The Second World War broke out in 1939 and lasted until 1945.
The war began as Germany under Hitler sought to expand and take over neighboring countries such as Poland. Europe was divided into two parties as a result of German expansionism.
One group favored Germany and came to be known as the Axis powers. Italy was Germany’s most notable ally in Europe, while Japan also sided with Germany in the Pacific theatre.
The Allied group comprised Britain, France, the United States, and a number of other European powers. The war directly involved nearly 100 million people and was one the bloodiest conflict in human history.
Also known as the Ardennes Counter-offensive, it was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front. It lasted nearly a month and took place from December 16, 1944, until January 25, 1945.
Battle of Iwo Jima (February 19 – February 23, 1945)
The Battle of Iwo Jima pitted the United States Marine Corps and Navy against the Imperial Japanese Army. Landing on Iwo Jima island, the United States forces managed to capture the Island after nearly five weeks of fierce fighting. Japanese soldiers fought to the death, suffering heavy casualties.
In all, the U.S. forces suffered around 26,000 casualties while the Japanese saw around 18,000 casualties. Only 216 Japanese soldiers were taken, prisoner. The American Forces came out victorious after a heavy fight, in large part due to their overwhelming majority in arms, numbers, and air supremacy.
The Blitz was a German bombing campaign against Britain in the early years of the War (1940 – 1941). The term was used by both the British and the German press for ‘lightening’. Mass air attacks were conducted against industrial targets alongside towns and cities. More than 40,000 lives were lost due to the German bombing in various places from Birmingham to Sheffield. However, the Luftwaffe had failed to bring England to her knees, and RAF maintained its strength. In March 1945, the Luftwaffe dropped the last bomb on Britain. This marked the end of the Blitz.
Okinawa Island was captured by American Forces during the final phase of the Second World War. A strategic location, it provided a vital base for the American forces in their assault on the Japanese mainland and the ultimate capitulation of the Japanese forces.
President Franklin Roosevelt lost his life on April 25, 1945, after a sudden brain hemorrhage. He had been sitting at his home amongst friends when a sharp pain in the head caught him off guard. He suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and was dead within minutes. Roosevelt was one of the most important leaders of the Allied war effort. His death, though a loss, came at a time when Allied victory was already obvious.
A battle of encirclement between German and Allied forces, took place in the Ruhr Area of Germany. More than 300,000 German troops were imprisoned as a result of the strategic battle, with General Omar leading the American forces. Struck by such unimaginable losses, the German army surrendered immediately.
Refusing to be caught and put on trial for his crimes, Hitler committed suicide. The Fuhrer of Germany shot himself inside his bunker. His wife, Eva Braun, died next to him after swallowing a cyanide pill. The bodies were quickly carried out through the emergency exit and set aflame by Russian troops and their burned ashes were later scattered.
After Hitler’s suicide, General Helmuth Weidling, the Commander of the German forces, signed the order of surrender before Russian forces. This was sent to all the soldiers manning the Berlin garrison. Germany had finally laid down her arms.
While Germany had been defeated in Europe, Japanese forces continued to put up stiff resistance in the Pacific theatre. U.S. forces had to wrest control of the island by island and city by city. To prevent more casualties and bring a swift end to the war, the U.S. decided to drop two atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs were dropped on August 6, 1945, and August 9, 1945. The twin bombs instantly killed 73,000 people.
Japanese military wanted to fight on. But with the devastating events of the two atomic bombs, the Emperor of Japan finally decided to surrender. On September 2, 1945, the Japanese Imperial Army formally surrendered. This effectively brought the war to an end in the Pacific Theatre as well.