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World War II

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German tanks in North Africa.
It never changes
Icon war2.svg
A view to kill
In the magazines war seemed romantic and exciting, full of heroics and vitality… I saw instead men suffering and wishing they were somewhere else.
—Ernie Pyle[1]

World War II (abbr. WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, the Great Patriotic War (in Russia), "The Sequel", or the Great War II: Electric Boogaloo, was a titanic global conflict that began in 1939 and lasted until 1945. It also could arguably have begun with the conflicts between Japan and China in 1937 or as far back as 1931.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] to 1945. It left about 85 million people dead, 45 million of whom were civilians,[9] and was also the first and (so far) only conflict which saw the use of nuclear weapons.[citation NOT needed]

This massive fuckup had a multitude of causes. For one reason or another, multiple nations had fallen to fascism, an ideology which itself made war inevitable. Relative lack of historical success in imperialism led nations like Italy and Japan to start biting chunks out of their neighbors, while Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party seized power in Germany to begin crushing minorities. The democracies of Western Europe, haunted by the recent memory of World War One, were largely unwilling to stand up to the aggressive fascist leaders. Meanwhile the nation that had done most of the allies' dying in the First World War, Russia, had become the communist Soviet Union.

Before and during the war, most nations of the world aligned with one or the other of the war's two massive military alliances. The Axis Powers were comprised of the fascists and their allies, and they sought to carve themselves new empires and destroy communism. Standing against them were the Allied Powers, which sought to stop the Axis. Among the latter were nations such as France, the United Kingdom, Poland, the Low Countries, and eventually the United States.

The war happened concurrently with the Holocaust, which was Nazi Germany's attempt to murder various ethnic and ideological minorities, most significantly Europe's Jews. Imperial Japan also added some notorious chapters to the war with war crimes such as the Rape of Nanjing, the actions of Unit 731, the abuse of comfort women, and employing kamikaze suicide strikes.

The Allied victory once again reshaped the world map. The Soviet Union sliced up Eastern and Central Europe to create its club of puppet states called the Eastern Bloc. Germany, Italy, and Japan were all cut down to size. Unfortunately, the end of the war created as many problems as it solved. Tensions between the communist east and capitalist west led to the Cold War, during which the US and USSR destabilized much of the world. Mao Zedong's Chinese communists and Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese nationalists, who had cooperated against Japan, went back to killing each other. Horrified by the Holocaust, the Allies put Nazi war criminals on trial in Nuremberg and created Israel as a home for the Jewish people. That last bit has created some strife over the years. The old colonial empires, which had suffered greatly during the war, collapsed and left power gaps in Africa and Asia, allowing a variety of brutal dictators to seize power.

The good part? The war conclusively ended fascism and Nazism as "good ideas".


Rise of fascism[edit]

Mussolini and the Blackshirts during the March on Rome.

The First World War left a wake of economic devastation. Italy was hit just as hard as any other nation, and it had also failed to recover much of the "historically Italian" land it had entered the war to gain.[10] In this atmosphere of bitterness and desperation, former soldier and political hack Benito Mussolini assembled a coalition of war veterans and angry teenagers for form the National Fascist Party.[11] Mussolini promised economic revitalization were he to gain power,[12] and he organized his war veterans into hit-squads called "Blackshirts" that he used to beat the shit out of anyone he didn't like.[13] Mussolini seized power by essentially showing up at Rome with a crowd of his followers and demanding it.[14][15] By 1922, Mussolini was prime minister of Italy.

Mussolini's fascism was a hodgepodge of policies and ideas that he thought would play well.[16] His magnum opus glorified turd, "The Doctrine of Fascism," was a rant against the supposed decadence of capitalism, the evils of socialism, the importance of non-materialistic lifestyle, and how nationalism was the greatest thing ever.[17] Unfortunately, fascism inspired many people around Europe, most notably a failed painter from Austria. Adolf Hitler oversaw an unsuccessful attempt at overthrowing Germany's collapsing republic,[18] wrote a really shitty book that blamed all of his life's problems on Jews, and blustered his way into becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933.

Second Sino-Japanese War[edit]

Victims of the Nanjing Massacre.

For East Asia, the latter 19th Century was defined by Japan's attempts to create an overseas colonial empire. The First Sino-Japanese war occurred in 1895, and it began because Japan wanted to annex the Chinese tributary state of Korea in order to prevent Westerners from colonizing it.[19] The aftermath of this war saw Japan annex Taiwan and turn Korea into a protectorate. Competition between Russia and Japan in the region then led to the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, and Japan once again won victory.[20]

Japan accelerated its colonialism during and after World War One. It conquered much of Germany's Pacific holdings during the war, and afterwards it sought influence in China. The latter goal was especially motivated by the fact that the fledgling Republic of China was beginning to centralize and strengthen itself, essentially setting a time limit on Japan's ambitions there.[19] In 1931, Japan occupied Manchuria (a large region in northern China) and turned it into a puppet government under a descendant of the Qing emperors.[21]

Japanese imperialism climaxed in 1937 with the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese manufactured a border incident between their puppet state of Manchukuo and the Republic of China.[22] The Chinese nationalists and Chinese communists, who had previously been locked in a civil war, set aside their differences and formed a "United Front" against Japan.[23] Although China lacked industry and supplies, it was still confident enough to refuse negotiation with the Japanese. As a result, the limited incident became a desperate war for survival. China fought alone until 1941, and Japan's war crimes exacted a horrific toll of at least 20 million deaths.[24] It is during this conflict that Japan engaged in the infamous Rape of Nanjing in which its soldiers murdered, raped, and robbed civilians, causing a death toll of between 40,000 and 200,000 people.[25]

The war against China was a long, drawn-out affair compared to Japan's previous victories, and it quickly began to take its toll on the Japanese economy. Japan had no allies at this point, and its domestic supplies of rubber, oil, and iron were not sufficient for a forever war in China.[19] This critical resource shortage would eventually force Japan to make some hard choices.

Second Italo-Ethiopian War[edit]

Mussolini inspects soldiers in Ethiopia.
It is us today. It will be you tomorrow.
—Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia.[26]

This is the second of the "second wars" before the Second World War we'll discuss here. Italy had embarrassingly failed to conquer Ethiopia in the 1890s during the Scramble for Africa.[27] Hoping to avenge that loss and begin building his own African colonial empire, Mussolini used a border incident as pretext to declare war in 1935.[28] The League of Nations, tasked with keeping world peace after World War I, utterly failed to stop Mussolini's war in Africa just as it had failed to stop Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1933.[29] The League's failure was largely the fault of the British and French, who had imposed sanctions at the outset of the war but suddenly caved and offered a settlement to Mussolini granting him everything he wanted.[30] Italy's war of conquest in the region saw repeated war crimes such as the use of chemical weapons and the deliberate bombing of hospitals and ambulances.[31] Italy's overwhelming technical advantages resulted in the war being a short affair that ended with Ethiopia's annexation.

Importantly, the war also created the first great wedge between Italy and the democracies of Western Europe. Mussolini perceived the initial Anglo-French opposition to his war as blatant and malicious hypocrisy as both nations had created their own African colonial empires using much the same methods as he had.[32] This is one of the factors that drove Mussolini into aligning with Hitler.

Spanish Civil War[edit]

Heinrich Himmler tours a ruined city in Spain.
See the main article on this topic: Spanish Civil War
Those Americans who went to Spain to fight Franco and stave off World War II have never minded being called "premature anti-fascists." They were proud of the label.
—Alvah Bessie, American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War.[33]

Civil war broke out in Spain between nationalist and fascist usurpers led by José Sanjurjo and Generalissimo Francisco Franco versus the legitimate socialist government led by Manuel Azaña. Franco personally adhered to Falangism, a quasi-fascist ideology that emphasized Catholic identity, totalitarianism, capitalism, and moralism.[34] Mussolini sent a huge amount of military aid to the nationalists, totaling 70,000 ground troops and 6,000 aviation personnel, long with about 720 aircraft.[35] Nazi Germany also provided military support to the nationalists but intentionally kept their involvement limited.[36] The Comintern, Joseph Stalin's commie club, naturally sided with the Republic and provided aid through the volunteer "International Brigades".[37] The Republic was weakened by infighting. The hardcore communists saw the war as an opportunity for a revolution while the socialists and moderates only hoped to preserve republicanism.[38] Spain became a proving ground for the fascist nations and the Soviet Union to test their newest and best technologies such as planes and tanks. The Nationalists came out on top in 1939 and established a dictatorship, but they officially stayed neutral during the world war. Franco did, however, send "volunteers" to assist Germany against the Soviets.[39]

German expansionism[edit]

The Munich Conference, where it looks like Hitler dropped a fart and everyone else is too uncomfortable to say anything.

Hitler's foreign policy through the 1930s was focused primarily on strengthening Germany by annexing areas populated by ethnic Germans. Immediately after taking power Hitler began to rebuild Germany's armed forces in secret. He made this public in 1935 by announcing that he was introducing mandatory conscription with the goal of increasing Germany's standing army to 550,000 men.[40] This is the point where appeasement began, as the British consented to the creation of a German navy negotiated a limit of 35% of the UK's strength.[41] In 1936 the German army, previously having been barred from the region by the Treaty of Versailles, marched into the Rhineland on France's borders.[42]

In 1938, the German army marched into Austria and incorporated it into the German Reich. This event, called the Anschluss, was met with enthusiasm by the Austrian public, and it was confirmed by a later plebiscite.[43] It was conducted under heavy scrutiny by the Germans and the results were falsified to an absurd 99.7% approval.[44] Having swallowed Austria with no problems, Hitler then instigated the "Sudeten crisis" by kicking up a fuss about the fact that Czechoslovakia had a number of ethnic Germans living in the border areas of Bohemia-Moravia.[45] In May 1938 it became known to the international community that Hitler was drawing up plans to invade Czechoslovakia; if that happened the French and possibly the British would be pulled into another European war.[46] The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain considered any capitulation preferable to a repeat of the Great War. Thus, with no input from the Czechs, Chamberlain agreed that all Czech provinces with more than 50% German population would be handed off to Germany with a plebiscite to be held in the rest.[47] The Munich Agreement was celebrated by Europe, as it seemingly prevented another continental war.[48]

The loss of the Sudetenland catastrophically weakened Czechoslovakia, and in March 1939, Hitler violated the Munich agreement and sent the German army to occupy the rest of it.[49] Czechoslovakia was then carved up between Germany, which took Bohemia-Moravia, the "Slovak Republic", a German puppet, and Poland, which annexed the Polish-majority region called Zaolzie.[50] Around the same time, Germany regained the small territory of Memel from Lithuania by threatening war.[51] Nazi Germany, without any conflict, had eaten most of central Europe. Ultimately, this blatant betrayal of his own word was the final straw for the Allies, and they made a guarantee that they would fight to protect Poland's independence.[52] Hitler, for his part, had begun the same routine all over again by shouting about ethnic Germans in the city of Danzig.

Soviet–Japanese border conflicts[edit]

What could have been.

Japan and the Soviet Union fought a war against each other throughout the summer of 1939 which involved that caused about 30,000 to 50,000 casualties.[53] The conflict was instigated by Japanese officer Tsuji Masanobu with a strike across the Manchuria-Mongolia border, but the Soviets and their Mongolian puppets successfully defended against the initial strikes.[53] The angry Japanese continued to escalate the conflict, although there was never a formal declaration of war. The Soviets responded by sending in tanks along with their brilliant commander Georgy Zhukov. The subsequent course of the war taught the Japanese that an infantry army on open ground is highly vulnerable to armored vehicles and that superior morale is not a substitute for superior firepower.[54]

Although a seemingly small event, the border conflict had an outsized impact on events. Japan's humiliation at the hands of the technologically superior Soviets caused them to abandon their policy of "hokushin-ron" or "Northern Expansion Doctrine", which would have seen Japan eventually attempt to invade and annex Russia's resource-rich Siberian frontier.[55] Instead, Japan decided on "nanshin-ron", which saw them invade the Philippines and Indonesia.[56] Further political considerations including the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact led Japan to sign a nonaggression treaty with the Soviets in 1941 that lasted until the final days of the war.[57]

Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact[edit]

As the final step before kicking off the festivities, Hitler sent his Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to Russia with the goal of ensuring that Germany would not be fighting the Russians when they inevitably invaded Poland. Joseph Stalin had lost faith in the Western powers as they repeatedly failed to contain Hitler's aggression. He also needed time to rebuild the Soviet military after he had purged it repeatedly. With both leaders interests coinciding at the moment, the two nations signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, also commonly known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Publicly, the pact simply stated that neither country would go to war with the other, but privately it divided Eastern and Central Europe between the Nazis and the Soviets.[58] The two powers agreed to split Poland between them while the Soviets also gained a free hand to either bully or annex the Baltic states and Finland. With the Soviets neutralized as a threat and the Western powers seemingly unwilling to throw down on Poland's behalf, Hitler kicked off the world war just a week later.

Beginning of the war[edit]

Poland fought valiantly, but was tremendously outnumbered, being attacked by both the Soviets and the Nazis. Many think that Polish horse cavalry charged German tanks; however this is not true: Polish lancers mostly used their horses for fast, cheap transportation, and the few actual cavalry charges were against infantry and all were successful.[59] After the defeat of Poland many Polish soldiers fled to Britain, where they continued to fight, and Polish code-breakers played a major — perhaps decisive — role in the eventual Allied victory.[60] Just before Germany invaded, Stalin and Hitler had secretly agreed to split up Poland (in the Ribbentrop–Molotov Pact). The Soviets also gained carte blanche to quietly take over Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The Soviets then waged a disastrous invasion of Finland, apparently coveting the Finns' rich resources of snow and racing drivers.

And now you know why Eisenhower began to despise war.

After German, French and British troops on the Western Front had sat and stared at each other for several months (a period known as the "Phoney War", or Sitzkrieg — get it?[61]), the Nazis quickly conquered Denmark (April 1940) and Norway (April to June, 1940), and while that was still technically ongoing, invaded France by way of Belgium in May 1940. They took much the same route taken by German forces in the previous Great War; however, France had prepared again for a direct confrontation across the French border. They had build the maginot line. A row of defensive forts, artillery, and the best troops France had. The French General Staff believed that the Ardennes forest was too thick for tanks to go through speedily and that the Belgian Army would be able to hold it long enough for French reinforcements to arrive. Unable to regroup against the German Blitzkrieg,[62] the Allied British and French were forced to retreat, and were eventually "rescued" at Dunkirk. From the perspective of Paris, London panicked and withdrew forces that would have been useful in fighting Germany to another standstill in the west. Although some historians have assessed the French command as defeatist, contrary to the "cheese-eating-surrender-monkey" perception of France, many of the French continued to fight on after their defeat, both in the form of the French Resistance and the Free French against Vichy. Some did, nevertheless, collaborate with the Germans.[notes 1]

In September 1940, Germany, Japan, and Italy entered into a military alliance known as the Axis through the Tripartite Pact. Italy had already picked on weaker countries such as Ethiopia and Albania and wanted to be part of something bigger. Despite early bad blood between Mussolini and Hitler, Berlin was happy to have Italy play the role of military occupier of southern Europe so the Germans could turn their attention elsewhere. That the Japanese would enter an alliance with Germany and Italy is a puzzle only until one considers that all three were anti-communist, authoritarian regimes and revisionist powers. That Hitler considered the Japanese "honorary Aryans" had little to do with it.

After consolidating its hold on Western, Northern, and Central Europe, Hitler's Germany turned east. Initially planned operations suffered a delay while the German Wehrmacht had to clean up after Italy, which turned out to be a terrible ally and unable to handle Greece and a few Balkan countries (as well as North Africa).

On June 22 1941 (In the biggest blunder of his entire reign) Hitler broke his promise and used 3 million men to invade his "ally" the Soviet Union. This lead to massive losses on the Soviet side as they were completely unprepared for this. While initially very successful,[notes 2] like almost everyone else who ever invaded Russia apart from the Mongols his army soon became bogged down by Soviet resistance, bad supply chains, the weather, and the vast expanses. Space is power.

The German advance stopped at Leningrad and Stalingrad as the Germans were spread too thin. By this point the Soviets had gotten their act together and destroyed Army group South at Stalingrad. After this the Soviets began to push forward and march slowly to Berlin. The last major operation in the eastern front was the battle of Kursk where the Germans had hoped to gain back the initiative. This failed and they were pushed back until the Soviets took Berlin in 1945.

Clueless Americans shall not be forgiven if they persist in thinking that the war began in late 1941 with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. They will also not be forgiven for thinking the US swooped in and single-handedly won the war in the time of a 14 episode miniseries, saving the world from fascism. Britons too tend to be clueless, thinking that the UK largely defeated Nazi Germany in the Battle of Britain.[63] As much as that was vital in preventing Hitler from invading the British mainland (even Rommel had told him the invasion plan wouldn't work), in reality the winning weapon (in the European Theatre, at least) was the Soviets; yes, fucking Rainbow Stalin. Without the Red Army facing the hardships it did, it's not a stretch to say things would look a lot different today.[64]

That being said, if not for American aid in the form of Lend-Lease, the Soviets would've had a much harder time of it.[65]

Its likely the safest to say that it truly was the Allies that beat the Axis, not any one nation.

Pearl Harbor[edit]

The attack that spawned dozens of conspiracy theories.

While Hitler was expanding in Europe, Japan was reaching the limit of its ability in the East. Running low on raw materials, due to an American embargo, the Japanese decided to risk open war with the US. This took the form of a surprise strike on an American base in Hawaii. Unfortunately for the Japanese, the American aircraft carriers were not in the harbor at the time of the attack, so they survived and left the US with a strong presence in the Pacific.

After it entered the war, American industrial output vastly exceeded what anyone considered possible. Between conscription and wartime production, the entire nation was mobilized. Even the Soviets used fleets of US-built trucks to carry supplies to the front. After suffering some initial setbacks, the US soon had the Japanese on the run. At the same time, British operations in Europe and Northern Africa, along with the second front to the east, caused the Germans to start running out of troops and materiel.

By declaring war on America in concert with Japan on December 11, Hitler expected Japan to declare war on the USSR and open a second front in Siberia that would draw Soviet resources away from Hitler's eastern front. It was not to be; remember Khalkin Gol? The two countries signed a non-aggression pact, which Japan refused to break. Japan and the USSR did not finally become belligerent until the last few days of the Pacific War.

War in the Pacific[edit]

Yamato sinking during the Battle of Okinawa.

Japanese soldiers showed a determination beyond anything the Allies had expected, preferring to die rather than surrender. Moreover, beginning with the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese military adopted a policy of brutal treatment of the captured, including torture.

Although it is given less attention than amphibious assaults and aerial bombardment in cartoon History Channel retellings (again), the winning weapons in the Pacific Theater of the war was unrestricted U.S. submarine warfare.[66] The massive shipping losses deprived the Japanese of the material necessary for war. The American aerial bombardment of Japanese cities repeated the horrors of the British firebombing of German cities, but this added much less to victory than supposed by many Americans or Britons.

The turning point in the Pacific War was the Battle of Midway in June 1942, when four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk at a cost of one American carrier which had been hastily repaired after the Battle of the Coral Sea. After Midway, Japan ceased conquering new land for its empire and shifted to a defensive mode. Two years later, in 1944, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, also called the "Marianas Turkey Shoot", destroyed the bulk of their remaining aircraft and besides crippling their remaining aircraft carrier force, more importantly killed most of their experienced naval pilots. Finally, Japan gambled what was left of its entire navy in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval engagement in human history.[67] After the battle, the Imperial Japanese Navy became a mere shadow of its former glory. The last of Japan's aircraft carriers, that ended as just sacrificial decoys, as well as most of its remaining capital ships were gone and with them the most serious threat to Allied forces in the region. This battle was also the first in which Japan implemented the concept of a "special attack", better known as the kamikaze, against the US Navy. Suicidal pilots tried to crash their planes or manned missile into American warships. Meanwhile, sailors attempted the same thing with manned torpedoes. In spite of this desperate and horrifying tactic, the American war effort pushed ever closer to the Japanese homeland, and an Allied invasion looked imminent. US ground forces captured the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa after a bitter and prolonged fight. During the battle of Okinawa, Japan's flagship Yamato and some escorts were sent on a one-way trip as a last-ditch attempt to defend the latter island of the Americans, but ended up being sunk by a series of massive US carrier strikes. This definitively eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy from the war.

Originally begun because Nazi Germany was believed to have started work on a nuclear bomb, the Manhattan Project succeeded in creating a usable nuclear weapon. Rather than sending troops in, President Truman (taking over for the now-deceased FDR) instead consented to dropping a gun-type uranium fission nuclear weapon (named "Little Boy") on the industrial city of Hiroshima, on 6 August 1945, after warning the Japanese that refusing to surrender would have terrible consequences. When Japan took too long in deliberating, Truman ordered the drop of a second nuclear weapon, an implosion-type plutonium fission bomb named "Fat Man", on Nagasaki. This made World War II the world's first (and so far, only) nuclear war. The same day, the Soviets launched a massive invasion of Manchuria, quickly defeating the Japanese occupation force. The sudden Soviet invasion and the obliteration of two large cities were a profound shock to the Japanese, and the next day their government informed the Allies that they were willing to surrender, only asking to be allowed to keep the emperor as a figurehead. The Japanese leadership later signed a declaration of unconditional surrender on 2 September 1945, ending the war.

Turning the tide against the Axis[edit]

Yes, you're reading the top correctly.

The turning point (according to Americans, the British and Canadians) came in 1944, when the US, Great Britain, and Canada made an amphibious landingWikipedia's W.svg on the northern French coast in Normandy — the largest amphibious operation in human history. From there, Germany found herself officially trapped in a nightmarish war on two (major) fronts, with the Western Allies on one and the Soviet Union on the other.

Likely it was much earlier. As mentioned above, in the Pacific the moment was just six months after Pearl Harbor, with Japan's crushing loss at Midway, and in Africa it was the second battle of El Alamein in November 1942. In Europe the three pivotal events were:

  • The German defeat in the Battle of Moscow in late 1941, which officially ended Operation Barbarossa and forced the Nazis to fight a war of attrition they had no chance of winning;
  • The massive German defeat at Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in late 1942 — the Soviet Union engaged in a fierce (and fierce is an understatement) battle with the Nazis, depleting their resources and manpower whilst suffering horrendous casualties[68] (it was at that point Hitler stopped making public speeches and made Goebbels his main PR guy); and
  • The Battle of Kursk from July to August 1943, the greatest tank battle in history, after which the initiative was firmly in the Soviet hands and the crème of the German Panzer Forces were broken.

The Wehrmacht was forced into retreat, the Red Army gained significant momentum from then on, and they eventually captured Berlin while the American heroes arrived just in time for some photo ops. At about the same time, Italy was finished off by the Allies, ending in the execution of Mussolini and destroying the last pocket of Nazi forces.

When it became obvious that Berlin would fall (and facing a barrage of Internet memes[69]), rather than face his foes, Hitler committed suicide in a secure bunker, and the body was burned in a bomb crater outside the bunker. In the chaos of battle, Hitler's remains were never positively identified until 2017.[70] German resistance ended shortly after the death was announced.


See the main article on this topic: Genocide
The topic of genocide introduced to this Italian-American citizen.


The Allied forces discovered that the Germans had been engaging in genocide against a variety of "undesirables" in Europe, mostly aimed at Jews, Roma, and the Slavic peoples. Although the Allies knew there was something ghastly going on (they knew large numbers of people we being transported into the camps but not out), the sights greeting those who liberated the death camps was so disturbing that the attempt was labeled the Holocaust, meaning "total destruction by fire". Inside the camps prisoners were evaluated. If they were healthy they would be branded with marks and sent to do back breaking work with little food or rest. Those who were handicapped, children, or pregnant were immediately killed in the Nazi's infamous gas chambers. Today, Nazi Germany is most associated with this attempt. Partly to provide a safe haven for the remainder of Europe's Jews, the state of Israel was established.

Japanese war crimes[edit]

The Japanese, again, also engaged in horrific activities, with some estimates exceeding 20 million dead from their campaign in the Far East, mostly Chinese. Japan was the only nation in the war to use biological and chemical weapons in combat, deploying bubonic plague, cholera and anthrax against Chinese forces as well as phosgene, chlorine, Lewisite, nausea gas (nitrochloroform) and mustard gas: it is estimated Imperial Japan's biological weapon program alone resulted in 400,000-580,000 deaths. Most infamous were the murders in Nanjing and Manila, and many suffered horrific medical experiments or were exposed to biological weapons at the hands of Unit 731. Prisoners and inhabitants of occupied territories were treated abysmally, with men forced into slave labor and women forced into prostitution ("comfort women") to service the Japanese military. Oddly, these atrocities were largely ignored, or even denied, by later Japanese governments (a particularly infamous Japanese textbook referred to the Rape of Nanking as "a few deaths"), and serious international debate about these atrocities as war crimes or acts of genocide did not begin until around the 1990s.[71]


It was warm before it got cold.

With most of Europe and Asia completely destroyed, the United States and the Soviet Union quickly assumed leadership in the post-war world. Initial attempts were made to work together; however, mutual distrust and Soviet aggression led to a quick breakdown of this cooperation. While the US gave and lent vast sums of money to Western Europe and parts of Asia via the Marshall Plan (thus rebuilding those areas), the Soviets demanded great reparations from the areas that came under their control. In the end, the two systems were so incompatible that the Cold War became the new norm. Both Germany and Korea were divided along the lines drawn by the occupying Allied and Soviet forces (and leading to the Korean War), and the world settled into a long era of deep hostility and mistrust.


Even before the war was over, people and governments were intentionally distorting events. This is not a great surprise; wartime propaganda was rather common. Afterwards, various factions have continued to rewrite the history of the war to their own ends, portraying themselves or a group they support as the "good guys." For example, holocaust denial became popular in neo-Nazi circles, as are distortions of the events in China and Korea that took place in postwar Japan.

Morals of the story[edit]

  1. Diplomats, don't impose a treaty harsh enough to doom a country's economy and, as a result, feed a reactionary political upheaval.
  2. Art teachers, don't be overly condescending to your students or you'll create a lunatic willing to scapegoat and/or kill millions.
  3. Because it always bears repeating...

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. The French record on treatment of Jews was decidedly mixed; French Jews were protected to the extent possible, while foreign Jews were turned over to the Nazis with what has been described as "enthusiasm."
  2. in part because, like a true psychopath, Stalin had had most of his own military's leaders slaughtered a few years prior to the invasion. See the Wikipedia article on Great Purge..


  1. Ernie Pyle quote. Your Dictionary.
  2. Ghuhl, Wernar (2007) Imperial Japan's World War Two Transaction Publishers pg 7
  3. Spencer C. Tucker (23 December 2009). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. p. 1850. ISBN 978-1-85109-672-5
  4. Cheng, Chu-chueh (2010) The Margin Without Centre: Kazuo Ishiguro Peter Lang Page 116
  5. Stein, R. Conrad (1994) World War II in the Pacific: "Remember Pearl Harbor" Enslow Publishers Page 117
  6. Rollins, Peter (2008) Why We Fought: America's Wars in Film and History University Press of Kentucky Page 246
  7. Prelude to War (1942) US Government
  8. Olson, James Stuart (2001) Historical Dictionary of the Great Depression, 1929-1940 Greenwood Publishing Group pg 160
  9. Research Starters: Worldwide Deaths in World War II. The National WWII Museum.
  10. Italian delegates return to Paris peace conference History Channel
  11. The Rise of Italian Fascism Dowell, Austin. Washington State University. SEP.01.15
  12. The Economy in Fascist Italy C N Trueman "The Economy In Fascist Italy" The History Learning Site, 25 May 2015
  13. Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) "Historic Figures", BBC
  14. The March on Rome C N Trueman "The March On Rome" The History Learning Site, 25 May 2015. 16 Jun 2018
  15. See the Wikipedia article on March on Rome.
  16. Fascism Was Not Left Or Right Pseudoerasmus 2015-05-03
  17. Mussolini, Doctrine of Fascism (1932) (Excerpt)
  18. See the Wikipedia article on Beer Hall Putsch.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 What Sparked Japan’s Aggression During World War II?. Slate.
  20. Russian-Japanese-War. International Encyclopedia of the First World War.
  21. Manchukuo. Britannica.
  22. Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Britannica.
  23. See the Wikipedia article on Second United Front.
  24. The Second Sino-Japanese War. Alpha History.
  25. See the Wikipedia article on Death toll of the Nanjing Massacre.
  26. Haile Selassie. Wikiquote.
  27. See the Wikipedia article on First Italo-Ethiopian War.
  28. Italo-Ethiopian War. Britannica.
  29. 1935 SANCTIONS AGAINST ITALY: WOULD COAL AND CRUDE OIL HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE? Ristuccia, Cristiano. Linacre College, Oxford.
  30. Third period (1931–36). Britannica.
  31. How the ICRC witnessed atrocities during Italy’s Abyssinia campaign and became embroiled in diplomatic controversy International Committee of the Red Cross
  32. John Whittam. Fascist Italy. Manchester, England; New York City, USA: Manchester University Press. p. 165.
  33. Alvah Bessie. Wikiquote.
  34. See the Wikipedia article on Falangism.
  35. Neulen, Hans Werner (2000). In the skies of Europe – Air Forces allied to the Luftwaffe 1939–1945. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN 1-86126-799-1. p. 25.
  36. Zara Steiner, The Triumph of the Dark: European International History 1933–1939. (2013) pp 181–251
  37. See the Wikipedia article on International Brigades.
  38. Spanish Civil War. Britannica.
  39. Payne, Stanley G. (2008). Franco and Hitler: Spain, Germany, and World War II. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12282-4. p. 146.
  40. Germany and rearmament. History Learning Site.
  41. Anglo-German Naval Agreement. Britannica.
  42. See the Wikipedia article on Remilitarization of the Rhineland.
  43. Anschluss. US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  44. Anschluss. Britannica.
  45. See the Wikipedia article on Sudetenland.
  46. Munich Agreement. Britannica.
  47. The Munich Conference. History Today.
  48. See the Wikipedia article on Munich Agreement.
  49. See the Wikipedia article on German occupation of Czechoslovakia.
  50. See the Wikipedia article on Zaolzie.
  51. See the Wikipedia article on 1939 German ultimatum to Lithuania.
  52. See the Wikipedia article on Anglo-Polish military alliance.
  53. 53.0 53.1 The Forgotten Soviet-Japanese War of 1939. The Diplomat.
  54. The Almost War of 1938-1939: Russia and Japan's Nearly Forgotten Battle. National Interest.
  55. See the Wikipedia article on Hokushin-ron.
  56. See the Wikipedia article on Nanshin-ron.
  57. Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact. World War II Database.
  58. German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. Britannica.
  59. Mythbusting time!
  60. See the Wikipedia article on Enigma machine. (And don't forget Alan Turing.)
  61. came from Germany.
  62. See the Wikipedia article on Blitzkrieg.
  63. See the Wikipedia article on Battle of Britain.
  64. The 5 Most Widely Believed WWII Facts (That Are Bullshit), Cracked
  66. Submarine Special Operations in World War II, US Navy
  67. Woodward, C. Vann (1947). The Battle for Leyte Gulf. New York: Macmillan.
  68. Estimates vary, but typically range to a total of 2 million on both sides.
  69. Hitler finds out about the Downfall Parodies
  70. Hitler’s Teeth Confirm He Died in 1945, Smithsonian
  71. Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity - Japan