History 12 World War 2 European Front Cindy Cullen 2014
Japanese Invasion and Occupation of Mainland China 1937 The pink region shows Japanese occupied land prior to 1937 and the red shows Japanese actions in 1937. Nanking is in the bottom red semi- circle. Although most sources consider Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 to be the start of World War 2, some historians contend that the war actually started two years earlier with Japan’s invasion of mainland China (a follow-up to their 1931 invasion of Manchuria). Japanese troops brutalized Chinese coastal cities, and carried out a horrific massacre of the citizens of Nanking, an event that became known as the “Rape of Nanking”. The invasion of China increased tensions between the American and Japanese governments and prompted the American refusal to sell oil to Japan.
German Invasion of Poland Sept 1, 1939 The Poles even tried a cavalry charge against the German tanks On September 1st, 1939, one week after Hitler signed his non-aggression pact with Stalin, German troops attacked Poland, using the new blitzkrieg strategy. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany but they did not send troops. The Polish army fought hard but was no match for the Germans, and Poland surrendered within 3 weeks of the initial invasion.
The German blitzkrieg tactic was a concentrated all-out offensive along a weak link to try to overwhelm the opposition into a quick surrender. The Luftwaffe would launch an aerial attack and drop paratroopers behind enemy lines to cut communication links and secure key bridges or airports. Well-organized tanks and trucks with troops would advance quickly as artillery pounded the defending positions. Speed and precision were key elements to the success of blitzkrieg (lightning war).
The map shows how Germany invaded Poland from several different locations, while the Soviet Union moved in to occupy the eastern part of the country.
The Phoney War Sept 1939-April 1940 British children were instructed how to put on gas masks to prepare against possible future German attacks with chemical weapons Although Allied nations such as Britain, France and Canada declared war on Germany in September, 1940, they did not launch military action against Germany, and Germany did not attack western Europe. This time period became known as the Phoney War or “sitzkrieg” (a pun on the German blitzkrieg). Germany continued to develop its military power and the Allied countries also increased production of military supplies.
Fall of Norway April 1940 Note the protected harbor at Narvik and its proximity to the Swedish border. After 9 months of inactivity (the Phoney War), Germany attacked Denmark and Norway in April, 1940. The Germans heavily bombed the Norwegian coastline, dropped paratroopers to capture key strategic points, and sent in troops to occupy the country. Germany now had coastal bases to launch their U boats and gained control of the port of Narvik, which meant they could continue to access iron ore from Sweden. British PM Neville Chamberlain resigned after the German conquest of Norway and was replaced by Winston Churchill.
Dunkirk Evacuation May-June 1940 On May 10th, Germany invaded France, Holland and Belgium, and made quick progress. By May 27th, 340,00 British and French troops had been pushed back to the coastal town of Dunkirk. Hitler decided to halt the tank advance, allegedly because of the unsuitable terrain, and opted for Luftwaffe air bombings. Churchill enacted Operation Dynamo, whereby 200,000 British and 140,000 French soldiers were rescued from the beaches by small boats that ferried them to larger naval ships that transported the men back to England. The saving of the British army was a major triumph, but huge amounts of military equipment was left behind to be used by the Germans, which meant the British would need more time to build up their arsenal.
Note the location of Dunkirk in Northern France, close to the Belgian border.
Small ships transporting British soldiers to the larger naval vessels
Abandoned British equipment left behind on the beach of Dunkirk. Many Germans considered Dunkirk a strategic victory despite the escape of the British army because of the vast quantities of military vehicles, weapons and ammunition they were able to acquire.
Italy Attacks Egypt: September 1940 Italy had not officially entered the war initially when Germany attacked Poland, Nor when the Germans continued their assault on western Europe in the spring of After the fall of France, Mussolini decided the time was right for the Italian army to attack the British colony of Egypt. They experienced some initial success but were soon pushed back by the British and in February 1941, Hitler ordered some German troops to North Africa to assist the Italians. Some historians suggest that this delayed the launch of Operation Barbarossa and drew men and resources away from the eastern front.
Battle of Britain After France’s surrender in June, 1940, Hitler turned his attention to Britain, the last European country still left fighting. The first stage of Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Britain, was to defeat the RAF (Royal Air Force) to pave the way for the transport of troops across the English Channel. The Luftwaffe sent bombers to target ports, radar stations, air bases, and aircraft factories and later included cities such as London. The British defended with Spitfire and Hurricane planes. The British and Allied pilots were able to hold off the German attacks (although both sides lost many planes and pilots) and Hitler decided to indefinitely postpone the invasion plans.
The new British radar stations helped to detect incoming Luftwaffe planes and were a significant factor in the failure of Operation Sea Lion.
Operation Barbarossa In June, 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa and a huge invasion force utilized the blitzkrieg tactic to surprise the Soviets. Hitler hoped to gain natural resources and further living space from the USSR, as well as to gain more slave labourers. The offensive was intended as a three pronged attack: Army Group North would take the Baltic ports along the northern coastline and move on to Leningrad, Army Group Central would advance to Moscow, and Army Group South would take the Ukraine and the Caucasus oil fields. Later the plan was amended to divert part of AMS to Stalingrad.
Pearl Harbour Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbour in Honolulu, Hawaii. Their goal was to destroy the Pacific naval fleet to allow Japan free access to invade Asian countries without interference. They were also angry that the Americans had organized an embargo on oil exports to Japan in response to the Japanese actions in China. The Japanese were successful in causing major damage, but did not destroy several American aircraft carriers that were out of the harbour. USA immediately declared war on both Japan and Germany.
Battle of El Alamein: November, 1942 The Battle of El Alamein was fought in Egypt and the British troops under Montgomery’s command defeated Rommel and his German troops. This was a significant victory that prevented the Germans from seizing the Suez Canal and gaining access to oil from the Middle East. Soon after, the Americans launched Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, and by June of 1943, the Italian-German army had surrendered and the African campaign was over.
Japanese Conquests Dec. 1941-May 1942 After Pearl Harbour, the Japanese continued to strike at Asian targets along the Pacific coast and took a number of nations or territory including Hong Kong, French Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos),Malaya, Burma, Singapore, the Philippines, and the Dutch East Indies.
After the fall of the British naval base at Singapore in February 1942, the Americans took control of the Pacific campaign and introduced the strategy of leap-froggingor island hopping, whereby they would target less heavily defended Japanese islands and then try to cut off supply routes to the more heavily fortified ones. This was intended both to reduce American casualties and lower Japanese morale.
Doolittle Raid April 1942 American plane takes off from the USS Hornet as part of the Doolittle raid. US General Doolittle was instructed to launch a bombing attack on Tokyo as payback for Pearl Harbour and American planes dropped a number of bombs on the capital, killing approximately 50 Japanese citizens and causing minor damage. The Japanese leaders were outraged and carried out brutal reprisals against hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians. They decided to try to seize the US military base on the island of Midway to intercept any future American air attacks as well as to try to find and sink the American aircraft carriers. The Japanese discussed these plans in coded radio messageswhich were intercepted and deciphered by American intelligence officers.
Battle of Coral Sea May 1942 Encouraged by their overwhelming early success in the Pacific, Japanese leaders made plans to invade northern Australia. The Japanese fleet was defeated by the American navy in a fierce battle in the Coral Sea and the Japanese called off their invasion of Australia.
Battle of Midway June 1942 The Battle of Midway is considered by many people to be the turning point of the Pacific campaign. American planes spotted Japanese aircraft carriers and sank four of the massive ships, while the Americans only lost one of their own carriers, the Yorktown. The Japanese no longer had the naval strength to maintain their offensive supremacy in the Pacific, although they continued to fight for several more years.
Battle of Stalingrad Sept 1942- Jan 1943 The oil fields of the Caucasus Mountains were the original target of German Army Group South during Operation Barbarossa but Hitler changed his mind and ordered half of AGS to take Stalingrad. The Battle of Stalingrad was a brutal 4 month battle in southern USSR and was the first major defeat of the Germans in WW2. The Germans carpet bombed the city which created conditions ideal for urban warfare, which the Russians used to their advantage. Although the Germans held the early advantage, the cold winter conditions, combined with lack of food and supplies, contributed to their downfall and eventually the Red Army prevailed. The Germans lost over 300,000 soldiers during this battle.
German bombing destroyed most of the buildings but created ideal conditions for urban warfare, which favored the defenders.
Scorched Earth Policy Another factor in the failure of Operation Barbarossa was Stalin’s scorched earth policy, whereby he ordered villagers to destroy items of potential use to the advancing German troops. Civilians took whatever food, clothing, and animals they could manage in their evacuation to the east, and then burned homes and crops, killed livestock, and even contaminated their wells before they left. The Germans used the same strategy during their retreat back towards Germany. Although this policy can be considered a military success, it created suffering and death for many Russian civilians.
Invasion of Sicily July 1943 Allied troops invaded Sicily as the “soft underbelly of Europe” and quickly advanced to the Italian mainland. Italy officially surrendered in September, 1943 and King Victor Emmanuel ordered Mussolini’s arrest and removal from power. Italy even changed sides and declared war on Germany in October of that same year. However, Hitler deployed hundreds of thousands more German troops to defend the territory, and fighting continued for the rest of the war.
British soldiers coming ashore on a beach of Sicily. The men with shovels are helping to build rough roads to transport the troops and equipment.
Mussolini was freed from prison by German commandos in 1943 and brought back to Germany. Hitler hoped to arrest King Victor Emmanuel and restore Mussolini to power, but this never occurred and Mussolini established a puppet fascist government in northern Italy for the rest of the war. In 1945, Mussolini was captured by Italian communists in northern Italy while trying to escape to Switzerland on route to Spain. He and his mistress were shot and suspended upside-down by their ankles on public display.
Battle of Kursk 1943 The Battle of Kursk was the largest tank battle of WW2 and took place in southern Russia in the summer of 1943. The Germans launched the major attack but were eventually overcome by the Soviets and lost 2000 tanks and 70,000 men. This defeat signified the failure of Operation Barbarossa and was the last large German offensive along the Eastern Front.
Firebombing of Hamburg, July 1943 The Allied Bomber Command pounded German cities in a series of attacks that caused great damage, as well as civilian suffering. In July, 1943, 9000 tons of firebombs (containing napalm and phosphorus) devastated Hamburg and killed approximately 40,000 civilians.
D Day Invasion: June 6th 1944 D Day, or Operation Overlord, was the largest Allied invasion of World War 2 and involved over 600, 000 British, American and Canadian troops. The ships took off from Portsmouth and targeted one of five main beaches: Omaha and Utah by the Americans, Sword and Torch by the British, and Juno by the Canadians. The naval assault was supported by artillery attacks from the air and sea, and paratroopers who landed behind German lines to disrupt communication and transportation links. There were high casualties and brutal fighting on both sides, but the Allies successfully established themselves on French soil and began to gradually fight their way eastward.
American General Patton Allied Deception for D Day Dummy troop truck The Allies went to elaborate lengths to trick the Germans about the planned location of the invasion and set up a decoy army at Dover, across from Calais, the shortest route to France. They even stationed top American general George Patton (in disgrace at the time for slapping a soldier) at Dover to further convince Hitler that the main invasion force was situated there. Dummy inflatable Sherman tank
Allied troops got close to the beach in small landing craft and then waded ashore to the beaches. Many soldiers were shot or drowned before reaching land.
Mulberries The Allies used floating harbours known as mulberries to make up for the lack of natural ports along the beaches of Normandy. These could be towed across the English Channel, snapped together at the desired location, and used to transport vehicles such as trucks and tanks ashore. Scuttled ships were used to provide support, but they still were not designed to withstand major storms and were intended only as a temporary apparatus.
Battle of Leyte Gulf October 1944 Leyte Gulf was the greatest naval battle in history where the Japanese navy lost 27 major warships and the Americans lost 6. This was also the first time that Japanese kamikaze (suicide) pilots crashed their planes into American ships. This battle cut off Japan from its important supply of oil from the Dutch East Indies.
Battle of the Bulge: Dec. 1944 The Battle of the Bulge was the final major German offensive of World War 2. German tanks and troops advanced through the Ardennes to attack the Americans who were caught by surprise. The Germans had initial success but the Americans held the strategic city of Bastogne and by January 1945, the offensive was over. This battle used up the last reserves of German planes and tanks and meant they would no longer be able to significantly challenge the Allies. However, the offensive did slow down the American advance and allowed the Russian Red Army to reach Berlin first.
Battle of Iwo Jima Feb-Mar. 1945 Pulitzer Prize winning photo from Iwo Jima American forces landed on the island of Iwo Jima in February 1945 and were met with tremendous resistance from the Japanese defenders, who had created bunkers in the cliffs. only 216 of the 50,000 defenders were taken alive: every other person either died fighting or committed suicide rather than be captured, including some civilians who jumped off cliffs. 60,000 Americans died in the brutal conflict.
Battle of Okinawa April-June 1945 Okinawa was another site of brutal island fighting where the Japanese defenders fought fanatically and refused to surrender. The Americans successfully captured the island but 100,000 Japanese soldiers and 12,000 US marines died in battle. The occupation of Okinawa meant that the Americans now had a base close enough to launch an invasion of Japan. The battle also showed how determined the Japanese were to defend their territory and made President Truman realize how difficult it would be conquer Japan by traditional fighting methods and how many lives would be lost.
In July, 1945, Dresden was firebombed by the Allies, killing approximately 40,000 civilians and devastating the historical and cultural city that had remained remarkably untouched during the war. Some people consider this event controversial as Dresden Was not considered a major industrial centre and the city contained many refugees who had fled the Red Army approaching from the east.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki Aug 6th, Aug 9th 1945 The Americans and certain other allies had been developing a new secret nuclear weapon through the Manhattan Project. President Harry Truman authorized the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and three days later a second nuclear bomb to be released on Nagasaki. These bombs killed close to 200,000 civilians and were the most significant factor in the Japanese leaders agreeing to surrender.
The Japanese agreed to surrender once President Truman granted the concession that Emperor Hirohito could remain on the throne. Japanese officials signed the surrender papers September 2, 1945, aboard the American naval ship the USS Missouri.
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