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Essay: Causes of World War 2

Out of all the wars that the world has gone through, none has been more devastating as world war II. But what caused this war? Well, world war II had six major causes: anger over the Versailles Treaty, the failure of peace efforts after world war I, the rise of Fascism, the goals of Hitler, the isolationism by America and Britain, and the re-armament of Europe. This paper will go over each of these causes individually and then draw some conclusions about world war II.

The first cause of world war II was the intense anger over the Versailles Treaty. Germany was very angry over two things and the first of which was the many territorial losses they had to endure as a result of the treaty. They lost two cities on the French-German border and as per Wilson’s thirteenth point Poland was re-formed with access to the Baltic Sea, which went right through Germany. Giving Poland Sea access split Germany into two parts, the main part of Germany, and a small portion to the North of the Danzig corridor. The Danzig corridor really inflamed Germany for many years, but they really could not do anything about the situation because they lost world war I. Another country that was angry over the Versailles Treaty was Italy. They were angry because they thought that the land that they had received as a payment for their participation in the Allied effort against Germany did not offset the cost of the war, nor did it satisfy their ambitions to grow. The final country that was angry over the Versailles Treaty was Japan. They were also a victor over Germany and they wanted to gain control over China as reward for their participation in the war. This, however, did not happen and they were angry over the situation.

The second cause of world war II was the failure of the many peace efforts that occurred after world war I. The League of Nations, which was one of Wilson’s fourteen points and part of the Versailles Treaty, was a forum in which nations could settle their disputes with one another. The problem was that the League did not have any real power. The only thing it could do was try to persuade the offending nation to concede and if that did not work out they could impose economic sanctions on that country. But the league had so little power that the sanctions it passed were normally ignored and it could do nothing from that point on. Another failed peace effort was the Washington Conference. At this conference the principal naval powers agreed to limit their navies according to a fixed ratio. But again none of the powers really went through with their agreement. Yet another failed peace effort was the Locarno Conference. This conference produced a treaty between France and Germany stating that the border between the two countries was guaranteed. However, we know that this treaty failed because Germany invaded France during world war II. The final failed peace effort was the Paris Peace Act. At this conference all of the major countries, excluding Russia, and many smaller countries agreed that war was not a national policy and stated that they would try to resolve problems through diplomatic means. The only way that war was acceptable in this act was by means of self-defense. These did not directly cause world war II, but they made it possible by their obvious lack of power. Countries still did not trust each other enough to follow through with the good ideas that they had.

The third cause of world war II was the rise of Fascism. Fascism was a movement that began before world war I, but did not become a serious political power until Benito Mussolini took control of the Italian government in 1922. Under Mussolini Italy became a Totalitarian government where labor unions were abolished and political opponents were killed or silenced. This caused many things to happen to Italy’s social and economic problems. The first of these problems was the lowered living standard of the Italian people. The people lost their eight hour work day protection and their wages were lowered by the government. Mussolini acknowledged that the living standard had gone down, but explained it by saying that the Italian people were not used to eating much anyway, so they would not feel the lack of food as badly as others. Another thing the Fascist government caused was an increased birthrate in Italy. Mussolini wanted women to have more children so that he could create a larger army in the future. In this way he felt that he could have a large army by the time he was ready to go to war for more land. Mussolini used tactics much like the communists in that he had total control over all of the Italian population and could have people killed whenever he wanted. Italy, however, was not the only country to fall under Fascism. Germany adopted this form of government only it was called national socialism. It’s leader was Adolf Hitler and it called itself the Nazi party. The Nazi party differed slightly from Mussolini’s government in that the Nazi’s were more racist and believed that it was their destiny to make the world subject to the perfect German people. They were particularly hateful to the Jewish people, which was proven after they started to exterminate all of the Jews within central Europe after world war II started. These events did not directly cause world war II, but they brought us to the brink of war. People that listened to these dictators believed that these men could bring them to world domination.

The fourth cause of world war II was the goal’s of the German dictator, Hitler. He had a vision of the German people becoming a master race and dominating the entire world, but he also knew that he could not achieve all this during the war he intended to start. He, however, had two major goals which was to bring all of central Europe together and form a larger Germany and to create more room for Germany to grow by taking over Poland. His first move was to test the other European powers by inserting troops into Germany’s coal mining area next to France. This was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles and Hitler wanted to see how far he could push his adversaries before they would strike back. If Britain had not been so passive to Hitler they might have stopped this war before it ever started. They, however, allowed Hitler to do this because they did not want to start another war. Hitler then pushed the European powers further and further until he invaded Poland and Europe had no choice but to react.

The fifth cause of world war II was American and British isolationism. After world war I America turned away from Europe and went back to its domestic problems. The American people did not want anything to do with European affairs because many of the debts that were accrued during the war were not being paid and Americans were very bitter. Britain also turned to its domestic problems and did not want to interfere in Continental Europe’s problems. If one or both of these countries had attempted to stop Hitler when he first came into power he probably would have been thrown out of office and world war II might have been prevented.

The final cause of world war II was a direct result from all of the previous causes, and that is the rearmament of all the European powers. Tensions started to increase as Hitler tested the European powers and most if not all countries began to increase their armies and navies. This brought war closer because it meant that the government leaders were prepared to use force to resolve the problems that Hitler was causing, and it raised tensions even higher than they already were.

In conclusion, world war II was not an extension of world war I, but world war I was a big cause of world war II. Most of the causes of world war II came out of the Treaty of Versailles, and if that treaty had been better there might not have been world war II. Nevertheless, world war II happened and we can only learn from the mistakes we see from the past.

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The Fallschirmjager, the German paratroopers of World War 2, made the first airborne infantry assaults in history. When Germany invaded Western Europe in 1940, the German paratroopers parachuted and landed with gliders and captured strategic positions. A year later, in May 1941, in their greatest operation, they invaded and conquered the big island Crete in the Mediterranean solely by airborne troops. Their losses were such that Hitler decided never to do another large airborne operation, so the German paratroopers served the rest of the war as elite infantry.

The military use of paratroopers as airborne infantry is originally a Russian innovation. Since the 1920s the Russian military exercised and demonstrated the use of paratroopers in increasingly larger scale. Some foreign officers were allowed to observe these exercises. One of them was a German Colonel, Kurt Student, who was a fighter pilot and squadron leader in World War 1.

Student was excited by the military potential of paratroopers, but the establishment of the German paratroopers force was delayed until the German military buildup began in 1935. In the meantime Student became an expert with gliders, the other element of his future airborne force (after World War 2 the helicopter replaced the glider as the vehicle of airborne landings).

The German paratroopers force, the Fallschirmjager, was established in January 1936, with the enthusiast Student as its commander. It began as a single battalion of paratroopers and kept growing rapidly, becoming a division in 1938 and later a Corps, including paratroopers, glider troops, and elite infantry. It was a large and independent elite force of selected and very highly trained volunteers. They developed new tactics and techniques which improved their performance, such as the parachute-opening cord tied to the aircraft, which made parachuting safer and enabled them to jump from lower altitude and reduce exposure to enemy fire. The Fallschirmjager force belonged to the German Air Force. The concept was that they will be used to achieve what air bombardment can not, mainly capturing strategic positions behind enemy lines instead of destroying them.

Their transport aircraft were the common Junkers 52, which carried 17 paratroopers, and the DFS 230 glider, which carried over a ton of heavier weapons and equipment, or troops, and could be towed by an empty Junkers 52 and released over the landing zone.

Since 1938 the Fallschirmjager prepared for planned operations in Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Poland, but these were cancelled. Their first assault was in April 1940 in Norway and Denmark, when airborne forces landed in key Norwegian and Danish airfields and captured them to allow safe landing of additional forces. The Junkers 52 was used as a passenger aircraft before the war and many of the German pilots landed in those Norwegian airfields before the war, so the surprise and deception were perfect, and once they landed the Germans quickly overwhelmed the defenders.

Their second operation, which this time included parachuting and glider landings, was a month later in the invasion of Western Europe. They did what paratroopers do best, and captured vital river bridges behind enemy lines which the advancing German armor needed to cross, and a formidable Belgian fortress, Eben Emael, which guarded other key bridges.

Eben Emael was manned by about a thousand Belgian soldiers and was strongly fortified. It was a set of seven large fortified artillery positions, with 18 artillery guns, surrounded by many machine gun positions, mine fields, barbed wire, a moat, and connected via underground bunkers and tunnels.

On May 10, 1940, at dawn, this fortress was attacked by just 78 Fallschirmjager troops which landed on top of it with 10 gliders. They were equipped with light weapons and with several 100 pound armor piercing explosive charges. Before the raid these 78 paratroopers trained on a full size model of the Eben Emael fortress. They landed precisely on the roof of the large fortress in total surprise, and with their far superior fighting skill over the shocked Belgians they were able to quickly take over the roof area and confine the defenders to their fortified bunkers which they cracked one after the other with their special explosive charges. The German losses were just six dead and twenty wounded. A day later, when the paratroopers were joined by German ground forces, the hundreds of remaining Belgian defenders inside the fortress surrendered.

The small elite force of just 78 German paratroopers defeated a greatly larger force in a mighty fortress. It was a great success which remains one of the most daring and successful raids in history, a model of what elite soldiers can achieve in properly planned raids.

Kurt Student himself suffered a severe head injury in the fighting in Holland, but survived. A year later he was back on duty and he and Erwin Rommel proposed a large scale airborne operation.

Operation Mercury – the airborne invasion of Crete

They proposed that an entire Fallschirmjager division will parachute and land with gliders in the large island Crete in the eastern Mediterranean, overcome its allied defenders and occupy it, with the support of reinforcements which would follow by air and by sea. Impressed with the former successes of the Fallschirmjager, Hitler agreed, in condition that the operation in Crete will end before the beginning of the invasion to Russia a month later, but this was much more time than Student needed.

The strategic German goal in taking Crete was to make it a forward German base, mainly for the Luftwaffe, allowing it to more easily locate and attack British warships and convoys in the eastern Mediterranean and by that help Rommel in his North African campaign against the British forces in Egypt.

Crete was held by about 35,000 lightly armed allied and Greek infantry, most of them recently evacuated to Crete from mainland Greece. Thanks to intelligence the attack itself was not a surprise. It was also clear that the attack will be at the long North coast of Crete. The allied forces prepeared for the attack with what they had, and the Royal Navy patrolled in the sea North of Crete.

The Germans gathered near Athens forces and equipment for the operation from all over Europe. Student had:

  • 3 elite infantry divisions (paratroopers division, airborne division, mountain infantry division)
  • 500 Junkers 52 planes and 72 gliders for air transport
  • 300 fighters, 200 Stuka dive bombers, and 30 other bombers for air support
  • Civilian ships for troop transport and a force of torpedo boats for escort

The only flaw in the German preparations was that their intelligence underestimated the British force in Crete at a third of its actual size. This cost them in very heavy casualties during the attack.

In the morning of May 20, 1941, Crete was again heavily bombarded by the Germans, but this time the bombers were followed by large and dense formations of Junkers 52s carrying paratroopers or towing gliders. They attacked in several places but the main attack was in Canea and in nearby Maleme in the West side of Crete’s North coast. There was an airport and a harbor there and both were defended.

The 6000 German paratroopers which landed in Canea and nearby Maleme , and also those which landed in the East side of Crete, fought all day, with heavy casualties, but allied defenders held their positions and it seemed that the Germans were going to lose the battle. Furthermore, at night the Germans tried to ship reinforcements by sea but they were intercepted and sunk by the British Navy. The German paratroopers also lost direct radio contact with the operation’s command post in Athens which had to rely on pilots’ reports to evaluate the situation.

It was clear to Student that he must urgently reinforce his paratroopers on the ground or lose them, but he didn’t know if it was possible to land more troops in the airport at Maleme. He ordered Colonel Ramcke which commanded the paratroopers in West Crete and later became one of the most highly decorated German war heroes, to take Maleme at all cost, and then sent a single Junkers 52 to try to land in Maleme and return to report.

The German pilot landed in Maleme at dawn, under fire, stopped the Junkers 52 near some surprised German officers, received an updated situation report from them, and took off again. Once safely airborne again, the pilot immediately reported to Student that landing is possible, and Student immediately ordered the reinforcement force, which were already waiting inside their airplanes, to take off and fly to Maleme.

In the fierce battle of Maleme, the allied side made one critical mistake which greatly helped the Germans at the most critical time. The commander of the allied force which held the hill that covered the Maleme airport with fire, was under continuous pressure by Ramcke’s paratroopers. The allied commander and his superiors failed to understand the key importance of preventing the Germans from using the airfield to bring in their reinforcements, so instead of receiving available reinforcements and hold this hill, the allied commander was permitted to abandon it, and it was just before the German Junkers planes began landing in Maleme with reinforcements.

It was a classic example of the importance of holding the higher ground position, which in modern fighting often translates to achieving air superiority, and there, in Maleme, abandoning the higher ground cost The Allies the battle, the island of Crete, and heavy losses which they suffered in the rest of the battle.

With the arrival of more and more reinforcements landing in Maleme airport, the Germans could finally secure their beachhead in West Crete, receive some reinforcements by sea (their total force in Crete reached 17,500), and start pushing the allied defenders. After several more days, the allied commander in Crete realized he was fighting a lost battle and ordered to evacuate his forces from the island, an evacuation which suffered heavy losses in men and ships to German air attacks.

Paratroopers on the ground

The German paratroopers conquered Crete, but at a heavy cost of thousands dead and thousands wounded, mostly of Germany’s finest soldiers, and the loss of 170 transport aircraft and dozens of fighters and bombers. These losses were dwarfed just months later by the tremendous German losses in the fighting in Russia which began a month later, but in mid 1941, at the peak of his triumph, Adolf Hitler was shocked by the heavy losses of the paratroopers’ invasion of Crete and he decided that there will be no more large scale German airborne operations. In the rest of World War 2, other than a few insignificant small operations, the Fallschirmjager fought on the ground, as elite infantry. They proved themselves again and again as formidable opponents, especially in Monte Cassino (early 1944), in Normandy, and in Holland, where they defeated the British paratroopers in Arnhem. The lessons of large scale operation of paratroopers by the Germans were learned by The Allies, which later during the war made several such operations.

1933 – Adolf Hitler is elected Chancellor of Germany. He abolishes democracy and becomes a dictator. Japan and Germany leave the League of Nations

1935 – The German military enters the neutral Saar region, Hitler resumes conscription to the German military.

1936 – The German military enters the demilitarized Rhine region. The German-Italian "Axis" is formed.

1937 – Japan, which already occupies Manchuria, invades central China

1938 – Hitler annexes Austria and western Czechoslovakia.

Mar 1939 – Czechoslovakia surrenders to imminent German invasion

Apr 1939 – Hitler cancels the German-British naval agreement and the German-Polish non-aggression pact. Italy invades Albania.

Jul 1939 – Polish intelligence passes all its knowledge about the German Enigma machine to British and French intelligence

Aug 1939 – Germany and Russia sign non-aggression pact, secretly agreeing to invade Poland and share it. German U-boats and battleships sail to the Atlantic Ocean for war.

World War 2 Timeline :

1939 Timeline

Sep 1 – Germany invades Poland, World War 2 begins.

Sep 3 – Britain and France declare war on Germany.

Sep 8 – The US remains neutral but president Roosevelt declares "limited national emergency".

Sep 17 – Russia invades Poland

Sep 27 – Warsaw surrenders

Oct 6 – The last remaining Polish forces surrender

Nov 30 – Russia invades Finland

1940 Timeline

Jan 17 – The first German Enigma messages are decoded by British intelligence

Mar 12 – Russia-Finland war ends. It convinces Hitler that the Russian military is ineffective.

Apr 8 – Germany invades Denmark and Norway.

Apr 14 – British forces land in Narvik, Norway, but leave in 10 days

May 10 – Germany invades France, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg. Winston Churchill becomes Britain’s prime minister.

May 20 – German forces reach the British Channel.

May 27 – Evacuation of British and French forces to Britain at Dunkirk begins.

Jun 4 – The evacuation at Dunkirk ends. 338,000 troops were rescued. Churchill declares that Britain will never surrender.

Jun 9- Norway surrenders

Jun 10 – Italy declares war on the collapsing France and on Britain.

Jun 14 – German troops march into Paris

Jun 18 – Russia invades Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Churchill declares this is Britain’s finest hour.

Jun 22 – France surrenders

Jun 27 – Russia annexes the eastern regions of Romania.

Jul 1 – Germany invades the British Channel islands.

Jul 10 – The Battle of Britain air campaign begins.

Aug 8 – The Luftwaffe begins to bomb British early warning radars

Aug 15 – The Luftwaffe loses 76 aircraft in one day

Aug 25 – British night bombers bomb Berlin

Sep 3 – Hitler changes the Luftwaffe’s objective from destroying the Royal Air Force to bombing London. This allows the R.A.F to recover and win the battle of Britain.

Sep 13 – Italy invades British-held Egypt from Libya, the North African campaign begins.

Sep 15 – The largest Luftwaffe daytime bombardment, it loses 56 aircraft

Sep 27 – Japan joins The Axis

Oct 7 – German troops enter their Ally Romania, Germany’s only source of oil which is threatened by Russia

Oct 12 – Hitler cancels the invasion of Britain.

Oct 23 – Spain rejects Hitler’s offer to join the war and remains neutral.

Oct 28 – Italy invades Greece from Albania, but stopped, twice.

Nov 11 – British carrier aircraft sink Italian fleet in Taranto’s harbor. Yamamoto in Japan is impressed by their success.

Nov 20 – Hungary and Romania, both military dictatorships, join The Axis.

Dec 9 – British forces in Egypt counter attack the Italians and advance along the Libyan coast

1941 Timeline

* To provide better time perspective of the German advances and stops in the direction of Moscow, the timeline related to it is marked in bold. The German failure to take Moscow marks the main turning point of the war.

Feb 12 – Hitler sends Rommel and the Afrika Korps to help the Italians in North Africa

Mar 1 – Bulgaria joins The Axis. The Axis-Russian border now stretch from the Baltic sea to the black sea.

Mar 3 – Rommel attacks the British forces in North Africa.

Mar 5 – British troops arrive at Greece to support it.

Apr 6 – Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece

Apr 13 – After military clashes, Japan and Russia sign non-aggression pact.

Apr 17 – Yugoslavia surrenders. British forces evacuate Greek mainland to Crete

Apr 27 – German troops occupy Athens

May 9 – U-boat U-110 is captured with Enigma settings tables

May 20 – German paratroopers and airborne troops invade Crete by air

May 31 – British forces in Crete surrender.

Jun 8 – British forces aided by Israeli volunteers invade French controlled Syria and Lebanon

Jun 22 – Germany invades Russia. Hitler orders "maximum cruelty" against civilians, which results in fanatic Russian resistance.

Jul 3 – Stalin orders the "scorched earth" strategy.

Jul 16 – German army group "Center" takes Smolensk, just 220 miles from Moscow.

Jul 21 – The Luftwaffe bombs Moscow

Jul 24 – Japan invades French Indo-China (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia)

Jul 29 – Hitler, eager to occupy the rich Ukraine first, orders to stop army group Center’s advance to Moscow and to transfer its two tank armies to army groups "North" and "South". This is perhaps Hitler’s greatest mistake. The German Generals argue in vain against it.

Jul 31 – Hermann Goering orders the SS to prepare "the final solution", the plan to murder the millions of European jews.

Sep 6 – Hitler orders to resume the advance to Moscow, in order to take it "in the limited time before winter". Army group "Center", is given back its two tank armies, plus a third tank army and additional air units.

Sep 15 – The long German siege of Leningrad begins.

Sep 18 – The Germans in the South occupy Kiev and reach the Crimea.

Oct 2 – The final German attack towards Moscow begins (operation Typhoon).

Oct 15 – Rains stop German advance to Moscow due to deep mud which stops both tanks and infantry.

Oct 16 – Russian government leaves Moscow, the Germans occupy Odessa.

Oct 17 – General Tojo becomes Japan’s prime minister

Oct 21 – Churchill orders top priority to any request by the Enigma decoders.

Oct 26 – The Germans occupy Kharkov

Nov 15 – With the mud frozen by the dropping temperatures, German advance to Moscow resumes.

Nov 30 – The foremost German forces reach 27km from Moscow, but can advance no further due to strong Russian resistance.

Dec 6 – At temperatures of -34C (-29F) and below, a major Russian counter attack near Moscow begins. Moscow is saved, and the Germans are pushed back.

Dec 7 – The Japanese Navy attacks Pearl Harbor and the Phillipines, and the US joins the war.

With the German failure to defeat Russia, which is marked by their failure to take Moscow, and with the United States joining the war a day later, This date marks the main turning point of World War 2.

Dec 11 – Germany and Italy declare war on the US.

Dec 19 – Hitler orders "fanatic resistance" and appoints himself military commander-in-chief.

1942 Timeline

Jan 2 – Japanese forces occupy Manila

Jan 10 – Japanese forces invades Indonesia

Jan 11 – Japanese forces occupy Malaysia

Jan 12 – Japanese forces invade Burma

Jan 13 – German U-boats begin to sink ships along the US East coast.

Jan 21 – Rommel begins another offensive in North Africa

Jan 25 – Japanese forces invade the Solomon islands

Jan 26 – US troops begin to arrive in Britain

Feb 15 – Singapore surrenders to the Japanese

Mar 20 – "industrial scale" murder of jews by poison gas begins in Nazi death camps.

Apr 18 – Doolittle’s raid – US bombers bomb Tokyo.

May 7 – Battle of the Coral Sea. One Japanese carrier and one American carrier are sunk

May 6 – The last American troops in the Phillipines surrender

May 8 – The German spring offensive in southern Russia begins.

Jun 4 – The battle of Midway. Four Japanese carriers are sunk, and one American carrier. Japan’s naval superiority is lost.

Jul 3 – Japanese forces land in Guadalcanal

Jul 28 – Stalin forbids further Russian retreats, at any cost.

Aug 7 – US forces land in Guadalcanal

Aug 13 – Montgomery becomes commander of the British 8th army in North Africa

Aug 19 – Allied landing in Dieppe fails.

Aug 23 – The German 6th army reach Stalingrad, the battle of Stalingrad begins.

Sep 6 – The German advance in Stalingrad is stopped.

Oct 23 – The 2nd battle of El Alamein in North Africa begins.

Nov 8 – Allied forces land in western North Africa, at Rommel’s back

Nov 19 – The Russian flanking counter attack around Stalingrad begins

Dec 19 – The Germans fail to break the encirclement of their army in Stalingrad

1943 Timeline

Feb 2 – The last German forces in Stalingrad surrender

May 13 – The long North Africa campaign ends. The Allies control North Africa

May 22 – 41 German U-boats sunk in 3 weeks. Doenitz retreats all U-boats from the North atlantic

Jul 5 – The battle of Kursk begins

Jul 10 – The Allies invade Sicily

Jul 25 – Mussolini is replaced and arrested.

Aug 10 – The Germans know the Enigma was decoded, but believe the new types and procedures are safe again.

Sep 3 – The Allies invade Italy’s mainland

Sep 8 – Italy surrenders. The German forces in northern and central Italy occupy it

Sep 25 – The Russians liberate Smolensk

Oct – Allied anti submarine bases established in the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

Nov 6 – The Russians liberate Kiev

Nov 19 – The Marines land in Tarawa

Nov – Rommel takes command of the "atlantic wall" in the French coast

Dec – P-51 fighters provide all-the-way long range escort to bombers over Germany

1944 Timeline

Jan 16 – Eisenhower becomes supreme commander of western allies forces

Jan 22 – Allies land in Anzio, Italy

Mar – The Russians advance into the Ukraine

Apr 10 – The Russians liberate Odessa

May – Allied bombers begin to concentrate on the German fuel industry

Jun 5 – The German Navy’s Enigma messages are decoded almost in real time.

Jun 6 – D-Day. American, British, Canadian forces invade France at the beaches of Normandy

Jun 12 – 1st German V-1 cruise missile attack on Britain

Jun 15 – The Marines land in Saipan

Jun 19 – Battle of the Phillipine sea

Jun 22 – The Russians advance to Belarus

Jun 27 – Cherburg is liberated

Jul 20 – Hitler survives an assassination attempt by senior German officers with light wounds.

Jul 21 – Hitler appoints General Guderian to chief of the army (OKH). The Marines land in Guam

Jul 24 – The Marines land in Tinian

Jul 28 – The Russians reach the old German-Russian border in central Poland

Jul 30 – Patton breaks out of the beachhead deep into France

Aug 1 – Warsaw revolts against the Germans

Aug 15 – The Allies land in southern France

Aug 23 – Romania surrenders to the Russians. Its oil fields were Germany’s only source of natural oil

Aug 25 – Paris is liberated.

Aug – Allied fighters achieve air superiority over Germany

Sep 6 – Finland and Bulgaria surrenders to the Russians

Sep 8 – 1st German V-2 ballistic missile attack on Britain

Sep 17 – Operation Market Garden in Holland

Oct 5 – British forces land in Greece

Oct 10 – The Germans evacuate Riga, Latvia

Oct 14 – Athens is liberated

Oct 20 – The Marines land in Leyte, in the Philippines. In response, the Japanese Navy begins to use Kamikaze suicide pilots.

Nov 14 – B-29 bombers begin to bomb Tokyo from bases in the Mariana islands

Dec 16 – The German attack in the Ardennes begin

1945 Timeline

Jan 9 – The Marines land in Luzon in the Philippines

Jan 23 – The Russians reach Germany itself at the Oder river

Jan 27 – The Russians liberate the Auschwitz death camp

Jan 28 – The Ardennes campaign ends

Feb 13 – The Russians occupy Budapest, Hungary. Dresden bombed.

Feb 19 – The Marines land in Iwo Jima

Mar 4 – Manila is liberated

Mar 6 – The Allies occupy Cologne, Germany

Mar 7 – US forces cross the Rhine on the Remagen bridge

Mar 16 – The battle of Iwo Jima ends

Mar 27 – V-2 missile attacks end

Apr 1 – German forces encircled in the Ruhr by the Americans

Apr 6 – The Marines land in Okinawa. Japan orders all its forces to use Kamikaze suicide tactic

Apr 7 – The super battleship Yamato is sunk on its way to a Kamikaze fight in Okinawa

Apr 10 – The Allies occupy Hannover

Apr 11 – The Allies liberate the Buchenwald death camp

Apr 12 – President Roosevelt dies.

Apr 13 – The Russians enter Vienna

Apr 16 – The Russians begin final advance to Berlin

Apr 25 – American and Russian forces meet

Apr 26 – German defense in northern Italy finally collapse

Apr 29 – Mussolini is executed by the Italian resistance. The Allies liberate the Dachau death camp

Apr 30 – Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his bunker in Berlin. He appoints Admiral Doenitz as his successor.

May 8 – Germany surrenders. The war in Europe ends

May 28 – 450 B-29 bombers bomb Yokohama

Jun 2 – 660 B-29 bombers bomb Japanese cities

Jun 21 – Battle of Okinawa ends

Jul 16 – the US tests the atomic bomb in New Mexico. It works

Aug 6 – Hiroshima is destroyed by an atomic bomb

Aug 8 – Russia declares war on Japan

Aug 9 – Nagasaki is destroyed by an atomic bomb

Aug 14 – Japan surrenders. World War 2 finally ends.

Welcome. This website aims to enhance insight of interesting and exciting World War 2 topics. Instead of over-detailed or too technical essays, its focus is presenting and explaining why and how things happened the way they did in World War 2, with a better perspective of when they happened during that war. It’s more useful and interesting to learn about World War 2 that way.

Sections: Strategy , Battles , Weapons , People , Intelligence

The "Big picture" perspective of the strategy and war effort of the warring nations in World War 2.

  • World War 2 summary – brief answers to the key questions about World War 2.
  • World War 2 casualties – insights, and statistics by country.
  • Causes of World War 2 – the root causes of World War 2.
  • The biggest mistakes – the alternative decisions which could dramatically change the course of the war.
  • When did Hitler lose the war – an attempt to mark the time when Adolf Hitler lost the chance to win World War 2.
  • The turning points of World War 2 – a list of the great strategic turning points of the war.
  • Russia in World War 2 – the great war plan, preparations, collapse, and recovery – a revised view.
  • Timeline – the main events timeline, before and during the war.

Battles and operations

The dramatic battles and operations, from vast campaigns to small but important raids, in land, at sea, and in the air, that decided the outcome of World War 2.

  • The Battle of Britain – the key causes for the German defeat in the Battle of Britain.
  • Kursk – the greatest tank battle of the war, and the last major German offensive in the East.
  • Stalingrad – the German army’s greatest defeat, and a major turning point of the war.
  • Midway – in this battle of aircraft carriers, Japan lost the initiative in the Pacific.
  • Blitzkrieg – the German tactic of rapidly advancing tank forces and massive air support.
  • Dambusters – the daring special air attack on German dams, using bouncing bombs.
  • Doolittle’s raid – America’s first air raid over Japan, that hit Tokyo in total surprise.

From the ancient spear, to today’s GPS-guided bomb, many wars saw the appearance of new weapons based on amazing technologies, but none saw such a dramatic and diverse flow of exciting new scientific developments and new weapons as World War 2. During six years of war, the most scientifically advanced nations recruited the best minds and enormous resources to an unprecedented arms race.

Land weapons:

  • Infantry weapons – rifles, sub machine guns, pistols, and other weapons.
  • T-34 – simply the best main battle tank of World War 2.
  • M4 Sherman – the main American tank. It won by numbers.
  • German tanks – Panzers, the German tanks which stormed Europe.
  • Tiger – the most formidable German tank. Lethal, heavy, and almost indestructible.

Airplanes and air weapons:

  • Bombers – the strategic weapons that struck at the enemy’s heart.
  • De Havilland Mosquito – the most versatile and successful allied aircraft.
  • Fallschirmjager – the German paratroopers and their combat operations.
  • Fieseler Storch – the first true short take-off and landing aircraft.
  • Kamikaze pilots – suicide warfare in World War 2, and its military and cultural rationale.
  • The Manhattan Project – the making of the atomic bomb.
  • Messerschmitt Me-262 – the world’s first operational jet fighter.
  • P-51 Mustang – the American long range fighter which defeated the Luftwaffe over Germany.
  • RADAR – the technology which revolutionized air and naval warfare.
  • Stuka dive bomber – the airborne element of the German Blitzkrieg weapons.

Ships and naval weapons:

  • Submarines – they almost defeated Britain, and paralyzed Japan. Also about frogmen and human torpedoes.
  • PT boats, Torpedo boats – The fast night raiders of the sea.

Leaders, Generals, Heroes

Despite the mobilization of millions, individual people greatly affected the course and outcome of wars. National leaders, Generals and Admirals, aces and heroes, and brilliant scientists.

  • Leaders – a complete list of the national leaders of the countries which participated in World War 2 .
  • German Field Marshals – a chronological review of the German field marshals of World War 2.
  • Heinrich Himmler – the power-hungry head of the Nazi SS.
  • Adolf Hitler – founder of Nazism, dictator of Germany 1933-1945. The ultimate aggressor and the ultimate evil.
  • Joseph Goebbels – the Nazi propaganda master.
  • Hermann Goering – Adolf Hitler’s brutal and greedy deputy, and head of the Luftwaffe.

  • Medal of Honor – the highest U.S. military decoration.
  • George Patton – the master of mobile warfare.

  • Knight’s Cross – the medal awarded to Germany’s greater heroes and commanders, and its recipients.
  • Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto – Japan’s best Admiral, who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Otto Skorzeny – Germany’s commando leader, nicknamed "The most dangerous man in Europe".
  • Erich Hartmann – a young German fighter pilot who became the highest scoring ace in history, with 352 victories.
  • Hans Joachim Marseille – the most amazing fighter pilot of World War 2 .
  • Quotes – a few selected wartime quotes which are still very meaningful today.
  • Intelligence

    In World War 2, military intelligence dramatically advanced. The use of new scientific methods and technologies, as well as great human efforts involving endless work, great risks, and brilliant thinking, made intelligence become an equally important part of the armed forces, a crucial element for victory.

    • Enigma – the German military cipher machine, and the allied efforts to break its code.
    • Luftwaffe bomber wing KG 200 – this top secret unit flew the most special missions with the most special aircraft.
    • Navajo code talkers – American-Indian Marines who used their complex native language to form an unbreakable code.

    Military Theory

    How to fight? How to win? – the following essays answer these questions, and provide many concrete examples from World War 2.

    • The principles of war – the timeless rules of thumb for fighting, strategy, and tactics.
    • The mechanisms of defeat – the various material and psychological ways to achieve victory.

    World War II caused greater destruction than any other war in history. The war took the lives of about 17 million soldiers and an even greater number of civilians, who died as a result of bombings, starvation, and deliberate campaigns of mass murder. The war also ushered in the atomic age and was quickly followed by the collapse of the wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union and the beginning of the Cold War.

    World War I created the conditions that led to World War II. The peace settlement ending the war, which stripped the Central Powers of territory and arms and required them to pay reparations, left lasting bitterness in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Turkey. The peace treaty also disappointed two of the victors, Italy and Japan. In addition, the war severely disrupted Europe’s economies and helped set the stage for the Great Depression of the 1930s.

    General histories of the war, which examine the war’s origins, military history, and consequences, include John Keegan, The Second World War (1989); C.L. Sulzberger and Stephen E. Ambrose, American Heritage New History of World War II (1997); and Gerhard L. Weinberg, A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (1994). Valuable reference works include I.C.B. Dear and M.R.D. Foot, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Second World War (1995); John Ellis, World War II: A Statistical Survey (1993); and John Keegan, ed., The Times Atlas to the Second World War (1989). To understand the war’s outcome, see Richared Overy, Why the Allies Won (1995).

    The most thorough and balanced recent history of the American role in World War II is David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (1999), which examines the causes of U.S. involvement in the conflict, wartime diplomacy, military strategy, and the war’s economic and social implications.

    The question of how Japan was able to carry out its successful surprise attack on Pearl Harbor is thoroughly examined in Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (1982). The war’s European theater is discussed in Stephen L. McFarland and Wesley Phillips Newton, To Command the Sky: The Battle for Air Superiority Over German, 1942-1944 (1991); Nathan Miller, War at Sea: A Naval History of World War II (1995); and James Polmar and T.B. Allen, World War II (1996). Soldiers’ wartime experiences are examined in Gerald F. Linderman, The World Within War: America’s Combat Experience in World War II (1997). On the Pacific War, see John Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (1986), Akira Iriye, Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War, 1941-1945 (1981), and Ronald Spector, Eagle Against the Sun (1985)

    World War II transformed the American homefront. It jump-started the economy; ended Depression-era unemployment, relocated Americans in unprecedented numbers, and permanently altered the status of women, adolescents, and racial minorities in American life. The war’s impact on the homefront is analyzed in William L. O’Neill, A Democracy at War: America’s Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II (1993). Oral histories from the war years can be found in Studs Terkel, The Good War (1984).

    World War II had a dramatic impact on women’s lives. The most visible change involved the appearance of large numbers of women in uniform, as more than 250,000 women joined the WACs, the Army Nurses Corps, the WAVES, and the Navy Nurses Corps. The war also challenged the conventional image of female behavior, as "Rosie the Riveter" became the popular symbol of women who worked in defense industries. Wartime transformations in women’s lives are examined in Susan M. Hartmann, The Homefront and Beyond: Women in the 1940s (1982) and D’Ann Campbell, Women at War with America: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era (1984).

    World War II affected children and adolescents no less than women. In fact, the word "teenager" first appeared during the war. William M. Tuttle, Jr., Daddy’s Gone to War: The Second World War in the Lives of America’s Children (1993) traces the changes in young peoples’ lives.

    During World War II, African Americans waged battles on two fronts. They helped the country win the war overseas and pressed for equal rights at home. This dual struggle for victory against fascism and discrimination, known as the "Double V" campaign, is examined in Neil Wynn, The Afro-American and the Second World War (1976).

    The internment of 112,000 mainland Japanese Americans, one of the most shameful chapters in American history, is examined in Peter Irons, Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese Internment Cases (1983). A 1942 government report on the Pearl Harbor attack, written by Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts, which claimed without supporting evidence that the Japanese had received support from some Japanese Americans, helped to create a climate of opinion that led to internment.

    World War II marked the dawn of the atomic age. The development of nuclear weapons is thoroughly examined in Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986). The decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan remains one of the most controversial decisions in military history. Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance (1975) analyzes the factors that went into this decision.

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