INTRODUCTION OF THE WORLD WAR 2
The Second World War, often referred to as World War II, stands as a lasting testament to the tumultuous period it encompassed. Spanning six years and one day, this monumental conflict began on September 1, 1939, with Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and concluded on September 2, 1945, following the Japanese surrender. In this comprehensive overview, we will navigate the significant milestones of a global struggle that reshaped the course of history. Join us on this historical journey, featuring expert insights from Professor Jeremy Black and honoring the late Terry Chairman, as we delve into 20 pivotal moments that defined an era.
For enthusiasts of history, the Second WW2 remains a subject of perpetual fascination. Its impact reverberates through time, claiming the lives of over 50 million individuals. Our journey began in 1939 when Adolf Hitler’s German forces set the stage for this monumental conflict by invading Poland. Join us as we explore the historical tapestry of World War II and its profound significance.
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When Did WORLD WAR End?
Start, September 1, 1939, and End September 2, 1945 While September 2, 1945, is widely recognized as the official end of World War II, it’s essential to acknowledge that in many parts of the world, the fighting continued long beyond that date. The vast scale of the conflict, involving troops from every corner of the globe, meant that it didn’t come to a simultaneous halt everywhere. Instead, it concluded in stages, each with its own complexities and implications.
Historian Keith Lowe sheds light on the intricate process of how and when World War II officially came to a close. The end of World War II wasn’t just a singular event but a series of events spread across different regions, with various peace treaties and agreements marking the conclusion of hostilities.
One of the most pivotal moments in this global conflict was the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. These devastating events, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, played a significant role in hastening the end of World War II. The sheer destructiveness and unprecedented nature of atomic weapons forced a reevaluation of the WORLD war’s continuation, leading to Japan’s surrender shortly thereafter. Historians and experts have debated the morality and necessity of these bombings ever since.
In the broader context, the WORLD war’s conclusion wasn’t solely about formal declarations and treaties; it also involved the process of demobilizing armies, rebuilding nations, and addressing the profound scars left by the conflict. The post-war period was marked by the challenges of reconstruction and the establishment of a new world order through organizations like the United Nations.
Understanding how World War II ended requires a nuanced examination of the geopolitical, military, and moral dimensions that shaped this defining moment in history. It’s a reminder that even after the official end date, the legacy of the WORLD war endured, influencing the course of nations and international relations for decades to come.
Which Countries Were Involved In WORLD WAR?
The Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China
World War II, often abbreviated as World War 2, was a Global conflict of unprecedented scale. While it involved almost every part of the world in some way, the central players were the Axis powers and the Allies.
On one side stood the Axis powers, comprising Germany, Italy, and Japan. These nations formed a coalition with ambitious territorial and ideological goals, seeking to reshape the geopolitical landscape in their favor.
Opposing them were the Allies, a diverse group of nations that included France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China. The Allies united in their determination to halt the Axis expansion and preserve their respective interests.
How Much People lost their lives during the WORLD WAR 2
The scale of destruction and loss during World War 2 was staggering. It has been estimated that approximately 50 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the conflict. This sobering statistic underscores the immense human suffering and sacrifice that defined this era. In the face of such turmoil, it’s important to remember that the Allies emerged as the back to back world war champs, having triumphed in both World War I and World War II, ultimately reshaping the course of history through their resilience and determination.
The Origins of WORLD WAR 2: Hitler’s Ambitions
Understanding why World War II happened is a complex endeavor, but it is now widely accepted among expert historians that the WORLD war was, in large part, the result of Adolf Hitler’s ambitions and actions. Historians such as Professor Richard Evans, Sir Ian Kershaw, and Laurence Rees have extensively studied the origins of the war and concluded that it was “Hitler’s war.”
Adolf Hitler’s aggressive expansionist policies, his disregard for international agreements, and his ruthless pursuit of territorial conquest played a central role in setting the stage for the conflict. The invasion of Poland in 1939, which triggered the WORLD war, is a prime example of Hitler’s belligerence.
Moreover, the interplay of political, economic, and social factors in the lead-up to WORLD WAR 2, including the Treaty of Versailles, the rise of totalitarian regimes, and the failure of diplomacy, created a volatile atmosphere that ultimately led to the outbreak of this devastating war.
In conclusion, World War II was a complex and multifaceted global conflict that involved key players on both sides, resulting in immense loss of life. The WORLD war’s origins are often attributed to Adolf Hitler’s actions and ambitions, as well as a broader web of historical factors that created a combustible environment in which the war became inevitable.
Clash on July 7, 1937, Close to Beijing’s Marco Polo Bridge
The ignition of a prolonged war with China, which endured until 1945, had its origins in a relatively obscure incident near the Marco Polo Bridge, located southwest of Beijing, on the fateful night of July 7–8, 1937.
This pivotal moment in history unfolded when a Japanese military unit engaged in nighttime maneuvers clashed with Chinese forces near the Marco Polo Bridge. The Japanese perceived this event as a challenge to their nation’s honor, prompting the dispatch of fresh reinforcements to the region.
Within Japan, hardline factions within the military seized upon this incident as an opportunity to push for a resolution to the Chinese question on their own uncompromising terms. Concurrently, on the Chinese side, nationalist leader Jiang Jieshi (also known as Chiang Kai-shek) remained resolute in his stance against appeasing Japanese demands.
The collision of these opposing forces set the stage for an intractable struggle that would severely sap the strength of both sides.
The conflict escalated rapidly, with large-scale hostilities erupting to wards the end of July. Beijing, a pivotal city in the unfolding drama, fell into Japanese hands on July 29, marking a significant turning point in the unfolding events.
The German invasion of Poland, 1 September 1939
The Second World War commenced at the break of dawn on Friday, September 1, 1939, as Adolf Hitler launched a relentless invasion of Poland. The Polish forces displayed unwavering bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, but they found themselves severely outnumbered not only in terms of men but also in machinery, particularly in the realm of aviation.
It wasn’t until September 3, 1939, that Britain and France officially declared The WORLD war on Germany in response to the Polish invasion. However, regrettably, they provided minimal assistance to their Polish allies during this crucial phase.
Two weeks later, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet forces entered the eastern territories of Poland, further complicating the situation. By September 27, 1939, Warsaw, the Polish capital, had surrendered, marking a somber moment in history. Organized Polish resistance came to a halt just a week later, and the fate of Poland was sealed, with its territories divided between Hitler and Stalin.
In Poland, the Nazi regime unleashed a reign of terror that would tragically claim the lives of approximately six million victims, with half of them being Polish Jews who perished in extermination camps. Meanwhile, the Soviet administration proved equally harsh in its actions. In the bleak months of March and April 1940, Stalin issued orders for the mass murder of over 20,000 Polish officers and other captives taken during the events of September 1939. Additionally, tens of thousands of Poles endured forced deportations to Siberia, further deepening the tragedy of this period.
Stalin’s Actions in Poland and a Warning Unheeded
By May 1945, despite assurances made to Churchill and Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin had firmly established a compliant communist regime in Poland. It marked a stark departure from the promises and agreements made during the course of the WORLD war.
Looking back to 1939, Poland’s leader at the time, Marshal Eduard Smigly-Rydz, had issued a prescient warning: “With the Germans, we risk losing our liberty, but with the Russians, we lose our soul.” These words carried a weight of wisdom and foresight that, unfortunately, went unheeded.
Stalin’s actions in Poland, consolidating control through the establishment of a subservient communist government, reflected the geopolitical complexities and power struggles of the era. The consequences of these decisions would resonate for decades, leaving an indelible mark on Poland’s history and identity.
Offensive German in the West: May 10, 1940
The German expansionist ambitions became evident as they launched a significant offensive in the West on May 10, 1940. This marked a crucial turning point in the course of the Second World War.
The Germans’ reluctance to confine their war efforts to the conquest of Poland and engage in meaningful peace negotiations led to the widening of the conflict. Adolf Hitler was determined to capitalize on Poland’s defeat, which presented an opportunity for Germany to focus on a single front. He argued that Germany, being more prepared for WORLD war than Britain or France, had a unique window of opportunity.
Several factors contributed to the delay in this offensive. Bad weather during the harsh winter of 1939–40, caution exercised by the German High Command, and the necessity for meticulous preparations all played a role. However, when the moment was deemed ripe, the Germans struck with precision.
On May 10, 1940, German forces launched attacks on Belgium and the Netherlands, both of which had maintained their neutrality until then. Simultaneously, they invaded France, setting in motion a rapid sequence of events. The Germans managed to seize the initiative effectively, catching the French and British off guard. The failure to adequately prepare for a dynamic and layered defense strategy left the Allied forces vulnerable.
This offensive in the West not only reshaped the dynamics of the WORLD War but also underscored the importance of strategic timing and preparedness in the theater of conflict.
Germany’s Swift Triumph in a Transformative Campaign
Germany’s remarkable success in its subsequent seven-week campaign brought about a seismic shift in the strategic landscape of Europe. This victory held profound implications, not only for the course of the WORLD war but also for Adolf Hitler’s unwavering belief in the inexorable triumph of both himself and the Wehrmacht under his leadership.
The outcome of this campaign left no doubt in Hitler’s mind about his invincibility and the prowess of the German military machine. Victory on such a scale bolstered his conviction that the path to success was clear and unobstructed.
With this resounding triumph, the Germans now possessed the capability to continue the fight, and any potential adversaries would face the formidable challenge of overcoming German hegemony in Western Europe. The landscape of the conflict had shifted dramatically, setting the stage for further developments that would shape the future of the WORLD war.
The Battle of Britain, 25 July, 1940
Following France’s surrender in June 1940, Winston Churchill delivered a resolute message to the British people, emphasizing the critical nature of their island nation’s role in the war. He declared, “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war,” underscoring the pivotal position of Britain in the conflict.
The Germans recognized that achieving air superiority was paramount to mounting a successful invasion of Britain. The initial phase of this battle for control of the skies began on July 10, 1940, with relentless Luftwaffe attacks on shipping in the English Channel. The subsequent month witnessed intensified assaults on RAF Fighter Command airfields and aircraft factories.
Under the dynamic leadership of Lord Beaverbrook, there was a remarkable increase in the production of Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. Despite suffering losses in both pilots and planes, the Royal Air Force (RAF) managed to maintain a level of strength and resilience that surprised the Germans. Their perception of the RAF’s vulnerability proved to be a miscalculation.
Home Advantage and the Triumph of the Few
One of the significant advantages the British possessed during the Battle of Britain was the fact that it was fought on their home ground. This meant that pilots who survived having their planes shot down could swiftly return to the fray, while German aircrew often found themselves in the hands of captors as prisoners of WORLD war.
The battle continued its intensity until the end of October, but its decisive turning point came in early September when the Germans shifted their focus to night bombing. This transition was due to a combination of factors, including the resilience of the Royal Air Force (RAF), resource diversion, and the effectiveness of British radar systems.
The victory in the Battle of Britain was a collective effort, with numerous individuals contributing significantly. Ground crews, aircraft factory workers, and radar operators all played crucial roles in supporting the RAF’s operations.
However, it was the young pilots hailing from Britain, the Commonwealth, and Nazi-occupied Europe who bore the brunt of the battle. These courageous individuals, often referred to as “the few,” became the embodiment of tenacity and bravery. Their sacrifices and unwavering determination did not go unnoticed. As Winston Churchill eloquently expressed it, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The Battle of Britain serves as a testament to the resilience and courage of those who defended their homeland during a critical juncture in history
The Blitz, 29 December 1940
The Blitz: Germany’s Lightning Assault on Britain
The term “Blitz” is derived from the German word “Blitzkrieg,” meaning “lightning war.” It refers to the intense German air attacks on Britain that unfolded between September 7, 1940, and May 16, 1941, during World War II. This sustained aerial assault left an indelible mark on Britain’s history.
The onset of the Blitz was somewhat accidental. On the night of August 24, 1940, London found itself subjected to an unintended bombing raid. In response, on the following night, Prime Minister Winston Churchill authorized a retaliatory attack on Berlin, a move that caught the attention of the German leadership.
This strategic shift led the Germans to redirect their primary efforts away from attacking RAF (Royal Air Force) airfields and toward bombing British towns and cities. The turning point came on September 7, 1940, a day later remembered as “Black Saturday,” when the first major attacks on London began.
The capital endured relentless bombing for an astounding 57 consecutive nights, as the Luftwaffe dropped over 13,650 tons of high explosive ordnance and 12,586 incendiary canisters on the city. The Blitz exacted a heavy toll on both lives and infrastructure, but it also showcased the resilience and spirit of the British people during one of the most challenging periods of the WORLD war.
The Widespread Impact of the Blitz
Commencing with the devastating attack on Coventry on November 14, 1940, the German bombings extended to other cities and towns across Britain, all while continuing their assaults on London. This period of intense aerial bombardment, known as the Blitz, exacted a heavy toll on both human lives and infrastructure.
More than 43,000 civilians tragically lost their lives during the Blitz, and extensive material damage was inflicted upon Britain’s cities and towns. However, amidst the destruction and chaos, the spirit of the British people remained unbroken. The capacity of Britain to wage war remained undiminished.
In the words of Winston Churchill, “Hitler had tried and failed ‘To break our famous island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction.'” The resolve of the British people and their ability to endure adversity stood as a testament to their resilience during this dark chapter of history.
The German invasion of Russia, June 1941
As early as the 1920s, Adolf Hitler had cast his eyes upon Russia, recognizing its vast natural resources as the primary target for conquest and expansion. In his vision, Russia would serve as the crucial “Lebensraum,” or living space, required to accommodate the German people. Hitler also harbored a deep-seated belief that by conquering Russia, he would effectively eradicate the “Jewish pestilential creed of Bolshevism.”
The non-aggression pact signed with Joseph Stalin in August 1939 was, in Hitler’s view, a temporary and expedient arrangement. It was only a matter of time before his ambitions turned toward the East.
In the wake of the fall of France and during the intense Battle of Britain, Hitler began meticulous planning for the Blitzkrieg campaign against Russia. This momentous operation commenced on June 22, 1941. Despite repeated warnings, Stalin was caught off guard, and the initial months saw the Germans achieving spectacular victories. They captured vast territories and took hundreds of thousands of prisoners. However, they fell short of capturing Moscow or Leningrad before the onset of winter.
On December 5-6, 1941, the Red Army launched a counter-offensive that not only removed the immediate threat to the Soviet capital but also brought the German high command perilously close to a catastrophic military crisis. In response, Hitler assumed personal command and his intervention proved decisive.. He went on to say, “That we overcame this winter and are today in a position again to proceed victoriously… is solely attributable to the bravery of the soldiers at the front and my unwavering determination to endure.”
Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941-World War 2
In the wake of Japan’s occupation of French Indo-China in July 1941, a series of decisive actions by world powers set the stage for a momentous shift toward conflict. It was a chain of events that would culminate in the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor.
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, closely followed by Britain and the Netherlands, made a pivotal move by ordering the freezing of Japanese assets. This economic pressure left many Japanese leaders feeling trapped, perceiving that they were left with no viable alternative between economic ruin and war with the United States and the European colonial powers.
The political landscape in Japan underwent a significant transformation in October 1941, as a hardline government led by General Hideki Tojo came to power. Under this leadership, preparations were made to deliver a devastating blow against the United States.
On December 7, 1941, a day famously referred to as “a date which will live in infamy,” Japanese carrier-borne aircraft executed a surprise attack on the US Pacific fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. Despite prior warnings, the American forces were caught completely off guard. The attack resulted in eight battleships being incapacitated and seven other warships being damaged or lost. Tragically, over 2,500 Americans lost their lives, while the Japanese suffered the loss of only 29 planes. Crucially, the American aircraft carriers were at sea during the attack, escaping damage, and the base itself remained operational.
In response to this unprovoked attack, Congress declared THE WORLD War on Japan the following day. Japan had also targeted British and Dutch colonial possessions in the same offensive. On December 11, 1941, Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States, officially ushering in a truly global conflict.
Initially, the Japanese achieved victories across multiple fronts, but Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto issued a sobering warning: “We can run wild for six months or a year, but after that,Absolutely no confidence at all. This signaled the start of a lengthy and intricate global conflict that would change the path of history.
The Japanese Advance in Malaya and the Fall of Singapore:15 February 1942
The Japanese invasion of Malaya commenced on December 8, 1941, and swiftly put the British and their empire defenders on the defensive. Although they had been told that the Japanese were no match for European troops, morale among the defending forces plummeted as General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s forces advanced rapidly southward toward Singapore.
The sinking of the British capital ships HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse by Japanese aircraft further eroded morale and triggered panic among both the civilian population and the military units.
British commander Lieutenant General Arthur Percival initially hoped to make a stand at Johore but was ultimately compelled to retreat to Singapore Island. The Japanese forces landed there on February 8-9, and the defense of the island soon crumbled. Faced with dwindling supplies of water and the inevitability of further bloodshed, Percival made the difficult decision to surrender on February 15.
Winston Churchill described this surrender as “the worst disaster… in British military history.” Over 130,000 British and empire troops surrendered to a significantly smaller Japanese force, which suffered only 9,824 battle casualties during the 70-day campaign. The fall of Singapore not only represented a humiliating military defeat but also dealt a severe blow to the prestige of the ‘white man’ throughout Asia.
Midway,4 June 1942 – World War 2
In the six months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces experienced a series of victories, capturing strategic territories like Hong Kong, Malaya, the Philippines, and the Dutch East Indies. By May 1942, the Japanese sought to solidify their hold on these conquests and eliminate the United States as a significant Pacific power.
Their plan involved luring the US Navy carriers that had survived the Pearl Harbor attack into a carefully laid trap. Simultaneously, the Japanese aimed to occupy the Midway atoll as a staging point for further offensives. The capture of the American carriers, they believed, would compel the United States to negotiate.
However, the tables turned dramatically as the Americans scored a resounding victory. US codebreakers deciphered critical information, pinpointing the location and date of the Japanese attack. This intelligence allowed Admiral Chester Nimitz to orchestrate a counter-trap.
During the ensuing Battle of Midway, the Japanese suffered significant losses, including four carriers, one heavy cruiser, and 248 aircraft. In contrast, American losses amounted to one carrier, one destroyer, and 98 planes. The Battle of Midway marked a turning point in the
disarming war, with the Americans seizing the strategic initiative and inflicting irreplaceable losses upon the Japanese.
Admiral Nimitz characterized the battle’s success as “Essentially a victory of intelligence,” while President Roosevelt hailed it as “Our most important victory in 1942… there we stopped the Japanese offensive.”
Alamein, 25 October 1942 – World War 2
The North African campaign had its inception in September 1940, and for the ensuing two years, the theater of war witnessed a series of alternating advances and retreats by both the Allied and Axis forces. It was during the summer of 1942 that the Axis forces, commanded by the renowned ‘Desert Fox’ Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, appeared poised to capture Cairo and advance towards the strategically vital Suez Canal.
In response, British Middle East Commander General Claude Auchinleck assumed personal command of the defending Eighth Army and effectively halted the retreat, establishing a robust defensive line at El Alamein. However, dissatisfaction with Auchinleck’s leadership led Prime Minister Winston Churchill to replace him in August. General Harold Alexander took his place, with Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery assuming command of the Eighth Army.
Montgomery swiftly initiated a buildup of overwhelming manpower and equipment, ultimately launching a decisive offensive at El Alamein on October 23, 1942. By the start of November, the Axis forces found themselves in full retreat. The ultimate victory in North Africa, though, was not secured until May 1943.
While Montgomery has faced criticism for his cautious approach in capitalizing on the success at El Alamein, this triumph catapulted him to national recognition and established him as Britain’s most beloved general of the war. Churchill celebrated the Battle of El Alamein as a “Glorious and decisive victory… the bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers and warmed and cheered all our hearts.”
February 1943 – World War 2
The battle for Stalingrad commenced in late August 1942, and by September 12, German forces from the Sixth and Fourth Panzer Armies had already reached the outskirts of the city. Stalingrad, named after Russia’s leader, held both symbolic and strategic significance, making it a crucial battleground.
Under the leadership of General Vassili Chuikov, the city’s defenders fiercely contested every inch of the disarming war-ravaged urban landscape throughout September and October. The unwavering defense put up by the Red Army allowed General Georgi Zhukov the time he needed to prepare a counterattack, which was eventually launched on November 19, 1942. This counteroffensive quickly ensnared the Sixth Army, led by General Friedrich Paulus.
Despite assurances from Hermann Gering that the Luftwaffe could sustain Stalingrad by air, Adolf Hitler ordered General Paulus to hold out. Simultaneously, Field Marshal Erich Manstein was tasked with breaking through enemy lines to relieve the besieged Sixth Army. Manstein’s efforts proved unsuccessful, and on January 31, 1943, General Paulus capitulated.
The outcome was grim for the German forces at Stalingrad. Of the 91,000 troops who entered captivity, fewer than 6,000 would return home after the world war. Stalingrad stands as one of Germany’s most devastating defeats, and it effectively marked the end of Hitler’s ambitions for an empire in the east.
The Battle of Kursk: The Last Major German Offensive on the Eastern Front:
The Battle of Kursk marked the final significant German offensive on the Eastern Front, undertaken to exploit the opportunities created by a major German salient. The objective was to breach the flanks of this salient and achieve an encirclement victory akin to the Soviet triumph at Stalingrad the preceding winter.
In a display of continued strategic optimism, Hitler perceived this battle as a decisive showdown where sheer willpower would triumph. He envisioned that victory would erode the cohesion of the Allied coalition by sowing doubts in Western confidence regarding the likelihood of a Soviet victory and increasing Soviet pressure for a second front in France.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Germans confronted a formidable Soviet defense system that effectively thwarted their tank offensive. Heavy losses and only modest territorial gains compelled Hitler to terminate the operation, which exacted a significant toll.
With the German advance halted, the Soviets were poised for a counteroffensive. This marked the beginning of a near-continuous process of driving the Germans back.
Operation Overlord: The Liberation of Northwestern Europe
Operation Overlord, the monumental invasion and liberation of northwestern Europe, commenced on D-Day, June 6, 1944. On that historic day, under the supreme command of US General Dwight Eisenhower, British, Canadian, and American troops, backed by the might of the Allied navies and air forces, stormed the shores of Normandy. By day’s end, a staggering 158,000 men, including airborne troops, had successfully landed.
Initially, aside from the challenging American Omaha beach, German resistance was unexpectedly limited. However, it swiftly intensified, impeding the Allied breakout from the beachhead area, resulting in a painfully slow advance. The ferocity of the battles is underscored by the fact that British infantry battalions in Normandy suffered casualty rates comparable to those experienced on the Western Front during World War I (1914–1918). Despite the formidable resistance, the breakout was eventually achieved, culminating in the liberation of Paris on August 25. Brussels followed suit on September 3.
Hopes of securing victory in 1944 were dashed by the Allied setback at Arnhem and the unforeseen German offensive in the Ardennes in December. It was not until May 4, 1945, that German forces in northwestern Europe surrendered, with the surrender taking place at Field Marshal Montgomery’s headquarters on Luneburg Heath.
23–26 October 1944: Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Americans leveraged their burgeoning naval and air supremacy, which was already robust and rapidly expanding, to initiate the reconquest of the Philippines in October 1944. This operation set the stage for a momentous naval confrontation known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, spanning October 23 to 26. It stands as the largest naval battle of World War II, a series of engagements that decisively established American maritime dominance in the western Pacific.
The availability of oil played a pivotal role in determining Japanese naval strategies. With carrier formations stationed in their home waters and the main battle force positioned just south of Singapore, any American move toward the Philippines posed a grave challenge for Japan. There was a growing sense of pessimism within Japan, and some Japanese naval leaders began to prioritize an honorable defeat. The head of the Naval Operations Section famously requested on October 18, 1944, that the fleet be granted “a fitting place to die” and “the chance to bloom as flowers of death.”
Under Operation Sho-Go, the Japanese devised a plan to divert the American carrier fleet by using their own carriers as bait, subsequently launching two naval striking forces commanded by Vice-Admirals Kurita and Kiyohide to target the vulnerable American landing fleet. This intricate plan posed significant challenges for American admirals in terms of battle comprehension and tempo control, much like the situation at Midway. The Japanese counterparts also grappled with the complexities of implementing the plan.
During a critical juncture in the American operation, one of the Japanese strike forces managed to approach the landing area, surpassing the American warships in strength. However, instead of persisting, the strike force withdrew. The commander, Admiral Kurita, who was exhausted and lacked knowledge of the local situation, faced difficulties in identifying enemy surface ships.
The outcome of the battle resulted in the loss of four Japanese carriers, three battleships, including the Musashi, ten cruisers, numerous other warships, and a substantial number of aircraft.
Yalta: The Big Three, February 1945 – World War 2
Between June 1940 and June 1941, Britain found itself in a solitary struggle against Hitler’s forces. However, following the German invasion of Russia and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Britain acquired two formidable allies. Over the next four years, Winston Churchill made relentless efforts to foster and solidify ‘The Grand Alliance’ against the Nazis.
Churchill’s commitment to the cause even earned the begrudging admiration of Nazi propaganda chief Dr. Joseph Goebbels, who remarked, “…I can only respect this man, who spares no humiliation and shirks no difficulty when the Allies’ victory is at stake.” Churchill engaged in extensive discussions with both President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, working tirelessly to craft strategy and contemplate postwar arrangements.
The three leaders convened for the first time in Tehran in November 1943 and later at Yalta. Churchill was keenly aware that Britain, weary from the strenuous war effort, had assumed a subordinate role compared to the two emerging superpowers.
The Yalta Conference and the Controversial Bombing of Dresden
At the Yalta Conference, critical decisions were reached, including the postwar division of Germany and the commitment to prosecute war criminals. Discussions also revolved around the future constitution of the United Nations, with Stalin pledging to join the war against Japan following Germany’s defeat. However, one significant point of contention was the future of Eastern Europe, as the presence of the Red Army in the region limited the willingness of the Soviet dictator to heed the views of his two allies.
The Bombing of Dresden,13/14 February 1945
During the Yalta Conference, Allied leaders considered a plan to bomb the previously untouched city of Dresden. The rationale behind this attack was primarily its strategic importance as a communications hub in the wake of the German retreat following the Soviet Winter Offensive in January 1945. There was also speculation that Dresden might serve as an alternative capital to Berlin for the Reich.
The attack was part of Operation ‘Thunderclap,’ designed to convey to the Germans that the world war was all but lost. Conceived in January 1945, it emerged at a time when Hitler’s Ardennes offensive, V2 rocket strikes on Britain, and the deployment of snorkel-equipped U-boats indicated Germany’s capability for determined resistance. While strategic bombing had previously failed to break Germany, it had successfully diminished the country’s war-making capacity.
On the night of February 13-14, 1945, Dresden experienced an assault by 800 RAF bombers, followed by 400 bombers from the United States Army Air Force. This bombing unleashed a firestorm that obliterated 1,600 acres of Dresden. To this day, the exact death toll remains uncertain, with estimates ranging from 25,000 to 135,000. Most experts currently approximate the death toll at around 35,000.
The sheer scale of devastation, the staggering loss of life, and the timing of This Attack in the late stages of the The attack was part of Operation ‘Thunderclap,’ designed to convey to the Germans that the world war was all but lost. war have contributed to the ongoing controversy surrounding the bombing of Dresden.
Freedom From Bergen-Belsen, WORLD WAR IN 17 April 1945
On April 15, 1945, the British Army liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The impact of this event, captured in photographs, newsreel films, and Richard Dimbleby’s poignant BBC broadcast from the camp, sent shockwaves of horror and revulsion throughout Britain. While stories of concentration camps and the Nazi persecution and extermination of Jews had been circulating since 1933, this marked the first time that the British public confronted the grim reality of Hitler’s “Final Solution” to the Jewish Question — the Holocaust.
The exact date when the order for the systematic extermination of European Jewry was issued remains uncertain. However, by December 1941, the first extermination camp at Chelmno in German-occupied Poland was already operational, and mass shootings of Soviet Jews had commenced in June.
On January 20, 1942, a meeting of Nazi bureaucrats convened at Wannsee, near Berlin, to deliberate the logistics of the Final Solution. It is estimated that nearly six million Jews fell victim to the Nazis and their collaborators, with over 1.1 million perishing in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, the largest extermination camp in German-occupied Poland.
Throughout World War II, Hitler’s racial policies inflicted suffering on countless non-Jewish victims, including Soviet prisoners of Freedom from Bergen-Belsen war, individuals with physical and mental disabilities, Roma and Sinti (gypsies), homosexuals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The future Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, witnessed the aftermath of Belson shortly after its liberation. Reflecting on the experience years later, he stated, “A war that brought an end to Belson was a war worth fighting.”
8 May 1945 IN WORLD WAR
On the afternoon of May 8, 1945, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered a radio announcement that the world had long awaited. Grand Admiral Dönitz, the designated head of the German State, and General Jodl, speaking on behalf of the German High Command, met at General Eisenhower’s headquarters yesterday morning at 2:41 in the morning. signed the act of unconditional surrender, encompassing all German land, sea, and air forces in Europe.”
After nearly six years of relentless conflict, the war in Europe had finally come to an end. However, while VE Day marked the conclusion of the Second World War in Europe, hostilities persisted in the Far East for an additional three and a half months. Consequently, there was always a slightly somber undertone to the celebrations surrounding VE Day.
The Path to VE Day:
It’s important to note that Japan’s defeat did not occur until after the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945…
Hiroshima Nagasaki, 9 August 1945
On August 2, 1939, Albert Einstein penned a letter to President Roosevelt, drawing attention to the military potential of atomic fission. Growing concerns about the possibility of German scientists working on an atomic bomb prompted swift action from the Americans and British. They initiated the Manhattan Project, a top-secret endeavor aimed at developing their own atomic weapon. The project culminated in a successful test in the desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. This pivotal achievement was immediately conveyed to President Harry Truman, who, at the time, was meeting with Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam.
Originally conceived with Germany as the primary target, the atomic bomb’s purpose shifted. It became a means to swiftly end the war with Japan and exert political pressure on the Soviet Union. Despite warning Japan of the potential “utter devastation” if they continued to resist, the Japanese persisted with their unwavering determination. Consequently, the first militarily deployed atomic bomb, codenamed “Little Boy,” was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
The devastating impact of this event resulted in an estimated 78,000 fatalities and 90,000 serious injuries. Just three days later, a second bomb, “Fat Man,” was unleashed on Nagasaki, leading to a similar loss of life.
Japan Surrenders, 2 September 1945
The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought about a swift acceptance of Allied terms, leading Japan to surrender on August 14, 1945. Japan publicly announced its surrender on August 15, 1945, a day that has since been commemorated as Victory over Japan – or ‘VJ’ – Day.
However, the formal surrender documents were not signed until September 2, a date considered VJ Day in the USA. The official surrender ceremony took place on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, marking the end of the World War 2. This momentous occasion occurred six years and one day after the Germans invaded Poland, signifying the official conclusion of the war.