1. Causes of World War II:
In his book entitled “The Second World War”, Cyril Falls says that the World War II was essentially a war revenge initiated by Germany German National Socialism stood first and foremost for revenge.
The other aims, the ‘living room’ to be obtained by the subjugation of neighbouring states, the absorption of all Teutonic or so-called Teutonic population
The colonisation of agricultural districts like the Ukraine, the control of all major industries in Europe, were either the means of consolidating the revenge once achieved, or the expression of purely predatory instinct such as had always flourished in Prussia and were later on diffused all over Germany Hitler stood for rearmament and revenge and then for loot and German domination.
(1) The Treaty of Versailles had in itself the germs of the war of 1939. Germany was very badly treated. She was forced to sign the Treaty at the point of bayonet and the Treaty itself was based on the spirit of revenge. Germany was deprived of her colonies and concessions abroad. She was deprived of her territories in Europe. She was cut into two parts by the establishment of the Polish Corridor.
Her navy was completely destroyed. Her army was reduced to an insignificant position. She was deprived of her coal and steel resources and was burdened with reparations which it was impossible for her to pay. Her soil was occupied by the foreign troops to enforce the provisions of the Treaty. The Allied Troops stationed on the German soil did not behave properly towards the people and created unhappy memories.
The French occupation of the Ruhr Valley added insult to injury. The result was that the problems facing the newly created Republic of Germany were so big that it was impossible for her statesmen to cope with them. The democratic states of Western Europe did nothing to help the Weimar Republic to strengthen her hold over the people and she had to meet opposition, often armed, of the extremists from the Right and the Left.
On account of its own nationalistic outlook and reliance on the army, the German Republic was more severe with the Radicals than with the reactionaries. The foundations of democracy in Germany remained as weak as they could be. The political extremists enjoyed legal protection under the Weimar constitution although they themselves did not bother about the legal niceties.
The introduction of proportional representation multiplied the number of political parties in the country and made the ministries unstable. The people of Germany demanded a revision of the Treaty but there was no possibility of getting it done on account of opposition of France which considered the Peace Settlement of 1919-20 as the only tangible guarantee of security. France felt that any concession given to Germany would weaken the whole structure, and hence refused a revision of the Treaty which alone could satisfy the Germans.
The Weimar Republic struggled hard to cope with the situation; but ultimately it lost the fight. It was under these circumstances that the Nazi Party began to gain ground on the German soil p .id in January 1933 Hitler, its leader, was appointed the Chancellor. To begin with the Nazis followed a very cautious policy and tried to silence the suspicions of the other powers with regard to their future programme of action.
Hitler took pains to emphasise that he stood for peace and to prove his bona fides, he entered into a Treaty with Poland in 1934 and with England in 1935. When there was a revolt in Austria in 1934, Hitler denied that he had any hand in it The Saar Plebiscite held in 1935 went in favour of Germany. However, after having consolidated their position at home and strengthened their military resources, the Nazis began to unfold their inner aims and objects. The Rhineland was occupied in March 1936. Austria was annexed in 1938.
The Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia were encouraged to demand their union with Germany and Hitler openly backed their demands. As Great Britain had already guaranteed military support to Czechoslovakia there was every possibility of a war.
However, Chamberlain went personally to Germany and ultimately by the Munich Pact, Czechoslovakia was forced to submit to the demands of Germany. War was avoided at the cost of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia although Chamberlain claimed that he had brought “peace with honour.” Although there was some relief at the idea that war had been averted, many agreed with the view of Churchill that the Munich Agreement was “a total unmitigated defeat” for Great Britain.
The peace which followed the surrender at Munich lasted hardly for 11 months. In defence of policy of appeasement of Chamberlain it was contended that Great Britain was not at all ready for war. After 1919, she had reduced her military strength to a dangerous point in the name of economy. The British army was short of tanks. Although the Royal Air Force was efficient, it was no match for the German Air Force.
There was no conscription in the country. The training of the second line of national defence, the Territorial Army, was hopelessly inadequate. British statesmen, British publicists and the British nation as a whole, were responsible for the sad state of affairs. No British Government, no political party and no organ of public opinion had demanded that the military defence of the country must be put on a war footing.
The voice of Churchill was the solitary voice in the wilderness. The British public opinion and her statesmen ought to have stopped Hitler when he ordered the German troops to march into the Rhineland in March 1936. They ought to have intervened on the occasion of Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the Italian conquest of Abyssinia. They ought not to have allowed Hitler to annex Austria without risking a war.
Even in the case of Czechoslovakia, the British Government ought to have adopted a policy of “no surrender”. As it was, Hitler and his other partners in the Berlin- Rome-Tokyo Axis were allowed to have their conquests without any let or hindrance.
Such an attitude was bound to create an unfortunate impression in the minds of the dictators and encourage them in their aggressive designs. As success followed success, with little more than verbal interference, they same bolder and bolder. They saw no point in stopping when it was so easy to go on.
After the annexation of the rest of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, Hitler concentrated his attention on Danzig and the Polish Corridor. He followed the old technique of press campaign in which the atrocities of the Poles over the Germans were condemned.
On 31 March 1939, Chamberlain declared that Great Britain and France would help Poland if she was attacked by Germany. However, Hitler defied the warning and threatened the Poles with dire consequences if they continued to be obstinate.
In April 1939, Great Britain and France guaranteed the independence of Greece and Rumania. Mussolini annexed Albania in April 1939. President Roosevelt appealed on 15 April 1939 to both Hitler and Mussolini to help the cause of peace by giving a 10-year pledge of non-aggression against certain states, but his request was rejected. On 28 April 1939, Germany denounced her naval agreement of 1935 with Great Britain.
She also denounced the non-aggression Pact of 1934 with Poland and demanded the return of Danzig and the right to construct and maintain a rail and motor road across the Polish Corridor to East Prussia. Poland rejected those demands on 5 May 1939.
On 22 May 1939, Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Germany, and Ciano, Foreign Minister of Italy, signed a 10-year alliance at Berlin which provided for diplomatic cooperation and consultation, collaboration in the field of war economy and immediate military aid in case any of the two powers was involved in a war. Germany also signed non-aggression pacts with Denmark, Estonia and Latvia. On 23 August 1939, Soviet Russia and Germany entered into a non-aggression Pact by which they agreed not to resort to war against each other.
They were not to support any third power in the event of a war in which one of the signatory powers was involved. Both the states were to consult each other on all matters of common interest and refrain from associating with any group or powers aimed at the other. This pact was a master-stroke of German diplomacy, as thereby Germany was able to avoid a war on two fronts. Soviet Russia agreed to sign the pact because she was disgusted with the attitude of Great Britain and France, and she herself was not so strong as to stand alone against Germany.
After the signing of non-aggression pact between Germany and Soviet Russia, events began to move rapidly. The German and Polish newspapers were already publishing stories of atrocities committed by each other. Hitler bewailed that his “racial comrades” in Poland were being brutally treated. Military preparations were given the final touches. Stories of atrocities were multiplied and boosted. Hitler began to thunder against Poland with greater and greater vehemence. The world was passing through breathless days.
It was in this atmosphere that Germany asked Great Britain on 29 August 1939 that she must arrange to have a Polish delegate with full powers to negotiate in Berlin on the next day. The reply of Great Britain was that the demand was unreasonable and impracticable and the time was not sufficient for that purpose. Germany was asked to submit her demand on Poland through the Polish ambassador.
When Ribbentrop got this reply from the British Ambassador at midnight, he is stated to have read out at top speed in German language his 16 demands whose acceptance alone could avoid the war. Sir Neville Henderson, the British Ambassador in Berlin, asked for a copy of those demands and the reply of Ribbentrop was that “it was now too late as Polish representative had not arrived in Berlin by midnight”.
On 31 August 1939, the German Government broadcast her 16 demands. However, when the Polish ambassador in Berlin tried to communicate those demands to his country, he could not do so as all communications between Poland and Germany were cut off. The German Government declared that the Polish Government had failed to send their representative and also refused to accept the demands within the stipulated time.
Without declaring war against Poland, the German bombers began to rain bombs on Polish cities and German troops invaded the Polish soil on 1 September 1939. In justification of his action, Hitler declared that “no other means is left to me than to meet force with force.”
(1) An ultimatum was sent by Great Britain to Germany requiring the withdrawal of German forces from Poland. Its disregard was followed by the British declaration of war on 3 September 1939 and within a few hours France also declared war against Germany. Hitler’s interpreter Paul Schmidt later described how the Fuhrer received the news of Britain’s ultimatum.
To quote him, “When I had completed my translation, there was silence at first….. For a while, Hitler sat in his chair deep in thought and started rather worriedly into space. Then he broke his silence with…’What are we going to do now’?” That same Sunday morning, Prime Minister Chamberlain broadcast the news that Britain was at war with Germany.
To quote him, “We have a clear conscience, we have done all that any country could do to establish peace, but a situation in which no word given by Germany’s ruler could be trusted, and no people or country could feel themselves safe, had become intolerable For it is evil things we shall be fighting against, brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression, and persecution. But against them I am certain that the right will prevail.”
(2) Another cause of the war was Japanese imperialism. The ambitions of Japan had increased during the World War I. Although both Japan and China had fought on the side of the Allies during the World War I, Japan, was allowed to have many concessions after the war at the expense of China. Japan began to develop her navy. All the emphasis was put on the military strength of the country. By 1931, Japan had become so strong that she intervened in Manchuria and in spite of the protests in the League of Nations, she conquered and occupied Manchuria.
However, that did not satisfy the Japanese ambitions. In July 1937, there started a war between China and Japan although no formal declaration of war was made. One by one the Chinese towns fell into the hands of Japan. Not only Peking, but Nanking also fell before the Japanese forces.
When the World War II broke out in September 1939, the Sino-Japanese war was still in progress. In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. Earlier, she had joined the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis. Pan-Japanese programme of expansion and conquest was bound to result in war and peace was impossible in such circumstances.
(3) Another cause of the War was the rise of dictatorships in Europe. Although Hitler tried to assure the world that he meant peace, he could not conceal his real ambition for long. Very soon, he embarked upon a career of aggression which ultimately led to war. The same was the case with Mussolini who had established his dictatorship in Italy in 1922. Mussolini and his Fascist followers boasted of reviving the glory of the old Roman Empire.
He was responsible for the conquest and annexation of Abyssinia in 1936. The Italian volunteers went to Spain to help General Franco and were successful in their mission. Italy joined the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1937 and thus the Berlin-Rome- Tokyo Axis came into existence. In May 1939 Italy entered into a 10-year alliance with Germany. In the presence of Axis Powers there could be no peace in the world and no wonder the war came.
(4) There was also a conflict of ideologies between dictatorships on the one hand and democracies on the other. Countries like Germany, Italy and Japan represented one kind of ideology and Great Britain, France and the United States represented another. Mussolini described the conflict between the two ideologies thus, “The struggle between the two worlds can permit no compromise. Either we or they”. Basically the distinction between the two ideologies lay in their different attitude towards the individual in the State. In the case of democracy, the individual was regarded as the creator and the beneficiary of all the state activities.
He could be interfered with only when his acts were prejudicial to the interests of other individuals. Under a totalitarian regime, the individual did not figure anywhere. He was to be merged in the state and sacrificed for the sake of the state. The two ideologies also differed in spiritual, territorial and economic matters. The democratic states stood for the maintenance of the status quo in political and territorial matters and were designated as the “Haves”.
They had no immediate expansionist aims. On the other hand, the Axis states were called the “Have-nots”. On grounds of prestige and strategy, they demanded additional territories. Japan was land-hungry and she was determined to establish her supremacy in the Far East. She was not prepared to accept any compromise and was willing to fight with any country which dared to intervene in her sphere of influence.
The same was the case with Germany and Italy. Hitler not only demanded the return of the colonies which had been snatched away from Germany after the World War I, but he also asked for more territories so that Germany could stand on the same footing as the colonial powers like Great Britain and France. The Germans under Hitler could not understand why Great Britain and France should have great colonial empires and they should have nothing.
They considered themselves to be a ‘Master Race’ and were not prepared to put up with the limitations placed on them and no wonder they were willing to risk a war to achieve their objectives. On the eve of the War in 1939, the world was divided into two armed camps viz., the Axis world and the non-Axis world. Co-existence was impossible between the two camps and one of them had to go tinder. A conflict was absolutely inevitable under the circumstances.
(5) Another cause of the war was the weakness of the democratic states and a sense of over- confidence in their strength among the Axis powers. Soon after the Peace Settlement of 1919-20, Great Britain and France began to drift apart from each other.
Great Britain began to follow a policy of aloofness from European politics and refused to accept any commitment for the preservation of peace. She was bothered more about her business and trade than about the foreign affairs of Europe.
She thought that she was more to gain from the economic recovery of Germany than by quarrelling over the question of reparations, war debts, occupation of the Rhineland, armaments, etc. However, that was not the case with France. After winning victory over Germany, France began to dread Germany. She felt that while the German population was increasing, her own population was declining. Under the circumstances, in the event of a future war, Germany was bound to have the upper hand.
There was also the possibility of Germany having her revenge for her humiliation of 1919. France asked for guarantees from Great Britain and the United States and when she failed to get them, she entered into military alliances with countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, etc. Unfortunately, her alliances were more of liabilities than assets and no wonder she did not enjoy a sense of security.
Under the circumstances, she continued to oppose every effort to revise the Peace Settlement in any way. In 1935, she entered into an alliance with Soviet Russia and made an agreement with Italy but in spite of that, she did not find herself safe and ultimately decided to throw in her lot with Great Britain. Great Britain herself was not ready for war and consequently up to 1938, nothing could be done to stop the aggressors.
If the democratic states had been ready for a war when the Axis powers launched upon a career of aggression, there is reason to believe that a check could have been put on them. However, that was not to be. The weakness of their military strength and the division in the ranks of the democratic states encouraged the Axis Powers. It was too late in the day for them to retrace their steps in 1939 even when they found that the democratic states also meant business and were determined to resist further aggression.
The policy of appeasement also contributed towards war. The various concessions made to Hitler and Mussolini from time to time convinced them that Great Britain and France would never fight whatever the provocation. It was this feeling which encouraged them on the war path. They could not believe that Great Britain could come to the help of Poland when the latter was attacked by Germany.
(6) It was realised by the statesmen of Europe that militarism was one of the important causes of the World War I. It was with that idea in their minds that the League of Nations was established with the primary object of maintaining peace in the world and lessening the causes of tension. The Treaty of Versailles disarmed Germany and it was expected that the other powers would follow suit.
As a matter of fact, Great Britain began to disarm herself gradually and she followed that policy to a dangerous point of national security. France was asked to do likewise but she refused to do so on the ground of national security. The same was the case with the other countries of Europe.
Disarmament Conferences were summoned and very earnest attempts were made to arrive at some workable arrangement, but those efforts were not crowned with success. The result was that when Hitler came to power in Germany he decided to scrap those clauses of the Treaty of Versailles which put limitations on German armaments.
The German air force began to grow and came to be recognised as one of the strongest air forces in Europe. In 1935, conscription was introduced in Germany. The Rhineland was occupied by the German troops in March 1936. All these steps were on the road to militarism. The same was the case in Japan and Italy.
The military preparations of the Axis Powers forced the democratic states to arm themselves. That was particularly so after the Munich surrender in September 1938. Militarism in both the camps was bound to result ultimately in an armed conflict.
(7) Unfortunately, when hostility was growing between the two camps there was no effective international organisation which could bring the leaders of the two camps on a common platform and bring about reconciliation between them. The League of Nations was practically dead. It had ceased to exist as an effective force after her failure on the question of Manchuria and Abyssinia.
Both big and small states lost their confidence in that international organisation and the only alternative left was that the parties should have a trial of strength by an armed conflict. It was unfortunate that the very people who could have worked for the success of the League were not honest and sincere in their actions.
They all tried to use the League to serve their personal ends. Prime Minister Lloyd George tried to utilise the League as an “alternative to Bolshevism”. In the words of Clemenceau, the best use of the League was as “Instrument for perpetuating the Peace Settlement”.
To Germany, the League was a “grouping of the victorious imperialist powers and all secondary states assembled to preserve the fruits of their victory and to maintain the status quo.” To Soviet Russia, the League was “a forum of the imperialists assembled to thwart her new civilisation”.
Gaetano Salvemini says, “The history of the League of Nations between World War I and the World War II was a history of the devices, ruses, deceptions, frauds, tricks and trappings by means of which the very diplomats who were pledged to operate the Covenant of the League managed to circumvent and stultify it. They were its most effective foes since they were undermining it from within, while nationalists, militarists and Fascists were attacking it openly from without in all lands”.
(8) Another cause of the war was the economic needs and material interests of the European powers. It was a struggle for raw materials, markets for exports and colonies for increasing population which had partly brought about the war of 1914 and that struggle did not end then but continued and became even more acute. Both Germany and Italy were struggling hard to acquire colonies for raw materials and markets for surplus goods.
Both of them were equally dissatisfied after the war. Germany was deprived of all that she had and Italy felt that she was not given at the Peace Conference what had been promised to her by the secret Treaty of London of 1915. The same was true of Japan. Germany, Italy and Japan were the poorest in natural resources.
The bulk of undeveloped and underdeveloped regions of the world had been occupied by Great Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States. Out of the 25 essential raw materials and minerals, there were in British Empire adequate supplies of 18 while Germany possessed only 4. The condition of Italy was still worse. She had virtually no coal, little oil and only small iron resources. Japan had no resources in oil, insufficient coal and iron and no surplus land for her ever-increasing population.
During the period of pacification from 1925 to 1929, these countries found markets for their finished goods and also got raw materials. However, the situation was radically changed as a result of the economic crisis. Almost all the countries resorted to a policy of protection to save their own industries.
Everywhere the cry raised was “Buy at home”. International trade came to a standstill. Germany, Italy and Japan suffered terribly. High tariff walls, quotas and embargoes caused wide-spread distress, particularly in the countries which did not possess the raw materials required for their industries.
A feeling of economic suffocation was created on account of the non-availability of raw materials and the absence of markets for manufactured goods. It is these circumstances that brought Germany, Italy and Japan together and they embarked upon a course of aggression. Japan invaded Manchuria, Italy occupied Abyssinia and Germany started a long course of aggression which ultimately led to the World War II.
(9) Another cause of the World War was the dissatisfaction of the national minorities. It is true that the Allied Powers had committed themselves to the principle of self-determination, but in actual practice that principle was not always applied. In the words of Robert Engang, “Its application was conditioned by such factors as economic necessity, military defence; religious and political traditions and punishment of the defeated nations.” In some areas of Central Europe, the principle could be applied as the national minorities were intermixed in such a way that the drawing of clear-cut frontiers was not possible.
The result was that the members of one nationality were included in the boundaries of other states in which they were in a minority. It is these minority groups which became the hot-beds of discontent and dissatisfaction. They were encouraged by propaganda from the countries in which the people of their own nationality lived and they demanded their reunion with their mother country or full autonomy.
They asked, “If it is true that World War I was fought for the self-determination of nationalities, why was Austria forbidden to unite with Germany? Why were a large part of Germany put under foreign rule?” Germany under Hitler raised the cry that the Germans were being mercilessly persecuted, and she had every right to liberate them. That served as a convenient pretext for annexing Austria, the Sudetenland and subsequently Poland which led to World War II.
(10) Another cause of the war was the failure of the disarmament efforts. The Peace Settlement of 1919-20 had completely disarmed Germany and the Allied Powers pledged themselves “to apply the same measure to themselves and to open negotiations immediately with a view to adopt eventually a scheme of general reduction.” Many conferences were held inside and outside the League of Nations to achieve the ideal of disarmament, but practically nothing came out of them.
The German Government called upon the Allied Powers to disarm themselves in the same way as she had been disarmed, but the attitude of France was: “Security first; disarmament afterwards.” Security could not be had on account of the conflicting interests of Great Britain and France and hence disarmament was not possible. Lloyd George conceded in 1927, “The nations which had pledged themselves to disarmament had not reduced their armaments by a single division, flight of aero planes or battery of guns.”
The refusal of the Great Powers to disarm themselves gave Hitler a handle to arouse the indignation of his countrymen and assert that “rearmament was the only road to power and national achievement.” It was the German rearmament under Hitler which directly led to the war of 1939.
(11) Another cause of the war was the strong feelings of nationalism prevailing in various countries. The Peace Settlement of 1919-20 was made primarily along national lines. The victorious nations were guided solely by their national interests. They ridiculed internationalism as “sickly and wishy-washy”. In many cases, nationalism at this time was more intolerant than before. In Germany, Italy and Japan, the state was worshipped by the people and was considered to be an end in itself.
Their only motive was the extension of the frontiers of their states. In several cases, the dictators rode to power on a wave of popular nationalist enthusiasm. To retain themselves in power, it was necessary that enthusiasm must be sustained and to do this, they resorted to aggression against other countries. The people in the dependencies and colonies also made common cause with one or the other of the big powers and helped precipitate the war which they thought would weaken the big powers and help them in obtaining their own independence.
2. Course of the War:
The World War I was in a sense the last major traditional war. It was fundamentally fought by foot soldiers and with guns. Tanks and aircrafts were ancillary to the fighting which was essentially static. After weeks of battle, the front would have advanced or receded only a few kilometers. The majority of the civilians were still outside the battle area.
The World War II was utterly a new kind of war. It was a mobile war fought by men enclosed in armored cars, tanks and aircrafts in which the battle line might move 50 or 100 kilometres in a day. Millions of civilians were involved as tanks crashed through their towns and dive-bombers dropped bombs containing from ½ to 10 tonnes of TNT equivalent on them.
Only six European countries remained neutral viz., Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. Britain escaped invasion in 1940 by a hair’s breadth. Every other European country with the partial exception of Russia was either occupied or controlled by the Germans and most of them experienced bitter fighting on their soil.
The refusal of Poland to surrender resulted in the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. In spite of stiff resistance put up by the Poles, they were completely defeated. When the Germans were smashing the Polish resistance, the Russians also invaded Poland from the East. The result was that after its conquest, Poland was divided between Germany and Russia.
In the autumn of 1939, Russia attacked Finland. She demanded a part of Finnish territory on the ground that its possession was necessary for the safety of Leningrad. Russia had no faith in German professions of peace and friendship and consequently was trying to take all the necessary precautions. It was feared that Germany might conquer Finland and thereby endanger the safety of Russia.
The Russians conquered the regions they wanted and ultimately made peace with Finland. Russia also annexed the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. In April 1940, German troops occupied Denmark. Norway was also occupied after some resistance. In May 1940, Holland and Belgium were attacked and conquered. France was attacked by Germany from the side of Belgium and when Great Britain feared that her army might be entrapped, she evacuated her troops.
After the evacuation of the British troops from Dunkirk, France could not stand against the might of Germany and she surrendered in June 1940. After the collapse of France, Italy also joined the War. Mussolini demanded Nice, Savoy and Corsica. After the entry of Italy into the war, the conflict started between Italy and British forces in North Africa. Mussolini attacked Greece, but the attack was a failure. When the Germans joined the Italians, Greece was conquered. Yugoslavia and Crete were occupied by the Germans.
After the fall of Dunkirk, Great Britain was left all alone in Europe. Her Air Force was the finest in Europe in quality, but not in quantity. Hitler could have attacked England in June 1940 when she was still weak but he missed that opportunity. Under the dynamic leadership of Churchill, Great Britain was able to pull herself up. Churchill promised nothing to his countrymen, but “blood and toil and tears and sweat”.
In this historic speech, he made the following declaration, “We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight on the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender.” The people of England responded to the call of their leader.
The slogans of “Who wins if England loses”, and “We are not interested in the possibility of defeat; it does not exist” were raised. The Germans started their attack of Great Britain in right earnest in the autumn of 1940. The technique they intended to adopt was first to destroy the Royal Air Force and then to invade the country. A large number of aircrafts were sent to England for that purpose, but the Royal Air Force was not beaten.
The Battle of Britain proved to be the determining point of the war. A large number of enemy aircrafts were destroyed and ultimately, the German attack began to slow down. Churchill could rightly boast that “Never in the history of mankind did so many owe so much too so few.” The Germans started the bombardment at night of London and other great cities.
A lot of property was destroyed and many Englishmen lost their lives. However, after some time, the Britishers learned the technique of protecting themselves from air raids and after the construction of air-raid shelters, and widespread use of anti-aircraft guns, the losses became less and less. The Royal Air Force also started attacking the ships and docks in the Channel ports of France and Belgium, Holland and Norway, so that the German preparations for the invasion of England might be frustrated.
To begin with, the American view was that the fall of Great Britain was merely a question of time and hence they did not bother themselves about the same. However, in June 1940, a large number of French ships at Oran were destroyed by the British fleet with a view to avoid their being captured by Germany.
The result was that the Vichy Government of France cut off all diplomatic relations with Great Britain, but the battle of Oran impressed the Americans and they began to feel that the boast of Churchill that he wanted to fight the war to the bitter end was not an empty one. Moreover, it began to be realised that it was not wise to ignore the fate of Great Britain as after her conquest the turn of United States was bound to come.
President Roosevelt was moving cautiously on account of the public opinion in the United States, but when he found a change in that attitude in favour of Great Britain, he transferred 50 Destroyers from the American Navy to the British Navy in lieu of the lease of naval and air bases.
In March 1941, the American Congress passed the Lease-Lend Act by which the United States undertook to help those countries which were fighting against Axis Powers. In August 1941, President Roosevelt and Premier Churchill met on board a British battleship in the Atlantic and drafted a document known as the Atlantic Charter in which the war aims were enunciated.
When Russia was attacked by Germany in June 1941, the mission of Cripps to Russia became successful and an agreement was signed between the two countries in July 1941. The United States sent all the necessary war materials to Great Britain and the Soviet Union to fight against Hitler. In December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and that brought the United States into the war.
General MacArthur was made the Supreme Commander in the Pacific and Lord Mountbatten was given the command of South-East Asia with his headquarters at Delhi. Lord Mountbatten drove out the Japanese from Burma and the Philippines were captured by General MacArthur. There was a lot of fighting in Africa between 1941 and 1943. Abyssinia was conquered by the United Nations.
The Italian Somaliland was also conquered. The British forces advanced into Libya up to Benghazi, but were forced to withdraw. In November 1942, the “Desert Rats” of General Montgomery turned out the Germans and Italians from Libya. Montgomery also conquered Tripoli and advanced into Tunisia. An Italian squadron was defeated by a British fleet in the battle of Cape Matapan near the Greek coast. Many a time, the Island of Malta was attacked by the Italians but it managed to hold its own against the enemy to the end and never surrendered.
In November 1942, American and British troops occupied the French colony of Algeria. North Africa was cleared of Italian and German troops in 1943. In the summer of 1943, the Island of Sicily was captured by English and American troops. The mainland of Italy was attacked. There was a revolt in Italy and Mussolini was arrested, but he managed to escape. In September 1943, Italy surrendered unconditionally. Mussolini was captured in 1945 and was shot by the Italians themselves.
In the winter of 1943-44, preparations were made in England under General Eisenhower for the invasion of the continent. He was assisted by General Montgomery and Air Chief Marshal Tedder. A large number of artificial harbours known as “mulberry” were constructed to be towed across the English Channel to the coast of France.
For the supply of petrol to the invading armies, the Pluto or “Pipe Line under the Ocean” was constructed. By this time, the Royal Air Force had become very strong. It had thousands of well-trained pilots. Both the British and American pilots attacked day and night the war targets in Germany and succeeded in paralysing completely the war industries of Germany. The bombing of military targets of Germany struck terror in the hearts of the people and everything was dislocated in Germany.
The Germans expected an invasion of the continent. But could not make out as to where the invasion was to come. Consequently, they tried to protect the whole of the coast-line facing Great Britain. In June 1944, Normandy was attacked. In spite of hard fighting, the troops of the United Nations were able to make a landing on the mainland.
After getting reinforcements, the United Nations were able to capture Paris and also succeeded in driving out the Germans from the French soil. After completing the conquest of Italy, the army of General Alexander invaded France from the South-East and then the South of France was also cleared of the enemy. The army of General Alexander joined that of Eisenhower on the Rhine.
There was a German counter-attack in December 1944 under Rundstedt, but after some success, the same was repulsed. When the armies under General Eisenhower crossed the Rhine and moved towards the Elbe, the Russians also invaded Germany from the East. The Germans could not fight on two fronts and Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler committed suicide and their successors surrendered unconditionally on 7 May 1945.
After the fall of Germany, the United States and Great Britain concentrated their forces against Japan. On 6 August 1945, an atom bomb was thrown on the city of Hiroshima and it is estimated that more than one lakh of persons were destroyed by one single bomb. Japan was asked to surrender and when she refused, another bomb was thrown on 9 August on the city of Nagasaki. On 14 August, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally.
The World War II was over. It had brought about the death of over 50 million people, including 15 million Russians, 6 million Jews, 3,700,000 Germans, 2 million non-Jewish Poles, 1,600,000 Yugoslavs, 1,200,000 Japanese, nearly one million Italians, 600,000 British, 500,000 Rumanians, 300,000 Frenchmen, 292,000 Americans and 22 million Chinese.
At the end of the War, some 13 million Europeans had been killed in battle and 17 million civilians had died as a result of the fighting. Houses, factories and communications had been shattered on a large scale. Nearly all the major German cities were in ruins and 25 million Russians were rendered homeless. Agriculture was disrupted. Food rationing was everywhere. The Allied troops in Germany were forbidden to give away their rations. In the Don region of Russia, people were eating cats, dogs and grass. Fuel was scarce and millions spent the first two post-war winters in un-heated homes.
3. Peace Settlement:
It is not possible to appreciate the post-war peace treaties without a reference to the conferences, declarations and decisions arrived at by the statesmen of the United Nations during and after the World War II. It was in August 1941 that Roosevelt and Churchill met and issued what is known as the Atlantic Charter.
They pledged themselves to seek no aggrandizement from the War, to respect the rights of all peoples to self-determination, to promote the enjoyment by all of free access to markets and raw materials of the world, to persist in the destruction of Nazi tyranny and seek universal disarmament and peace.On 1 January 1942 was issued the United Nations declaration by which the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and China pledged themselves to employ all their resources for the destruction of the Axis Powers and their satellites.
In January 1943, Roosevelts, Churchill and their military staffs met at Casablanca. In October, 1943 was held a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the United States, Great Britain and Soviet Russia. In November 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek met at Cairo to plan the defeat of Japan. The Teheran Conference was attended by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
It was there that the final plans for victory over Germany were prepared by them along with their Chiefs of Military Staffs and a communique was issued on 1 December 1943. In February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met at Yalta in Crimea and they made decisions regarding Germany, Poland and Japan. After the fall of Germany, the Berlin or Potsdam Conference was held from 17 July to 2 August 1945. It was attended by Stalin, President Truman and Prime Minister Attlee.
It was decided to set up a Council of Foreign Ministers to do the preparatory work for the Peace Settlement. The Council was to draw up treaties of peace with Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland. After about 15 months of preparatory work, the peace treaties were given a final shape by the 21 participating countries and they were signed on 10 February 1947, in Pans by the representatives of the five enemy states and the Allied Powers.
4. Pace Settlement and Italy:
As regards Italy, she was to give to France small districts in the regions of Little St. Bernard, Mont Thabor, Chaberton, Mont Ceins, Tenda and Briga. She was to give Zara, Pelagosa, Lagosta and other islands along the Dalmatian coast to Yugoslavia. The Istrian Peninsula and most of the remainder of the province of Venetia, Giulia, with Trieste were to become a “Free Territory” to be governed under a statute approved by the Security Council.
For 9 years, the city was a focal point of tension between the Communists and the Western Powers and in 1954, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia agreed that Trieste could return to Italy. Italy was to give to Greece the Rhodes and other Dodecanese Islands. She was to give up her sovereignty over her African colonies and recognise the independence of Albania and Ethiopia. She was to submit to the demilitarisation of frontiers with France and Yugoslavia.
She was not to have atomic weapons, guided missiles and guns with range over 30 Kms. She was not to have mines, torpedoes, aircraft-carriers, submarines, etc. She was not to have more than 200 heavy medium tanks. Her navy was reduced to two battleships, 25,000 officers and men. Her army was reduced to 250,000. Her Air Force was reduced to 200 fighters, and reconnaissance and transport aircraft to 150. She was to pay the Soviet Union 100 million dollars in 7 years. She was to pay 5 million dollars to Albania during the same period.
5. Pace Settlement and Bulgaria:
As regards Hungary, her frontiers of 1 January 1938 with Austria. Her army was limited to 55,000, anti-aircraft artillery to 1,800 men. Navy to 3,500 men, air force to 5,200 men and 90 air planes. Bulgaria was to pay 45 million dollars to Greece and 25 million dollars to Yugoslavia in kind in 8 years.
6. Pace Settlement and Hungary:
As regards Hungary, her frontiers of 1 January, 1938 with Austria and Yugoslavia were restored. She was to give to Yugoslavia three villages west of the Danube. The Vienna award of November 1938 was cancelled. The result was that Transylvania went to Rumania. The army of Hungary was limited to 65,000, air force to 5,000 and air planes to 90. Hungary was to pay 200 million dollars to the Soviet Union and 50 million dollars each to Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
7. Pace Settlement and Rumania:
As regards Bulgaria, her frontiers of 1 January, 1945, were restored. Her army was limited to 120,000, anti-aircraft artillery to 5,000, navy to 5,000 men and 1,500 tons. Her air force was reduced to 8,000 men and 150 air planes. She was to pay 303 million dollars to the Soviet Union in kind in 8 years.
8. Pace Settlement and Finland:
As regards Rumania, her frontiers of 1 January, 1947 were restored, province of Petsamo was given to the Soviet Union. The Soviet-Finnish peace treaty of March 1940 was restored. The Soviet Union gave up leasehold of Hango and acquired 50 years’ lease of Porkkala-Udd area for a naval base. The Finnish army was limited to 34,400, navy to 4,800 men and 10,000 tons, and air force to 3,000 men and 60 air planes. She was to pay 300 million dollars to the Soviet Union in kind in 8 years.
9. Pace Settlement and Austria:
Austria and Vienna were divided into four zones of occupation but in contrast to the treatment of Germany, Austria was allowed to form a national Government in 1945. Although it was decided at Potsdam not to exact reparations from Austria in order to avoid the economic collapse which had occurred after the World War I, the Russians took oil and equipment from their zone. Until 1955, Austria remained an occupied country because the Russians refused to consider its future apart from that of Germany. Then Khrushchev suddenly agreed to a peace treaty on the understanding that the country should be neutral, joining no political or military alliance a having no foreign troops stationed on its sail.
10. Pace Settlement and Germany:
As regards Germany, she was occupied by the Big Four. After its fall in May 1945, it was divided into four zones, each of which was administered separately by one of the occupying Powers. Berlin came under joint occupation and each occupying Power was assigned a sector of the city. An Inter-Allied body was charged with the function of governing the city as a whole. With a view to bring about a coordination of their policies as a whole, an Allied Control Authority was set up for the whole of Germany.
In 1947, Great Britain and the United States established economic unity of their two zones. Their invitation to join them was accepted by France but rejected by the Soviet Union. In June 1948, a new currency was put into circulation in West Germany. In 1948, delegates were chosen from American, British and French zones and from the non-Russian sectors of Berlin to constitute the Constituent Assembly and the Bonn Constitution of 1949 were adopted.
The Russians also framed a constitution for their own zone. Germany was caught in the cold war. In June 1948, the Soviet Union cut off all communications by land and water between the Western zone of Germany and Berlin. The Western Powers resorted to what is known as the Berlin-Airlift which lasted for 10 months. Ultimately the Russians were forced to lift the blockade. In May 1952, the Western states entered into an agreement with West Germany, by which the Federal Republic of Germany got virtual autonomy in foreign and domestic affairs. West Germany was also put under the protection of the NATO. In 1955, she became a member of the NATO.
11. Pace Settlement and Japan:
As regards Japan, a peace treaty was signed with her at San Francisco in 1951. Japan recognised the independence of Korea and gave up all claims on Korean territory including the islands of Quelpart, Port Hamilton and Dagelet. Japan renounced all rights to Formosa and the Pescadores, the Kurile islands, that part of Sakhalin which belonged to Japan since 1905, the Pacific territories governed by Japan under the mandate of the League of Nations, the Antarctic area and the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
All Allied occupation forces were to be withdrawn from Japan within 90 days of coming into force of the treaty. Japan recognised all treaties concluded by the Allies for ending the World War II. She gave up all special rights and interests in China. She agreed to enter into stable and friendly trading and maritime relations with all signatories of the treaty.
It was agreed in principle that Japan was to repair damage and suffering caused by her during the last war. Japan undertook to indemnify those members of the Allied armed forces who had suffered undue hardships as prisoners of war of Japan. Japan recognised her pre-war debts. Soviet Russia did not sign the peace treaty at San Francisco and India entered into a separate peace treaty in 1952.