World War II

WORLD WAR II—1939-1945

The Second World War, better known as World War II, raged for 6 years and a day; starting 1 September 1939 and coming to an end on 2 September 1945.  The Allies, also known as the United Nations, (led by the United Kingdom, Soviet Union, China, and the United States) defeated the Axis Powers, also known as “Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis,” (led by Nazi Germany, Japan, and Italy).  A truly global war, WWII involved over 100 million people from over 30 countries and was the deadliest conflict in human history.  Nearly 85 million fatalities with the majority being civilian deaths from the Soviet Union, China, and the genocide of the Holocaust.  The war led to the first, and only, use of atomic weapons in the history of warfare; and the division of Germany and eventual emergence of the Berlin Wall in 1961.


On 19 September 1931, Japanese forces invaded Manchuria which caused military conflict with China.

On 3 October 1935, Italian forces invaded the Northern African Ethiopian Empire.

On 7 July 1937, Japan invaded China and began the Second Sino-Japanese War.

On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland; and on 3 September, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand declared war on Germany.  A few days later, Canada and South Africa joined the alliance against Germany.

On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland and in June 1940, forcibly annexed Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and regions of Romania; which resulted in USSR expulsion from the League of Nations.



German forces continued their goal of global domination by invading Denmark and Norway in April 1940.  On 10

Dunkirk, France. 28 May 1940. Australian War Memorial,, Public Domain.

May 1940, Winston Churchill was named Prime Minister of Great Britain and Germany invaded Belgian, France,

Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.  Germans flanked the Allies by maneuvering through the Ardennes to the English Channel.  This strategy effectively trapped the Allies on the beaches of the Belgium-French border near Lille.  Britain was able to evacuate 338,226 soldiers from Dunkirk, France using a flotilla of hundreds of civilian vessels of various size.



In preparation of a potential land invasion of England across the English Channel, German Luftwaffe attempted to

His Majesty King George VI and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth survey bomb damage to Buckingham Palace. 13 September 1940., Public Domain

gain air superiority over England from 10 July to 31 October 1940, in what became known as the Battle of Britain.  Unable to defeat the Royal Air Force during daylight raids, the Germans began large-scale night bombing campaigns

over England from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941, in what became known as the Blitz.  The Royal Air Force conducted its own night operations against German preparations for the land invasion.  As a result, Nazi Germany cancelled Operation Sea Lion and England claimed victory.



“December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy,” is how United States President Franklin Roosevelt described the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.  Throughout the 1930s, The United States had enacted a series of Neutrality Acts with the intentions of staying out of war.  However, on 7 December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy surprise attacked American warships moored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  The next day, the United States declared war on Japan and formally entered WWII.



The Second World War had many fronts and saw combat in the Mediterranean and Africa, the Atlantic, Pacific, Asia, as well as Europe.


After the Allied landings at Normandy on 6 June 1944, the Germans were pushed back and defeated as the Allies pressed towards Berlin.  With the Western Allies holding at the Rhine River in Western Germany and the Soviets invading in the east, the Nazis were defeated and surrendered on 7 May 1945.  Fighting in the Pacific continued against the Japanese; however, until the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.  The Japanese formally surrendered on 2 September 1945.

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, taken by Charles Levy, Official U.S. Government photo, Public Domain


Troop strength was about 70 million combined Allied and Axis soldiers.

Allied casualties were over 16,000,000 military dead and 45,000,000 civilian dead.

Axis casualties were over 8,000,000 military dead and 4,000,000 civilian dead.



Battle of Midway

Battle of Stalingrad

Pearl Harbor


Battle of Berlin

Battle of Kursk

Battle of Iwo Jima


Color Combat footage of WWII can be seen at:


Timeline of WWII in movies

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