Read this article to learn about the turning of of second world war into global war!
The events of 1941—the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour and the US entry into the war— made the war a truly global war.
By the middle of 1942, Japan had occupied many islands in the Pacific, the Philippines, Indonesia, Burma, Malaya, Singapore and Thailand.
During this period there emerged the anti-fascist coalition comprising Britain, the Soviet Union and the US. Winston Churchill called it the “Grand Alliance”. Britain and US waged the war together under joint commands.Though there was no such joint action with the Soviet Union, all the three countries actively collaborated and on many occasions planned common strategies. Besides, the vast resources of the US, her entire war machinery, which included 300,000 aircraft and 85,000 tanks, were now geared up against Germany and her allies. The US has been described as “the arsenal of victory”. The Soviet Union recognised General de Gaulle, who later set up a provisional government, as the leader of all ‘Free Frenchmen”.
The Battle of Stalingrad:
Throughout 1942, the war in Europe was fought almost exclusively between the Soviet troops and the German troops and the forces of countries such as Romania and Bulgaria allied to Germany. After the German attack on Moscow had been repulsed, the German troops advanced deep into the Caucasus. In March 1942, Hitler had asserted that the Red Army would be annihilated in the summer of that year.
In July, the German troops launched an offensive on Stalingrad (now Volgograd) and by mid-September they reached the outskirts of that city. Then began what has been called “the greatest single trial of strength” of the Second World War. By the middle of November, the German armies were in and around Stalingrad. Bitter fighting had been going on in the streets of Stalingrad for every inch of the territory. In late November the German armies in and around Stalingrad were encircled by Soviet troops, and they could find no way to escape.
No supplies could reach them. General Paulus, who commanded the encircled German army, reported on 24 January 1943 that among the surviving German troops there were 20,000 wounded who were unattended and another 20,000 who were suffering from frostbites; they had no weapons and were starving. On 31 January, he surrendered.
The battle of Stalingrad lasted for five months and had reduced that city to rubble. The German defeat in this battle has been described as “the greatest defeat in history that a German army has undergone”. Germany and the countries allied to her lost over 300,000 troops in this battle. About 90,000 of them survived the battle and they were taken prisoner.
In July 1941, the Soviet government had appealed lo Britain to open a “Second Front” by invading France so that the German strength concentrated against her could be diverted. This request was not agreed by Britain. In May and June 1942, the Soviet Union again appealed to the US and Britain for opening a “Second Front”. The US President was willing but finally both Britain and the US decided to send troops to North Africa instead.
The reason advanced was that they—Britain and the US—were not yet equal to the task of launching a frontal attack against the German forces in Europe. This led the Soviet Union to believe that Britain and the US “wanted to bleed the Soviet Union white” so that they could preserve their forces and emerge supreme in the later stages of the war. After the German debacle at Stalingrad, however, there was greater coordination among the three powers.
The German and allied troops launched another massive military operation against the Soviet army in the middle of 1943 but they suffered a crushing defeat in August, losing about 500,000 troops. This is known as the Battle of Kursk. After that they were steadily swept back and, by January 1944, they began to retreat from all sectors of the Eastern Front.
The War in North Africa and the Pacific:
While the fascist powers had reached the height of their power in 1942, they faced defeats in almost every theatre of war in 1943. After the Italian debacle in North Africa, the German troops under General Rommel had been sent to North Africa for assisting their Italian allies.
They had achieved remarkable successes and in August 1942 had launched an offensive against the British forces in Egypt. A battle was fought between the German and British armies, the latter under General Montgomery, at El Alamein, and the German armies were forced to retreat in November.
Soon after the battle of El Alamein, the British and the US troops landed on the Atlantic coast of Morocco and in Algeria. Both these countries were French colonies and were under the control of Vichy France, which was allied to Germany.
However, after sometime, the French army in these countries joined the Allies. Germany occupied Vichy France, and sent reinforcements to Tunisia, which was also a French colony. By March 1943, Rommel’s troops had been driven back to Tunisia.
In May 1943, the British and American forces launched an offensive in Tunisia and the German and Italian forces surrendered. This marked the end of Italian and German presence in North Africa.
Earlier, in 1941, a pro-German revolt in Iraq had been crushed by the British, and the British and Free French forces had occupied Syria and Lebanon, which had been under the control of Vichy France.
In the Pacific, there were many naval battles between the US and Japan during 1942, and though the Japanese offensive had been halted, the Allied victories were not notable. In 1943, however, the Allies recovered many Pacific islands from the Japanese.
In China, the Japanese offensive continued and the Allies failed to land their troops there. They had succeeded in flowing supplies to Chiang Kai- shek, but his army was not able to launch any attack against the Japanese.
The Allied Victories in Europe:
Early in 1943, Britain and the US decided to postpone the offensive in Western Europe to 1944. In July, when the Battle of Kursk was on, they invaded Sicily. By this time, there was widespread discontent in Italy. There were frequent strikes.
The disaffection had also spread to the armed forces, which had suffered defeats everywhere, and they surrendered in large numbers to the Allied forces. On 25 July 1943, Mussolini was dismissed and a new government came to power. Italy now wanted to withdraw from the war. On 3 September, the Allied troops invaded southern Italy, and Italy surrendered unconditionally.
On 10 September, the German troops occupied northern Italy, including Rome. They rescued Mussolini from detention and he, guarded by the Germans, set up his government in northern Italy under German protection. In southern Italy, a new government was formed and it declared war on Germany.
Though the Allied troops did not advance to the north for many months, the resistance in northern Italy grew in strength and they fought against the German occupation and against Mussolini with great tenacity. In 1944, the fascist troops were thrown out of Soviet territory and the Soviet Union defeated Finland, which had become Germany’s ally. Most parts of the countries of Eastern Europe—Poland,
Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia were liberated. In some of these countries, fascist governments had come to power and they had joined the war on the side of Germany. Others, such as Poland, were under direct German occupation. The fascist troops were also driven out of Greece, Yugoslavia and Albania.
In June 1944, the Allied troops opened the Second Front in Western Europe. On 6 June 1944, known as D Day, the first Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, on the north coast of France.
By the end of July, the number of the Allied troops in France rose up to 1,600,000. They were commanded by General Dwight D. Eisenhower of the US Army, who later became the President of USA. By September 1944, France, Luxemburg and Belgium were liberated by the Allied armies.
The last major German counter-offensive was launched in December 1944 in the Ardennes region of Belgium. The battle which followed is known as the Battle of the Bulge.
It ended by the middle of January 1945, when the Soviet troops, led by Marshal Zhukov, launched a massive attack along the eastern front, which forced Hitler to shift most of his troops from the Ardennes to the east.
Surrender of Germany:
The war in Italy continued for many months after Germany had occupied northern Italy and rescued Mussolini, who had set up his government in German-occupied Italy. However, by June 1944, the Allied troops had liberated many Italian cities, including Rome. In the meantime, the anti-fascist Italian forces had intensified their activities.
On 23 April 1945, there was an uprising in those areas of Italy which were still under fascist occupation. On 28 April 1945, Mussolini, who had been captured, was executed, and the Germans in Italy surrendered. This marked the end of fascism in Italy.
By early January 1945, the collapse of Germany was in sight. The Soviet offensive, which was launched in January 1945, swept away the last German resistance in the east. Warsaw was liberated on 17 January, Budapest on 13 February and Vienna on 13 April.
The Soviet armies moved into Germany and, by 25 April, Berlin was encircled by them. In the meantime, in March, the Allied troops had started their offensive in the west and by mid-April occupied large parts of West Germany. On 30 April 1945, Hitler committed suicide. The
same day the Soviet armies hoisted the Red Flag on the Reichstag building. Sporadic fighting continued for another two days in Berlin. On 7 May 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the representatives of the US, Britain, France and the Soviet Union at the headquarters of General Eisenhower in Rheims.
On 8 May 1945 Germany made another unconditional surrender at the Soviet headquarters in Berlin. On 11 May Czechoslovakia was liberated, and the war in Europe was over.
Surrender of Japan:
The war in Asia and the Pacific continued even after the German surrender. The Allies had scored victories in this region in 1944 but Japan was still strongly entrenched with a huge army in China, Manchuria, Korea and other places. On 6 August 1945, a US aircraft dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima and on 9 August on Nagasaki.
These bombs killed over 320,000 people in these two cities. Japan capitulated on 15 August. On 8 August, the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan. By the end of August, the Japanese armies in Manchuria had surrendered to the Soviet army, in South-East Asia to the British army, and in China to the armies of Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese communists. On 2 September 1945, Japan surrendered, and the Second World War was over.