World War 2
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World War II ranged from 1939 through 1945 and it involved every major world power. On one side were the Allies, including Great Britain, the United States, France and the Soviet Union. On the other side the Axis powers included Germany, Japan and Italy. This conflict resulted from the rise of totalitarian, militaristic regimes in Germany, Japan and Italy after World War I. Partly responsible were the humiliating peace treaties forced on Germany after World War I. The Great Depression of the 1930s created world wide economic disorder and thus contributed to the war. During the 1930s Japan was very aggressive in Asia and Italy, lead by Mussolini was invading Ethiopia. French and British appeasement of Hitlers Nazi regime in Germany culminated in the Munich Pact of 1938. This sacrificed much of Czechoslovakia to Germany. France and Britain began to rearm and to offer guarantees to other potential victims of the Nazi aggression.
In August of 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union, previously bitter enemies, concluded a non-aggression pact, thus freeing Hitler to invade Poland on September 1, 1939. France and Britain immediately declared war on Germany officially beginning World War II. Germany won a quick victory in Poland and went on to occupy Norway and Denmark in 1940. In May they over ran the Low Countries and broke into France and swept into the English Channel. On June 22, 1940 France surrendered. However a free French force continued to fight. Britain under Prime Minister Winston Churchill was left to fight alone.
The Battle of Britain lasted from August to October 1940. Germanys attempt to bomb Britain into submission was the only German failure of the wars early years. Axiss land operations continued in North Africa and in the Balkans, where Greece and Yugoslavia were occupied. On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union bringing that nation under Premier Joseph Stalin into the war. Meanwhile the United States under President F. D. Roosevelt was drawing closer to the Allies. On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor bringing the United States into the war.
The Axis successes continued. By 1942 Japan had conquered the Philippines and many other Pacific islands and all of Southeast Asia. German forces in the Soviet Union reached Stalingard and the Caucasus. The German General Rommel seemed ready to take Cairo, Egypt. German submarines were threatening to wipe out all Allied shipping.
In late 1942 the Allies began to rally. In North Africa, British General Montgomerys rout of Rommel at Alamein in October of 1942 and the landing of U.S. troops in Algeria resulted in an Allied victory in Africa. The Allies conquered Sicily in south Italy and Italy surrendered in 1943. In the Pacific, U.S. forces had won the naval battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, landed in Guadalcanal and began the island hopping strategy that by 1945 had won back the Philippines and where a striking force at Japans doorstep.
The German Surrender at Stalingrad in 1943 was followed by a Soviet offensive that by 1944 had taken Russian troops deep into Poland, Hungary and the Balkans. In the battle of the Atlantic, the German submarine fleet was virtually destroyed.
The final Allied campaign began with the invasion of Normandy, on the northwestern coast of France on June 6 1944 at 12:15 A.M. The invasion was code named “Operation Overlord”. This operation would come to be known as D-Day. D-Day is a military term designating the start date for launching an operation, but in modern history it is refers to the events of June 6, 1944.
Plans for this campaign began in 1943. In January 1944 U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied forces. Eisenhower began working with a group of high-level British and American leaders to execute Operation Overlord. Arriving in Britain on January 16, 1944 Eisenhower held his first conference on January 21 with what was called the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force. January was an active month for all fronts. The Russian army crossed into Poland and in Italy the Allies were blocked by a heavily fortified Rome. The Allies began landing on the eastern coast of Italy attempting to open the road to Rome. This assault took place at Anzio beach. The Allies took the beach but were stopped on the road by the Germans. The Allies finally reached Rome on June 4,1944 and the Germans then regrouped in northern Italy.
The planning for “Operation Overlord” included millions of details. Included in the plans were men, machines, supplies, aircraft, ships, airborne troops, weather, and the condition of the beaches. The success of D-Day depended on the three main areas. The Allies must control the air and sea and German troops would have to be dispersed through out Europe. By spring 1944