WORLD WAR ii: A TIMELINE. By 1941, the totalitarian dictatorships of the world were on the attack:. -Mussolini and the Italian army had moved into Africa, taking Ethiopia. The Ethiopian emperor told the useless League of Nations “It is us today. It will be you tomorrow.”.
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-Mussolini and the Italian army had moved into Africa, taking Ethiopia. The Ethiopian emperor told the useless League of Nations “It is us today. It will be you tomorrow.”
The Japanese invaded China, and took a large province called Manchuria. They then invaded China proper, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and several Pacific islands owned by European nations.
The US protested Japanese aggression by cutting off their access to the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese military needed that oil to survive, but they knew that to attack meant war with the US.
Dictator Hideki Tojo began to look for a way to knock the US out of the war before they could get involved.
December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The US was caught totally by surprise, with the entire fleet anchored in the harbor.
180 Japanese fighter planes, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers wreaked havoc on the US Navy for an hour and a half.
When the Japanese navy withdrew, they had killed 2400 people, sunk or damaged 21 ships, and more than 300 aircraft.
Almost the entire US Navy was destroyed in this one mighty strike.
The US submarines and the US aircraft carriers.
They just happened to be the best ships in the Navy at the time.
The next day, a shaken Franklin D Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war against Japan for what he called “the day of infamy.”
So the alliances were set: Great Britain, the US, and the Soviet Union called themselves the Allies.
They would fight WWII against the Axis Powers: Japan, Italy and Germany.
FDR and Prime Minister Churchill met at the White House and worked out war plans. Convinced that Hitler was the more dangerous, the two decided to focus on Europe first, then pour all their resources against Japan.
November, 1941, the bitter winter set in on the German armies in the Soviet Union.
Fighting raged on and off at Stalingrad Until January 31, 1943, when the German commander surrendered.
In defending Stalingrad, the Soviets lost a total of 1.1 million soldiers.
It was a heavy cost, but from then on, the Soviets were pushing the Germans back toward Germany.
In November, 1942, 107,000 Allied troops led by US General Dwight D Eisenhower, landed in North Africa. After months of heavy fighting, German General Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox,” was chased off the continent, and his army, the Afrika Korps, surrendered.
In the summer of 1943, Allied troops launched an attack from North Africa onto the Italian island of Sicily. The Italian army collapsed, and the Allies pushed on to Italy, and approached Rome.
Mussolini was removed from power and arrested, then executed for all Italians to see.
A desperate Hitler was forced to send in German troops to stop the Allied advance, which it did at the Battle of Bloody Anzio in the spring of 1944. The Allies were unable to advance further until the end of the war.
When the Italian advance stopped, the Allies began to plan for an invasion of France which would free Western Europe from Nazi control: Operation Overlord.
June 6, 1944 is known as D-Day- the day that 3 million American, British, and Canadian troops left England in boats called landing craft, and assaulted German positions in France at Normandy.
D-Day is the largest amphibious assault ever launched in the history of man. Despite heavy losses, the Allies held the beach.
After seven days of fighting, the Allies held an 80-mile strip of France. Within a month, they had landed a million troops, 567,000 tons of supplies, and 170,000 vehicles in France.
By September 1944, the Allies had freed France, Belgium, and Luxembourg from the Nazis. The US and Great Britain were pushing the Germans back from the west, and the Soviets were pushing them back from the East.
The push across France was masterminded by General Eisenhower, but carried out by US Generals Omar Bradley and George Patton, and by British General Montgomery.
Frantic and running out of options, Hitler summoned all his remaining forces, and launched a final, desperate attack against the Allied line in the hopes of breaking through and cutting off their supplies.
December 16, 1944, under a dense fog, eight German Panzer divisions attacked along an 80 mile front. The tanks drove 60 miles into Allied territory, forcing the green troops back. The large backward curve in the Allied lines causes this to be called the Battle of the Bulge.
The battle raged for a month, but when it was over the Germans were pushed even further back. The Germans had lost 120,000 troops, 600 tanks, and 1,600 planes in the final attack.
From then on, all they could do was retreat.
April 29, 1945, as Soviet bombs rained down on Berlin, Hitler entered his secret underground bunker and married his long time girlfriend Eva Braun.
Shortly after, she swallowed poison and Hitler shot himself.
A week later, the German government surrendered. May 8, 1945 is known as V-E Day: Victory in Europe Day. The war in Europe was finally over.
But FDR didn’t live to see it. He died of a stroke April 12 at Warm Springs Georgia.
He was replaced by his vice-president, Harry S. Truman.
In May 1942, the US Navy stopped the Japanese drive toward Australia at the Battle of the Coral Sea. This was the first battle where opposing ships never fired a shot at each other.
At the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the Japanese set a trap for the US Navy.
But unknown to the Japanese, the US had cracked their code, and knew what was coming. US dive bombers found the enemy carriers while they were changing the bombs on the planes, and wreaked havoc. By the end of the battle, the Japanese had lost 4 aircraft carriers, a cruiser, and 250 planes.
One Japanese official said the Americans “had avenged Pearl Harbor.”
In the Philippines, General Douglas MacArthur had said “I shall return” as he fled the island in 1941. When he did return in 1944, it was as a conquering hero.
The US Marines in the Pacific practiced “Island Hopping:” taking some Japanese held islands, while by-passing others.
Most famously, the Marines fought over desolate Iwo Jima, killing 20,000 Japanese soldiers and losing 6,000.
But finally, they raised the flag on top of Mount Suribachi.
Then, in April 1945, the US Marines invaded Okinawa, close enough to Japan for US bombers to launch raids on the mainland of Japan.
The Japanese fought ferociously for the island, killing 7,600 Americans. But the Japanese had lost a staggering 110,000 men defending it.
At Okinawa, the Japanese unleashed a new weapon: suicide pilots in bomb-laden planes called “kamikaze.” 1,900 of them attacked US ships, sinking 30, damaging 300, and killing 5,000 sailors.
New President Truman had a tough decision to make. Thanks to the Manhattan Project (thank you Oak Ridge, Tennessee) the US now had a working atomic bomb. His choice was to order a deadly and costly amphibious assault of the mainland of Japan, or to use this powerful, overwhelming weapon in hopes of speeding Japan’s surrender.
August 6, 1945, a US bomber called the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb called “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
90,000 people were instantly killed.
But still the Japanese refused to surrender. So three days later, on August 9, another was dropped on Nagasaki, leveling the city and killing another 40,000. By the end of the year, an estimated 200,000 people had died from injuries and radiation poisoning.
September 2, 1945, World War II ended when Japan surrendered to the US. America would occupy Japan for over 7 years.
Millions were dead. Billions of dollars were spent. An untold amount of damage was done. But World War II was over.
In its wake, the Nuremburg Trials were held, and Hitler’s followers were convicted for crimes against humanity.
The ineffective League of Nations was replaced by the slightly more effective United Nations, which is still in power today.
And once allies, the US and the Soviet Union would fight a nearly 50-year Cold War against each other, spending billions of dollars in a colossal arms race.