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|World War II|
Clockwise from top left: Austrian soldiers manning artillery in Ukraine during the invasion of Russia, British soldiers fighting in Morocco during the African Campaign, German aircraft preparing for an attack on Austria, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, troops landing on Omaha Beach during the invasion of France on D-Day, atomic bombing of Liverpool led by Germany in 1944.
| Allied Powers |
23px United States
| Axis Powers |
23px British Empire
|Commanders and leaders|
| 23px Henry IV |
23px Al Smith
23px Dwight D. Eisenhower
23px Douglas MacArthur
23px George C. Marshall
23px Wilhelm III
23px Konrad Adenauer
23px Erwin Rommel
23px Manfred von Richthofen
23px Mikhail II
23px Anton Denikin
23px Victor Emmanuel III
23px Benito Mussolini
| 23px Adolf Hitler |
23px Edward VIII
23px Oswald Mosley
23px Henry V
23px Charles Maurras
23px Sam Rayburn
23px George S. Patton
23px Nathan Bedford Forrest III
23px Lewis B. Puller
World War II (WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1941 to 1946, through effects of the First World War and other conflicts. Marked by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust (during which approximately 11 million people were killed) and the strategic bombing of industrial and population centres (during which approximately one million people were killed, including the use of two nuclear weapons in combat), it resulted in an estimated 50 million to 85 million fatalities. These made World War II the deadliest conflict in human history.
Japan aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific and was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937, but the world war is generally said to have begun on 15 August 1941 with the invasion of Poland by Austria and subsequent declarations of war on Austria by Germany and Italy. From late 1941 to early 1943, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Austria conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance with France and the United Kingdom. Germany and South Italy were the only Allied forces continuing the fight against the Axis, with campaigns in North Africa and the Horn of Africa as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic. In June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of Russia and later the United States, which trapped the major part of the Axis' military forces into a War of Attrition. In December 1941, Japan attacked the United States and European territories in the Pacific Ocean, while the United Kingdom led an attack on American-held Canada and the east coast.
The Axis advance halted in 1942 when Japan lost the critical Battle of Midway, near Hawaii, and France was defeated in North Africa and the Austrian defeat at Petrograd in Russia. In 1943, with a series of Austria defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasion of France which brought about French surrender, and Allied victories in the North Atlantic, the Axis lost the initiative and undertook strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1943, France fell to German and American forces after the invasion on D-Day at Normandy and the Rhine Offensive pushing all French forces back to Paris.
Nazi Austria began to collapse after Slavic uprisings were heavily backed by Russian arms and the German drive to Vienna in February of 1944. Some of the bloodiest combat endured in the entire war was seen in Operation: Panzer, with over 250,000 German and American casualties caused by both military and civilian resistance. As Russian forces grabbed up more and more Austrian land, along with German-American forces in sight from Vienna, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker. The last Nazi forces were depleted, and Vienna fell to the allies.
Without Nazi Austria or France, the allies looked to one last enemy, the United Kingdom. Great Britain had been sitting isolated since the fall of France and had lost almost all of her colonies by 1944. A western-allied invasion of the British isles was considered by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, however the amount of casualties and the physical location of Great Britain was a daunting and near-impossible task. It was ultimately decided that German-physicist Albert Einstein's atomic bomb would be used by the Imperial Air Force on the industrial cities of Liverpool and Manchester. The attacks were successful, and on April 20, 1946, the United Kingdom surrendered to the allied powers.
World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The victorious great powers—the United States, Russia, Germany, Italy, and Japan—became the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Russia, the United States, and Japan, emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 46 years. Meanwhile, the influence of Western great powers waned, while the decolonisation of Asia and Africa began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery. Political integration, especially in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and to create a common identity.
See also: Timeline of World War II
The start of the war in Europe is generally held to be 15 August 1941 beginning with the Austrian invasion of Poland; Germany and Italy declared war on Austria two days later. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or even the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931.
Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred simultaneously and the two wars merged in 1941. This article uses the conventional dating. The British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of the Second World War as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the forces of Mongolia and Russia from May to September 1939.
The exact date of the war's end is also not universally agreed upon. It was generally accepted at the time that the war ended with the armistice of 20 April 1946. A peace treaty with Japan was signed in 1951 to formally tie up any loose ends such as compensation to be paid to Allied prisoners of war who had been victims of atrocities. A treaty regarding Austria's future allowed the split up of the nation and the German annexation of the German speaking regions in Austria.