World War II for Beginners

World War II for Beginners
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WW II Took a Huge Toll on Humanity
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World War II (1939-1945) was the deadliest conflict in human history. Over 60 million perished as the seven-year war spread across Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa, and America. The majority of victims were civilians.

The Main Players
Germany and Japan were the chief aggressors of World War II. Hitler’s Germany sought control over Europe to create a Lebensraum (living space) for the pure German race. Japan wanted supremacy in Asia and had been fighting to occupy China since July 1937. Italy became the third of the Axis powers. Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria joined in 1941. The opposing Allied nations included Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States of America. The Commonwealth nations supported their cause. Japan’s belligerence pushed China to their side.

The Legacy of World War I
The uneasy peace following World War I did not prevail. Germany resented the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles and incurred massive financial and territorial losses. Adolf Hitler arose out of this national humiliation. Italy had been on the winning side in the Great War, but felt cheated by the peace settlement. Under Benito Mussolini’s Fascist rule, Italy dreamt of Roman supremacy.

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Invasion of Poland

The immediate cause of World War II was Germany’s Polish invasion on 1 September 1939. France and Britain declared war on Germany soon after. World War II had begun. Hitler had astutely signed a Nonaggression Pact with Soviet Premier Josef Stalin just days ago, promising territorial gains from the invasion. With Soviet help, Poland fell quickly.

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The War in Europe

The first six months were relatively peaceful, although Britain and Germany fought violently at sea with German U-boats sinking over a 100 British ships.

The German blitzkrieg began in April 1940. The Germans occupied Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, while France and Britain suffered reverses. On 10 June 1940, Italy declared war on the Allies. German troops occupied France soon after.

Hitler bombed British cities through the summer of 1940. However, he postponed his British conquest following the Luftwaffe’s defeat in the Battle of Britain. Nevertheless, his European conquests continued. Yugoslavia and Greece were occupied in April 1941.

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Invasion of the Soviet Union

On 22 June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, reaching within 200 miles of Moscow by mid-July. However, internal disagreements stalled the German advance. When they moved again in October, the bitter Russian winter had begun and the Soviets were ready.

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Vintage Guns
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The Holocaust

During this period, Hitler launched his Final Solution, ordering the mass murder of Jews. Over 6 million Jews perished in concentration camps in German-occupied Poland.

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We Cannot Tolerate Another WW II
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America Enters the War

Meanwhile, Japan was making territorial gains in China and the Asia-Pacific. On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, drawing America into the war.

How Did the Second World War Start?

The Final Days

Japan’s successes continued until the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Japan now suffered a series of reverses and the Allies launched a strong counter-offensive against the island nation.

The fall of Mussolini in 1943, ended the Italian challenge. In 1944, the Allies launched a multi-pronged attack against Germany. Hitler recalled his troops to defend Germany from the western nations, and Soviet forces marched in from the east. Aerial bombings and a land invasion followed in 1945. Germany surrendered on 8 May.

Japan gave in on 10 August after America dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing unprecedented destruction.

The Aftermath

During the Potsdam Conference in July-August 1945, Germany and other parts of Europe were divided into spheres of influence among the western nations and Soviet Union. In the years that followed, Communism spread across eastern Europe and China, and two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union — were born.