The origins of the war were in Germany whereAdolf Hitler became the leader and started ethnic cleansing, killing anyJewish person, gypsy, homosexual or any other person whom he considered”inferior. ” Another cause of the war was the attempted invasion of Ethiopiaby Italy, which they eventually occupied in 1936 despite British and Frenchopposition. Germany appeared to be winning the war, taking over theRhineland, Czechoslovakia,France, Belgium and other pieces of land, up until 1942 when the tidesturned in favor of the Allies. The Japanese naval airpower was devastatedby the Americans and Hitler had recently been defeated at Moscow. Shortlyafter Italy was defeated and expelled from the war and Germany’s forceswere slowly deteriorated. The war officially ended when the Japanesesurrendered following the detonation of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima andNagasaki.
Hitler began holding meetings with others who thought like him,blaming Jewish people for the problems in Europe. The Communistscontinually tried to break up the meetings of the group who came to beknown as the National Socialist Party in 1923. TheNational Socialist Party, led by Goering, Hess, Rosenberg, and Roehm, wasoutraged with France for occupying the Ruhr. In 1924 Hitler was sentencedto a four-year prison term for a demonstration where twenty people werekilled. He only ended up serving thirteen months of the term but itprovided sufficient time for him to outline his book Mein Kampf, whichmeans “My Struggle” in German.
The President of the German State, MarshalHindenburg, was eighty-three years old as of 1930 and was persuaded to viewHitler as the nextChancellor of the Reich. Hitler was called to Berlin by the President andonJanuary thirtieth, 1933 he became the Chancellor of Germany. Hitler’s firstacquisition was his reoccupation of the Rhineland, a small portion ofwesternGermany in 1936. Just three years later German soldiers had already takenoverCzechoslovakia.
In early September of the same year Germany took overPoland,France and Great Britain declare war on Germany, and Norway, Portugal,Spain, and Ireland all declare neutrality. Later in the year Turkey signs apact withBritain and France giving them mutual assistance and the Soviets attackFinland. In April of 1940 the Danish king announced that Norway was surrendering toGermany and one month later Belgium does the same. France, under constantattack, gave into Germany in mid June.
Italy, sided with Germany, decidesthat it needs control of the Suez Canal so it invades Egypt on Septemberthirteenth. In October after Hitler’s constant nagging, Spain joins the war in exchangefor military, agricultural, and territorial demands. On June twenty-second,1941Germany begins Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the invasion of theU. S. S. R.
Hitler’s plan was to have his army, 3,200,000 men, split intothree groups; one moving north towards Leningrad, one moving towardsMoscow, and one moving south towards Kiev. By the time his army had takenKiev it was alreadySeptember and as they moved north towards Moscow winter set in early. Hitler’s forces were stuck in the bitter cold of winter. In December aSoviet counter-attack forced the Germans to withdraw from Moscow. This wasthe first sign that Hitler’s powerful army could in fact be stopped andthat he was bound to make a mistake at some time.
Another Allied force, theBritish, were also having good luck. In Libya the British were able tosplit the army under Rommel, forcing him to retreat. Early in the morningof December seventh, 1941 a fleet of 189 Japanese aircraft began attackingPearl Harbor, Hawaii. The first wave of planes destroyed anything it couldfind, including American aircraft, battleships, destroyers, cruisers, andsubmarines.
The second wave followed shortly and attacked everything thefirst wave had missed. Anti-aircraft fire was able to deter a third wave,but an incredible amount of damage had already happened. In only one hour,forty five minutes the Japanese air forces wrecked and capsized twobattleships and three were resting on the bottom. Nineteen war ships hadbeen hit and 150 aircraft had been disabled. In all over 2,400American lives were lost, 2,086 from the Navy and 237 from the Army.
As aresult of the bombing of Pearl Harbor the United States, with many of theLatinAmerican countries, declared war on Germany, Japan and Italy. Although manycountries declared war against the Axis nations, only the United States,Brazil, and Mexico actually sent troops to fight. At this point the warstarted to turn in favor of the Allies. The first major win for theAmerican forces was at theBattle of the Coral Sea.
After the dust settled at Coral Sea the Japaneselost three heavy cruisers, two destroyers, and more than twenty otherships. Just a month later the Americans won another decisive battle atMidway. American forces spotted the Japanese fleet before it was able to doany extensive damage to the island. By the end of the battle the Japanesewere in full retreat after the loss of four carriers, two large cruisers,three destroyers, and various other auxiliary craft.
In the U. S. S. R.
theGermans had resumed their offensive, now with their primary target asCaucasus, for the oil, and their secondary target as Stalingrad. TheGermans had a chance to attack Stalingrad while it was nearly defenseless,however they waited and attacked after Soviet reinforcements arrived. Itappeared as though they would capture Caucasus but a fuel shortage plaguedthem. In October 1942 the German army had lost twenty-two divisions and therest were ordered by Hitler to fight to the last man against the reinforcedSoviets.
22,500 German soldiers under Paulus surrendered inside Caucasusafter losing nearly 200,000, 100,000 dead and 91,000 captured. The onlylogical place the Allies could find to attack was Italy, but they first hadto go throughSicily which was guarded by two islands, Pantelleria and Lampedusa. Eventhough the attack on Pantelleria destroyed only two of the fifty-four shorebatteries, the Italians flew a white flag when a ship neared the island. The attack onSicily by the Allies didn’t start well, but they soon got thingsstraightened out and the Seventh army had gained an important position onthe island.
On July twenty-fifth Mussolini, the leader of the Italians,resigned and was immediately imprisoned, only to be freed by Nazis severalweeks later. The Italians surrendered Sicily unconditionally on Septembersecond and their fleet sailed towards Malta. The Eighth army landed on thesouthern tip of Italy and moved north, while the Fifth army landed furtherup the west coast at Salerno. TheFifth army nearly faced defeat but gained the advantage once heavy armorarrived.
The Fifth and Eighth armies joined forces 45 miles southeast ofSalerno and moved there way to Foggia, then Naples. Shortly after theItalians abandonedSardinia and Corsica. Operations in the Soviet Union continued throughout1943, with Germany launching their final offensive in July. The Battle ofKursk followed shortly, proving to be the greatest tank battle ever. Atfirst theSoviets forced the Germans behind the Dnieper river, followed by ten Germandivisions retreating from the Taman Peninsula to Crimea. Kharkov, Donets,Taganrog, Poltava, and Smolensk were all liberated by the Soviets by midSeptember.
The Soviets took a short break and resumed their offensive onOctober seventh. In order to prepare for a winter offensive the Sovietsrested and stockpiled after nearly defeating Manstein and Kleist. 1944began well for theAllies, as they invaded and conquered the Marshall Islands in late January. The attack was split into three groups.
The first was a task force whoannihilated the defenses of seven different islands. The second was a groupof reinforced marines who took down the islands of Roi and Namur in onlyfour days of close combat. The final group landed at Majuro, an islandwanted for its deep harbors. However, the island had already been evacuated by the Japanese and it wastaken over without any fighting. The Japanese air base at Engebi wascaptured after the loss of 500 Americans’ lives. On February sixteenth thenaval base of Truk was raided and 201 enemy planes and twenty-three shipswere destroyed at the cost of seventeen American planes.
Less than a weeklater 135 planes and eleven surface ships were destroyed at the island ofSaipan. Just a month laterAmerican forces captured New Guinea which brought them within 300 miles ofthePhilippines. By the spring of 1944 the Soviets reclaimed nearly all oftheir own country and began pushing into the Balkans and Poland. The siegeat Leningrad was won after two and a half years. A very important targetfor the Soviets was the Odessa-Lvov railway. In just two days they hadreached the railhead atVolochisk fifty miles away.
General Zhukov, who also led the mission todisable the railway, took over the German base at Uman which gave them thecrucial position they needed. Zhukov’s next move was to disable anotherrail line which delivered supplies through Poland to the German forces inthe Ukraine. Zhukov, along with Konev, isolated the German forces in theUkraine and the area was liberated by April of 1944. Now the only Germantroops left in the U. S.
S. R were those in Crimea. The Fourth UkrainianFront, under General Tolbhukin, defeated the German seventeenth army by thetwelfth of May. The Normandy invasion, often called D-Day, began on Junesixth, 1944 when American, British, and Canadian forces landed on theCotentin Peninsula.
The objective of the invasion ofNormandy was to regain France which had been taken over by Germany earlierin the war. The initial attack was spit into three divisions. The firstdivision landed near Bayeax-Caen and was composed of British and Canadiantroops. The second and third divisions were both American and landed atOmaha Beach and UtahBeach, respectively. In order for the troops to get across the EnglishChannel a massive convoy of ships was needed.
5,000 Higgins boats and othersmall ship-to-shore craft were needed, making the mission the largest everon water. The British-Canadian offensive, as well as the one at Utah beach, went welland both were positioned by nightfall. However, the circumstances at OmahaBeach, primarily the fortified bluffs, proved to be a much tougher fightfor theAmericans. On the first day the objectives failed and German forces put upa struggle for the following four days. The landing forces totaled fourteendivisions from Britain and sixty divisions from America. Opposing them werefifty German infantry divisions, thirty-six of which were stationed on thewestern coast, and ten Panzer divisions.
Hitler had been working on a longrange rocket, called the V-1, which he would use against London for theprevious three years and perfected it around the time of the Normandyinvasion. Later in the summer the V-2 was developed which had longer rangeand harder hitting power. With these tactical weapons Hitler was able to strike at England from asafe distance and used this advantage. Britain was bombed 1,100 times andLiege andAntwerp were bombed over 1,600 times. On June twenty-seventh the first porthad fallen to American force after 1,500,000 troops had landed at Normandyand secured it.
The Americans broke through on a road towards a small, butheavily defended town called Brittany. The Germans fought to the death andit proved to be the bloodiest battle in the west. By August nineteenthGerman forces were in full retreat all along the line and Paris wasliberated on August twenty-fifth. The port of Antwerp was capture on September fourth and Verdun was takenwithout a fight. Allied forces continued to deal a beating on Germany butwere slowed drastically by gasoline shortages. The Soviet forces brokethrough theMannerheim line just four days after the Normandy invasion and the warbetween the U.
S. S. R and Finland virtually stopped, even though negotiationsdidn’t happen until later. One hundred Soviet divisions reached the Germanfront onJune twenty-third, followed by the defeat of the German occupied Vitebsk,Orsha,Mogilev, and Zhlobin. The German Ninth Army was nearly non-existent and theGerman Fourth Army was in full retreat. Two different encircling moves bytheFirst Ukrainian Front forced Romania out of the war on August twenty-fifth.
Bulgaria removed itself from the war the next day. The Axis forces wererapidly losing forces and the war. Hitler was able to concentrate 250,000troops to a small area near the U. S. VIII Corps without foreignintelligence knowing. Early in the morning of December sixteenth, 1944Hitler’s army attacked and brought complete surprise to the Allies, it wasknown as the Battle of the Bulge.
Hitler himself thought up the plan, butactions by the Allies turned a nearly devastating onslaught into a stunningvictory. Ardennes, Bastogne, and St. Vith were all very important placesduring the Battle of the Bulge. At their highest point the German’s camewithin a few miles of the Meuse River and unknowingly passed by an Allysupply within a quarter mile. Germany continued to pour troops into thebattle which stabilized by Christmas Eve. When the skies finally clearedthe Allies aircraft began bombing the German armor and trains, which wereat a near standstill.
Hitler eventually decided to withdraw from theArdennes on January twenty-first, but only after losing 120,000 men. IwoJima was an important tactical position in the Pacific War and theAmericans were willing to sacrifice much for it. They sent in 60,000officers, followed by theFifth Fleet. By February twenty-seventh, 1945 the Americans had won overhalf the island and on March fifteenth the fighting stopped after nearly20,000American casualties. Okinawa was the last island needed before the directattack of Japan itself. Okinawa was invaded and quickly destroyed, followedby theTenth Army moving towards Japan.
It was here that the kamikaze technique,flying an airplane with a warhead attached to it, against war ships andother targets. The Tenth Army was the largest amphibious movement in the Pacific War,comprised of 1,427 ships. Okinawa was readily waiting for the arrival ofthe Americans on the south side of the island, with 100,000 soldiers and anintricate system of fortification in the coral and limestone rock. TheJapanese fleet then came out and intercepted the American fleet. TheSoviets, after rapidly expelling theGermans from their own country, took a little longer to move into Germany. TheSoviets did go full force, sending all four of their armies into Germany,north and south of Breslau.
By mid-February they had already taken overBunslau, which is a mere 125 miles from Berlin. Zhukov reached Oder, thenPosen along the WartaRiver, within sixty miles of Berlin. During February of 1945 the armies inthe west were having trouble making it up the Rhine. The U. S. Third Corpsfollowed the Germans over the Rhine Bridge after being commanded to “Getfive divisions across as quickly as possible.
” by Eisenhower. The Americanswere able to get across the bridge so quickly that the Germans didn’t evenhave time to demolish it. The U. S.
First and Ninth Armies linked on Aprilfirst nearPaderborn and held the German Army Group B and two corps of Group H incaptivity. After constant air attacks the remaining 325,000 men and 30general officers surrendered. The Third U. S. Army took Frankfurt, thenKassel. TheSeventh U.
S. Army crossed the Rhine near Worms and joined with the ThirdnearDarmstadt. As a result of this massive movement of Allied forces, theGerman defense in the west basically fell apart. Eisenhower decided to haltmany of his troops, knowing that the Soviet forces would be coming throughon the other side, fearful that the two allies might mistake each other forenemy. TheAmericans met the Soviets at Torgau on April twenty-fifth. The Soviet armycontinued onward toward Berlin and had the city enveloped the same day.
Hitler, choosing not to flee with many of his advisers, committed suicideon April thirtieth, knowing that there were Soviet forces just above hisbunker. TheBerlin forces surrendered on May second. The war on the front next to Italywas surrendered on April twenty-ninth. Mussolini, the ex-dictator of Italyand his mistress, were killed after attempting to escape from imprisonment. On May fifth a representative of Doenitz, the inherited leader of Germany,offered a surrender of all troops in Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, andSchleswig-Holstein. Even though the war had ended in Europe, the battle in the Pacificcontinued.
Bombing Japan seemed to be the most effective way to eat away at theJapanese forces. On July sixteenth, 1945 news that the nuclear bomb atAlamogordo, NewMexico, was a success was rushed to President Truman. Even though the bombwas originally intended for Berlin, Truman decided that the weapons couldalso be used to force a quick surrender in the Pacific. On July twenty-sixth America joined Britain and China in issuing an ultimatum forunconditional surrender. OnAugust sixth, after Japan ignored the ultimatum, a B-29 bomber appearedoverHiroshima and then sped away. A few moments later the first atomic bomb tobe dropped on humans detonated, killing and injuring about half the city’spopulation, 320,000 people.
Three days later a second atomic bomb wasdropped onNagasaki. The second bomb did less damage, killing and injuring 80,000people because the bomb was off target. On August tenth the Japanesedeclared that they would accept the terms of the Potsdam ultimatum. Thesecond world war was officially over on September second, aboard theMissouri where the Japanese signed a document ending all fighting.