A Resource Guide to World War II: Where to Find History


The Second World War was, as some refer to it, humanity’s darkest period. This guide will provide resources for the chronology, background, and courses of the World War II. There will also be detailed information regarding the aftermath of the war and the global impact it had. From the Holocaust to the Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima, there are many facets to World War II and the global affects on humanity.

Chronology

September 1, 1939 officially marked the beginning of a global war, in which tens of millions of people were killed. This is the date that Nazi Germany invaded Poland. There were many events leading up to this date, however, the real significance of this date marks the beginning of World War II. The Munich Pact was established, which allowed Germany to take over parts of Czechoslovakia. On March 31, 1939 Britain publicly supports Poland against Germany. In April of 1939, Mussolini , the Italian fascist dictator invaded Albania. In August of 1939 Germany and the USSR sign a secret pact preparing to invade Poland and dividing up the country between the two. Soon after this attack Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Germany. Following suit on September 10, 1939 Canada declares war on Germany as well. USSR continues on and invades Finland on November 30, 1939. Germany invades Denmark and Norway on April 9, 1940. Between March - June of 1940 Norway, Belgium and France all surrender to German forces. The Battle of Britain proves Britain to be a strong nation as they display defense in what Winston Churchill calls “their finest hour”. On September 27, 1940, Japan, Germany and Italy signed the Tripartite establishing the three nations as “The Axis”, which was led by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Later Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria also join the Axis. In August the war spreads to Africa when Germany conquers the British occupied Somaliland. After which Italy invade Egypt on September 13, 1940.

The Allied Forces work together as Greece invades Albania and takes over from the Italians. British troops take over the cities of Sidi Barrani and Sollum from the Italians in late 1940. The Allied forces continue on as Australian and British troops take over parts of Libya and what became Italian Somaliland. On March 11, 1941 US President Roosevelt passes an act that allows the US to sell, transfer or lease war goods to governments of any Allied countries. This ended America’s position as a neutral country in the war. Germany takes over Yugoslavia and Greece’s capital, Athens. The British strike and over turns the pro-German government in Iraq. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Allies with the exception of USSR, declares war on Japan. Then, Germany and Italy declare war on the US. Japan continues to invade parts of Asia including the Solomon’s, Singapore, and Burma. A significant turn in the war came when over 90,000 German troops surrendered to the Soviets on January 31, 1943. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising was the last remaining 750 Jews fighting the German troops off for almost a month in April of 1943. The German troops eventually overcome the last remaining Jews and kill them or sent them to a concentration camp. July 25, 1943, Mussolini’s government was overthrown in Italy. The final 2 years of the war came to an end with the Battle of the Bulge, when the German troops were defeated and finally D-day as the Allied forces came together to seal the defeat of the German Nazi army and end the war.

  • Munich Pact: September 29, 1938 Italy, Germany, France and Britain sign the Munich Pact which allowed Germany to invade and occupy the Sudeten territories of Czechoslovakia. On March 15 Germany completely invades Czechoslovakia, ignoring the Munich Pact.
  • Germany invades Poland: September 1, 1939 Nazi Germany successfully invades Poland from the west and USSR invades from the East. Throughout 1940-41 USSR troops execute Poland’s prisoners of war to stop any post war leaders in Poland. During this time over a million Polish citizens were imprisoned in concentration camps.
  • Winston Churchill becomes Britain’s Prime Minister: On May 10, 1940 Winston Churchill begins his successful journey as the leader of Britain in which he brought the country back from near defeat to rising against Hitler and his army.
  • German forces invade British Channel Islands: On June 30, 1940 Germany invade and occupy the Channel Islands. This is the only part of Britain taken over by Germany.
  • The Battle of Britain: Germany bombs Britain which began the battle in which Britain defended their country by air. The battle lasted a little over three months. Germany failed to conquer Britain’s army.
  • Operation Barbarossa: On June 22, 1941, Germany invades USSR as Italy and Romania declare war on the USSR. This breaks the pact between USSR and Germany and ultimately lends to the demise of the German army in 1945. The US supplies the USSR during this time under the Land-Lease Act.
  • Pearl Harbor Attacks: On December 7, 1941 Japan attacks US Naval base Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as tensions between Japan and the US escalates the war.
  • The Atlantic Charter was signed: On January 1, 1942, the Atlantic Charter was signed, thus began officially the New World Order called the United Nations and was comprised of 26 nations. This organization was formed to prevent a Third World War from completely damaging humanity.
  • The Battle of Midway: June 4-7, 1942 this battle was an event that destroyed hundreds of Japanese aircraft and fleet carriers. This battle was called a great American victory because of the 17 out of 22 Japanese ships that were sunk.
  • The Battle of the Bulge: Hitler’s final effort in offensive attacks started on December 16, 1944. Hitler’s plan was to cut off the allied troops and force them to run out of supplies and surrender. This plan did not work as the allied forces overpowered the Nazi army.
  • D-Day: June 6, 1944 Eisenhower led Allied troops into an invasion of Normandy, France and battled through to Belgium, while USSR troops battled from the east ending the war on May 7, 1945 as Germany surrendered.

Background

World War II was essentially caused by two separate conflicts. The first began as the Sino-Japanese war in 1937. The second was Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. The continued animosity between China and Japan came to fruition as the second Sino-Japanese War began in 1937. Conflicts between China and Japan traced back to before the first Sino-Japanese War in the late 1800’s. China was not prepared for a full war with Japan. USSR began supporting China to avoid a war with Japan keeping Siberia safe. The second war was Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany embarking on a mass invasion of Europe beginning with Poland. The main contributing factors to this war was the rising of Adolph Hitler, the rising of Benito Mussolini after World War I, blaming its current government for the poor economy cause by an unnecessary entrance into World War I. The Nazi Party’s role in Germany effectively spreading its propaganda against the Jews throughout Germany had a great impact on causing the war. Finally the Treaty of Versailles caused significant political distention in Germany. The treaty gave complete responsibility of WWI to Germany. Effectively Germany lost territory which was given to France, Belgium, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. This lowered the country’s morale and its allegiance to the leaders at the time, making it the perfect climate for Hitler to propose his ideas to a defeated country.

  • Sino-Japanese War II: Japanese joined alliance with Hitler’s regime against the Allied Forces. This helped Japan’s standing in its own war against China.
  • The Rising of Adolph Hitler: Following Hitler’s service in World War I, he was appointed to German intelligence to access The German Workers Party and influence its members. Hitler found he agreed with many of their anti-Semitic beliefs and socialist platforms. Hitler’s uprising has been attributed to his positioning with The German Worker’s Party which later became the Nazi Party.
  • The Nazi Party: After Hitler’s release from prison for treason, he resurrected the Nazi Party and over time became its sole leader. The Nazi party used the effects of the depression and Germany’s devastated economic system to blame the current government and rallied to promote change. This change consisted of launching massive propaganda campaigns that helped The Nazi’s win the elections in Germany in 1932 with 37% of the votes. 
  • The Rising of Benito Mussolini: Beinto Mussolini rose to power much like Hitler using the frustration of the Italian people during an economic depression in 1922. He used terror and violence to rule his dictatorship and his belief system were quite in line with Hitler’s, thus making a dangerous duo.
  • Treaty of Versailles: The Treaty of Versailles was a treaty designed by the League of Nations to prevent a second world war and establish peaceful resolutions regarding territory disputes. This essentially ended World War I, however this took much away from Germany in terms of territory and power. This was crushing to the esteem and confidence of the German people had in their leaders.
  • The Great Depression: The economy’s of the US and Europe were bleak and many were pre-occupied with their economic problems. This was the perfect time for The Nazi party offer solutions. People were devastated by poverty and wanted to believe in something that would bring them out of it.
  • The Failure of the League of Nations: The League of Nations was designed to prevent a second world war but fails in an attempt to sanction Mussolini’s Italy for actions against Ethiopia. There was a failure to unite between the nations.

Courses of the War

Beginning with Germany annexing Austria, the official war did not begin until Germany invaded Poland. The war took it’s a course throughout Eastern and parts of Central Europe at first. Then the war moved through Africa and Asia. The war was brought to the US with the attacks from Japan on Pearl Harbor. The war invaded most of Europe by the end of the war when the invaded areas were liberated from the German Nazi Army. 

  • Germany invades Poland and Finland: The invasion of Poland divided the land between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Finland’s invasion was unsuccessful.
  • Blitzkrieg: Germany attacked Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, France and part of Britain. The war moves through Europe.
  • Germany betrays USSR: Germany attacks USSR and the war moves through the Soviet countries. This causes Stalin to align with Great Britain and France to defeat Germany. The Soviet took over eastern European countries such as Latvia and Lithuania.
  • The war moves into Africa: Italy attacks the British Somaliland. The war continues through Egypt and Algeria.
  • Japan attacks Pearl Harbor: US decides to officially enter the war after this attack. Japan had its own battle with China since 1931 and the US placed an oil embargo on Japan encouraging peaceful solutions. Japan was allies with Germany. This brought the war to North America.
  • Battles continued on through Mediterranean: Allied Efforts were concentrated in the Mediterranean and Middle East in Northern Africa. Meanwhile the Soviet Union was being infiltrated by the Germans.
  • The Allied Forces Move to Italy: This was a battle the used quite a bit of the allied resources.
  • War spread throughout the Pacific: The Japanese Navy continued its battles through the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. China, New Guinea, Philippines and many other Asian countries were invaded and taken over by Japan.
  • Battle of the Bulge in Ardennes: The final battle of the war takes place in Ardennes, France. Meanwhile countries that were taken over by German army are liberated by Allied forces.

Aftermath of War

The aftermath of World War II brought industrialization to countries that were riddled with effect from the depression era. The war helped bring many countries out of an economic depression. The war propelled scientific technology and the creation of nuclear weaponry. The government made much advancement on jet engines, rocket launchers and radars. The United Nations was formed to create postwar organization. Many countries were also left devastated financially by the war such as Germany.

  • World War II Industrialization: Post war industrialization fueled the economy in most regions. The US production had peaked during the time of the war which forces the producers to develop faster ways to mass produce items.
  • Economic Incline: Major world wide industries saw a huge economic growth. The Japanese became an industrial powerhouse as with the US and Soviet Union.
  • Nuclear Weaponry: Bombed that were developed during the war by the US called the Manhattan Project were dropped on Japan. These were nuclear fission called the Atomic Bomb. A few years later a hydrogen bomb was developed, which was nuclear fusion.
  • Advancements: The role of military needs during the war fueled much of the advancement in technology. Jet fueled engines, advances in navigational equipment and radars are just a few of the technological advancements that took place.
  • United Nations: The UN was formed to be the global peacekeeper of international relations. This organization was to replace the League of Nations that failed to successfully mediate international relations.
  • Nuremberg Trials: Post war trials were held to hold those responsible for committing war crimes during the course of the war. These trials were held in Nuremberg, Germany in an international court. The trials lasted for four years.
  • Devastation in Underdeveloped Countries: Some of the underdeveloped countries in Africa had devastation in their land without the resources to rebuild.
  • World Wide Awakening: After the atrocities of the war became clear, there was a world wide awakening that clearly that became of the darkest outcomes possible from mankind. German citizens were forced tour the remains of the concentration camps and the world was shown images of the devastation in these camps.
  • The Cold War: After the war, the Soviet Union became a powerful country ext to the US. Tensions arose regarding how long the Soviets had to wait for aid in the war. The leaders of the US and Soviets were at odds.

The Global Impact of the War

World War II was the single most devastating war in all of history. The loss of land and people were insurmountable. Over 12 million people list their lives during the Holocaust; this was marked in history for being the darkest time in the history of humankind. There were many impacts felt on a global level which included the global positioning of countries, the accountability for war crimes, and the increase in a world wide humanitarian effort. There were also national impacts after the war including the post war baby boom in the US. 

  • Holocaust Survivors: Holocaust Survivors were not only lost and displaced after the war but there were also longstanding effects of Psychological effects as well.
  • Global positioning of Countries: The powerhouse countries after the war were the US, Japan, and Soviet countries.
  • War Crime Accountability: After the atrocities that took place during the war, the world did not accept crimes committed merely because orders were given to commit crimes against humanity.
  • World Wide Humanitarian Effort: Many organizations were formed after World War II to aid and give humanitarian relief to sufferers. This included UNICEF formed to aid children. These organization continue to provide aid.
  • Baby Boom: An influxe of babies were born after soldiers returned from the war from 1946-1964. This phenomenon occurred throughout much of the western world after the war.
  • Nuclear Arms Race: Once nuclear weapons were introduced by the US in World War II, other countries raced to produce weaponry of the same caliber.
  • Women in War: World War II set the stage to allow women to be a part of the war. Jobs left by the men who went off to war were also filled by women. This showed that women could handle the jobs that were once only filled by men.
  • End of Imperialism: After WWII, decolonization took place in many British territories. This spread to Pakistan and India.
  • Dawn of the Nuclear Era: Nuclear testing took place in remote desert areas. Nuclear arsenals popped up through the Cold War. Treaties were signed limiting the possession and uses of nuclear weapons in the word to avoid a third world war and devastating affects to humanity.