Modern World History

World War II

Nature of World War II

The greatest and destructive war in the history of the mankind was fought between 1939 and 1945 in which all major countries were involved to prove their superiority over the other. II World War included struggles not only in Europe but also in Asia, Africa and islands of Pacific Oceans as well. The course of the war strained the economies of major countries and left them on the verge of collapse. More than once chances did come in the way of the other powers to prevent the war but they failed to grab it.

The conservatives of France and Britain for a long time believed that Hitler was interested only in putting down communism and breaking the power of labour organizations. They ignored the real motives of Hitler to regain supremacy of Germany.

Causes of World War II

The Treaty of Versailles signed by Germany with the Allies was harsh and unjustifiable. Germany had no choice but to sign it. Unconditionally she had to surrender a great part of her territory and her colonies were forcibly taken away.

Germany was asked to pay huge war indemnity moreover her military power was considerably reduced. The treatment meted out to her based on revenge. The treaty created hatred in the minds of Germans.

France in 1923 captured the German industrial zone of Ruhr. Prior to this Germany had already conceded the Valley of Saar under the Treaty of Versailles. It was a major supplier of coal and iron to Germany.

Germany was deprived of all her colonies in 1919 consequently her industries suffered as it lost the most important sources of raw materials as well as markets for her finished goods.

Italy too was not satisfied with spoils of the war, as she also looked out for more colonies. But England and France were very possessive about their colonies and wanted to prevent Germany or her allies from acquiring colonies elsewhere. So the conflict of the imperialistic designs of different nations was made inevitable. Soon Japan captured Manchuria while Italy occupied Abyssinia and Albania.

In Germany the Democratic Government under Democratic Socialists failed to deliver the goods making way to dictatorship under the Nazis. By 1934 Hitler became the dictator of Germany. He rejected the Treaty of Versailles and enhanced his military strength besides remilitarizing the Rhineland. He desired to restore the old glory and prestige of Germany.

In Italy Mussolini came to power in 1921 who introduced many reforms and put new life in the country by introducing military training. Italy also adopted a policy of active aggrandizement.

Japan’s ambitions too increased after the World War I. By 1930s she developed her navy and enhanced her strength tremendously. In 1930s military junta completely took power and under its leadership, Japan launched itself on the path of expansion. Raising the slogan of Save Asia from Communism they declared that it was their duty to take up a movement against communism in Asia. Japan created puppets states of Manchukuo,Jehol and Chahar in China. By 1936 Japan controlled most of the north-eastern China.

In 1936, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact which was joined by Italy a year later. Meanwhile Japan continued her aggression in China.Shanghai and Nanking were taken and in 1939 South China was invaded along with whole of the coastline.

Italy’s Mussolini sent his forces into Ethiopia to which England protested. Through England’s influence, league took action against Mussolini but was not successful in checking his aggression. He ignored the League and completed the conquest of Ethiopia.

Hitler in Germany started with the remilitarization of the Rhineland. Further he signed the Rome-Berlin agreement by which Mussolini signed Austria over to Hitler and in return Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia. The two agree to form a united front in Spain to oppose Communism. In 1936 he denounced international control of German rivers. In 1938 he moved into Austria which provoked a protest from England.

The Munich Conference allowed Hitler to have 1/5th of Czechoslovakia. After signing a non-aggression pact with Russia in August 1939, Hitler made his move against Poland which began the World War II.

The inability of the League of Nations to function as an agency to promote international justice and maintain peace was the greatest disappointment. Its weaknesses were apparent and its failure to settle the disputes led to major crisis. Germany withdrew from the League and proceeded to violate almost every article of Treaty of Versailles. The severest blow came from the Italy’s defiance in the conquest of Ethopia.The general chaotic condition in international affairs that followed the failure of the League was widespread.

America followed the traditional policy of isolation and kept aloof from the European politics and did not even join the League of Nations. American aloofness helped the military rulers of Germany and Italy to adopt violent and aggressive attitude.

Course of World War II

  • The invasion of Poland by Germany and declaration of war on Germany by England and France.
  • Germany’s occupation of Denmark and Norway.
  • Defeat and surrender of France
  • Failure of Germany to subdue England
  • Invasion of USSR by Germany
  • Italy’s offensive against British in Egypt and invasion of Greece from Albania
  • Germany rushing to help Italy in the event of the failure
  • Japan’s success in efforts to extend her empire into a Greater East Asia
  • Japanese attack Pearl Harbour and Phillipines
  • USA enter the war from the Allies side.
  • 1942 marked turn of tide for Allies.
  • Defeat of Germans by Americans in Battle of Midway.
  • Defeat of Germans and Italy by Allies in Africa and their explusion from Africa
  • Beginning of offensive by the Allies
  • Capture of Sicily and then Italy by Allies and surrender by Italy
  • Russian advance against the Germans on the eastern front
  • Massive build-up of allied forces on western front and their success in pushing Germans back and final surrender of Germans.
  • Allied reoccupation of Philippines and other south asian countries
  • Dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by America
  • Soviet invasion of Manchuria and final surrender of Japanese.

Impact of World War II

The impact of the World War II was much greater than that of World War I.Germany, Japan and Italy were destroyed but even the victorious nations like France and England also became much weaker than before and lost most of their former glory and prestige. The political impact could be seen in the rise of two super powers and the division of the world into two rival blocks, establishment of the UN, and decolonization of many African and Asian countries.

Economic Effects of World War II

World War II spread death and devastation throughout the world to an extant never before. A large number of people lost their lives, homes and native lands. They became refugees and suffered untold miseries. Devastated lands and factories brought agricultural and industrial production to stand still. The prices of things shot up. There were huge shortages of food, clothing and shelters causing sickness, suffering and death. The war weakened the economies of most of the European countries.

The war resulted in the emergence of USA and USSR as the two Super Powers in the world. By the time of signing of the Axis treaties the two countries were moving in opposite directions. Friction over the treaties with Austria, Germany and Japan and Soviet aggressive actions in the Eastern Europe brought tension and by the end of 1948 the period saw the beginning of Cold War.

In 1950 armed conflict arose in Korea between Soviet backed Communist forces and UN forces led by the USA.

Division of Germany after Second World War

The Germany was divided into two parts – East Germany and West Germany. The USSR took control over the eastern part while England, France and the USA occupied the western part. Germany’s capital was divided into two parts. Millions of Germans perished during the war. The German army was reduced and all her war material was taken away from her. The Allies tried the war criminals and some of them were executed. The war resulted in the division of Germany and in the end of Nazism.

The impact of the war on Italy and Japan was also severe. The Japanese Emperor was deprived of his powers and prestige. The American general MacArthur was given the complete control of Japan. He set up a limited monarchy in Japan.

In Italy Mussolini was removed as early as 1943 and after the war a democratic government was established there also. Both Japan and Italy were deprived of their conquests and colonies. Their military power was reduced and they were forced to pay heavy war indemnity. The Fascism was finally met an end in Italy and Japan.

Even the allied powers like England and France had suffered a lot and they became weaker than before. The economic loss suffered by England made her a second rate power in the world. France also lost most of its former power and prestige. It also witnessed political instability after the war which further undermined her position. The world realized that peace should be maintained at all cost hence the formation of United Nations in 1945.Every nation became quite willing to extend all possible help to the UN for establishing and maintaining world peace.

Decolonization of Asia and Africa

World War II gave a boost to nationalism and started the process of decolonization in Asia and Africa. The European colonial empires began to crumble one by one partly because of the nationalist movements in the colonies and partly because of the inability of the colonial powers to maintain their hold over the colonies.

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