World War II

World War II
Infobox collage for WWII.PNG
(clockwise from top left)
Date 1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945 (1939-09-01 – 1945-09-02) (6 years and 1 day)[a]
Location Europe, Pacific, Atlantic, South-East Asia, China, Middle East, Mediterranean, North Africa and Horn of Africa, briefly North and South America
Result

Allied victory

Participants
Allied Powers Axis Powers
Commanders and leaders
Main Allied leaders Main Axis leaders
Casualties and losses
  • Military dead:
    Over 16,000,000
  • Civilian dead:
    Over 45,000,000
  • Total dead:
    Over 61,000,000 (1937–45)
...further details
  • Military dead:
    Over 8,000,000
  • Civilian dead:
    Over 4,000,000
  • Total dead:
    Over 12,000,000 (1937–45)
...further details
Events leading to World War II
Treaty of Versailles 1919
Treaty of Trianon 1920
Treaty of Rapallo 1920
March on Rome 1922
Corfu incident 1923
Occupation of the Ruhr 1923–1925
Pacification of Libya 1923–1932
Dawes Plan 1924
Locarno Treaties 1925
Chinese Civil War 1927–1936
Young Plan 1929
Great Depression 1929–1941
Japanese invasion of Manchuria 1931
Nazis rise to power in Germany 1933
Franco-Soviet-Czech Pact 1935
Second Italo-Ethiopian War 1935–36
Remilitarization of the Rhineland 1936
Spanish Civil War 1936–39
Anti-Comintern Pact 1936
Second Sino-Japanese War 1937
Anschluss Mar. 1938
Munich crisis Sep. 1938
German occupation of Czechoslovakia Mar. 1939
German ultimatum to Lithuania Mar. 1939
British guarantee to Poland Mar. 1939
Invasion of Albania Apr. 1939
Pact of Steel May 1939
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Aug. 1939
Invasion of Poland Sep. 1939
Battle of Britain May. 1940
Invasion of the Soviet Union Jun. 1941
Attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 1941

World War II (often abbreviated to WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although related conflicts began earlier. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most global war in history; it directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. In a state of total war, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of which were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, starvation, disease, and the first use of nuclear weapons in history.[1][2][3][4]

The Empire of Japan aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific and was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937,[5] but the world war is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939[6], the day of the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom. From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Poland, Finland, Romania and the Baltic states. The war continued primarily between the European Axis powers and the coalition of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, with campaigns including the North Africa and East Africa campaigns, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz bombing campaign, and the Balkan Campaign, as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history, which trapped the major part of the Axis military forces into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan attacked the United States and European colonies in the Pacific Ocean, and quickly conquered much of the Western Pacific.

The Axis advance halted in 1942 when Japan lost the critical Battle of Midway, and Germany and Italy were defeated in North Africa and then, decisively, at Stalingrad in the Soviet Union. In 1943, with a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Allied invasion of Italy which brought about Italian surrender, and Allied victories in the Pacific, the Axis lost the initiative and undertook strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained all of its territorial losses and invaded Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in South Central China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands.

The war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the subsequent German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, Japan formally surrendered on 2 September 1945. Thus ended the war in Asia, cementing the total victory of the Allies.

World War II changed the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The victorious great powers—China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States—became the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.[7] The Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 46 years. Meanwhile, the influence of European great powers waned, while the decolonisation of Africa and Asia began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery. Political integration, especially in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and to create a common identity.[8]


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  1. ^ Gilbert 2001, p. 291.
  2. ^ James A. Tyner (3 March 2009). War, Violence, and Population: Making the Body Count. The Guilford Press; 1 edition. p. 49. ISBN 1-6062-3038-7. 
  3. ^ Sommerville 2008, p. 5 (2011 ed.).
  4. ^ "BBC - Tyne - Roots - Non-Jewish Holocaust Victims : The 5,000,000 others". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 27 August 2017. 
  5. ^ Barrett & Shyu 2001, p. 6.
  6. ^ Axelrod, Alan (2007) Encyclopedia of World War II, Volume 1. Infobase Publishing. pp. 659.
  7. ^ The UN Security Council, retrieved 15 May 2012 
  8. ^ Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council; José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission (10 December 2012). "From War to Peace: A European Tale". Nobel Lecture by the European Union. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 

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