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World War II
Infobox collage for WWII.PNG
Clockwise from top left: Chinese forces in the Battle of Wanjialing, British 25-pounder guns opening fire during the First Battle of El Alamein, German Stuka dive bombers on the Eastern Front winter 1943–1944, US naval force in the Lingayen Gulf, Wilhelm Keitel signing the German Surrender, Soviet troops in the Battle of Stalingrad
Date September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945
Location Europe, Pacific, Atlantic, South-East Asia, China, Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa
Result Allied victory

 United Kingdom
 Soviet Union (1941-45)
 United States (1941-45)
 China (at war since 1937)
Poland Poland
France France
 New Zealand
South Africa South Africa
 Belgium (1940-45)
 Netherlands (1940-45)
Greece Greece (1940-45)
Kingdom of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia (1941-45)
 Norway (1940-45)
and others

Axis and Axis-aligned

 Japan (at war since 1937)
 Italy (1940-43)
Hungary Hungary (1940-44)
Romania Romania (1941-44)
 Finland (1941-44)
 Thailand (1941-45)
Bulgaria Bulgaria (1941-44)
Croatia Croatia (1941-45)
Slovakia Slovakia
and others

Allied leaders

Soviet Union Joseph Stalin
Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov
United States Franklin D. Roosevelt
United States George Marshall
United Kingdom Winston Churchill
United Kingdom Alan Brooke
Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek
France Charles de Gaulle
and others

Axis leaders

Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler
Nazi Germany Wilhelm Keitel
Empire of Japan Hirohito
Empire of Japan Hideki Tōjō
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Benito Mussolini
Hungary Miklós Horthy
Romania Ion Antonescu
and others

Casualties and losses
Military dead:
Over 16,000,000
Civilian dead:
Over 45,000,000
Total dead:
Over 61,000,000
...further details
Military dead:
Over 8,000,000
Civilian dead:
Over 4,000,000
Total dead:
Over 12,000,000
...further details
World War II series
Asian events · European events · Timeline
1939 · 1940 · 1941 · 1942 · 1943 · 1944 · 1945
Eastern front · Western Front · Pacific War · Battles · Military operations · Commanders
Technology · Atlas of the World Battle Fronts · Manhattan project
Aerial warfare · Home front · Collaboration · Resistance
Casualties · Further effects · War crimes · Japanese War Crimes · Consequences of Nazism · Soviet occupation

World War II articles
Alphabetical index: 0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Campaigns  |  Countries  |  Equipment
Lists  |  Outline  |  Timeline  |  Portal  |  Category

World War II, or the Second World War[1] (often abbreviated WWII or WW2), was a global military conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945 which involved most of the world's nations, including all great powers, organised into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilised. In a state of "total war," the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by significant action against civilians, including The Holocaust and the first use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it was the deadliest conflict in human history,[2] with over seventy million casualties.

The start of the war is generally held to be September 1, 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and most of the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Many countries were already at war by this date, such as Ethiopia and Italy in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and China and Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War.[3] Many that were not initially involved joined the war later in response to events such as the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the Japanese attacks on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and on British overseas colonies, which triggered declarations of war on Japan by the United States, the British Commonwealth,[4] and the Netherlands.[5]

In 1945 the war ended in an Allied victory and a changed world. While the United Nations was established to foster international cooperation and prevent future conflicts, the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as two rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War which lasted for the next 46 years. Meanwhile, the acceptance of the principle of self-determination accelerated decolonization movements in Asia and Africa, while Western Europe began moving toward economic recovery and increased political integration.


The start of the war is generally held to be September 1, 1939 beginning with the German invasion of Poland; Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later. Other dates for the beginning of war include the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on September 13, 1931;[6] the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on July 7, 1937;[7][8] or one of several other events.

Others follow A. J. P. Taylor, who held that there was a simultaneous Sino-Japanese War in East Asia, and a Second European War in Europe and her colonies. The two wars merged in 1941, becoming a single global conflict, at which point the war continued until 1945. This article uses the conventional dating.[9]

The exact date of the war's end is not universally agreed upon. It has been suggested that the war ended at the armistice of August 14, 1945 (V-J Day), rather than the formal surrender of Japan (September 2, 1945); in some European histories, it ended on V-E Day (May 8, 1945). The Treaty of Peace with Japan was not signed until 1951.[10]


World War I radically altered the diplomatic and political situations in Eurasia and Africa with the defeat of the Central Powers, including Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire; and the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia in 1917. Meanwhile the success of the Allied Entente powers including the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Romania and the creation of new states from the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire resulted in a major shift in the balance of power in Europe.[citation needed] In the aftermath of the war major unrest in Europe rose, especially irredentist and revanchist nationalism and class conflict. Irredentism and revanchism was strong in Germany which was forced to accept significant territorial, colonial, and financial losses as part of the Treaty of Versailles. Under the treaty Germany lost around 13 percent of its home territory and all of its overseas colonies, while German annexation of other states was prohibited, massive reparations were imposed and limits were placed on the size and capability of Germany's armed forces.[11] Meanwhile, the Russian Civil War had led to the creation of the Soviet Union. After Lenin's death in 1924, Stalin seized power in the USSR and repudiated the New Economic Policy favouring the Five Year Plans instead.[12]

In the interwar period, domestic civil conflict occurred in Germany involving nationalists and reactionaries versus communists and moderate democratic political parties. A similar scenario occurred in Italy. Although Italy as an Entente ally made some territorial gains, Italian nationalists were angered that the terms of the Treaty of London upon which Italy had agreed to wage war on the Central Powers, were not fulfilled with the peace settlement. From 1922 to 1925, the Italian Fascist movement led by Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy with a nationalist, totalitarian, and class collaborationist agenda that abolished representative democracy, repressed political forces supporting class conflict or liberalism, and pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at forcefully forging Italy as a world power, and promising to create a "New Roman Empire."[13] Fascism became internationally popular amongst people disillusioned with democratic government, liberalism, and class conflict.[citation needed] In Germany, the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler pursued establishing such a fascist government in Germany. With the onset of the Great Depression, Nazi support rose and in 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, and in the aftermath of the Reichstag fire, Hitler created a totalitarian single-party state led by the Nazis.[14]

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.[15] In 1931, an increasingly militaristic Japanese Empire, which had long sought influence in China[16] as the first step of its right to rule Asia, used the Mukden Incident as justification to invade Manchuria and established the puppet state of Manchukuo.[17] Too weak to resist Japan, China appealed to the League of Nations for help. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations after being condemned for its incursion into Manchuria. The two nations then fought several minor conflicts, in Shanghai, Rehe and Hebei, until signing the Tanggu Truce in 1933. Thereafter, Chinese volunteer forces continued the resistance to Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and Chahar and Suiyuan.[18]

Adolf Hitler (right) and Benito Mussolini (left)

Adolf Hitler, after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the German government in 1923, became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933. He abolished democracy, espousing a radical, racially-motivated revision of the world order, and soon began a massive rearmament campaign.[19] Meanwhile, France, to secure its alliance, allowed Italy a free hand in Ethiopia, which Italy desired as a colonial possession. The situation was aggravated in early 1935 when the Saarland was legally reunited with Germany and Hitler repudiated the Treaty of Versailles, speeding up his rearmament programme and introducing conscription.[20]

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, wrote 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, which rendered it essentially toothless.[21][22] However, 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.[23] In October, Italy invaded Ethiopia, with Germany the only major European nation supporting the invasion. Italy then revoked objections to Germany's goal of absorbing Austria.[24]

Hitler defied the Versailles and Locarno treaties by remilitarizing the Rhineland in March 1936. He received little response from other European powers.[25] When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July, Hitler and Mussolini supported fascist Generalissimo 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,[26] and the nationalists won the war in early 1939. Mounting tensions led to several efforts to strengthen or consolidate power. In October 1936, Germany and Italy formed the Rome-Berlin Axis. A month later, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, which Italy would join in the following year. In China, after the Xian Incident the Kuomintang and communist forces agreed on a ceasefire in order to present a united front to oppose Japan.[27]

Pre-war events

Invasion of Ethiopia

The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a brief colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia) and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia). The war resulted in the military occupation of Ethiopia and its annexation into the newly created colony of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana, or AOI); in addition, it exposed the weakness of the League of Nations as a force to preserve peace. Both Italy and Ethiopia were member nations, but the League did nothing when the former clearly violated the League's own Article X.[28]

Japanese invasion of China

A Chinese machine gun nest in the Battle of Shanghai.

In July 1937, Japan captured the former imperial capital of Beiping after instigating the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which culminated in the Japanese campaign to invade all of China.[29] The Soviets quickly signed a non-aggression pact with China to lend materiel support, effectively ending China's prior cooperation with Germany. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek deployed his best army to defend Shanghai, but after 3 month of fighting Shanghai fell. The Japanese continue to push the Chinese forces back, capturing the capital Nanjing in December 1937 and committed the Nanking Massacre.

In June 1938, Chinese forces stalled the Japanese advance by flooding the Yellow River; although this manoeuvre bought time for the Chinese to prepare their defences at Wuhan, the city was taken by October.[30] However, Japanese military victories did not bring about the collapse of Chinese resistance that Japan had hoped to achieve, instead the Chinese government relocated to Chongqing to continue their resistance.[31]

Japanese invasion of the USSR and Mongolia

Soviet troops during the Battle of Khalkin Gol.

On July 29, 1938, the Japanese invaded the USSR and were checked at the Battle of Lake Khasan. Although the battle was a Soviet victory, the Japanese dismissed it as an inconclusive draw, and on May 11, 1939 decided to move the Japanese-Mongolian border up to the Khalkin Gol River by force. Stalin replaced the former Soviet commander with Georgy Zhukov on Semyon Timoshenko's advice. Zhukov, along with reinforcements sent from Moscow, checked the Japanese assault on Mongolia and handed the Japanese Kwangtung Army their first major defeat.[32][33]

These clashes convinced the Japanese government that they should focus on conciliating the Soviet government to avoid interference in the war against China and instead turn their military attention southward, towards the US and European holdings in the Pacific. They also prevented the sacking of experienced Soviet military leaders such as Zhukov, who would later play a vital role in the defence of Moscow.[34]

European occupations and agreements

Czechs watch German troops enter Prague after Czechoslovakia capitulates, March 15, 1939.

In Europe, Germany and Italy were becoming bolder. In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria, again provoking little response from other European powers.[35] Encouraged, Hitler began pressing German claims on the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia with a predominantly ethnic German population; France and Britain conceded this territory to him, against the wishes of the Czechoslovak government, in exchange for a promise of no further territorial demands.[36] Soon after that, however, Germany and Italy forced Czechoslovakia to cede additional territory to Hungary and Poland.[37] In March 1939, Germany invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia and subsequently split it into the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the pro-German client state, the Slovak Republic.[38]

Alarmed, and with Hitler making further demands on Danzig, France and Britain guaranteed their support for Polish independence; when Italy conquered Albania in April 1939, the same guarantee was extended to Romania and Greece.[39] Shortly after the Franco-British pledge to Poland, Germany and Italy formalised their own alliance with the Pact of Steel.[40] In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression pact.[41] This treaty included a secret protocol placing western Poland and Lithuania in the German sphere of influence while placing eastern Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and the Romanian province of Bessarabia in the Soviet sphere of influence.[42]

Course of the war

War breaks out in Europe

A German Heinkel He 111 bombing Warsaw in 1939

On September 1, 1939, Germany and Slovakia — a client state in 1939 — attacked Poland. France, Britain, and the countries of the Commonwealth declared war on Germany but provided little military support to Poland other than a small French attack into the Saarland.[43] On September 17, 1939, after signing an armistice with Japan, the Soviets launched their own invasion of Poland.[44] By early October, Poland was divided among Germany, the Soviet Union, Lithuania and Slovakia, although Poland never officially surrendered and continued the fight outside its borders.[45] At the same time as the battle in Poland, Japan launched its first attack against Changsha, a strategically important Chinese city, but was repulsed by late September.[46]

Common parade of German Wehrmacht and Soviet Red Army on September 23, 1939 in Brest, Eastern Poland at the end of the Invasion of Poland. At centre is Major General Heinz Guderian and at right is Brigadier Semyon Krivoshein.

Following the invasion of Poland and a German-Soviet treaty governing Lithuania, the Soviet Union forced the Baltic countries to allow it to station Soviet troops in their countries under pacts of "mutual assistance."[47][48][49] Finland rejected territorial demands and was invaded by the Soviet Union in November 1939.[50] The resulting conflict ended in March 1940 with Finnish concessions.[51] France and the United Kingdom, treating the Soviet attack on Finland as tantamount to entering the war on the side of the Germans, responded to the Soviet invasion by supporting the USSR's expulsion from the League of Nations.[49] In June 1940, the Soviet Armed Forces invaded and occupied the neutral Baltic States.[48]

German troops in Paris after the fall of France

In Western Europe, British troops deployed to the Continent, but in a phase nicknamed the Phoney War by the British and "Sitzkrieg" (sitting war) by the Germans, neither side launched major operations against the other until April 1940.[52] The Soviet Union and Germany entered a trade pact in February of 1940, pursuant to which the Soviets received German military and industrial equipment in exchange for supplying raw materials to Germany to help circumvent a British blockade.[53] In April, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway to secure shipments of iron ore from Sweden, which the Allies would try to disrupt.[54] Denmark immediately capitulated, and despite Allied support, Norway was conquered within two months.[55] British discontent over the Norwegian campaign led to the replacement of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain by Winston Churchill on May 10, 1940.[56]

Axis advances

German and other Axis conquests (in blue) in Europe, during World War II

On that same day, Germany invaded France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.[57] The Netherlands and Belgium were overrun using blitzkrieg tactics in a few days and weeks, respectively.[58] The French fortified Maginot Line was circumvented by a flanking movement through the thickly wooded Ardennes region,[57] mistakenly perceived by French planners as an impenetrable natural barrier against armoured vehicles.[59] British troops were forced to evacuate the continent at Dunkirk, abandoning their heavy equipment by the end of the month. On June 10, Italy invaded, declaring war on both France and the United Kingdom;[60] twelve days later France surrendered and was soon divided into German and Italian occupation zones,[61] and an unoccupied rump state under the Vichy Regime. On July 14, the British attacked the French fleet in Algeria to prevent its possible seizure by Germany.[62]

With France neutralised, Germany began an air superiority campaign over Britain (the Battle of Britain) to prepare for an invasion.[63] The campaign failed, and the invasion plans were cancelled by September. Using newly captured French ports, the German Navy enjoyed success against an over-extended Royal Navy, using U-boats against British shipping in the Atlantic.[64] Italy began operations in the Mediterranean, initiating a siege of Malta in June, conquering British Somaliland in August, and making an incursion into British-held Egypt in September 1940. Japan increased its blockade of China in September by seizing several bases in the northern part of the now-isolated French Indochina.[65]

The Battle of Britain ended the German advance in Western Europe

Throughout this period, the neutral United States took measures to assist China and the Western Allies. In November 1939, the American Neutrality Act was amended to allow 'Cash and carry' purchases by the Allies.[66] In 1940, following the German capture of Paris, the size of the United States Navy was significantly increased and, after the Japanese incursion into Indochina, the United States embargoed iron, steel and mechanical parts against Japan.[67] In September, the United States further agreed to a trade of American destroyers for British bases.[68] Still, a large majority of the American public continued to oppose any direct military intervention into the conflict well into 1941.[69]

At the end of September 1940, the Tripartite Pact united Japan, Italy, and Germany to formalize the Axis Powers.[70] The Tripartite Pact stipulated that any country, with the exception of the Soviet Union, not in the war which attacked any Axis Power would be forced to go to war against all three.[71] During this time, the United States continued to support the United Kingdom and China by introducing the Lend-Lease policy authorizing the provision of war materiel and other items[72] and creating a security zone spanning roughly half of the Atlantic Ocean where the United States Navy protected British convoys.[73] As a result, Germany and the United States found themselves engaged in sustained naval warfare in the North and Central Atlantic by October 1941, even though the United States remained officially neutral.[74][75]

The Axis expanded in November 1940 when Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania joined the Tripartite Pact.[76] These countries participated in the subsequent invasion of the USSR, with Romania making the largest contribution to recapture territory ceded to the USSR and pursue its leader Ion Antonescu's desire to combat communism.[77] In October 1940, Italy invaded Greece but within days was repulsed and pushed back into Albania, where a stalemate soon occurred.[78] In December 1940, British Commonwealth forces began counter-offensives against Italian forces in Egypt and Italian East Africa.[79] By early 1941, with Italian forces having been pushed back into Libya by the Commonwealth, Churchill ordered a dispatch of troops from Africa to bolster the Greeks.[80] The Italian Navy also suffered significant defeats, with the Royal Navy putting three Italian battleships out of commission by carrier attack at Taranto, and neutralising several more warships at Cape Matapan.[81]

The Germans soon intervened to assist Italy. Hitler sent German forces to Libya in February, and by the end of March they had launched an offensive against the diminished Commonwealth forces.[82] In under a month, Commonwealth forces were pushed back into Egypt with the exception of the besieged port of Tobruk.[83] The Commonwealth attempted to dislodge Axis forces in May and again in June, but failed on both occasions.[84] In early April, following Bulgaria's signing of the Tripartite Pact, the Germans intervened in the Balkans by invading Greece and Yugoslavia following a coup; here too they made rapid progress, eventually forcing the Allies to evacuate after Germany conquered the Greek island of Crete by the end of May.[85]

The Allies did have some successes during this time. In the Middle East, Commonwealth forces first quashed a coup in Iraq which had been supported by German aircraft from bases within Vichy-controlled Syria,[86] then, with the assistance of the Free French, invaded Syria and Lebanon to prevent further such occurrences.[87] In the Atlantic, the British scored a much-needed public morale boost by sinking the German flagship Bismarck.[88] Perhaps most importantly, during the Battle of Britain the Royal Air Force had successfully resisted the Luftwaffe's assault, and on May 11, 1941, Hitler called off the bombing campaign.[89]

In Asia, despite several offensives by both sides, the war between China and Japan was stalemated by 1940. In order to increase pressure on China by blocking supply routes, and to better position Japanese forces in the event of a war with the Western powers, Japan had seized military control of southern Indochina[90] In August of that year, Chinese communists launched an offensive in Central China; in retaliation, Japan instituted harsh measures (the Three Alls Policy) in occupied areas to reduce human and material resources for the communists.[91] Continued antipathy between Chinese communist and nationalist forces culminated in armed clashes in January 1941, effectively ending their co-operation.[92] With the situation in Europe and Asia relatively stable, Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union made preparations. With the Soviets wary of mounting tensions with Germany and the Japanese planning to take advantage of the European War by seizing resource-rich European possessions in Southeast Asia, the two powers signed the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact in April 1941.[93] By contrast, the Germans were steadily making preparations for an attack on the Soviet Union, amassing forces on the Soviet border.[94]

The war becomes global

A German soldier inspecting the remains of destroyed Soviet forces in the Białystok–Minsk pocket.

On June 22, 1941, Germany, along with other European Axis members and Finland, invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. The primary targets of this surprise offensive[95] were the Baltic region, Moscow, and Ukraine, with an ultimate goal of ending the 1941 campaign near the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line, connecting the Caspian and White Seas. Hitler's objectives were to eliminate the Soviet Union as a military power, exterminate Communism, generate Lebensraum ("living space")[96] by dispossessing the native population[97] and guarantee access to the strategic resources needed to defeat Germany's remaining rivals.[98]

Although the Red Army was preparing for strategic counter-offensives before the war,[99] Barbarossa forced the Soviet supreme command to adopt a strategic defence. During the summer, the Axis made significant gains into Soviet territory, inflicting immense losses in both personnel and materiel. By the middle of August, however, the German Army High Command decided to suspend the offensive of a considerably depleted Army Group Centre, and to divert the Second Panzer Group to reinforce troops advancing toward central Ukraine and Leningrad.[100] The Kiev offensive was overwhelmingly successful, resulting in encirclement and elimination of four Soviet armies, and made further advance into Crimea and industrially developed Eastern Ukraine (the First Battle of Kharkov) possible.[101]

German infantry and armoured vehicles battle the Soviet defenders on the streets of Kharkov in 1941.

The diversion of three quarters of the Axis troops and the majority of their air forces from France and the central Mediterranean to the Eastern Front[102][103] prompted the United Kingdom to reconsider its grand strategy.[104] In July, the UK and the Soviet Union formed a military alliance against Germany[105] and jointly invaded Iran shortly afterwards to secure the Persian Corridor and Iran's oilfields.[106] In August, the United Kingdom and the United States jointly issued the Atlantic Charter.[107]

By October, when Axis operational objectives in Ukraine and the Baltic region were achieved, with only the sieges of Leningrad[108] and Sevastopol continuing,[109] a major offensive against Moscow had been renewed. After two months of fierce battles, the German army almost reached the outer suburbs of Moscow, where the exhausted troops[110] were forced to suspend their offensive.[111] Large territorial gains were made by Axis forces, but their campaign had failed to achieve its main objectives: two key cities remained in Soviet hands, the Soviet capability to resist was not broken, and the Soviet Union retained a considerable part of its military potential. The blitzkrieg phase of the war in Europe had ended.[112]

By early December, freshly mobilised reserves[113] allowed the Soviets to achieve numerical parity with Axis troops.[114] This, as well as intelligence data that established a minimal number of Soviet troops in the East sufficient to prevent any attack by the Japanese Kwantung Army,[115] allowed the Soviets to begin a massive counter-offensive that started on December 5 along a 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) front and pushed German troops 100–250 kilometres (62–160 mi) west.[116]

German successes in Europe encouraged Japan to increase pressure on European governments in south-east Asia. The Dutch government agreed to provide Japan oil supplies from the Dutch East Indies, while refusing to hand over political control of the colonies. Vichy France, by contrast, agreed to a Japanese occupation of French Indochina. [117] The United States, United Kingdom, and other Western governments reacted to the seizure of Indochina with a freeze on Japanese assets, while the United States (which supplied 80 percent of Japan's oil[118]) responded by placing a complete oil embargo.[119] The seizure meant Japan was essentially forced to choose between abandoning its ambitions in Asia and the prosecution of the war against China, or seizing the natural resources it needed by force; the Japanese military did not consider the former an option, and many officers considered the oil embargo an unspoken declaration of war.[120]

Japan planned to rapidly seize European colonies in Asia to create a large defensive perimeter stretching into the Central Pacific; the Japanese would then be free to exploit the resources of Southeast Asia while exhausting the over-stretched Allies by fighting a defensive war [121]. To prevent American intervention while securing the perimeter it was further planned to neutralise the United States Pacific Fleet from the outset.[122] On December 7 (December 8 in Asian time zones), 1941, Japan attacked British and American holdings with near-simultaneous offensives against Southeast Asia and the Central Pacific.[123] These included an attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor and landings in Thailand and Malaya.[123]

British soldiers surrendering at Singapore.

These attacks prompted the United States, United Kingdom, Australia,[4] other Western Allies,[5] and China (already fighting the Second Sino-Japanese War), to formally declare war on Japan. Germany and the other members of the Tripartite Pact responded by declaring war on the United States. In January, the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, China, and 22 smaller or exiled governments issued the Declaration by United Nations, which affirmed the Atlantic Charter.[124] The Soviet Union did not adhere to the declaration; it maintained a neutrality agreement with Japan,[125][126] and exempted itself from the principle of self-determination.[107]

Meanwhile, by the end of April 1942, Japan had almost fully conquered Burma, Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, Singapore,[127] and Rabaul, inflicting severe losses on Allied troops and taking a large number of prisoners. Despite a stubborn resistance in Corregidor, the Philippines was eventually captured in May 1942, forcing the government of the Philippine Commonwealth into exile.[128] Japanese forces also achieved naval victories in the South China Sea, Java Sea and Indian Ocean,[129] and bombed the Allied naval base at Darwin, Australia. The only real Allied success against Japan was a Chinese victory at Changsha in early January 1942.[130] These easy victories over unprepared opponents left Japan overconfident, as well as overextended.[131]

Germany retained the initiative as well. Exploiting dubious American naval command decisions, the German navy ravaged Allied shipping off the American Atlantic coast.[132] Despite considerable losses, European Axis members stopped a major Soviet offensive in Central and Southern Russia, keeping most territorial gains they achieved during the previous year.[133] In North Africa, the Germans launched an offensive in January, pushing the British back to positions at the Gazala Line by early February,[134] followed by a temporary lull in combat which Germany used to prepare for their upcoming offensives.[135]

Axis advance stalls

In early May 1942, Japan initiated operations to capture Port Moresby by amphibious assault and thus sever communications and supply lines between the United States and Australia. The Allies, however, intercepted and turned back Japanese naval forces, successfully preventing the invasion.[136] Japan's next plan, motivated by the earlier bombing on Tokyo, was to seize Midway Atoll and lure American carriers into battle to be eliminated; as a diversion, Japan would also send forces to occupy the Aleutian Islands.[137] In early June, Japan put its operations into action but the Americans, having broken Japanese naval codes in late May, were fully aware of the plans and force dispositions and used this knowledge to achieve a decisive victory over the Imperial Japanese Navy.[138]

With its capacity for aggressive action greatly diminished as a result of the Midway battle, Japan chose to focus on a belated attempt to capture Port Moresby by an overland campaign in the Territory of Papua.[139] The Americans planned a counter-attack against Japanese positions in the southern Solomon Islands, primarily Guadalcanal, as a first step towards capturing Rabaul, the main Japanese base in Southeast Asia.[140] Both plans started in July, but by mid-September, the battle for Guadalcanal took priority for the Japanese, and troops in New Guinea were ordered to withdraw from the Port Moresby area to the northern part of the island, where they faced Australian and United States troops in the Battle of Buna-Gona.[141] Guadalcanal soon became a focal point for both sides with heavy commitments of troops and ships in the battle for Guadalcanal. By the start of 1943, the Japanese were defeated on the island and withdrew their troops.[142] In Burma, Commonwealth forces mounted two operations. The first, an offensive into the Arakan region in late 1942, went disastrously, forcing a retreat back to India by May 1943.[143] The second was the insertion of irregular forces behind Japanese front-lines in February which, by the end of April, had achieved dubious results.[144]

A Soviet soldier waving the Red Banner over the central plaza in Stalingrad in 1943.

On Germany's eastern front, the Axis defeated Soviet offensives in the Kerch Peninsula and at Kharkov[145] and then launched their main summer offensive against southern Russia in June 1942, to seize the oilfields of the Caucasus and occupy Kuban steppe, while maintaining positions on the northern and central areas of the front. The Germans split the Army Group South into two groups: Army Group A struck lower Don River while Army Group B struck south-east to the Caucasus, towards Volga River.[146] The Soviets decided to make their stand at Stalingrad, which was in the path of the advancing German armies. By mid-November the Germans had nearly taken Stalingrad in bitter street fighting when the Soviets began their second winter counter-offensive, starting with an encirclement of German forces at Stalingrad[147] and an assault on the Rzhev salient near Moscow, though the latter failed disastrously.[148] By early February 1943, the German Army had taken tremendous losses; German troops at Stalingrad had been forced to surrender[149] and the front-line had been pushed back beyond its position before the summer offensive. In mid-February, after the Soviet push had tapered off, the Germans launched another attack on Kharkov, creating a salient in their front line around the Russian city of Kursk.[150]

British Crusader tanks moving to forward positions during the North Africa Campaign

By November 1941, Commonwealth forces had launched a counter-offensive, Operation Crusader, in North Africa, and reclaimed all the gains the Germans and Italians had made.[151] In the West, concerns the Japanese might utilize bases in Vichy-held Madagascar caused the British to invade the island in early May 1942.[152] This success was offset soon after by an Axis offensive in Libya which pushed the Allies back into Egypt until Axis forces were stopped at El Alamein.[153] On the Continent, raids of Allied commandos on strategic targets, culminating in the disastrous Dieppe Raid,[154] demonstrated the Western Allies' inability to launch an invasion of continental Europe without much better preparation, equipment, and operational security.[155]

In August 1942, the Allies succeeded in repelling a second attack against El Alamein and, at a high cost, managed to deliver desperately needed supplies to the besieged Malta.[156] A few months later, the Allies commenced an attack of their own in Egypt, dislodging the Axis forces and beginning a drive west across Libya.[157] This attack was followed up shortly after by an Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa, which resulted in the region joining the Allies.[158] Hitler responded to the French colony's defection by ordering the occupation of Vichy France;[158] although Vichy forces did not resist this violation of the armistice, they managed to scuttle their fleet to prevent its capture by German forces.[159] The now pincered Axis forces in Africa withdrew into Tunisia, which was conquered by the Allies in May 1943.[160]

Allies gain momentum

Bombing of Hamburg.ogg
A contemporary video showing bombing of Hamburg by the Allies

Following the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Allies initiated several operations against Japan in the Pacific. In May 1943, Allied forces were sent to eliminate Japanese forces from the Aleutians,[161] and soon after began major operations to isolate Rabaul by capturing surrounding islands, and to breach the Japanese Central Pacific perimeter at the Gilbert and Marshall Islands.[162] By the end of March 1944, the Allies had completed both of these objectives, and additionally neutralised the major Japanese base at Truk in the Caroline Islands. In April, the Allies then launched an operation to retake Western New Guinea.[163]

A Soviet tank during the Battle of Kursk

In the Soviet Union, both the Germans and the Soviets spent the spring and early summer of 1943 making preparations for large offensives in Central Russia. On July 4, 1943, Germany attacked Soviet forces around the Kursk Bulge. Within a week, German forces had exhausted themselves against the Soviets' deeply echeloned and well-constructed defences[164][165] and, for the first time in the war, Hitler cancelled the operation before it had achieved tactical or operational success.[166] This decision was partially affected by the Western Allies' invasion of Sicily launched on July 9 which, combined with previous Italian failures, resulted in the ousting and arrest of Mussolini later that month.[167] On July 12, 1943, the Soviets launched their own counter-offensives, thereby dispelling any hopes of the German Army for victory or even stalemate in the east. The Soviet victory at Kursk was one of the decisive turning points of the war, giving the Soviet Union the initiative on the Eastern Front.[168][169] The Germans attempted to stabilise their eastern front along the hastily fortified Panther-Wotan line, however, the Soviets broke through it at Smolensk and by the Lower Dnieper Offensives.[170]

In early September 1943, the Western Allies invaded the Italian mainland, following an Italian armistice with the Allies.[171] Germany responded by disarming Italian forces, seizing military control of Italian areas,[172] and creating a series of defensive lines.[173] German special forces then rescued Mussolini, who then soon established a new client state in German occupied Italy named the Italian Social Republic.[174] The Western Allies fought through several lines until reaching the main German defensive line in mid-November.[175]

German operations in the Atlantic also suffered. By May 1943, as Allied counter-measures became increasingly effective, the resulting sizable German submarine losses forced a temporary halt of the German Atlantic naval campaign.[176] In November 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met with Chiang Kai-shek in Cairo[177] and then with Joseph Stalin in Tehran.[178] The former conference determined the post-war return of Japanese territory,[177] while the latter included agreement that the Western Allies would invade Europe in 1944 and that the Soviet Union would declare war on Japan within three months of Germany's defeat.[178]

In January 1944, the Allies launched a series of attacks in Italy against the line at Monte Cassino and attempted to outflank it with landings at Anzio.[179] By the end of January, a major Soviet offensive expelled German forces from the Leningrad region,[180] ending the longest and most lethal siege in history. The following Soviet offensive was halted on the pre-war Estonian border by the German Army Group North aided by Estonians hoping to re-establish national independence. This delay slowed subsequent Soviet operations in the Baltic Sea region.[181] By late May 1944, the Soviets had liberated Crimea, largely expelled Axis forces from Ukraine, and made incursions into Romania, which were repulsed by the Axis troops.[182] The Allied offensives in Italy had succeeded and, at the expense of allowing several German divisions to retreat, on June 4 Rome was captured.[183]

British troops firing a mortar during the Battle of Imphal

The Allies experienced mixed fortunes in mainland Asia. In March 1944, the Japanese launched the first of two invasions, an operation against British positions in Assam, India,[184] and soon besieged Commonwealth positions at Imphal and Kohima.[185] In May 1944, British forces mounted a counter-offensive that drove Japanese troops back to Burma,[185] and Chinese forces that had invaded northern Burma in late 1943 besieged Japanese troops in Myitkyina.[186] The second Japanese invasion attempted to destroy China's main fighting forces, secure railways between Japanese-held territory and capture Allied airfields.[187] By June, the Japanese had conquered the province of Henan and begun a renewed attack against Changsha in the Hunan province.[188]

Allies close in

On June 6, 1944 (known as D-Day), the Western Allies invaded northern France and, after reassigning several Allied divisions from Italy, southern France.[189] These landings were successful, and led to the defeat of the German Army units in France. Paris was liberated by the local resistance assisted by the Free French forces on August 25[190] and the Western Allies continued to push back German forces in Western Europe during the latter part of the year. An attempt to advance into northern Germany spear-headed by a major airborne operation in the Netherlands was not successful.[191] The Allies also continued their advance in Italy until they ran into the last major German defensive line.

German prisoners of war captured during the Operation Bagration march through the streets of Moscow.

On June 22, the Soviets launched a strategic offensive in Belarus (known as "Operation Bagration") that resulted in the almost complete destruction of the German Army Group Centre.[192] Soon after that, another Soviet strategic offensive forced German troops from Western Ukraine and Eastern Poland. The successful advance of Soviet troops prompted resistance forces in Poland to initiate several uprisings, though the largest of these, in Warsaw, as well as a Slovak Uprising in the south, were not assisted by the Soviets and were put down by German forces.[193] The Red Army's strategic offensive in eastern Romania cut off and destroyed the considerable German troops there and triggered a successful coup d'état in Romania and in Bulgaria, followed by those countries' shift to the Allied side.[194]

In September 1944, Soviet Red Army troops advanced into Yugoslavia and forced the rapid withdrawal of the German Army Groups E and F in Greece, Albania and Yugoslavia to rescue them from being cut off.[195] By this point, Communist-led partisans under Marshal Josip Broz Tito controlled much of the territory of Yugoslavia and were engaged in delaying efforts against the German forces further south. In northern Serbia, the Red Army, with limited support from Bulgarian forces, assisted the partisans in a joint liberation of the capital city of Belgrade on October 20. A few days later, the Soviets launched a massive assault against German-occupied Hungary that lasted until the fall of Budapest in February 1945.[196] In contrast with impressive Soviet victories in the Balkans, the bitter Finnish resistance to the Soviet offensive in the Karelian Isthmus denied the Soviets occupation of Finland and led to the signing of Soviet-Finnish armistice on relatively mild conditions,[197][198] with a subsequent shift to the Allied side by Finland.

By the start of July, Commonwealth forces in Southeast Asia had repelled the Japanese sieges in Assam, pushing the Japanese back to the Chindwin River[199] while the Chinese captured Myitkyina. In China, the Japanese were having greater successes, having finally captured Changsha in mid-June and the city of Hengyang by early August.[200] Soon after, they further invaded the province of Guangxi, winning major engagements against Chinese forces at Guilin and Liuzhou by the end of November[201] and successfully linking up their forces in China and Indochina by the middle of December.[202]

In the Pacific, American forces continued to press back the Japanese perimeter. In mid-June 1944 they began their offensive against the Mariana and Palau islands, scoring a decisive victory against Japanese forces in the Philippine Sea within a few days. These defeats led to the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Tōjō and provided the United States with air bases to launch intensive heavy bomber attacks on the Japanese home islands. In late October, American forces invaded the Filipino island of Leyte; soon after, Allied naval forces scored another large victory during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history.[203]

Axis collapse, Allied victory

American and Soviet troops meet east of the Elbe River.

On December 16, 1944, Germany attempted its last desperate measure for success on the Western Front by marshalling German reserves to launch a massive counter-offensive in the Ardennes to attempt to split the Western Allies, encircle large portions of Western Allied troops and capture their primary supply port at Antwerp in order to prompt a political settlement.[204] By January, the offensive had been repulsed with no strategic objectives fulfilled.[204] 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.[205] On February 4, U.S., British, and Soviet leaders met in Yalta. They agreed on the occupation of post-war Germany,[206] and when the Soviet Union would join the war against Japan.[207]

In February, the Soviets invaded Silesia and Pomerania, while Western Allied forces entered Western Germany and closed to the Rhine river. In March, the Western Allies crossed the Rhine north and south of the Ruhr, encircling a large number of German troops,[208] while the Soviets advanced to Vienna. In early April, the Western Allies finally pushed forward in Italy and swept across Western Germany, while Soviet forces stormed Berlin in late April; the two forces linked up on Elbe river on April 25. On April 30, 1945, the Reichstag was captured, signalling the military defeat of Third Reich.[209]

A devastated Berlin street in the city centre, taken July 3, 1945

Several changes in leadership occurred during this period. On April 12, U.S. President Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Harry Truman. Benito Mussolini was killed by Italian partisans on April 28.[210] Two days later, Hitler committed suicide, and was succeeded by Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz.[211]

German forces surrendered in Italy on April 29 and in Western Europe on May 7.[212] On the Eastern Front, Germany surrendered to the Soviets on May 8. A German Army Group Centre resisted in Prague until May 11.[213] In the Pacific theatre, American forces accompanied by the forces of the Philippine Commonwealth advanced in the Philippines, clearing Leyte by the end of April 1945. They landed on Luzon in January 1945 and seized Manila in March, leaving it in ruins. Fighting continued on Luzon, Mindanao and other islands of the Philippines until the end of the war.[214] In May, Australian troops landed on Borneo, overrunning the oilfields there. British, American and Chinese forces defeated the Japanese in northern Burma in March, and the British pushed on to reach Rangoon by May 3.[215] American forces also moved toward Japan, taking Iwo Jima by March, and Okinawa by the end of June.[216] American bombers destroyed Japanese cities, and American submarines cut off Japanese imports.[217]

On July 11, the Allied leaders met in Potsdam, Germany. They confirmed earlier agreements about Germany,[218] and reiterated the demand for unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces by Japan, specifically stating that "the alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction".[219] During this conference the United Kingdom held its general election, and Clement Attlee replaced Churchill as Prime Minister.[220] When Japan continued to reject the Potsdam terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August. Between the two bombs, the Soviets, pursuant to the Yalta agreement, invaded Japanese-held Manchuria, and quickly defeated the Kwantung Army, which was the primary Japanese fighting force.[221][222] The Red Army also captured Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands. On August 15, 1945 Japan surrendered, with the surrender documents finally signed aboard the deck of the American battleship USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, ending the war.[212]


The Supreme Commanders on June 5, 1945 in Berlin: Bernard Montgomery, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Georgy Zhukov and Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the "Victory" sign to crowds in London on Victory in Europe Day.

In an effort to maintain international peace,[223] the Allies formed the United Nations, which officially came into existence on October 24, 1945,[224] and adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, as a common standard of achievement for all member nations.[225]

The alliance between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union had begun to deteriorate even before the war was over,[226] and the powers each quickly established their own spheres of influence.[227] In Europe, the continent was essentially divided between Western and Soviet spheres by the Iron Curtain which ran through and partitioned Allied occupied Germany and occupied Austria. The Soviet Union created the Eastern Bloc by directly annexing several countries it occupied as Soviet Socialist Republics that were originally effectively ceded to it by Germany in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, such as Eastern Poland,[228] the three Baltic countries,[229][230] part of eastern Finland[231] and northeastern Romania.[232][233]

Other states that the Soviets occupied at the end of the war were converted into Soviet Satellite states, such as the People's Republic of Poland, the People's Republic of Hungary,[234] the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic,[235] the People's Republic of Romania, the People's Republic of Albania,[236] and later East Germany from the Soviet zone of German occupation.[237]

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.[238]

Soon after the end of World War II, conflict flared again in many parts of the world. 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 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, North Korea invaded South Korea,[239] which was backed by the United Nations,[240] while North Korea was backed by the Soviet Union and China. The war resulted in essentially a stalemate and ceasefire, after which North Korean leader Kim Il Sung created a highly centralised and brutal dictatorship, according himself unlimited power and generating a formidable cult of personality.[241][242]

Following the end of the war, a rapid period of decolonization also took place within the holdings of the various European colonial powers.[243] 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.[244] In many regions, divisions, usually for ethnic or religious reasons, occurred following European withdrawal.[245] This was seen prominently in the Mandate of Palestine, leading to the creation of Israel, 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.[246] Italy came out of the war in poor economic condition,[247] but by 1950s, the Italian economy was marked by stability and high growth.[248] The United Kingdom was in a state of economic ruin after the war,[249] and continued to experience relative economic decline for decades to follow.[250]

France rebounded quickly, and enjoyed rapid economic growth and modernisation.[251] The Soviet Union also experienced a rapid increase in production in the immediate post-war era.[252] In Asia, Japan experienced incredibly rapid economic growth, becoming one of the most powerful economies in the world by the 1980s.[253]

China, following the conclusion of its civil war, was essentially a bankrupt nation.[254] By 1953, economic restoration seemed fairly successful as production had resumed pre-war levels.[254] 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 early 1970s though, this dominance had lessened significantly.[255]


Casualties and war crimes

World War II deaths

Estimates for the total casualties of the war vary, due to the fact that many deaths went unrecorded. Most suggest that some 60 million people died in the war, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.[256][257][258] Many civilians died because of disease, starvation, massacres, bombing and deliberate genocide. The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, almost half of all World War II deaths.[259]

Of the total deaths in World War II, approximately 85 percent were on the Allied side (mostly Soviet and Chinese) and 15 percent were on the Axis side. One estimate is that 12 million civilians died in Nazi concentration camps,[260] 1.5 million by bombs, 7 million in Europe from other causes, and 7.5 million in China from other causes.[261]

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.[262] The targets of the Axis-aligned Croatian Ustaše regime were mostly Serbs.[263]

The most well-known Japanese atrocity was the Nanking Massacre, in which several hundred thousand Chinese civilians were raped and murdered.[264] The Japanese military murdered from nearly 3 million to over 10 million civilians, mostly Chinese.[265] Mitsuyoshi Himeta reported 2.7 million casualties occurred during the Sankō Sakusen. General Yasuji Okamura implemented the policy in Heipei and Shantung.[266]

Unit 731 building

The Axis forces employed limited biological and chemical weapons. The Italians used mustard gas during their conquest of Abyssinia,[267] while the Japanese Imperial Army used a variety of such weapons during their invasion and occupation of China (see Unit 731)[268][269] and in early conflicts against the Soviets.[270] Both the Germans and Japanese tested such weapons against civilians[271] and, in some cases, on prisoners of war.[272]

While many of the Axis's acts were brought to trial in the world's first international tribunals,[273] incidents caused by the Allies were not. Examples of such Allied actions include population transfer in the Soviet Union, the Soviet forced labour camps (Gulag),[274] Japanese American internment in the United States, the Operation Keelhaul,[275] expulsion of Germans after World War II, mass rape of German women by Soviet Red Army, the Soviet massacre of Polish citizens and the mass-bombing of civilian areas in enemy territory, including Tokyo and most notably at Dresden.[276] Large numbers of famine deaths can also be partially attributed to the war, such as the Bengal famine of 1943 and the Vietnamese famine of 1944–45.[277]

Concentration camps and slave work

The Nazis were responsible for The Holocaust, the killing of approximately six million Jews (overwhelmingly Ashkenazim), 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 programme of deliberate extermination. About 12 million, most of whom were Eastern Europeans, were employed in the German war economy as as forced labourers.[278]

Victims of The Holocaust

In addition to Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet gulags (labour camps) led to the death of citizens of occupied countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as German prisoners of war (POWs) and even Soviet citizens who had been or were thought to be supporters of the Nazis.[279] Sixty percent of Soviet POWs of the Germans died during the war.[280] Richard Overy gives the number of 5.7 million Soviet POWs. Of those, 57 percent died or were killed, a total of 3.6 million.[281] Some of the survivors were treated as traitors upon their return to the USSR (see Order No. 270).

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),[282] seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians.[283] 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.[284] 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.[285]

According to historian Zhifen Ju, at least five million Chinese civilians from northern China and Manchukuo were enslaved between 1935 and 1941 by the East Asia Development Board, or Kōain, for work in mines and war industries. After 1942, the number reached 10 million.[286] The U.S. Library of Congress estimates that in Java, between 4 and 10 million romusha (Japanese: "manual laborers"), were forced to work by the Japanese military. About 270,000 of these Javanese laborers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in South East Asia, and only 52,000 were repatriated to Java.[287]

Mistreated and starved prisoners in the Mauthausen camp, Austria, 1945

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. The U.S. and Canadian governments interned 150,000 Japanese-Americans,[288][289] as well as nearly 11,000 German and Italian residents of the U.S.[288] Allied use of involuntary labor occurred mainly in the East, such as in Poland,[290] but more than a million were also put to work in the West. In Hungary's case, Hungarians were forced to work for the Soviet Union until 1955.[291]

Home fronts and production

Allied to Axis GDP ratio

In Europe, before the outbreak 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 percent larger population and a 30 percent higher gross domestic product than the European Axis (Germany and Italy); if colonies are included, it then gives the Allies more than a 5:1 advantage in population and nearly 2:1 advantage in GDP.[292] In Asia at the same time, China had roughly six times the population of Japan, but only an 89 percent higher GDP; this is reduced to three times the population and only a 38 percent higher GDP if Japanese colonies are included.[292]

Though 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.[293] 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 employ women in the labour force,[294][295] Allied strategic bombing,[296][297] and Germany's late shift to a war economy[298] contributed significantly. Additionally, neither Germany nor Japan planned to fight a protracted war, and were not equipped to do so.[299][300] To improve their production, Germany and Japan used millions of slave labourers;[301] Germany used about 12 million people, mostly from Eastern Europe,[278] while Japan pressed more than 18 million people in Far East Asia.[286][287]


Soviet partisans hanged by German forces in January 1943

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 reichmarks (27.8 billion US Dollars) by the end of the war; this figure does not include the sizable plunder of industrial products, military equipment, raw materials and other goods.[302] Thus, the income from occupied nations was over 40 percent of the income Germany collected from taxation, a figure which increased to nearly 40 percent of total German income as the war went on.[303]

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.[304] 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.[305] Although resistance groups did form in most occupied territories, they did not significantly hamper German operations in either the East[306] or the West[307] 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 colonised peoples.[308] 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.[309] During Japan's initial conquest it captured 4 million barrels of oil (~5.5×105 tonnes) left behind by retreating Allied forces, and by 1943 was able to get production in the Dutch East Indies up to 50 million barrels (~6.8×10^6 t), 76 percent of its 1940 output rate.[309]

Advances in technology and warfare

During the war, aircraft continued their roles of reconnaissance, fighters, bombers and ground-support from World War I, though each area was advanced considerably. Two important additional roles for aircraft were those of the airlift, the capability to quickly move high-priority supplies, equipment and personnel, albeit in limited quantities;[310] and of strategic bombing, the targeted use of bombs against civilian areas in the hopes of hampering enemy industry and morale.[311] Anti-aircraft weaponry also continued to advance, including key defences such as radar and greatly improved anti-aircraft artillery, such as the German 88 mm gun. Jet aircraft saw their first limited operational use during World War II, and though their late introduction and limited numbers meant that they had no real impact during the war itself, the few which saw active service pioneered a mass-shift to their usage following the war.[312]

At sea, while advances were made in almost all aspects of naval warfare, the two primary areas of development were focused around aircraft carriers and submarines. Although at the start of the war aeronautical warfare had relatively little success, actions at Taranto, Pearl Harbor, the South China Sea and the Coral Sea soon established the carrier as the dominant capital ship in place of the battleship.[313][314][315] In the Atlantic, escort carriers proved to be a vital part of Allied convoys, increasing the effective protection radius dramatically and helping to close the Mid-Atlantic gap.[316] Beyond their increased effectiveness, carriers were also more economical than battleships due to the relatively low cost of aircraft[317] and their not requiring to be as heavily armoured.[318] Submarines, which had proved to be an effective weapon during the First World War[319] were anticipated by all sides to be important in the second. The British focused development on anti-submarine weaponry and tactics, such as sonar and convoys, while Germany focused on improving its offensive capability, with designs such as the Type VII submarine and Wolf pack tactics.[320] Gradually, continually improving Allied technologies such as the Leigh light, hedgehog, squid, and homing torpedoes proved victorious.

Land warfare changed drastically from the static front lines predominating in World War I to become much more fluid and mobile. An important change was the concept of combined arms warfare, wherein tight coordination was sought between the various elements of military forces; the tank, which had been used predominantly for infantry support in the First World War, had evolved into the primary weapon of these forces during the second.[321] In the late 1930s, tank design was considerably more advanced in all areas then it had been during World War I,[322] and advances continued throughout the war in increasing speed, armour and firepower.

At the start of the war, most armies considered the tank to be the best weapon against itself, and developed special-purpose tanks to that effect.[323] This line of thinking was all but negated by the poor performance of the relatively light early tank armaments against armour, and German doctrine of avoiding tank-versus-tank combat; the latter factor, along with Germany's use of combined arms, were among the key elements of their highly successful blitzkrieg tactics across Poland and France.[321] Many means of destroying tanks, including indirect artillery, anti-tank guns (both towed and self-propelled), mines, short-ranged infantry antitank weapons, and other tanks were utilised.[323] Even with large-scale mechanisation of the various armies, the infantry remained the backbone of all forces,[324] and throughout the war, most infantry equipment was similar to that utilised in World War I.[325]

The United States became the first country to arm its soldiers with a semi-automatic rifle, in this case the M-1 Garand. Some of the primary advances though, were the widespread incorporation of portable machine guns, a notable example being the German MG42, and various submachine guns which were well suited to close-quarters combat in urban and jungle settings.[325] The assault rifle, a late war development which incorporated many of the best features of the rifle and submachine gun, became the standard postwar infantry weapon for nearly all armed forces.[326][327]

In terms of communications, most of the major belligerents attempted to solve the problems of complexity and security presented by using large codebooks for cryptography with the creation of various ciphering machines, the most well known being the German Enigma machine.[328][329] SIGINT (signals intelligence) was the countering process of decryption, with the notable examples being the British ULTRA and the Allied breaking of Japanese naval codes.[329] Another important aspect of military intelligence was the use of deception operations, which the Allies successfully used on several occasions to great effect, such as operations Mincemeat and Bodyguard.[329][330] Other important technological and engineering feats achieved during, or as a result of, the war include the the world's first programmable computers (Z3, Colossus, and ENIAC), guided missiles and modern rockets, the Manhattan Project's development of nuclear weapons, the development of artificial harbours and oil pipelines under the English Channel.[331]

See also



  1. ^ "War Machines". Time. June 12, 1939.,9171,762392,00.html. Retrieved 2009-11-15. "Official military histories in Commonwealth and Western nations refer to the conflict as the Second World War (e.g. C.P. Stacey's Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War), while the United States' official histories refer to the conflict as World War II, spoken "World War Two". English translations of the official histories of other nations also tend to resolve into English as Second World War, for example Zweiter Weltkrieg in German. Non-English-language use typically translates to Second World War, for instance the Spanish Segunda Guerra mundial and the French Seconde Guerre mondiale. "Official" usage of these terms is giving way to popular usage and the two terms are becoming interchangeable even in formal military history. The term "Second World War" was originally coined in the 1920s. In 1928, US Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg advocated his treaty "for the renunciation of war" (known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact) as being a "practical guarantee against a second world war". The term came into widespread use as soon as the war began in 1939" 
  2. ^ Sommerville, Donald (December 14, 2008). The Complete Illustrated History of World War Two: An Authoritative Account of the Deadliest Conflict in Human History with Analysis of Decisive Encounters and Landmark Engagements. Lorenz Books. p. 5. ISBN 0754818985. 
  3. ^ Nikolay, Starikov. "When Did WWII Start?". Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  4. ^ a b "Australia Declares War on Japan". ibiblio. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  5. ^ a b "The Kingdom of The Netherlands Declares War with Japan". ibiblio. 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  6. ^ Bradley, James; Powers, Ron (2000). Flags of Our Fathers. Bantam. p. 58. ISBN 0553111337. 
  7. ^ Chickering, Roger (2006) (Google books). A World at Total War: Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction, 1937–1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 64. ISBN 0 275 98710 8.,+1937%E2%80%931945&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=WXb_SvHIDszOlAeL0cGZCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CBAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=A%20World%20at%20Total%20War%3A%20Global%20Conflict%20and%20the%20Politics%20of%20Destruction%2C%201937%E2%80%931945&f=false. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
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  9. ^ Among other starting dates sometimes used for World War II are the 1935 Italian invasion of Abyssinia; (Ben-Horin, Eliahu (1943). The Middle East: Crossroads of History. W. W. Norton & Co. p. 169; Taylor, A. J. P (1979). How Wars Begin. Hamilton. p. 124. ISBN 0241100178; Yisreelit, Hevrah Mizrahit (1965). Asian and African Studies, p. 191). For 1941 see (Taylor, A. J. P (1961). The Origins of the Second World War. Hamilton. p. vii; Kellogg, William O (2003). American History the Easy Way. Barron's Educational Series. p. 236 ISBN 0764119737). There also exists the viewpoint that both World War I and World War II are part of the same "European Civil War" or "Second Thirty Years War". (Canfora, Luciano; Jones, Simon (2006). Democracy in Europe: A History of an Ideology. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 155. ISBN 1405111313; Prin, Gwyn (2002). The Heart of War: On Power, Conflict and Obligation in the Twenty-First Century. Routledge. p. 11. ISBN 0415369606).
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  11. ^ Kantowicz 1999, p. 149
  12. ^ Davies 2008, p. 134–140
  13. ^ Shaw 2000, p. 35
  14. ^ Bullock 1962, p. 265
  15. ^ Preston 1998, p. 104
  16. ^ Myers 1987, p. 458
  17. ^ Smith 2004, p. 28
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  19. ^ Brody 1999, p. 4
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  21. ^ Record 2005, p. 50
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  110. ^ Glantz 2001, p. 26, "By 1 November [the Wehrmacht] had lost fully 20% of its committed strength (686,000 men), up to 2/3 of its ½-million motor vehicles, and 65 percent of its tanks. The German Army High Command (OKH) rated its 136 divisions as equivalent to 83 full-strength divisions."
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(Redirected to World War II article)

From Wikiquote

World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a worldwide military conflict; the amalgamation of two separate conflicts, one beginning in Asia, 1937, as the w:Second Sino-Japanese War and the other beginning in Europe, 1939, with the invasion of Poland. It is regarded as the historical successor to World War I.

This global conflict split a majority of the world's nations into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. Spanning much of the globe, World War II resulted in the deaths of over 70 million people, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.


Origins of the War


  • Du bist nichts; Dein Volk ist alles.
    • Translated: You are nothing; your people is everything.
    • German Nazi Führer (Leader) Adolf Hitler.[citation needed]
  • I shall live only a country where civil liberty, tolerance, and equality of all citizens before the law prevail.
    • Albert Einstein, developer of the theory of relativity, on leaving National Socialist (Nazi) Germany for the United States.[citation needed]


  • The National Socialist regime in Germany is based on a program of ruthless force, which program has for its aim, first, the enslavement of the German population to a National Socialist social and political program, and then to use the force of these 67 million people for the extension of German political and economic sovereignty over South-Eastern Europe — thus putting it into a position to dominate Europe completely.
    • George Messersmith[citation needed]


  • Peace in our time.
    • Announcement by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, on returning from talks with Hitler at Munich, saying that the Czechoslovak crisis and the threat of war was over.[citation needed]
  • I believe there is sincerity and good will on both sides. My main purpose has been to work for the pacification of Europe.... The question of Czechoslovakia is the latest and perhaps the most dangerous [problem]. Now that we have got past it I feel that it may be possible to make further progress along the road to sanity.
    • Prime Minister Chamberlain, defending his actions — including giving German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia to Germany -- at the Munich Conference (October 3, 1938).[specific citation needed]
  • Many people, no doubt, honestly believe that they are only giving away the interests of Czechoslovakia, whereas I fear we shall find that we have deeply compromised, and perhaps fatally endangered, the safety and even the independence of Great Britain and France....
    I foresee and foretell that the policy of submission will carry with it restrictions upon the freedom of speech and debate in Parliament, on public platforms, and discussions in the Press.
    • Winston Churchill, speech in Parliament attacking Prime Minister Chamberlain's policy of appeasing Hitler.[specific citation needed]


  • Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard... leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned to a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the administration.....
    In the course of the last four months it has been made... possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power... would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
    This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable — though much less certain — that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove too heavy for transportation by air...
    In view of this situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America.
    • Letter dated August 2 (one month before the start of World War II) from physicist Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt, warning him of the danger that Nazi Germany could develop an atomic bomb. This led to two later developments:
      (1) Roosevelt’s efforts to aid all countries at war with Nazi Germany, to help them defeat Germany before it could develop an atomic bomb, and
      (2) the top-secret "Manhattan Project" in which the government did in fact work together with "the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America" to develop an atomic bomb.

Start of the War


  • Blitzkrieg.[Quote?]
    • German for "lightning war": tanks, infantry (foot soldiers), artillery, air aircraft, all controlled by radio, moved faster than their enemies could react. German blitzkrieg methods successfully defeated Poland in September 1939 and then were turned against Denmark and Norway in April 1940, and against the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in May 1940. France, which held out against Germany for four years (1914-1918) and defeated it in World War I, was overrun and defeated by the Germans in 6 weeks in the Spring of 1940. Only Great Britain, led by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, held out in the West (until Nazi Germany attacked Communist Russia in June 1941).


  • We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."
    • British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on June 10, 1940, following the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk, France.[citation needed]
  • I followed the German Army into Paris that June... and on June 19 got wind of where Hitler was going to lay down his terms for the armistice.... It was to be on the same spot where the German Empire had capitulated to France and her allies on November 11, 1918: in the little clearing in the woods of Compiègne. There the Nazi warlord would get his revenge.... Late on the afternoon of June 19 I drove out there and found German Army engineers... pulling the [railroad] car [where the war ended in 1918] out to the tracks in the center of the clearing on the exact spot, they said, where it had stood at 5 A.M. on November, 1918, when at the dictation of [French Marshal Ferdinand] Foch the German emissaries put their signatures to the armistice.
    And so was that on the afternoon of June 21 I stood by the edge of the forest at Compiègne to observe the latest and greatest of Hitler’s triumphs....
    I look at the expression in Hitler’s face. I am but fifty yards from him and see him through my glasses as though he were directly in front of me. I have seen that face many times at the great moments of his life. But today! It is afire with scorn, anger, hate, revenge, triumph.
    • American war correspondent William L. Shirer, in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960).
  • Hitler is striking with all the terrible force at his command. His is a desperate gamble, and the stakes are nothing less than domination of the whole human race.
    If Hitler wins in Europe -- the strength of the British and French armies and navies is forever broken — the United States will find itself alone in a barbaric world — a world ruled by Nazis, with ‘spheres of influence’ assigned to their totalitarian allies. However different the dictatorships may be, racially, they all agree on one primary objective: ‘Democracy must be wiped from the face of the earth.’...
    There is nothing shameful in our desire to stay out of war, to save our youth from the dive bombers and the flame throwing tanks in the unutterable hell of modern warfare.
    But is there not an evidence of suicidal insanity in our failure to help those who now stand between us and the creators of this hell?
    • Newspaper advertisement from the Committee to Defend America, whose ideas were identical with those of President Roosevelt.[specific citation needed]
  • All aid to the Allies short of war.
    • President Roosevelt's redefinition of neutrality.[citation needed]
  • We must be the great arsenal of democracy.
    • President Roosevelt, on the need to provide weapons to the British after the Germans defeated France in May-June 1940.[citation needed]
  • First they were too cowardly to take part. now they are in a hurry so they can share the spoils.
    • Hitler on the Italian decleration of war on France and Great Britain, June 10th, 1940.-Martin Gilber, the Second World war pg. 90
  • On this tenth day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger, has struck it into the back of its neighbor.
    • Franklin Roosevelt on the Italian decleration of war on France and Britain, June 10th, 1940.-Martin Gilber, the Second World war pg. 90
  • I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.
    • Statement by President Roosevelt during his re-election campaign.[citation needed]
  • The butchering may continue as it will, it shall remain the historical guilt of the Western powers that they did not promptly provide the sharpest preventative measures against the continued attack-politics Germany undertook. Possibilities existed for this, but no measures were seized upon.


  • The Lend-Lease policy, translated into legislative form, stunned a Congress and a nation wholly sympathetic to Great Britain. The Kaiser’s blank check to Austria-Hungary in the First World War was a piker compared to the Roosevelt blank check of World War II. It warranted my worst fears for the future of America, and it definitely stamps the president as war-minded....
    Never before have the American people been asked or compelled to give... so completely of their tax dollars to any foreign nation. Never before has the Congress of the United States been asked by any President to violate international law. Never before has this nation resorted to duplicity in the conduct of its foreign affairs. Never before has the United States given to one man the power to strip this nation of its defenses....
    Approval of this legislation means war, open and complete warfare. I, therefore, ask the American people before they supinely accept it — Was the last World War worthwhile?
    If it were, then we should lend and lease war materials. If it were, then we should lend and lease American boys. President Roosevelt has said we would be repaid by England. We will be.... Our boys will be returned — returned in caskets, maybe; returned with bodies maimed; returned with minds warped and twisted by sights of horrors and the scream and shriek of high-powered shells.
    • Senator Burton K. Wheeler, opposing the Lend-Lease Act.[citation needed]
  • I know I will be severely criticized by the interventionists in America when I say we should not enter a war unless we have a reasonable chance of winning.... We are no better prepared today than France was when the interventionists persuaded her to attack the Siegfried Line....
    It is not only our right but it is our obligation as American citizens to look at this war objectively and to weigh our chances for success if we should enter it. I have attempted to do this, especially from the standpoint of aviation; and I have been forced to the conclusion that we cannot win this war for England, regardless of how much assistance we extend.
  • Joint declaration of the President of United States and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty’s government in the United Kingdom....
    First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other.
    Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.
    Third, they respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.
    Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment of all states, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world.
    Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field....
    Sixth, after the final destruction of Nazi Germany, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries....
    Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance.
    Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force.... They believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential.”
    • The Atlantic Charter, written by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, meeting on two warships off Newfoundland in August 1941.

Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor


  • In the future if we want to control China, we must first crush the United States just as in the past we had to fight in the Russo-Japanese War. But in order to conquer China we must first conquer Manchuria and Mongolia. In order to conquer the world, we must first conquer China. If we succeed in conquering China the rest of the Asiatic countries and the South Sea countries will fear us and surrender to us. Then the world will realize that Eastern Asia is ours and will not dare to violate our rights. This is the plan left to us by Emperor Meiji, the success of which is essential to our national existence.
    • The Tanaka Memorial (July 27, 1927), the long-term strategic plan of Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Gi-ichi.


  • It has been 20 years since the Navy signed the humiliating Washington Naval Treaty. During [that] time we have whetted our swords to stab [the] US.
    • A Japanese officer.[citation needed]
  • The Empire will... crush America, British, and Dutch strongholds in East Asia and the Western Pacific... and secure major resource areas and lines of communication in order to prepare a posture of long term self-sufficiency. All available methods will be exerted to lure out the main elements of the US fleet at an appropriate time to attack and destroy them.
    • Tai Bei-Ei-Ran-Shou Senso Shumatsu Sokushin-ni Kansuru Fukuan (A Plan for Completion of the War Against the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Chiang Kai-Shek [of Nationalist China]), action plan adopted at a meeting of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and the Cabinet (November 1941).
  • Nii Taka Yama Nobore 1208. (Execute the Hawaii operation on December 8 [Japanese time]).
    • Message sent by Japanese Imperial Navy Headquarters to the carrier fleet approaching Pearl Harbor (2 December 1941).[citation needed]
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!
    • (Translated: Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!'); signal at 0730 (local time), 7 December 1941 from Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, leading the first wave of the attack, to the carrier fleet that his "tigers" succeeded in their surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.[citation needed]
  • Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
    The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost....
    As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
    Always we will remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it my take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again....
    With confidence in our armed forces — with the unbounded determination of our people — we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.
    I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
    • President Roosevelt’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Dec. 8, 1941.
  • Both America and Britain... have aggravated the disturbances in East Asia.... These two powers, inducing other countries to follow suit, increased military preparations on all sides of Our Empire.... They have obstructed by every means Our peaceful commerce, and finally resorted to a direct severance of economic relations....
    Patently We waited and long have We endured, in hope that Our Government might retrieve the situation in peace. But Our adversaries, showing not the least spirit of conciliation, have unduly delayed a settlement.... Our Empire for its existence and delf-defense has no other recourse but to appeal to arms and to crush every obstacle in its path.
    • Japanese Emperor Hirohito, stating Japan’s reasons for attacking the United States and Great Britain (December 8, 1941).[citation needed]

The United States Fights Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy


  • America is half Judaized and the other half Negrified.
    • German Leader Adolf Hitler, speech to the German Reichstag (Parliament) declaring war on the United States (December 11, 1941).[citation needed]


  • Germany first.[Quote?]
    • Slogan for American strategy for fighting the war: send most forces against Nazi Germany, then turn to Japan after the defeat of Germany.[citation needed]
  • Why am I fighting?
    Not, certainly, ‘just because I was drafted’ — the cynical, easy retort of the half-believer. I was a draftee, yes — because circumstances prevented me from joining up when I should have liked. I envy and honor the boys who enlisted — the ones who, seeing their country’s need, acted upon it without waiting to be called — or compelled.
    Not just because of Pearl Harbor. That’s an immediate reason, yes,... [b]ut Pearl Harbor, or some other harbor, would have come sooner or later; indeed, might have come too late....
    Not to “force our ideas on the rest of the world”.... I am fighting for the right of peoples to say how they shall be governed. If they like our form of government, fine. If not, let them have another — but let the choice be theirs, not something handed down to them by a self-styled “Leader” — or a yoke laid on them by an invader....
    For what, exactly, are we fighting?...
    Well, it goes a long way back.
    It goes back to the taproots of America. Back beyond the World War, with its simple slogan of fighting to make the world safe for democracy. Back beyond ‘98, when we fought to set Cuba free. Back beyond the Civil War when we fought to make and keep America a nation of freemen. Back beyond 1812, when our cry was freedom of the seas. Back even beyond the Revolution that saw our forefathers pledge ‘their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor’ that the colonies might be freed from the yoke of the Hanoverian king. Back to the Bill of Rights, back, back to the Magna Carta seven hundred years ago — that first great landmark pf man’s history-long effort to be politically free.... Freedom of the individual to rule himself, to make his laws, to have his say in council, to set his course and follow his star!
    Fine words you say; but what do they have to do with fighting a Germany whose chief concern was Europe, a Japan whose ambitions were — perhaps — only Oriental?
    I say they have a lot to do with Japan and Germany.... Nazism dominant in Europe and Asia would result... In the emergence and ultimate dominance of the Nazi principle in American life.
    Men (some, not all — but alas! Enough) would have looked at each other in confusion and alarm and doubt. They would have said, fearingly, ‘Democracy has failed in Europe. We thought it was the best way, but how can it be, if it is so weak? Maybe the Nazis have something. Maybe... maybe...’ So the whispers would have started....
    That’s why I am fighting.... I’m trying to kill Fascism now, before it has a chance to eat in its ugly way at the American vitals.... I’m fighting because the world, like our own America, ‘cannot exist half slave and half free.’ I’m fighting because I think China has a right to live as a nation, not exist as a vast puppet state....
    I’m fighting because I want to be able to look my children in the face some day and say to them that America wasn’t afraid to fight once again for an ideal, the ideals that have made America great. I love peace, but I hate war for the shocking waste of everything that it is; but even war is preferable to supine acquiescence in international murder, not merely of the body, but of the spirit.
    • Sgt. Henry C. Nelson, “To Be Able to Look My Children in the Face,” in Why I Fight, published by the U.S. Army.
  • Wolf packs.[Quote?]
    • Groups of German submarines that conducted coordinated attacks against Allied merchant ship convoys crossing the Atlantic.
  • G.I.[Quote?]
    • Galvanised iron, a nickname for american soldiers in reference to their galvanised iron water canteens, helmets and other equipment.[citation needed]
  • The mightiest bomber ever built.
    • A description of the B-17 Flying Fortress, flown to England to participate in Eighth Air Force bombing attacks on German industrial targets.[citation needed]


  • It is difficult to go anywhere in London without having the feeling that Britain is now Occupied Territory.
  • They’re overfed, overpaid, overdressed... and over here.
    • Common complaint of British people, as American troops were shipped to Britain to prepare for the invasion of German-occupied Europe.[citation needed]
  • We are out to win the war in the quickest and most economical way.
    • Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff.[citation needed]
  • In the magazines war seemed romantic and exciting, full of heroics and vitality.... I saw instead men... suffering and wishing they were somewhere else.
    • War correspondent Ernie Pyle.[citation needed]


  • People of Western Europe: A landing was made this morning on the coast of France by troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force. This landing is part of the concerted United Nations plan for the liberation of Europe, made in conjunction with our great Russian allies.... I call upon those who love freedom to stand with us now. Together we shall achieve victory.
    • Radio address by U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander of allied forces, on "D-Day", the start of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, beginning with the landing in France on June 6. Note: “D-Day” is the term used in military planning that specifies the date that an amphibious (ship-to-shore) invasion occurs.
  • We saw the bomb explosions causing fires that illuminated clouds in the otherwise dark sky. We were twelve miles offshore as we climbed into our seat assignments on the LCAs [amphibious landing craft] and were lowered into the heavy sea from davits. The navy hadn’t begun its firing because it was still dark. We couldn’t see the armada but we knew it was there.
    Prior to loading, friends said their so longs and good lucks.... All of us had a letter signed by the Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, saying that we were about to embark upon a great crusade. A few of my cohorts autographed it an I carried it in my wallet throughout the war.
    The Channel was extremely rough, and it wasn’t long before we had to help the craft’s pumps by bailing with our helmets. The cold spray blew in and soon we were soaking wet....
    As the sky lightened, the armada became visible. The smoking and burning French shoreline also became more defined. At 0600, the huge guns of the Allied navies opened up with must have been one of the greatest artillery barrages ever.... I could see the [battleship] Texas firing broadside into the coastline.
    Bomm-ba-ba-boom-ba-ba-boom! Within minutes, giant swells from the recoil of those guns nearly swamped us and added to the seasickness and misery. But one could also see the two-thousand-pound missiles tumbling on their targets. Twin fuselaged P-38 fighter-bombers were also overhead protecting us from the Luftwaffe [German Air Force] and giving us a false sense of security. This should be a piece of cake....
    A few thousand yards from shore we rescued three or four survivors from a craft that had been swamped and sunk....
    About two or three hundred yards from shore we encountered artillery fire. Near misses sent seawater skyward and then it rained back on us....
    About 150 yards from shore, I raised my head despite the warning, ‘Keep your head down.’ I saw the boat on our right taking a terrific licking from small arms. Tracer bullets were bouncing and skipping off the ramp and sides as the enemy zeroed in on the boat which had beached a few minutes before us. Had we not delayed a few minutes to pick up the survivors of the sunken craft, we might have taken that concentration of fire.
    Great plumes of water from enemy artillery and mortars sprouted close by. We knew then this was not going to be a walk-in. No one thought the enemy would give us this kind of opposition at the water’s edge. We expected A and B Companies to have the beach secured by the time we landed. In reality no one had set foot in our sector. The coxswain [boat driver] had missed the Vierville church steeple, our point to guide on, and the tides also helped pull us two hundred yards east.
    The location didn’t make much difference. We could hear the ‘p-r-r-r-r, p-r-r-r-r’ of enemy machine guns to our right, towards the west. It was obvious someone was... getting chewed up where we had been supposed to come in.
    The ramp went down while shells exploded on land and in the water. Unseen snipers were shooting down from the cliffs, but the most havoc came from automatic weapons....
    When I did get out, I was in the water. It was very difficult to shed sixty pounds of equipment, and if one were a weak swimmer he could drown.... Many were in the water, and drowned, good swimmers or not. There were dead men floating in the water, and live men acting dead, letting the tide take them in....
    I crouched down to chin deep in the water as shells fell at the water’s edge. Small arms fire kicked up sand. I noticed a GI running, trying to get across the beach. He was weighed down with equipment and having difficulty moving. An enemy gunner shot him. He screamed for a medic. An aidman moved quickly to help him and he was also shot. I’ll never forget seeing that medic lying next to that wounded soldier, both of them screaming. They died in minutes.
    Boys were turned into men. Some would be very brave men; others would soon be very dead men, but any who survived would be frightened men. Some wet their pants, others cried unashamedly. Many just had to find within themselves the strength to get the job done. Discipline and training took over....
    I took off my assault jacket and spread out my raincoat so I could clean my rifle. It was then I saw bullet holes in my jacket and raincoat. I lit my first cigarette; I had to rest and compose myself because I became weak in the knees.”
    • Bob Slaughter, 29th Infantry Division, who landed on Omaha Beach at Normandy, where 3,500 Americans and 700 Germans were killed on June 6, 1944, in the battle of the beachhead.[citation needed]
  • [The assault units] were disorganized, had suffered heavy casualties and were handicapped by losses of valuable equipment.... They were pinned down along the beach by intense enemy fire.... Personnel and equipment were being piled ashore... where congested groups afforded food targets for the enemy.
    • An American officer at the landing beach at Normandy, June 6, 1944.[citation needed]
  • Sure, we all want to get home. We want to get this thing over with. But the quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards. The quicker they’re whipped, the quicker we go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin.

    And there’s one thing you’ll be able to say when you get home. When you’re sitting around your fireside, with your brat on your knee, and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you won’t have to say you shoveled shit in Louisiana.

    • General George S. Patton, Jr., speech to his Third Army before it was sent to join in the Battle of France (July 1944).
  • Any commander who fails to obtain his objective, and who is not dead or seriously wounded, has not done his full duty.
    • Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., instructions to the Third Army.[citation needed]


  • Austin White — Chicago, Ill. — 1918
    Austin White — Chicago, Ill. — 1945
    This is the last time I want to write my name here.
    • Inscription found near Verdun, France by a reporter for Yank magazine (a magazine for the soldiers).[specific citation needed]
  • The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 3 a.m., local time, May 7, 1945.
    • Message from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, SCAEF (Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force) to the Combined Chiefs of Staff (the command of British and American forces), on the signing of the surrender by German delegates at Eisenhower’s headquarters at Rheims, France.[specific citation needed]

The War in Europe: The Holocaust


  • When we got off the cattle truck, they ordered, ‘Men right; women, left.’... I went with my father. My little sister, Esther, she went with my mother. Esther was only eleven. She was holding my mother’s hand. When they made a selection of the women, Esther clung to my mother. My mother wouldn’t give her up.... They went straight to the gas chamber.
    • Account of Moritz Vegh, sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp with his family at age 13. He worked as a slave laborer and was the only survivor from his family.[citation needed]


  • In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die.... I could see their ribs through their thin shirts.
    • CBS news correspondent Edward R. Morrow, reporting from a Nazi concentration camp, (April 16, 1945).[specific citation needed]
  • I want every American unit not actually in the front lines to see this place.... We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.
    • Comment of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, after visiting a Nazi extermination camp, where bodies were stacked in the barracks the smell of burnt bodies came from crematoria.[citation needed]
  • For months, for years we had one wish only: the wish that some of us would escape alive, in order to tell the world what the Nazi convict prisons were like..... There was the systematic... urge to use human beings as slaves and to kill them when they could work no more.
    • Concentration camp survivor Marie Valliant, in testimony at the Nürnberg War Crimes Trials.[citation needed]
  • What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. They are living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power.
    • U. S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, serving as a judge at the Nürnberg Trials of surviving Nazi leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.[citation needed]

The United States Fights Imperial Japan


  • While you may have your initial success, due to timing and surprise, the time will come when you too will have your losses, but there will be this great difference. You will not only be unable to make up your losses, but will grow weaker as time grows on, while on the other hand we will not only make up our losses but will grow stronger as time goes on. It is inevitable that we will crush you before we are through with you.
    • Admiral Harold Stark, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, speaking to the Japanese ambassador before the war.
  • If I am ordered to fight against US, I will make a good job for half [year] or year. But I cannot do it for a few years.
    • Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, planner of the attack on Pearl Harbor, to Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe.
  • Tennōheika banzai! (May the Emperor live ten thousand years!)
    • Shout made by Imperial Japanese troops in the attack.

Japan on the Offensive: The Fall of the Philippines (December 1941- May 1942)


  • We're the battling bastards of Bataan;
    No papa, no mama, no Uncle Sam;
    No aunts, no uncles, no nieces;
    No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces....
    And nobody gives a damn.
    • Sung by soldiers defending the Bataan peninsula, on the northwest of Manila Bay, the last major force holding out against Japanese invaders of the Philippines.[citation needed]
  • Suppose you’re a sergeant machine-gunner, and your army is retreating and the enemy advancing. The captain takes you to a machine gun covering the road. ‘You’re to stay here and hold this position,’ he tells you. ‘For how long?’ you ask. ‘Never mind,’ he answers, ‘just hold it.’ Then you know you’re expendable. In a way anything can be expendable — money or gasoline or equipment or most usually men. They are expending you and that machine gun to get time.
    • William L. White, They Were Expendable, his account of the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese in early 1942.
  • The sun beat down upon my throbbing hear.... Along the road the jungle was a misty green haze, swimming before my sweat-filled eyes.
    The hours dragged by, and a great number of prisoners reached the end of their endurance. The drop-outs became more numerous. The fell by the hundreds in the road....
    There was the crack of a pistol and the shot rang out across the jungle. There was another shot, and more shots, and I knew that, straggling along behind us, was a clean-up squad of Japanese, killing their helpless victims on the white dusty road.... The shots continued, goading us on. I gritted my teeth. 'Oh, God, I've got to keep going. I can’t stop. I can’t die like that'.
    • Sergeant Sidney Stewart, a survivor of the Bataan Death March of April 1942, when the Japanese sent 70,000 American and Filipino prisoners 60 miles from the Bataan Peninsula to their prison camps. About 10,000 prisoners were killed by gunshot, bayonet, or starvation during the march.[citation needed]
  • The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan, a primary objective of which is the relief of the Philippines.
    I came through and I shall return.
    • General Douglas MacArthur, remarks to reporters in Australia after he had been ordered by Pres. Roosevelt to leave the fortress on the island of Corregidor in Manila Bay before it fell to the Japanese (March 30, 1942).[specific citation needed]
  • God have mercy on us!
    • General MacArthur, on learning of the state of Australia’s lack of preparedness to meet an attack by the Japanese. What he didn't realise was that Australia had five militia divisions, and five high quality regular army divisions on the way home from the Middle East, while the Americans had only one division on the way from San Fransisco.[citation needed]

Japan’s Offensive Halted: The Battle of Midway (June 1942)


  • [The Doolittle Air Raid on Tokyo in April 1942] ended the debate... as to whether Midway was to be attacked.
    • Admiral Yamamoto, Commander, Japanese Fleet.[citation needed]
  • There is no choice but to force a decisive fleet encounter. If we set out from here to do that and we go to the bottom of the Pacific in a double suicide, things will be peaceful on the high seas for some time.
    • Admiral Yamamoto to the Japanese Naval General Staff before Operation Mi, the attack on Midway Island.[citation needed]
  • Surprise was paramount because we believed that the Japanese did not know of the presence of our carriers.
    • Commander Joseph Worthington, Commanding Officer of the destroyer USS Benham, on the US Navy’s planning for the Battle of Midway, which relied on the breaking of the Japanese code.[citation needed]
  • Within five minutes all her [Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi's] planes would be launched. Five minutes! Who would have dreamed that the tide of battle would shift completely in that brief interval of time?... The first Zero fighter gathered speed and whizzed of the deck. At that instant a lookout screamed, 'Hell divers [U.S. Navy dive bombers]!' I looked up to see three black enemy planes plummeting toward our ship. Bombs! Down they came straight toward me!
    • Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, a Japanese officer on the Akagi, in Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan. In the Battle of Midway (June 3-6, 1942), the U.S. Navy stopped the Japanese advance on Hawaii and sunk four of the enemy’s aircraft carriers. The U.S. forces would advance without letup in the next years of the war in the Pacific.

Turning the Tide in the Pacific


  • [My forces are] unable to control the sea in the Guadalcanal area.... The situation is not hopeless but it is certainly critical.
    • Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, commanding U. S. Naval forces in the Guadalcanal Campaign (November 1942).


  • I look upon the Guadalcanal and Tulagi operations as the turning point from offensive to defensive, and the cause of our setback there was our inability to increase our forces at the same speed as you.
    • Japanese Admiral Osami Nagano, Chief of Naval Staff, to American officers after the war.

America's Amphibious Advance in the Pacific


  • A landing on a foreign coast in the face of hostile troops has always been one of the most difficult operations of war. It has now become much more difficult , almost impossible, because of the vulnerable target which a convoy of transports offers to the defenders’ air force. Even more vulnerable is the process of disembarkation in open boats.
    • British military writer Captain B. H. Liddell Hart, in The Defense of Britain (1939).


  • The outstanding achievement of this war in the field of joint undertakings was the perfection of amphibious operations, the most difficult of all operations in modern warfare.
    • Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, in The War Reports of General of the Army George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, General of the Army H. H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander-in-Chief, US Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations (1947).


  • Island hopping.[Quote?]
    • The strategy advanced by General Douglas MacArthur to advance against the Japanese in the Pacific, bypassing as many strongly-held enemy islands as possible, only landing to fight it out on islands needed to build air bases to support the next landing.


  • [The campaign objective is to obtain] positions from which the ultimate surrender of JAPAN can be forced by intensive air bombardment , by sea and air blockade, and by invasion if necessary.
    • Commander in Chief Pacific Ocean Areas (Admiral Nimitz), Campaign Plan Granite (January 15, 1944).[specific citation needed]
  • If Saipan is lost, air raids on Tokyo will take place often.
    • Message sent by Emperor Hirohito to encourage the Japanese forces defending Saipan.[citation needed]
  • Our ships have been salvaged and are retiring at high speed toward the Japanese fleet.
    • Admiral William F. (“Bull”) Halsey, radio message following Japanese propaganda broadcasts about most of his Third Fleet had been lost on the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 1944).[citation needed]
  • People of the Philippines, I have returned!
    By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil.... Rally to me!
    • General Douglas MacArthur, radio broadcast after he landed ashore at Leyte (October 20, 1944).[specific citation needed]


  • The Navajo Code Talkers have proved to be excellent Marines, intelligent, industrious, efficient.
    Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.
    • Comments about the "Code Talkers", Navajo Indian soldiers and Marines, who communicated on radio using their native language, which could not be understood by any Japanese who were listening.[citation needed]
  • To be avoided, and if necessary ignored, were gung-ho platoon leaders who drew enemy fire by ordering spectacular charges. Ground wasn’t gained that way; it was won by small groups of men, five or six in a cluster, who moved warily forward in a kind of autohypnosis, advancing in a mysterious concert with similar groups on their flanks.
    • Sgt. William Manchester, USMC, reflections on ground combat in the Battle of Okinawa, in his personal history of the Pacific War, Goodbye Darkness.
  • Aboard a Fast Carrier in the Forward Pacific Area, May 11 (Special-Delayed) -- Two Japanese suicide planes carrying 1,000 pounds of bombs plunged into the flight deck of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s own flagship today,... transforming one of our greatest flat-tops (aircraft carriers) into a floating torch, with flames soaring nearly 1,000 feet into the sky.
    For eight seemingly interminable hours that followed the ship and her crew fought as tense and terrifying a battle for survival as had ever been witnessed in the Pacific, but when dusk closed in, the U.S.S. Bunker Hill — horribly crippled and still filmed by wisps of smoke and steam from her smoldering embers — was plowing along under her own power on the distant horizon, safe. Tomorrow she will spend another eight terrible hours burying at sea men who died to save her.
    From the deck of a neighboring carrier a few hundred yards distant I watched the Bunker Hill burn. It is hard to believe that men could survive those flames or that metal could withstand such heat.
    One minute our task force was cruising in lazy circles about 60 miles off Okinawa without a care in the world and apparently without a thought of an enemy plane. The next the Bunker Hill was a pillar of flame. It was as quick as that — like summer lightning....
    For the first time in a week, our own ship had secured from general quarters an hour or two before... and those men not on regular watch were permitted to relax from the deadly sixteen-hour vigil they had put in at battle stations every day since we had entered the battle area.
    So it was on the Bunker Hill. Exhausted men not on watch were catching a catnap. Aft, on the flight deck, 34 planes were waiting to take off. Their tanks were filled to the last drop with highly volatile aviation gasoline. Their guns were loaded to the last possible round of ammunition....
    Just appearing over the horizon were the planes returning form an early mission.... Then it was that a man aboard our ship caught the first glimpse of three enemy planes and cried a warning. But before general quarters could be sounded on this ship, and before half a dozen shots could be fired by the Bunker Hill, the first kamikaze had dropped his 550-pound bomb on the ship and plunged his plane squarely into the 34 waiting planes in a shower of burning gasoline....
    But before a move could be made to fight the flames, another kamikaze came whining out of the clouds, straight into the deadly anti-aircraft guns of the ship....
    Minutes later a third Jap suicider zoomed down to finish the job. Ignoring the flames and the smoke that swept around them, the men in the Bunker Hill’s gun galleries stuck to their posts.... It was a neighboring destroyer, which finally scored a direct hit on the Jap and sent him splashing harmlessly into the sea....
    For more than an hour there was no visible abatement in the fury of the flames.... Crippled as she was she plowed ahead at top speed, and the wind that swept her decks blew the flames and smoke astern over the fantail, preventing the blaze from spreading forward on the flight deck.... Trapped on the fantail itself, men faced the flames and fought grimly on; with... no way of knowing how much of the ship remained on the other side of that fiery wall....
    After nearly three hours of almost hopeless fighting, she had brought the fires under control, and though it was many more hours before they were completely extinguished, the battle was won and the ship was saved.
    A goodly thick book could not record all the acts of heroism that were performed aboard that valiant ship today....
    [A]t the cost of three pilots and three planes today the enemy killed a probable total of 392 of our men, wounded 264 others, destroyed about 70 planes and wrecked a fine and famous ship. The flight deck of that ship tonight looks like the crater of a volcano.... But the ship has not been sunk.... As it is the Bunker Hill will steam back to Bremerton Navy Yard under her own power and there will be repaired.... But within a few weeks she will be back again, sinking more ships, downing more planes, and bombing out more Japanese air fields.
    Perhaps her next task will be to cover the invasion of Tokyo itself!
    • Phelps Adams, "Kamikazes: An Eyewitness Account", from Masterpieces of War Reporting: Great Moments of World War II, ed. Louis Snyder (1962), pp. 487-494. The "Kamikaze"or "Divine wind" in Japanese: referred to suicide pilots who would fly their bomb-laden planes into American naval ships. The USS Bunker Hill was repaired in Bremerton, Washington and returned to the Pacific Fleet in September. The ship remained in the Navy until it was sold for scrap in 1973.

Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki


  • Please, for God's sake, stop sending our finest youth to be murdered in places like Iwo Jima.... Why can't objectives be accomplished some other way?
    • Letter written to the Secretary of the Navy.[citation needed]
  • National Resistance Program.[Quote?]
    • Japanese plan for using all males, ages 15 to 60, and females, ages 17 to 40, in combat roles in the expected Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands, planned to begin with Operation Olympic on 1 November 1945. Postwar analysis of Japanese documents showed that "sacrificing 20 million Japanese lives" was expected.
  • [Japanese defenses threatened] to grow to [the] point where we attack on a ratio of one (1) to one (1) which is not a recipe for victory.
    • Major General Charles Willoughby, G-2 (chief of intelligence) on General MacArthur’s staff, on the buildup of Japanese forces in the zone of the planned Operation Olympic assault.[citation needed]
  • When I saw a very strong light, a flash, I put my arms over my face unconsciously.... The whole city was destroyed and burning. There was no place to go.
    • Michiko Yamaoka, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945).[citation needed]
  • Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT....
    With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces....
    It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East....
    Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.
    We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.
    • President Harry S Truman, radio address to the American people, following the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan (August 6).
  • You think of the lives which would have been lost in an invasion of Japan’s main islands — a staggering number of Americans, but millions more of Japanese — and you thank God for the atomic bomb.
    • Comment of one Marine in the Pacific.[citation needed]
  • Would it not be wondrous for this whole nation to be destroyed like a beautiful flower.
    • General Anami, Japanese War Minister, at a meeting of Japan’s Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (August 9, 1945).[citation needed]
  • We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war.
    • Koichi Kido, aide of Emperor Hirohito.[citation needed]
  • [The atomic bombings were a] gift from heaven.
    • Mitsumasa Yonai, Japanese Navy Minister, who argued that the bombings caused the collapse of the power of leaders who favored continuing the war.[citation needed]
  • The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war.
    • Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief cabinet secretary in 1945.[citation needed]
  • We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandisement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone -- the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
    • Surrender speech of Emperor Hirohito (August 15, 1945). This was the first occasion in which common Japanese heard the voice of their emperor.[specific citation needed]
  • Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death... men everywhere walk upright in sunlight. The entire world lies quietly at peace. The holy mission has been completed. And in reporting this to you, the people, I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles and the beaches and in the deep waters of the Pacific which marked the way....
    As I look back on the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that He has given us the faith, the courage, and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exaltation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.
    • General Douglas MacArthur, commander of allied forces in the Pacific, radio address on V-J Day, September 2, 1945, when Japanese representatives signed the surrender agreement on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay.

War Aims and the Diplomacy of War


  • America must choose one of three courses after this war: narrow nationalism, which inevitably means the ultimate loss of our own liberty; international imperialism, which means the sacrifice of some other nation’s liberty; or the creation of a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and every nation. I am convinced the American people will choose, by overwhelming majority, the last of these courses. To make this choice effective, we must win not only the war but also the peace, and we must start winning it now.
    To win this peace three things seem to me necessary — first, we must plan now for peace on a worldwide basis; second, the world must be free, politically and economically, for nations and for men, that peace may exist in it; third, America must play an active, constructive part in freeing it and keeping its peace....
    This cannot be accomplished by mere declarations of our leaders, as in an Atlantic Charter. Its accomplishment depends primarily upon acceptance by the peoples of the world.... The Four Freedoms will not be accomplished by those momentarily in power. They will become real only if the people of the world forge them into actuality.
    • Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican candidate for president, in One World.


  • Before this year is out, it will be made known to the world — in actions rather than in words — that the Casablanca Conference produced plenty of news; and it will be bad news for the Germans and Italians — and the Japanese....
    In an attempt to ward off the inevitable disaster, the Axis propagandists are trying all of their old tricks in order to divide the United Nations. They seek to create the idea that if we win this war, Russia, England, China, and the United States, are going to get into a cat-and-dog fight....
    To these panicky attempts to escape the consequences to their crimes we say — all the United Nations say — that the only terms on which we shall deal with any Axis government or any Axis factions are the terms proclaimed at Casablanca: ‘Unconditional Surrender.’ In our uncompromising policy we mean no harm to the common people of the Axis nations. But we do mean to impose punishment and retribution in full upon their guilty, barbaric leaders.
    • President Roosevelt, fireside chat after returning from the Casablanca Conference with Prime Minister Churchill.


  • Big Three[Quote?]
  • Term referring to the United States, United Kingdom (Great Britain) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Russia): the three main countries at war with Nazi Germany. They held several “summit conferences” where their leaders (Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Josef Stalin) met together to plan wartime strategy.


  • The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of Nazism and Fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice.
  • State Department report on the Yalta Conference, in which the Big Three met in February 1945 at a resort in southern Russia, to finalize plans to defeat Nazi Germany and to begin the reconstruction of Europe.

The War at Home


  • [The attack on Pearl Harbor showed] the seriousness of the challenge confronting us and our very souls became so inflamed with righteous wrath, so fired with patriotism, that our differences and divisions and hates melted into a unity never before witnessed in this country.
  • Rep. John Flannagan of Virginia.


  • Loose lips sink ships
  • Wartime slogan that urged people to keep quiet because spies could always be listening.


  • Manhattan Project[Quote?]
  • Secret code word for the immense scientific and engineering project to build an atomic bomb before the Germans or Japanese.


  • Eat more corn, oats, and rye products — fish and poultry — fruits, vegetables and potatoes. Baked, boiled and broiled foods.
  • Eat less wheat, meat, sugar and fats to save for the army and our allies
  • Text of a wartime conservation poster.


  • The need is urgent — War in the Pacific has greatly reduced our supply of vegetable fats from the Far East. It is necessary to find substitutes for them. Fat makes glycerine. And glycerine makes explosives for us and our Allies — explosives to down Axis planes, stop their tanks, and sink their ships. We need millions of pounds of glycerine and you housewives can supply it.
    Don’t throw away a single drop of used cooking fat, meat drippings, fry fats — every kind you use. After you’ve got all the cooking good from them, pour them through a kitchen strainer into a clean, wide-mouthed can. Keep it in a cool dark place....
    Take them to your meat dealer when you’ve saved a pound or more. He is cooperating patriotically. He will pay you for your waste fats and get them started on their way to war industries.
    • Federal Government pamphlet getting civilians involved in the war effort.


  • Dr. New Deal... [has been replaced by] Dr. Win the War.... The overwhelming first emphasis should be on winning the war.
    • President Roosevelt, on the change in the priorities of the Federal Government.


  • The honest-minded liberal will admit that the common man is getting a better break [now] than he did under the New Deal.
    • A New Deal administrator.


  • To harden home-front morale, the military services have adopted a new policy of letting civilians see photographically what warfare does to men who fight.
  • Newsweek magazine on the War Department’s policy of letting photos of American troop casualties be shown in order to reverse the public’s overconfidence.

Women in the War


  • Days and nights were an endless nightmare, until it seemed we couldn’t stand it any longer. Patients came in by the hundreds, and the doctors and nurses worked continuously under the tents amid the flies and heat and dust. We had from eight to nine hundred victims a day.
  • Eunice Hatchitt, Army nurse serving on Bataan in the Philippines.


  • To be doing something towards winning the war, to be making some money, to learn a trade, men and women have been pouring into the city [of Mobile, Alabama] for more than a year now.
  • Observation of novelist John Dos Passos.


  • I was an eager learner, and I soon became an outstanding riveter. At Rohr I worked riveting to boom doors on P-38s.... The war really created opportunities for women. It was the first time we got a chance to show that we could do a lot of things that only men had done before.
  • Winona Espinosa, an aircraft worker.


  • Something is happening that Adolf Hitler does not understand..... It is the miracle of production.
  • Time magazine, on American industry’s production of immense numbers of planes, ships, and tanks. Actually, German military intelligence DID correctly estimate what the U.S. could manufacture, but Hitler chose to ignore the report and declared war on the U.S.


  • Instead of cutting a cake, this woman is cutting a pattern of aircraft parts. Instead of baking a cake, this woman is cooking gears to reduce the tension in the gears after use.
  • Narrative in a news video showing women working in an aircraft factory.


  • There is nothing in the training to prepare you for the excruciating noise you get down in the ship. Any who were not heart-and-soul determined to stick it out would fade out right away.... And it isn’t only your muscles that must harden. It’s your nerve, too.
  • Woman shipyard worker.


  • You had better be careful how you talk to me ‘cause I have developed a big muscle in my right arm and a good strong one in my left, so take it easy, kid.
  • Margaret Hooper, age 20, in a letter to a friend in the Pacific Fleet. Margaret was working as an incoming materials inspector at an aircraft plant in San Pedro, California.


  • “Rosie the Riveter”
  • Name of the tough, patriotic, fictional woman cartoon character made to rally women support and help during the war.


  • It gave me a good start in life. I decided that if I could learn to weld like a man, I could do anything it took to make a living.
  • Nova Lee Holbrook, on how her experience in war work was invaluable.

The War at Home: Japanese-Americans


  • The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that action will be taken.
    • War Department report on Japanese migrants and Japanese-Americans on the West Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor.[citation needed]


  • Despite the color of our hair and skin, despite the shape of our eyes, the U.S. was our country. I remember how my parents reminded us of that fact. Just before our family was evacuated, my father... said, "No matter what happens, this is your home."
    • U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, taken as a child to an internment camp.[citation needed]


  • During the bleak spring of 1942, the Japanese and Japanese-Americans who lived on the West Coast of the United States were taken into custody and removed into camps in the interior. More than 100,000 men, women, and children were thus exiled and imprisoned. More than two-thirds of them were American citizens.
  • These people were taken into custody as a military measure on the ground that espionage and sabotage were especially to be feared from persons of Japanese blood. The whole group was removed from the West Coast because the military authorities thought it would take too long to conduct individual investigations on the spot. They were arrested without warrants and were held without indictment or a statement of charges.... Despite the good intention of the chief relocation officers, the centers were little better than concentration camps.
  • If the evacuees were found ‘loyal,’ they were released only if they could find a job and a place to live, in a community where no hoodlums would come out at night to chalk-up anti-Japanese slogans, break windows, or threaten riot. If found ‘disloyal’ in their attitude to the war, they were kept in the camps indefinitely — although sympathy with the enemy is no crime in the United States (for white people at least) so long as it is not translated into deeds or the visible threat of deeds.
    • Eugene V. Rostow, in Harper’s, 1945[specific citation needed]


  • There were no lights, stoves, or window panes.... We slept on army cots with our clothes on. ... The barbed wire fence which surrounded the camp was visible against the background of the snow-covered Sierra mountain range.
    • Karl Yoneda on conditions at the internment camp for Japanese migrants and Japanese-Americans at Manzanar, California.[citation needed]


  • After all those years, having worked his whole life to build a dream — having it all taken away.... He died a broken man.
    • Peter Ota, whose family was interned at a camp in Colorado.[citation needed]


  • We must accord great respect and consideration to the judgments of the military authorities who are on the scene and who have full knowledge of the military facts.... At the same time, however, it is essential that there be definite limits to military discretion.... Individuals must not be left impoverished of their constitutional rights on plea of military necessity that has neither substance nor support.
    • Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Murphy, one of three justices dissenting in Korematsu v. United States. The Court’s six-judge majority supported the interning of Japanese and Japanese-Americans.

The War at Home: African-Americans


  • This is a war to keep men free. The struggle to broaden and lengthen the road of freedom — our freedom — here in America — will come later. That this private, intra-American war will be carried on and won is the only real reason we Negroes have to fight. We must keep the road open....
    The very fact that I, a Negro, can fight against the evils in America is worth fighting for. This open fighting against the wrongs one hates is the mark and the hope of democratic freedom.
    • From J. Saunders Redding, “A Negro Looks at This War,” American Mercury (November 1942), pp. 585-592.


  • My own opinion was that blacks could best overcome racist attitudes through their achievements, even though these had to take place within the hateful environment of segregation....
    The... war represented a golden opportunity....
    We owned a fighter squadron — something that would have been unthinkable only a short time earlier. It was all ours.... Furthermore, we would be required to analyze our own problems and solve them with our own skills.
    • General Benjamin O. Davis, the first African American general in the Air Force, and commanding officer of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.[citation needed]

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