At daybreak on the first day of September, 1939, the residents
of Poland awakened to grave news. A juggernaut force of tanks, guns,
and countless grey-clad soldiers from nearby Germany had torn across
the countryside and were making a total invasion of the Pole’s
homelands. Germany’s actions on that fateful morning ignited a
conflict that would spread like a wildfire, engulfing the entire globe
in a great world war. This scenario is many people’s conception of
how World War II came about. In reality, the whole story is far more
detailed and complex. The origins of war can be traced as far back as
the end of the first World War in 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles
placed responsibility for that terrible war squarely on Germany.
Years later, in the Far East, Japanese ambition for territory led the
nation to invade Manchuria and other parts of nearby China, causing
hostilities to flare in the Pacific Rim. Great Britain, the United
States, and many other nations of the world would all be drawn into
battle in the years to come, and each nation had it’s own reason for
lending a hand in the struggle.
Although Germany was the major player in World War II, the
... races by the Nazi party in Germany. Ultimately, this war was the most influential to the world in that it was the largest ... deep craving to restore themselves once again as a great nation. The Germans underwent starvation, unemployment and hyperinflation which they ... depression and when the Great Depression struck the world, Germany's case of decline was intolerable. The Great Depression created ...
seeds of war had already been planted in the Far East years before
conflict in Europe. On September 18, 1931, the powerful Japanese
military forces began an invasion of the region known as Manchuria, an
area belonging to mainland China. This action broke non-aggression
treaties that had been signed earlier. It also was carried out by
Japanese generals without the consent of the Japanese government. In
spite of this, no one was ever punished for the actions. Soon after
the assault on China, the Japanese government decided it had no choice
but to support the occupation of Manchuria. By the next year the
region had been completely cut off from China (Ienaga 60-64).
of the Japanese offensive in China, the League of Nations held a vote
in October to force Japan out of the captured territory. The vote was
passed, 13 to 1, but Japan remained in control of Manchuria. A second
vote, taken in February, 1933, a formal disapproval of the Japanese
occupation, was passed 42 to 1. Instead of expelling Japan from the
area of Manchuria, it caused the nation to formally withdraw it’s
membership in the League of Nations the next month (Ienaga 66).
Now unrestrained by the recommendations of the League of
Nations, Japan continued it’s intrusion onto Chinese soil. By 1937
Japan had moved military forces into Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing,
as well as other regions of China. By 1940, Japanese seizure of
territory had spread to deep inside Southeast Asia and even parts of
Australia (Sutel et al).
Also in 1940, the Triparte Pact was signed,
allying Japan, Germany, and Italy into a powerful force that stretched
halfway around the planet. The association with Hitler and Germany
unified the war in the Pacific and the war in Europe. Japan was now
fully involved in what came to be known as World War II. As warfare
raged in the Pacific Rim, a chain of events was unfolding that would
produce catastrophic results. The Treaty of Versailles of 1919 held
Germany fully accountable for the tragedy of World War I. The nation
was stripped of large areas of land, it’s armaments, as well as it’s
... anything contributed to the rise of Hitler in Germany, and therefore World War II in Europe. Adolf Hitler knew that the German people wanted ... , Austria, or to enforce the disarmament provisions of the treaty. The policy of appeasement was followed because large portions of ... British and French. Both these nations repeatedly followed a policy which not only gave Hitler what he wanted and therefore made ...
dignity. In addition, the reparations that were to be paid to the
allied nations virtually destroyed the economy of Germany. The
resentment of the treaty burned in the hearts and minds of Germans for
years afterward. In 1933, a man by the name of Adolf Hitler was
elected Chancellor of Germany after working his way up the ladder of
government. By speaking against the Treaty of Versailles and making
promises of a better life to the German people, Hitler gained the
support of his fellow countrymen, and he easily won the election.
Almost immediately after Hitler took office he began securing his
position in power. Hitler took steps to eliminate all opposition,
including political parties and anyone else who spoke out against him.
The death of President Hindenburg in 1934 clinched his high standing,
and he in effect became dictator of Germany. Hitler held the titles
of Head of State, Commander in Chief of German military forces,
Chancellor, and Chief of the Nazi Party (Elliott 57).
There was no
question of his supremacy. With his empire established, Hitler took
steps to rearm Germany, leading the nation down the road to war. In
violation of the Treaty of Versailles and a naval treaty signed with
Great Britain, Hitler rebuilt the nation’s army and naval forces. By
1935 the ranks of the army had swelled to over 500,000 and production
of arms and ammunition had resumed (73).
Also, the Rhineland, a
region in western Germany next to France, was reoccupied by military
units. This region had been demilitarized after World War I, and the
Treaty of Versailles forbade occupation of the area. In spite of the
violations of treaty after treaty, little was done by the world powers
to control the renewed German militarism.
With the stage now set, Hitler set his plan for conquest into
motion. Beginning in 1938, Hitler used threats and political
maneuvering to overthrow the government of nearby Austria. His next
target was Czechoslovakia. In March of 1939, the nation was overtaken
after Hitler threatened a bombing of Prague if his army met resistance
... in Nazi foreign policy. Hitler knew that Germany could not survive another two and possibly three front war. Hitler was forced to give up one ... Nazi government did in 1933 was begin to free Germany from this treaty. The treaty stated that the German land army could only ... accusations, McCarthy invented national fear, McCarthy had control of the nation for a while because of this fear. Finally, logic ...
on it’s invasion of the country (80).
With the conquest of Europe
well underway and his reich expanding rapidly, Hitler’s power and
influence was growing greater each day. He now planned to add Poland
to his list of accomplishments and further extend the German empire.
The threat of Russia backing the Poles to defend against an attack was
neutralized when Germany and Russia signed a nonaggression pact saying
that the two nations would not go to war. Great Britain sternly
warned Germany that an attack on Poland would be considered an act of
war. Hitler fearlessly ignored the warnings, and his operation swung
into action. In the early morning hours of September 1, 1939, German
forces mobilized and swarmed into Poland. The old-fashioned Polished
cavalry was devastated in the assault, as they stood no chance against
the mighty Panzer tanks that rolled through the country with
frightening speed. Two days after the attack, Britain and France
joined in a declaration of war against Germany. Their belated
reactions, however, could not save the army of Poland. In a battle
that raged for nearly a month, the Polish army was eventually cornered
in the capital city of Warsaw. After a brutal siege of the city, the
valiant countrymen of Poland had no choice but to surrender to the
overwhelming German force. The point of no return had been crossed,
and Europe had fallen into the clutches of war for the second time in
the century. Great Britain still remembered the horrors of World War
I, and when Germany began to renew it’s sense of militarism, Britain
was hesitant to start another war. Instead of using force, the
British leaders, including prime minister Neville Chamberlain, sought
a diplomatic solution to conflicts. When Germany’s ambitions were to
capture the area known as Sudentland, in Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain
held several meetings with Hitler and other nations, desperately
trying to prevent an armed conflict with Germany. Chamberlain
believed that by granting Hitler’s demands, he could avoid a war with
... name and history, caught amidst the Holocaust era of World War II in Poland. He calls himself Stopthief because that is what he ... resilience and survival against the harsh conditions of war, especially for the Jews during World War II. Misha is an innocent character who ... story but lessons in history about the shocking episode of Hitler’s Holocaust in the 1940’s. Nevertheless, one comes away ...
Germany (Elliot 73-74).
He was sorely mistaken. Even after all the
negotiation and bargaining, Hitler’s forces eventually overtook the
entire nation of Czechoslovakia by force.
When it became clear that Hitler next planned an invasion of
Poland, Great Britain had no choice but to issue a threat of war if
Germany went through with the operation. The threat was simply
disregard, and the attack on Poland was carried out as planned. On
September third, 1939, two days after the Polish invasion began,
Chamberlain gave a speech in which he finally stated that, “This
country is at war with Germany…”(Wernick 8).
declaration of war on Germany with France became official the same
day. In spite of efforts to avoid combat, the fears of the British
people had come true on that day.
The United States of America, like Great Britain, had hoped to
avoid bringing the horrors of war to it’s people. For many years
after the development of tensions in Europe and the Far East, the
leaders of the U.S. had done nearly everything possible to remain
neutral. For them, too, the memories of World War I were still fresh
in mind. Although the U.S. did participate in such affairs as the
temporary peace treaty that prevented the capture of Shanghai by the
Japanese, the U.S. was determined to prevent the need for it’s troops
to be placed in the way of danger(Ienaga 66).
And so it would have
remained, if it were not for one incident that would change the lives
of many in the United States.
The morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 began as any other day
in Pearl Harbor, a U.S. naval base in Hawaii. At 7:49, the Japanese
fleet of carriers that had been making it’s way toward the Hawaiian
Islands sprang into action. Wave after wave of Japanese aircraft
screamed into the harbor and pounced on the American fleet as it sat
helpless (Ienaga 136).
No one saw the attack coming, so defense to
the brutal assault was minimal. In the aftermath of the carnage, the
final tallies shocked the nation. Five U.S. battleships and ten
... allied countries to defeat Germany and Japan. After the death and destruction of World War II, many countries were ... America was not fully active in the war until power hungry Japan attacked their base in the Pacific Ocean. ... of World War II. At the end of World War I, the stage was set for the United States to ... Lusitania was the major cause of why the Americans decided to enter the war. It had lead ...
warships had been destroyed, and three more battleships were severely
damaged. The human death toll was also high. Over 2,400 American
soldiers were slaughtered in the strike.
Franklin D. Roosevelt wasted no time in reacting to the attack
on Pearl Harbor. By the afternoon of December 7th, Roosevelt had
ordered protection for Washington D.C., major cities along the western
coast, major bridges, and dozens of other security precautions in the
event of another wave of enemy aggression (Bailey 20).
The next day,
Roosevelt delivered a speech to congress asking for a declaration of
war. The beginning of the speech would become famous in American
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in
infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately
attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan… (23) Less
than an hour after Roosevelt gave his powerful speech, congress voted
to declare war on Japan. The declaration was signed by Roosevelt
himself at 4:10 that afternoon (23).
In the space of only two days,
the United states had gone from a neutral spectator to a major
participant in World War II.
The United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan were four
of the largest countries that became heavily involved in the second
world war. But, many more nations played smaller roles in the event.
For instance, Italy was an ally of Germany and Japan, having signed
the Triparte Pact in 1940. But, the Italians were less than essential
to Hitler’s domination of Europe, and Benito Moussolini, dictator of
Italy, suffered many humiliating defeats at the hands of the allies
(Keegan et al).
Another country that played a role in the war in Europe was
the U.S.S.R. Once considered neutral in the war because of a
nonaggression treaty with Germany, the Soviet Union was drawn into the
fighting on June 22, 1941, when the German offensive code-named
Operation Barbarossa began. The German forces planned to attack the
Soviets at three points – Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad, and was
... of World War I On Germany World War I had a devastating effect on the entire world. Germany however, might have suffered the most from a war that ... suffered a casualty rate of nearly 65%. Germany suffered its first major defeat in war in the history of the nation. The ... , which would, ultimately to the outbreak of the Second World War. World War I was probably the most influential event of the 20th ...
expected to be completed in 6 weeks. The Russians proved tenacious,
however, and defended their capital and country with great effort,
eventually halting the German advance.
France was a third major European state that was caught up in
the chaotic beginnings of World War II. Allied with Great Britain,
France joined in the battle of Europe after the invasion of Poland in
1939. Unfortunately, Hitler’s forces eventually invaded France,
ending their ability to fend off the attacks of the Axis powers.
Germany’s invasion of Poland in late 1939 is considered the
major event that set World War II in motion. But, like many other
events in history, there is more to the story. Dozens of smaller
occurrences pushed the world closer and closer to the brink of war
over a period of many years. The results of each of these incidents
culminated in total warfare that turned half of the world into a
battleground. Several major countries were plunged into chaos and
disorder, and the scars and horrible memories of the nightmare that
was World War II are something that can never be erased or
Bailey, Ronald H. The Home Front: U.S.A. Morristown: Silver Burdett
Elliott, Brendan John. Hitler and Germany. New York: McGraw-Hill,
Ienaga, Saburo. The Pacific War, 1931-1945. New York: Random House,
Keegan, John. Who Was Who in World War II. New York: Crescent, 1984.
Ross, Stewart. Causes and Concequences of World War II. Austin:
Snyder, Louis L. The War – A Consice History. New York: Julian Messner
“Some Japaneese Still Don’t Get It.” Wisconsin State Journal.
[Madison] 14 September 1995.
Sutel, Seth. “Japaneese Official Puts New Spin on World War II.” The
Capital Times. [Madison] 5 June 1994.
Wernick, Robert. Blitzkrieg. Morristown: Silver Burdett, 1977.