CHAPTER 25 - WORLD WAR II

Summary

Each summary also has underlined terms that are hyperlinked so that the student can reasearch topics further.
 

Allied Victory in Europe

By the beginning of 1944 air warfare had turned overwhelmingly in favor of the Allies, who wrought unprecedented destruction on many German cities and on transport and industries throughout German-held Europe. This air offensive prepared the way for the landing (June 6, 1944) of the Allies in N France (see Normandy campaign) and a secondary landing (Aug. 15) in S France. After heavy fighting in Normandy, Allied armored divisions raced to the Rhine, clearing most of France and Belgium of German forces by Oct., 1944. The use of V-1 and V-2 rockets by the Germans proved as futile an effort as their counteroffensive in Belgium under General von Rundstedt (see Battle of the Bulge).

On the Eastern Front Soviet armies swept (1944) through the Baltic States, E Poland, Belorussia, and Ukraine and forced the capitulation of Romania (Aug. 23), Finland (Sept. 4), and Bulgaria (Sept. 10). Having evacuated the Balkan Peninsula, the Germans resisted in Hungary until Feb., 1945, but Germany itself was pressed. The Russians entered East Prussia and Czechoslovakia (Jan., 1945) and took E Germany to the Oder.

On Mar. 7 the Western Allies—whose chief commanders in the field were Omar N. Bradley and Montgomery—crossed the Rhine after having smashed through the strongly fortified Siegfried Line and overran W Germany. German collapse came after the meeting (Apr. 25) of the Western and Russian armies at Torgau in Saxony, and after Hitler's death amid the ruins of Berlin, which was falling to the Russians under marshals Zhukov and Konev. The unconditional surrender of Germany was signed at Reims on May 7 and ratified at Berlin on May 8.

Allied Victory in the Pacific

After the completion of the campaigns in the Solomon Islands (late 1943) and New Guinea (1944), the Allied advance moved inexorably, in two lines that converged on Japan, through scattered island groups—the Philippines, the Mariana Islands, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. Japan, with most of its navy sunk, staggered beneath these blows. At the Yalta Conference, the USSR secretly promised its aid against Japan, which still refused to surrender even after the Allied appeal made at the Potsdam Conference. On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States first used the atomic bomb and devastated Hiroshima; on Aug. 9, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The USSR had already invaded Manchuria. On Aug. 14, Japan announced its surrender, formally signed aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2.

Aftermath and Reckoning

Although hostilities came to an end in Sept., 1945, a new world crisis caused by the postwar conflict between the USSR and the United States—the two chief powers to emerge from the war—made settlement difficult. By Mar., 1950, peace treaties had been signed with Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Finland; in 1951, the Allies (except the USSR) signed a treaty with Japan, and, in 1955, Austria was restored to sovereignty. Germany, however, remained divided—first between the Western powers and the USSR, then (until 1990) into two German nations (see Germany).

Despite the birth of the United Nations, the world remained politically unstable and only slowly recovered from the incalculable physical and moral devastation wrought by the largest and most costly war in history. Soldiers and civilians both had suffered in bombings that had wiped out entire cities. Modern methods of warfare—together with the attempt of Germany to exterminate entire religious and ethnic groups (particularly the Jews)—famines, and epidemics, had brought death to tens of millions and made as many more homeless. The suffering and degradation of the war's victims were of proportions that passed the understanding of those who had been spared. The conventions of warfare had been violated on a large scale (see war crimes), and warfare itself was revolutionized by the development and use of nuclear weapons.

Political consequences included the reduction of Britain and France to powers of lesser rank, the emergence of the Common Market (see European Economic Community; European Union), the independence of many former colonies in Asia and Africa, and, perhaps most important, the beginning of the cold war between the Western powers and the Communist-bloc nations.

 
    ASSIGNMENT FOR MONDAY - 1/4
    Be sure to have completed, both Timeline handouts that reference the following readings
    1- WWII EARLY YEARS - READING
    2 - US INVOLVEMENT - READING


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