World War II

INTRODUCTION

World War II, or the Second World War was a global military conflict which involved a majority of the world's nations, including all of the great powers, organized into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war involved the mobilization of over 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history. In a state of "total war", the major participants placed their complete economic,industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Over 70 million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.

The starting date of the war is generally held to be September 1939 with the German invasion of Poland and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by the United Kingdom, France and the British Dominions. However, as a result of other events, many belligerents entered the war before or after this date, during a period which spanned from 1937 to 1941. Amongst these main events are the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the start of Operation Barbarossa, and the attack on Pearl Harbor and British and Dutch colonies in South East Asia.

On land, sea and in the air, Poles fought Germans, Italians fought Americans and Japanese fought Australians in a conflict which was finally settled with the use of nuclear weapons. World War 2 involved every major world power in a war for global domination and at its end, more than 60 million people had lost their lives and most of Europe and large parts of Asia lay in ruins.

The Soviet Union and the United States emerged from the war as the world's leading superpowers. This set the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 45 years. The United Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. The self determination spawned by the war accelerated decolonisation movements in Asia and Africa, while Western Europe itself began moving toward integration.

BACKGROUND

After the aftermath of World War I, a defeated Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles.This caused Germany to lose a significant portion of its territory, prohibited the annexation of other states, limited the size of German armed forces and imposed massive reparations. Russia 's civil war led to the creation of the Soviet Union which soon was under the control of Joseph Stalin. In Italy, Benito Mussolini seized power as a fascist dictator promising to create a "New Roman Empire." 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 allies. In 1931, an increasingly militaristic Japanese Empire, which had long sought influence in China as the first step of its right to rule Asia, used the Mukden Incident as justification to invade Manchuria; the two nations then fought several small conflicts, in Shanghai,Rehe and Hebei until theTanggu Truce in 933.Afterwards Chinese volunteer forces continued the resistance to Japanese aggression in Manchuria,and Chahar and Suiyuan.

Adolf Hitler, after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the German government in 1923, became the leader of Germany in 1933. He abolished democracy, espousing a radical racially motivated revision of the world order, and soon began a massive rearming campaign. This worried France and the United Kingdom, who had lost much in the previous war, as well as Italy, which saw its territorial ambitions threatened by those of Germany.To secure its alliance, the French allowed Italy a free hand in Ethiopia,which Italy desired to conquer. The situation was aggravated in early 1935 when the Saarland was legally reunited with Germany and Hitler repudiated the Treaty of Versailles, speeding up remilitarization and introducing conscription. Hoping to contain Germany, the United Kingdom ,France and Italy formed the Stresa Front.The Soviet Union, concerned due to Germany 's goals of capturing vast areas of eastern Europe, concluded 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, rendering it essentially toothless and in June 1935, the United Kingdom made an independent naval agreement with Germany easing prior restrictions. The United States, concerned with events in Europe and Asia , passed the Neutrality Act in August.In October, Italy invaded Ethiopia, with Germany the only major European nation supporting her invasion. Italy then revoked objections to Germany 's goal of making Austria a satellite state.

In direct violation of the Versailles and Locarno treaties,Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in March 1936. He received little response from other European powers. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July, Hitler and Mussolini supported fascist Generalísimo Francisco Franco's nationalist forces in his civil war against the Soviet-supported Spanish Republic. Both sides used the conflict to test new weapons and methods of warfare and the nationalists would prove victorious in early 1939.

With tensions mounting, efforts to strengthen or consolidate power were made. In October, Germany and Italy formed the Rome-Berlin Axis and a month later Germany and Japan, each believing communism and the Soviet Union in particular to be a threat,signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, which Italy would join in the following year. In China , the Kuomintang and communist forces agreed on a ceasefire to present a united front to oppose Japan .

SLAVES AND PRISONERS OF WAR (POW's)

The Nazis were responsible for the killing of approximately six million Jews (overwhelmingly Ashkenazi) as well as two million ethnic Poles and four million others who were deemed "unworthy of life" (including the disabled and mentally ill, Soviet POWs,homosexuals,Freemasons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Roma) as part of a program of deliberate extermination planned and executed by the Nazi Germany. About 12 million, most of whom were Eastern Europeans, were employed in the German war economy as forced labor in Germany during World War II.

In addition to the Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Gulag, or labor camps, led to the death of citizens of occupied countries such as Poland,Lithuania,Latvia and Estonia, as well as German prisoners of war (POW) and even Soviet citizens themselves who had been or were thought to be supporters of the Nazis. Sixty percent of Soviet POWs died during the war. Richard Overy gives the number of 5.7 million Soviet POWs. Of those, 57% died or were killed, a total of 3.6 million. Some of the survivors on their return to the USSR were treated as traitors.

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 27.1 percent (for American POWs, 37 percent), seven times that of POW's under the Germans and Italians. The death rate among Chinese POWs was much larger; a directive ratified on August 5, 1937 by Hirohito declared that the Chinese were no longer protected under international law. While 37,583 prisoners from the UK, 28,500 from the, Netherlands and 14,473 from United States were released after the surrender of Japan, the number for the Chinese was only 56.

On February 19, 1942 Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, interning thousands of Japanese, Italians,German Americans, and some emigrants from Hawaii who fled after the bombing of Pearl Harbor for the duration of the war. 150,000 Japanese-Americans were interned by the U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as nearly 11,000 German and Italian residents of the U.S..

Allied use of slave labor occurred mainly in the east, such as in Poland, but more than a million was also put to work in the west. For example, in the 1940's, Lac Saint-Jean, along with various other regions within Canada, such as the Saguenay, Saint Helen's Island and Hull, Quebec, had Prisoner-of-war camps. By 1942 the Lac St. Jean region had 2 camps with at least 50 POWs. These prisoners where forced into hard labour which included lumbering the land and assisting in the production of pulp and paper. Canada 's war prisons, such as St. Helen's prison, camp forty seven (Camp 47), where numbered and remained unnamed. The POWs where classified into categories including there nationality and civilian or military status. Camp 47's POWs were mostly of Italian and German nationality. These prisoners were forced into farming and lumbering the land. By 1944 Camp 47 would be closed and shortly afterwards destroyed because of an internal report on the treatment of prisoners. By December 1945 it was estimated by French authorities that 2,000 German prisoners were being killed or maimed each month in mine-clearing accidents.

POPULATION AND ECONOMY

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

hough 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. While the Allies' ability to out-produce the Axis is often attributed to the Allies having more access to natural resources, other factors, such as Germany and Japan's reluctance to utilize women in the labour force, Allied strategic bombing, and Germany's late shift to a war economy contributed significantly. Additionally, neither Germany nor Japan planned on fighting a protracted war, and were not equipped to do so. To improve their production, Germany and Japan used millions of slave labourers; Germany used about 12 million people, mostly from Eastern Europe, while Japan pressed more than 18 million people in Far East Asia.

WAR TIME OCCUPATION


In Europe , occupation came under two very different 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 reich marks by the end of the war; this figure does not include the sizable plunder of industrial products, military equipment, raw materials and other goods. Thus, the income from occupied nations was over 40% of the income Germany collected from taxation, a figure which increased to nearly 40% of total German income as the war went on.

In the east, the much hoped for bounties of lebensraum were never attained as fluctuating front-lines and Soviet scorched earth policies denied resources to the German invaders. Unlike in the west, the Nazi racial policy encouraged excessive brutality against what it considered to be the "inferior people" of Slavic descent; most German advances were thus followed by mass executions. Although resistance groups did form in most occupied territories, they did not significantly hamper German operations in either the east or the west 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 colonized peoples. Although Japanese forces were originally welcomed as liberators from European domination in many territories, their excessive brutality turned local public opinions against them within weeks. During Japan's initial conquest it captured 4 million barrels of oil left behind by retreating Allied forces, and by 1943 was able to get production in the Dutch East Indies up to 50 million barrels, 76% of its 1940 output rate.

CONCENTRATION CAMPS AND THE HOLOCAUST

Concentraton camps/elimination camps existed earlier (such as the US Concentration Camps forced on Cherokee and other Native Americans in the 1830s, Cuba (1868–78), the Philippines (1898–1901) by the Spaniards and Americans respectively), the English term "concentration camp" was first used to describe camps operated by the British in South Africa during the 1899-1902 Second Boer War. Purportedly conceived as a form of humanitarian aid to the families whose farms had been destroyed in the fighting, the camps were used to confine and control large numbers of civilians as part of a scorched earth tactic.

At the time that Kitchener started the concentration camps in South Africa the war had entered the guerilla phase and set battles during which farms could be destroyed no longer happened. By destroying crops, livestock and farmsteads under the 'Scorched Earth' policy the Boer fighters were deprived of supplies and shelter.It also left the women and children on such farms destitute and they were forcibly removed, against their will, to the camps where thousands died of disease and starvation.

The Holocaust is the term generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, as part of a programme of deliberate extermination planned and executed by the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi) regime in Germany led by Adolf Hitler

Other groups were also persecuted and killed, including the Roma; Soviet civilians,Soviet prisoners of war; ethnic Poles; the disabled; gay men; and political and religious opponents. Most scholars, however, define the Holocaust as a genocide of European Jewry alone, or what the Nazis called the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question." Taking into account all the victims of Nazi persecution, the total number of victims would be between nine and 11 million.

Every arm of Nazi Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics of the mass murder, turning the country into what one Holocaust scholar has called "a genocidal state."

COLLAPSE OF AXIS AND VICTORY OF ALLIED POWERS


On December 16, 1944 German forces counter-attacked in the Ardennes against the Western Allies. It took six weeks for the Allies to repulse the attack. The Soviets attacked through Hungary, while the Germans abandoned Greece and Albania and were driven out of southern Yugoslavia by partisans. In Italy, the Western Allies remained stalemated at the German defensive line. In mid-January 1945, the Soviets attacked in Poland, pushing from the Vistula to the Oder river in Germany, and overran East Prussia.

On February 4, U.S., British, and Soviet leaders met in Yalta. They agreed on the occupation of post-war Germany, and when the Soviet Union would join the war against Japan .

In February, Western Allied forces entered Germany and closed to the Rhine river, while the Soviets invaded Pomerania and Silesia. In March, the Western Allies crossed the Rhine north and south of the Ruhr,encircling a large number of German troops, while the Soviets advanced to Vienna. In early April the Western Allies finally pushed forward in Italy and swept across western Germany, while in late April Soviet forces stormed Berlin; the two forces linked up on Elbe river on April 25.

German forces surrendered in Italy on April 29 and in Western Europe on May 7. However, fighting continued on the until the Germans surrendered specifically to the Soviets on May 8. In Prague, resistance of remnants of German Army continued until May 11. In the Pacific theater, American forces advanced in the Philippines, clearing Leyte by the end of 1944. They landed on Luzon in January 1945 and Mindanao in March. British and Chinese forces defeated the Japanese in northern Burma from October to March, then the British pushed on to Rangoon by May 3. American forces also moved toward Japan, taking Iwo Jima by March, and Okinawa by June. American bombers destroyed Japanese cities, and American submarines cut off Japanese imports. On July 11, the Allied leaders met in Potsdam , Germany. They confirmed earlier agreements about Germany, and reiterated the demand for unconditional surrender by Japan, specifically stating that "the alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction". During this conference the United Kingdom held its general election and Clement Attlee replaced Churchill as Prime Minister.

AFTERMATH

In an effort to maintain international peace, the Allies formed the United Nations, which officially came into existence on October 24, 1945.

Regardless of this though, the alliance between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union had begun to deteriorate even before the war was over, and the two powers each quickly established their own spheres of influence. In Europe, the continent was essentially divided between Western and Soviet spheres by the so-called Iron Curtain which ran through and partitioned Allied occupied Germany and occupied Austria. In Asia, the United States occupied Japan and administrated Japan 's former islands in the Western Pacific while the Soviets annexed Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands; the former Japanese governed Korea was divided and occupied between the two powers. Mounting tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union soon evolved into the formation of the American-led NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliances and the start of the Cold War between them.

In many parts of the world, conflict picked up again within a short time of World War II ending. In China, nationalist and communist forces quickly resumed their civil war. Communist forces were eventually victorious and established the People's Republic of China on the mainland while nationalist forces ended up retreating to the reclaimed island of Taiwan . In Greece, civil war broke out between Anglo-American supported royalist forces and communist forces, with the royalist forces victorious. Soon after these conflicts ended, war broke out in Korea between South Korea , which was backed by the western powers, and North Korea, which was backed by the Soviet Union and China; the war resulted in essentially a stalemate and ceasefire.

Following the end of the war, a rapid period of decolonization also took place within the holdings of the various European colonial powers. These primarily occurred due to shifts in ideology, the economic exhaustion from the war and increased demand by indigenous people for self-determination. For the most part, these transitions happened relatively peacefully, though notable exceptions occurred in countries such as Indochina, Madagascar, Indonesia and Algeria. In many regions, divisions, usually for ethnic or religious reasons, occurred following European withdrawal; this was seen prominently in the Mandate of Palestine, leading to the creation of Israel and Palestine, and in India, resulting in the creation of the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan.

Economic recovery following the war was varied in differing parts of the world, though in general it was quite positive. In Europe, West Germany recovered quickly and doubled production from its pre-war levels by the 1950s. Italy came out of the war in poor economic condition, but by 1950s, the Italian economy was marked by stability and high growth. The United Kingdom was in a state of economic ruin after the war, and continued to experience relative economic decline for decades to follow. France rebounded quite quickly, and enjoyed rapid economic growth and modernization. The Soviet Union also experienced a rapid increase in production in the immediate post-war era. In Asia, Japan experienced incredibly rapid economic growth, and led to Japan becoming one of the most powerful economies in the world by the 1980s. China, following the conclusion of its civil war, was essentially a bankrupt nation. By 1953 economic restoration seemed fairly successful as production had resumed pre-war levels. This growth rate mostly persisted, though it was briefly interrupted by the disastrous Great Leap Forward economic experiment. At the end of the war, the United States produced roughly half of the world's industrial output; by the 1970s though, this dominance had lessened significantly.

CONCLUSION


Estimates for the total casualties of the war vary, but most suggest that some 60 million people died in the war, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians. Many civilians died because of disease, starvation, massacres, and deliberate genocide. The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, about half of all World War II casualties. Of the total deaths in World War II, approximately 85 percent were on the Allied side (mostly Soviet and Chinese) and 15 percent on the Axis side. One estimate is that 12 million civilians died in Nazi concentration camps, 1.5 million by bombs, 7 million in Europe from other causes, and 7.5 million in China from other causes. Figures on the amount of total casualties vary to a wide extent because the majority of deaths were not documented.

Many of these deaths were a result of genocidal actions committed in Axis-occupied territories and other war crimes committed by German as well as Japanese forces. The most notorious of German atrocities was the Holocaust, the systematic genocide of Jews in territories controlled by Germany and its allies. The Nazis also targeted other groups, including the Roma (targeted in the Porajmos), Slavs, and gay men, exterminating an estimated five million additional people. For Japan, the most well-known atrocity is the Nanking Massacre, in which several hundred thousand Chinese civilians were raped and murdered. The Japanese military murdered from nearly 3 million to over 10 million civilians, mostly Chinese. According to Mitsuyoshi Himeta, at least 2.7 million died during the Sanko Sakusen implemented in Heipei and Shantung by General Yasuji Okamura.

While many of the Axis's acts were brought to trial in the world's first international tribunals, incidents caused by the Allies were not. Examples of such actions include population transfer in the Soviet Union, Japanese American internment in the United States, the Soviet massacre of Polish citizens and the controversial mass-bombing of civilian areas in enemy territory, most notably at Dresden.

When Japan continued to reject the Potsdam terms, the United States then dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August. Between the two bombs, the Soviets invaded Japanese-held Manchuria, as agreed at Yalta. On August 15, 1945 Japan surrendered, finally putting an end to the war.

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