By Emma Stockburn.
The Second World War was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries, more than thirty nations, were involved and broken into two distinct sides. This included the world’s great powers; and two opposing military sides. The Allies; United Kingdom and France, and China in Asia since 1937, followed in 1941 by the Soviet Union and the United States) and the Axis powers Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Starting in 1939 the war directly involved more than 100 million people across the world. This war was unlike any other in many ways included the: vastness of the theatres war, the use of astonishing levels of industry, science and economic power to push forward the war effort and resulted in the deaths of more than 70 million individuals, including civilians as well as military personal. The Second World War also saw the use of massacres, genocide, starvation and disease as weapons and the only use of nuclear weapons during war.
By 1937 Japan and China were at war though a formal declaration of war hadn’t been declared. World War Two then is seen as to have begun on the 1 September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. This was the conclusion of a complex series of relations and pacts, including the Munich Accord between Germany and Britain as well as Germany and the Soviet Union. But this action, the invasion, set in motion a promise made by Britains, Neville Chamberlain and both France and the United Kingdom declaring war on Germany.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Poland, Finland, Romania and the Baltic states.
Campaigns then rose in North Africa and East Africa, and then Fall of France in mid-1940. The war then continued primarily between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. This was followed my battles in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, and the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history. This Eastern Front, known to the Russians as the Great Patriot War, trapped the Axis, most importantly, the German forces, in a war of attrition.
Then In December 1941, Japan launched an unexpected attack on the United States, at Pearl Harbour, as well as European colonies, including Malaya, in the Pacific. The U.S. was swift in its declaration of war against Japan, and the European Axis powers quickly declared war on the U.S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally.
Japan soon captured much of the Western Pacific, but the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942 when Japan lost the critical Battle of Midway, which was a decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theatre of the war. This battle took place only six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
In 1942 and moving into the next year, Germany and Italy were defeated in North Africa, in the Western Desert Campain and then, decisively, at Stalingrad. This was the wars bloodiest battle with the deaths of about 850,000 Axis soldiers dead, missing or wounded in the battle. As well as more than a million Soviet soldiers killed, missing or wounded in the Soviet Union.
From 1943 the Axis forces were defeated in various locations including the European Eastern Front, the invasion by the Allies in Italy and a number of victories in the Pacific over the Japanese. These losses continued in 1944 with the Allies moving into German occupied France, the continued show of force from the Soviet Union towards the Germans. The Japanese faced a major reversal of fortune in mainland Asia, in Central China, South China and Burma. The Allies also disabled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands.
In Europe, the Germans gave unconditional surrender on the 8May 1945. Germany had come to this decision after the capture of Berlin by the Soviet Union, the taking of German land by Allies and the suicide of Adlof Hitler.
There was then a call for the surrender of the Japanese Forces with the Potesdam Declaration. This was a declaration given to Japan by the United States, Great Britain, and China on July 26, 1945. The Japanese refused to settle under the terms of the treaty and in an unprecedented act of war, before or since, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This act lead to the surrender of the Japanese on the 15 August 1945.
Lae Area, New Guinea, 1943. Australian troops disembarking from American landing ships. Australian War Memorial.
It is estimated that at least 60 million people died in the war, many military personal, up to 20 million but many more were civilians, an estimate of 40 million. Tactics used by Axis forces, many deemed as war crimes, claimed the lives of these civilians. This includes what is known as the Holocaust by Nazi Germany, this lead to the deaths of 6 million Jews, 4 million deemed “unworthy of life” including the mentally ill, disabled, homosexuals and Soviet prisoners of war. In addition, almost 3 million Polish citizens. They were held in and died in concentration camps.
Both the Japanese and Russians treatment of their prisoners of war lead to the deaths of many soldiers and civilians from neglect, illness and starvation. Including up to 8000 Australians military men.
Tribunals were set up by the Allies, and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and against the Japanese.
World War II: https://www.britannica.com/event/World-War-II
World War Two Summary: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/ww2_summary_01.shtml
World War II Timeline: https://claudiahumphries.weebly.com/wwii-timeline.html
Second World War: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/second-world-war
Accepting the Japanese Surrender: https://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/31/article/
World War II: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II
Military History of Australia During World War II: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_Australia_during_World_War_II
Borneo Campaign: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borneo_campaign_(1945)
Japan in World War 2: https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/stolenyears/ww2/japan