Background

WWII

  • Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany

    Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany
    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. Hitler proved to be such a powerful public speaker and organizer that he quickly became the party’s leader.He promised to bring Germany out of chaos. Hitler set forth the basic beliefs of
    Nazism. Nazism the German brand of fascism, was based on extreme nationalism.
  • Mein kampf

    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, 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

    Benito Mussolini's fascist government in Italy
    While Stalin was consolidating his power in the Soviet Union, Benito Mussolini was establishing a totalitarian regime in Italy, where unemployment and inflation produced bitter strikes, some communist-led. Alarmed by these threats, the middle and upper classes demanded stronger leadership. Mussolini took advantage of this situation. A powerful speaker, Mussolini knew how to appeal to Italy’s wounded national pride. He played on the fears of economic collapse and communism.
  • Japanese invasion of Manchuria

    Japanese invasion of Manchuria
    Halfway around the world, nationalistic military leaders were trying to take control of the imperial government of Japan. These leaders shared in common with Hitler a belief in the need for more living space for a growing population. 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 a large region that was rich in natural resources
  • Storm troopers

    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

    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

    Hitler's military build-up in Germany
    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. The League did nothing to stop Hitler.
  • Hitler invades the Rhineland

    Hitler invades the Rhineland
    The 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. 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

    Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia
    Mussolini began building his new Roman Empire. His first target was Ethiopia, one of Africa’s few remaining independent countries. In 1935, tens of thousands of Italian soldiers stood ready to advance on Ethiopia. The League of Nations reacted with brave talk of “collective resistance to all acts of unprovoked aggression.” When the invasion began, however, the League’s response was an ineffective economic boycott—little more than a slap on Italy’s wrist. By May 1936, Ethiopia had fallen.
  • Francisco Franco

    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. The war aroused passions not only in Spain but throughout the world. About 3,000 Americans formed the Abraham Lincoln Battalion and traveled to Spain to fight against Franco. Among the volunteers were African Americans still bitter about Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia the year before.
  • Hitler's Anschluss

    Hitler's Anschluss
    The majority of Austria’s 6million 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. The United
    States and the rest of the world did nothing.
  • Munich Agreement

    Munich Agreement
    Early in the crisis, both France and Great Britain promised to protect
    Czechoslovakia. Hitler invited French premier Édouard Daladier and British prime minister Neville Chamberlain to meet with him in Munich. 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.
  • Joseph Stalin's totalitarian

    Joseph Stalin's totalitarian
    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.
  • Nonaggression pact

    Nonaggression 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.
  • Blitzkrieg

    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

    Britain and France declare war on Germany
    On September 3, two days following the terror in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
  • Phony War

    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.
  • Rome-Berlin Axis

    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. 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.
  • Hitler's invasion of Netherlands

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

    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.
  • Hitler's invasion of of Denmark

    Hitler's invasion of of Denmark
    Suddenly, 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. 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

    Germany and Italy's invasion of France
    A few days later, 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.
  • The Battle of Britain

    The Battle of Britain
    In 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. Its goal was to gain total control of the skies by destroying Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF). Hitler had 2,600 planes at his disposal. On a single day approximately 2,000 German planes ranged over Britain.
  • The Battle of Britain II

    The Battle of Britain II
    The RAF fought back brilliantly. With the help of a new
    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. Still, German bombers continued to pound Britain’s cities trying to disrupt production and break civilian morale. British pilots also bombed German cities. Civilians in both countries unrelentingly carried on.
  • Lend-Lease Act

    Lend-Lease Act
    Roosevelt 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.
  • Pearl Harbor attack

    Pearl Harbor attack
    Early the next morning, a 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. 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.
  • Battle of the Atlantic

    Battle of the Atlantic
    After 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. By mid-1943, the tide of the Battle of the Atlantic had turned. A happy Churchill reported to the House of Commons that June “was the best month [at sea] from every point of view we have ever known in the whole 46 months of the war.”
  • U.S convoy system

    U.S 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 Uboats faster than the Germans could build them.
  • Battle of Stalingrad

    Battle of Stalingrad
    In the summer of 1942, the Germans took the offensive in the southern Soviet Union. Hitler hoped to capture Soviet oil fields in the Caucasus Mountains. For weeks the Germans pressed in on Stalingrad, conquering it house by house in brutal hand-to-hand combat. By the end of September, they controlled nine-tenths of the city. In defending Stalingrad, the Soviets lost a total of 1,100,000 soldiers. The Soviet victory marked a turning point in the war.
  • Operation Torch

    Operation Torch
    While the Battle of Stalingrad raged, Stalin pressured Britain and America to open a “second front” in Western Europe. He argued
    that an invasion across the English Channel would force Hitler to divert troops from the Soviet front. 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.
  • Women's Auxiliary Army Corps

    Women's Auxiliary Army Corps
    The 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 Project

    Manhattan Project
    Roosevelt 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.
  • Office of Price Administration

    Office of Price Administration
    Roosevelt responded to this threat 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 Board

    War Productions Board
    Besides 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.
  • Internment

    Internment
    Early in 1942, the War Department called for the mass evacuation of all Japanese Americans from Hawaii. General Delos Emmons, the military governor of Hawaii, resisted the order because 37 percent of the people in Hawaii were Japanese Americans. To remove them would have destroyed the islands’ economy and hindered U.S. military operations there. However, he was eventually forced to order the internment, or confinement, of 1,444 Japanese Americans.
  • Unconditional surrender

    Unconditional surrender
    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.
  • Korematsu v. United States

    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.” After the war, however, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) pushed the government to compensate those sent to the camps for their
    lost property.
  • Bloody Anzio

    Bloody Anzio
    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
  • D-Day I

    D-Day I
    Under 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. To keep their plans secret, the Allies set up a huge phantom army with its own headquarters and equipment. In radio messages they
    knew the Germans could read, Allied commanders sent orders to this make believe army to attack the French port of Calais
  • D-Day II

    D-Day II
    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.
  • The Battle of the Bulge

    The Battle of the Bulge
    Hitler hoped that a victory would split American and British forces and break up Allied supply lines. The battle raged for a month. When it was over, the Germans had been pushed back, and little seemed to have changed. But, in fact, events had taken a decisive turn. 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.
  • V-E Day

    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.
  • Harry S. Truman

    Harry S. Truman
    President 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.
  • Death of Hitler

    Death of Hitler
    Hitler wrote out his last address to the German people.
    In it he blamed the Jews for starting the war and his 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 Hitler 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