Bruce Morrison » World War II, 1939–1945

World War II, 1939–1945

The Allies defeat the Axis powers, the Jewish people suffer through the Holocaust, and Europe and Japanare devastated by World War II.


Section 1: Hitler’s Lightning War

Section 2: Japan’s Pacific Campaign

Section 3: The Holocaust

Section 4: The Allied Victory

Section 5: Europe and Japan in Ruins


Section 1: Hitler’s Lightning War

Using the sudden, mass attack called the blitzkrieg, Germany overruns much of Europe and North Africa.


GermanySparks a New War in Europe


Secret Agreement

  • Nonaggression pact—Germans, Soviets agree not to fight each other
  • Agreement includes secret deal to splitPoland


Germany’s Lightning Attack

  • September 1, 1939—Hitler launches invasion ofPoland
  • Britain,France declare war on Germany but Poland falls quickly
  • Blitzkrieg—lightning war—Germany’s new military strategy
  • Planes, tanks, infantry used to surprise enemy and quickly conquer


The Soviets Make Their Move

  • Soviets captureLithuania,Latvia, Poland, resistance met in Finland
  • Finlandsurrenders in March 1940


The Phony War

  • French, British mobilize along French border, wait for German attack
  • Many months of no action—the “phony war”
  • In April 1940 Hitler attacks and quickly capturesDenmark,Norway


The Fall of France


Further Gains

  • May 1940—Germanyconquers Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg
  • Soon after, German army reaches French coast


Rescue at Dunkirk

  • German forces trap British, French on coast atDunkirk
  • British Navy, civilians take ships across Channel to rescue soldiers


France Falls

  • June 1940—Francesurrenders to Germany
  • Charles de Gaulle, French general, organizes opposition toGermany


The Battle of Britain


Threat to Britain

  • Winston Churchill—Becomes British prime minister, vows no surrender
  • Germanyplans invasion of Britain; begins with air attacks in 1940
  • British use air force, radar, code-breaking to resistGermany
  • Battle ofBritain—Air war over Britain that lasted until May 1941
  • Stunned by British resistance, Hitler calls off attacks


The Mediterranean and the Eastern Front


Axis Forces Attack North Africa

  • Mussolini,Italy at first neutral
  • Mussolini declares war onFrance,Britain after German victory
  • September 1940—Mussolini attacks British inNorth Africa


Britain Strikes Back

  • December 1940—British attack and drive Italians back
  • Erwin Rommel, German general, battles British inNorth Africa
  • In 1942, Rommel first retreats then succeeds against British


The War in the Balkans

  • Hitler plans to invadeSoviet Union; moves to take Balkan countries
  • Hitler invadesYugoslavia,Greece in April 1941; both fall quickly


Hitler Invades the Soviet Union

  • Germanyinvades an unprepared Soviet Union in June 1941
  • Soviet troops burn land as they retreat; Germans move intoRussia
  • Germans stopped atLeningrad, forced to undertake long siege
  • Germans almost captureMoscow, but forced to pull back


The United States Aids Its Allies


American Policy

  • Most Americans want to avoid war,Rooseveltfears that if allies fall, U.S. would have to fight, he hopes to strengthen allies so they can resist Germany  - Lend-Lease Act—U.S. loans weapons for fighting Germany
  • Roosevelt and Churchill meet, issue statement of principles
  • Atlantic Charter—supports free trade, right to form own government


Section 2: Japan’s Pacific Campaign

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and brings the United States into World War II.


Surprise Attack on Pearl Harbor


Japan and the U.S.

  • Japandevelops plan for attacks on European colonies, U.S. bases
  • In 1941 Roosevelt cuts off oil shipments toJapan- Admiral Isoroku Yamamato plans attack on U.S.fleet in Hawaii


Day of Infamy

  • Japanattacks Pearl Harbor—U.S. naval base in Hawaii—on Dec. 7, 1941
  • U.S.declares war on Japan
  • Japanalso attacks Hong Kong, Thailand, and other islands


Japanese Victories


Gains in Many Places

  • Japanese attack Philippine Islands defended byU.S., Filipino troops
  • Philippine islands fall to Japanese in 1942
  • Japancaptures British holdings, including Hong Kong, Singapore
  • Also conquersDutch East Indies, rich in minerals
  • Capture ofBurmathreatens India, Britain’s main possession in Asia
  • Japanese forces treat conquered peoples, prisoners of war brutally


The Allies Strike Back


Stunning Raid

  • U.S.bombers attack Tokyo, other Japanese cities in April 1942
  • Raid does little damage, but shows thatJapanis vulnerable


The Allies Turn the Tide

  • Battle of theCoral Sea—Americans stop Japanese advance, May 1942
  • New kind of naval warfare—ships launch planes to fight each other


The Battle of Midway

  • Japanese send powerful fleet to captureMidwayIsland
  • Battle of Midway—U.S.destroys Japan’s naval fleet, Japan retreats


An Allied Offensive


MacArthur’s Plan

  • Douglas MacArthur—American army commander in Pacific
  • Plans to “island-hop” past strongholds, attack weaker Japanese bases
  • BattleofGuadalcanal—hellish battle that ends in Allied victory


Section 3: The Holocaust

During the Holocaust, Hitler’s Nazis kill 6 million Jews and 5 million other “non-Arayans.”


The Holocaust Begins


Racist Beliefs

  • Hitler and Nazis say Aryans—Germanic peoples—are “master race”
  • They launch theHolocaust—systematic murder of Jews and others



  • Nazis tap into long-held feeling of many Europeans against Jews
  • 1935 Nuremberg Laws take away rights of German Jews


“Night of Broken Glass”

  • Kristallnacht—“night of broken glass,” November 9, 1938
  • Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues attacked; 100 Jews killed


A Flood of Refugees

  • Fearing more violence, many German Jews flee to other countries
  • Hitler favors emigration but other countries limit Jewish refugees


Isolating the Jews

  • Hitler has all Jews moved to designated cities
  • They are forced to live inghettos—separate Jewish areas
  • Hitler hopes that Jews in ghettos will die of disease, starvation
  • Despite bad conditions, Jews survive in these areas


The “Final Solution”


Hitler Seeks New Answer

  • “Final Solution”—Hitler’s final plan for treatment of Jews
  • Choosesgenocide—systematic killing of an entire people


The Killings Begin

  • Nazis in Eastern Europe,Soviet Unioncreate killing squads
  • They shoot men, women, children in mass executions
  • Other Jews sent to concentration camps or slave labor prisons


The Final Stage

  • By 1942, Nazis building huge, efficient extermination camps
  • Camps separate strong from weak people
  • Weak (mostly women, children, elderly, sick) killed immediately


The Survivors

  • Nazis kill about six million European Jews during the war
  • Fewer than four million survive


Section 4: The Allied Victory

Led by the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, the Allies score key victories and win the war.


The Tide Turns on Two Fronts


The North African Campaign

  • Rommel takes Tobruk, June 1942; pushes towardEgypt
  • British General Montgomery attacks atEl Alamein, forces Rommel back
  • American forces land inMorocco, November 1942
  • General Dwight D. Eisenhower—American commander inMorocco
  • In May 1943, Rommel’s forces defeated by Allies


The Battle for Stalingrad

  • German army moves to capture Soviet oil fields
  • Battle ofStalingrad—Soviets, Germans battle for control of city
  • German troops capture city, then surrender after long battle

The Invasion of Italy

  • U.S., British forces land on, captureSicily, in 1943
  • Mussolini loses power but Germans keep control of northernItaly
  • Allies invadeItaly, but Germans keep fighting there until war ends


The Allied Home Fronts


Mobilizing for War

  • Fighting the war requires complete use of all national resources
  • 17 to 18 millionU.S.workers—many of them women—make weapons
  • People at home face shortages of consumer goods
  • Propaganda aims to inspire civilians to aid war effort


War Limits Civil Rights

  • Japanese Americans face prejudice, fear
  • Army puts Japanese Americans ininterment campsin 1942


Victory in Europe


The D-Day Invasion

  • Allies plan invasion ofFrance; use deception to confuse Germans
  • D-Day—June 6, 1944; day of “Operation Overlord” invasion ofFrance
  • Allied forces captureNormandybeaches; liberate Paris by September


The Battle of the Bulge

  • U.S., British forces advance onGermany from west, Soviets from east
  • Battle of the Bulge—German counterattack in December 1944
  • Germans gain early success but forced to retreat


Germany’s Unconditional Surrender

  • By 1945, Allied armies approachGermanyfrom two sides
  • Soviets surroundBerlinin April 1945
  • Hitler commits suicide
  • On May 9, 1945,Germanyofficially surrenders, marking V-E Day
  • President Rooseveltdies in April; Harry Truman becomes president


Victory in the Pacific


The Japanese in Retreat

  • Allies move to retake thePhilippinesin late 1944
  • Battleof Leyte Gulf leaves Japanese navy badly damaged
  • Kamikazes—Japanese pilots who fly suicide missions
  • In March 1945, American forces captureIwo Jima
  • U.S.takes Okinawa in June 1945; Japan suffers huge casualties


The Japanese Surrender

  • Advisors warn Truman that invasion ofJapanwill cost many lives
  • He has alternative; powerful new weapon calledatomic bomb
  • ManhattanProject—secret program to develop the bomb
  • Atomic bomb dropped onHiroshima, August 6, 1945; about75,000 die
  • Nagasakibombed on August 9;70,000 die immediately
  • Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945


Section 5: Europe and Japan in Ruins

World War II cost millions of human lives and billions of dollars in damages. It leaves Europe and Japanin ruins.


Devastation in Europe


A Harvest of Destruction

  • Many cities acrossEuropebadly damaged by war
  • Many people displaced by war and peace agreements


Misery Continues After the War

  • Lack of food, destruction of roads, factories lead to hardship
  • Many people suffer from hunger, disease after war


Postwar Governments and Politics


Need for New Leaders

  • Many conquered countries went back to old governments
  • New leaders needed inGermany,Italy, and France
  • Communist parties make gains inItaly,France by promising change
  • Communist interest fades as economies recover


The Nuremberg Trials

  • NurembergTrials—trials of 22 Nazi leaders for war crimes
  • Some Nazi leaders are executed for their actions


Postwar Japan


Serious Damage

  • In war,Japanloses two million people; severe damage to many cities


Occupied Japan

  • MacArthur takes charge ofU.S.occupation of Japan
  • Starts process ofdemilitarization—disbandingJapan’s armed forces
  • Also launchesdemocratization—creating democracy inJapan
  • Japanese people adopt new constitution in 1947
  • MacArthur puts economic reforms in place


Occupation Brings Deep Changes


Changing Japanese Society

  • Emperor kept on, but he loses power and becomes figurehead
  • Japanese people elect two-house legislature
  • Bill of rights guarantees freedoms; women also have right to vote
  • Constitution saysJapancannot attack another country
  • In 1951, peace treaty withJapansigned; U.S. occupation ends
  • U.S. and Japan become allies