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Why is Thailand considered an Axis power in WWII?

Why is Thailand considered an Axis power in WWII?

I read a Wikipedia article about military history of Thailand and it left me a taste of anti-Thai bias.

It is known that Thailand in 1940 (after the fall of Paris and establishment of Vichy government) assaulted nearby French colonial possessions in an attempt to restore own sovereignty.

This event described in Wikipedia as a "war of aggression". Yet it is difficult for me to see it as an aggression rather than an anti-colonial war, especially given that Thailand was returning the previously-lost territories. The assault on France is described as an attack on an Allied country, but it seems to me very much doubtful as Vichy France can be equally well considered a part of the Axis.

Furthermore, Wikipedia discribes the Thai government of Plaek Phibunsongkhram who was in office at the time as "fascist" which claim also looks quite doubtful (for example I never saw a definitely pro-Axis government of Japan being called "fascist"). The Thai government at the time kept good relations with the Great Britain and other allied powers.

Later, in 1941 Thailand was invaded by Japan in an attack, coordinated with the attack on Perl Harbor. Although the resistance of Thai army was minimal (even though there were some points of fierce fighting), this definitely puts Thailand in the set of countries attacked by the Axis.

After the invasion Thailand surrendered and joined the Axis as a puppet state (with Japanese occupation continuing).

Yet there was quite successful and numerous underground resistance movement. Wikipedia says that this resistance movement is the only reason for rehabilitation of Thailand. I am still curious why Thailand being a conquered country needs "rehabilitation" at all?

The Thais had a puppet government that followed the will of the Japanese (such as declaring war on the Allies). That made them nominally, at least, an Axis power. Also, Thailand allowed its territory to be used by the Japanese as a springboard for their invasions of Burma (Myanmar) and the East Indies (modern Indonesia).

Even so, Thailand contributed few troops or other supplies to Japan during World War II. Thus, their "participation" on the Axis side was treated (and viewed) as "symbolic." The role of "Free" (dissident) Thais in resisting the Japanese somewhat mitigated the stigma that was attached to the official Thai government for its actions during the war.

The fascist government of Thailand was pressured into declaring war on the Allies by the Japanese, who strong-armed their way into Thailand to build military bases and roads. The Thai government went along, hoping that this would appease the Japanese, who would leave after the war. (You'd think they would have heard of Manchuko or Korea… )

Here is the Wiki article on the Japanese Occupation of Thailand that explains it.

World War II

Introduction World War II was the mightiest struggle humankind has ever seen. It killed more people, cost more money, damaged more property, affected more people, and caused more far-reaching changes in nearly every country than any other war in history. The number of people killed, wounded, or missing between September 1939 and September 1945 can never be calculated, but it is estimated that more than 55 million people perished. More than 50 countries took part in the war, and the whole world felt its effects. Men fought in almost every part of the world, on every continent except Antarctica. Chief battlegrounds included Asia, Europe, North Africa, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. The United States hoped to stay out. Drawing on its experience from World War I, Congress passed a series of Neutrality Acts between 1935 and 1939, which were intended to prevent Americans becoming entangled with belligerents. Americans in general, however, while not wanting to fight the war, were definitely not neutral in their sympathies and the acts were manipulated, to the frustration of genuine isolationists, to lend more support to the Allies than the Axis. Historians do not agree on the exact date when World War II began. Most consider the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, to be the beginning of the war. Others say it started when the Japanese invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931. Others even regard World War I, which culminated in the Peace with the Central Powers in 1921 and World War II as parts of the same conflict, with only a breathing spell in between. War officially began on September 1, 1939, when Germany attacked Poland. Germany then crushed six countries in three months — Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and France — and proceeded to conquer Yugoslavia and Greece. Japan`s plans for expansion in the Far East led it to attack Pearl Harbor in December 1941, bringing the United States into the war. By early 1942, all major countries of the world were involved in the most destructive war in history. World War II would go down in the history books as bringing about the downfall of Western Europe as the center of world power, leading to the rise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), setting up conditions leading to the Cold War, and opening up the nuclear age. Causes of the war The Great Depression crippled the economies of Europe and the United States. That, combined with the outcome of World War I, led to major repositioning of world power and influence. That was fertile ground for the emergence of various forms of totalitarian governments in the Soviet Union, Japan, Italy, and Germany, as well as other countries. Many countries had liberal democratic governments following World War I, but dictatorship developed during the 1920s and 1930s, which destroyed democratic rights. Many historians trace the roots of World War II to the Treaty of Versailles and other peace agreements that followed World War I. The Germans found it easy to blame the harsh Treaty of Versailles for their troubles. Germany set up a republican form of government in 1919. Many Germans blamed the new government for accepting the hated treaty. People who could not find jobs began to drift into the Communist and National Socialist parties. As the government lost power, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist or Nazi party grew stronger. Prior to 1914, Britain, France, and Germany were the industrial and financial centers of the world. Following World War I, those countries lost their positions and the United States filled their place. America dominated the world market of food, minerals, and industry. When the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, the financial crisis had worldwide consequences and the reaction of nations to the dire financial straits of the Depression had a huge impact. After World War I, Germany, Italy, and Japan — all anxious to regain or increase their power — adopted forms of dictatorship. The League of Nations was unable to promote disarmament. When Adolf Hitler came into power, he promised to end the humiliating conditions caused by German defeat in World War I. Economic problems were among the fundamental causes of World War II. Germany, Italy, and Japan considered themselves unjustly handicapped in trying to compete with other nations for markets, raw materials, and colonies. They believed that such countries as Belgium, France, Great Britian, the Netherlands, and the United States unfairly controlled most of the world`s wealth and people. So, Germany, Italy, and Japan began to look for lands to conquer in order to obtain what they considered to be their share of the world`s resources and markets. The Depression destroyed the market for imported silk from Japan, which had provided the country with two-fifths of its export income. Military leaders took control of the government, and in 1931, Japan invaded China, looking for more raw materials and bigger markets for her factories. The League of Nations called a conference of 60 nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1932. The conference was one in a long line of disarmament conferences that had been occuring since the end of World War I. Germany, whose military power had been severely limited by the Treaty of Versailles, announced that world disarmament had to be accomplished, or Germany would rearm and achieve military equality. France refused to disarm until an international police system could be established. The conference adjourned temporarily and by the time it was back in session, Hitler had become chancellor of Germany and was already preparing to rearm. Germany withdrew from the conference, which ended in failure, without any hope for disarmament. America prepares for war After the war began in Europe in 1939, people in the Americas were divided on whether their countries should take part or stay out. Most Americans hoped the Allies would win, but they also hoped to keep the United States out of war. The isolationists, wanted the country to stay out of the war at almost any cost. Another group, the interventionists, wanted the United States to do all in its power to aid the Allies. Canada declared war on Germany almost at once, while the United States shifted its policy from neutrality to preparedness. It began to expand its armed forces, build defense plants, and give the Allies all-out aid short of war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called upon the United States to be "the great arsenal of democracy," and supply war materials to the Allies through sale, lease, or loan. The Lend-Lease bill became law on March 11, 1941. During the next four years, the U.S. sent more than $50 billion worth of war matériel to the Allies. In 1939, the United States had about 174,000 men in the Army 126,400 in the Navy 26,000 in the Army Air Corps 19,700 in the Marine Corps and 10,000 in the Coast Guard. At the height of its strength in 1945, the United States had six million in the Army 3,400,000 in the Navy 2,400,000 in the Army air forces 484,000 in the Marine Corps and 170,000 in the Coast Guard. In 1939, the United States had about 2,500 airplanes and 760 warships. By 1945, it had about 80,000 airplanes and 2,500 warships. The United States used draft laws to build their armed forces. The United States Selective Service Act became law on September 16, 1940. Thousands of women served in the Army`s Women`s Army Corps (WAC) and Navy equivalent WAVES, standing for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. Factories in the United States converted from civilian to war production with amazing speed. Firms that had made vacuum cleaners before the war began to produce machine guns. As men went into the armed forces, women took their places in war plants. By 1943, more than two million women were working in American war industries. In shipyards and aircraft plants, Rosie the riveter became a common sight. Officials discovered that women could perform the duties of eight of every 10 jobs normally done by men. Urgent requirements for war matériel caused many shortages in consumer goods. Most governments, both Allied and Axis, had to ration the amount of consumer goods each person could use. In the United States, rationed items included meats, butter, sugar, fats, oil, coffee, canned foods, shoes, and gasoline. Congress gave the president power to freeze prices, salaries, and wages at their levels of September 15, 1942. The United States imposed a special excise tax on such luxury items as jewelry and cosmetics. The government also set up a civil-defense system to protect the country from attack. Many cities practiced "blackouts" in which cities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts dimmed their lights. Ordinarily, the glare from their lights made ships near the shore easy targets for submarines. Background of the Axis and Allied powers As in World War I, the United States, Great Britian, France, and the 47 countries siding with them were known as the Allies. Japan`s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the United States into the war on the Allied side. Every country in the Americas eventually declared war on the Axis, but only Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the United States actually provided military forces. The heads of government of China, Great Britian, the Soviet Union, and the United States became known as the "Big Four." During the war, the Big Four leaders conferred several times. Great Britian and the United States worked out the broad strategic outlines of the war. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed to concentrate on Germany first, and then Japan. They considered Germany the greater and closer enemy. The Allies fought to perserve their countries and stabilize Europe, as well as destroy Nazism and establish democracy. The Soviet aim was to drive out the Nazis and emerge strong enough to continue communization of the world. Germany and its six allies were known as the Axis. The Allied and Axis countries circled the globe in World War II. The Allies mobilized about 62 million men and women, while the Axis mobilized about half that number. The goal of the Axis powers was simple. Germany intended to build up a powerful empire by occupying territory to the east and south. Then, after overrunning France, it would use air assaults to force Britian to make peace. German troops would then defeat the Soviet Union, capture the Caucasus oilfields, and implement Hitler`s plan for a European New Order. Hitler had two aims: the first to seize all of Europe and North Africa so he could dominate the Mediterranean, and the second to wipe out Communism and eliminate the Jews. His ally, Benito Mussolini, had his own aims: domination of both the Mediterranean and the Balkans. Italy hoped to take advantage of German successes to grab territory for itself. Japan intended to cripple the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, then quickly overrun Thailand, Malaya, the Philippines, and the Netherlands East Indies. It would then complete its conquest of China, and unite all East Asia under Japanese domination in a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japan had no plans for invading the United States mainland. The European/North African Theater In 1935, Hitler established military conscription for all German men, created an air force, and began to build submarines. The Treaty of Versailles limited Germany to a 100,000-man army, but Hitler`s army soon numbered 600,000. Hitler`s plan to seize all of Europe was set into motion on March 7, 1936, when he sent troops into the demilitarized Rhineland. That was followed by moves into Austria and Czechoslovakia, and finally, on September 1, 1939, German forces invaded Poland. That brought a declaration of war from France and Britain. Some historians believe that the Soviet Union leadership knew in the spring or early summer of 1939 that Germany planned to invade Poland in September. Thus, the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Germany just two weeks before the attack. The U.S.S.R. promised to remain neutral in case Germany went to war. They also made a secret aggreement to divide Poland with the Germans after the conquest. Also, despite having signed a non-agression treaty with Joseph Stalin, Hitler turned on his ally and prepared to become the master of Europe. Germany and Italy declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941. The North African Campaign, also known as the Desert War, took place in the North African desert from 1940 to 1943. It was quite important in strategic terms, with the Mediterranean and the British African Empire at stake. It was the only theater in which the Western Allies engaged both German and Italian ground forces. Fighting in the region began when Germany`s ally, Italy, attacked British-occupied areas. Hitler did not want British planes within striking distance of his one major oil source, the Ploiesti fields in Romania, and in November 1940, he prepared his soldiers to join in the fight. A decisive battle held in the North African campaign was the Battle of Tunisia, or Tunisia Campaign, in which Germany and Italy fought against the Allied forces comprising primarily the United States and Britain. More than 275,000 German and Italian prisoners of war were taken. Following seesawing control of Libya and parts of Egypt, British Commonwealth forces succeeded in pushing the Axis back. The dispersion of the Axis forces throughout Europe during this time was an important reason why the Allies were able to gain the upper hand in North Africa. Hitler was preoccupied with the Russian front and many divisions of the German army were already committed to it. North Africa was essentially used as a springboard for the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and Italy in September of the same year. Along with worldwide domination, Hitler also aimed to rid the world of various ethnic, religious, national, and secular groups. The Holocaust began in 1941 and continued until 1945. The goal of the Nazis was to attempt, on an industrial scale, to assemble and exterminate as many people as possible. Concentration camps were established and mass executions carried out. The Jews of Europe were the main targets, but Hitler also targeted Poles, Slavs, gypsies, the disabled, and gay men. By the end of the war, approximately six million people had been killed by the German Gestapo or the SS. The Battle of Britain, which lasted from July 10 to October 31, 1940, was the first major battle of World War II. It was also one of the turning points in the war, because the British showed that they could defeat the Luftwaffe, or German air force. The battle was unique, in that it was the only battle ever fought entirely in the air, even to this day. The Battle of Normandy was fought between invading American, British, and Canadian forces, and German forces occupying Western Europe. Preparations for the invasion began early in 1943, when the Allies set up a planning staff. Roosevelt and Churchill selected General Dwight D. Eisenhower as supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. On June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops and 30,000 vehicles landed along a 50-mile front of fortified French coastline and began fighting on the beaches of Normandy. It was to be known as D-Day. The invasion, code named Operation Overlord, remains the largest seaborne invasion in history. The Battle of the Bulge, which began in December 1944, was so named because of the bulging shape of the front on a map. The battle was the last major German offensive on the Western Front during World War II. It is the largest battle the United States Army has fought to date. In its entirety, the Battle of the Bulge was the worst — in terms of losses — for the American Forces during World War II, with more than 80,000 American casualties. Late in April 1945, the head of the German home guard and dreaded Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler, tried to negotiate a peace with Great Britain and the United States. Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on April 30. The Allies demanded that German troops on all fronts surrender. Early in the morning on May 7, Col. General Alfred Jodl of the German high command entered Allied headquarters in Reims, France, and signed the terms of unconditional surrender. Lt. General Walter B. Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff, signed for the Allies. After five years, eight months, and seven days, the European phase of World War II ended. The Pacific Theater The war in the Pacific essentially began on September 18, 1931, when Japan invaded Manchuria, which was known for its natural resources. The Japanese thought that from Manchuria, they could go on to control all of northern China. After Japan had established dominance in China, it could expand elsewhere. The Great Depression, Japan`s population explosion, and the need to find new resources and markets to continue as a first-rate power, were other causes of the invasion. The Japanese struck at a time when most countries were more concerned with the depression than with an invasion in far-off China. The United States introduced a policy of non-recognition, declaring that it would not recognize Japan`s conquest. The League of Nations did nothing but condemn Japan formally. Therefore, many consider the invasion of Manchuria as the real start of the war because aggression was not suppressed. Since 1937, Japan had been buying cotton, gasoline, scrap iron, and aircraft equipment from the United States. After the “undeclared war” between Japan and China began in 1937, most Americans sympathized with the Chinese. In 1938, this led the United States to place an embargo on exporting aircraft to Japan. The government also froze all Japanese assets in the United States. Relations between Japan and the United States became increasingly tense in the fall of 1941. The Japanese Army and Navy came up with a plan to bomb Pearl Harbor and invade Thailand, the Malay peninsula, and the Philippines. About 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, while negotiations were taking place between Japanese and American diplomats, the Japanese air force and navy attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. More than 2,300 Americans were killed and the the U.S. Pacific Fleet was crippled. Roosevelt gave a speech to a stunned Congress, in which he said that December 7 was "a date which will live in infamy." The United States entered the war against Japan, and would now also have the opportunity to move against Hitler in Europe by aiding the British — this time with forces. Within a few hours of attacking Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombers struck at American bases on the islands of Guam, Midway, and Wake. Japanese forces advanced through the thick jungles of the Malay Peninsula. They continued their expansion and soon overran Singapore, New Britain, the Admiralty and Solomon Islands, the Philippines, and Manilla. Just a few short months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a fleet of 16 B-25 army bombers, led by Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, took off from the carrier Hornet, about 650 miles from Honshu, Japan. The bombers hit Tokyo and other cities. The raid stunned the Japanese, because they had believed that Allied planes could never reach their homeland. Fifteen of Doolittle’s planes crashed when they ran out of fuel and could not reach bases in China. The Chinese underground helped Doolittle and 63 of his fliers to escape. Throughout the war, Doolittle was known as the "Master of the Calculated Risk." The Doolittle raid helped convince the Japanese that they would have to expand their defense boundaries. Having conquered nearly all of Southeast Asia in just a few short months, Japan planned to seize Port Moresby in southeastern New Guinea. They hoped to cut Allied shipping lanes to Australia, and perhaps even invade that country. But a U.S. task force intercepted a Japanese fleet headed toward Port Moresby in the Coral Sea. The Battle of the Coral Sea ensued, and the two forces fought a four-day battle from May 4 to 8, in which aircraft did all the fighting. It was the first battle in which aircraft carriers attacked each other, and the first naval battle in which neither side`s ships sighted the other. The battle was an important Allied strategic victory, which blocked Japan’s push south-eastward. The most important objectives in Japan’s resumed offensive were the capture of Midway Island, which lies 1,000 miles northwest of Hawaii, and of the Aleutian Islands, west of the Alaska mainland. Japan hoped that by seizing Midway, they could draw the Pacific Fleet away from Hawaii. Before Pearl Harbor, the United States scored one of its greatest victories by cracking Japan’s secret code. That enabled the Pacific Fleet to know in advance about Japan’s plans for attack. On June 4, 1942, aircraft from the 100-ship Japanese fleet began blasting Midway Island, which was home to the closest remaining U.S. base to Japan. At the end of the two-day battle, Japan had lost four carriers and a major part of its air strength. Battle of Midway proved to be one of the decisive victories in history and was the turning point of the Pacific Campaign. It ended Japanese threats to Hawaii and to the United States, and also stopped the expansion of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific. The Allies` goal was to capture or neutralize Rabaul, an important enemy base on New Britain Island, north of Australia. They planned an invasion of the nearby Solomon Islands, while other Allied forces approached Rabaul by way of New Guinea. On August 7, 1942, the Allies began their first offensive action in the Pacific. The fighting was some of the most severe of the war, and control of the island seesawed for several months. During that time, the Allies perfected the technique of amphibious warfare - air, land, and sea forces working together as a team. In the Solomons, the Allies fought the first of many jungle campaigns. Allied strategists believed that the central Pacific fortress of Japan could be cracked. They did not intend to seize each island separately. This would be too costly and take too long. Instead, they decided on a plan of Island Hopping, or seizing key islands from which to attack the next target, bypassing other targets. The Gilbert Islands were selected as the first major objective in the island-hopping campaign. In many instances the Japanese had studded the islands with barricades, concrete pillboxes, gun emplacements, and bombproof underground shelters. They had been ordered to resist to the very end. Of the 3,000 enemy troops and 1,800 civilian laborers on the island, the marines captured only 147 Japanese and Koreans alive. The U.S. suffered 3,110 casualties in one of the war’s most savage battles. The Battle for Leyte Gulf was the biggest naval engagement in history from the standpoint of naval tonnage involved. The battle was a decisive victory for the United States. At the end of the battle, on October 26, Japan had lost three battleships, four carriers, 10 cruisers, and nine destroyers. In desperation, the Japanese began to strike back with Kamikazes, or suicide planes. Enemy fliers deliberately crashed their aircraft on Allied warships, knowing that they would be killed. Allied soldiers also learned the fanatical code of bushido, which requires Japanese soldiers to fight to the death. The Japanese believed that surrender meant disgrace, and often preferred suicide to capture. China became isolated from most of the world when the Japanese cut the Burma Road, which was about 700 miles long and constructed through rough mountain country. It was a remarkable engineering achievement undertaken by the Chinese after the start of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, and completed in just one year. It was used to transport war supplies. Traffic increased in importance to China after the Japanese took control of the Chinese coast and Indochina. After the Japanese cut the road, supplies could come only through the air. The U.S. Air Transport Command flew the dangerous 500-mile route, known as the Hump, over the Himalayan Mountains. Allied strategy to end the war called for an invasion of Japan with the code name Operation Olympic. Allied warships would continue to raid Japanese shipping and coastal areas, and Allied bombers would increase their attacks. Air attacks by long-range B-29 bombers had begun on June 15, 1944, from bases in China. Throughout the summer of 1944, the U.S. 20th Air Force raided Japan, Formosa, and Japanese-held Manchuria, about once a week. The Army Air Force flew more than 15,000 missions against 66 major Japaneses cities, and dropped more than 100,000 tons of incendiary bombs. The Allies held such superiority in the air that early in July 1945, General Carl Spaatz, commander of the U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, publicly announced in advance the names of cities to be bombed. In July 1945, the heads of government in Britain, Soviet Union and the United States conferred and were told that Japan was willing to negotiate a peace, but unwilling to accept unconditional surrender. An ultimatum was issued, calling for unconditional surrender and a just peace. When Japan ignored the ultimatum, the United States decided to use the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb helped to make an invasion of Japan unnecessary. On August 6, a B-29 called the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare, on the city of Hiroshima. More than 92,000 poeple were killed or ended up missing. Three days later, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, which killed at least 40,000. Injuries from the two bombings were about equal to the deaths. Others would die later from radiation sickness. The Japanese realized that they were helpless if one atomic bomb could cause so much damage. On August 10, the Japanese government asked the Allies if uncondional surrender meant that Emperor Hirohito would have to give up his throne. The Allies replied that the Japanese people would decide his fate. On August 14, the Allies received a message from Japan accepting the surrender terms, and on September 2, aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the Allies and Japan signed the surrender agreement. President Harry S. Truman proclaimed September 2 as V-J Day (Victory over Japan). Three years, eight months, and 22 days after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, World War II ended. Representatives from 52 countries met in San Francisco in September 1951 to draw up a peace treaty with Japan. On September 8, diplomats from 49 of these countries signed the treaty. Only three countries — Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Soviet Union — opposed the terms of the pact and refused to sign. The treaty required Japan to give up its former possessions outside its four home islands. It also gave Japan the right to rearm itself for self-defense and trade agreements. Japan came under Allied occupation within two weeks after its surrender. General Douglas MacArthur, as supreme commander for the Allied Powers, ruled Japan during the occupation. The United States officially ended its war with Japan on April 28, 1952. With the end of the occupation, Japan signed treaties with the major Allies, allowing their troops to remain in Japan. Aftermath World War II brought an end to the Depression everywhere. Industries had been ignited for the production of arms and resources to equip fighting forces. "The man behind the man behind the gun" helped win World War II. People on the home front built weapons, produced food and supplies, and bought war bonds. Many historians believe that war production was the key to Allied victory. The Allies not only mobilized more men and women in their armed forces, but also outproduced the Axis in weapons and machinery. Scientific inventions and discoveries also helped shorten the war. The United States organized its scientific resources in the Office of Scientific Research and Development. That government agency invented or improved such commodities as radar, rocket launchers, jet engines, amphibious assault boats, long-range navigational aids, devices for detecting submarines, and more. Scientists also made it possible to produce large quantities of penicillin to fight a wide range of diseases, as well as DDT to fight jungle diseases caused by insects. The war solved some problems, but created many others. Germany had been the dominant power on the European continent, while Japan had held that role in Asia. Their defeat in World War II left open positions of leadership. The Soviet Union moved in quickly to replace Germany as the most powerful country in Europe and also aimed at taking Japan`s place as the dominant power in Asia. The Communists under Mao Zedong defeated the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and took over mainland China by the fall of 1949. With China, France, and Great Britain devastated and financially exhausted by the war, the United States and the Soviet Union became the two major powers of the world. The Allies were determined not to repeat the mistakes of World War I, in which Allies had failed to set up an organization to enforce the peace until after World War I ended. In June 1941, nine European governments-in-exile joined with Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries in signing the Inter-Allied Declaration, which called for nations to cooperate and work for lasting peace. In 1944, an idea emerged to create a postwar international organization. The United Nations was born on October 24, 1945. Its first sessions were held the following January in London. World War II took the lives of more people than any other war in history. Eastern Europe and East Asia suffered the heaviest losses. Germany and the Soviet Union, and the nations that had been ground between them, may have lost as much as a tenth of their populations. World War II was the most expensive war in history. It has been estimated that the cost of the war totaled between $1 and $2 trillion, and the property damage amounted to more than $239 billion. The United States spent about 10 times as much as it had spent in all its previous wars put together. The national debt rose from $42 billion in 1940 to $269 billion in 1946. In 1944, President Roosevelt asked the War Department to devise a plan for bringing war criminals to justice. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau proposed executing prominent Nazi leaders at the time of capture and banishing others to far-off corners of the world, while German POWs would be forced to rebuild Europe. Secretary of War Henry Stimson saw things differently, and proposed trying Nazi leaders in court. Roosevelt chose the latter. In early October 1945, the four prosecuting nations — the United States, Great Britain, France, and Soviet Union — issued an indictment against 24 men charged with the systematic murder of millions of people, and planning and carrying out the war in Europe. Twelve trials were conducted, involving more than a hundred defendants. In addition to the individual indictments, three organizations were tried and found guilty. They were the SS, the Gestapo, and the Corps of the Political Leaders of the Nazi Party. The Nuremberg War Trials took place from 1945 to 1949. The United States formally ended hostilities with Germany on October 19, 1951. West Germany would accept neither the division of Germany nor East Germany`s frontiers. Thus, Germany was the only Axis power that did not become a member of the United Nations. A cold war between the Soviets and the democracies ensued. In Asia, victory resulted in the takeover of China and Manchuria by the People`s Republic of China, chaos in Southeast Asia, and a division of Korea, with the Soviets in the North and American`s in the South. Another war already lay on the horizon.


The war in Europe is generally considered to have started on 1 September 1939, [1] [2] beginning with the German invasion of Poland the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany two days later. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, [3] [4] or the earlier Japanese invasion of Manchuria, on 19 September 1931. [5] [6] [7]

Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred simultaneously, and the two wars merged in 1941. This article uses conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935. [8] The British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the forces of Mongolia and the Soviet Union from May to September 1939. [9] Others view the Spanish Civil War as the start or prelude to World War II. [10] [11]

The exact date of the war's end is also not universally agreed upon. It was generally accepted at the time that the war ended with the armistice of 14 August 1945 (V-J Day), rather than with the formal surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945, which officially ended the war in Asia. A peace treaty between Japan and the Allies was signed in 1951. [12] A 1990 treaty regarding Germany's future allowed the reunification of East and West Germany to take place and resolved most post-World War II issues. [13] No formal peace treaty between Japan and the Soviet Union was ever signed. [14]


World War I had radically altered the political European map, with the defeat of the Central Powers—including Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire—and the 1917 Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, which led to the founding of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the victorious Allies of World War I, such as France, Belgium, Italy, Romania, and Greece, gained territory, and new nation-states were created out of the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman and Russian Empires.

To prevent a future world war, the League of Nations was created during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The organisation's primary goals were to prevent armed conflict through collective security, military and naval disarmament, and settling international disputes through peaceful negotiations and arbitration.

Despite strong pacifist sentiment after World War I, [15] irredentist and revanchist nationalism emerged in several European states in the same period. These sentiments were especially marked in Germany because of the significant territorial, colonial, and financial losses imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. Under the treaty, Germany lost around 13 percent of its home territory and all its overseas possessions, while German annexation of other states was prohibited, reparations were imposed, and limits were placed on the size and capability of the country's armed forces. [16]

The German Empire was dissolved in the German Revolution of 1918–1919, and a democratic government, later known as the Weimar Republic, was created. The interwar period saw strife between supporters of the new republic and hardline opponents on both the right and left. Italy, as an Entente ally, had made some post-war territorial gains however, Italian nationalists were angered that the promises made by the United Kingdom and France to secure Italian entrance into the war were not fulfilled in the peace settlement. From 1922 to 1925, the Fascist movement led by Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy with a nationalist, totalitarian, and class collaborationist agenda that abolished representative democracy, repressed socialist, left-wing and liberal forces, and pursued an aggressive expansionist foreign policy aimed at making Italy a world power, and promising the creation of a "New Roman Empire". [17]

Adolf Hitler, after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the German government in 1923, eventually became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933 when Paul Von Hindenburg and the Reichstag appointed him. He abolished democracy, espousing a radical, racially motivated revision of the world order, and soon began a massive rearmament campaign. [18] Meanwhile, France, to secure its alliance, allowed Italy a free hand in Ethiopia, which Italy desired as a colonial possession. The situation was aggravated in early 1935 when the Territory of the Saar Basin was legally reunited with Germany, and Hitler repudiated the Treaty of Versailles, accelerated his rearmament programme, and introduced conscription. [19]

The United Kingdom, France and Italy formed the Stresa Front in April 1935 in order to contain Germany, a key step towards military globalisation however, that June, the United Kingdom made an independent naval agreement with Germany, easing prior restrictions. The Soviet Union, concerned by Germany's goals of capturing vast areas of Eastern Europe, drafted a treaty of mutual assistance with France. Before taking effect, though, the Franco-Soviet pact was required to go through the bureaucracy of the League of Nations, which rendered it essentially toothless. [20] The United States, concerned with events in Europe and Asia, passed the Neutrality Act in August of the same year. [21]

Hitler defied the Versailles and Locarno treaties by remilitarising the Rhineland in March 1936, encountering little opposition due to the policy of appeasement. [22] In October 1936, Germany and Italy formed the Rome–Berlin Axis. A month later, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, which Italy joined the following year. [23]

The Kuomintang (KMT) party in China launched a unification campaign against regional warlords and nominally unified China in the mid-1920s, but was soon embroiled in a civil war against its former Chinese Communist Party allies [24] and new regional warlords. In 1931, an increasingly militaristic Empire of Japan, which had long sought influence in China [25] as the first step of what its government saw as the country's right to rule Asia, staged the Mukden Incident as a pretext to invade Manchuria and establish the puppet state of Manchukuo. [26]

China appealed to the League of Nations to stop the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations after being condemned for its incursion into Manchuria. The two nations then fought several battles, in Shanghai, Rehe and Hebei, until the Tanggu Truce was signed in 1933. Thereafter, Chinese volunteer forces continued the resistance to Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and Chahar and Suiyuan. [27] After the 1936 Xi'an Incident, the Kuomintang and communist forces agreed on a ceasefire to present a united front to oppose Japan. [28]

Italian invasion of Ethiopia (1935)

The Second Italo-Ethiopian War was a brief colonial war that began in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war began with the invasion of the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia) by the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia), which was launched from Italian Somaliland and Eritrea. [29] The war resulted in the military occupation of Ethiopia and its annexation into the newly created colony of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana, or AOI) in addition it exposed the weakness of the League of Nations as a force to preserve peace. Both Italy and Ethiopia were member nations, but the League did little when the former clearly violated Article X of the League's Covenant. [30] The United Kingdom and France supported imposing sanctions on Italy for the invasion, but the sanctions were not fully enforced and failed to end the Italian invasion. [31] Italy subsequently dropped its objections to Germany's goal of absorbing Austria. [32]

Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)

When civil war broke out in Spain, Hitler and Mussolini lent military support to the Nationalist rebels, led by General Francisco Franco. Italy supported the Nationalists to a greater extent than the Nazis did: altogether Mussolini sent to Spain more than 70,000 ground troops and 6,000 aviation personnel, as well as about 720 aircraft. [33] The Soviet Union supported the existing government of the Spanish Republic. More than 30,000 foreign volunteers, known as the International Brigades, also fought against the Nationalists. Both Germany and the Soviet Union used this proxy war as an opportunity to test in combat their most advanced weapons and tactics. The Nationalists won the civil war in April 1939 Franco, now dictator, remained officially neutral during World War II but generally favoured the Axis. [34] His greatest collaboration with Germany was the sending of volunteers to fight on the Eastern Front. [35]

Japanese invasion of China (1937)

In July 1937, Japan captured the former Chinese imperial capital of Peking after instigating the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which culminated in the Japanese campaign to invade all of China. [36] The Soviets quickly signed a non-aggression pact with China to lend materiel support, effectively ending China's prior co-operation with Germany. From September to November, the Japanese attacked Taiyuan, engaged the Kuomintang Army around Xinkou, [37] and fought Communist forces in Pingxingguan. [38] [39] Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek deployed his best army to defend Shanghai, but after three months of fighting, Shanghai fell. The Japanese continued to push the Chinese forces back, capturing the capital Nanking in December 1937. After the fall of Nanking, tens or hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants were murdered by the Japanese. [40] [41]

In March 1938, Nationalist Chinese forces won their first major victory at Taierzhuang, but then the city of Xuzhou was taken by the Japanese in May. [42] In June 1938, Chinese forces stalled the Japanese advance by flooding the Yellow River this manoeuvre bought time for the Chinese to prepare their defences at Wuhan, but the city was taken by October. [43] Japanese military victories did not bring about the collapse of Chinese resistance that Japan had hoped to achieve instead, the Chinese government relocated inland to Chongqing and continued the war. [44] [45]

Soviet–Japanese border conflicts

In the mid-to-late 1930s, Japanese forces in Manchukuo had sporadic border clashes with the Soviet Union and Mongolia. The Japanese doctrine of Hokushin-ron, which emphasised Japan's expansion northward, was favoured by the Imperial Army during this time. With the Japanese defeat at Khalkin Gol in 1939, the ongoing Second Sino-Japanese War [46] and ally Nazi Germany pursuing neutrality with the Soviets, this policy would prove difficult to maintain. Japan and the Soviet Union eventually signed a Neutrality Pact in April 1941, and Japan adopted the doctrine of Nanshin-ron, promoted by the Navy, which took its focus southward, eventually leading to its war with the United States and the Western Allies. [47] [48]

European occupations and agreements

In Europe, Germany and Italy were becoming more aggressive. In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria, again provoking little response from other European powers. [49] Encouraged, Hitler began pressing German claims on the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia with a predominantly ethnic German population. Soon the United Kingdom and France followed the appeasement policy of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and conceded this territory to Germany in the Munich Agreement, which was made against the wishes of the Czechoslovak government, in exchange for a promise of no further territorial demands. [50] Soon afterwards, Germany and Italy forced Czechoslovakia to cede additional territory to Hungary, and Poland annexed Czechoslovakia's Zaolzie region. [51]

Although all of Germany's stated demands had been satisfied by the agreement, privately Hitler was furious that British interference had prevented him from seizing all of Czechoslovakia in one operation. In subsequent speeches Hitler attacked British and Jewish "war-mongers" and in January 1939 secretly ordered a major build-up of the German navy to challenge British naval supremacy. In March 1939, Germany invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia and subsequently split it into the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and a pro-German client state, the Slovak Republic. [52] Hitler also delivered an ultimatum to Lithuania on 20 March 1939, forcing the concession of the Klaipėda Region, formerly the German Memelland. [53]

Greatly alarmed and with Hitler making further demands on the Free City of Danzig, the United Kingdom and France guaranteed their support for Polish independence when Italy conquered Albania in April 1939, the same guarantee was extended to the Kingdoms of Romania and Greece. [54] Shortly after the Franco-British pledge to Poland, Germany and Italy formalised their own alliance with the Pact of Steel. [55] Hitler accused the United Kingdom and Poland of trying to "encircle" Germany and renounced the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact. [56]

The situation reached a general crisis in late August as German troops continued to mobilise against the Polish border. On 23 August, when tripartite negotiations about a military alliance between France, the United Kingdom and Soviet Union stalled, [57] the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Germany. [58] This pact had a secret protocol that defined German and Soviet "spheres of influence" (western Poland and Lithuania for Germany eastern Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Bessarabia for the Soviet Union), and raised the question of continuing Polish independence. [59] The pact neutralised the possibility of Soviet opposition to a campaign against Poland and assured that Germany would not have to face the prospect of a two-front war, as it had in World War I. Immediately after that, Hitler ordered the attack to proceed on 26 August, but upon hearing that the United Kingdom had concluded a formal mutual assistance pact with Poland and that Italy would maintain neutrality, he decided to delay it. [60]

In response to British requests for direct negotiations to avoid war, Germany made demands on Poland, which only served as a pretext to worsen relations. [61] On 29 August, Hitler demanded that a Polish plenipotentiary immediately travel to Berlin to negotiate the handover of Danzig, and to allow a plebiscite in the Polish Corridor in which the German minority would vote on secession. [61] The Poles refused to comply with the German demands, and on the night of 30–31 August in a stormy meeting with the British ambassador Nevile Henderson, Ribbentrop declared that Germany considered its claims rejected. [62]

War breaks out in Europe (1939–40)

On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland after having staged several false flag border incidents as a pretext to initiate the invasion. [63] The first German attack of the war came against the Polish defenses at Westerplatte. [64] The United Kingdom responded with an ultimatum to Germany to cease military operations, and on 3 September, after the ultimatum was ignored, France and Britain declared war on Germany, followed by Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. The alliance provided no direct military support to Poland, outside of a cautious French probe into the Saarland. [65] The Western Allies also began a naval blockade of Germany, which aimed to damage the country's economy and the war effort. [66] Germany responded by ordering U-boat warfare against Allied merchant and warships, which would later escalate into the Battle of the Atlantic. [67]

On 8 September, German troops reached the suburbs of Warsaw. The Polish counter offensive to the west halted the German advance for several days, but it was outflanked and encircled by the Wehrmacht. Remnants of the Polish army broke through to besieged Warsaw. On 17 September 1939, after signing a cease-fire with Japan, the Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland [68] under a pretext that the Polish state had ostensibly ceased to exist. [69] On 27 September, the Warsaw garrison surrendered to the Germans, and the last large operational unit of the Polish Army surrendered on 6 October. Despite the military defeat, Poland never surrendered instead, it formed the Polish government-in-exile and a clandestine state apparatus remained in occupied Poland. [70] A significant part of Polish military personnel evacuated to Romania and the Baltic countries many of them later fought against the Axis in other theatres of the war. [71]

Germany annexed the western and occupied the central part of Poland, and the Soviet Union annexed its eastern part small shares of Polish territory were transferred to Lithuania and Slovakia. On 6 October, Hitler made a public peace overture to the United Kingdom and France but said that the future of Poland was to be determined exclusively by Germany and the Soviet Union. The proposal was rejected, [62] and Hitler ordered an immediate offensive against France, [72] which was postponed until the spring of 1940 due to bad weather. [73] [74] [75]

The Soviet Union forced the Baltic countries—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were in the Soviet "sphere of influence" under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact—to sign "mutual assistance pacts" that stipulated stationing Soviet troops in these countries. Soon after, significant Soviet military contingents were moved there. [76] [77] [78] Finland refused to sign a similar pact and rejected ceding part of its territory to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union invaded Finland in November 1939, [79] and the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations. [80] Despite overwhelming numerical superiority, Soviet military success was modest, and the Finno-Soviet war ended in March 1940 with minimal Finnish concessions. [81]

In June 1940, the Soviet Union forcibly annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, [77] and the Romanian regions of Bessarabia, northern Bukovina and Hertza. Meanwhile, Nazi-Soviet political rapprochement and economic co-operation [82] [83] gradually stalled, [84] [85] and both states began preparations for war. [86]

Western Europe (1940–41)

In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway to protect shipments of iron ore from Sweden, which the Allies were attempting to cut off. [87] Denmark capitulated after a few hours, and Norway was conquered within two months [88] despite Allied support. British discontent over the Norwegian campaign led to the appointment of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister on 10 May 1940. [89]

On the same day, Germany launched an offensive against France. To circumvent the strong Maginot Line fortifications on the Franco-German border, Germany directed its attack at the neutral nations of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. [90] The Germans carried out a flanking manoeuvre through the Ardennes region, [91] which was mistakenly perceived by Allies as an impenetrable natural barrier against armoured vehicles. [92] [93] By successfully implementing new blitzkrieg tactics, the Wehrmacht rapidly advanced to the Channel and cut off the Allied forces in Belgium, trapping the bulk of the Allied armies in a cauldron on the Franco-Belgian border near Lille. The United Kingdom was able to evacuate a significant number of Allied troops from the continent by early June, although abandoning almost all their equipment. [94]

On 10 June, Italy invaded France, declaring war on both France and the United Kingdom. [95] The Germans turned south against the weakened French army, and Paris fell to them on 14 June. Eight days later France signed an armistice with Germany it was divided into German and Italian occupation zones, [96] and an unoccupied rump state under the Vichy Regime, which, though officially neutral, was generally aligned with Germany. France kept its fleet, which the United Kingdom attacked on 3 July in an attempt to prevent its seizure by Germany. [97]

The air Battle of Britain [98] began in early July with Luftwaffe attacks on shipping and harbours. [99] The United Kingdom rejected Hitler's peace offer, [100] and the German air superiority campaign started in August but failed to defeat RAF Fighter Command, forcing the indefinite postponement of the proposed German invasion of Britain. The German strategic bombing offensive intensified with night attacks on London and other cities in the Blitz, but failed to significantly disrupt the British war effort [99] and largely ended in May 1941. [101]

Using newly captured French ports, the German Navy enjoyed success against an over-extended Royal Navy, using U-boats against British shipping in the Atlantic. [102] The British Home Fleet scored a significant victory on 27 May 1941 by sinking the German battleship Bismarck. [103]

In November 1939, the United States was taking measures to assist China and the Western Allies and amended the Neutrality Act to allow "cash and carry" purchases by the Allies. [104] In 1940, following the German capture of Paris, the size of the United States Navy was significantly increased. In September the United States further agreed to a trade of American destroyers for British bases. [105] Still, a large majority of the American public continued to oppose any direct military intervention in the conflict well into 1941. [106] In December 1940 Roosevelt accused Hitler of planning world conquest and ruled out any negotiations as useless, calling for the United States to become an "arsenal of democracy" and promoting Lend-Lease programmes of aid to support the British war effort. [100] The United States started strategic planning to prepare for a full-scale offensive against Germany. [107]

At the end of September 1940, the Tripartite Pact formally united Japan, Italy, and Germany as the Axis powers. The Tripartite Pact stipulated that any country, with the exception of the Soviet Union, which attacked any Axis Power would be forced to go to war against all three. [108] The Axis expanded in November 1940 when Hungary, Slovakia and Romania joined. [109] Romania and Hungary later made major contributions to the Axis war against the Soviet Union, in Romania's case partially to recapture territory ceded to the Soviet Union. [110]

Mediterranean (1940–41)

In early June 1940, the Italian Regia Aeronautica attacked and besieged Malta, a British possession. From late summer to early autumn, Italy conquered British Somaliland and made an incursion into British-held Egypt. In October, Italy attacked Greece, but the attack was repulsed with heavy Italian casualties the campaign ended within months with minor territorial changes. [111] Germany started preparation for an invasion of the Balkans to assist Italy, to prevent the British from gaining a foothold there, which would be a potential threat for Romanian oil fields, and to strike against the British dominance of the Mediterranean. [112]

In December 1940, British Empire forces began counter-offensives against Italian forces in Egypt and Italian East Africa. [113] The offensives were highly successful by early February 1941, Italy had lost control of eastern Libya, and large numbers of Italian troops had been taken prisoner. The Italian Navy also suffered significant defeats, with the Royal Navy putting three Italian battleships out of commission by means of a carrier attack at Taranto, and neutralising several more warships at the Battle of Cape Matapan. [114]

Italian defeats prompted Germany to deploy an expeditionary force to North Africa and at the end of March 1941, Rommel's Afrika Korps launched an offensive which drove back the Commonwealth forces. [115] In under a month, Axis forces advanced to western Egypt and besieged the port of Tobruk. [116]

By late March 1941, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite Pact however, the Yugoslav government was overthrown two days later by pro-British nationalists. Germany responded with simultaneous invasions of both Yugoslavia and Greece, commencing on 6 April 1941 both nations were forced to surrender within the month. [117] The airborne invasion of the Greek island of Crete at the end of May completed the German conquest of the Balkans. [118] Although the Axis victory was swift, bitter and large-scale partisan warfare subsequently broke out against the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia, which continued until the end of the war. [119]

In the Middle East in May, Commonwealth forces quashed an uprising in Iraq which had been supported by German aircraft from bases within Vichy-controlled Syria. [120] Between June and July, they invaded and occupied the French possessions Syria and Lebanon, with the assistance of the Free French. [121]

Axis attack on the Soviet Union (1941)

With the situation in Europe and Asia relatively stable, Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union made preparations. With the Soviets wary of mounting tensions with Germany and the Japanese planning to take advantage of the European War by seizing resource-rich European possessions in Southeast Asia, the two powers signed the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact in April 1941. [122] By contrast, the Germans were steadily making preparations for an attack on the Soviet Union, massing forces on the Soviet border. [123]

Hitler believed that the United Kingdom's refusal to end the war was based on the hope that the United States and the Soviet Union would enter the war against Germany sooner or later. [124] He, therefore, decided to try to strengthen Germany's relations with the Soviets or failing that to attack and eliminate them as a factor. In November 1940, negotiations took place to determine if the Soviet Union would join the Tripartite Pact. The Soviets showed some interest but asked for concessions from Finland, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Japan that Germany considered unacceptable. On 18 December 1940, Hitler issued the directive to prepare for an invasion of the Soviet Union. [125]

On 22 June 1941, Germany, supported by Italy and Romania, invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, with Germany accusing the Soviets of plotting against them. They were joined shortly by Finland and Hungary. [126] The primary targets of this surprise offensive [127] were the Baltic region, Moscow and Ukraine, with the ultimate goal of ending the 1941 campaign near the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line, from the Caspian to the White Seas. Hitler's objectives were to eliminate the Soviet Union as a military power, exterminate Communism, generate Lebensraum ("living space") [128] by dispossessing the native population [129] and guarantee access to the strategic resources needed to defeat Germany's remaining rivals. [130]

Although the Red Army was preparing for strategic counter-offensives before the war, [131] Barbarossa forced the Soviet supreme command to adopt a strategic defence. During the summer, the Axis made significant gains into Soviet territory, inflicting immense losses in both personnel and materiel. By mid-August, however, the German Army High Command decided to suspend the offensive of a considerably depleted Army Group Centre, and to divert the 2nd Panzer Group to reinforce troops advancing towards central Ukraine and Leningrad. [132] The Kiev offensive was overwhelmingly successful, resulting in encirclement and elimination of four Soviet armies, and made possible further advance into Crimea and industrially developed Eastern Ukraine (the First Battle of Kharkov). [133]

The diversion of three quarters of the Axis troops and the majority of their air forces from France and the central Mediterranean to the Eastern Front [134] prompted the United Kingdom to reconsider its grand strategy. [135] In July, the UK and the Soviet Union formed a military alliance against Germany [136] and in August, the United Kingdom and the United States jointly issued the Atlantic Charter, which outlined British and American goals for the postwar world. [137] In late August the British and Soviets invaded neutral Iran to secure the Persian Corridor, Iran's oil fields, and preempt any Axis advances through Iran toward the Baku oil fields or British India. [138]

By October Axis operational objectives in Ukraine and the Baltic region were achieved, with only the sieges of Leningrad [139] and Sevastopol continuing. [140] A major offensive against Moscow was renewed after two months of fierce battles in increasingly harsh weather, the German army almost reached the outer suburbs of Moscow, where the exhausted troops [141] were forced to suspend their offensive. [142] Large territorial gains were made by Axis forces, but their campaign had failed to achieve its main objectives: two key cities remained in Soviet hands, the Soviet capability to resist was not broken, and the Soviet Union retained a considerable part of its military potential. The blitzkrieg phase of the war in Europe had ended. [143]

By early December, freshly mobilised reserves [144] allowed the Soviets to achieve numerical parity with Axis troops. [145] This, as well as intelligence data which established that a minimal number of Soviet troops in the East would be sufficient to deter any attack by the Japanese Kwantung Army, [146] allowed the Soviets to begin a massive counter-offensive that started on 5 December all along the front and pushed German troops 100–250 kilometres (62–155 mi) west. [147]

War breaks out in the Pacific (1941)

Following the Japanese false flag Mukden Incident in 1931, the Japanese shelling of the American gunboat USS Panay in 1937, and the 1937-38 Nanjing Massacre, Japanese-American relations deteriorated. In 1939, the United States notified Japan that it would not be extending its trade treaty and American public opinion opposing Japanese expansionism led to a series of economic sanctions, the Export Control Acts, which banned U.S. exports of chemicals, minerals and military parts to Japan and increased economic pressure on the Japanese regime. [100] [148] [149] During 1939 Japan launched its first attack against Changsha, a strategically important Chinese city, but was repulsed by late September. [150] Despite several offensives by both sides, the war between China and Japan was stalemated by 1940. To increase pressure on China by blocking supply routes, and to better position Japanese forces in the event of a war with the Western powers, Japan invaded and occupied northern Indochina in September 1940. [151]

Chinese nationalist forces launched a large-scale counter-offensive in early 1940. In August, Chinese communists launched an offensive in Central China in retaliation, Japan instituted harsh measures in occupied areas to reduce human and material resources for the communists. [152] The continued antipathy between Chinese communist and nationalist forces culminated in armed clashes in January 1941, effectively ending their co-operation. [153] In March, the Japanese 11th army attacked the headquarters of the Chinese 19th army but was repulsed during Battle of Shanggao. [154] In September, Japan attempted to take the city of Changsha again and clashed with Chinese nationalist forces. [155]

German successes in Europe encouraged Japan to increase pressure on European governments in Southeast Asia. The Dutch government agreed to provide Japan with some oil supplies from the Dutch East Indies, but negotiations for additional access to their resources ended in failure in June 1941. [156] In July 1941 Japan sent troops to southern Indochina, thus threatening British and Dutch possessions in the Far East. The United States, the United Kingdom, and other Western governments reacted to this move with a freeze on Japanese assets and a total oil embargo. [157] [158] At the same time, Japan was planning an invasion of the Soviet Far East, intending to capitalise off the German invasion in the west, but abandoned the operation after the sanctions. [159]

Since early 1941 the United States and Japan had been engaged in negotiations in an attempt to improve their strained relations and end the war in China. During these negotiations, Japan advanced a number of proposals which were dismissed by the Americans as inadequate. [160] At the same time the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands engaged in secret discussions for the joint defence of their territories, in the event of a Japanese attack against any of them. [161] Roosevelt reinforced the Philippines (an American protectorate scheduled for independence in 1946) and warned Japan that the United States would react to Japanese attacks against any "neighboring countries". [161]

Frustrated at the lack of progress and feeling the pinch of the American–British–Dutch sanctions, Japan prepared for war. On 20 November, a new government under Hideki Tojo presented an interim proposal as its final offer. It called for the end of American aid to China and for lifting the embargo on the supply of oil and other resources to Japan. In exchange, Japan promised not to launch any attacks in Southeast Asia and to withdraw its forces from southern Indochina. [160] The American counter-proposal of 26 November required that Japan evacuate all of China without conditions and conclude non-aggression pacts with all Pacific powers. [162] That meant Japan was essentially forced to choose between abandoning its ambitions in China, or seizing the natural resources it needed in the Dutch East Indies by force [163] [164] the Japanese military did not consider the former an option, and many officers considered the oil embargo an unspoken declaration of war. [165]

Japan planned to rapidly seize European colonies in Asia to create a large defensive perimeter stretching into the Central Pacific. The Japanese would then be free to exploit the resources of Southeast Asia while exhausting the over-stretched Allies by fighting a defensive war. [166] [167] To prevent American intervention while securing the perimeter, it was further planned to neutralise the United States Pacific Fleet and the American military presence in the Philippines from the outset. [168] On 7 December 1941 (8 December in Asian time zones), Japan attacked British and American holdings with near-simultaneous offensives against Southeast Asia and the Central Pacific. [169] These included an attack on the American fleets at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, landings in Malaya, [169] Thailand and the Battle of Hong Kong. [170]

The Japanese invasion of Thailand led to Thailand's decision to ally itself with Japan and the other Japanese attacks led the United States, United Kingdom, China, Australia, and several other states to formally declare war on Japan, whereas the Soviet Union, being heavily involved in large-scale hostilities with European Axis countries, maintained its neutrality agreement with Japan. [171] Germany, followed by the other Axis states, declared war on the United States [172] in solidarity with Japan, citing as justification the American attacks on German war vessels that had been ordered by Roosevelt. [126] [173]

Axis advance stalls (1942–43)

On 1 January 1942, the Allied Big Four [174] —the Soviet Union, China, the United Kingdom and the United States—and 22 smaller or exiled governments issued the Declaration by United Nations, thereby affirming the Atlantic Charter, [175] and agreeing not to sign a separate peace with the Axis powers. [176]

During 1942, Allied officials debated on the appropriate grand strategy to pursue. All agreed that defeating Germany was the primary objective. The Americans favoured a straightforward, large-scale attack on Germany through France. The Soviets were also demanding a second front. The British, on the other hand, argued that military operations should target peripheral areas to wear out German strength, leading to increasing demoralisation, and bolster resistance forces. Germany itself would be subject to a heavy bombing campaign. An offensive against Germany would then be launched primarily by Allied armour without using large-scale armies. [177] Eventually, the British persuaded the Americans that a landing in France was infeasible in 1942 and they should instead focus on driving the Axis out of North Africa. [178]

At the Casablanca Conference in early 1943, the Allies reiterated the statements issued in the 1942 Declaration and demanded the unconditional surrender of their enemies. The British and Americans agreed to continue to press the initiative in the Mediterranean by invading Sicily to fully secure the Mediterranean supply routes. [179] Although the British argued for further operations in the Balkans to bring Turkey into the war, in May 1943, the Americans extracted a British commitment to limit Allied operations in the Mediterranean to an invasion of the Italian mainland and to invade France in 1944. [180]

Pacific (1942–43)

By the end of April 1942, Japan and its ally Thailand had almost fully conquered Burma, Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, and Rabaul, inflicting severe losses on Allied troops and taking a large number of prisoners. [181] Despite stubborn resistance by Filipino and US forces, the Philippine Commonwealth was eventually captured in May 1942, forcing its government into exile. [182] On 16 April, in Burma, 7,000 British soldiers were encircled by the Japanese 33rd Division during the Battle of Yenangyaung and rescued by the Chinese 38th Division. [183] Japanese forces also achieved naval victories in the South China Sea, Java Sea and Indian Ocean, [184] and bombed the Allied naval base at Darwin, Australia. In January 1942, the only Allied success against Japan was a Chinese victory at Changsha. [185] These easy victories over the unprepared US and European opponents left Japan overconfident, as well as overextended. [186]

In early May 1942, Japan initiated operations to capture Port Moresby by amphibious assault and thus sever communications and supply lines between the United States and Australia. The planned invasion was thwarted when an Allied task force, centred on two American fleet carriers, fought Japanese naval forces to a draw in the Battle of the Coral Sea. [187] Japan's next plan, motivated by the earlier Doolittle Raid, was to seize Midway Atoll and lure American carriers into battle to be eliminated as a diversion, Japan would also send forces to occupy the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. [188] In mid-May, Japan started the Zhejiang-Jiangxi campaign in China, with the goal of inflicting retribution on the Chinese who aided the surviving American airmen in the Doolittle Raid by destroying Chinese air bases and fighting against the Chinese 23rd and 32nd Army Groups. [189] [190] In early June, Japan put its operations into action, but the Americans, having broken Japanese naval codes in late May, were fully aware of the plans and order of battle, and used this knowledge to achieve a decisive victory at Midway over the Imperial Japanese Navy. [191]

With its capacity for aggressive action greatly diminished as a result of the Midway battle, Japan chose to focus on a belated attempt to capture Port Moresby by an overland campaign in the Territory of Papua. [192] The Americans planned a counter-attack against Japanese positions in the southern Solomon Islands, primarily Guadalcanal, as a first step towards capturing Rabaul, the main Japanese base in Southeast Asia. [193]

Both plans started in July, but by mid-September, the Battle for Guadalcanal took priority for the Japanese, and troops in New Guinea were ordered to withdraw from the Port Moresby area to the northern part of the island, where they faced Australian and United States troops in the Battle of Buna–Gona. [194] Guadalcanal soon became a focal point for both sides with heavy commitments of troops and ships in the battle for Guadalcanal. By the start of 1943, the Japanese were defeated on the island and withdrew their troops. [195] In Burma, Commonwealth forces mounted two operations. The first, an offensive into the Arakan region in late 1942, went disastrously, forcing a retreat back to India by May 1943. [196] The second was the insertion of irregular forces behind Japanese front-lines in February which, by the end of April, had achieved mixed results. [197]

Eastern Front (1942–43)

Despite considerable losses, in early 1942 Germany and its allies stopped a major Soviet offensive in central and southern Russia, keeping most territorial gains they had achieved during the previous year. [198] In May the Germans defeated Soviet offensives in the Kerch Peninsula and at Kharkov, [199] and then launched their main summer offensive against southern Russia in June 1942, to seize the oil fields of the Caucasus and occupy the Kuban steppe, while maintaining positions on the northern and central areas of the front. The Germans split Army Group South into two groups: Army Group A advanced to the lower Don River and struck south-east to the Caucasus, while Army Group B headed towards the Volga River. The Soviets decided to make their stand at Stalingrad on the Volga. [200]

By mid-November, the Germans had nearly taken Stalingrad in bitter street fighting. The Soviets began their second winter counter-offensive, starting with an encirclement of German forces at Stalingrad, [201] and an assault on the Rzhev salient near Moscow, though the latter failed disastrously. [202] By early February 1943, the German Army had taken tremendous losses German troops at Stalingrad had been defeated, [203] and the front-line had been pushed back beyond its position before the summer offensive. In mid-February, after the Soviet push had tapered off, the Germans launched another attack on Kharkov, creating a salient in their front line around the Soviet city of Kursk. [204]

Western Europe/Atlantic and Mediterranean (1942–43)

Exploiting poor American naval command decisions, the German navy ravaged Allied shipping off the American Atlantic coast. [205] By November 1941, Commonwealth forces had launched a counter-offensive, Operation Crusader, in North Africa, and reclaimed all the gains the Germans and Italians had made. [206] In North Africa, the Germans launched an offensive in January, pushing the British back to positions at the Gazala line by early February, [207] followed by a temporary lull in combat which Germany used to prepare for their upcoming offensives. [208] Concerns the Japanese might use bases in Vichy-held Madagascar caused the British to invade the island in early May 1942. [209] An Axis offensive in Libya forced an Allied retreat deep inside Egypt until Axis forces were stopped at El Alamein. [210] On the Continent, raids of Allied commandos on strategic targets, culminating in the disastrous Dieppe Raid, [211] demonstrated the Western Allies' inability to launch an invasion of continental Europe without much better preparation, equipment, and operational security. [212] [ page needed ]

In August 1942, the Allies succeeded in repelling a second attack against El Alamein [213] and, at a high cost, managed to deliver desperately needed supplies to the besieged Malta. [214] A few months later, the Allies commenced an attack of their own in Egypt, dislodging the Axis forces and beginning a drive west across Libya. [215] This attack was followed up shortly after by Anglo-American landings in French North Africa, which resulted in the region joining the Allies. [216] Hitler responded to the French colony's defection by ordering the occupation of Vichy France [216] although Vichy forces did not resist this violation of the armistice, they managed to scuttle their fleet to prevent its capture by German forces. [216] [217] The Axis forces in Africa withdrew into Tunisia, which was conquered by the Allies in May 1943. [216] [218]

In June 1943 the British and Americans began a strategic bombing campaign against Germany with a goal to disrupt the war economy, reduce morale, and "de-house" the civilian population. [219] The firebombing of Hamburg was among the first attacks in this campaign, inflicting significant casualties and considerable losses on infrastructure of this important industrial centre. [220]

Allies gain momentum (1943–44)

After the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Allies initiated several operations against Japan in the Pacific. In May 1943, Canadian and US forces were sent to eliminate Japanese forces from the Aleutians. [221] Soon after, the United States, with support from Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islander forces, began major ground, sea and air operations to isolate Rabaul by capturing surrounding islands, and breach the Japanese Central Pacific perimeter at the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. [222] By the end of March 1944, the Allies had completed both of these objectives and had also neutralised the major Japanese base at Truk in the Caroline Islands. In April, the Allies launched an operation to retake Western New Guinea. [223]

In the Soviet Union, both the Germans and the Soviets spent the spring and early summer of 1943 preparing for large offensives in central Russia. On 4 July 1943, Germany attacked Soviet forces around the Kursk Bulge. Within a week, German forces had exhausted themselves against the Soviets' deeply echeloned and well-constructed defences, [224] and for the first time in the war Hitler cancelled the operation before it had achieved tactical or operational success. [225] This decision was partially affected by the Western Allies' invasion of Sicily launched on 9 July, which, combined with previous Italian failures, resulted in the ousting and arrest of Mussolini later that month. [226]

On 12 July 1943, the Soviets launched their own counter-offensives, thereby dispelling any chance of German victory or even stalemate in the east. The Soviet victory at Kursk marked the end of German superiority, [227] giving the Soviet Union the initiative on the Eastern Front. [228] [229] The Germans tried to stabilise their eastern front along the hastily fortified Panther–Wotan line, but the Soviets broke through it at Smolensk and by the Lower Dnieper Offensive. [230]

On 3 September 1943, the Western Allies invaded the Italian mainland, following Italy's armistice with the Allies. [231] Germany with the help of fascists responded by disarming Italian forces that were in many places without superior orders, seizing military control of Italian areas, [232] and creating a series of defensive lines. [233] German special forces then rescued Mussolini, who then soon established a new client state in German-occupied Italy named the Italian Social Republic, [234] causing an Italian civil war. The Western Allies fought through several lines until reaching the main German defensive line in mid-November. [235]

German operations in the Atlantic also suffered. By May 1943, as Allied counter-measures became increasingly effective, the resulting sizeable German submarine losses forced a temporary halt of the German Atlantic naval campaign. [236] In November 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met with Chiang Kai-shek in Cairo and then with Joseph Stalin in Tehran. [237] The former conference determined the post-war return of Japanese territory [238] and the military planning for the Burma campaign, [239] while the latter included agreement that the Western Allies would invade Europe in 1944 and that the Soviet Union would declare war on Japan within three months of Germany's defeat. [240]

From November 1943, during the seven-week Battle of Changde, the Chinese forced Japan to fight a costly war of attrition, while awaiting Allied relief. [241] [242] [243] In January 1944, the Allies launched a series of attacks in Italy against the line at Monte Cassino and tried to outflank it with landings at Anzio. [244]

On 27 January 1944, Soviet troops launched a major offensive that expelled German forces from the Leningrad region, thereby ending the most lethal siege in history. [245] The following Soviet offensive was halted on the pre-war Estonian border by the German Army Group North aided by Estonians hoping to re-establish national independence. This delay slowed subsequent Soviet operations in the Baltic Sea region. [246] By late May 1944, the Soviets had liberated Crimea, largely expelled Axis forces from Ukraine, and made incursions into Romania, which were repulsed by the Axis troops. [247] The Allied offensives in Italy had succeeded and, at the expense of allowing several German divisions to retreat, on 4 June Rome was captured. [248]

The Allies had mixed success in mainland Asia. In March 1944, the Japanese launched the first of two invasions, an operation against British positions in Assam, India, [249] and soon besieged Commonwealth positions at Imphal and Kohima. [250] In May 1944, British forces mounted a counter-offensive that drove Japanese troops back to Burma by July, [250] and Chinese forces that had invaded northern Burma in late 1943 besieged Japanese troops in Myitkyina. [251] The second Japanese invasion of China aimed to destroy China's main fighting forces, secure railways between Japanese-held territory and capture Allied airfields. [252] By June, the Japanese had conquered the province of Henan and begun a new attack on Changsha. [253]

Allies close in (1944)

On 6 June 1944 (known as D-Day), after three years of Soviet pressure, [254] the Western Allies invaded northern France. After reassigning several Allied divisions from Italy, they also attacked southern France. [255] These landings were successful and led to the defeat of the German Army units in France. Paris was liberated on 25 August by the local resistance assisted by the Free French Forces, both led by General Charles de Gaulle, [256] and the Western Allies continued to push back German forces in western Europe during the latter part of the year. An attempt to advance into northern Germany spearheaded by a major airborne operation in the Netherlands failed. [257] After that, the Western Allies slowly pushed into Germany, but failed to cross the Rur river in a large offensive. In Italy, Allied advance also slowed due to the last major German defensive line. [258]

On 22 June, the Soviets launched a strategic offensive in Belarus ("Operation Bagration") that destroyed the German Army Group Centre almost completely. [259] Soon after that, another Soviet strategic offensive forced German troops from Western Ukraine and Eastern Poland. The Soviets formed the Polish Committee of National Liberation to control territory in Poland and combat the Polish Armia Krajowa The Soviet Red Army remained in the Praga district on the other side of the Vistula and watched passively as the Germans quelled the Warsaw Uprising initiated by the Armia Krajowa. [260] The national uprising in Slovakia was also quelled by the Germans. [261] The Soviet Red Army's strategic offensive in eastern Romania cut off and destroyed the considerable German troops there and triggered a successful coup d'état in Romania and in Bulgaria, followed by those countries' shift to the Allied side. [262]

In September 1944, Soviet troops advanced into Yugoslavia and forced the rapid withdrawal of German Army Groups E and F in Greece, Albania and Yugoslavia to rescue them from being cut off. [263] By this point, the Communist-led Partisans under Marshal Josip Broz Tito, who had led an increasingly successful guerrilla campaign against the occupation since 1941, controlled much of the territory of Yugoslavia and engaged in delaying efforts against German forces further south. In northern Serbia, the Soviet Red Army, with limited support from Bulgarian forces, assisted the Partisans in a joint liberation of the capital city of Belgrade on 20 October. A few days later, the Soviets launched a massive assault against German-occupied Hungary that lasted until the fall of Budapest in February 1945. [264] Unlike impressive Soviet victories in the Balkans, bitter Finnish resistance to the Soviet offensive in the Karelian Isthmus denied the Soviets occupation of Finland and led to a Soviet-Finnish armistice on relatively mild conditions, [265] although Finland was forced to fight their former ally Germany. [266]

By the start of July 1944, Commonwealth forces in Southeast Asia had repelled the Japanese sieges in Assam, pushing the Japanese back to the Chindwin River [267] while the Chinese captured Myitkyina. In September 1944, Chinese forces captured Mount Song and reopened the Burma Road. [268] In China, the Japanese had more successes, having finally captured Changsha in mid-June and the city of Hengyang by early August. [269] Soon after, they invaded the province of Guangxi, winning major engagements against Chinese forces at Guilin and Liuzhou by the end of November [270] and successfully linking up their forces in China and Indochina by mid-December. [271]

In the Pacific, US forces continued to press back the Japanese perimeter. In mid-June 1944, they began their offensive against the Mariana and Palau islands and decisively defeated Japanese forces in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. These defeats led to the resignation of the Japanese Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo, and provided the United States with air bases to launch intensive heavy bomber attacks on the Japanese home islands. In late October, American forces invaded the Filipino island of Leyte soon after, Allied naval forces scored another large victory in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history. [272]

Axis collapse, Allied victory (1944–45)

On 16 December 1944, Germany made a last attempt on the Western Front by using most of its remaining reserves to launch a massive counter-offensive in the Ardennes and along with the French-German border to split the Western Allies, encircle large portions of Western Allied troops and capture their primary supply port at Antwerp to prompt a political settlement. [273] By January, the offensive had been repulsed with no strategic objectives fulfilled. [273] In Italy, the Western Allies remained stalemated at the German defensive line. In mid-January 1945, the Soviets and Poles attacked in Poland, pushing from the Vistula to the Oder river in Germany, and overran East Prussia. [274] On 4 February Soviet, British, and US leaders met for the Yalta Conference. They agreed on the occupation of post-war Germany, and on when the Soviet Union would join the war against Japan. [275]

In February, the Soviets entered Silesia and Pomerania, while Western Allies entered western Germany and closed to the Rhine river. By March, the Western Allies crossed the Rhine north and south of the Ruhr, encircling the German Army Group B. [276] In early March, in an attempt to protect its last oil reserves in Hungary and to retake Budapest, Germany launched its last major offensive against Soviet troops near Lake Balaton. In two weeks, the offensive had been repulsed, the Soviets advanced to Vienna, and captured the city. In early April, Soviet troops captured Königsberg, while the Western Allies finally pushed forward in Italy and swept across western Germany capturing Hamburg and Nuremberg. American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe river on 25 April, leaving several unoccupied pockets in southern Germany and around Berlin.

Soviet and Polish forces stormed and captured Berlin in late April. In Italy, German forces surrendered on 29 April. On 30 April, the Reichstag was captured, signalling the military defeat of Nazi Germany, [277] Berlin garrison surrendered on 2 May.

Several changes in leadership occurred during this period. On 12 April, President Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Harry S. Truman. Benito Mussolini was killed by Italian partisans on 28 April. [278] Two days later, Hitler committed suicide in besieged Berlin, and he was succeeded by Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz. [279] Total and unconditional surrender in Europe was signed on 7 and 8 May, to be effective by the end of 8 May. [280] German Army Group Centre resisted in Prague until 11 May. [281]

In the Pacific theatre, American forces accompanied by the forces of the Philippine Commonwealth advanced in the Philippines, clearing Leyte by the end of April 1945. They landed on Luzon in January 1945 and recaptured Manila in March. Fighting continued on Luzon, Mindanao, and other islands of the Philippines until the end of the war. [282] Meanwhile, the United States Army Air Forces launched a massive firebombing campaign of strategic cities in Japan in an effort to destroy Japanese war industry and civilian morale. A devastating bombing raid on Tokyo of 9–10 March was the deadliest conventional bombing raid in history. [283]

In May 1945, Australian troops landed in Borneo, overrunning the oilfields there. British, American, and Chinese forces defeated the Japanese in northern Burma in March, and the British pushed on to reach Rangoon by 3 May. [284] Chinese forces started a counterattack in the Battle of West Hunan that occurred between 6 April and 7 June 1945. American naval and amphibious forces also moved towards Japan, taking Iwo Jima by March, and Okinawa by the end of June. [285] At the same time, American submarines cut off Japanese imports, drastically reducing Japan's ability to supply its overseas forces. [286]

On 11 July, Allied leaders met in Potsdam, Germany. They confirmed earlier agreements about Germany, [287] and the American, British and Chinese governments reiterated the demand for unconditional surrender of Japan, specifically stating that "the alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction". [288] During this conference, the United Kingdom held its general election, and Clement Attlee replaced Churchill as Prime Minister. [289]

The call for unconditional surrender was rejected by the Japanese government, which believed it would be capable of negotiating for more favourable surrender terms. [290] In early August, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Between the two bombings, the Soviets, pursuant to the Yalta agreement, invaded Japanese-held Manchuria and quickly defeated the Kwantung Army, which was the largest Japanese fighting force. [291] These two events persuaded previously adamant Imperial Army leaders to accept surrender terms. [292] The Red Army also captured the southern part of Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands. On 15 August 1945, Japan surrendered, with the surrender documents finally signed at Tokyo Bay on the deck of the American battleship USS Missouri on 2 September 1945, ending the war. [293]

The Allies established occupation administrations in Austria and Germany. The former became a neutral state, non-aligned with any political bloc. The latter was divided into western and eastern occupation zones controlled by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. A denazification programme in Germany led to the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the Nuremberg trials and the removal of ex-Nazis from power, although this policy moved towards amnesty and re-integration of ex-Nazis into West German society. [294]

Germany lost a quarter of its pre-war (1937) territory. Among the eastern territories, Silesia, Neumark and most of Pomerania were taken over by Poland, [295] and East Prussia was divided between Poland and the Soviet Union, followed by the expulsion to Germany of the nine million Germans from these provinces, [296] [297] as well as three million Germans from the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. By the 1950s, one-fifth of West Germans were refugees from the east. The Soviet Union also took over the Polish provinces east of the Curzon line, [298] from which 2 million Poles were expelled [297] [299] north-east Romania, [300] [301] parts of eastern Finland, [302] and the three Baltic states were incorporated into the Soviet Union. [303] [304]

In an effort to maintain world peace, [305] the Allies formed the United Nations, which officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, [306] and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 as a common standard for all member nations. [307] The great powers that were the victors of the war—France, China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States—became the permanent members of the UN's Security Council. [308] The five permanent members remain so to the present, although there have been two seat changes, between the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China in 1971, and between the Soviet Union and its successor state, the Russian Federation, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The alliance between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union had begun to deteriorate even before the war was over. [309]

Germany had been de facto divided, and two independent states, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), [310] were created within the borders of Allied and Soviet occupation zones. The rest of Europe was also divided into Western and Soviet spheres of influence. [311] Most eastern and central European countries fell into the Soviet sphere, which led to establishment of Communist-led regimes, with full or partial support of the Soviet occupation authorities. As a result, East Germany, [312] Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Albania [313] became Soviet satellite states. Communist Yugoslavia conducted a fully independent policy, causing tension with the Soviet Union. [314]

Post-war division of the world was formalised by two international military alliances, the United States-led NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. [315] The long period of political tensions and military competition between them, the Cold War, would be accompanied by an unprecedented arms race and number of proxy wars throughout the world. [316]

In Asia, the United States led the occupation of Japan and administered Japan's former islands in the Western Pacific, while the Soviets annexed South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. [317] Korea, formerly under Japanese rule, was divided and occupied by the Soviet Union in the North and the United States in the South between 1945 and 1948. Separate republics emerged on both sides of the 38th parallel in 1948, each claiming to be the legitimate government for all of Korea, which led ultimately to the Korean War. [318]

In China, nationalist and communist forces resumed the civil war in June 1946. Communist forces were victorious and established the People's Republic of China on the mainland, while nationalist forces retreated to Taiwan in 1949. [319] In the Middle East, the Arab rejection of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine and the creation of Israel marked the escalation of the Arab–Israeli conflict. While European powers attempted to retain some or all of their colonial empires, their losses of prestige and resources during the war rendered this unsuccessful, leading to decolonisation. [320] [321]

The global economy suffered heavily from the war, although participating nations were affected differently. The United States emerged much richer than any other nation, leading to a baby boom, and by 1950 its gross domestic product per person was much higher than that of any of the other powers, and it dominated the world economy. [322] The UK and US pursued a policy of industrial disarmament in Western Germany in the years 1945–1948. [323] Because of international trade interdependencies this led to European economic stagnation and delayed European recovery for several years. [324] [325]

Recovery began with the mid-1948 currency reform in Western Germany, and was sped up by the liberalisation of European economic policy that the Marshall Plan (1948–1951) both directly and indirectly caused. [326] [327] The post-1948 West German recovery has been called the German economic miracle. [328] Italy also experienced an economic boom [329] and the French economy rebounded. [330] By contrast, the United Kingdom was in a state of economic ruin, [331] and although receiving a quarter of the total Marshall Plan assistance, more than any other European country, [332] it continued in relative economic decline for decades. [333]

The Soviet Union, despite enormous human and material losses, also experienced rapid increase in production in the immediate post-war era. [334] Japan recovered much later. [335] China returned to its pre-war industrial production by 1952. [336]

Casualties and war crimes

Estimates for the total number of casualties in the war vary, because many deaths went unrecorded. [337] Most suggest that some 60 million people died in the war, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians. [338] [339] [340] Many of the civilians died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass bombings, disease, and starvation.

The Soviet Union alone lost around 27 million people during the war, [341] including 8.7 million military and 19 million civilian deaths. [342] A quarter of the total people in the Soviet Union were wounded or killed. [343] Germany sustained 5.3 million military losses, mostly on the Eastern Front and during the final battles in Germany. [344]

An estimated 11 [345] to 17 million [346] civilians died as a direct or as an indirect result of Nazi racist policies, including mass killing of around 6 million Jews, along with Roma, homosexuals, at least 1.9 million ethnic Poles [347] [348] and millions of other Slavs (including Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians), and other ethnic and minority groups. [349] [346] Between 1941 and 1945, more than 200,000 ethnic Serbs, along with gypsies and Jews, were persecuted and murdered by the Axis-aligned Croatian Ustaše in Yugoslavia. [350] Also, more than 100,000 Poles were massacred by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the Volhynia massacres, between 1943 and 1945. [351] At the same time about 10,000–15,000 Ukrainians were killed by the Polish Home Army and other Polish units, in reprisal attacks. [352]

In Asia and the Pacific, between 3 million and more than 10 million civilians, mostly Chinese (estimated at 7.5 million [353] ), were killed by the Japanese occupation forces. [354] The most infamous Japanese atrocity was the Nanking Massacre, in which fifty to three hundred thousand Chinese civilians were raped and murdered. [355] Mitsuyoshi Himeta reported that 2.7 million casualties occurred during the Sankō Sakusen. General Yasuji Okamura implemented the policy in Heipei and Shantung. [356]

Axis forces employed biological and chemical weapons. The Imperial Japanese Army used a variety of such weapons during its invasion and occupation of China (see Unit 731) [357] [358] and in early conflicts against the Soviets. [359] Both the Germans and the Japanese tested such weapons against civilians, [360] and sometimes on prisoners of war. [361]

The Soviet Union was responsible for the Katyn massacre of 22,000 Polish officers, [362] and the imprisonment or execution of thousands of political prisoners by the NKVD, along with mass civilian deportations to Siberia, in the Baltic states and eastern Poland annexed by the Red Army. [363]

The mass bombing of cities in Europe and Asia has often been called a war crime, although no positive or specific customary international humanitarian law with respect to aerial warfare existed before or during World War II. [364] The USAAF firebombed a total of 67 Japanese cities, killing 393,000 civilians and destroying 65% of built-up areas. [365]

Genocide, concentration camps, and slave labour

Nazi Germany was responsible for the Holocaust (which killed approximately 6 million Jews) as well as for killing 2.7 million ethnic Poles [366] and 4 million others who were deemed "unworthy of life" (including the disabled and mentally ill, Soviet prisoners of war, Romani, homosexuals, Freemasons, and Jehovah's Witnesses) as part of a programme of deliberate extermination, in effect becoming a "genocidal state". [367] Soviet POWs were kept in especially unbearable conditions, and 3.6 million Soviet POWs out of 5.7 million died in Nazi camps during the war. [368] [369] In addition to concentration camps, death camps were created in Nazi Germany to exterminate people on an industrial scale. Nazi Germany extensively used forced labourers about 12 million Europeans from German-occupied countries were abducted and used as a slave work force in German industry, agriculture and war economy. [370]

The Soviet Gulag became a de facto system of deadly camps during 1942–43, when wartime privation and hunger caused numerous deaths of inmates, [371] including foreign citizens of Poland and other countries occupied in 1939–40 by the Soviet Union, as well as Axis POWs. [372] By the end of the war, most Soviet POWs liberated from Nazi camps and many repatriated civilians were detained in special filtration camps where they were subjected to NKVD evaluation, and 226,127 were sent to the Gulag as real or perceived Nazi collaborators. [373]

Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, many of which were used as labour camps, also had high death rates. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East found the death rate of Western prisoners was 27 per cent (for American POWs, 37 per cent), [374] seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians. [375] While 37,583 prisoners from the UK, 28,500 from the Netherlands, and 14,473 from the United States were released after the surrender of Japan, the number of Chinese released was only 56. [376]

At least five million Chinese civilians from northern China and Manchukuo were enslaved between 1935 and 1941 by the East Asia Development Board, or Kōain, for work in mines and war industries. After 1942, the number reached 10 million. [377] In Java, between 4 and 10 million rōmusha (Japanese: "manual labourers"), were forced to work by the Japanese military. About 270,000 of these Javanese labourers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in South East Asia, and only 52,000 were repatriated to Java. [378]


In Europe, occupation came under two forms. In Western, Northern, and Central Europe (France, Norway, Denmark, the Low Countries, and the annexed portions of Czechoslovakia) Germany established economic policies through which it collected roughly 69.5 billion reichsmarks (27.8 billion US dollars) by the end of the war this figure does not include the sizeable plunder of industrial products, military equipment, raw materials and other goods. [379] Thus, the income from occupied nations was over 40 percent of the income Germany collected from taxation, a figure which increased to nearly 40 percent of total German income as the war went on. [380]

In the East, the intended gains of Lebensraum were never attained as fluctuating front-lines and Soviet scorched earth policies denied resources to the German invaders. [381] Unlike in the West, the Nazi racial policy encouraged extreme brutality against what it considered to be the "inferior people" of Slavic descent most German advances were thus followed by mass executions. [382] Although resistance groups formed in most occupied territories, they did not significantly hamper German operations in either the East [383] or the West [384] until late 1943.

In Asia, Japan termed nations under its occupation as being part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, essentially a Japanese hegemony which it claimed was for purposes of liberating colonised peoples. [385] Although Japanese forces were sometimes welcomed as liberators from European domination, Japanese war crimes frequently turned local public opinion against them. [386] During Japan's initial conquest it captured 4,000,000 barrels (640,000 m 3 ) of oil (

5.5×10 5 tonnes) left behind by retreating Allied forces, and by 1943 was able to get production in the Dutch East Indies up to 50 million barrels (

6.8 × 10 ^ 6 t), 76 per cent of its 1940 output rate. [386]

Home fronts and production

In Europe, before the outbreak of the war, the Allies had significant advantages in both population and economics. In 1938, the Western Allies (United Kingdom, France, Poland and the British Dominions) had a 30 percent larger population and a 30 percent higher gross domestic product than the European Axis powers (Germany and Italy) if colonies are included, the Allies had more than a 5:1 advantage in population and a nearly 2:1 advantage in GDP. [387] In Asia at the same time, China had roughly six times the population of Japan but only an 89 percent higher GDP this is reduced to three times the population and only a 38 percent higher GDP if Japanese colonies are included. [387]

The United States produced about two-thirds of all the munitions used by the Allies in WWII, including warships, transports, warplanes, artillery, tanks, trucks, and ammunition. [388] Though the Allies' economic and population advantages were largely mitigated during the initial rapid blitzkrieg attacks of Germany and Japan, they became the decisive factor by 1942, after the United States and Soviet Union joined the Allies, as the war largely settled into one of attrition. [389] While the Allies' ability to out-produce the Axis is often attributed [ by whom? ] to the Allies having more access to natural resources, other factors, such as Germany and Japan's reluctance to employ women in the labour force, [390] Allied strategic bombing, [391] and Germany's late shift to a war economy [392] contributed significantly. Additionally, neither Germany nor Japan planned to fight a protracted war, and had not equipped themselves to do so. [393] To improve their production, Germany and Japan used millions of slave labourers [394] Germany used about 12 million people, mostly from Eastern Europe, [370] while Japan used more than 18 million people in Far East Asia. [377] [378]

Advances in technology and warfare

Aircraft were used for reconnaissance, as fighters, bombers, and ground-support, and each role was advanced considerably. Innovation included airlift (the capability to quickly move limited high-priority supplies, equipment, and personnel) [395] and of strategic bombing (the bombing of enemy industrial and population centres to destroy the enemy's ability to wage war). [396] Anti-aircraft weaponry also advanced, including defences such as radar and surface-to-air artillery. The use of the jet aircraft was pioneered and, though late introduction meant it had little impact, it led to jets becoming standard in air forces worldwide. [397] Although guided missiles were being developed, they were not advanced enough to reliably target aircraft until some years after the war.

Advances were made in nearly every aspect of naval warfare, most notably with aircraft carriers and submarines. Although aeronautical warfare had relatively little success at the start of the war, actions at Taranto, Pearl Harbor, and the Coral Sea established the carrier as the dominant capital ship in place of the battleship. [398] [399] [400] In the Atlantic, escort carriers proved to be a vital part of Allied convoys, increasing the effective protection radius and helping to close the Mid-Atlantic gap. [401] Carriers were also more economical than battleships because of the relatively low cost of aircraft [402] and their not requiring to be as heavily armoured. [403] Submarines, which had proved to be an effective weapon during the First World War, [404] were anticipated by all sides to be important in the second. The British focused development on anti-submarine weaponry and tactics, such as sonar and convoys, while Germany focused on improving its offensive capability, with designs such as the Type VII submarine and wolfpack tactics. [405] [ better source needed ] Gradually, improving Allied technologies such as the Leigh light, hedgehog, squid, and homing torpedoes proved victorious over the German submarines. [406]

Land warfare changed from the static front lines of trench warfare of World War I, which had relied on improved artillery that outmatched the speed of both infantry and cavalry, to increased mobility and combined arms. The tank, which had been used predominantly for infantry support in the First World War, had evolved into the primary weapon. [407] In the late 1930s, tank design was considerably more advanced than it had been during World War I, [408] and advances continued throughout the war with increases in speed, armour and firepower. [ citation needed ] At the start of the war, most commanders thought enemy tanks should be met by tanks with superior specifications. [409] This idea was challenged by the poor performance of the relatively light early tank guns against armour, and German doctrine of avoiding tank-versus-tank combat. This, along with Germany's use of combined arms, were among the key elements of their highly successful blitzkrieg tactics across Poland and France. [407] Many means of destroying tanks, including indirect artillery, anti-tank guns (both towed and self-propelled), mines, short-ranged infantry antitank weapons, and other tanks were used. [409] Even with large-scale mechanisation, infantry remained the backbone of all forces, [410] and throughout the war, most infantry were equipped similarly to World War I. [411] The portable machine gun spread, a notable example being the German MG34, and various submachine guns which were suited to close combat in urban and jungle settings. [411] The assault rifle, a late war development incorporating many features of the rifle and submachine gun, became the standard postwar infantry weapon for most armed forces. [412]

Most major belligerents attempted to solve the problems of complexity and security involved in using large codebooks for cryptography by designing ciphering machines, the most well known being the German Enigma machine. [413] Development of SIGINT (signals intelligence) and cryptanalysis enabled the countering process of decryption. Notable examples were the Allied decryption of Japanese naval codes [414] and British Ultra, a pioneering method for decoding Enigma benefiting from information given to the United Kingdom by the Polish Cipher Bureau, which had been decoding early versions of Enigma before the war. [415] Another aspect of military intelligence was the use of deception, which the Allies used to great effect, such as in operations Mincemeat and Bodyguard. [414] [416]

Other technological and engineering feats achieved during, or as a result of, the war include the world's first programmable computers (Z3, Colossus, and ENIAC), guided missiles and modern rockets, the Manhattan Project's development of nuclear weapons, operations research and the development of artificial harbours and oil pipelines under the English Channel. [ citation needed ] Penicillin was first mass-produced and used during the war (see Stabilization and mass production of penicillin). [417]

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    Operation Barbarossa June 1941

    In June 1941, Hitler sent 3 million soldiers and 3,500 tanks into Russia. The Russians were taken by surprise as they had signed a treaty with Germany in 1939.

    Many Russian cities fell to Germany but Hitler had not expected the conquest of Russia to last into winter. The German soldiers did not have winter clothing and many froze to death.

    By November 1942 the tables were turning and the Russians won their first victory against Germany at the Battle of Stalingrad.

    Why is Thailand considered an Axis power in WWII? - History

    Almost 60 nations took part in World War II. The Axis powers consisted of Germany, Italy, and Japan, along with Albania, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Romania, and Thailand. The Allies, which included the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, eventually numbered 49 nations.

    During 1942, prospects for an Allied victory appeared slim. In the six months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces captured Guam, Wake Island, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Malaya and slashed deep into Burma. By early 1942, Japanese troops controlled most of the Western Pacific and large parts of Eastern and Southern Asia, leaving India and Australia vulnerable to attack.

    The situation in Europe was no better. During the first ten months of 1942, German submarines sank over 500 American merchant ships, threatening the United States' ability to provide supplies to Britain. In the spring, the German army surged deep into Soviet territory, advancing on Moscow and threatening Soviet oil fields in the south. In North Africa, German and Italian forces were sweeping toward the Suez Canal, and the British defense of Egypt was near collapse.

    In September 1942, the Red Army stopped the German advancement into the Soviet Union at Stalingrad--the most horrific battle of the Second World War. During the four month long battle, the combined battle deaths exceeded one million. Of the 10,000 men in the Soviet's 13th Guards Rifle Division, only 320 were still alive at the end of the battle.

    Lacking the strength to invade France from Britain, the British and the Americans attacked the Germans and Italians in North Africa. The Allied victory in North Africa allowed shipping to cross the Mediterranean in safety and made it possible for the Allies to invade Southern Europe. The Allies decided to invade Italy because that country appeared to be the Axis' weak point. Sicily fell in August 1943, after a campaign of slightly more than a month. Victory in Italy resulted in the overthrow of Benito Mussolini.

    In preparation for Operation Overlord (the Allied invasion of France), British and American forces instituted saturation bombing, dropping 2,697,473 tons of bombs on German territory, killing 305,000 civilians, and damaging over 5.5 million homes. The Allies massed more than three million soldiers in England under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Allied invasion began at 6:30 a.m. on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Nearly 6,000 Allied ships ferried 60,000 troops and their supplies across the English Channel into Northern France. Casualties among the first assault groups totaled 60 percent.

    It took six weeks to secure the beachheads. By then, Allied troops had captured the French port of Cherbourg, allowing the Allies to advance into Western Europe. Allied forces liberated Paris in August, and by mid-September Allied forces had crossed the German border.

    In December 1944, German troops launched a massive counteroffensive in the Ardennes Forest along the border of Belgium and Luxembourg. In the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans temporarily broke through Allied lines, but only slowed the Allied invasion by about six weeks.

    By February 1945, the Red Army was within 45 miles of Berlin. On April 30, Hitler committed suicide, and Germany surrendered a week later. On May 8, 1945, the Allies celebrated V-E (Victory in Europe) Day.

    The United States Declares War

    After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan achieved a long series of military successes. In December 1941, Guam, Wake Island, and Hong Kong fell to the Japanese, followed in the first half of 1942 by the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), Malaya, Singapore, and Burma. Japanese troops also invaded neutral Thailand and pressured its leaders to declare war on the United States and Great Britain. Only in mid-1942 were Australian and New Zealander forces in New Guinea and British forces in India able to halt the Japanese advance.

    The turning point in the Pacific war came with the American naval victory in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. The Japanese fleet sustained heavy losses and was turned back. In August 1942, American forces attacked the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, forcing a costly withdrawal of Japanese forces from the island of Guadalcanal in February 1943. Allied forces slowly gained naval and air supremacy in the Pacific, and moved methodically from island to island, conquering them and often sustaining significant casualties. The Japanese, however, successfully defended their positions on the Chinese mainland until 1945.

    In October 1944, American forces began retaking the Philippines from Japanese troops, who surrendered in August 1945. That same year, the United States Army Air Forces launched a strategic bombing campaign against Japan. British forces recaptured Burma. In early 1945, American forces suffered heavy losses during the invasions of Iwo Jima (February) and Okinawa (April), an island of strategic importance off the coast of the Japanese home islands. Despite these casualties and suicidal Japanese air attacks, known as Kamikaze attacks, American forces conquered Okinawa in mid-June 1945.

    Who were the Axis Powers in World War 2?

    The "Axis" powers were a military and political alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan. Its goals were to achieve vast expansion through aggressive warfare. They promised to fight against Communism and never interfere with each other's foreign takeovers. They fought against the Allied powers (chiefly the US, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union) in World War 2.

    Major Axis Powers: Germany, Japan, Italy.

    Minor Axis Powers: Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia (joined or left the alliance separately).

    The three main Axis powers were:

    • Germany: Führer (Leader) Adolf Hitler.
    • Italy: Duce (Leader) Mussolini.
    • Japan: Prime Minister Tojo Hideki.

    The two main powers originally referred to as the Rome-Berlin Axis were Germany and Italy. They were joined by Japan in the Tripartite Pact signed on September 27, 1940 in Berlin. A number of other nations joined this alliance under various other pacts and all were thereafter generally referred to as Axis Nations. These included Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Croatia.

    Axis Powers in World War 2

    • Major Powers of the Axis: Germany, Japan and Italy (Italy later fought against the Axis).
    • Minor Powers of the Axis: Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia.
    • Co-Belligerents of the Axis: Thailand (Japan) and Finland (Germany).
    • Japanese Puppet States: Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Burma, The Second Phillipine Republic.
    • Italian Puppet State: Albania.
    • German Puppet State: Italian Social Republic.
    • Collaborators: Vichy France.
    • Neutral, but aiding the Axis: Spain.

    Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.

    The Central Powers are in WW1 it consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria,The Ottoman Empire & Turkey. The Axis Powers in WW2 consisted of Germany (Adolph Hitler) Italy (Benito Mussolini) & Japan (Emperor Hirohito).

    The Axis powers were on the losing side in World War II, they included

    Finland fought against the U.S.S.R. alongside the axis, but is usually considered a "co-belligerent" rather than an Axis power.

    Iraq was briefly a member of the Axis during May of 1941, but they were destroyed by the Empire of Britain's army within that one month.

    6. Hitler's Underestimation of Sea Power

    Germany's navy never really got the respect or support from Hitler it deserved. Led by the fanatical Nazi Admiral Karl Doenitz, the Kriegsmarine played second-fiddle to the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe throughout the war. Yes, Hitler supported the use of U-boats and wolf-pack tactics, but as a man obsessed with land battles, he never quite groked the importance of establishing superiority at sea. After the war, Doenitz attributed this shortcoming to the loss of the war.

    Prior to the war, when setting the budget for what was supposed to become the world's largest stadium , Hitler told Albert Speer: "That's less than two Bismarck class battleships. Look how quickly an armored ship gets destroyed, and if it survives it becomes scrap metal in 10 years anyway. But this building will still be standing centuries from now."

    Hitler’s forgotten attempt to build the world’s largest Olympic stadium

    On September 7, 1937, German construction workers laid the cornerstone for what was to become the…

    But Germany, with all its powerful forces on land, did not have the sea power to stage the invasion of Britain. When preparing for the war, Hitler failed to recognize the importance of the British fleet as a significant threat. In the final analysis, it was Allied sea power which salvaged the situation. Indeed, the Second World War was a war of logistics. It's impossible to know what greater success Germany might have had in the Atlantic (or elsewhere ), and what further destruction it could have inflicted on Allied convoys, had the German Navy been given even the minimum sea power required for waging a global war.

    Could the Nazis have starved Britain into submission?

    At the dawn of the Second World War, the island nation of Britain faced the grim possibility that…

    Causes of World War II

    There are many causes of the war and some of them go back to the end of the First World War. The end of World War I and the peace that followed in 1919 changed the face of Europe and the borders of countries completely. New nations emerged. The countries that lost the war, especially Germany and Austria had to give up a lot of land. They also had to pay money to other countries for the damages that happened during the war.

    Economic problems

    After the war many countries were in debt. The losers had problems paying reparations and the winners borrowed a lot of money from the United States which they could not pay back. Inflation in many countries left people without any savings. In the 1930s the Great Depression, starting out in the USA, spread to Europe and stopped the continent's recovery. Millions of people were out of work and poverty rose.

    Germany After World War I

    Political movements

    The problems after the war made the governments in many countries weaker and weaker. Two movements became more and more powerful: Communism, known as the Left, called for a revolution of the working class. Fascism, known as the Right, wanted a strong national government

    The Axis and Allied Powers

    Two groups of nations fought against each other during the Second World War.

    During the 1930s Germany, Italy and Japan led a group of nations called the Axis. The leaders of these countries were dictators. They wanted their own countries to grow and others to become weaker. In the years before the beginning of World War II all three Axis powers had strengthened and modernized their armies.

    In the 1930s the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany. In 1933 the party's leader Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor and became known as der Führer. He promised to take revenge on the countries that had defeated Germany in the First World War and make Germany the most powerful country in the world. He also claimed that only Germans were the true race and wanted to get rid of Jews, Communists and other weaker people.

    In Italy Benito Mussolini, known as the Il Duce, became the leader of the Fascist Party, which gained many supporters. He promised to bring law and order to the country and help solve its economic problems.

    Hitler and Mussolini in June 1940

    The Axis Powers invaded other countries and expanded their territory. At the beginning of the 1930s Japan invaded Manchuria because it had a lot of raw materials. In 1938 it attacked China and later on expanded to Southeast Asia. In 1935 Italy took over Ethiopia. Germany started its conquest of foreign territories by invading Austria. Italy and Germany also sent soldiers to help another dictator, Francisco Franco, in the Spanish Civil War.

    The Allies were made up of a total of 50 countries. They were led by Great Britain, the Soviet Union, France, China and the United States and opposed the Axis.

    The beginning of the war

    On September 30, 1938 Great Britain, France and Germany signed the Munich Agreement. It gave Germany the right to take over the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia. The two Allies hoped it would satisfy Hitler and keep them out of the war. The agreement, however, was broken and Hitler not only invaded the Sudetenland but took over all of Czechoslovakia.

    It was clear that Poland, on Germany's eastern border, would be the next target. Great Britain and France promised to help Poland if it were attacked. In August 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union signed a "non-aggression pact", in which they promised not to attack each other. Germany did this so that it would not have to fight on two fronts.

    On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and World War II had begun.

    Why is Thailand considered an Axis power in WWII? - History

    This focus on Southeast Asia during World War II occurs within the context of an introductory interdisciplinary college course on Southeast Asia at Northern Illinois University. The discipline, the lens being used to focus on Southeast Asia is the discipline of history. Historians use sequence and chronology as primary organizing principles. Historians are interested in how things change over time, in how social institutions, political power arrangements, economic realities are different from one point in time to another. Historians look for cause and effect. When did World War II begin and end for Southeast Asia? How was Southeast Asia different after World War II? What caused these changes? How important were the internal forces for change? Or were the people of Southeast Asia merely reacting to pressures from outside of Southeast Asia?

    Assignment: In preparation for this lecture the required reading is Milton Osborne’s "The Second World War in Southeast Asia, Southeast Asia: An Introductory History. Chapter 9, second edition, Sydney, 1983.

    1. Southeast Asia on the brink of World War II [See map: "Extent of European and American Interest in Southeast Asia on the Brink of World War II" on handout.]
      1. Extent and nature of Western [European and American influence (17 th century to early 20 th century)].
      2. Reasons for the West’s declining interest and involvement in the Southeast Asian colonies.
      3. Rising nationalistic, independence, anti-colonial movements, and European reactions.
      4. Status of overseas Chinese and of Chinese-Southeast Asians.
      5. Increased/rising Japanese interest in Southeast Asia.
      6. Why Southeast Asia is drawn into the War?
      7. When does World War II begin for Southeast Asia? [See Time Line on Handout]
      1. Japan did not have to use military force to conquer Southeast Asia. There were many reasons that Japan appealed to Southeast Asians.
      2. Japan advanced policies and propaganda to win over Southeast Asia.
      3. Southeast Asians’ reactions and responses to the Japanese.
        1. Japan controlled Southeast Asia in surprisingly quick time (less than six months).
        2. Popular favor shifted away from Japan as the U.S. entered the Pacific Theatre of the war with more intention – and military power.
        3. Southeast Asian NATIONALISTS asserted own independent identity.
        1. Burma - BIA
        2. Vietnam - Viet Minh
        3. Philippines - MacArthur
        4. Malaya and Singapore - Chinese vehemently anti-Japan
        5. Indonesia - Sareket Islam
        6. Thailand - Dual Diplomacy
        1. Primary changes were political international alignments and politics relative to Southeast Asia change
        2. Increased assimilation of Chinese
        3. Southeast Asian nationalists ascending.
        1. [see map on handout]Extent of European and American (= Western) influence:
          1. Review Western colonies:
            1. U.S. - Philippines - independence had been promised.
            2. French - "Indochina" (5 states)
            3. British - Burma, Malaya, Singapore
            4. Dutch - "Dutch East Indies" (Indonesia . Java)
            5. Variations in the extent and nature of the economic, political, and cultural influence
            6. Variations in progress toward independence.
            7. Thailand managed to remain the only nation not colonized. Thailand parlayed its fortuitous geographic location into a buffer state status playing the British off against the French. Thailand did, however, have to give up some of its outlying vassal states and did succumb to British penetration of its economy.
            8. All of Southeast Asia had been of interest to the Western imperialists. Thailand alone was able to resist colonization, but even Thailand felt the encroaching pressure from the French to its east and Britain from the north and south. On the eve of the war, Japan could appeal to Thailand promising to help it regain territories which had been reluctantly ceded to the French along the Mekong River, to the British in the Shan states and to the British on the Malay Peninsula.

            "Pan Thai" map marking the widest extension of Thai suzerainty in the 19 th Century. A significant aspect of Phibun Songkhram’s "nationalism" was the identification of the Thai nation with all Thai or T’ai peoples, including the Lao and the Shan and reaching even to the Black T’ai in Vietnam and the T’ai in Sipsongphanna in southern China.
            1. They were preoccupied with "home" problems, the worldwide depression, German threat
            2. The colonies were not the financial success hoped
            3. The colonies needed too much investment in infrastructure, in education, and in political (police, military, bureaucracies) control
            4. There was a general increase in anti-imperialism sentiments at home sympathy in Europe and U.S. for national self-determination of all peoples (spirit of Versailles) was on the rise.
            1. "Core" areas – lower Burma, North Vietnam (Hue, Tonkin), and Java – Sareket Islam
            2. "Rebels" identified/arrested by colonial powers
            3. (Review previous "Crossroads" lecture on nationalism in Southeast Asia.)
            1. They had been brought to Southeast Asia by Europeans to solve labor shortage Southeast Asia relatively under-populated compared to China.
            2. Contract workers paid passage by working, almost all male, young.
            3. "Sojourner" mentality, intended to return home, sent money home.
            4. Worked as laborers on docks, in rice mills, on rubber plantations, in tin mines.
            5. Many of those who stayed became middlemen, had linking jobs, enabling products to be exported (mills, factories, storage, sales, banking, accounting).
            6. Rise of Chinese-Southeast Asian cohorts in coastal enclaves result of intermarriage of Chinese men with indigenous women evolved to the great cities of Southeast Asia.
            7. Southeast Asian cities are Chinese cities in character, purpose, population.
            8. Assimilation/separatism – dependent largely on attitudes and policies in each country.
            9. There were some who questioned where the Chinese and Chinese-Southeast Asians’ loyalties lay.
            10. Overseas Chinese were entrepreneurial, adventuresome, capitalistic did not fit into new (communist) China.
            1. Southeast Asia was the natural hinterland to supply food and fuels to the developing industrial economy of Japan.
            2. Some quite highly developed Japanese economic outposts – plantations, e.g., in Davao on the southeast coast of Mindanao in the Philippines.
            3. Some examples minor cultural expansion (but this was so limited that during World War II, Japanese and Southeast Asians generally used English to communicate).

            Time Line of World War II in Southeast Asia

            1930s Worldwide economic depression
            Japan into China
            Germany into eastern and western Europe
            Rising Southeast Asian nationalism
            Decreasing Western interest in Asian colonies

            1940 MacArthur pleads for aid to fortify the Philippines
            Japanese cultural and economic expansion
            June – fall of France (to Hitler’s advance)

            1941 Japan into French Indochina
            December 7 – Pearl Harbor
            Japan moves on Manila, Thai coast, Singapore, Indonesia on the same day

            1942 Japan and Burma Independence Army into Burma
            Japan defeats United Kingdom at Singapore
            Philippines show greatest resistance to Japan
            Japan welcomed in Indonesia
            Japan and Thailand Alliance

            1944 Southeast Asian Resistance Groups increase and are more public with their anti-Japan activities

            1945 August – A bombs
            September-December – Europeans attempt return

            1. Japan was attractive to some Southeast Asians because:
              1. Japan was a "success story" – rapid development, 1904 Russo-Japanese war, control of China
              2. Rise of Japan debunked myth of European superiority
              3. Japan represented an alternative mode of development (state capitalism)
              4. An alternative place to get education, technology, capital
              5. A refuge for anti-imperialist and anti-colonial nationalistic Southeast Asians. Japan welcomed nationalist leaders whom the colonial governments had forced into exile.
              1. Calls for racial solidarity = ASIA for the ASIATICS (racist)
              2. Education programs in Japan and in Southeast Asia – often on religious/cultural themes
              3. Brothers-kinship terms ( with elder/younger status always noted in Asian languages)
              4. Promising independence (giving refuge to "rebels," emptying colonial jails of dissidents in Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma in 1942
              5. Recognizing local leaders, language, flag
              6. Promising economic benefits = GREATER EAST ASIA CO-PROSPERITY SPHERE (an East Asian merchantilist system with Japan as the "mother" country, the industrialized center. Southeast Asia would provide raw materials for Japanese industries and food for the Japanese people. Southeast Asia would eventually become a market for Japanese manufactured products).
              7. Anti-colonial/anti-imperialist propaganda (see political cartoons, posters)

              The following two cartoons are reprinted from John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. Pantheon, New York, 1986, p.196 and p.200.

              a. "People of the Southern Region" appeared in Osaka Puck in December 1942 as part of a "before-and-after" sequence depicting Asia under Western domination and after Japanese liberation. It reveals many of the ways the Japanese signified their superiority vis-a-vis other Asians. Here, the familiar purifying sun (labeled "Co-Prosperity Sphere") beams down on Indonesia, driving out the Dutch, while the Japanese hand clasps the native's as that of an unmistakable patriarch--indeed, literally as the hand of God (a conceit Western illustrators also used). The Japanese hand is far lighter in color than the dark-skinned native's and a jacket cuff is in evidence, whereas the "southern person," obviously a manual laborer, is half-naked and implicitly half-civilized. Not only is his inferior "proper place" as a race, nation, and culture absolutely clear, but so also is his subordinate role in the division of labor within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
                    • The next three examples are copies of posters among those collected by a Thai official from Phibun’s group who worked with the Japanese in Thailand during World War II, Sang Pattanothai (Khwamnuk nai Krong Khang/Reflections in Prison, Bangkok, 1956).
            2. c. Puppeteer – copy of a Japanese Army poster in Thailand during World War II. Seizing the anti-colonialist argument, the Japanese army encouraged the Thais to see Britain as the enemy, as the master puppeteer or manipulator of Thailand.
              d. Japanese soldier aggressively charging Britain. Japan promised to drive the British predatory lion out and implied that the U.S. (The Roosevelt-faced animal) would stand by and let Britain be ousted.
              e. John Bull being ousted. The Japanese soldier in front with the Japanese flag on his arm – succeeded in getting the Thai to cooperate with him and run Britain (John Bull, here depicted as a schoolboy) off the map of Southeast Asia.
                  1. In less than six months, Japan (to its surprise) controlled Southeast Asia. Japanese was welcomed in some places by cheering crowds.
                  2. Early positive reactions and welcome to Japan often faded as Japan was unable to fulfill its promises. In general in the early part of the war, while Japan was unchallenged and still able to promise Southeast Asians their independence and an increased share of the economic development, the Southeast Asians went along with Japan. By late 1943 and early 1944 the U.S. finally had the European problem under control and had built enough ships and plans to mount a two-ocean navy and a global air force. The U.S. entered the Pacific Theatre in earnest. It became increasingly clear that Japan was over-extended. It was running out of funds, personnel replacements, and fuel. Most Japanese troops in Southeast Asia were living off the land with infrequent or no deliveries of supplies or war materiel from home. Many Southeast Asians shifted back to neutral or pro-West positions as it became clear that Japan would lose the war (late 1942, early 1943).
                  3. Southeast Asian nationalists took advantage of the vacuum – (a combination of the loosening grip of Japan and the failure of the Westerners to return to Asia). They stepped up to leadership roles.
                  1. BURMA – Burma Independence Army (BIA) founded by Burmese in exile in Japan. BIA grew from 30 heroes (including Aung San, father of contemporary Burma leader Aung San Suu Kyi) to 1,000 to 10,000 "patriots" who accompanied the Japanese invaders in early 1942. Japan granted Burma independence August 1943, but it was independence in name only. Japan was really overextended. Labor shortages and failure of Japan to resupply soldiers required Japan to use POWs ("Bridge on the River Kwai") and to use conscripted Burmese labor. Burmese nationalists realized that Japan could not deliver on its promises. By 1944 there was a growing anti-Japanese movement, the Anti-Fascist Peoples Freedom League. The AFPFL, first very anti-Japanese, later became the Independence Movement against the British (British granted independence January 1948).
                  2. VIETNAM (French Indochina) – under Vichy France (collaborated with German conquerors) from June 1940 Vietnamese knew Vichy French were puppets of Germans. Viet Minh had resisted the French earlier. During World War II Viet Minh were the resistance against Japanese. The communists and Ho Chi Minh were strongest element in the Viet Minh, the nationalist group. Very little nationalism in Laos and Cambodia (French had used Vietnamese to govern Laos and Cambodia). U.S.-OSS assistance to Viet Minh, "Flirtation" with Ho Chi Minh in 1944 and 1945 – but U.S. later aided French against Viet Minh.
                  3. PHILIPPINES – longest armed resistance to Japanese U.S. and Filipinos fought together against Japanese for six months.
                    1. General MacArthur and Philippines had begged U.S. to send support in 1940 and 1941, Death March, U.S. and Filipino army forced out of Philippines. "I shall return," General MacArthur said and he did.
                    2. "Collaborationist" = Filipinos who cooperated with Japan.
                    3. Bitter memories of Japanese barbarism remain with Filipinos even 50 years later.
                    4. U.S. had been trying to disengage, to "decolonize" before war independence had been promised.
                    1. Malays unarmed – no contest for Japanese
                    2. The Japanese were very anti-Chinese, and vice versa Chinese in Malaya very opposed to Japan
                    3. Comparatively little development of nationalist movement on Malay Peninsula. Chinese, Indians, and Malays were quite distinct communities rather than in a nationalistic union.
                    1. Dutch humiliated by Japanese naval war
                    2. Cheering welcome to the Japanese in Java as arriving Japanese released Hatta, Sukarno, et al. National heroes from Dutch prisons in Indonesia
                    3. When it was clear that independence more symbolic than real, outbreaks against Japan began to increase.
                    4. Nationalists used the World War II period to organize and develop. They were ready to fight Dutch when they tried to return (Review growth of Sareket Islam from previous lecture).

                    The war in Asia ended earlier than the British, Dutch, and French had thought it would. The Americans had forced Japan’s surrender in early August 1945 with the use of the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Allies had planned to re-enter their Southeast Asian colonies sometime between September and November of 1945. The British, casting Thailand as an enemy-occupied nation, had intended to "liberate" Thailand from the Japanese in September or October. Instead , when the Japanese in Thailand surrendered their weapons and returned property they had expropriated, the Thai government – now in the hands of the Seri Thai backed by the U.S.-OSS Free Thai – were the only authorities on-site to receive the surrender.

                    1. Decline in Western political interest and power. "Sun setting on the empire. "
                    2. Myth of European (Western) superiority debunked/exposed.
                    3. ** Rise of Southeast Asian nationalist, independence movements.
                    4. "Rising sun," rise in Japanese political and economic interest and influence in Southeast Asia. (This continues even though Japan "loses the war," it earns the peace.)
                    5. "Consciousness" and status of overseas Chinese changes Chinese gradually become more assimilated into Southeast Asian societies.
                    6. Increased U.S. interest in Southeast Asia (U.S. = "accidental" heir to empires of Europeans. U.S. buys and sells directly with Southeast Asia rather than through British middle men. U.S. sees Southeast Asia as an arena of the Cold War).

                    ** Most important. Many Southeast Asian nationalists saw the shifting power structures, the chaos, and crisis of rule during World War II as a time of opportunity. They took advantage of the Europeans’ absence to build up their independence movements. They seized the opportunity to advance their causes. They demonstrated their leadership competencies.

                    Watch the video: Η Ταϊβάν θυμάται τον Β παγκόσμιο πόλεμο (January 2022).