World War II

The Second World War was the most destructive period in history.  What began as an internal conflict in Europe soon became a global struggle.  After the First World War, the countries sought to establish peace and prevent another war from happening.  However, the world found itself again in the midst of an international dilemma.  As a result, millions of people were killed.  There was also devastating damage to property throughout the world.  Infrastructure such as roads, railways and bridges were destroyed; even farms and mines were not spared from the war.  The Second World War was indeed the darkest phase in human history, and it was caused by the rise of totalitarianism and the objective of global expansion.Prelude to WarThe 1920s was characterized by efforts to maintain the peace that was achieved after the First World War (Snyder, 1992; Ziemke, 2007).  The first step was the foundation of The League of Nations, which was created under the Treaty of Versailles (Perry, 1989).  It was a forum that sought to achieve peace and unity among countries by being the venue in which conflicts could be settled (Perry, 1989; Ziemke, 2007).  Through this institution, going to war would be avoided.There were also two conferences that were held with the same objective: The Washington Conference and the Locarno Conference (Ziemke, 2007).  In the former, the countries which participated reached an agreement to establish a fixed ratio with regards to their navies.  In the latter, the nations still had peace in mind, but focused more on potential problem areas; one of those problem areas was the French-German border (Perry, 1989).The last distinguished effort for peace was found in the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact (Perry, 1989; Snyder, 1992).  This pact was signed by fifteen countries; it established negotiation as a substitute to force.  It prohibited war “as an instrument of national policy” (Perry, 1989, p. 696).However, the peace efforts proved futile.  To begin with, the United States did not join the League; this contributed greatly in weakening the organization (Perry, 1989).  In addition, the League did not have the capacity to implement their decisions.  Lastly, the pact proved to be a broken promise, as Germany openly defied both the treaty and the pact.After the First World War, three countries were disappointed with the results: Italy, Japan and Germany (Snyder, 1992).  Italy was victorious in the previous war, but the territories it gained from it were not enough (Ziemke, 2007).  Japan, another country which emerged victorious in the First World War, was also discontented with the outcome.  This is because it wanted to take control of China.  Among the nations, Germany was only nation defeated in the first war.  The country disapproved of the Treaty of Versailles, as it resulted in the country’s disarmament, loss of territory as well as financial ruin due to war-related payment (Perry, 1989).The aforementioned countries also participated in the sudden dominance of totalitarianism.  Also known as fascism, it was perceived as a better option for governance as opposed to democracy and communism (Ziemke, 2007).  The first nation to be under a fascist government was Italy, with Benito Mussolini as the dictator.   In Germany, Adolf Hitler was the fascist dictator.  He considered the German race as the most superior, and sought to acquire more territory, or Lebensraum, for his race.  Japan, on the other hand, was rather different from Italy and Germany.  Japan did not embrace fascism the same way the two other countries did, but military influence in their government gave room for a kind of totalitarianism to occur (Ziemke, 2007).Japan first showed aggression; they had waged war against China (Perry, 1989).  The Japanese was eager to conquer China; they began with Manchuria, and had control of the Chinese province in 1931 (Snyder, 1992).  The League condemned the actions of Japan, but did not act to stop it.  The country pulled out from the League in 1933 (Synder, 1992).Germany also withdrew from the League that same year (Snyder, 1992).   Under the leadership of Hitler, Germany began to also threaten peace.  Hitler disregarded the treaty; he rearmed Germany and increased their forces (Snyder, 1992).  Italy soon followed the lead of Germany.  They attacked Ethiopia in 1935, and a year later the African kingdom was under Italian control (Perry, 1989).  That same year, Hitler again defied the treaty by sending troops to Rhineland (Snyder, 1992).  Both Italy and Germany showed their military power by supporting General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War (Snyder, 1992).  Germany, Italy and Japan later established the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis (Ziemke, 2007).Hitler began his domination of Europe through expansion (Perry, 1989).  His main objective was to unite all Germans, and he used Austria as a starting point.  The Anschluss of Germany and Austria was achieved through force, as German forces invaded Austria (Perry, 1989; Snyder, 1992).  The latter eventually became part of the Third Reich (Perry, 1989; Snyder, 1992).The next country Hitler wanted to claim was Czechoslovakia.  Three million of the country’s population consisted Germans (Perry, 1989).  In the beginning, it was agreed that Hitler would only take Sudetenland; in early 1939, the entire nation was under German control (Ziemke, 2007).  Poland was also being threatened by Germany; France and Britain assumed that the Soviet Union could assist them in defending Poland (Perry, 1989).  However, Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union and Hitler both signed a Nazi-Soviet Pact.  This pact divided Poland and the Baltic territories between the two parties (Snyder, 1992).World War II: Europe and North AfricaIn September 1, 1939, Hitler attacks Poland; this marks the beginning of the war (Robinson, 2001).  Two days after, France and Britain waged war against Germany.  Poland is defeated by use of blitzkrieg, the Germans’ fast method of warfare which included bombings in land and air (Perry, 1989).  The country was later divided between the Soviet Union and Germany (Snyder, 1992).The Soviet Union soon wanted access to the Baltic Sea (Perry, 1989).  This resulted in the Russo-Finnish War, where Finland lost in the struggle to gain control of their territory (Snyder, 1992).  Elsewhere, Germany used blitzkrieg to attack Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg; all these were later put under German control (Perry, 1989).  France was also not spared; Italian troops attacked France first, and the German forces followed four days later (Perry, 1989).Hitler wanted to invade Britain next, but the British resisted the German invasion (Perry, 1989).   This was called the Battle of Britain, but Germany did not succeed in this struggle as Hitler’s efforts against Britain were suspended (Snyder, 1992).Despite the failure of the British invasion, Hitler proceeded to conquer Europe.  This time, he wanted to take over Soviet territory (Perry, 1989).  In June 22, 1941, German troops attacked the Soviet Union (Ziemke, 2007).  In the beginning, Soviet troops were in the losing end (Perry, 1989).  However, winter soon worked to the Soviet’s advantage.  In addition, Germany experienced their first significant defeat in Stalingrad (Robinson, 2001).Italy also faced defeat at El Alamein (Perry, 1989).  Mussolini sought to take over the Suez Canal, so the Italian troops attacked Egypt from Libya.  However, troops from Britain and other countries prevented the advance of Italian forces.  Germany sent Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to aid the Italians, but Britain’s Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery proved more successful in battle (Perry, 1989).Meanwhile, Hitler enforces the New Order (Snyder, 1992).  All those that were considered inferior to the German race were killed (Perry, 1989).  People such as Poles, Jews, Slavs and gypsies were sent to concentration camps (Perry, 1989; Snyder, 1992).  The systematic extermination of peoples was referred to as the Holocaust (Perry, 1989; Snyder, 1992).World War II: Japan and the PacificThe war in Europe left unguarded the European colonies in Asia and the Pacific (Perry, 1989).  This gave Japan the opportunity to claim these territories, as the Japanese are interested in the resources available in the said lands.  Japan knew that only the United States could stop them from dominating these territories, and they sought to attack the U. S. naval bases to prevent them from meddling in Japanese affairs.  So on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The next day, the U.S. and Britain declared war on Japan; soon after, Germany and Italy waged war against the U.S.  The United States emerged victorious in the Pacific as they succeeded in the Battle of Midway (Ziemke, 2007).The End of WarItaly was the first Axis country to be defeated by the Allies.  Mussolini was overthrown in July 1943, the same month Allied troops landed on Sicily (Perry, 1989).  The Allies also regain control of France through D-Day, when Allied forces landed on Normandy on June 6, 1944.  Germany soon surrendered on May 8, 1945, or what is referred to as V-E Day.  Hitler committed suicide days before V-E Day.  Prior to that Mussolini was caught and executed.  The war in the Pacific was ended with a new weapon called the atomic bomb.  The United States first used this weapon to attack Hiroshima.  The second bomb was dropped in Nagasaki.  After which, Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, in what is referred to as V-J Day (Perry, 1989).Conclusion