World War II was one of the deadliest and most destructive wars this world has seen. The origins of the war were in Germany where Adolf Hitler became the leader and started ethnic cleansing, killing any Jewish person, gypsy, homosexual or any other person whom he considered “inferior. ” Another cause of the war was the attempted invasion of Ethiopia by Italy, which they eventually occupied in 1936 despite British and French opposition. Germany appeared to be winning the war, taking over the Rhineland, Czechoslovakia, France, Belgium and other pieces of land, up until 1942 when the tides turned in favor of the Allies.
The Japanese naval airpower was devastated by the Americans and Hitler had recently been defeated at Moscow. Shortly after Italy was defeated and expelled from the war and Germany’s forces were slowly deteriorated. The war officially ended when the Japanese surrendered following the detonation of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hitler began holding meetings with others who thought like him, blaming Jewish people for the problems in Europe. The Communists continually tried to break up the meetings of the group who came to be known as the National Socialist Party in 1923.
The National Socialist Party, led by Goering, Hess, Rosenberg, and Roehm, was outraged with France for occupying the Ruhr. In 1924 Hitler was sentenced to a four-year prison term for a demonstration where twenty people were killed. He only ended up serving thirteen months of the term but it provided sufficient time for him to outline his book Mein Kampf, which means “My Struggle” in German. The President of the German State, Marshal Hindenburg, was eighty-three years old as of 1930 and was persuaded to view Hitler as the next Chancellor of the Reich.
Hitler was called to Berlin by the President and on January thirtieth, 1933 he became the Chancellor of Germany. Hitler’s first acquisition was his reoccupation of the Rhineland, a small portion of western Germany in 1936. Just three years later German soldiers had already taken over Czechoslovakia. In early September of the same year Germany took over Poland, France and Great Britain declare war on Germany, and Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland all declare neutrality. Later in the year Turkey signs a pact with Britain and France giving them mutual assistance and the Soviets attack Finland.
In April of 1940 the Danish king announced that Norway was surrendering to Germany and one month later Belgium does the same. France, under constant attack, gave into Germany in mid June. Italy, sided with Germany, decides that it needs control of the Suez Canal so it invades Egypt on September thirteenth. In October after Hitler’s constant nagging, Spain joins the war in exchange for military, agricultural, and territorial demands.
On June twenty-second, 1941 Germany begins Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the invasion of the U. S. S. R. Hitler’s plan was to have his army, 3,200,000 men, split into three groups; one moving north towards Leningrad, one moving towards Moscow, and one moving south towards Kiev. By the time his army had taken Kiev it was already September and as they moved north towards Moscow winter set in early. Hitler’s forces were stuck in the bitter cold of winter. In December a Soviet counter-attack forced the Germans to withdraw from Moscow. This was the first sign that Hitler’s powerful army could in fact be stopped and that he was bound to make a mistake at some time.
Another Allied force, the British, were also having good luck. In Libya the British were able to split the army under Rommel, forcing him to retreat. Early in the morning of December seventh, 1941 a fleet of 189 Japanese aircraft began attacking Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The first wave of planes destroyed anything it could find, including American aircraft, battleships, destroyers, cruisers, and submarines. The second wave followed shortly and attacked everything the first wave had missed. Anti-aircraft fire was able to deter a third wave, but an incredible amount of damage had already happened.
In only one hour, forty five minutes the Japanese air forces wrecked and capsized two battleships and three were resting on the bottom. Nineteen war ships had been hit and 150 aircraft had been disabled. In all over 2,400 American lives were lost, 2,086 from the Navy and 237 from the Army. As a result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor the United States, with many of the Latin American countries, declared war on Germany, Japan and Italy. Although many countries declared war against the Axis nations, only the United States, Brazil, and Mexico actually sent troops to fight.
At this point the war started to turn in favor of the Allies. The first major win for the American forces was at the Battle of the Coral Sea. After the dust settled at Coral Sea the Japanese lost three heavy cruisers, two destroyers, and more than twenty other ships. Just a month later the Americans won another decisive battle at Midway. American forces spotted the Japanese fleet before it was able to do any extensive damage to the island. By the end of the battle the Japanese were in full retreat after the loss of four carriers, two large cruisers, three destroyers, and various other auxiliary craft.
In the U. S. S. R. the Germans had resumed their offensive, now with their primary target as Caucasus, for the oil, and their secondary target as Stalingrad. The Germans had a chance to attack Stalingrad while it was nearly defenseless, however they waited and attacked after Soviet reinforcements arrived. It appeared as though they would capture Caucasus but a fuel shortage plagued them. In October 1942 the German army had lost twenty-two divisions and the rest were ordered by Hitler to fight to the last man against the reinforced Soviets. ,500 German soldiers under Paulus surrendered inside Caucasus after losing nearly 200,000, 100,000 dead and 91,000 captured.
The only logical place the Allies could find to attack was Italy, but they first had to go through Sicily which was guarded by two islands, Pantelleria and Lampedusa. Even though the attack on Pantelleria destroyed only two of the fifty-four shore batteries, the Italians flew a white flag when a ship neared the island. The attack on Sicily by the Allies didn’t start well, but they soon got things straightened out and the Seventh army had gained an important position on the island.
On July twenty-fifth Mussolini, the leader of the Italians, resigned and was immediately imprisoned, only to be freed by Nazis several weeks later. The Italians surrendered Sicily unconditionally on September second and their fleet sailed towards Malta. The Eighth army landed on the southern tip of Italy and moved north, while the Fifth army landed further up the west coast at Salerno. The Fifth army nearly faced defeat but gained the advantage once heavy armor arrived. The Fifth and Eighth armies joined forces 45 miles southeast of Salerno and moved there way to Foggia, then Naples.
Shortly after the Italians abandoned Sardinia and Corsica. Operations in the Soviet Union continued throughout 1943, with Germany launching their final offensive in July. The Battle of Kursk followed shortly, proving to be the greatest tank battle ever. At first the Soviets forced the Germans behind the Dnieper river, followed by ten German divisions retreating from the Taman Peninsula to Crimea. Kharkov, Donets, Taganrog, Poltava, and Smolensk were all liberated by the Soviets by mid September. The Soviets took a short break and resumed their offensive on October seventh.
In order to prepare for a winter offensive the Soviets rested and stockpiled after nearly defeating Manstein and Kleist. 1944 began well for the Allies, as they invaded and conquered the Marshall Islands in late January. The attack was split into three groups. The first was a task force who annihilated the defenses of seven different islands. The second was a group of reinforced marines who took down the islands of Roi and Namur in only four days of close combat. The final group landed at Majuro, an island wanted for its deep harbors. However, the island had already been evacuated by the Japanese and it was taken over without any fighting.
The Japanese air base at Engebi was captured after the loss of 500 Americans’ lives. On February sixteenth the naval base of Truk was raided and 201 enemy planes and twenty-three ships were destroyed at the cost of seventeen American planes. Less than a week later 135 planes and eleven surface ships were destroyed at the island of Saipan. Just a month later American forces captured New Guinea which brought them within 300 miles of the Philippines. By the spring of 1944 the Soviets reclaimed nearly all of their own country and began pushing into the Balkans and Poland. The siege at Leningrad was won after two and a half years.
A very important target for the Soviets was the Odessa-Lvov railway. In just two days they had reached the railhead at Volochisk fifty miles away. General Zhukov, who also led the mission to disable the railway, took over the German base at Uman which gave them the crucial position they needed. Zhukov’s next move was to disable another rail line which delivered supplies through Poland to the German forces in the Ukraine. Zhukov, along with Konev, isolated the German forces in the Ukraine and the area was liberated by April of 1944. Now the only German troops left in the U. S. S. R were those in Crimea.
The Fourth Ukrainian Front, under General Tolbhukin, defeated the German seventeenth army by the twelfth of May. The Normandy invasion, often called D-Day, began on June sixth, 1944 when American, British, and Canadian forces landed on the Cotentin Peninsula. The objective of the invasion of Normandy was to regain France which had been taken over by Germany earlier in the war. The initial attack was spit into three divisions. The first division landed near Bayeax-Caen and was composed of British and Canadian troops. The second and third divisions were both American and landed at Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, respectively.
In order for the troops to get across the English Channel a massive convoy of ships was needed. 5,000 Higgins boats and other small ship-to-shore craft were needed, making the mission the largest ever on water. The British-Canadian offensive, as well as the one at Utah beach, went well and both were positioned by nightfall. However, the circumstances at Omaha Beach, primarily the fortified bluffs, proved to be a much tougher fight for the Americans. On the first day the objectives failed and German forces put up a struggle for the following four days. The landing forces totaled fourteen divisions from Britain and sixty divisions from America.
Opposing them were fifty German infantry divisions, thirty-six of which were stationed on the western coast, and ten Panzer divisions. Hitler had been working on a long range rocket, called the V-1, which he would use against London for the previous three years and perfected it around the time of the Normandy invasion. Later in the summer the V-2 was developed which had longer range and harder hitting power. With these tactical weapons Hitler was able to strike at England from a safe distance and used this advantage. Britain was bombed 1,100 times and Liege and Antwerp were bombed over 1,600 times.
On June twenty-seventh the first port had fallen to American force after 1,500,000 troops had landed at Normandy and secured it. The Americans broke through on a road towards a small, but heavily defended town called Brittany. The Germans fought to the death and it proved to be the bloodiest battle in the west. By August nineteenth German forces were in full retreat all along the line and Paris was liberated on August twenty-fifth. The port of Antwerp was capture on September fourth and Verdun was taken without a fight. Allied forces continued to deal a beating on Germany but were slowed drastically by gasoline shortages.
The Soviet forces broke through the Mannerheim line just four days after the Normandy invasion and the war between the U. S. S. R and Finland virtually stopped, even though negotiations didn’t happen until later. One hundred Soviet divisions reached the German front on June twenty-third, followed by the defeat of the German occupied Vitebsk, Orsha, Mogilev, and Zhlobin. The German Ninth Army was nearly non-existent and the German Fourth Army was in full retreat. Two different encircling moves by the First Ukrainian Front forced Romania out of the war on August twenty-fifth.
Bulgaria removed itself from the war the next day. The Axis forces were rapidly losing forces and the war. Hitler was able to concentrate 250,000 troops to a small area near the U. S. VIII Corps without foreign intelligence knowing. Early in the morning of December sixteenth, 1944 Hitler’s army attacked and brought complete surprise to the Allies, it was known as the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler himself thought up the plan, but actions by the Allies turned a nearly devastating onslaught into a stunning victory. Ardennes, Bastogne, and St. Vith were all very important places during the Battle of the Bulge.
At their highest point the German’s came within a few miles of the Meuse River and unknowingly passed by an Ally supply within a quarter mile. Germany continued to pour troops into the battle which stabilized by Christmas Eve. When the skies finally cleared the Allies aircraft began bombing the German armor and trains, which were at a near standstill. Hitler eventually decided to withdraw from the Ardennes on January twenty-first, but only after losing 120,000 men. Iwo Jima was an important tactical position in the Pacific War and the Americans were willing to sacrifice much for it.
They sent in 60,000 officers, followed by the Fifth Fleet. By February twenty-seventh, 1945 the Americans had won over half the island and on March fifteenth the fighting stopped after nearly 20,000 American casualties. Okinawa was the last island needed before the direct attack of Japan itself. Okinawa was invaded and quickly destroyed, followed by the Tenth Army moving towards Japan. It was here that the kamikaze technique, flying an airplane with a warhead attached to it, against war ships and other targets. The Tenth Army was the largest amphibious movement in the Pacific War, comprised of 1,427 ships.
Okinawa was readily waiting for the arrival of the Americans on the south side of the island, with 100,000 soldiers and an intricate system of fortification in the coral and limestone rock. The Japanese fleet then came out and intercepted the American fleet. The Soviets, after rapidly expelling the Germans from their own country, took a little longer to move into Germany. The Soviets did go full force, sending all four of their armies into Germany, north and south of Breslau. By mid-February they had already taken over Bunslau, which is a mere 125 miles from Berlin.
Zhukov reached Oder, then Posen along the Warta River, within sixty miles of Berlin. During February of 1945 the armies in the west were having trouble making it up the Rhine. The U. S. Third Corps followed the Germans over the Rhine Bridge after being commanded to “Get five divisions across as quickly as possible. ” by Eisenhower. The Americans were able to get across the bridge so quickly that the Germans didn’t even have time to demolish it. The U. S. First and Ninth Armies linked on April first near Paderborn and held the German Army Group B and two corps of Group H in captivity.
After constant air attacks the remaining 325,000 men and 30 general officers surrendered. The Third U. S. Army took Frankfurt, then Kassel. The Seventh U. S. Army crossed the Rhine near Worms and joined with the Third near Darmstadt. As a result of this massive movement of Allied forces, the German defense in the west basically fell apart. Eisenhower decided to halt many of his troops, knowing that the Soviet forces would be coming through on the other side, fearful that the two allies might mistake each other for enemy. The Americans met the Soviets at Torgau on April twenty-fifth.
The Soviet army continued onward toward Berlin and had the city enveloped the same day. Hitler, choosing not to flee with many of his advisers, committed suicide on April thirtieth, knowing that there were Soviet forces just above his bunker. The Berlin forces surrendered on May second. The war on the front next to Italy was surrendered on April twenty-ninth. Mussolini, the ex-dictator of Italy and his mistress, were killed after attempting to escape from imprisonment. On May fifth a representative of Doenitz, the inherited leader of Germany, offered a surrender of all troops in Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and Schleswig-Holstein.
Even though the war had ended in Europe, the battle in the Pacific continued. Bombing Japan seemed to be the most effective way to eat away at the Japanese forces. On July sixteenth, 1945 news that the nuclear bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico, was a success was rushed to President Truman. Even though the bomb was originally intended for Berlin, Truman decided that the weapons could also be used to force a quick surrender in the Pacific. On July twenty-sixth America joined Britain and China in issuing an ultimatum for unconditional surrender. On August sixth, after Japan ignored the ultimatum, a B-29 bomber appeared over
Hiroshima and then sped away. A few moments later the first atomic bomb to be dropped on humans detonated, killing and injuring about half the city’s population, 320,000 people. Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The second bomb did less damage, killing and injuring 80,000 people because the bomb was off target. On August tenth the Japanese declared that they would accept the terms of the Potsdam ultimatum. The second world war was officially over on September second, aboard the Missouri where the Japanese signed a document ending all fighting.