World War II Fast Facts


Here’s a look at World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945.

The Peace of Paris – The treaties drawn up in Paris at the end of World War I satisfied few. Germany, Austria and the other countries on the losing side of the war were particularly unhappy with the Paris Agreement, which required them to give up their weapons and make reparations. Germany agreed to sign the Treaty of Versailles only after the victorious countries threatened to invade if Germany did not sign it. Germany made the last reparations payment in 2010.

Economic issues The First World War was devastating for the countries’ economies. Although the European economy had stabilized in the 1920s, the Great Depression in the United States caused an economic downturn in Europe. Communism and fascism gained strength as a result of economic problems.

Nationalism – An extreme form of patriotism that grew in Europe became even stronger after World War I, especially for countries that were defeated.

Dictatorships Political unrest and unfavorable economic conditions lead to the rise of dictatorships in countries such as Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union.

Appeasement Failure – Czechoslovakia had become an independent nation after World War I, but in 1938 it was surrounded by German territory. Hitler wanted to annex the Sudetenland, an area in western Czechoslovakia where many Germans lived. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wanted to appease Hitler and agreed to his demands for the Sudetenland after Hitler promised that he would not demand more territory. Hitler seized the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

Germany, Japan and Italy formed a coalition called the Axis Powers. Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and two German-created states, Croatia and Slovakia, eventually joined.

Main players:
Germany – Adolf Hitler, Der Führer
Japan Admiral Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister
Italy – Benito Mussolini, Prime Minister

The United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union formed the Allies, the group fighting the Axis. Between 1939 and 1944 at least 50 nations would fight together. Thirteen more nations would join in 1945, including: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, British Commonwealth of Nations, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Philippines and Yugoslavia

Main players:
United States – Franklin D. Roosevelt, President
Great Britain – Winston Churchill, Prime Minister
china – Chiang Kai-shek, general
Soviet Union – Joseph Stalin, general

16,112,566 – Number of US troops who served in the conflict.
670,846 – Number of injured in the US.

Battle: 291,557
No Battle: 113,842
Total in the theater: 405,399

Australia: 23,365 dead; 39,803 injured
Austria: 380,000 dead; 350,117 injured
Belgium: 7,760 dead; 14,500 injured
Bulgaria: 10,000 dead; 21,878 injured
Canada: 37,476 dead; 53,174 injured
China: 2,200,000 dead; 1,762,000 injured
France: 210,671 dead; 390,000 injured
Germany: 3,500,000 dead; 7,250,000 injured
Great Britain: 329,208 dead; 348,403 injured
Hungary: 140,000 dead; 89,313 injured
Italy: 77,494 dead; 120,000 injured
Japan: 1,219,000 dead; 295,247 injured
Poland: 320,000 dead; 530,000 injured
Romania: 300,000 dead; injured unknown
Soviet Union: 7,500,000 dead; 5,000,000 injured
United States: 405,399 dead; 670,846 injured

About 70 million people fought in the armed forces of the Allied and Axis nations.

Finland never officially joined either the Allies or the Axis and was at war with the Soviet Union at the outbreak of World War II. Needing help in 1940, the Finns joined forces with Nazi Germany to repel the Soviets. When peace was declared between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1944, Finland joined the Soviets in expelling the Germans.

Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Sweden declared neutrality during the war.

The Soviet Union lost more soldiers, more than seven million.

The number of civilian casualties in World War II may never be known. Many deaths were caused by bombings, massacres, starvation and other war-related causes.

Six million Jews died in Nazi concentration camps during the war. Hundreds of thousands of Roma people and people with mental or physical disabilities also died.

The Lend-Lease Act was created to allow the United States to lend or lease weapons, equipment, or raw materials to any nation fighting the Axis. In the end, 38 nations received about $50 billion in aid. Most went to Britain and the Soviet Union.

In 1948, the United States created the Marshall Plan to help rebuild war-torn Europe. Ultimately, 18 nations received $13 billion in food, machinery and other goods.

In March 1974, Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier still fighting in the war, was found by a search party on Lubang Island in the Philippines. After his former commander is convinced that the war is over, he flies to Manila and formally surrenders to President Ferdinand Marcos. Onoda died on January 16, 2014, at the age of 91.

September 1, 1939 – Germany invades Poland. Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and France soon came under German control.

June 10, 1940 – Italy joins the war alongside Germany declaring war on Britain and France. The fighting spreads to Greece and North Africa.

June 14, 1940 German troops march on Paris.

July 1940-September 1940 Germany and Great Britain fought an air war, the Battle of Britain, along the English coast.

7 September 1940-May 1941 German bombing campaign of night air raids on London, known as the Blitz.

June 22, 1941 Germany invades the Soviet Union.

December 7, 1941 – Japan attacks the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, destroying more than half of the aircraft fleet and damaging all eight battleships. Japan also attacks Clark and Iba airfields in the Philippines destroying more than half of the US Army aircraft there.

December 8, 1941 – The US declares war on Japan. Japan invades Hong Kong, Guam, the Wake Islands, Singapore, and British Malaya.

December 11, 1941Germany and Italy declare war on the United States.

1942 The Allies stopped the advance of the Axis powers in North Africa and the Soviet Union.

February 1942 Japan invades the Malay Peninsula. Singapore surrenders within a week.

4-6 June 1942 Japan plans to invade the Hawaiian Islands, starting with Midway Island, but the United States breaks the code of the mission. Japan attacks Midway and loses four aircraft carriers and over 200 planes and pilots in the first clear American victory.

August 19, 1942 – The battle for Stalingrad begins as Germany advances further into Russia.

August 1942-February 1943 US Marines fight and hold the Pacific island of Guadalcanal.

October 23, 1942 British troops push Axis troops into retreat in Tunisia at the Second Battle of Alamein.

February 1, 1943 German troops in Stalingrad surrender, largely defeated by the Soviet winter. The defeat marks the halt of Germany’s eastward advance.

July 10, 1943Allied forces land in Italy.

July 25, 1943 The King of Italy is restored to full power and Mussolini is deposed and arrested.

November 1943-March 1944 US Marines invade the Solomon Islands in Bougainville to retake them from the Japanese.

June 6, 1944D-Day, in which Allied forces land on five Normandy beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The landing includes more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 aircraft and more than 150,000 service men.

August 25, 1944 American and Free French forces liberate Paris.

January 27, 1945 – Soviet troops liberate the Auschwitz camp complex, located near Krakow, Poland.

February 19-March 26, 1945US Marines fight the Japanese for the island of Iwo Jima.

April 12, 1945 – Roosevelt dies in Warm Springs, Georgia. Vice President Harry Truman takes the oath of office as President.

April 25, 1945 Soviet troops surround Berlin.

April 28, 1945 Mussolini is killed trying to escape to Switzerland.

April 29, 1945 – American soldiers liberate the Dachau concentration camp outside Munich, Germany.

April 30, 1945 Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide.

May 7, 1945 – Germany surrenders at a red school in Reims, Germany, Eisenhower’s headquarters. Victory in Europe Day (VE) is celebrated on May 8 because it is the day the armistice came into effect.

May 8, 1945 – Day VE The war in Europe is officially over.

July 16, 1945 First successful test of the atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico.

July 29, 1945 – Truman warns Japan that the country will be destroyed if it does not surrender unconditionally. Japan is still struggling.

August 6, 1945 The first atomic bomb used in the war, nicknamed Little Boy, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing up to 140,000 people.

August 9, 1945After receiving no response from the Japanese government after the Hiroshima attack, a second atomic bomb, nicknamed Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki, killing up to 80,000 people.

August 14, 1945 – Japan unconditionally agrees to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and end the war. Victory over Japan Day (VJ) is declared.

September 2, 1945 – Japan signs formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

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