Home / World War 2 and its Aftermath 1934 – 1944

World War 2 and its Aftermath 1934 – 1944

Important events in World War II and its aftermath 1934 – 1944
1934 Dollfuss makes himself dictator of Austria but is killed in an unsuccessful Nazi coup; Chinese Communists begin the Long March, fleeing Chiang’s armies.

1935 Germany wins the Saar plebiscite and begins to re-arm.

1936 Germany seizes the Rhineland.

1937 Chinese Communists and Nationalists form a united front against a Japanese invasion.

1938 Hitler forces Austria to unite with Germany and is given much of Czechoslovakia after the Munich Conference.

1939 Germany and Russia sign a non-aggression pact; Russia invades Finland; Germany invades Poland; start of World War II.

1940 Germany conquers Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands; the British are evacuated from Dunkirk; Churchill becomes British prime minister; France signs an armistice with Germany, which occupies half the country; Hitler tries to subdue Britain by heavy bombing attacks, but loses too many planes to continue the Battle of Britain.

1941 Yugoslavia and Greece fall to Germany; Germany invades Russia; Japan invades Indo-china and bombs the American naval base at Pearl Harbor; the United States enters the war.

1942 Japan conquers the Philippines; a German threat to the Suez Canal is turned back at El Alamein; the allies invade North Africa; Japan suffers a serious naval defeat at the Coral Sea; the Russians inflict a crushing defeat on the Germans at Stalingrad, often called the turning point of the war.

1943 The allies invade Sicily; Mussolini is overthrown and Italy leaves the war; but German troops in Italy continue to fight the allied invasion; the U.S. recaptures the Solomon Islands from Japan.

1944 The allies invade Nazi-occupied France at Normandy; French resistance fighters liberate Paris; American forces land in the Philippines; much of the Japanese fleet is destroyed in the battle of Leyte Gulf; the Germans try to break the allied lines in the battle of the Bulge, but are hurled back.
Important events in World War II and its aftermath 1945 – 1962
1945 The allies cross the Rhine; the U.S. captures Iwo Jima and Okinawa; Roosevelt dies; Mussolini is killed; Hitler commits suicide; Germany surrenders; atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Japan surrenders; end of World War II; founding of the United Nations; the Nuremberg trials of war criminals begin.

1946 Italy is declared a republic; riots between Hindus and Moslems sweep through India; Communist and Nationalist forces begin battling for control of China.

1947 The U.S. intervenes in civil wars in Greece and Turkey; India and Pakistan gain independence.

1948 Gandhi is assassinated; Arab-Jewish strife increases in Palestine; Yugoslavia breaks away from Russia and closes its borders to Greek rebels; a Communist coup deposes the Czech government; Russia attempts to blockade Berlin, but the Western allies airlift supplies to the city; the U.S. inaugurates the Marshall Plan for economic recovery; the state of Israel is proclaimed.

1949 The UN negotiates a truce in Palestine; Chinese Nationalists flee to Formosa while the victorious Communists found the Chinese Peoples’ Republic.

1950 War breaks out in Korea; the U.S. and its allies intervene on the side of the south, while China supports the north.

l951 MacArthur is removed from command in Korea; truce negotiations begin.

1953 A cease-fire is concluded in Korea; Farouk of Egypt is deposed by nationalist army officers.

1954 The French withdraw from Indochina after a serious defeat at Dienbienphu.

1956 Britain, France and Israel invade Egypt, but withdraw after widespread protest; Algerians revolt against French rule.

1958 An army revolt overthrows the French republic and brings Gen. de Gaulle to power.

1961 Generals who oppose de Gaulle’s Algerian policy revolt, but are quickly suppressed.

1962 Algeria gains independence; fighting between India and China.

The United Nations and the End of Colonialism 1946 -1965

colonialism

Even before the Korean War, the United Nations had proved that it could take effective action to control serious conflicts. It first took such action in the conflict over Palestine. During World War I, the British had ousted the Turks from Palestine. When the war was over, the League of Nations placed that land under the authority of Britain. The British then issued the famous Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jewish people that Palestine would someday become their homeland, but the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding countries strongly objected to this and year after year passed without the British making good their promise. During and after World War II, Britain refused to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to enter Palestine. In 1946 Jewish terrorists began to stage raids against the British army and a year later Britain turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations. The General Assembly set up a special committee to investigate the situation and make recommendations and several months later the committee delivered its report. It recommended that Palestine be divided into two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish. Although the Arabs, who formed a majority of the people in Palestine, said they would never allow the existence of a Jewish state, the General Assembly approved the committee’s report. Britain was expected to carry out and enforce the recommendations. Instead, the British suddenly left Palestine in the spring of 1948 and war broke out between the Arabs and the Jews. The Palestinian Arabs were supported by troops from the surrounding countries of Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but the Jewish army, which included many hardened veterans of World War II, won battle after battle. With every victory, the Jews added to the territory originally granted them by the United Nations special committee. Most …

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War in Korea 1945-1953

korea

Although the cold war was the most important fact in the politics of the post-war world, few persons could have foreseen that it would lead to fighting in the small, remote country of Korea. Yet, as small and remote as it was, Korea had a strategic location. It was near three large powers — Russia, China and Japan — and the Japanese said it “points like a dagger at the heart of our country.” The Japanese won control of Korea in the Russo-Japanese War and by 1905 they ruled it as part of their empire. During World War II, the Allies promised that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” When Japan surrendered, they agreed that Russian troops would occupy Korea north of the thirty-eighth parallel and American troops would occupy Korea south of the thirty-eighth parallel. A provisional government would then be set up and after a period of no longer than five years, Korea would govern itself as an independent nation. The occupation of Korea was carried out as it had been planned, but the United States and the Soviet Union could not agree on a provisional government. Each set up a provisional government friendly to itself and in 1947 the United States brought the dispute before the United Nations General Assembly. The Assembly decided to hold elections in Korea, but the Soviet Union refused to allow United Nations representatives to enter its occupation zone. Elections were held outside the Russian zone and in 1948 the Korean Republic was established in South Korea. The city of Seoul was made the capital and Syngman Rhee was elected president. Thirty-two nations, including the United States, recognized the new government; the Russians and “their supporters did not. Instead, the Soviet Union helped to set up a new and separate …

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China and Revolution 1912 – 1962

mao

Like Gandhi and Nehru in India, one of China’s greatest leaders, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, learned from the West as well as the East. Born in 1867 of a Christian family, he received most of his education in Hawaii; while an exile, he lived in Europe, America and Japan. Although Dr. Sun had been educated to be a surgeon, he soon gave up the practice of medicine to lead his people against their Manchu rulers. The Chinese were successful in overthrowing the Manchus and in 1912 they proclaimed their country a republic. Dr. Sun, who became known as the “father of the Chinese revolution,” was named president, but he turned the office over to Yuan Shih-kai, a general who had a number of followers. Dr. Sun believed that Yuan would be better able to keep order and unify the country. Instead, Yuan made himself a military dictator and when he died in 1916, China was more divided than ever. Local war lords, or military governors, controlled the provinces. Each of the war lords had his own soldiers, collected taxes and ruled his territory as he pleased. Seeking for a way China could become a free and independent nation, Dr. Sun worked out his “Three Principles of the People‚” or, in Chinese, San Min Chu I. The first of the three principles was nationalism. Chinese society had always been based mainly on the family; now the Chinese must think of themselves as a great and unified nation with a long history of civilization. They must rule themselves and have the same power as other nations. They must stop giving concessions and special privileges to foreigners and they must do away with the war lords. The second principle was democracy. The government and the people must be responsible to each other. The people …

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Independence for India 1920 – 1964

gandhi

Even before the end of World War II, it was clear that Asia and Africa would soon be shaken by a great movement for independence. Everywhere the colonial peoples wanted to be free of the rule of other countries. The British, who controlled more colonies than any other nation, knew that they faced the break-up of their empire. Churchill was opposed to giving up any of Britain’s power. In 1942, he said, “I haven’t become the king’s first minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”  A number of Englishmen shared his view, including some members of the Labour party: As late as 1946, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, a leader of the Labour party, said, “I’m not prepared to sacrifice the British Empire, because I know that if it fell a great collection of free nations would go into the limbo of the past and would create disaster.” When, after the end of the war, Ceylon, Malaya and Burma demanded independence Britain agreed. Ceylon and Malaya remained within the British Commonwealth, while Burma cut itself off from Britain completely. The problem of India, the largest and most important of Britain’s possessions, proved more difficult to solve. The Indians were firmly determined to win independence. “Come what may,” one Indian leader said, “we will come out as a free nation or be thrown into the ashes.” Yet the Indians were not a united people; they were divided by religious differences. On one side were the Hindus, organized into the All-India Congress party, led by Jawarharlal Nehru. On the other side were the Moslems. They wanted a separate Moslem state of their own, to be called Pakistan and they had set up the Moslem League, under the leadership of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. The Hindus themselves were divided into numerous castes, …

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Victory in the Pacific 1941 – 1945

pearl harbour

On June 25, 1940, the Japanese war minister said, “The present international situation is developing in a manner advantageous to Japan’s national policy. We should not miss the present opportunity. . . Japan’s national policy was scarcely a secret. It had already linked itself by treaty to the aggressor nations of Germany and Italy – for several years it had been fighting an undeclared war against China. Although Chinese guerrilla forces were fighting back the Japanese controlled most of the Chinese railroads and held such cities as Peiping, Shanghai and Canton. They planned to establish something they called the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” –actually a vast empire that would take in the South Seas as well as East Asia, an empire ruled by the Japanese. In July of 1941, as another step in carrying out their plan, they occupied Indochina. In trying to build up its new empire, however, Japan ran into certain difficulties. The Chinese, led by Chiang K’ai-shek were getting more and more aid from the United States and Britain. Even more important, Japan depended on trade with the United States and Britain for its war materials, especially scrap metal and oil. It was a serious blow when, in 1941, the United States and Britain “froze” all Japanese assets in the two countries, bringing trade to a stop. The Netherlands East Indies, which had been supplying oil to Japan, soon took the same action. In October, General Hideki Tojo became premier of Japan and the militarists were in full control of the government. Tojo sent a special envoy to Washington to negotiate with the United States. Japan demanded, among other things, that the United States stop all aid to China and again trade freely with Japan. The United States insisted that Japan withdraw its forces from China …

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A World at War 1939 – 1941

world war 2

Now the people of Europe began to hear a new sound, a sound that would haunt them throughout the years of war — the wail and shriek of air-raid sirens. At night, the lights of Europe went out and the “blackout” made familiar streets strange places of darkness. Street lamps were left unlit and windows were covered with heavy draperies. Any stray gleam of light might help guide enemy bombers to their targets. Hurrying about their wartime duties, the people of Britain and France began to wonder. They had not wanted war and yet war had come. Why? What had happened? It seemed mysterious and impossible to understand, but as they thought about it, certain things became clear. Some of the problems that led to World War II were left-overs from World War I. Germany and Italy had remained “have-not” nations. They needed more territory for raw materials and more markets for their goods. The Germans felt that the Versailles Treaty was humiliating, unjust and the Allies had done nothing to change it. The League of Nations, especially without the participation of the United States, had been weak and had not carried out its promise of real disarmament. The United States had not wanted to get involved in Europe’s problems and had followed a policy of “isolation.” These were some of the causes of the war; there were others as well. France had suffered greatly in World War I and was afraid of being drawn into another conflict. Her generals had hesitated to send troops against Hitler at a time when it was still possible to stop him and then there was the distrust of the Soviet Union and Communism. Many French and British statesmen, such as Chamberlain, had believed that Fascism would protect Europe against Communism. Unlike Churchill, they …

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“Peace in Our Time” 1938 – 1939

Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia was a country of many peoples. The largest groups were the Czechs and the Slovaks, but in the region called Sudetenland lived 3,000‚000 Germans. Although Sudetenland had never belonged to Germany — it had once been under the rule of Austria — Hitler was determined to “bring the Sudeten Germans home.” The Nazis had been active in Sudetenland for some time and after Hitler took over Austria they became busier than ever. Throughout the spring and summer of 1938, the Sudeten Germans made demands on the Czech government. In Germany, there were threatening troop movements. Hitler also began the construction of what became known as the Siegfried Line — fortifications that ran along the Rhine River, stretching from Switzerland to the Netherlands. It seemed as if war would break out at any moment, but Hitler had France, the Soviet Union and Britain to reckon with. France and the Soviet Union had agreed to aid Czechoslovakia if it was invaded and Britain supported France, so at first, Hitler moved cautiously. Then, in August, danger of war flared up again. The German armed forces called up nearly a million and a half men for maneuvers. At the same time, the Sudeten Germans were carrying on negotiations with the Czech government. The government agreed to give them almost complete control of the Sudetenland, but would Hitler be satisfied? The answer would come on September 12, when Hitler would make a speech to the congress of the Nazi party at Nuremberg. As that day approached, Britain and France did what they could to strengthen their defenses. The day arrived and Hitler made his speech in a stadium packed with shouting Nazis. He demanded “justice” for the Sudeten Germans. They must have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to join Germany. …

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Victory in Europe 1941 – 1945

Even before Pearl Harbour, there had been cooperation between the United States and Britain. In August of 1941, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met secretly, on a cruiser at sea off the coast of Newfoundland. There they drew up the Atlantic Charter, a document stating the principles on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world. They pledged that neither country would seek more territory. They hoped that, “after the final destruction of Nazi tyranny,” all men in all lands could “live out their lives in freedom from want and fear,” and they called on all nations to give up the use of force and disarm. With the United States in the war, the cooperation among the nations fighting the Axis powers became still closer. There were meetings between the heads of the nations and their representatives — the first of many that would take place throughout the war. Out of the early meetings came an important decision. All possible strength must be thrown against Germany, for once Germany was defeated, Japan would surely fall. On January 1, 1942, all twenty-six nations fighting the Axis signed a pact. Calling themselves the United Nations, they agreed to abide by the Atlantic Charter and not to make a separate peace with the enemy. As the year began, the Germans started an offensive in Africa. General Rommel and his Afrika Korps won back El Agheila, which the British had taken the previous April. By the end of June, 1942, the British had lost 80,000 men and had been forced to retreat 400 miles to El Alamein, in Egypt. This was only 60 miles from the city of Alexandria and there was danger that Rommel would cut off the Suez Canal. Rommel could not take El Alamein. The British …

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“My Name Will Stand Forever” 1933 – 1938

adolf hitler

ABOVE THE German town of Berchtesgaden, in a large, imposing house in the mountains, a man stared out a window. It was a fine February day in the winter of 1938 and the snow-covered peaks of the Alps glistened in the clear air. The man at the window seemed not to see the peaceful mountains. Berchtesgaden was close to the border of Austria and he seemed to see beyond the mountains into the heart of Austria itself — an Austria filled with marching troops‚ cheering crowds and the swastika banners of the Nazis. Staring at this vision, he smiled — for he was Adolf Hitler and he had many reasons to be pleased with himself. He remembered how he had arrived in Austria after World War I. He had been a vagabond — unknown, shabby, dirty, penniless. Now he was dictator of Germany, the ruler of millions of people. He had come to power in 1933 and looking back on the five years that had passed since then, he smiled again. Things had gone well for him — very well indeed. From the beginning, Hitler had been determined to smash the Versailles Treaty, which Germany had been forced to accept after its defeat in World War I. The treaty compelled Germany to disarm and give up some of its territory. Quietly and secretly, Hitler had begun to re-arm and when word of this reached the Allies, the nations which had fought Germany, they did nothing. Among the territories that had been taken away from Germany was the Saar region. Small, but important because of its coal mines, the Saar had been governed by a commission of the League of Nations. In 1935, under the conditions of the Versailles Treaty, the League held a plebiscite, a vote of the people living …

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