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World War II (often abbreviated to WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although conflicts reflecting the ideological clash between what would become the Allied and Axis blocs began earlier. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most global war in history; it directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. In a state of total war, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of which were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

The Empire of Japan aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific and was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937, but the world war is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939, the day of the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom. From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Poland, Finland, Romania and the Baltic states. The war continued primarily between the European Axis powers and the coalition of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, with campaigns including the North Africa and East Africa campaigns, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz bombing campaign, and the Balkan Campaign, as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history, which trapped the Axis, most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan attacked the United States and European colonies in the Pacific Ocean, and quickly conquered much of the Western Pacific. The Japanese conquests were perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance; as such, several armies from the conquered territories aided the Japanese.

The Axis advance halted in 1942 when Japan lost the critical Battle of Midway, and Germany and Italy were defeated in North Africa and then, decisively, at Stalingrad in the Soviet Union. In 1943, with a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy which brought about Italian surrender, and Allied victories in the Pacific, the Axis lost the initiative and was forced into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained all of its territorial losses and invaded Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in South Central China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands.

The war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the subsequent German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, Japan formally surrendered on 2 September 1945. Thus ended the war in Asia, cementing the total victory of the Allies.

World War II changed the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The victorious great powers—China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States—became the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 46 years. Meanwhile, the influence of European great powers waned, while the decolonisation of Africa and Asia began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery. Political integration, especially in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and to create a common identity.

The World War II Portal

Clockwise from top left: Commonwealth troops in the desert; Chinese civilians being buried alive by Japanese soldiers; Soviet forces during a winter offensive; Carrier-borne Japanese planes readying for take off; Soviet troops fighting in Berlin; A German submarine under attack.

World War II, or the Second World War, was a global military conflict. It began as the joining of what had initially been two separate conflicts, with the first beginning in Asia in 1937 (the Second Sino-Japanese War) and the other beginning in Europe in 1939 (the German and Soviet invasion of Poland).

The war split the majority of the world's nations into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It involved the mobilization of over 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history, and placed the participants in a state of "total war", which erased the distinction between civil and military resources and resulted in the complete activation of a nation's economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities for the purposes of the war effort. Over 70 million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.

The Allies won the war, and as a result, the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as the world's leading superpowers. This set the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 45 years. The United Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. The self-determination spawned by the war accelerated decolonization movements in Asia and Africa, while Europe itself began moving toward integration.

Featured article

Cannikin warhead being lowered into test shaft
Amchitka is a volcanic, tectonically unstable island in the Rat Islands group of the Aleutian Islands in southwest Alaska. It is about 68 kilometres (42 mi)* long, and varies from 3 to 6 km (2–3.75 mi) in width. It has a maritime climate, with many storms, and mostly overcast skies.The island was populated for more than 2,500 years by the Aleut people, but has had no permanent population since 1832. It was included in the Alaska Purchase of 1867, and has since been part of the United States. During World War II, it was used as an airfield by US forces in the Battle of the Aleutian Islands.Amchitka was selected by the United States Atomic Energy Commission to be the site for underground detonations of nuclear weapons. Three such tests were carried out: Long Shot, an 80 kiloton blast in 1965; Milrow, a 1 megaton blast in 1969; and Cannikin in 1971 — at "under 5 megatons", the largest underground test ever conducted by the United States. The tests were highly controversial, with environmental groups fearing that the Cannikin explosion, in particular, would cause severe earthquakes and tsunamis.


Selected equipment

USS Bridgeport (AD-10)
USS Bridgeport (AD-10/ID-3009) was a destroyer tender in the United States Navy during World War I and the years after. She was a twin-screw, steel-hulled passenger and cargo steamship built in 1901 at Vegesack, Germany as SS Breslau of the Norddeutscher Lloyd line. Breslau was one of the seven ships of the Köln class of ships built for the Bremen to Baltimore and Galveston route.Interned at New Orleans at the outbreak of World War I, Breslau was seized in 1917 by the United States after her entry into that conflict and commissioned into the Navy as USS Bridgeport. Originally slated to be a repair ship, she was reclassified as a destroyer tender the following year. Bridgeport completed several transatlantic convoy crossings before she was stationed at Brest, France, where she remained in a support role after the end of World War I. After returning to the United States in November 1919, she spent the next five years along the East Coast of the United States and in the Caribbean tending destroyers and conducting training missions. She was decommissioned in November 1924 and placed in reserve at the Boston Navy Yard.


Selected battle

The heavily damaged Japanese cruiser Aoba disembarks dead and wounded crewmembers near Buin, Bougainville and the Shortland Islands a few hours after the battle on October 12, 1942.
The Battle of Cape Esperance, also known as the Second Battle of Savo Island and, in Japanese sources, as the Sea Battle of Savo Island (サボ島沖海戦), took place October 11 – 12, 1942, and was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and United States Navy. The battle was the third of five major naval engagements during the Guadalcanal campaign and took place at the entrance to the strait between Savo Island and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.On the night of October 11, Japanese naval forces in the Solomon Islands area, under the command of Gunichi Mikawa, sent a major supply and reinforcement convoy to their forces on Guadalcanal. The convoy consisted of two seaplane tenders and six destroyers and was commanded by Rear Admiral Takatsugu Jojima. At the same time but in a separate operation, three heavy cruisers and two destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Aritomo Gotō were to bombard the Allied airfield on Guadalcanal (called Henderson Field by the Allies) with the object of destroying Allied aircraft and the airfield's facilities.


Selected picture

Battle of Okinawa
Credit: United States Navy

The American aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill burns after sustaining two successive kamikaze strikes within thirty seconds during the Battle of Okinawa on May 11, 1945. Nearly 350 died, making this the deadliest kamikaze attack on a US ship during World War II. Although badly damaged, the carrier was able to return to Puget Sound Navy Yard under her own steam.

Selected biography

Lieutenant-General Horrocks, March 1945
Lieutenant-General Sir Brian Gwynne Horrocks KCB, KBE, DSO, MC (September 7, 1895 – January 4, 1985) was a British army officer. He is chiefly remembered as the commander of XXX Corps in Operation Market Garden and other operations during the Second World War. He also served in the First World War and the Russian Civil War, was a prisoner of war twice, and competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Later he was a television presenter, authored books on military history, and was Black Rod in the House of Lords for 14 years. In 1940 Horrocks commanded a battalion during the Battle of France, the first time he served under Bernard Montgomery, the most prominent British commander of the war. Montgomery later identified Horrocks as one of his most able officers, appointing him to corps commands in both North Africa and Europe. In 1943, Horrocks was seriously wounded and took more than a year to recover before returning to command a corps in Europe. It is likely that this period out of action meant he missed out on promotion; his contemporary corps commanders in North Africa, Leese and Dempsey, went on to command at army level and above.


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Selected quote

"This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note, stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany."
Neville Chamberlain, 3 September 1939

Topics

World War II
Theatres Main events Specific articles Participants

Prelude
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in Europe
in Asia

Main theatres
Europe
Eastern Europe
China
Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa
Asia and the Pacific
Atlantic

General timeline
Timeline

1939
Invasion of Poland
Winter War

1940
Invasion of Denmark/Norway
Battle of France
Battle of Britain

1941
Invasion of the Soviet Union
Battle of Moscow
Attack on Pearl Harbor

1942
Battle of Midway
Battle of Stalingrad
Second Battle of El Alamein

1943
Battle of Kursk
Guadalcanal campaign
Invasion of Italy

1944
Battle of Normandy
Operation Bagration
Battle of Leyte Gulf
Operation Market Garden
Battle of the Bulge

1945
Battle of Iwo Jima
Battle of Okinawa
Battle of Berlin
End in Europe
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Surrender of Japan

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Blitzkrieg
Cryptography
Equipment
Home Front
Military engagements
Production
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Technology

Civilian impact and atrocities
Nanking Massacre
The Holocaust
Siege of Leningrad
Bataan Death March
Dutch famine of 1944
Bengal famine of 1943
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Unit 731
Strategic bombings
Comfort women
Allied war crimes
German war crimes
Japanese war crimes

Aftermath
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Expulsion of Germans
Denazification
Cold War
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Decline of the British Empire

The Allies
Australia Australia
Belgium Belgium
Brazil Brazil
British Raj British India
Canada Canada
Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
Kingdom of Egypt Egypt
El Salvador El Salvador
French Third Republic France (after June 16, 1940: Free France Free France)
Kingdom of Greece Greece
Netherlands Netherlands
Dominion of New Zealand New Zealand
Norway Norway
Commonwealth of the Philippines Philippines
Poland Poland
Republic of China (1912–1949) Republic of China
Union of South Africa South Africa
Soviet Union Soviet Union
United Kingdom United Kingdom
United States United States
Kingdom of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia

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The Axis
Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria
 Croatia
Empire of Japan Japan
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 Vichy France
Kingdom of Hungary (1920–46) Hungary
Kingdom of Italy Italy
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Kingdom of Romania Romania
Thailand Thailand
 Slovakia

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From the World War II task force of the Military history WikiProject:

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Battle of Kiev (1943)Battle of Ko ChangColditz CastleSpiritual national defenceTuskegee Airmen
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Battle of Uhtua-KiestinkiBattles of Repola-RukajärviBattle of SiiranmäkiBattle of ŁuckBattle of RówneBattle of Włodzimierz WołyńskiBattle of LubartówBattle of MiednikiBattle of JodłaFrancis BlanchainShinshou DraengerChrister Lyst HansenHolocaust slave labor litigationOve KampmanLeague for Combat PolicyFrederick Charles LoughJulien MelineOperation BigotOperation MittelmeerOperation RichardOtto ProgramMartin PoppelRoehm's AvengersDorothy TartierePoul BruunRaoul BoulangerSerge Asher-RavanelBattle of West Ukraine (1941)Battle of ZunyiFree Dutch Forces (draft, please assist) • Liberation of Denmark (currently redirect) • Operation Vado (currently redirect) • Finnish 19th Division (Continuation War)Finnish 11th Division (Continuation War)Finnish VII Corps (Continuation War)Finnish VI Corps (Continuation War)Finnish IV Corps (Continuation War)Finnish Cavalry Brigade1st Jaeger Brigade2nd Jaeger BrigadeFinnish 1st Division (Continuation War)168th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)71st Rifle Division (Soviet Union)Group OinonenA.S. Ksenofontov (ru) • Ponomarev Dmitry Grigorievich (ru) (ref); Siege of Tobruk (June 1942) (ref)
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Princess Irene BrigadeBattle of Bay of ViipuriDemilitarisation; Martha DesrumeauxMochitsura HashimotoOperation CascadeOperation Tan No. 2Burma Area ArmyBattle of CourlandBattle of Munda PointBattle of Voronezh (1943)Drive on Munda PointFirst Battle of KharkovRace to BerlinMarie FourcadeVictor Strydonck de BurkelDonald BlakesleeOperation NordwindBattle of Skerki BankMichael Sinclair (soldier)Battle of MaastrichtBattle of ZeelandLandings on RendovaNew Georgia counterattackOperation WaterfallPetsamo–Kirkenes OffensiveRaid on ChoiseulAmerican-British-Dutch-Australian CommandBattle of Viru HarborBattle of Wickham AnchorageWestern New Guinea campaign (and the individual battles of the campaign) • Operation Blockbustermore
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Twelfth Army (United Kingdom)4th Airborne Division (United Kingdom)5th Airborne Division (United Kingdom)XVI Corps (United Kingdom)Battle of DakarBattle of the Lys (1940)Battle of ZeelandBattle of the GrebbebergFranco-Thai WarBattle of Ko ChangSwitzerland during the World Wars; Berthe Fraser
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Battle of Borneo (1941–42)Garderegiment Fuseliers Prinses IreneJapanese invasion of French IndochinaJapanese invasion of ThailandLuxembourg in World War IINew Georgia CampaignOperation CartwheelOperation ChastiseRoyal Netherlands Motorized Infantry BrigadeSolomon Islands campaign
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pt:Tobrouk (militar)

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