Antecedents of the war
The rise of extreme right-wing parties, the crisis of 1929, and the non-interference policy of England and France are the main factors that led the world to the second war of global proportions.
After the Nazi Party came to power in the early 1930s, Germany started an arms policy that disrespected the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles (1919). The states that were part of the League of Nations, especially France and England, took no action to contain Hitler, which allowed the occupation of the Rhineland region on the border with France in 1936 and of Austria in 1938.
Faced with German expansionism, the French and British began to fear Hitler's power but still wanted to avoid a new war.
In 1938, a treaty was signed during the Berlin Conference establishing that the Germans could occupy the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia.
However, after the occupation of the Czech territory, Hitler continued with the invasion of what he called German vital space.
To ensure the occupations without being attacked by surprise, Hitler signed the Anti-Komintern Pact with Japan, Italy, Hungary, and Spain in 1936 to contain Soviet influence in Europe. And on August 27, 1939, he signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact to ensure that he wouldn't be attacked by surprise.
The development of the war
On September 1, 1939, Nazi troops invaded Poland and conquered Warsaw. As and established the Nazi-Soviet Pact. On the same day, England issued an ultimatum to the Germans demanding an immediate cessation of aggression against the Poles, but the German government was not intimidated.
In light of this, England and France declared war on the Germans.
On one side were Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, which joined with the imperialist interests of the Japanese to form the Axis. On the other side were the Allies, an alliance between England and France. Throughout the conflict, other countries were incorporated, such as the Soviet Union, the United States, and Brazil, among others.
The Second War, in a few months, reached all continents.
The advance of the Axis
German troops advanced toward European countries using the war tactic known as blitzkrieg. The combined use of airplanes and armored cars was new in military strategy, and the other countries weren't prepared to face this type of invasion.
The blitzkrieg tactic made the occupation of enemy cities faster than ever.
During the Nazi occupation, France's territory was divided into two parts: In the East, with its capital in Paris, the government was in the hands of the Germans. In the Southeast, with its capital in Vichy, an autonomous government was formed, collaborating with the Germans and led by Marshal Pétain.
An important part of the French troops, commanded by General De Gaulle, fled to England in boats, waiting for the right moment to return and defend France.
A part of the population began to resist. The group known as the "French Resistance" was composed of civilians, including many communists, who used terrorist and guerrilla tactics to confront the invading army. Their sabotage activities and surprise attacks contributed to the defeat and expulsion of the Nazis from France years later.
The Attack on the Eastern Front
The next Axis attack was against the Soviets. This onslaught, called Operation Barbarossa, began on June 22, 1941. The Germans followed the same tactics, using blitzkrieg to take Soviet cities.
The Nazi advance was significant at first. However, with Soviet resistance, the German war effort began to be significantly hampered. One of the main problems faced by the Germans was the harsh Soviet winter, which prevented the rapid movement of troops. The winter also caused a problem with the German weapons and equipment. The Soviets then went on the attack, and at the end of the war, their troops were the first to enter Berlin.
Air combat and the Italian offensive in Africa
Two air forces faced each other in the war: the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, and the RAF. British industry eventually prevailed over the Germans and managed to produce quite a large number of aircraft.
Between 1943 and 1944, Berlin was attacked by RAF aircraft. Days later, German aviation began a new sequence of attacks against British cities.
Italy tried to occupy colonies in North Africa, the attack of Italian troops was supported by Germany. And in 1941, the Axis forces defeated the Allied troops. However, in the following years, they suffered successive defeats.
The War in the Pacific
Japan was under pressure from the United States to open up to international trade. After the imperialist oppression and the consequent Meiji Revolution, Japan underwent radical changes in its economic structure, developing its industry rapidly and awakening imperialist interest. The Japanese expansionist project brought the Asian empire closer to the Nazi-fascist plans, forming the Axis.
In front of this, Japan signed the Anti-Komintern Pact. The United States froze the assets of Japanese nationals in American territory and imposed an economic blockade on Japan, which led the Japanese to plan military retaliation.
In December 1941, Japanese planes bombed the Pearl Harbor naval base, destroying almost the entire American fleet. The attack caused the Americans to enter the war in 1941.
The war fought in the Pacific was characterized by the use of aircraft carriers and the domination of small islands. From 1942 on, Japan faced successive defeats in the war. And most of its navy was destroyed in the Battle of Midway.
With the entry of the United States into the war, the balance between Axis and Allied forces turned in favor of the Allies.
The Soviet victory in the battle opened the way for a counteroffensive by Allied troops beginning in 1943. In that year, troops landed in Italy, causing the overthrow of Mussolini.
King Victor Emmanuel III ruled Italy, declaring war on the Germans. The Fascists took refuge in the North, creating a fragile government. In 1945, after Hitler's fall, Mussolini was shot, and his body exposed in a public square in Italy.
D-Day and the fall of the Third Reich
Faced with the weakening of the Axis, the United States, England, and the Soviet Union signed an agreement to end the war. To this end, they determined that on June 6, 1944, Allied troops would begin the Normandy landings to liberate France and attack the Germans, in what was called D-Day.
The victory was complete. Days later, the Allies retook Paris, and the Germans beat a retreat. Surrounded by the Allies to the west and the Red Army to the east in Europe, Hitler committed suicide in the early months of 1945.
On May 2, 1945, the Soviets occupied Berlin. The Reichstag building was taken, the army accepted defeat and formalized Germany's unconditional surrender. At that moment the war in Europe came to an end.
Surrender of Japan
The Japanese war forces were weak since 1943, but they continued to resist. In 1945 the Japanese were moving towards surrender. They were willing to negotiate peace.
Nevertheless, on August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effect of the bombs was overwhelming. Within moments, thousands of people died.
As a result of the attacks, Japan signed its unconditional surrender in September 1945. The U.S. government began to interfere in Japanese politics, imposing radical changes in its organizational structure.
Consequences of the war
The most obvious of the facts after the war was the world's bi polarization. The USA and USSR engaged in an ideological and political race that became known as the Cold War. During this period, the world experienced bipolarity between capitalism and socialism.
In countries colonized by Europeans, movements advocating decolonization gained strength. Thus, in the decades following World War II, African and Asian territories gained political independence.
In February 1945, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt met at the Yalta Conference. At this meeting, the regions of Soviet predominance and those of American influence were established. And the creation of the United Nations was made. The UN had the participation of 50 countries but did not include the Axis countries.
The Potsdam Conference, held in August 1945, defined that Germany would have its territory divided into four zones of influence (Soviet, American, French and British) and would be obliged to pay reparations to the Allies and return territories taken during the war.
The death losses during the war were about 55 million people. The war maimed numbered approximately 35 million people. Population displacements or refugees escaping the violence reached 800 million worldwide.
From an economic point of view, European industry and agriculture were destroyed or disrupted by the war's action. The destruction of cities damaged trade.
However, the conflict began a technological development. The development of transportation and telecommunications, the creation of the rocket, and the projectile industry, which gave rise to the "space-age" and nuclear fusion were a few of these advances.