World War II was by far the most destructive and horrific war fought. The war started in 1939 and lasted until 1945. No previous war could match the death and carnage seen by survivors and veterans. WWI was largely responsible for the conditions that had set up WWII, but the advanced weapons, the demoralization of humanity and the will to destroy showed the 20-year difference. The war included many nations, but the main Allies included Great Britain, the U. S. , the Soviet Union, China, and France. The main Axis powers included Germany, Japan, and until 1943, Italy.
The brutality shown during WWII goes unmatched by any war in history, including the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Out of the 16,112,566 men sent to war from the U. S. , 291,557 were killed. Out of all the countries that fought 14, 595,000 died in battle. If that number doesn’t sound drastic enough, it is estimated that 18- 26 million more died, 6 million of those, Jews, in Hitler’s conquest to destroy the lesser races. Because of WWII, the Soviet Union annexed territory along it’s western borders. Germany and Korea were divided into Communists and non-Communist sectors.
Eastern Europe and Balkan territory came under Soviet rule. A Jewish state-Israel- was born out of Palestine. The United States and the Soviet Union became the world powers and China became Communist. The rest of the world divided into three sections, those allied with the U. S. , those allied with the Soviet Union, and those sided with neither. After WWI, a spirit of descent grew among Germans. The people felt betrayed by their own government because they felt the Treaty of Versailles was not fair, therefore the government shouldn’t have agreed to it.
They also felt Germany gave up too easily. This paved the way for the Nazi’s to rise to power. Hitler and his followers believed that the Germans were the most important race ad that they needed to expand as was their right. They also felt that races such as Jews and Gypsies were subhuman, which led to the Holocaust and the brutality of the concentration camps. Beyond that, there seemed to be no other significant reason for war. However, when Hitler rose to power and gave Germans the chance to erase the ‘shame’ of the Treaty of Versailles, he quickly gained popularity.
He was arrested in an attempt to sieve governmental power in 1923, and while in prison wrote Mein Kampf, which means ‘My Struggle’. This book became the ‘bible’ for the Nazi program. The Nazi’s were extreme nationalists, distrusting of democracy and believed that the people of a country owed total obedience to their government. They also believed that only true Germans were Aryans, which they believed were a master race that they thought had the right to conquer other places and to exterminate inferior races. The Nazi’s accused Jews for many of their problems.
Since the Nazi’s were an authoritarian program and their claims gave the German people a reason for their troubles, Hitler became the dictator of Germany. He immediately denounced the Treaty of Versailles, began making territorial demands, announced the reinstatement of conscription and the formation of an air force. After attemts to appease Germany were made by the minister of Britain, Germany demanded a territory of Czechoslovakia that was protected by France, the world prepared for war. War was eminent when in August, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact.
On September 1st, 1939, German armies marched across Poland without any declaration of war. Two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. German airplanes bombed Polish structures and the Soviet Union invaded from the east to join the Germans at the heart of Poland. In 36 days, the Polish army was done, and the Soviet Union split the country with Germany. However, Stalin, the Russian dictator, did not fully trust Hitler, so he worked to capture the Balkan flank. Estonia, Lativa and Lithuania were pressured into signing permission for Russian troops to station in their countries.
Finland fell next under Soviet rule. Denmark and Norway were attacked by Germany next, and both fell to Germany within a matter of months. King Leopold of Belgium was the next to surrender. France was the next country to fall to Germany, and this was partially because of WWI. France’s economy and resources was still drained. Hitler’s next moves included protecting Germany’s flank by dominating the Balkan territory. Several countries surrendered to Germany, the Soviet Union and Italy. However, Hitler only did this to protect himself from Stalin further.
After taking Greece, Hitler then turned on the Soviet Union knowing that to have a truly German dominated empire Stalin would have to surrender. On June 22nd 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. If not the hard Russian winters, Germany might have succeeded in taking the Soviet Union, however, Hitler had to call back his troops since they were ill-prepared for the hard winter. Before Pearl Harbor, the U. S. was divided in helping the Ally cause. Not many wanted to get active in the war; however, the U. S. did help in many indirect ways until Pearl Harbor.
A Japanese carrier-plane attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7th 1941 finally brought the U. S. into the war. Congress formally declared war the following day. The U. S. , Germany and Italy exchanged declarations of war on December 11th. When the war began, the U. S. already had a million trained men. Soon, an army of 11,260,000 was raised and the naval expansion program began speedily constructing ships. When the Germans lost their chance to seize the Soviet Union, Stalin proposed the Allies invaded France to take it back.
He proposed this because he wanted the Allies to take some pressure off the Soviet Union because they were doing most of the fighting with the Germans at that point. The invasion of France proved to be the first successful amphibious attack made by the Allies. An amphibious attack is one made with joint army and navy attacks on a hostile shore. Only the Germans and Japanese had managed to do this successfully, but the invasion and eventual win of France might not have been possible without the attack the Allies had staged.
Hitler was taken by surprise at the attack on the beach head, and this is probably why the Allies had managed to win France back. The defeat of Germany began on June 22nd, the exact day the Germans had attacked the Soviet Union three years before. Troops from the Soviet Union broke through enemy lines and captured city after city. The Germans were in full retreat. The Allies went further and further into the territory the Germans had captured throughout the war and captured Berlin.
Finally, almost a year later, Hitler committed suicide on April 30th and Grand Admiral Doenitz who had succeeded Hitler as ruler of Germany, surrendered to the Allies on unconditional surrender terms. The most horrific result of WWII was by far, the amount of Jewish, Gypsy, homosexual, Communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the mentally ill, and the children the Germans had rounded up into relocation centers called concentration camps. Originally, these were meant to detain such people until the Germans figured out the solution to the Jewish question, which was a part of the Nazi program beliefs.
Even then, the conditions of the camps resulted in millions of deaths, due to malnutrition, disease, overwork, sadistic torture, and bizarre medical experiments. In 1942, Nazis discovered the solution to the Jewish Question, to kill every Jew in Europe. It is for this that the camps Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen are famous. These two camps proved to amount to the most deaths. Auschwitz was a house of torment, designed to kill hundreds of thousands a month, with few German personnel to man the gas chambers.
The gas chambers were rebuilt twice to be bigger and ‘better’; to kill more efficiently and more at the same time. Auschwitz was known to mass-produce corpses. Bergen-Belsen, though was one of the first found by the Allies, should have been considered a mass rescue. However, when Ally soldiers found the bunks of Jews and Gypsies, they found weak diseased people who wouldn’t live through the rescue. Though Bergen-Belsen did not contain the gas chambers Auschwitz did, by the time those who remained were rescued, a typhus epidemic had raged through the camp, leaving the remaining people there no chance.
Anne Frank, the author of the famous war-time diaries, died in Bergen-Belsen only weeks before the camp was found by Ally troops. In all, about 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust. When the war ended, Allied armies found between seven and nine million people far away from their homes. About a million Jews refused atonement simply because most Jews had no home to go home to. The Nazi Germans had burned their homes to the ground. The last unsettling fact about WWII is how it ended. Though Germany had surrendered, Japan had not.
In 1939, a group of scientists who had just arrived in the U. S. after fleeing from Germany told officials that Germany was experimenting with the possibility of an atomic bomb. In 1945, a bomb was exploded near Alamogordo, New Mexico as an experiment. From studies conducted, it was shown that to invade Japanese homelands would result in more American causalities than what the army could afford. President Truman warned Japan that unless they surrendered, a extremely powerful weapon would be used against the country.
On August 6th, a uranium bomb named ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. At least 68,000 people died. Three days later, a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, named ‘Fat Man’. It killed about 40,000. Japan surrendered September 2nd. To conclude, with the final days of the war coming, Europe was ready to make permanent peace. The U. N. was established in 1945 and it’s charter was signed by 51 countries. However, even before the charter was signed, the Soviet Union had annexed the Baltic States and had made extreme reparations demands on Germany, Hungary and Poland.
Soviets had also disagreed with the other Allies concerning where the land of conquered and occupied territories was going to go. Soviets brought most of the Balkan nations under Communism and helped bring on Communist China. To top it off, they also closed off Eastern Europe to the world. The United States still occupies South Korea and the Soviet occupies North Korea. The world couldn’t afford the first World War, and we certainly couldn’t this one. The pettiness that brought on this war would be disastrous to the world to repeat again. Even today, we still feel the effects of World War II.