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World War II

  • Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany

    In Germany, Adolf Hitler had followed a path to power similar to Mussolini’s. At the end of World War I, Hitler had been a jobless soldier drifting around Germany. In 1919, he joined a struggling group called the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, better known as the Nazi Party. Despite its name, this party had no ties to socialism.
  • Mein Kampf

    In his book Mein Kampf [My Struggle], Hitler set forth the basic beliefs of Nazism that became the plan of action for the Nazi Party. Nazism (nätPsGzQEm), the German brand of fascism, was based on extreme nationalism. Hitler, who had been born in Austria, dreamed of uniting all German-speaking people in a great German empire.
  • Benito Mussolini's fascist government in Italy

    Fascism (fBshPGzQEm) stressed nationalism and placed the interests of the state above those of individuals. To strengthen the nation, Fascists argued, power must rest with a single strong leader and a small group of devoted party members.
  • Japanese invasion of Manchuria

    Ignoring the protests of more moderate Japanese officials, the militarists launched a surprise attack and seized control of the Chinese province of Manchuria in 1931. Within several months, Japanese troops controlled the entire province, a large region about twice the size of Texas, that was rich in natural resources.
  • Storm Troopers

    The Great Depression helped the Nazis come to power. Because of war debts and dependence on American loans and investments, Germany’s economy was hit hard. By 1932, some 6 million Germans were unemployed. Many men who were out of work joined Hitler’s private army, the storm troopers (or Brown Shirts). The German people were desperate and turned to Hitler as their last hope.
  • Third Reich

    By mid 1932, the Nazis had become the strongest political party in Germany. In January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor (prime minister). Once in power, Hitler quickly dismantled Germany’s democratic Weimar Republic. In its place he established the Third Reich, or Third German Empire. According to Hitler, the Third Reich would be a “Thousand-Year Reich”—it would last for a thousand years.
  • Hitler's military build-up in Germany

    In 1933, Hitler pulled Germany out of the League. In 1935, he began a military buildup in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. A year later, he sent troops into the Rhineland, a German region bordering France and Belgium that was demilitarized as a result of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Hitler invades Rhineland

    A year later, he sent troops into the Rhineland, a German region bordering France and Belgium that was demilitarized as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. The League did nothing to stop Hitler.
  • Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia

    Meanwhile, Mussolini began building his new Roman Empire. His first target was Ethiopia, one of Africa’s few remaining independent countries. By the fall of 1935, tens of thousands of Italian soldiers stood ready to advance on Ethiopia.
  • Francisco Franco

    In 1936, a group of Spanish army officers led by General Francisco Franco, rebelled against the Spanish republic. Revolts broke out all
    over Spain, and the Spanish Civil War began.
  • Hitler's Anschluss

    The majority of Austria’s 6 million people were Germans who favored unification with Germany. On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria unopposed. A day later, Germany announced that its Anschluss, or “union,” with Austria was complete.
  • Munich Agreement

    Hitler invited French premier Édouard Daladier and British prime minister Neville Chamberlain to meet with him in Munich. When they arrived, the führer declared that the annexation of the Sudetenland would be his “last territorial demand.” In their eagerness to avoid war, Daladier and Chamberlain chose to believe him. On September 30, 1938, they signed the Munich Agreement, which turned the Sudetenland over to Germany without a single shot being fired.
  • Rome-Berlin Axis

    The war forged a close relationship between the German and Italian dictators, who signed a formal alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis.
  • Blitzkrieg

    Germany’s newest military strategy, the blitzkrieg, or lightning war.
    Blitzkrieg made use of advances in military technology—such as fast tanks and more powerful aircraft—to take the enemy by surprise and then quickly crush all opposition with overwhelming force. On September 3, two days following the terror in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany
  • Britain and France declare war on Germany

    On September 3, two days following the terror in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
  • Joseph Stalin's totalitarian government in the Soviet Union

    By 1939, Stalin had firmly established a totalitarian government that tried to exert complete control over its citizens. In a totalitarian state, individuals have no rights, and the government suppresses all opposition
  • Non-Aggression Pact

    As tensions rose over Poland, Stalin surprised everyone by signing a
    nonaggression pact with Hitler. Once bitter enemies, on August 23, 1939 fascist Germany and communist Russia now committed never to attack each other. Germany and the Soviet Union also signed a second, secret pact, agreeing to divide Poland between them. With the danger of a two-front war eliminated, the fate of Poland was sealed.
  • Phony War

    For the next several months after the fall of Poland, French and British troops on the Maginot Line, a system of fortifications built along France’s eastern border (see map on p. 538), sat staring into Germany, waiting for something to happen. On the Siegfried Line a few miles away German troops stared back. The blitzkrieg had given way to what the Germans called the sitzkrieg (“sitting war”), and what some newspapers referred to as the phony war.
  • The Battle of Britain

    The Battle of Britain raged on through the summer and fall. German planes pounded British targets. At first the Luftwaffe concentrated on airfields and aircraft. Next it targeted cities. technological device called radar, British pilots accurately plotted the flight paths of German planes, even in darkness. On September 15, 1940 the RAF shot down over 185 German planes; at the same time, they lost only 26 aircraft. Six weeks later, Hitler called off the invasion of Britain
  • Hitler's invasion of Denmark

    Hitler launched a surprise invasion of Denmark and Norway in order “to protect [those countries’] freedom and independence.” But in truth, Hitler planned to build bases along the coasts to strike at Great Britain.
  • Hitler's invasion of the Nertherlands

    Next, Hitler turned against the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, which were overrun by the end of May. The phony war had ended.
  • Germany and Italy's invasion of France

    400,000 British and French soldiers as they fled to the beaches of Dunkirk fleet of fishing trawlers, tugboats, river barges, pleasure craft—more than 800 vessels in all—ferried about 330,000 British, French, and Belgian troops to safety across the Channel. After France fell, a French general named Charles de Gaulle fled to England, where he set up a government-in-exile. De Gaulle proclaimed defiantly, “France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war.”
  • Marshal Philippe Petain

    Germans would occupy the northern part of France, and a Nazi-controlled puppet government, headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, would be set up at Vichy, in southern France.
  • Manhattan Project

    In 1941, the committee reported that it would take from three to five years to build an atomic bomb. Hoping to shorten that time, the OSRD set up an intensive program in 1942 to develop a bomb as quickly as possible. Because much of the early research was performed at Columbia University in Manhattan, the Manhattan Project became the code name for research work that extended across the country
  • Lend-Lease Act

    By late 1940, however, Britain had no more cash to spend in the arsenal of democracy. Roosevelt tried to help by suggesting a new plan that he called a lend-lease policy. Under this plan, the president would lend or lease arms and other supplies to “any country whose defense was vital to the United States.” Isolationists argued bitterly against the plan, but most Americans favored it, and Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941.
  • Pearl Harbour Attack

    The bomber was followed by more than 180 Japanese warplanes
    launched from six aircraft carriers.In less than two hours, the Japanese had killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 more. The surprise raid had sunk or damaged 21 ships, including 8 battleships—nearly the whole U.S. Pacific fleet. More than 300 aircraft were severely damaged or destroyed.
  • Internment

    However, he was eventually forced to order the internment, or confinement, of 1,444 Japanese Americans, 1 percent of Hawaii’s Japanese-American population.
  • Unconditional Surrender

    Even before the battle in North Africa was won, Roosevelt, Churchill, and their commanders met in Casablanca. At this meeting, the two leaders agreed to accept only the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. That is, enemy nations would have to accept whatever terms of peace the Allies dictated.
  • Operation Torch (1942-1943)

    Churchill and Roosevelt didn’t think the Allies had enough troops to attempt an invasion on European soil. Instead, they launched
    Operation Torch, an invasion of Axis-controlled North Africa, commanded by American General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After months of heavy fighting, the last of the Afrika Korps surrendered in May 1943
  • Battle of the Atlantic (1942-1943)

    German aim in the Battle of the Atlantic was to prevent food and war materials reaching Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Britain depended on supplies from the sea. The 3,000-milelong shipping lanes from North America were her lifeline. Hitler knew if he cut that lifeline, Britain would be starved into submission. First four months of 1942, the Germans sank 87 ships off the Atlantic shore. Seven months into the year, German wolf packs had destroyed a total of 681 Allied ships in the Atlantic
  • Battle of Stalingrad (1942-1943)

    Hitler hoped to capture Soviet oil fields in the Caucasus Mountains and wipe out Stalingrad, a major industrial center on the Volga River. German commander surrendered on January 31, 1943. Two days later, his starving troops also surrendered. In defending Stalingrad, the Soviets lost a total of 1,100,000 soldiers—more than all American deaths during the entire war. Despite the staggering death toll, the Soviet victory marked a turning point in the war. The Soviet army began to move to Germany
  • Office of Price Administration

    Roosevelt created the Office of Price Administration (OPA). The OPA fought inflation by freezing prices on most goods. Congress raised income tax rates and extended the tax to millions of people who never paid it before. The higher taxes reduced consumer demand on scarce goods by leaving workers with less to spend. government encouraged Americans to use extra cash to buy war bonds. As a result, inflation remained below 30 percent—about half that of WWI—for the entire period of WWII.
  • War Productions Board

    War Production Board decided which companies would convert from peacetime to wartime production and allocated raw materials to key industries. The WPB organized drives to collect scrap iron, tin cans, paper, rags, and cooking fat for recycling into war goods. Children scoured attics, cellars, garages, vacant lots, and back alleys, looking for useful junk. During one five-month-long paper drive in Chicago, schoolchildren collected 36 million pounds of old paper—about 65 pounds per child
  • Women's Auxiliary Army Corps

    The military’s workforce needs were so great that Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall pushed for formation of a Women’s
    Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). “There are innumerable duties now being performed by soldiers that can be done better by women,” Marshall said in support of the bill. Under this bill, women volunteers would serve in noncombat positions. Congress who scorned the bill as “the silliest piece of legislation” they had ever seen, the bill became law on May 15, 1942.
  • US convoy system

    Convoys were groups of ships traveling together for mutual protection, as they had done in the First World War. The convoys were escorted across the Atlantic by destroyers equipped with sonar for detecting submarines underwater. They were also accompanied by airplanes that used radar to spot U-boats on the ocean’s surface.
    With this improved tracking, the Allies were able to find and destroy German U-boats faster than the Germans could build them.
  • Bloody Anzio (1943-1944)

    Hitler was determined to stop the Allies in Italy rather than fight on German soil. One of the hardest battles the Allies encountered in Europe was fought less than 40 miles from Rome. This battle, “Bloody Anzio,” lasted four months—until the end of May 1944—and left about 25,000 Allied and 30,000 Axis casualties. During the year after Anzio, German armies continued to put up strong resistance. The effort to free Italy did not succeed until 1945, when Germany itself was close to collapse
  • Korematsu v. United States

    Japanese Americans fought for justice, both in the courts and in Congress. The initial results were discouraging. In 1944, the Supreme Court decided, in Korematsu v. United States, that the government’s policy of evacuating Japanese Americans to camps was justified on the basis of “military necessity.”
  • Battle of the Bugle

    Tanks drove 60 miles into Allied territory, creating a bulge in the lines that gave this desperate last ditch offensive its name, the Battle of the Bulge. As the Germans swept westward, they captured 120 American GIs near Malmédy. The battle raged for a month. The Germans had lost 120,000 troops, 600 tanks and assault guns, and 1,600 planes in the Battle of the Bulge— soldiers and weapons they could not replace. From that point on, the Nazis could do little but retreat
  • Harry S. Truman

    By September 1944, the Allies had freed France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. This good news—and the American people’s desire not to “change horses in midstream”—helped elect Franklin Roosevelt to an unprecedented fourth term in November, along with his running mate, Senator Harry S. Truman
  • D-Day

    The Allied invasion, code-named Operation Overlord, was originally set for June 5, but bad weather forced a delay. Banking on a forecast for clearing skies, Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for D-Day—June 6, 1944, the first day of the invasion. Shortly after midnight, three divisions parachuted down behind German lines. They were followed in the early morning hours by thousands upon thousands of seaborne soldiers—the largest land-sea-air operation in army history.
  • Death of Hitler

    In his underground headquarters in Berlin, Hitler prepared for the end. On April 29, he married Eva Braun, his companion and wrote out his last address to the German people. He blamed the Jews for starting the war and generals for losing it. “I die with a happy heart aware of the immeasurable deeds of our soldiers at the front. I myself and my wife choose to die in order to escape the disgrace of
    . . . capitulation,” he said. The next day he shot himself and his new wife swallowed poison.
  • V-E Day

    A week later, General Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich. On May 8, 1945, the Allies celebrated V-E Day—Victory in Europe Day. The war in Europe was finally over