The Second World War was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945.
It began only two decades after the First World War ended. Most of the world’s countries were eventually divided into two opposing alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war directly involved more than 100 million people.
Some of history’s most heinous crimes took place in World War II.
An obscure clash involving a Japanese unit on night patrol duty near the Marco Polo Bridge (in Beijing) resulted in full-scale war with China that lasted until 1945, the end of the Second World War. On the night of July 7th – 8th, the Imperial Japanese Army unit got into a clash with the Chinese Revolutionary Guard.
The Japanese units stationed at Fengtai crossed the border to conduct military exercises. While the exact cause is unknown, the Chinese and Japanese forces eventually exchanged fire. The incident was the start of the Second Sino-Japenese War.
The name ‘Marco Polo Bridge’ is derived from the description of the bridge in Marco Polo’s book of travels. The bridge is also known as Lugou Bridge.
The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France during the Second World War. The Germans defeated the Allied forces by the end of the six weeks of fierce battle. They used mobile operations, and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
As a result, land operations were brought to a halt until the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. The German victory convinced Hitler of Wehrmacht under his leadership. It drastically changed the strategic situation in Europe.
It was the first concerted attack by German Air Force (the Luftwaffe) on British Airfields. The Germans wanted to drive the British warships from the Channel. To reduce Britain into submission, the Luftwaffe decided to initiate a war targeting civilians, thus gaining center stage.
It was the first military campaign in history to be fought entirely in the air. The large-scale attack against Britain’s Air Defenses, however, proved ineffective against Britain’s fighting quality and tactics. By October 1940, the RAF were victorious.
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. The strategic operation was in response to Nazi Germany’s ideological warfare, in which the latter aimed to repopulate the Soviet Union with Germans and use Slavs as slave labor. They would then annihilate the rest according to the General plan Ost (GPO). The GPO was a plan by Nazi Germany for genocide and the ultimate colonization of Europe.
Operation Barbarossa marked a dramatic escalation in the Second World War. The Eastern Front, where the attack was first launched, became the site of the highest casualties of World War II. Some 5000,000 Red Army troops were taken prisoner and most did not come back alive.
Despite small victories, however, the German offensive did not move past Moscow. They were forced into a war of attrition, from which they never recovered.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor made evident the serious flaws in the strategic planning of the American forces. Nearly 300 American aircrafts were destroyed. The damage forced the American government to rethink their strategy and shift their focus on the Japanese war machine.
The attack betrayed the flaws in Japan’s strategy. Had the Japanese forces attacked and destroyed the oil farms instead, the American fleets would have been forced to return to San Diego. No attack of such a scale was launched again on any other fleet during the war.
A decisive naval battle between American and Japanese forces, the Battle of Midway took place six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States Navy managed to inflict significant losses on the Japanese fleet, which proved fatal. The battle is described as ‘the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare’.
The Japanese failed to accurately predict the swift reaction of the American forces and faced a disastrous defeat. By the end, more than 3000 Japanese soldiers had died while only 300 Americans had been killed.
The final major offensive launched by German forces, the fierce Battle of Kursk took place between the German and Soviet armies. The Soviets were very well prepared and launched multiple counter attacks from all sides. The offensive was canceled by Hitler after only a week of combat.
It was the first time during the Second World War when a German strategic offensive was halted before it could break through the enemy’s ranks.
Codenamed Operation Neptune (better known as D-Day) it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The Allies surprised the Germans by landing in Normandy. They carried out a successful deception exercise, codenamed Operation Fortitude, as a cover.
The German forces, indecisive about where the attack would land, were unable to defend their locations. D-Day began the liberation of German-occupied France.
One of the largest naval battles of the Second World War, Battle of Leyte Gulf involved over 200,000 personnel. The battle aimed to isolate Japan from the countries it had managed to occupy. It took place between the combined American and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN).
The battle was divided into four main engagements, including the Battles of Surigao Strait and Cape Engano. It was the first battle in which Japanese aircrafts carried out organized Kamikaze attacks. The fighting was so fierce that the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered very heavy losses and its men were stranded in their bases for the rest of the war due to lack of fuel, unable to oppose the Allied invasion of Leyte.
The United States of America effectively ended the Second World War by dropping two atomic bombs within days of one another: the first was dropped on Hiroshima and the second on Nagasaki. As a result, Nagasaki was reduced to ashes. More than 73,000 people were killed in an instant. Japan surrendered unconditionally.