WWII

Jacob Phillips

Participants

This war was, needless to say, an international conflict. There were two internally unified opposing sides: the Axis Powers and the Allied Powers. In the former was the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Italy, and Japan. In the latter were the U.S., Soviet Union, China, France, and the U.K. Many other countries accompanied both sides.
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Beginning

There were a number of events that precipitated this war; there are just as many opinions about the war's true start.

-1931: Japan invaded China's Manchuria which disprupted the League of Nations and set an example for the international invasions in Europe of WWII.

-1933: Adolf Hitler came to power. As the leading force of the Axis and director of the Holocaust, his appointment ws significant

-1939: Germany invaded Poland, starting the trend of imperial invasion throughout Europe. This trend was a defining feature of the war itself.

-1941: The U.S. entered WWII after attack on Pearl Harbor. As a leading force on the world stage, its involvement was integral to the growth of the conflict and led inclusion of other European and non-European countries, arguably forming the basis for the status of true world war.

Leaders

A few leaders were prominent in the conflict, representing their respective allies and political values.

-Adolf Hitler. The causes of Hitler's fame and influence are well known: his starting of the Holocaust, his invasions of Austria and Polandas the leader of Germany, and his leadership in guiding other countries (Italy and the Soviet Union) to fascism.

-Josef Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union from the 20s to the 50s. At the forefront of rising dictatorship and communism.

-Benito Mussolini, leader of Italy during the war. One of the co-faces of fascism and as such a nemisis of the Allies.

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Major Battles/Conflicts

-Battle of Britain (mid- to late 1940). Waged by the Germans on Britain and fought primarily via air strikes called the Blitz. Though it affected many major damages on British infrastructure, Germany was unsuccessful at attaining its goals of deeper attack and British declaration of armistice.


-Battle of Moscow (October 1941--January 1942). Committed by the Germans on the Soviets at the Eastern Front. Failed German attempt at seizing the "heart" of Russia. After initial success, the Germans were overcome by the Soviet armies, a major blow to the German war effort.


-Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945). Attacks on France, Belgium, and Luxembourg by the Germans in a final war effort. Resulted in economic and material hits to German military. Though the Allies were caught by surprise and on the defensive, the conflict did not prevent their ultimate success.


-Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945). Offensive by the U.S. on the Japanese at the island of Iwo Jima. The Americans were victorious, though not without significant bloodshed on both sides. This, too, was an end-of-war effort.


-Battle of Berlin (20 April--2 May 1945). Invasion of Germany at Berlin by the Soviet Union. The final major battle of the war, the Soviets were quite successful. The war's end could be placed at the moment of this battle. During it, a number of German leaders, including Adolf Hitler, committed suicide.


-Battle of Okinawa (April--mid-June 1945). Offensive by the U.S. on the Japanese at the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa. One of the bloodiest battles of the war. The Americans won, though the strategic value of the islands is disputed.


End of War

WWII came to a close at the end of 1945 with Allied victory. The Allies established governmental occupation in Germany and Austria and enacted anti-nazi policies. To reinstate relative global stability, the UN was formed of the Allied countries. Redistribution of land occurred among many European countries. The West-East dynamic of Europe and the Soviet Union took the center stage in the aftermath of the war.


60,000,000 died in the war, 3% of the global population in 1939. Most of them were Russian, Polish, Chinese, and German.

Significance

Of all conflicts through history, WWII had the most fatalities. As an event so recent in our past, its effects are still significant. The Holocaust is recognized world-over as the horrible atrocity it is; it is still (and rightly so) a touchy subject. Resting in our minds, too, is the awareness that such a leader as Hitler could come to power and dictate his country to commit such atrocities with little resistance internally. Yet the most important lesson of the war, to not have it, has yet to be learned, for millions of lives are at risk perpetually due directly and indirectly to international and national conflicts.