World War II (Started September 1, 1939), global military conflict that, in terms of lives lost and material destruction, was the most devastating war in human history. It began in 1939 as a European conflict between Germany and an Anglo-French coalition but eventually widened to include most of the nations of the world. It ended in 1945, leaving a new world order dominated by the United States and the USSR.
More than any previous war, World War II involved the commitment of nations’ entire human and economic resources, the blurring of the distinction between combatant and noncombatant, and the expansion of the battlefield to include all of the enemy’s territory. The most important determinants of its outcome were industrial capacity and personnel. In the last stages of the war, two radically new weapons were introduced: the long-range rocket and the atomic bomb. In the main, however, the war was fought with the same or improved weapons of the types used in World War I. The greatest advances were in aircraft and tanks.
World War II ended with the surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945 and the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945. Statistically, this military conflict overshadows every war ever fought. Some 1.7 billion people from 61 nations engaged in a struggle waged on the land, on the sea, and in the skies of Europe, East and Southeast Asia, North Africa, and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The clash left behind a trail of carnage and destruction unparalleled in human history. World War II took the lives of some 55 million soldiers and civilians and destroyed untold amounts of property. It cost more to finance World War II than any war before it. Beyond the awesome and almost unfathomable statistics, the conflict left a permanent mark on all aspects of human experience and shaped the history of the postwar world. For a generation of men and women everywhere, World War II was “the war.”
Cause behind the 2nd World War
Seen and main cause of war is German attack on Poland on September 1 1939 and consequent declaration of war by Britain and France against Germany. This gives the impression that war was caused by the Polish-German dispute. Polish problem was indeed the immediate cause of the war, but there were many other causes that created the situation in which war became unavoidable. Let us, briefly discuss all the distant as well as immediate causes of the war. It is generally believed that the treaty of Versailles signed after the 1st World War was so unjust that it carried the germs of Second World War.
Three major powers had been dissatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Germany, the principal defeated nation, bitterly dislike the territorial losses and reparations payments imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles. Italy, one of the victors, found its territorial gains far from enough either to offset the cost of the war or to satisfy its ambitions. Japan, also a victor, was unhappy about its failure to gain control of China. Some of the main causes of the World War II were as follows:
1. Treaty of Versailles:- The point is that the primary cause of World War II was the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, named after the small town in France where the treaty was signed, embarrassed and humiliated the Germans. Some of the highlights of the treaty were:
- German loss of territory, which damaged their economy
- Financial reparations of 33 billion dollars, which caused inflation and unemployment
- Loss of their army and navy, leaving them vulnerable to attack
- The forced acceptance of guilt for WWI, which humiliated the German people
Treaty of Versailles was a dictated treaty of peace imposed upon Germany. Germans defeated 1871 France, and in 1919 when German was defeated she decided to take revenge. German delegates at Paris Conference were kept confined to a hotel surrounded by barbed wires. Germans were not consulted at the drafting stage. They did not negotiate it. The victors drafted the treaty and Germany was told to sign it or face military action. This is a treaty on which Germany made sign with out having chance to provide suggestions from her side. Because of treaty Germany was deprived of all her overseas colonies, and even in Europe her size was substantially reduced. Poland, France, Belgium and others gained at her cost. Her army and navy were badly curtailed and she was told not to have any air force. Treaty of Versailles mutilated and humiliated Germany. Now, it was the turn to Germany to take revenge. Hitler came on the center stage, led his proud people to avenge their humiliation and caused the Second World War. In addition to embarrassing the people of Germany and making their lives miserable, the treaty was also filled with other problems.
- Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and parts of Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Italy were carved out of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. These new small nations were not strong and were not equipped either economically or militarily to grow and to defend themselves.
- Russia was not invited to the peace talks because it was still going through its communist revolution and they were talking of worldwide communism.
- The League of Nations, which was the precursor to the United Nations, was formed but it carried very little power and was not effective in protecting countries from aggression.
2. The Failure of Peace Efforts:- During the 1920s, attempts were made to achieve a stable peace. The first was the establishment (1920) of the League of Nations as a forum in which nations could settle their disputes. The league’s powers were limited to persuasion and various levels of moral and economic sanctions that the members were free to carry out as they saw fit. At the Washington Conference of 1921-22, the principal naval powers agreed to limit their navies according to a fixed ratio. The Locarno Conference (1925) produced a treaty guarantee of the German-French boundary and an arbitration agreement between Germany and Poland. In the Paris Peace Pact (1928), 63 countries, including all the great powers except the USSR, renounced war as an instrument of national policy and pledged to resolve all disputes among them “by pacific means.” The signatories had agreed beforehand to exempt wars of “self-defense.”
3. Failure of Collective Security System:- After the First World War the collective security system was conceptualized to provide the security to the victim of an aggression. Members of League, by their collective action, would compel the aggressor to vacate it. This collective action could either be in the form of economic sanctions or military support to the victim of aggression. It is failed by name of self-defense, the big power did aggression and collective security didn’t work properly. Like in 1931 Japan committed an aggression against China on Manchuria. Also 1935 Italy waged a war against Abyssinia.
4. Failure of Disarmament:- Pairs Peace Conference that world peace would be ensure if countries reduced their armaments to appoint consistent with their defense. That means all weapons of offensive nature were to be destroyed. The Treaty of Versailles had disarmed Germany, and victor nations were to disarm later. They never really wanted to disarm; therefore Germany declared in October 1933 that she was leaving both the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations. Later in 1935 Germany formally declared the she was no more bound by the military clause of the Treaty of Versailles. This makes the way of an armed conflict. The failure of disarmament became one of the major causes of Second World War.
5. World Economic Crisis:- World Economic Crisis began in 1929 with sudden stoppage of loans by American financial house to the European Countries. In the 1930’s, the Great Depression that causes throughout Europe, including Germany, millions of people lost their jobs, and their money lost its value. It makes effect mostly to Germany, because she is making rapid industrial progress mostly borrowed American money. Also the race for armaments did negative effect to the economic situation of the Europe.
6. Rise of Fascism: In the 1920’s and 1930’s fascist dictators took control of Italy, Japan, and Germany. Fascism is a type of government in which power is in the hands of a military leader, and the individuals’ rights are subordinate to the authority of the state. Unlike communism, fascism supports private ownership of business but under strict government control. Fascist do not approve of criticism and multiple parties are not permitted. Fascists are intense nationalist who believe in building and using powerful militaries and they support dictatorship and the deprivation of human rights or in other words, quite the opposite of democracy.
7. Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis:- Treaties between Germany, Italy, and Japan in the period from 1936 to 1940 brought into being the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. The Axis thereafter became the collective term for those countries and their allies. It was a combination of anti-communist Fascist Powers. Japan did not formally adopt fascism, but the armed forces’ powerful position in the government enabled them to impose a similar type of totalitarianism. It divides the world again on the tow hostile camps, which provides easy grounds for war.
8. The Problem of National Minorities:- Large minorities found themselves in the company of non-Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia because of the Versailles Treaty. There were Russian minorities in Poland and Rumania, Hungarian minorities in Rumania and Yugoslavia, and German and Slav minorities in Italy. This gave rise to feeling of dissatisfaction and fear among the minorities.
9. Appeasement (Reunion) by Britain and France:- Balance of power had always been the cornerstone of British foreign policy. Britain feared that a very powerful France would disturb the balance of power. Britain was worried about growing influence of communism that’s why she changed her foreign policy and makes appeasement with France.
10. Failure of League of Nations:- America never been a member of the League of Nation, also German and Russia were not invited to become its members. Germany joined the League in1926 but left it in 1933. Soviet Union came in only in 1934 and was expelled after her invasion of Finland. Any country that was unhappy with league decision left it. Thus, Japan left it in 1933 and Italy in 1937.
11. German attack on Poland:- On Sept. 1, at 5:45 A.M., 1939, on the order of Chancellor Hitler, the first shot was fired in what some call “the Second World War.” On the same day, a score of Polish cities, including Warsaw, Lwow, Cracow, were bombed. The Polish army expected the attack to come along the Polish frontiers. But Hitler introduced a new kind of war called a Blitzkrieg, which means “lightning war.” Waves of German bombers targeted railroads in Tczew, which troubled Polish military mobilization. Hundreds of tanks destroyed through Polish defenses and rolled deep into the country. On 3 September 1939, France and Britain declared war against German this is a beginning of the Second World War.