Stockman's History Extravaganza
World War II
What We Are Covering
Hitler and Germany
During the 1920's and 193's, totalitarian dictators rose to power throughout much of Europe. Hitler’s goal was to establish an empire he called the “Third Reich”. Hitler ruled Germany with an iron fist and he wanted to conquer other parts of Europe as well and in the end the Soviet Union. British and French leaders met with Hitler in Munich to express concern but instead of answering with military force they chose appeasement. Britain and France signed the Munich Pact which agreed to let Germany keep the territories it had taken in exchange for a pledge not to take anymore.
Stalin and The Soviet Union
In the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin gained control of the Communist Party and became the country’s leader; Stalin executed many of his rivals and political opponents. He tolerated no political opposition and strictly limited the Soviet people’s freedom.
Mussolini and Italy
Benito Mussolini rose to power in 1922. Mussolini was a fascist. The government did not own all the businesses and property the way it would under a communist regime. Mussolini’s government certainly controlled all aspects of business and politics. Mussolini did not allow any political opposition. In 1935, Mussolini’s forces invaded what we know as Ethiopia and was condemned by the League of Nations. Mussolini withdrew Italy from the League of Nations and Italy and Germany became allies.
Tojo and Japan
Do Not Involve Us! The U.S. remains Neutral
As the Axis Powers became increasingly militaristic, the U.S. remained neutral. Many U.S. citizens still believed in isolationism. The devastation left many in the U.S. unwilling to become involved in another international conflict. With the Great Depression, many wanted the government to fix problems at home rather than abroad. Responding to this, Congress passed the Neutrality Act in 1935.This act prohibited the sale of weapons to warring nations.
On September 1, 1939, German forces invaded Poland starting World War II in Europe. In the spring of 1940, Germany conquered Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and eventually France. On June 14, German troops entered the city of Paris. Hitler made France sign an armistice giving half of the country up to German control. The armistice was a symbol of redemption for Germany’s defeat in WWI.
A few months later, Hitler’s air force launched an air attack against Great Britain. Hitler knew he had to destroy Britain's might royal air force before he could cross the English Channel and launch an invasion. During the nightly raids which happened almost every night, residents of London slept in subways for cover. Churchill proved to be a great leader who inspired the British people with a strong sense of nationalism. Thanks to the Royal Air Force, the British were able to fight off the Germans.
Leasing and Lending
While Hitler steamrolled through Europe, the U.S. also had one eye on Japan. Japan had been hurt by worldwide depression; Japan also lacked many of the natural resources it needed. The Japanese military saw aggressive expansion as their answer to their problems. When the U.S. responded to Japan’s aggression by imposing an embargo on oil and steel, many in Japan’s government felt the time had come for Japan to take what it needed by force
Japan realized it could not make the advances it wanted without being threatened by the U.S. naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Although he doubted Japan’s ability to win the war with the U.S. Japanese Admiral Yamamoto knew his country was determined to expand.
Yamamoto developed a plan to sail 6 aircraft carriers across the Pacific undetected and launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Maintaining radio silence the entire way, the Japanese ships reached their destination as planned. U.S. intelligence knew that the Japanese were planning an attack of some kind. They just didn't know where. They thought Pearl Harbor was too shallow for planes to drop torpedoes.
A few minutes before 8 am on December 7, 1941, Japanese airplanes began the first wave of bombings on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. U.S. military personnel actually detected the incoming planes on radar but thinking it was U.S. planes they dismissed it. In less than two hours, the Japanese forces sank or seriously damaged a dozen naval vessels.
They destroyed almost two hundred warplanes, and killed or wounded nearly 3000 people. The next day, President Roosevelt emotionally described December 7th as “a day which will live in infamy.”
Serious disagreements arose between the Soviet Union and its Western Allies, the U.S. and Great Britain. The Americans and the British did not want to launch an invasion of Western Europe until enemy forces were driven from North Africa. Stalin resented his allies’ reluctance to invade France and create a western front. He even accused the two countries later of stalling because they wanted to see the Soviet Union weakened because it was a communist nation.
Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin finally met for the Tehran Conference in December 1943.Stalin desperately wanted the allies to launch an invasion of France and create a second front for Hitler.
On June 6, 1944, the western allies launched the D-Day invasion. Hitting the beaches in Normandy, France, the first soldiers ashore received overwhelming gunfire. Despite heavy losses, it took the allies less than a week to get over 500,000 troops ashore. They liberated Paris on August 25, 1944.
Anticipating Germany’s defeat, the Big Three (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin) met in February 1945 at the city of Yalta and conducted the Yalta Conference. There, they discussed military strategy and postwar policies. Because of the tremendous losses inflicted on the USSR by the war. Allies agreed that the Soviet Union would receive half of the war reparations from Germany.
The resolution also stated Germany would be divided up into four zones. In the face of certain defeat, Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945 as Soviet troops over ran Berlin. Sadly Roosevelt died on April 12th and never saw the day of victory. After many long years of war, people in the Allied countries finally celebrated VE-Day on May 8, 1945.
Admiral Yamamoto was considered a military genius for orchestrating the attack on Pearl Harbor. He also thought the remainder of the U.S. Pacific fleet must be destroyed if Japan had any hope of winning the war. The Battle of Midway in June, 1942 proved to be the turning point in the war. This time it was the Japanese who failed to detect the location of its enemy’s aircraft carriers. The U.S. victory at Midway forced the Japanese to assume a more defensive war strategy.
The U.S. began a process of island hopping. Its forces attacked and conquered one group of islands, then moved onto the next as its forces made its way to Japan. In the South, General Douglas MacArthur retook the Philippines. Meanwhile forces under Admiral Nimitz won key battles at Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
Soon after entering the war, the U.S. began to work on developing the atomic bomb. The top secret endeavor was called the Manhattan Project. It was headed by J. Robert Oppenheimer. On July 16, 1945, scientists tested the new weapon in the desert of New Mexico.
The flash was blinding and the explosion so great it shattered windows 125 miles away. President Harry S. Truman, while at the Potsdam Conference discussed postwar policies with the allied leaders and restated their policy of “unconditional surrender.”
On August 6, 1945, a specially equipped B 29 bomber called the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The blast leveled the city, killing thousands of civilians and military personnel. Many more died from radiation released from the blast, Two days later the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria.
When Japan delayed in issuing its surrender, the U.S. dropped another bomb on August 9 on the city of Nagasaki. Japan finally surrendered on August 14, 1945.