World War 2
World War 2
On September 1, 1939, Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, invaded Poland according to a secret agreement with the Soviet Union, which joined the invasion on September 17. The United Kingdom and France responded by declaring war on Germany on September 3, initiating a widespread naval war. Germany rapidly overwhelmed Poland, then Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France in 1940, and Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941. Italian, and later German, troops attacked British forces in North Africa. By summer 1941, Germany had conquered France and most of Western Europe, but it had failed to subdue the United Kingdom due to the success of the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
Hitler then turned on the Soviet Union, opening a surprise attack (Codename: Barbarossa) on June 22, 1941. Despite enormous gains, the invasion bogged down outside of Moscow in late 1941. The Soviets later encircled and captured the German Sixth Army at the Battle of Stalingrad (1942-43), decisively defeated the Axis during the Battle of Kursk, and broke the Siege of Leningrad. The Red Army then pursued the retreating Wehrmacht all the way to Berlin, and won the street-by-street Battle of Berlin, as Hitler committed suicide in his underground bunker on April 30, 1945.
Meanwhile, the western Allies invaded Italy (1943) and then liberated France in 1944, following amphibious landings in the Battle of Normandy. Repulsing a German counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge in December, the Allies crossed the Rhine River and linked up with the Soviets at the Elbe River in central Germany.
Asia and the Pacific
Main article: Pacific War
Japan invaded China on July 7, 1937 (see Second Sino-Japanese war) with plans to expand to most of East and South-East Asia. On December 7, 1941 Japan launched surprise attacks against several countries, including the major United States Navy base at Pearl Harbor, thereby drawing the United States into the war.
After six months of sweeping successes, the Japanese were checked at the Battle of the Coral Sea and decisively defeated in the Battle of Midway, in which they lost four aircraft carriers. Japanese expansion was finally stopped and the Allies went on the offensive at the Battle of Milne Bay and the Battle of Guadalcanal, both in the Southwest Pacific. The Allies then conducted a drive across