World War II: Summary, Combatants & Facts

Yet, despite their role in defeating fascism, the fight for equality continued for African American soldiers after the World War II ended. They remained in segregated units and lower-ranking positions, well into the Korean War, a few years after President Truman signed an executive order to desegregate the U.S. military in 1948. An intensive aerial bombardment in February 1945 preceded the Allied land invasion of Germany, and by the time Germany formally surrendered on May 8, Soviet forces had occupied much of the country. Hitler was already dead, having died by suicide on April 30 in his Berlin bunker.

  1. After a quiet winter, Germany began its invasion of Western Europe in April 1940, quickly defeating Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France.
  2. That summer Lend-Lease was extended to the Soviet Union after it was invaded by Germany.
  3. The main great powers, sometimes called “The Big Three”, were the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union.
  4. In North Africa, British and American forces had defeated the Italians and Germans by 1943.

On June 22, 1941, Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed Operation Barbarossa. Though Soviet tanks and aircraft greatly outnumbered the Germans’, Russian aviation technology was largely obsolete, and the impact of the surprise invasion helped Germans get within 200 miles of Moscow by mid-July. Arguments between Hitler and his commanders delayed the next German advance until October, when it was stalled by a Soviet counteroffensive and the onset of harsh winter weather.

Battle of the Guadalcanal Campaign: August 7, 1942 to February 9, 1943

The following year they met off the coast of Newfoundland to begin planning, in sweeping terms, the postwar world. On New Year’s Day 1942, representatives of all three nations signed the United Nations Declaration, pledging to join hands to defeat the Axis powers. In February, the Soviets entered Silesia and Pomerania, while the Western Allies entered western Germany and closed to the Rhine river. In two weeks, the offensive had been repulsed, the Soviets advanced to Vienna, and captured the city. In early April, Soviet troops captured Königsberg, while the Western Allies finally pushed forward in Italy and swept across western Germany capturing Hamburg and Nuremberg. American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe river on 25 April, leaving unoccupied pockets in southern Germany and around Berlin.

Russia maintains support and strong relations with certain countries despite deteriorating relations with the international community. Some of Russia’s allies include China, Belarus, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria, among others. Mexico joined the Allied Powers during World War II and contributed to the war effort in important ways. While Mexico’s involvement may not be widely known, it had a significant impact on the overall Allied victory. Mexico is a member of the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc formed in 2011 by Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Peru.

Brazil was the only South American country to send troops to fight in the European theatre in the Second World War. On 8 December 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Congress declared war on Japan at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was followed by Germany and Italy declaring war on the United States on 11 December, bringing the country into the European theatre. The United States had indirectly supported Britain’s war effort against Germany up to 1941 and declared its opposition to territorial aggrandizement. Materiel support to Britain was provided while the U.S. was officially neutral via the Lend-Lease Act starting in 1941.

Twenty-one other states declared war on Germany and signed the Declaration by March 1945. Japan and the United States then entered into complex negotiations in the spring of 1941. Neither country would compromise on the China question, however, Japan refusing to withdraw and the United States insisting upon it. Believing that Japan intended to attack the East Indies, the United States stopped exporting oil to Japan at the end of the summer. In effect an ultimatum, since Japan had limited oil stocks and no alternative source of supply, the oil embargo confirmed Japan’s decision to eliminate the U.S. Pacific Fleet and to conquer Southeast Asia, thereby becoming self-sufficient in crude oil and other vital resources.

Stalin’s armies already occupied most of the region, and the Western allies could not force them out without fighting the Soviet Union. Japan aimed to dominate East Asia and the Asia-Pacific, and by 1937 was at war with the Republic of China. In December 1941, Japan attacked American and British territories with near-simultaneous offensives against Southeast Asia and the Central Pacific, including an attack on Pearl Harbor which resulted in the United States and the United Kingdom declaring war against Japan. Japan soon conquered much of the western Pacific, but its advances were halted in 1942 after losing the critical Battle of Midway; Germany and Italy were defeated in North Africa and at Stalingrad in the Soviet Union.

Formation of the “Grand Alliance”

The Netherlands became an Allied member after being invaded on 10 May 1940 by Germany. During the ensuing campaign, the Netherlands were defeated and occupied by Germany. The Netherlands was liberated by Canadian, British, American and other allied forces during the campaigns of 1944 and 1945.

Second Polish Republic

Yugoslavia entered the war on the Allied side after the invasion of Axis powers on 6 April 1941. The Royal Yugoslav Army was thoroughly defeated in less than two weeks and the country was occupied starting on 18 April. The Italian-backed Croatian fascist leader Ante Pavelić declared the Independent State of Croatia before the invasion was over. In the United Kingdom, they joined numerous other governments in exile from Nazi-occupied Europe. Beginning with the uprising in Herzegovina in June 1941, there was continuous anti-Axis resistance in Yugoslavia until the end of the war.

Dominican Republic

Initially, Bulgarian leaders stalled and resisted German pressure to join the Axis alliance. They also did not want to antagonize Yugoslavia, which was nominally an ally of Greece. However, Bulgaria joined the Axis after the Germans offered them Greek territory in Thrace. The Germans also exempted Bulgaria from participation in the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Before the end of 1941, the anti-Axis resistance movement split between the royalist Chetniks and the communist Yugoslav Partisans of Josip Broz Tito who fought both against each other during the war and against the occupying forces. The Yugoslav Partisans managed to put up considerable resistance to the Axis occupation, forming various liberated territories during the war. Even though China had been fighting the longest among all the Allied powers, it only officially joined the Allies after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on 7 December 1941. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek thought Allied victory was assured with the entrance of the United States into the war, and he declared war on Germany and the other Axis states.

The Philippines, still owned by Washington but granted international diplomatic recognition, was allowed to join on 10 June despite its occupation by Japan. The Allies, formally referred to as the United Nations from 1942, were an international military coalition formed during World War II (1939–1945) to oppose the Axis powers. Its principal members by the end of 1941 were the “Big Four” – United Kingdom, United States, Soviet Union, and China. Axis powers, coalition headed by Germany, Italy, and Japan that opposed the Allied powers in World War II.

As part of the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the Axis powers created a satellite state called the Independent State of Croatia. Hungary was beholden to Germany and Italy for awarding it part of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and approving its annexation of Northern Transylvania from Romania in September 1940. Hungary’s leaders were also eager for preferential economic treatment from Nazi Germany. On May 22, 1939, Germany and Italy expanded their political alliance into a military one by signing the Pact of Friendship and Alliance.

On August 23, 1944, following the overthrow of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, Romania switched sides. Slovakia was both politically and economically dependent on Germany for its existence as a sovereign state. Their aggression against other states left Germany, Italy, and Japan with few friends among the world’s countries.

To do so, Germany needed to secure raw materials; establish transit rights for German troops; and ensure the cooperation or participation of other European states. Thus, Germany began to cajole and pressure those European states that were sympathetic to the Nazi regime to join the Axis. And allies of world war ii it warned Hungary that Germany might retract its recent support for Hungarian annexations of Czechoslovak and Romanian territory. On November 25, 1936, a month after Germany and Italy entered into a treaty of friendship, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact.