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World War II: The war that shook the world

  • The Treaty

    The Treaty
    In 1919, Lloyd George of England, Orlando of Italy, Clemenceau of France, and Woodrow Wilson from the US met to discuss how Germany was to be made to pay for the damage world war one had caused. Woodrow Wilson wanted a treaty-based on his 14-point plan which he believed would bring peace to Europe. Germany had to sign. The German people were very unhappy about the treaty and thought that it was too harsh.
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    The betrayal

    Germany could not afford to pay the money. There were not many jobs and the price of food and goods was high. People were dissatisfied with the government and voted to power a man who promised to rip up the Treaty of Versailles. His name was Adolf Hitler. He became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Almost immediately he began secretly building up Germany’s army and weapons. In 1934 he increased the size of the army and created a German airforce.
  • The invasion

    The invasion
    In 1936 Hitler ordered German troops to enter the Rhineland. At this point the German army was not very strong and could have been easily defeated. Yet neither France nor Britain was prepared to start another war. Hitler also made two important alliances during 1936. The first was called the Rome-Berlin Axis Pact and allied Hitler’s Germany with Mussolini’s Italy. The second was called the Anti-Comintern Pact and allied Germany with Japan.
  • Pearl Harbor

    The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise, but Japan and the United States had been edging toward war for decades. The United States was particularly unhappy with Japan’s increasingly belligerent attitude toward China. The Japanese government believed that the only way to solve its economic and demographic problems was to expand into its neighbor’s territory and take over its import market. Japan declared war on China in 1937, resulting in the Nanking Massacre and other atrocities.
  • Where was Pearl Harbor

    Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is located near the center of the Pacific Ocean, roughly 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland and about 4,000 miles from Japan. No one believed that the Japanese would start a war with an attack on the distant islands of Hawaii.
  • The attack

    At about 8 a.m., Japanese planes filled the sky. Bombs and bullets rained onto the vessels below. At 8:10, a bomb smashed through the deck of a battleship and landed in her forward ammunition magazine. The ship exploded and sank with 1,000 men trapped inside.
    Next, torpedoes pierced the shell of a battleship with 400 sailors aboard, lost her balance, rolled onto her side, and slipped underwater.
  • The taking

    Hitler’s next step was to begin taking back the land that had been taken away from Germany. In March 1938, German troops marched into Austria. They were forced to become part of Germany The results of the vote were fixed and showed that 99% of Austrian people wanted Anschluss (union with Germany). The Austrian leader asked Britain, France, and Italy for aid. Hitler promised that Anschluss was the end of his aims and didn't want to risk war, the other countries did nothing.
  • The promise?

    Hitler did not keep his word and six months later demanded that the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia be handed over to Germany. Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Britain, met with Hitler three times during September 1938 to try to reach an agreement that would prevent war. The Munich Agreement stated that Hitler could have the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia provided that he promised not to invade the rest of Czechoslovakia.
  • The beginning

    The beginning
    World War Two began in September 1939 when Britain and France declared war on Germany following Germany’s invasion of Poland.
  • The broken promise

    Hitler was not a man of his word and in March 1939 invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. Neither Britain nor France was prepared to take military action against Hitler. However, some action was now necessary, and believing that Poland would be Hitler’s next target, both Britain and France promised that they would take military action against Hitler if he invaded Poland. Chamberlain believed Hitler would stop his aggression. Chamberlain was wrong. German troops invaded Poland on 1st September 1939.
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    World War 2

    WWII or WW2 was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945.
  • The Start

    The Start
    On September 3, 1939, in response to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Britain, and France, both allies of the overrun nation declare war on Germany.
    The first casualty of that declaration was not German—but the British ocean liner Athenia, which was sunk by a German U-30 submarine that had assumed the liner was armed and belligerent. There were more than 1,100 passengers on board, 112 of whom lost their lives. 28 were Americans, but the United States would remain neutral.
  • The bombing

    As for Britain’s response, it was initially no more than the dropping of anti-Nazi propaganda leaflets—13 tons of them—over Germany. They would bomb German ships, suffering losses. They didn't harm German civilians. The German military, of course, had no such restrictions. France would begin an offensive against Germany’s western border two weeks later. Their effort was weakened by a narrow 90-mile window leading to the German front, The Germans mined the passage, stalling the French offensive.
  • The Fall of France

    In April 1940, the German army invaded Denmark and Norway. In May the army staged a successful attack on France, with one division invading through Belgium and the other through the Ardennes. The advancing German divisions cut off the British troops, who were forced to retreat across the English Channel. On June 21, Marshal Pétain of France asked for an armistice. Thus Hitler won an easy victory over Germany’s historical enemy. The Germans would occupy Paris until late 1944.
  • Preferred Churchill 2-1 Than Hitler

    No wartime leader in history ever played a more important role than Churchill in maintaining the morale of his people. Churchill may have been the only man in Europe whom Hitler could not intimidate. His refusal to even consider the possibility of a British defeat was communicated to his people in his radio addresses. Churchill and the Royal Family set an example of courage by refusing to leave London, despite the nightly bombing of the capital by the German air force.
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    The resiset

    In May 1940, after the Nazis invaded the Low Countries and France, a Gallup poll reported that only 7% of Americans thought the U.S. should declare war on Germany. In April 1941, the aviation hero Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee led a massively popular campaign against U.S. entry into WWII, a conflict many Americans didn’t see as winnable.
  • Prime Time

    Now that the Germans were firmly installed only a few miles away across the Channel, the British knew that a change in their leadership was overdue. Winston Churchill had warned Parliament for years about German rearmament and its probable consequences. He had vigorously opposed his predecessor Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. The people turned to Churchill in their fear, and he became prime minister on May 10.
  • The 'Blitzkrieg' (lightning war) aka the Blitz

    The heavy and frequent bombing attacks on London and other cities were known as the 'Blitz'. Night after night, from September 1940 until May 1941, German bombers attacked British cities, ports, and industrial areas. London was bombed every day and night, bar one, for 11 weeks. One-third of London was destroyed.
  • The incredible-fake story

    In June of 1941, Americans read about an extraordinary British mission into Nazi-occupied France. Newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun and New York Post, detailed how the British parachuted into an airfield with Tommy guns and hand grenades, overpowered the guards, and destroyed about 30 planes. All of the team members made it back to Britain alive via torpedo boats, along with 40 German prisoners in tow. It was an incredible story. It was also completely made-up.
  • The coxeing

    Unbeknownst to the United States, the British foreign intelligence service known as MI6 had planted the story as part of a covert influence campaign to convince the USA to enter World War II. With Hitler aggressively gaining ground across the continent and dropping bombs over London, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had been anxiously lobbying Franklin D. Roosevelt for reinforcements against the Germans, but America firmly resisted being drawn into another war on that continent.
  • The polls

    By November 1941, though, polls suggested that a majority of Americans now favored entering the war to help defeat Germany. Why the shift? Earlier that year, according to Hemming’s book, William Stephenson, a decorated WWI fighter pilot and source of inspiration for James Bond, was installed as the head of MI6’s U.S. office. A personal friend of Churchill, Stephenson began to employ new tactics to sway public opinion about the war—and convince the U.S. to come off the sidelines.
  • The rally

    Another part of the covert campaign involved infiltrating U.S. pressure groups that were already trying to get the U.S. to enter the war. MI6 operatives influenced these organizations’ campaign strategies and made sure they had adequate funding. In April 1941, MI6 operatives helped organize a protest of an America First rally in New York City. When a female protester approached the mostly male ralliers that day, one of the men charged at her and punched her in the face. MI6 used news
  • The fake news

    The third part of the campaign involved setting up an office for MI6 operatives to distribute fake news. These were stories meant to convince the public that the war against Germany was winnable and the U.S. should join Britain in the fight. At its peak, the office planted more than 20 stories a week. For one, Stephenson’s office drew a fake map purporting to show Adolf Hitler’s plans to invade South America and made sure this map ended up on FDR’s desk at the White House.
  • The Map

    The Map
    It did. In October 1941, FDR gave a speech declaring that the map “makes clear the Nazi design not only against South America but against the United States as well.” “When Hitler hears about this, he’s furious, he’s outraged because he knows that this map is a fake,” Henry Hemming says, author of Agents of Influence. “And when Hitler gives his next public speech, he can talk of almost nothing but this particular map.”
  • The Battle of Britain

    This attack from the air is known as the Battle of Britain. The bombardment began as a prelude to a planned German invasion that never took place. The German bombed Royal Air Force bases throughout southern England into the summer of 1940. The result was costly for the Germans; they lost more than half their fighter planes and took revenge by bombing London. They tried to intimidate the British into surrender or withdrawal from the war. In 1941, the Germans realized this purpose had failed.
  • The war on the USA

    The map, Hemming argues, not only influenced America’s decision to go to war against Germany. It also influenced Hitler’s decision to declare war on the United States on December 11, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This was something Germany had no obligation to do after the U.S. declared war on Japan. A few hours after declaring war on the United States, Hitler explained his reasons for doing so. “A lot of the reasons are about Roosevelt,” Hemming says.
  • The Entering

    “First he incites war, then falsifies the causes,” Hitler declared on December 11, 1941. “Then odiously wraps himself in a cloak of Christian hypocrisy and slowly but surely leads mankind to war.” Both the United States and Hitler’s Germany were now primed for the fight.