Adolf Hitler's rise to power in GermanyAt 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.
Hitler proved to be such a powerful public speaker and organizer that he
quickly became the party’s leader. Calling himself Der Führer—“the Leader”—he
promised to bring Germany out of chaos.
Benito Mussolini's fascist government in ItalyBy 1921, Mussolini had established the Fascist
Party. Fascism stressed nationalism and
placed the interests of the state above those of individ-
uals. To strengthen the nation, Fascists argued, power
must rest with a single strong leader and a small group
of devoted party members.
Mein KampfIn his book Mein Kampf [My Struggle], Hitler set forth the basic beliefs of
Nazism that became the plan of action for the Nazi Party. He dreamed of uniting all Germans into one German empire. In addition, he believed in racial purification. Lastly, he also believed in national expansion, aka more free space.
Japanese Invasion of ManchuriaThere were militaristic leaders who shared a common belief w Hitler that
living space was necessary for the growing population in Japan. 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 TroopersBecause 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 ReichBy 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 GermanyThe failure of the League of Nations
to take action against Japan did not escape the notice of Europe’s dictators. In
1933, Hitler pulled Germany out of the League. In 1935, he began a military
buildup in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler invades the RhinelandIn 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 demili-
tarized as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. The League did nothing to stop Hitler.
Mussolini's invasion of EthiopiaMussolini 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
When the invasion began, the League’s
response was an ineffective economic boycott. By May 1936, Ethiopia had fall-
en. In desperation, Haile Selassie, the ousted Ethiopian
emperor, appealed to the League for assistance. Nothing
Francisco FrancoIn 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. The war
aroused passions not only in Spain but throughout the
Hitler's AnschlussOn March 12, 1938, German troops marched into
Austria unopposed. A day later, Germany announced that its
Anschluss, or “union,” with Austria was complete. The United
States and the rest of the world did nothing.
Muinch AgreementIn 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
Joseph Stalin's totalitarian government in the SUBy 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.
Rome-Berlin AxisThe war forged a close
relationship between the German and Italian dictators, who
signed a formal alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis.
After a loss of almost 500,000 lives, Franco’s victory in 1939
established him as Spain’s fascist dictator. Once again a
totalitarian government ruled in Europe.
Nonaggression PactAs 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.
BlitzkriegAs day broke on September 1, 1939, the German
Luftwaffe, or German air force, roared over Poland, raining bombs on military
bases, airfields, railroads, and cities. At the same time, German tanks raced across
the Polish countryside, spreading terror and confusion. This invasion was the first
test of Germany’s newest military strategy, the blitzkrieg, or lightning war.
Britain and France declare war on GermanyOn September 3, two days following the terror
in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany
blitzkrieg had given way to what the Germans called the sitzkrieg
(“sitting war”), and what some newspapers referred to as the
Hitler's invasion of Denmark and NorwaySuddenly, on April 9, 1940, 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 NetherlandsHitler planned to build bases along the
coasts to strike at Great Britain. Next, Hitler turned against the Netherlands,
Belgium, and Luxembourg, which were overrun by the end of May. The phony
war had ended.
Marshal Philippe PetainGermans 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.
The Battle of BritainIn the summer of 1940, the
Germans began to assemble an invasion fleet along the
French coast. Because its naval power could not compete
with that of Britain, Germany also launched an air war at
the same time. The Luftwaffe began making bombing runs over Britain.
Germany and Italy's invasion of FranceGermany trapped France. Italy entered the war on the side of
Germany and invaded France from the south as the
Germans closed in on Paris from the north. On June 22,
1940, at Compiègne, as William Shirer and the rest of the
world watched, Hitler handed French officers his terms of
surrender. 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.
Pearl Harbor AttackA Japanese dive-bomber swooped low over Pearl Harbor—
the largest U.S. naval base in the
Pacific. The bomber was followed by
more than 180 Japanese warplanes
launched from six aircraft carriers.
US convoy systemThe Allies responded by organizing their cargo ships into convoys. 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
Battle of StalingradThe Germans had been fighting in the Soviet
Union since June 1941. In November 1941, the bitter cold had stopped them in
their tracks outside the Soviet cities of Moscow and Leningrad. When spring
came, the German tanks were ready to roll.
Unconditional surrenderEven 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. The two leaders also discussed where to strike next
Lend-Lease ActRoosevelt compared his plan to lending a garden hose to a neighbor whose
house was on fire. He asserted that this was the only sensible thing to do to prevent
the fire from spreading to your own property. Isolationists argued bitterly
against the plan, but most Americans favored it, and Congress passed the LendLease
Act in March 1941.
Battle of the AtlanticAfter the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler
ordered submarine raids against ships along America’s east coast. The German
aim in the Battle of the Atlantic was to prevent food and war materials from
reaching Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Britain depended on supplies from
InternmentHowever, he was eventually forced
to order the internment, or confinement, of 1,444 Japanese Americans, 1 percent
of Hawaii’s Japanese-American population.
Operation TorchChurchill 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.
Women's Auxiliary Army CorpsThe military’s work force
needs were so great that Army Chief of Staff General
George Marshall pushed for the 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 a bill to
establish the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. Under this
bill, women volunteers would serve in noncombat positions.
Manhattan ProjectRoosevelt responded by creating an Advisory Committee on Uranium to study
the new discovery. 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
D-DayUnder Eisenhower’s direction in England, the Allies gathered a force of
nearly 3 million British, American, and Canadian troops, together with mountains
of military equipment and supplies. Eisenhower planned to attack
Normandy in northern France.
Bloody AnzioHitler 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
The Battle of the BulgeIn October 1944,
Americans captured their first German town, Aachen.
Hitler responded with a desperate last-gasp offensive. He
ordered his troops to break through the Allied lines and to
recapture the Belgian port of Antwerp. This bold move,
the Führer hoped, would disrupt the enemy’s supply lines
and demoralize the Allies.
Korematsu v. United StatesIn 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.”
Death of HitlerHitler shot himself
while his new wife swallowed
poison. In accordance with
Hitler’s orders, the two bodies
were carried outside, soaked
with gasoline, and burned.
V-E DayGeneral 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
Harry S. TrumanPresident Roosevelt did not live to see V-E Day. On
April 12, 1945, while posing for a portrait in Warm Springs, Georgia, the president
had a stroke and died. That night, Vice President Harry S. Truman
became the nation’s 33rd president.
Office of Price AdministrationRoosevelt responded to prices shooting upward by creating the
Office of Price Administration (OPA). The OPA fought inflation by freezing
prices on most goods. Congress also raised income tax rates and extended the tax
to millions of people who had never paid it before. The higher taxes reduced consumer
demand on scarce goods by leaving workers with less to spend.
War Productions BoardBesides controlling inflation, the government needed to
ensure that the armed forces and war industries received the
resources they needed to win the war. The War
Production Board (WPB) assumed that responsibility.
The WPB decided which companies would convert from
peacetime to wartime production and allocated raw materials
to key industries. The WPB also organized drives to collect
scrap iron, tin cans, paper, rags, and cooking fat for
recycling into war goods.