as a screening force to prevent the Germans from attacking the beaches. By early morning, a massive Naval flotilla attempted to bombard German defenses on the beaches, but due to lack of visibility most of the shots missed their targets. Additionally, most of the troop transport ships (with personnel, trucks, and equipment) were off course, some as much as thousands of yards from their respective landing zone amongst the 5 beach areas (Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold). The Americans in particular suffered heavy losses on Omaha beach due to the German fortifications being left intact. However by the end of the first day, most of the Allied objectives were accomplished even though the British and Canadian objective of capturing Caen proved too optimistic. The Germans launched no significant counterattack on the beaches as Hitler believed the landings to be a decoy. Only three days later the German High command realized that Normandy was the actual invasion, but by then the Allies had already consolidated their beachheads.
The bocage terrain of Normandy where the Americans had landed made it ideal ground for defensive warfare. Nevertheless, the Americans made steady progress and captured the deep-water port of Battle of Cherbourg|Cherbourg on June 26, one of the primary objectives of the invasion. However, the Germans had Naval mine|mined the harbor and destroyed most of the port facilities before surrendering, and it would be another month before the port could be brought back into limited use. The British launched another Battle of Villers-Bocage|attack on June 13 to capture Caen but were held back as the Germans had moved in large number of troops to hold the city. The city was to remain in German hands for another 6 weeks. It finally fell to British and Canadian forces on July 9.
Allied firepower, improved tactics, and numerical superiority eventually resulted in a Breakout (military)|breakout of American mechanized forces at the western end of the Normandy pocket in Operation Cobra on July 23. When Hitler learned of the American breakout, he ordered his forces in Normandy to launch an immediate counter-offensive. However the German forces moving in open countryside were now easily targeted by Allied aircraft, as they had initially escaped Allied air attacks due to their well camouflaged defensive positions.
The Americans placed strong formations on their flanks which blunted the attack and then began to encircle the German Seventh Army|7th Army and large parts of the German Fifth Panzer Army|5th Panzer Army in the Falaise Pocket. Some 50,000 Germans were captured, but 100,000 managed to escape the pocket. Worse still, the British and Canadians - whose initial strategic objective to draw in enemy reserves and protect the American flanks so as to promote a later turning movement north had been achieved <ref>Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War Volume V1. p. 33</ref> - now began to break through the German lines. Any hope the Germans had of containing the Allied thrust into France by forming new defensive lines was now gone. The Allies raced across France, advancing as much as 600 miles in two weeks<ref>Patton's Third Army advanced 600 miles.</ref> The German forces retreated into Northern France, Holland and Belgium. By August 1944, Allied forces stationed in Corsica launched Operation Dragoon, invading the French Riviera on August 15 with the 6th Army Group, led by Lieutenant General Jacob Devers), and linked up with forces from Normandy. The clandestine French Resistance in Paris rose against the Germans on August 19, and a French armored division under Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque|General Philippe Leclerc, pressing forward from Normandy, received the surrender of the German forces there and liberated the city on August 25.
The Germans launched the V-1 flying bomb, the world's first cruise missile, to attack targets in southern England and Belgium. Later, they would employ the V-2 rocket, a liquid-fuelled guided ballistic missile. These weapons were very inaccurate and could only target large areas, such as cities. They had little military effect and were rather intended to demoralize Allied civilians.
Logistical problems plagued the Allies as they fanned out across France and the Low Countries, advancing towards the German border. With the supply lines still running back to Normandy, and critical shortages in fuel and other supplies all along the front, the Allies slowed the general advance and focused the available supplies on a narrow front strategy. Allied paratroopers and armor attempted a war-winning advance through the Netherlands and across the Rhine River with Operation Market Garden in September (the goal was to end the war by Christmas). The plan was to land paratroopers near bridges on the Rhine River, hold the position, and wait for the armour to cut through enemy lines to reinforce them and then cross into Germany. The plan was conceived and led by British General Montgomery, and included British, American, Polish, and Canadian forces. Although the plan encountered some initial success, many of the bridges were blown up, and the advancing armored columns ran into delays. As a result, the British 1st Airborne Division, holding the last bridge, was nearly annihilated. The Germans were able to entrench all along the front and the war continued through the winter.
In order to improve the supply situation, the Canadian First Army was assigned to clear the entrance to the port of Antwerp, the Battle of the Scheldt|Scheldt estuary, which they successfully accomplished by late November 1944 Making Canada the only country to successfully complete all D-Day objectives. In October, the Americans captured Battle of Aachen|Aachen, the first major German city to be occupied.
Hitler had been planning to launch a major counteroffensive against the Allies since mid-September. The objective of the attack was to capture Antwerp. Not only would the capture or destruction of Antwerp prevent supplies from reaching the allied armies, it would also split allied forces in two, demoralizing the alliance and forcing its leaders to negotiate. For the attack, Hitler concentrated the best of his remaining forces, launching the attack through the Ardennes in southern Belgium, a hilly and in places a heavily wooded region, and the site of his victory in 1940. Dense cloud cover denied the Americans the use of their reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft.
Parts of the attack managed to break through the thinly-held American lines (about 4 divisions which were either new or refitting to cover about 70 miles of the front-line), and dash headlong for the River Meuse|Meuse. However the northern section of the line held, constricting the advance to a narrow corridor. The German advance was delayed at St. Vith, which American forces defended for several days. At the vital road junction of Battle of Bastogne|Bastogne, the American 101st Airborne Division and Combat Command B of the 10th Armoured Division held out, surrounded, for the duration of the battle. George S. Patton|Patton's Third United States Army|3rd Army to the South made a rapid 90 degree turn and rammed into the German southern flank, relieving Bastogne.
The weather by this time had cleared unleashing allied air power as the German attack ground to a halt at Dinant. In an attempt to keep the offensive going, the Germans launched a Operation Bodenplatte|massive air raid on Allied airfields in the Low Countries on January 1, 1945. The Germans destroyed 465 aircraft but lost 277 of their own planes. While the allies recovered their losses in just days, the Luftwaffe was no longer capable of launching a major air attack again.<ref>A World At Arms, p 769, Gerhard Weinberg</ref>
Allied forces from the north and south met up at Houffalize and by the end of January they had pushed the Germans back to their start positions. Many German units were caught in the pocket created by the Bulge and forced to surrender or retreat without their heavy equipment. Months of the Reich's war production had been expended whereas German forces on the Eastern front were virtually starved of resources at the very moment the Red Army was preparing for its massive offensive against Germany. The final obstacle to the Allies was the river Rhine, which was crossed in late March 1945, aided by the fortuitous capture of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen. Also, Operation Varsity, a parachute-assault in late March, got a foothold on the east bank of the Rhine River. Once the Allies had crossed the Rhine, the British fanned out northeast towards Hamburg, crossing the river Elbe and moving on towards Denmark and the Baltic Sea.
The U.S. Ninth Army|U.S. 9th Army went south as the northern pincer of the Ruhr encirclement, and the U.S. First Army|U.S. 1st Army went north as the southern pincer of the Ruhr encirclement. These armies were commanded by General of the Army|General Omar Bradley who had over 1,300,000 men under his control (the 12th Army Group). On April 4, the encirclement was completed, and the German Army Group B which included the 5th Panzer Army, 7th Army and the 15th Army commanded by Generalfeldmarschall|Field Marshal Walther Model was trapped in the Ruhr Pocket. Some 300,000 German soldiers became prisoners of war. The 1st and 9th U.S. armies then turned east. They halted their advance at the Elbe river where they met up with Soviet troops in mid-April.
Germany invades Russia
The battle of Greece and the invasion of Yugoslavia delayed the German invasion of the Soviet Union by a critical six weeks.
Three German Army Groups along with various other Axis military units who in total numbered over 4.3 million men, 3.3 million Germans and 1 million Axis, launched the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Army Group North was deployed in East Prussia. Its main objectives were to secure the Baltic states and seize Leningrad. Opposite Army Group North were 2 Soviet Armies. The Germans threw their 600 tanks at the junction of the two Soviet Armies in that sector. The Fourth Panzer Army (Germany)|4th Panzer Army's objective was to cross the River Neman and Dvina River|River Dvina which were the two largest obstacles in route to Leningrad. On the first day, the tanks crossed River Neman and penetrated 50 miles. Near Rasienai, the Panzers were Battle of Rasienai|counterattacked by 300 Soviet tanks. It took 4 days for the Germans to encircle and destroy the Soviet tanks. The Panzers then crossed River Dvina near Dvinsk, and approached Leningrad.
Army Group Center was deployed in Poland. Its main objective was to capture Moscow. Opposite Army Group Center were 4 Soviet Armies. Soviet forces occupied a salient which jutted into German territory with its center at Bialystok. Beyond, Bialystok was Minsk which was a key railway junction and guardian of the main highway to Moscow. Third Panzer Army (Germany)|3rd Panzer Army punched through the junction of the two Soviet Armies from the North and crossed the Neman River|River Neman, and Second Panzer Army (Germany)|2nd Panzer Army crossed the River Bug from the south. While the Panzers attacked, the Infantry armies struck at the Salient and encircled Soviet troops at Bialystok. The Panzer Armies' objective was to meet at Minsk and prevent any Soviet withdrawal. On June 27, 2nd and 3rd Panzer Armies met up at Minsk advancing 200 miles into Soviet Territory. In the vast pocket between Minsk and the Polish border, 32 Soviet Infantry and 8 Tank Divisions were encircled and were mercilessly Battle of Białystok-Minsk|attacked. Soviet soldiers numbering 290,000 were captured, while another 250,000 managed to escape.
Army Group South was deployed in Southern Poland and Romania and also included two Romanian Armies and several Italian, Slovakian and Hungarian Divisions. Its objective was to secure the oil fields of the Caucasus. In the South, Soviet commanders quickly reacted to the German attack and commanded tank forces vastly outnumbering the Germans. Opposite the Germans in the South were 3 Soviet Armies. The German struck at the junctions of the 3 Soviet Armies but First Panzer Army (Germany)|1st Panzer Army struck right through the Soviet Army with the objective of capturing Brody. On June 26, 5 Soviet Mechanized Corps with over 1,000 Tanks mounted a massive Battle of Brody (1941)|counterattack on 1st Panzer Army. The Battle was among the fiercest of the invasion lasting over 4 days. In the end the Germans prevailed but the Soviets inflicted heavy losses on the 1st Panzer Army. With the failure of the Soviet Armored offensive, the last substantial Soviet tank forces in the south were now spent.
On July 3, Hitler finally gave the go-ahead for the Panzers to resume their drive east after the infantry armies had caught up. The next objective of Army Group Center was the city of Smolensk which commanded the road to Moscow. Facing the Germans was an old Russian defensive line where the Soviets had deployed 6 Armies. On July 6, the Soviets launched an attack with 700 Tanks against the 3rd Panzer Army. The Germans, using their overwhelming air superiority, wiped out the Soviet tanks. The 2nd Panzer Army crossed the River Dneiper and closed on Smolensk from the south while 3rd Panzer Army after defeating the Soviet counter attack approached Smolensk from the north. Trapped between their pincers were 3 Soviet Armies. On July 26, the Panzers closed the gap and then began to Battle of Smolensk (1941)|eliminate the pocket which yielded over 300,000 Soviet prisoners but 200,000 evaded capture. Hitler by now had lost faith in battles of encirclement and wanted to defeat the Soviets by inflicting severe economic damage which meant seizing the oil fields in the south and Leningrad in the North. Tanks from Army Group Center were diverted to Army Group North and South to aid them. Hitler's generals vehemently opposed this as Moscow was only 200 miles away from Army Group Center and the bulk of the Red Army was deployed in that sector and only an attack there could hope to end the war quickly. But Hitler was adamant and the Tanks from Army Group Center arrived and reinforced the Fourth Panzer Army (Germany)|4th Panzer Army in the north which made it breakthrough the Soviet defenses on August 8 and by the end of August was only 30 miles from Leningrad. Meanwhile the Finns had pushed South East on both sides of Lake Ladoga reaching the old Finnish Soviet frontier.
In the South by mid-July below the Pinsk Marshes, the Germans had reached to a few miles of Kiev. The 1st Panzer Army then went South while the German 17th Army which was on 1st Panzer Army's southern flank struck east and in between the Germans trapped 3 Soviet Armies near Battle of Uman|Uman. As the Germans eliminated the pocket, the tanks turned north and crossed the Dneiper meanwhile 2nd Panzer Army which was diverted from Army Group Center on Hitler's orders had crossed the River Desna with Second Army (Germany)|2nd Army on its right flank. The two Panzer armies now trapped 4 Soviet Armies and parts of two others. The encirclement of Soviet forces in Kiev was achieved on September 16. The encircled Soviets did not give up easily, a Battle of Kiev (1941)|savage battle now ensued lasting for 10 days after which the Germans claimed over 600,000 Soviet soldiers captured. Hitler called it the greatest battle in history. After Kiev, the Red Army no longer outnumbered the Germans and there were no more reserves. To defend Moscow, Stalin had only 800,000 men left.
On September 9, Army Group North reached to about 7 miles from Leningrad but Hitler ordered Leningrad to be besieged. The Soviets had mounted an increasing number of attacks against Army Group Center but lacking its tanks, it was in no position to go on the offensive. Hitler had changed his mind and decided that tanks will be send back to Army Group Center for its all out drive on Moscow. Operation Typhoon, the drive on Moscow began on October 2. In front of Army Group Center was a series of elaborate defense lines. The Germans easily penetrated the first defense line as 2nd Panzer Army returning from the south took Orel which was 75 miles behind the Russian first defense line. The Germans then pushed in and the vast pocket yielded 663,000 Soviet prisoners. Soviet forces now had only 90,000 men and 150 tanks left for the defense for Moscow.
Almost from the beginning of Operation Typhoon the weather had deteriorated steadily, slowing the German advance on Moscow to as little as 2 miles a day. On October 31, the Germany Army High Command ordered a halt on Operation Typhoon as the armies were re-organized. The pause gave the Soviets time to build up new armies and bring in the Soviet troops from the east as the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact|neutrality pact signed by the Soviets and Japanese in April, 1941 assured Stalin that there was no longer a threat from the Japanese.
On November 15, the Germans once again began the attack on Moscow. Facing the Germans were 6 Soviet Armies. The Germans intended to let the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies cross the Moscow Canal and envelop Moscow from the North East. The 2nd Panzer Army would attack Tula and then close in on Moscow from the South and the 4th Army would smash in the center. However, on November 22, Soviet Siberian Troops were unleashed on the 2nd Panzer Army in the South which inflicted a shocking defeat on the Germans. The 4th Panzer Army succeeded in crossing the Moscow canal and on December 2 had penetrated to 15 miles of the Kremlin. But by then the first blizzards of the winter began and the Wehrmacht was not equipped for winter warfare. Frostbite and disease had caused more casualties than combat; dead and wounded had already reached 155,000 in 3 weeks. Strength of divisions were now at 50% and the bitter cold had caused severe problems for guns and equipment. Weather conditions grounded the Luftwaffe. Hitler's plans miscarried before the onset of severe winter weather; he was so confident of a lightning victory that he did not prepare for even the possibility of winter warfare in Russia. Yet his eastern army suffered more than 734,000 casualties (about 23 percent of its average strength of 3,200,000 troops) during the first five months of the invasion, and on 27 November 1941, General Eduard Wagner, the Quartermaster General of the German Army, reported that "We are at the end of our resources in both personnel and materiel. We are about to be confronted with the dangers of deep winter. Newly built up Soviet troops near Moscow now numbered over 500,000 men and Zhukov on December 5 launched a massive counter attack which pushed the Germans back over 200 miles but no decisive breakthrough was achieved. The invasion of the Soviet Union had so far cost the Germans over 250,000 dead, 500,000 wounded and most of their tanks.
Russia pushes back
On January 6, 1942, Stalin, confident of his earlier victory, ordered a general Toropets-Kholm Operation|counter-offensive. Initially the attacks made good ground as Soviet pincers closed around Demyansk and Vyazma and threatening attacks were made towards Smolensk and Bryansk. But despite these successes the Soviet offensive soon ran out of steam. By March, the Germans had recovered and stabilized their line and secured the neck of the Vyazma Pocket. Only at Demyansk Pocket|Demyansk was there any serious prospect of a major Soviet victory. Here a large part of the Sixteenth Army (Germany)|German 16th Army had been surrounded. Hitler ordered no withdrawal and the 92,000 men trapped in the pocket were to hold their ground while they were re-supplied by air. For 10 weeks they held out until April when a land corridor was opened to the west. The German forces retained Demyansk until they were permitted to withdraw in February 1943.
In May, the Soviets attempted to retake the city of Kharkov, in Eastern Ukraine. They opened with concentric attacks on either side of Kharkov and in both sides broke through German lines and a serious threat to the city emerged. In response, the Germans accelerated the plans for their own offensive and launched it 5 days later. The Sixth Army (Germany)|German 6th Army struck at the salient from the south and encircled the entire Soviet army assaulting Kharkov. In the last days of May, the Germans destroyed the forces inside the pocket. Of the Soviet troops inside the pocket, 70,000 were killed, 200,000 captured and only 22,000 managed to escape.
Hitler had by now realized that his Armies were too weak to carry out an offensive on all sectors of the Eastern Front, but if the Germans could seize the oil and fertile rich area of Southern Russia this would give the Germans the means to continue with the war. Operation Blue attempted the destruction of the Red Army's southern front, consolidation of the Ukraine west of the River Volga, and the capture of the Caucaus oil fields. The Germans reinforced Army Group South by transferring divisions from other sectors and getting divisions from Axis allies. By late June, Hitler had 74 Divisions ready to go on the offensive, 51 of them German.
The Soviets did not know where the main German offensive of 1942 would come. Stalin was convinced that the German objective of 1942 would be Moscow and over 50% of all Red Army troops were deployed in the Moscow region. Only 10% of Soviet troops were deployed in Southern Russia.
On June 28, 1942, the German offensive began. Everywhere Soviet forces fell back as the Germans sliced through Soviet defenses. By July 5, forward elements of 4th Panzer Army reached the River Don near Voronezh and got embroiled in a bitter battle to capture the city. The Soviets, by tying down 4th Panzer Army, gained vital time to reinforce their defenses. The Soviets for the first time in the war were not fighting to hold hopelessly exposed positions but were retreating in good order. As German pincers closed in they only found stragglers and rear guards. Angered by the delays, Hitler re-organized Army Group South to two smaller Army Groups, Army Group A and Army Group B. The bulk of the Armored forces were concentrated with Army Group A which was ordered to attack towards the Caucasus oil fields while Army Group B was ordered to capture Stalingrad and guard against any Soviet counter attacks.
By July 23, the German 6th Army had taken Rostov but Soviet troops fought a skillful rearguard action which embroiled the Germans in heavy urban fighting to take the city. This also allowed the main Soviet formations to escape encirclements. With the River Don's crossing secured in the south and with the 6th Army's advance flagging, Hitler send the 4th Panzer Army back to join up with 6th Army. In late July, 6th Army resumed its offensive and by August 10, 6th Army cleared the Soviet presence from the west bank of the River Don but Soviet troops held out in some areas further delaying 6th Army's march east. In contrast, Army Group A after crossing the River Don on July 25 had fanned out on a broad front. The German 17th Army swung west towards the Black Sea, the 1st Panzer Army attacked towards the south and east sweeping through country largely abandoned by the Soviet troops. On August 9, 1st Panzer Army reached the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, advancing more than 300 miles.
In order to protect their forces in the Caucasus, the Germans attempted to capture Stalingrad, on their northeastern flank, crossing the Don River and advancing on the city. Germans bombers killed over 40,000 people and turned much of the city into rubble. The Soviet leadership realized that the German plan was the seizure of the oil fields and began sending large number of troops from the Moscow sector to reinforce their troops in the South. Zhukov, one of Stalin's most trusted generals, assumed command of the Stalingrad front in early September and mounted a series of attacks from the North which further delayed the German 6th Army's attempt to seize Stalingrad. On September 13, the Germans advanced through the southern suburbs and by September 23, 1942, the main factory complex was surrounded and the German artillery was within range of the quays on the river, across which the Soviets evacuated wounded and brought in reinforcements. Ferocious Urban warfare|street fighting, hand-to-hand conflict of the most savage kind, now ensued in the ruins of the city. Exhaustion and deprivation gradually sapped men's strength. Hitler, who had become obsessed with the battle of Stalingrad, refused to countenance a withdrawal. General Paulus, in desperation, launched yet another attack early in November by which time the Germans had managed to capture 90% of the city. The Soviets, however, had been building up massive forces on the flanks of Stalingrad which were by this time severely undermanned as the bulk of the German forces had been concentrated in capturing the city and Axis satellite troops were left guarding the flanks. The Soviets launched Operation Uranus on November 19 1942, with twin attacks that met at the city of Kalach four days, encircling the 6th Army in Stalingrad.
The Germans requested permission to attempt a breakout, which was refused by Hitler, who ordered the German Sixth Army|Sixth Army to remain in Stalingrad where he promised they would be supplied by air until rescued. About the same time, the Soviets launched [[Second Rzhev-Sychevka Offensiv Operation Mars in a salient near the vicinity of Moscow. Its objective was to tie down Army Group Centre|Army Group Center and to prevent it from reinforcing Army Group South at Stalingrad.
Meanwhile, Army Group A's advance into the Caucasus had stalled as Soviet troops had destroyed the oil production facilities and a year's work was required to bring them back up and the remaining oil fields lay south of the Caucasus Mountains. Throughout August and September, German Mountain troops probed for a way through but by October with the onset of winter, they were no closer to their objective. With German troops encircled in Stalingrad, and Soviet armies threatening their lines of retreat, Army Group A began to fall back.
By December, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein|von Manstein hastily put together a German relief force of units composed from Army Group A to relieve the trapped Sixth Army. Unable to get reinforcements from Army Group Center, the relief force only managed to get within 50 kilometers (30 mi) before they were turned back by the Soviets. By the end of the year, the Sixth Army was in desperate condition, as the Luftwaffe was able to supply only about a sixth of the supplies needed.
Shortly before surrendering to the Red Army on February 2, 1943, Friedrich Paulus was promoted to Generalfeldmarschall|Field Marshal. This was a message from Hitler, because no German Field Marshal had ever surrendered his troops or been taken alive. Of the 300,000 strong 6th Army, only 91,000 survived to be taken prisoner, including 22 generals, of which only 5,000 men ever returned to Germany after the war. This was to be the greatest, and most costly, battle in terms of human life in history. Around 2 million men were killed or wounded on both sides, including civilians, with Axis powers of World War II|Axis casualties estimated to be approximately 850,000 and 750,000 for the Soviets.
After the surrender of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad on February 2, 1943, the Red Army launched eight offensives during the winter. Many were concentrated along the Don River, Russia|Don basin near Stalingrad. These attacks resulted in initial gains until German forces were able to take advantage of the over extended and weakened condition of the Red Army and launch a counter attack to re-capture the city of Kharkov and surrounding areas. This was to be the last major strategic German victory of World War II.
The rains of spring inhibited campaigning in the Soviet Union, but both sides used the interval to build up for the inevitable battle that would come in the summer. The start date for the offensive had been moved repeatedly as delays in preparation had forced the Germans to postpone the attack. By July 4, the Wehrmacht, after assembling their greatest concentration of firepower during the whole of World War II, launched their offensive against the Soviet Union at the Kursk salient. Their intentions were known by the Soviets, who hastened to defend the salient with an enormous system of earthwork defenses. The Germans attacked from both the north and south of the salient and hoped to meet in the middle, cutting off the salient and trapping 60 Soviet divisions. The German offensive in the Northern sector was ground down as little progress was made through the Soviet defenses but in the Southern Sector there was a danger of a German breakthrough. The Soviets then brought up their reserves to contain the German thrust in the Southern sector, and the ensuing Battle of Kursk became the largest tank battle of the war, near the city of Prokhorovka. The Germans lacking any sizable reserves had exhausted their Armoured forces|armored forces and could not stop the Soviet counteroffensive that threw them back across their starting positions.
The Soviets captured Kharkov following their victory at Kursk and with the Autumn rains threatening, Hitler agreed to a general withdrawal to the Dnieper line in August. As September proceeded into October, the Germans found the Dnieper line impossible to hold as the Soviet bridgeheads grew. Important Dnieper towns started to fall, with Zaporozhye the first to go, followed by Dnepropetrovsk. Early in November the Soviets broke out of their bridgeheads on either side of Kiev and recaptured the Ukrainian capital. The 1st Ukrainian Front attacked at Korosten on Christmas Eve, and the Soviet advance continued along the Rail tracks|railway line until the 1939 Soviet-Polish border was reached.
Russia's armored fist
The Soviets launched their winter offensive in January 1944 in the Northern sector and relieved the brutal siege of Leningrad. The Germans conducted an orderly retreat from the Leningrad Oblast|Leningrad area to a shorter line based on the lakes to the south. By March the Soviets struck into Romania from Ukraine. The Soviet forces encircled the German First Panzer Army|First Panzer Army north of the Dniestr river. The Germans escaped the pocket in April, saving most of their men but losing their heavy equipment. During April, the Red Army launched a series of attacks near the city of Iaşi, Romania, aimed at capturing the strategically important sector which they hoped to use as a springboard into Romania for a summer offensive. The Soviets were held back by the German and Romanian forces when they launched the attack through the forest of Târgu Frumos|Târgul Frumos as Axis forces successfully defended the sector through the month of April.
As Soviet troops neared Hungary, German troops occupied Hungary on March 20. Hitler thought that Hungarian leader Admiral Miklós Horthy might no longer be a reliable ally. Germany's other Axis ally, Finland had sought a separate peace with Stalin in February 1944, but would not accept the initial terms offered. On June 9, the Soviet Union began the Fourth strategic offensiveon the Karelian Isthmus that, after three months, forced Finland to accept an armistice.
Before the Soviets could begin their Summer offensive into Belarus they had to clear the Crimea peninsula of Axis forces. Remnants of the German Seventeenth Army of Army Group South and some Romanian forces were cut off and left behind in the peninsula when the Germans retreated from the Ukraine. In early May, the Red Army's Soviet Southwestern Front|3rd Ukrainian Front attacked the Germans and the ensuing battle was a complete victory of the Soviet forces and a botched evacuation effort across the Black Sea by Germany failed.
With the Crimea cleared, the long awaited Soviet summer offensive codenamed, Operation Bagration, began on June 22, 1944 which involved 2.5 million men and 6,000 tanks. Its objective was to clear German troops from Belarus and crush German Army Group Center which was defending that sector. The offensive was timed to coincide with the Battle of Normandy|Allied landings in Normandy but delays caused the offensive to be postponed for a few weeks. The subsequent battle resulted in the destruction of German Army Group Centre and over 800,000 German casualties, the greatest defeat for the Wehrmacht during the war. The Soviets swept forward, reaching the outskirts of Warsaw on July 31.
The proximity of the Red Army led the Poles in Warsaw to believe they would soon be liberated. On August 1, they revolted as part of the wider Operation Tempest. Nearly 40,000 Polish resistance fighters seized control of the city. The Soviets, however, did not advance any further.  The only assistance given to the Poles was artillery fire, as German army units moved into the city to put down the revolt. The resistance ended on October 2. German units then destroyed most of what was left of the city.
Following the destruction of German Army Group Center, the Soviets attacked German forces in the south in mid-July 1944, and in a month's time they cleared Ukraine of German presence inflicting heavy losses on the Germans. Once Ukraine had been cleared the Soviet forces struck into Romania. The Red Army's 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts engaged German Heeresgruppe Südukraine, which consisted of German and Romanian formations, in an operation to occupy Romania and destroy the German formations in the sector. The result of the Battle of Romania (1944)|Battle of Romania was a complete victory for the Red Army, and a switch of Romania from the Axis to the Allied camp. Bulgaria surrendered to the Red Army in September. Following the German retreat from Romania, the Soviets entered Hungary in October 1944 but the German Sixth Army encircled and destroyed three corps of Marshal Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky's Group Pliyev near Battle of Debrecen|Debrecen, Hungary. The rapid assault the Soviets had hoped that would lead to the capture of Budapest was now halted and Hungary would remain Germany's ally until the end of the war in Europe. This battle would be the last German victory in the Eastern Front.
The Soviets recovered from their defeat in Debrecen and advancing columns of the Red Army liberated Belgrade in late December and reached Budapest on December 29, 1944 and en-circled the city where over 188,000 Axis troops were trapped including many German Waffen-SS. The Germans held out till February 13, 1945 and the siege became one of the bloodiest of the war. Meanwhile the Red Army's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Baltic Fronts engaged the remnants of German Army Group Center and Army Group North to capture the Baltic region from the Germans in October 1944. The result of the series of battles was a permanent loss of contact between Army Groups North and Centre, and the creation of the Courland Pocket in Latvia where the Eighteenth Army (Germany)|18th and Sixteenth Army (Germany)|16th German Armies, numbering over 250,000 men were trapped and would remain there till the end of the war.
Marching to Berlin
With the Balkans and most of Hungary cleared of German troops by late December 1944, the Soviets began a massive re-deployment of their forces to Poland for their upcoming Winter offensive. Soviet preparations were still on-going when Churchill asked Stalin to launch his offensive as soon as possible to ease German pressure in the West. Stalin agreed and the offensive was set for January 12, 1945. Ivan Konev|Konev’s armies attacked the Germans in southern Poland and expanded out from their Vistula|Vistula River bridgehead near Sandomierz. On January 14, Konstantin Rokossovsky|Rokossovskiy’s armies attacked from the Narew|Narew River north of Warsaw. Zhukov's armies in the center attacked from their bridgeheads near Warsaw. The combined Soviet offensive broke the defenses covering East Prussia, leaving the German front in chaos.
Zhukov took Warsaw by January 17 and by January 19, his tanks took Łódź. That same day, Konev's forces reached the German prewar border. At the end of the first week of the offensive, the Soviets had penetrated 160 kilometers (100 mi) deep on a front that was 650 kilometers (400 mi) wide. The Soviet onslaught finally halted on the Oder River at the end of January, only 60 kilometers (40 mi) from Berlin.
The Soviets had hoped to capture Berlin by mid-February but that proved hopelessly optimistic. German resistance which had all but collapsed during the initial phase of the attack had stiffened immeasurably. Soviet supply lines were over-extended. The spring thaw, the lack of air support, and fear of encirclement through flank attacks from East Prussia, Pommern and Silesia led to a general halt in the Soviet offensive. The newly created Army Group Vistula, under the command of Heinrich Himmler, attempted a counter-attack on the exposed flank of the Soviet Army but failed by February 24. This made it clear to Zhukov that the flank had to be secure before any attack on Berlin could be mounted. The Soviets then re-organized their forces and then struck north and cleared Pomerania and then attacked the south and cleared Silesia of German troops. In the south, three German attempts to relieve the encircled Budapest garrison failed, and the city fell to the Soviets on February 13. Again the Germans counter-attacked; Hitler insisting on the impossible task of regaining the Danube River. By March 16, the attack had failed, and the Red Army counter-attacked the same day. On March 30, they entered Austria and captured Vienna on April 13.
Hitler had believed that the main Soviet target for their upcoming offensive would be in the south near Prague and not Berlin and had sent the last remaining German reserves to defend that sector. The Red Army's main goal was in fact Berlin and by April 16 it was ready to begin its Battle of Berlin|final assault on Berlin. Zhukov's forces struck from the center and crossed the Oder river but got bogged down under stiff German resistance around Battle of Seelow Heights|Seelow Heights. After three days of very heavy fighting and 33,000 Soviet soldiers dead,<ref>http://www.gedenkstaette-seelower-hoehen.de/</ref> the last defenses of Berlin were breached. Konev crossed the Oder river from the South and was within striking distance of Berlin but Stalin ordered Konev to guard the flanks of Zhukov's forces and not attack Berlin, as Stalin had promised the capture of Berlin to Zhukov. Rokossovskiy’s forces crossed the Oder from the North and linked up with British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's forces in northern Germany while the forces of Zhukov and Konev captured Berlin.
By April 24, the Soviet army groups had encircled the German Ninth Army and part of the Fourth Panzer Army (Germany)|4th Panzer Army. These were main forces that were supposed to defend Berlin but Hitler had issued orders for these forces to hold their ground and not retreat. Thus the main German forces which were supposed to defend Berlin were trapped southeast of the city. Berlin was encircled around the same time and as a final resistance effort, Hitler called for civilians, including teenagers and the elderly, to fight in the Volkssturm militia against the oncoming Red Army. Those marginal forces were augmented by the battered German remnants that had fought the Soviets in Battle of the Seelow Heights|Seelow Heights. Hitler ordered the encircled Ninth Army (Germany)|Ninth Army under General Theodor Busse to break out and link up with the Twelfth Army (Germany)|German Twelfth Army under General Walther Wenck. After linking up, the armies were to relieve Berlin, an impossible task. The surviving units of the Ninth Army were instead driven into the forests around Berlin near the village of Halbe where they were involved in particularly Battle of Halbe|fierce fightin trying to break through the Soviet lines and reach the Twelfth Army. A minority managed to join with the Twelfth Army and fight their way west to surrender to the Americans. Meanwhile the fierce urban fighting continued in Berlin. The Germans had stockpiled a very large quantity of panzerfausts and took a very heavy toll on Soviet tanks in the rubble filled streets of Berlin. However, the Soviets employed the lessons they learned during the urban fighting of Stalingrad and were slowly advancing to the center of the city. German forces in the city resisted tenaciously, in particular the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland|SS Nordland which was made of foreign SS volunteers, because they were ideologically motivated and they believed that they would not live if captured. The fighting was house-to-house and hand-to-hand. The Soviets sustained 360,000 casualties; the Germans sustained 450,000 including civilians and above that 170,000 captured. Hitler and his staff moved into the Führerbunker a concrete bunker beneath the Chancellery, where on April 30, 1945, Death of Adolf Hitler|he committed suicide, along with his bride, Eva Braun.
War ends in Europe
Franklin D. Roosevelt|Roosevelt, Churchill, and Joseph Stalin|Stalin made arrangements for post-war Europe at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Their meeting resulted in many important resolutions such as the formation of the United Nations, democratic elections in Poland, borders of Poland Curzon Line|moved westwards at the Historical Eastern Germany|expense of Germany, Soviet nationals were to be Repatriation|repatriated and it was agreed that Soviet Union would attack Japan within three months of Germany's surrender.
After Hitler's death (on April 30), Großadmiral|Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz became leader of the German government but the German war effort quickly disintegrated. German forces in Berlin surrendered the city to Soviet troops on May 2, 1945. The German forces in Italy surrendered on May 2, 1945, at General Alexander's headquarters, and German forces in northern Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands surrendered on May 4. The German High Command under Generaloberst Alfred Jodl surrendered unconditionally all remaining German forces on May 7 in Rheims, France. The western Allies celebrated "Victory in Europe Day|V-E Day" on May 8, since the final German surrender was signed in Berlin on that day. The Soviet Union celebrated "Victory Day" on May 9 due to time zone differences; the final cessation of German military activity happened at one minute past midnight by their clock. Some remnants of German Army Group Center continued resistance until May 11 or May 12 (see Prague Offensive).<ref></ref>
War breaks out in Asia
Chinese and Southeast Asian Campaigns
On December 3, 1941, the Imperial General Headquarters authorized general Yasuji Okamura to implement the Three Alls Policy|sanko sakusen in North China <ref>Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2000, p.366</ref>. Four days later, the Imperial General Headquarters launched the Greater East Asia War. Less than 24 hours after the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded Hong Kong. The Philippines and the British Empire|British colonies of Peninsular Malaysia|Malaya,Borneo, and Myanmar|Burma soon followed, with Japan's intention of seizing the oilfields of the Dutch East Indies. Despite fierce resistance by Philippine, Australian, New Zealand, British Army|British, Canadian Forces Land Force Command|Canadian, Indian Army|Indian, and Military of the United States|American forces, all these territories capitulated to the Japanese in a matter of months. Battle of Singapore|Singapore fell to the Japanese on February 15. Approximately 80,000 British Commonwealth personnel (along with 50,000 taken in Malaya), went into Japanese POW camps, representing the largest-ever surrender of British-led personnel. Churchill considered the British defeat at Singapore as one of the most humiliating British defeats of all time.
Japan launched a major offensive in China following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The aim of the offensive was to take the strategically important city of Changsha, which the Japanese had failed to capture on two previous occasions. For the attack, the Japanese massed 120,000 soldiers under four divisions. The Chinese responded with 300,000 men, and soon the Japanese army was encircled and had to retreat.
The Chinese Nationalist Kuomintang Army, under Chiang Kai-shek, and the Communist Party of China|Communist Chinese Army, under Mao Zedong, both opposed the Japanese occupation of China, but never truly allied against the Japanese. Conflict between Nationalist and Communist forces emerged long before the war; it continued after and, to an extent, even during the war, though less openly.
The Japanese had captured most of Burma Campaign|Burma, severing the Burma Road by which the Western Allies had been supplying the Chinese Nationalists. This loss forced the Allies to create a large sustained airlift from India, known as "flying the Hump". Under the American General Joseph Stilwell, Northern Combat Area Command|Chinese forces in India were retrained and re-equipped, while preparations were made to drive the Ledo Road from India to replace the Burma Road. This effort was to prove an enormous engineering task.
In April 1944, the Japanese launched Battle of Henan-Hunan-Guangxi|Operation Ichigo, to secure the railway route from Peking to Nanking, and to clear southern China of American airfields under the command of General Claire Lee Chennault|Chennault<ref> Keegan, John. The Second World War. 1989. p548.</ref> The operation was successful in that it opened a continuous corridor from Peking to Indochina, and the airfields were forced to relocate inland. However it failed to destroy the army of Chiang Kai-shek, and the Americans soon acquired the Mariana Islands|Marianas, from which they could bomb the Japanese Archipelago|Japanese Home Islands.
While the Americans steadily built the Ledo Road from India to China, in March 1944, the Japanese began their own offensive into India. This "Delhi Chalo" ('March to Delhi') was initiated by Subhas Chandra Bose|Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,<ref>Peter Ward Fay The Forgotten Army: India's Armed Struggle for Independence 1941-45</ref> the commander of Indian National Army (a force comprising POWs from the British Indian Army who had been captured by the Japanese and had decided to join the war in an attempt to rid India of their colonial rulers, and thereby attain independence).<ref>Modern India by Sumit Sarkar (Macmillan) pp 418-423</ref> [[Image:Royal Indian Army.jpg|thumb|left|130px|The Indian Army's Gorkha regiments (India)|Gurkha Rifles crossing the Irrawaddy River on 27 January, 1945. The Gurkhas were involved in hard fought actions with the Japanese during the early months of 1945.The Japanese attempted to destroy the main British and Indian forces at Imphal, resulting in ferocious fighting. While the encircled allied troops were reinforced and resupplied by Cargo aircraft|transport aircraft until fresh troops broke the siege, the Japanese, in part due to torrential rains, ran out of supplies and starved. The surviving forces eventually retreated losing 85,000 men, one of the largest Japanese defeats of the war.
During the monsoon from August to November 1944, the Japanese were pChindwin River in Burma. With the onset of the dry season in early 1945, while the Northern Combat Area Command|American and Chinese forces finally completed the Ledo Road, although too late to have any decisive effect, the British Fourteenth Army, consisting of Indian, British, and African units, launched an offensive into Central Burma. The Japanese forces were heavily defeated, and the Allies pursued them southward, taking Rangoon on May 2 (see Operation Dracula).
Battle of the Pacific
Hitler kept his plan to invade the USSR secret from the Japanese. The USSR, fearing a two-front war, decided to make peace with Japan. On April 13, 1941, the USSR and Japan signed the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, thus allowing the Japanese to concentrate their attention to the upcoming war in Asia-Pacific.
In the summer of 1941, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands began an oil embargo against Japan, threatening its ability to fight a major war at sea or in the air. However, Japanese forces continued to advance into China. Japan planned an attack onPearl Harbor to cripple the United States Pacific Fleet|U.S. Pacific Fleet, then seize oil fields in the Dutch East Indies.
On December 7, Japan launched almost simultaneous surprise attacks against Pearl Harbor, Thailand and on the British territories of Malaya and Hong Kong. A Imperial Japanese Navy#Aircraft carriers|Japanese carrier fleet launched an unexpected air attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid destroyed most of the American aircraft on the island and knocked the main American Battle Fleet|battle fleet out of action (three battleships were sunk, and five more were heavily damaged, though only USS Arizona (BB-39)|USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma (BB-37)|USS Oklahoma were permanently lost, the other six battleships were repaired and eventually returned to service). However, the four American aircraft carriers that had been the intended main target of the Japanese attack were off at sea. At Pearl Harbor, the main dock, supply, and repair facilities were quickly repaired. Furthermore, the base's fuel storage facilities, whose destruction could have crippled the Pacific fleet, were untouched. The attack united American public opinion to demand vengeance against Japan. The following day, December 8, the Declaration of war by the United States|United States declared war on Japan as did the UK declares war on Japan (1941)|United Kingdom.
Simultaneously with the attack on Hawaii, the Japanese attacked Battle of Wake Island|Wake Island, an American territory in the central Pacific. The initial landing attempt was repulsed by the garrison of United States Marine Corps|Marines, and fierce resistance continued until December 23. The Japanese sent heavy reinforcements, and the garrison surrendered when it became clear that no American relief force was coming.
Japan also invaded the Philippines, a U.S. Commonwealth, on December 8. American and Filipino forces, under General of the Army (United States)|General Douglas MacArthur, were forced to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula. Dogged resistance continued until April, buying precious time for the Allies. Following their surrender, the survivors were led on the Bataan Death March. Allied resistance continued for an additional month on the island fortress of Corregidor, until it too surrendered. General MacArthur, who had been ordered to retreat to Australia, vowed, "I shall return."
Disaster struck the British on December 10, as they lost two major battleships, HMS Prince of Wales (1939)|HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse (1916)|HMS Repulse. Both ships had been attacked by 85 Japanese bombers and torpedo planes based in Saigon, and 840 UK sailors perished. Churchill was to say of the event, "In all of the war I have never received a more direct shock."
Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, even though it was not obliged to do so under the Tripartite Pact. Hitler hoped that Japan would support Germany by attacking the Soviet Union. Japan did not do so because it had signed a non-aggression treaty, preferring instead to focus on expanding its empire in China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. Rather than opening a second front on the USSR, the effect of Germany's declaration of war was to remove any significant opposition within the United States to joining the fight in the European Theater.
The Allies were officially formed in the Declaration by United Nations on January 1, 1942. Soon afterwards, the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM) was formed to unite Allied forces in South East Asia. It was the first Allied supreme command of the war.
ABDACOM naval forces were all but destroyed in the Battle of the Java Sea—the largest naval battle of the war up that point—on February 28 through March 1. The joint command was wound up shortly afterwards, to be replaced by three Allied supreme commands in southern Asia and the Pacific.
In April, the Doolittle Raid, the first Allied air raid on Tokyo, boosted morale in the United States and caused Japan to shift resources to homeland defense, but did little physical damage.
In early May, the Japanese implemented Operation Mo|Mo Sakusen (Operation Mo), a plan to take Port Moresby, New Guinea. The first stage was thwarted by the United States Navy|U.S. and Royal Australian Navy|Australian navies in the Battle of the Coral Sea. This was both the first battle fought between aircraft carriers, and the first battle where the opposing fleets never made direct visual contact. The American aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2)|Lexington was sunk and the USS Yorktown (CV-5)|Yorktown was severely damaged, while the Japanese lost the light carrier Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō|Shōhō and the large carrier Japanese aircraft carrier Shōkaku|Shōkaku suffered moderate damage. Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku|Zuikaku lost half of her air complement, and along with Shōkaku, was unable to participate in the upcoming battle at Midway. The battle was a tactical victory for the Japanese, as they inflicted heavier losses on the American fleet, but it was a strategic American victory, as the Japanese attack on Port Moresby was deflected.
In the six months after Pearl Harbor the Japanese had achieved nearly all of their naval objectives. Their fleet of eleven battleships, ten carriers, eighteen heavy and twenty light cruisers remained relatively intact. They had seriously damaged or sunk all U.S. battleships in the Pacific. The British and Dutch Far Eastern fleets had been destroyed, and the Royal Australian Navy had been driven back to port.<ref>Keegan, John. The Second World War. 1989. p267.</ref> Their ring of conquests settled on a defensive perimeter of their choosing, extending from the Central Pacific to New Guinea to Burma.
Opposing this, the only significant strategic force remaining to the Allies was the naval base at Pearl Harbor, including the U.S. Pacific Fleet's three aircraft carriers. Both sides viewed a decisive battle between aircraft carriers as inevitable, and the Japanese were confident in that they held a numerical advantage in heavy carriers of 10:3.<ref>Keegan, John. The Second World War. p268.</ref> They also had an excellent carrier-based aircraft in the A6M Zero|Zero. The Japanese sent a task force towards Midway Island, an outlier of the Hawaiian Islands, with the goal of drawing the remainder of the American fleet to battle. On June 5, American carrier-based dive-bombers sighted the Japanese force and sank four of Japan's best aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway, at the cost of the carrier Yorktown. This was a major victory for the United States, and marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific. American shipbuilding and aircraft production vastly outpaced the Japanese, and the Japanese fleet would never again enjoy such numerical superiority.
In July, the Japanese attempted to take Port Moresby by land, Kokoda Track campaign|along the Kokoda Track, a rugged, single-file path through the jungle and mountains. An outnumbered, untrained and ill-equipped Australian military reserve force|reserve battalion — awaiting the return of regular units from North Africa and the U.S. Army — waged a fighting retreat against a 5,000-strong Japanese force.
On August 7, United States Marine Corps|U.S. Marines began the Battle of Guadalcanal. For the next six months, U.S. forces fought Japanese forces for control of the island. Meanwhile, several naval encounters raged in the nearby waters, including the Battle of Savo Island, Battle of Cape Esperance, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, and Battle of Tassafaronga.
In late August and early September, while battle raged on the Kokoda Track and Guadalcanal, an attack by Special Naval Landing Forces|Japanese marines at the eastern tip of New Guinea was defeated by Australian forces, in the Battle of Milne Bay. This was the first defeat for Japanese land forces during the Pacific War.
On January 22, after Battle of Buna-Gona|a bitter battle at Gona and Buna, Australian and U.S. forces took back the major Japanese beachheads in eastern New Guinea.
American authorities declared Guadalcanal secure on February 9. U.S., New Zealand, Australian and Pacific Island forces undertook the prolonged campaign to retake the occupied parts of the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and the Dutch East Indies, experiencing some of the toughest resistance of the war. The rest of the Solomon Islands were retaken in 1943.
On June 30, the Allies launched Operation Cartwheel, a grand strategy for the South and South West Pacific, aimed at isolating the major Japanese base at Rabaul, before proceeding on an "island-hopping" campaign towards Japan. Three main objectives were identified: recapturing Tulagi and the Santa Cruz Islands; recapturing the north coast of New Guinea, and the central Solomon Islands and; the reduction of Rabaul and related bases.
By September, Australian and U.S. forces in New Guinea had Salamaua-Lae campaign|captured the major Japanese bases at Salamaua and Lae. Soon afterwards they launched the Huon Peninsula campaign|Huon Peninsula, the Finisterre Range campaign|Finisterre Range, Bougainville campaign (1943-45)|Bougainville, and New Britain campaigns.
In November, United States Marine Corps|U.S. Marines won the Battle of Tarawa. This was the first heavily opposed Amphibious warfare|amphibious assault in the Pacific theater. The high casualties taken by the Marines sparked off a storm of protest in the United States, where the large losses could not be understood for such a tiny and seemingly unimportant island. The Allies adopted a policy of bypassing some Japanese island strongholds and letting them "wither on the vine", cut off from supplies and troop reinforcements.
The Allied advance continued in the Pacific with the capture of the Marshall Islands before the end of February. Some 42,000 United States Army|U.S. Army soldiers and U.S. Marines landed on Kwajalein|Kwajalein atoll on January 31. Battle of Kwajalein|Fierce fighting occurred, and the island was taken on February 6. U.S. Marines next defeated the Japanese in the Battle of Eniwetok.
The U.S. strategic objective was to gain airbases within bombing range of the new B-29 Superfortress|B-29s on the Mariana Islands, especially Saipan, Tinian and Guam. On June 11, the U.S. Naval fleet bombarded Saipan, defended by 32,000 Japanese troops; 77,000 Marines landed starting the 15th, and the island was secure by July 9. The Japanese committed much of their declining naval strength in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, but suffered severe losses in both ships and aircraft. After the battle, the Japanese aircraft carrier force was no longer militarily effective. With the capture of Saipan, Japan was finally within range of B-29 bombers. [[Image:McArthur.JPG|thumb|left|"I have returned." — A famous photo of Gen. MacArthur coming ashore back to the Philippines. Photo taken by Carl Mydans of Life magazine.]] Guam was invaded on July 21 and taken on August 10, but the Japanese fout fanatically. Mopping-up operations continued long after the Battle of Guam was officially over. The island of Tinian was invaded on July 24 and was conquered on August 1. This operation saw the first use of napalm in the war.<ref></ref>
General MacArthur's troops liberated the Philippines, landing on the island of Leyte on October 20. The Japanese had prepared a rigorous defense and used the last of their naval forces in a failed attempt to destroy the invasion force in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 23 through October 26, 1944, arguably the largest naval battle in history. This was the first battle that employed Japanese kamikaze attacks. The Japanese battleship Japanese battleship Musashi|Musashi, one of the two largest battleships ever built, was sunk by 19 American torpedoes and 17 bombs.
Throughout 1944, Allied submarines and aircraft attacked Japanese merchant shipping and deprived Japan's industry of the raw materials it had gone to war to obtain. The main target was oil, and Japan ran almost dry by late 1944. In 1944, submarines sank over two million tons of cargo,<ref></ref> while the Japanese were only able to replace less than one million tons.<ref></ref> In January 1945, the U.S. Sixth Army landed on Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. Manila was recaptured by March. [[Image:USS Franklin list-700px.jpg|thumb|right[USS Franklin (CV-13)|USS Franklin badly damaged after sustained kamikaze attacks in March 1945 just before the Battle of Okinawa. The United States captured Battle of Iwo Jima|Iwo Jima in February. The island was psychologically important because it was traditional Japanese territory, administered by the Tokyo prefecture. It was heavily defended with many underground entrenchments, but was eventually taken by Marines after they captured Mount Suribachi, a keystone of the defense. Iwo Jima proved invaluable because of its two airfields that were used for emergency landings for B29's, and because it was close enough to provide fighter escort that could reach the Japanese Archipelago|Japanese Home Islands.<ref>Yoder, Dan. The Fight for Iwo Jima. In History of the Second World War. editor Sir Basil Hart. 1989. p393. </ref>
With the subsequent capture of Battle of Okinawa|Okinawa (April through June), the U.S. brought the Japanese homeland within easier range of naval and air attack. The Japanese defended the island with ground forces, kamikazes, and with the one-way suicide mission of the battleship Japanese battleship Yamato|Yamato, which was sunk by American dive-bombers. Amongst dozens of other Japanese cities, Bombing of Tokyo in World War II|Tokyo was firebombed, and about 90,000 people died from the initial attack. The dense Quality of life|living conditions around production centres and the wooden residential constructions contributed to the large loss of life. In addition, the ports and major waterways of Japan were extensively mined by air in Operation Starvation, which seriously disrupted the logistics of the island nation.
The last major offensive in the South West Pacific Area was the Borneo campaign (1945)|Borneo campaign of mid-1945, which was aimed at further isolating the remaining Japanese forces in Southeast Asia and securing the release of Allied prisoners of war.
War ends in Asia
The last Allied conference of World War II was held at the suburb of Potsdam, outside Berlin, from July 17 to August 2. During the Potsdam Conference, agreements were reached among the Allies on policies for occupied Germany. An ultimatum was issued calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan.
U.S. president Harry S. Truman|Harry Truman decided to use the new Nuclear weapon|atomic weapon to bring the war to a swifter end. The battle for Okinawa had shown that an Operation Downfall|invasion of the Japanese mainland (planned for November) would result in large numbers of American casualties. The official estimate given to the Secretary of War was 1.4 to four million Allied casualties, though some historians dispute whether this would have been the case. Invasion would have meant the death of millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians, who were being trained as militia.
On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress, the Enola Gay, dropped a nuclear weapon dubbed Little Boy on Hiroshima, destroying the city. On August 9, a B-29 named Bockscar dropped the second atomic bomb, dubbed Fat Man, on the port city of Nagasaki.
On August 8, two days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Soviet Union, having renounced its Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact|nonaggression pact with Japan in April, attacked the Japanese in Manchuria, fulfilling its Yalta pledge to attack the Japanese within three months after the Victory in Europe Day|end of the war in Europe. The attack was made by three Soviet army groups. In less than two weeks, the Japanese army in Manchuria, consisting of over a million men, had been destroyed by the Soviets. The Red Army moved into North Korea on August 18. Korea was subsequently divided at the 38th parallel north|38th parallel into Soviet and U.S. zones.
The American use of atomic weapons against Japan and the Soviet invasion of Manchukuo prompted Hirohito to bypass the existing government and intervene to end the war. In his radio address to the nation, the Emperor did not mention the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, but in his "Rescript to the soldiers and sailors" of August 17, ordering them to ceasefire|cease fire and lay down arms, he stressed the relationship between Soviet entrance into the war and his decision to surrender, omitting any mention of the atomic bombs.
The Surrender of Japan|Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945, or Victory over Japan Day|V-J day, signing the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2. The Japanese troops in China formally surrendered to the Chinese on September 9, 1945. See image
The end of the war hastened the independence of many Crown colony|British crown colonies (such as India) and Dutch Empire|Dutch territories (such as Indonesia) and the formation of new nations and alliances throughout Asia and Africa. The Philippines were granted their independence in 1946 as previously promised by the United States. France attempted and failed to regain control of its colonies in Indochina.
Poland's boundaries were re-drawn to include portions of Historical Eastern Germany|pre-war Germany, including East Prussia and Upper Silesia, while ceding most of the areas taken by the Soviet Union in the Molotov-Ribbentrop partition of 1939, effectively moving Poland to the west. Germany was split into four zones of occupation, and the three zones under the Western Allies was reconstituted as a constitutional democracy. The Soviet Union's influence increased as they, with the tacit approval of the West, established hegemony over most of eastern Europe and incorporated parts of Finland and Poland into their new boundaries. This appeasement of Stalin by the West became known as the Western betrayal among the Soviet-dominated countries. Europe was informally split into Western and Soviet Sphere of influence|spheres of influence, which heightened existing tensions between the two camps and helped establish the Cold War.
To prevent (or at least minimize) future conflicts, the allied nations, led by the United States, formed the United Nations in San Francisco, California in 1945. One of the first actions of the United Nations was the creation of the State of Israel, partly in response to the Holocaust.
In 1947, United States Secretary of State|U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall]devised the "European Recovery Program", better known as the Marshall Plan. Effective from 1948 to 1952, it allocated 13 billion dollars for the reconstruction of Western Europe. Of Germany's four zones of occupation, coordinated by the Allied Control Council, the American, British, and French zones joined in 1949 as the Germany|Federal Republic of Germany, and the Soviet zone became the East Germany|German Democratic Republic. In Germany, Morgenthau Plan|economic suppression and denazification took place. Millions of Germans and Poles were expelled from their homelands as a result of the territorial annexations in Eastern Europe agreed upon at the Yalta Conference|Yalta and Potsdam Conference|Potsdam conferences. In the West, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, and the Saar area]was separated from Germany. Austria was divided into four zones of occupation, which were united in 1955 to become the Republic of Austria. The Soviet Union occupied much of Central Europe|Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In all the USSR-occupied countries, with the exception of Austria, the Soviet Union helped Communist regimes to power. It also annexed the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
In Asia, Japan was occupied by the U.S, aided by Commonwealth troops, until the peace treaty took effect in 1952. The Japanese Empire's government was dismantled under General Douglas MacArthur and replaced by a constitutional monarchy with the emperor as a figurehead. The defeat of Japan also led to the establishment of the Far Eastern commission which set out policies for Japan to fulfill under the terms of surrender. In accordance with the Yalta Conference agreements, the Soviet Union occupied and subsequently annexed Sakhalin and the Kuril islands. Japanese occupation of Korea also ended, but the peninsula was divided between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, along 38th parallel. The U.S.-backed South Korea would fight the communist North Korea in the Korean War, with Korea remaining divided.
World War II was a pivotal point in China's history. Before the war against Japan, China had suffered nearly a century of humiliation at the hands of various imperialist powers and was relegated to a semi-colonial status. However, the war greatly enhanced China's international status. The central government under Chiang Kai-shek was able to abrogate most of the unequal treaties China had signed in the past century, and China became a founding member of the United Nations and a permanent member of the Security Council. China also reclaimed Manchuria and Taiwan. Nevertheless, eight years of war greatly taxed the central government, and many of its nation-building measures adopted since it came to power in 1928 were disrupted by the war. Communist activities also expanded greatly in occupied areas, making post-war administration of these areas difficult. Vast war damages and hyperinflation thereafter demoralized the populace, along with the continuation of the Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communists. Partly because of the severe blow his army and government had suffered during the war against Japan, the Kuomintang, along with state apparatus of the Republic of China, retreated to Taiwan in 1949 and in its place the Chinese communists established the People's Republic of China on the mainland.
Casualties, civilian impact, and atrocities
Estimates for the total casualties of the war vary, but most suggest that some 60 million people died in the war, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.<ref name=WWII: C&C></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref> Many civilians died as a result of disease, starvation, massacres, genocide. Of the total deaths in World War II, approximately 85% were on the Allied side (mostly Soviet and Chinese) and 15% on the Axis side. One estimate is that 12 million civilians died in Holocaust camps, 1.5 million by bombs, 7 million in Europe from other causes, and 7.5 million in China from other causes.<ref>J. M. Winter, "Demography of the War", in Dear and Foot, ed., Oxford Companion to World War, p 290.</ref> Figures on the amount of total casualties varies to a wide extent because the majority of deaths were not documented.
Death camps and slave work
The Holocaust was the killing of approximately six million European Jews, as well as 3-5 million others who were deemed "unworthy of life", as part of a program of deliberate extermination planned and executed by the National Socialist government in Germany led by Adolf Hitler.
In addition to the Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Gulag, or labor camps, led to the death of citizens of occupied countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as German prisoner of war|prisoners of war (POW) and even Soviet citizens themselves who had been supporters of the Nazis or were thought to be the ones. Japanese Prisoner-of-war camp|POW camps also had high death rates; many were used as labour camps, and starvation conditions among the mainly U.S., British, Australian and other Commonwealth prisoners were little better than many German concentration camps. Sixty percent (1,238,000 ref. Krivosheev) of Soviet POWs died during the war. Vadim Erlikman puts it at 2.6 million Soviet POWs that died in German Captivity.<ref name="war8">Erlikman, Vadim</ref> Richard Overy gives the number of 5.7 million Soviet POW and out of those 57% died or were killed.<ref>Richard Overy The Dictators Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia p.568–569</ref>
According to a joint study of historians featuring Zhifen Ju, Mark Peattie, Toru Kubo, and Mitsuyoshi Himeta, more than 10 million Chinese were mobilized by the Japanese army and enslaved by the Kôa-in for Slavery|slave labor in Manchukuo and north China.<ref>Zhifen Ju, "Japan's atrocities of conscripting and abusing north China draftees after the outbreak of the Pacific war", 2002</ref> According to Mitsuyoshi Himeta, at least 2.7 million died during the Three Alls Policy|Sankō Sakusen operation implemented in Heipei and Shantung by General Yasuji Okamura.
On February 19, 1942, Roosevelt signed United States Executive Order 9066|Executive Order 9066, leading to the internment of thousands of Japanese American internment|Japanese, Italian Americans|Italians, German Americans, and some emigrants from Hawaii who fled after the bombing of Pearl Harbor for the duration of the war. 150,000 Japanese American internment|Japanese-Americans were interned by the U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as nearly 11,000 German and Italian residents of the U.S.
Chemical and bacteriological weapons
Despite the ==Treaty|international treaties and a resolution adopted by the League of Nations on 14 May 1938 condemning the use of toxic gas by Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army frequently used Chemical warfare|chemical weapons. Because of fears of retaliation, however, those weapons were never used against Westerners but only against other Asians judged "inferior" by the imperial propaganda. According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, the authorization for the use of chemical weapons was given by specific orders (rinsanmei) issued by Hirohito himself. For example, the Emperor authorized the use of toxic gas on 375 separate occasions during the Battle of Wuhan|invasion of Wuhan, from August to October 1938.
The bacteriological weapons were experimented on human beings by many units incorporated in the Japanese army, such as the infamous Unit 731, integrated by Imperial decree in the Kwantung army in 1936. Those weapons were mainly used in China and, according to some Japanese veterans, against Mongolians and Russian soldiers in 1939 during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol|Nomonhan incident.<ref>Hal Gold, Unit 731 testimony, p.64–65, 1996.</ref>
Massive Strategic bombing during World War II|aerial bombing by both Axis and Allied air forces took the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians. For the first and so far only time, nuclear weapons were used in combat: two atomic bombs released by the United States over Japan devastated Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki#Hiroshima|Hiroshima and, three days later, Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki#Nagasaki|Nagasaki.
From 1945 to 1951, German and Japanese officials and personnel were prosecuted for war crimes. Top German officials were tried at the Nuremberg Trials, and many Japanese officials at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East|Tokyo War Crime Trial and Japanese war crimes#Other trials|other war crimes trials in the Asia-Pacific region.
Resistance and collaboration
[[Image:101st with members of dutch resistance.jpg|thumb|right|Members of the Dutch Eindhoven Resistance with troops of the U.S. 101st Airborne in front of the Eindhoven cathedral during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.]] Resistance during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation, and propaganda to outright warfare. Among the most notable resistance movements were the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Polish Home Army, the French Maquis, the Yugoslav Partisans, the Greek resistance force, and the Italian Resistance in the German-occupied Northern Italy after 1943. Germany itself also had an anti-Nazi movement. The Communist resistance was among the fiercest, since they were already organised and militant even before the war and they were ideologically opposed to the Nazis. In Asia, the communists are noted for their resistance against the Japanese behind enemy lines. Before D-Day, there were some operations performed by the French Resistance to help with the forthcoming invasion. Communications lines were cut; trains were derailed; roads, water towers, and ammunition depots were destroyed; and some German garrisons were attacked. There were also resistance movements fighting against the Allied invaders. The German resistance petered out within a few years, while in the Baltic states resistance operations against the occupation continued into the 1960s.
Collaboration within axis-occupied nations existed greatly in some areas. Among them, Vichy France and conquered Soviet territory (which was not of the Russian Republic, mainly the Baltic States, Ukraine, and Moldova) contained many collaborators, notably Marshal Philippe Petain from Vichy France and Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian army officer and fascist politician. After the war, many collaborators were executed by their fellow citizens.
"Home front" is the name given to the activities of the civilians of the nations at war. All the main countries reorganized their home fronts to produce munitions and soldiers, with 40–60% of GDP being devoted to the war effort. Women were drafted in the Soviet Union and Britain. Shortages were everywhere, and severe food shortages caused malnutrition and even starvation, such as in the Netherlands and in Leningrad. New workers were recruited, especially housewives, the unemployed, students, and retired people. Skilled jobs were re-engineered and simplified ("de-skilling") so that unskilled workers could handle them. Every major nation imposed censorship on the media as well as a propaganda program designed to boost the war effort and stifle negative rumors. Every major country imposed a system of rationing and price controls. Black markets flourished in areas controlled by Germany. Germany brought in millions of prisoners of war, slave laborers, and forced workers to staff its munitions factories. Many were killed in the bombing raids, the rest became refugees as the war ended.
Weapons and technology improved rapidly during World War II and some of these played a crucial role in determining the outcome of the war. Many major technologies were used for the first time, including nuclear weapons, radar, proximity fuses, jet engines, ballistic missiles, and data-processing analog devices (primitive computers). Every year, the piston engines were improved. Enormous advances were made in aircraft, submarine, and tank designs, such that models coming into use at the beginning of the war were long obsolete by its end. One entirely new kind of ship was the amphibious landing craft.
Industrial production played a role in the Allied victory. The Allies more effectively mobilized their economies and drew from a larger economic base. The peak year of munitions production was 1944, with the Allies out-producing the Axis by a ratio of 3 to 1. (Germany produced 19% and Japan 7% of the world's munitions; the U.S. produced 47%, Britain and Canada 14%, and the Soviets 11%).<ref> Raymond W. Goldsmith, "The Power of Victory: Munitions Output in World War II" Military Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 1. (Spring, 1946), pp. 69–80; online at JSTOR</ref>
The Allies used low-cost mass production techniques, using standardized models. Japan and Germany continued to rely on expensive hand-crafted methods. Japan thus produced hundreds of airplane designs and did not reach mass-production efficiency; the new models were only slightly better than the original 1940 planes, while the Allies rapidly advanced in technology.<ref> Richard Overy. The Air War, 1939–1945 (2005)</ref> Germany thus spent heavily on high-tech weaponry, including the V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket, advanced submarines, jet engines, and heavy tanks that proved strategically of minor value. The combination of better logistics and mass production proved crucial in the victory. "The Allies did not depend on simple numbers for victory but on the quality of their technology and the fighting effectiveness of their forces... In both Germany and Japan less emphasis was placed upon the non-combat areas of war: procurement, logistics, military services," concludes historian Richard Overy.<ref>Overy (1993) p 318–9</ref>
Delivery of weapons to the battlefront was a matter of logistics. The Allies again did a much better job in moving munitions from factories to the front lines. A large fraction of the German tanks after June 1944 never reached the battlefield, and those that did often ran short of fuel. Japan in particular was notably inefficient in its logistics system.<ref> Mark Parillo, "The Pacific War" in Richard Jensen et al, eds. Trans-Pacific Relations: America, Europe, and Asia in the Twentieth Century (2003), pp. 93–104.</ref>
Many new medical and surgical techniques were employed as well as new drugs like sulfa and penicillin, not to mention serious advances in biological warfare and nerve gases. The Japanese control of the quinine supply forced the Australians to invent new anti-malarial drugs. The saline bath was invented to treat burns. More prompt application of sulfa drugs saved countless lives. New local anesthetics were introduced making possible surgery close to the front lines. The Americans discovered that only 20% of wounds were caused by machine-gun or rifle bullets (compared to 35% in World War I). Most came from high explosive shells and fragments, which besides the direct wound caused shock from their blast effects. Most deaths came from shock and blood loss, which were countered by a major innovation, blood transfusions.<ref> Harold C. Leuth, "Military Medicine" in Walter Yust, ed. 10 Eventful Years (1947) 3:163–67; Mark Harrison, Medicine and Victory: British Military Medicine in the Second World War (2004)</ref>
Cryptography played an important part in the war, as the United States had broken the Japanese naval codes and knew the Japanese plan of attack at Midway. British and Polish code breakers deciphered several German codes, giving the Allies an advantage in the European theater as well.
The massive research and development demands of the war accelerated the growth of the scientific communities in Allied states, while German and Japanese laboratories were disbanded; many German engineers and scientists continued their weapons research after the war in the United States, the Soviet Union and other countries. Read below for more information on technology in the war.
Both Allied and German intelligence failed to effectively conduct human intelligence gathering, except for prisoner interrogation. The reason is that it is very difficult to train agents to be fluent in the language and culture of the enemy. For example, all German agents parachuted onto British soil were quickly caught by the British authorities, and most were turned. Also, German intelligence turned many English agents on the European continent; virtually no English agent operated in German territory.
Technical intelligence gathering was much more effective, mainly on the Allied side. The United States operated their intelligence systems through the OSS, or Office of Strategic Services, under William J. Donovan. The most important cryptologic systems of both Germany and Japan, Enigma and JN-25 respectively, were analysed and were broken by Polish, British and American cryptologists. This gave the Allied war effort a distinctive edge: Allied commanders knew what their Axis opponents were planning. The defeat of the German Afrika Korps and the elimination of a large number of German submarines is attributed to the Allied success in reading communications deemed "secure" by the German High Command. The naval intelligence situation in the Pacific was very similar: American naval intelligence often knew about Japanese plans well in advance and could dispatch their warships accordingly. The commander of the US pacific fleet (Admiral Nimitz) later stated that communications intelligence was as valuable "as an additional fleet" in the Pacific theater.
The success of communications intelligence during World War II seems to be a major reason for the UKUSA group of countries to fund large SIGINT organizations like NSA and GCHQ, which are in operation up to the present day.
However, it is notable that Germany had some success in breaking the American M-209 cryptomachine, but this device was mainly used for tactical communications. Unfortunately, very few facts about German SIGINT during WW2 is known. See this German story.
The term most used in the United Kingdom and Canada is "Second World War", while American publishers use the term "World War II". Thus the Oxford University Press uses The Oxford Companion to the Second World War in the United Kingdom, and The Oxford Companion to World War II for the identical 1995 book in the United States.
The OED reports the first use of the phrase "Second World War" was by novelist H.G. Wells in 1930, although it may well have been used earlier.<ref> Library catalogs show the first use in 1934: Why war? A handbook for those who will take part in the second world war by Ellen Wilkinson & Edward Conze, (London, 1934), and Johannes Steel, The second world war, (New York, 1934).</ref> The term was immediately used when war was declared; for example, the September 3, 1939, issue of the Canadian newspaper, The Calgary Herald. Prior the United States' entry into the War, many Americans referred to it as the "European War".
World War II has been portrayed in numerous media in many languages. Films include Twelve O'Clock High (1949), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Longest Day (1962), The Dirty Dozen (1967), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Das Boot (1981), and Saving Private Ryan (1998). The war figures prominently in thousands of written works, including Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Akiyuki Nosaka's Grave of the Fireflies, Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Games set within World War II include the board game Axis and Allies and video games such as 1942 (1984), Wolfenstein 3D (1992), and the Call of Duty series (2003). The war has been in many television portrayals, such as Hogan's Heroes (1965–1971) and the miniseries Band of Brothers (2001).
- Bauer, E. Lt-Colonel The History of World War II, Orbis (2000) General Editor: Brigadier Peter Young; Consultants: Brigadier General James L. Collins Jr., Correli Barnet. (1,024 pages) ISBN 1-85605-552-3
- Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War. (6 volumes). (1948-1953). ISBN 978-0395416853
- I.C.B. Dear and M.R.D. Foot, eds. The Oxford Companion to World War II (1995), 1300 page encyclopedia covering all topics
- Ellis, John. Brute Force: Allied Strategy and Tactics in the Second World War (1999)
- Gilbert, Martin Second World War (1995)
- Mark Harrison. "Resource Mobilization for World War II: The U.S.A., UK, U.S.S.R., and Germany, 1938–1945" in The Economic History Review, Vol. 41, No. 2. (May, 1988), pp. 171–192. in JSTOR
- Keegan, John. The Second World War (1989)
- Jon Latimer, Burma: The Forgotten War, London: John Murray, (2004)
- Liddell Hart, Sir Basil History of the Second World War (1970)
- Murray, Williamson and Millett, Allan R. A War to Be Won: Fighting the Second World War (2000)
- Overy, Richard. Why the Allies Won (1995)
- Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon & Schuster. (1959). ISBN 0-671-62420-2.
- Smith, J. Douglas and Richard Jensen (2003). World War II on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites. ISBN 0-8420-5020-5.
- Melano Supriatna
- Weinberg, Gerhard L.A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (2005) ISBN 0-521-44317-2
- Referencio – "World War II" — Wiki directory
- Open Directory Project – "World War II" — volunteer directory
- Yahoo – "World War II
- Original Document: D-Day Statement from Dwight D. Eisenhower
- World War II Database
- The Second World War
- BBC History: World War Two
- Deutsche Welle special section on World War II created by one of Germany's public broadcasters on World War II and the world 60 years after.
- Directory of Online World War II Indexes & Records
- Halford Mackinder's Necessary War An essay describing the geopolitical aspects of World War II
- World War 2 Vault
- World War II Secret History
- Canada and WWII
- Original Document Surrender of Japan
- World War II Military Situation Maps. Library of Congress
- Officially Declassified U.S. Government Documents about World War II
- End of World War II in Germany
- World War 2 Pictures In Colour
- Haagse Bunker Ploeg : Photo site about the atlantikwall in the Netherlands
- WWW-VL: History: WWII
- World War II Zone Photo and Multi-media gallery
- Daily German action reports
- Timeline of events in World War 2 on WikiTimeScale.org
- Maps from the Pacific and Italian theaters
- Original Document Surrender of Germany
- Europe's National Library resources
- World War II Encyclopedia by the History Channel
- U.S. National Archives Photos
- Multimedia map — Presentation that covers the war from the invasion of Russia to the fall of Berlin
- Thousands of World War II Photographs & Movies
- Virtual Museum of World War II — pictures & info
- 3-D Stereo Photograph of Iwo Jima Flag-raising — From The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com
- World War II Poster Collection hosted by the Universtity of North Texas Libraries' *Digital Collections
- World War II Propaganda Leaflet Archive
- The Defeat of France Includes the famous Weeping Frenchman photograph.
- Template:It ANPI Archives Photos
- Voices in the Dark — Descriptions of life in Nazi-occupied Paris
- WW2 People's War — A project by the BBC to gather the stories of ordinary people from World War II
- Memories of Leutnant d.R. Wilhelm Radkovsky 1940–1945 Experiences as a German soldier on the Eastern and Western Front
- The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 — "a heroic and tragic 63-day struggle to liberate World War 2 Warsaw from Nazi/German occupation."
- Template:It La Città Invisibile Collection of signs, stories and memories during the Gothic Line age.
- The World at War (1974) is a 26-part Thames Television series that covers most aspects of World War II from many points of view. It includes interviews with many key figures (Karl Dönitz, Albert Speer, Anthony Eden etc.) (Imdb link)
- The Second World War in Colour (1999) is a three episode documentary showing unique footage in color (Imdb link)
- Red White Black & Blue — Feature documentary about The Battle of Attu in the Aleutians during World War II
- Battlefield (documentary series) is a World War 2 television documentary series initially issued in 1994-5 that explores many of the most important battles fought during the Second World War.