World War II
The Second World War (also known as World War II and WWII) was the largest military conflict in human history. Some consider it to have begun with the Japanese operations in China in 1931. Others claim that it was essentially a continuation of the first World War. However, the conflict is generally recognized as running from September 12, 1939, to September 2, 1945. In the war over sixty million people died. The war also saw the development and deployment of the first atomic weapons, as well as the development of Combined Arms tactics. As it is such a significant part of modern history and due to a high level of interest in military history, the Second World War is a hot subject for debate among SD.net's population.
The seeds of the conflict were sewn in 1919, with the Versailles Treaty. By the terms of this treaty, Germany was forced to accept all responsibility for the start of the First World War and was required to pay extensive reparations, reduce its military to a standing army of 100,000 men, and meet various other requirements. None of the provisions of the treaty were popular with the German populace. At the time of the armistice ending WW1, Germany still had armies in the field, and Germany proper had never been invaded. This led to the dolschtosslegende (literally: myth of the stab in the back), the popular belief that Germany was not so much defeated as betrayed by her political leadership.
The European Theater
On September-1st, 1939 the armies of Nazi Germany launched an invasion of Poland. This was preceded by the Nazis annexing Czechoslovakia. The invasion of Poland was swift, leading to the coining of the term "Blitzkrieg". Following a short period that was known as the Sitzkreig, or 'phony war', this led to an invasion of France and the low countries that ended with British Forces trapped at Dunkirk and the French Surrender. What follow was what was known as the Battle of Britain, as the Nazi Luftwaffe engaged in a massive air duel with the British Royal Air Force. In the North Atlantic, the Nazi naval forces employed a heavy submarines to attempt to interdict British merchant shipping. As anti-submarine tactics, convoys, and aircraft patrols increased in effectiveness -- the ability of Nazi subs to interdict trade became less and less effective.
On June 22, 1941, the Wehrmacht began the invasion of the Soviet Union-- leading to a bitter winter campaign ending in a Nazi retreat. The German Army never truly recovered from this setback, but it tried again in 1942 -- leading to the bitter fighting in the city of Stalingrad. This brought the Nazi army to it's knees forcing them to fight a defensive war from that point on.
With the entry of the United States into the war, increasing Allied victories further reduced the Axis position -- with battles in North Africa and Italy. On June 6, 1944, Allied forces invaded France at Normandy. Over the course of the year, the Allies pushed the Nazi regime back -- leading to the use of various 'Wonder Weapons' to try to turn the tide back into the favor of the Axis. In December 1944, the Nazi armies tried to mount a massive offensive in the Ardennes area. This was intended to destroy the Allied armies in the west to force a truce. It did the opposite by destroying vital men and material that could have been better used in other operations. The war ended when Soviet forces Occupied Berlin and Hitler committed suicide in his Führerbunker on April 30, 1945. The Germans declared unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945.
The Pacific Theater
During the 1930s, the Empire of Japan engaged in several campaigns of expansion in Eastern Asia, most notably China. Such activity resulted in international condemnation and soured relations between Japan and the United States.
On December 7th, 1941 a carrier group of the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack against the United States Naval base in Pearl Harbor. The attack at Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the War in both theaters when Nazi Germany declared war on the United States after the attack caused Congress to declare war on Japan.
The Pacific Theater quickly opened up in what appeared to be an initial success for the Japanese, as they invaded and took control of several of the colonies of Western nations: notably the Philippians, Java, Burma and Singapore. The war became a large duel between naval forces between the IJN and the USN. A major feature of these battles, because of the higher striking range, became a series of carrier duels. One of the most notable was the Battle of Midway, where US forces managed to cause major damage to the Japanese carrier assets. During almost every battle, the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) served in constant combat, making a significant contribution to the Allied war effort. A battle of major significance took place in the area of Leyte Gulf and included three major engagements. This included a heroic battle between escort carriers and destroyers against a massive force of Japanese battleships. Once the battle was over, the Japanese navy was no longer a serious threat to Allied efforts.
Part of this ongoing campaign included a series of island invasions as the Allied forces moved closer and closer to the home islands of Japan. Brutal fighting grew more and more bloody the closer they got to the home islands of Japan. The final legs of the war included constant bombing of Japanese cities, culminating in the dropping of two atomic bombs and the Japanese surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri.
World War 2 in Popular Culture
- World War 2 is a common setting for FPS games
- World War 2 is among the most common settings for alternate history Fiction and discussion