World War II
Fifty million people died during World War II (1939-1945), the deadliest war in world history involving over 50 countries, including the United States. Many of those who died during the war were civilians, and there may have been a total of 80 million deaths. The fighting took place in many areas of the world, and it was the most destructive war in history as well.
Historians believe the cause of the war could be traced back to the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed in 1919, officially ending World War I. The first war was fought to make the world safe for democracy, but the agreements that ended the war only caused bitterness and anger among several countries.
Germany, along with other Central Powers, were the biggest losers in WWI. Germany lost a huge amount of territory and had to pay large sums of money to other countries for the destruction they had caused. Germany had high unemployment, high prices, worthless money, and angry citizens. The war in Europe then began with Germany's invasion of Poland.
In the late 1930s, many people across the world were having financial difficulties, and were seeking leaders who would make life better for them. Unfortunately, there were three countries where people were being led by dictators, which is a military leader or ruler who takes complete control over a country usually by force. The dictator of Germany was Adolph Hitler, in Italy it was Benito Mussolini, and in Japan it was Emperor Hirohito. They each set up a totalitarian government controlled by a single political party that stops opposition and controls citizens' lives.
They tried to take control of many countries in Europe and elsewhere, but the rest of the world initially did very little to stop them. Besides Poland, Adolph Hitler and the German army invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and other countries. Hitler and the Nazi party also waged a war of terror mainly against Jews, but other minorities as well, eventually killing over 6 million Jewish people in what became known as the Holocaust. Adolph Hitler wanted to conquer Europe and the world.
Mussolini sent the Italian troops into Ethiopia and other countries in Africa, and Japanese armies invaded China, and islands located in the Pacific. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, prompted the United States to no longer remain neutral. The attack was a surprise to the U.S. and it killed over 2,400 people and wounded another 1,700. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with Great Britain and its leader Winston Churchill, declared war on Japan, leading the U.S. into World War II. A few days later, Hitler and Germany declared war on the United States.
The United States became the leader of the Allied Powers, which included Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, and France. Of course, the other side included Germany, Japan, and Italy, known as the Axis Powers. The fighting between the two sides included many battles throughout Europe, Northern Africa, and in the Pacific.
The end of the war in Europe occurred on June 6, 1944 when the Allies attacked Germany, which is often called D-Day or the Invasion of Normandy. The Germans were pushed out of France but fought back during the Battle of the Bulge, but the Germans were eventually defeated, and on May 7, 1945 they surrendered.
The war in Europe ended, but Japan was still fighting in the Pacific. The United States forced Japan's surrender after dropping Atomic Bombs on two cities in Japan, the first on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, and then the second on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. At least 120,000 Japanese people were killed immediately and Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 14, 1945. It was the first and only time nuclear weapons had been used during a war. World War II was over.
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