The Course of World War II
Robbie Coens, Steven Arterbery, Jason Hogle
Europe at War
Hitler stuns Europe with the speed and efficiency of the German attack on Poland. Within four weeks of Germany’s attack, Poland had surrendered. Poland was divided by Germany and the Soviet Union.
Hitler’s Early Victories
On April 9, 1940 Hitler resumed attacks after the phony war in Denmark and Norway.One month after that he launched an attack on Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
The Battle of Britain
Hitler knew that a successful invasion of Britain would require control of the air. Germany started to bomb major British air and naval bases, harbors,communication centers, and war industries. British’s use of an air radar and their determination kept them in the fight for some time but eventually they suffered too many air force critical losses. The tide changed when Hitler made the mistake of switching the bombings from military targets to civilian targets. This allowed the time for the British to rebuild an air force and eventually inflict heavy losses on the Luftwaffe, German air force.
Attack on the Soviet Union
Hitler believed that the only reason Britain was still in the war was because it expected Soviet Union support. Therefore, Hitler planned attacks on the Soviet Union. In order to make his attacks successful, Hitler had to seize both Greece and Yugoslavia two months before the the attack on the Soviet Union. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The invasion continued through the year, but by the time the winter came around the Germans were forced to stop due to not having winter uniforms along with the fierce Soviet resistance.
Japan at War
December 7,1941 japan attacked a us Naval base at Pearl Harbor. Also on that day they sent some units to the Philippines and started going to the British colony of Malaya. After the attack on the british colony the japanese invaded the Dutch east indies. Finally by 1942 japan took over most all of southeast asia.
The Allies Advance
The entry of the US into the war created a new coalition, the Grand Alliance. Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union, in order to overcome mutual suspicion, agreed to stress military operations and ignore political differences. They agreed to fight until the Axis Powers- Germany, Italy, and Japan- surrendered unconditionally. The unconditional surrender principle, which required the Axis Powers to surrender without any favorable conditions, cemented the Grand Alliance and made it nearly impossible for Hitler to divide his foes.
The European Theater
Defeat was not in sight for Hitler in the beginning of 1942. German forces in North Africa broke through British defense in Egypt and led to the capture of the entire Crimea in the spring of 1942. After this, however, was a turning point in the war for the Allies. British and American troops invaded French North Africa, forcing the Italian and German troops to surrender in May of 1943. At the same time, Hitler ordered his other troops to take Stalingrad, a major industrial center on the Volga. Before this could happen, the Soviets counter-attacked them by surrounding them, and cutting off their supply lines. This resulted in the defeat of the German Sixth Army, considered the best German troops. Hitler now realized he would not defeat the Soviets.
The Asian Theatre
A major change in the tides of battle happened on May 7, 1942, at the battle of Coral Sea, when US naval forces stopped a Japanese advance, and saved Australia from a Japanese invasion. The turning point of the war in Asia came on June 4, 1942 at the battle of Midway Island, when the US air force destroyed 4 Japanese aircraft carriers, establishing the US’s naval superiority in the Pacific. By the fall of 1942, Allied forces gathered for two major operations. One major operation was commanded by Douglas MacArthur, and moved through the Philippines through New Guinea and the South Pacific Islands. The second major operation moved across the Pacific with a combination of U.S. Army, Marine, and Navy attacks on Japanese held islands. The policy was to capture some Japanese-held islands and bypass others, “island hopping all the way up to Japan. Bitter engagements off the waters of the Soloman Islands from August to November of 1942, showed that Japanese fortunes were fading.
The European Theater continued
German troops occupied much of Italy and set up defense lines in the hills of South Rome. The Allies advanced up the Italian Peninsula which led to a battle resulting in many casualties. Yet the Allies still prevailed, and Rome fell to them on June 4, 1944. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), The Allied forces under U.S General Dwight D. Eisenhower landed on the beaches of Normandy in history’s greatest naval invasion. After this successful invasion, Allied forces pushed inland and broke through German defense lines. Allied forces continued through France, and by March 1945, proceeded into Germany where they met up with the Soviets. The Soviets continued through the Baltic States, occupied Warsaw, and entered into Berlin. Along the southern front went through Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide and on May 7, 1945, Germany commanders surrendered. The war was now over in Europe.
The Asian Theater continued
The war in Asia still raged on. Beginning in 1943, US forces had gone on the offensive and advanced, slowly at times, to the main Japanese Islands in the first months of 1945. Harry S. Truman during this time had taken office in the US after president Roosevelt’s death in April. Truman had a difficult decision to make during his time in office; should he use the newly developed atomic weapons to end the war with Japan, or find a different solution. Truman and his advisers eventually became convinced that an invasion of Japan would result in heavy casualties of US troops. Even though there were only two bombs available, and no one knew how effective they would be, Truman made the decision to use the bombs. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, and the second on Nagasaki three days later. The bombs leveled the cities and killed thousands of soldiers and civilians instantly. Thousands more died months later from radiation. Japan finally surrendered on August 14, bringing World War II to an end. Throughout the war, in total, 17 million soldiers died in battle and another 20 million civilians had perished as well. Some estimates even placed the death toll at 50 million people.
Start video at 2:20
Hiroshima: Dropping the Bomb
1. Do you think it was right for the United States to use the atomic bombs to end the war? Why or why not?2. Do you think Germany could have taken a different approach to the war rather than being so overly aggressive? Explain.
Glencoe National Geographic World History Textbook by Jackson J. Spielvogel (pages 814-822)