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World War II (1939–1945)


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World War II

World War II, or the Second World War (often abbreviated as WWII or WW2), was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilised. In a state of "total war", the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by significant events involving the mass death of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it is the deadliest conflict in human history, resulting in 50 million to over 70 million fatalities.


The war is generally accepted to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany, and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and most of the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Germany set out to establish a large empire in Europe. From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or subdued much of continental Europe; amid Nazi-Soviet agreements, the nominally neutral Soviet Union fully or partially occupied and annexed territories of its six European neighbours, including Poland. Britain and the Commonwealth remained the only major force continuing the fight against the Axis in North Africa and in extensive naval warfare.

 

In June 1941, the European Axis launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, giving a start to the largest land theatre of war in history, which, from that moment on, tied down the major part of the Axis military power. In December 1941, Japan, which had been at war with China since 1937, and aimed to dominate Asia, attacked the United States and European possessions in the Pacific Ocean, quickly conquering much of the region.
The Axis advance was stopped in 1942 after the defeat of Japan in a series of naval battles and after defeats of European Axis troops in North Africa and, decisively, at Stalingrad. In 1943, with a series of German defeats in Eastern Europe, the Allied invasion of Fascist Italy, and American victories in the Pacific, the Axis lost the initiative and undertook strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded France, while the Soviet Union regained all territorial losses and invaded Germany and its allies.

World War II
Clockwise from top left: Chinese forces in the Battle of Wanjialing, Australian 25-pounder guns during the First Battle of El Alamein, German Stuka dive bombers on the Eastern Frontwinter 1943–1944, US naval force in the Lingayen Gulf,Wilhelm Keitel signing the German Surrender, Soviet troops in the Battle of Stalingrad.
Date
1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945(6 years, 1 day)
Location
Europe, Pacific, Atlantic, South-East Asia,China, Middle East, Mediterranean andAfrica, briefly North America
Result Allied victory
  • Dissolution of the Third Reich
  • Creation of the United Nations
  • Emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as superpowers
  • Beginning of the Cold War. (more...)
Belligerents
Allies

 Soviet Union (1941–45)
 United States (1941–45)
 British Empire
 China (at war 1937–45)
 France[nb 2]
 Poland
 Canada
 Australia
 New Zealand
 South Africa
 Yugoslavia (1941–45)
 Greece (1940–45)
 Norway (1940–45)
 Netherlands (1940–45)
 Belgium (1940–45)
 Czechoslovakia
 Philippines (1941–45)
 Brazil (1942–45)
...and others

Axis

 Germany
 Japan (at war 1937–45)
 Italy (1940–43)
 Hungary (1941–45)
 Romania (1941–44)
 Bulgaria (1941–44)
 Thailand (1942–45)


Co-belligerents
 Finland (1941–44)
 Iraq (1941)


Puppet states
 Manchukuo
 Croatia (1941–45)
 Slovakia
...and others

Commanders and leaders
Allied leaders

Soviet Union Joseph Stalin
United States Franklin D. Roosevelt
United Kingdom Winston Churchill
...and others

Axis leaders

Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler
Empire of Japan Hirohito
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Benito Mussolini  Executed
...and others

Casualties and losses
Military dead:
Over 16,000,000
Civilian dead:
Over 45,000,000
Total dead:
Over 61,000,000 (1937–45)
Military dead:
Over 8,000,000
Civilian dead:
Over 4,000,000
Total dead:
Over 12,000,000 (1937–45)

The war in Europe ended with the capture of Berlin by Soviet and Polish troops and the subsequent German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. The Japanese Navy was defeated by the United States, and invasion of the Japanese Archipelago ("Home Islands") became imminent. The war in Asia ended on 15 August 1945 when Japan agreed to surrender.
The war ended with the total victory of the Allies over the Axis in 1945. World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) organisation was established to foster international cooperation and prevent future conflicts. 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 started to decline, while the decolonisation of Asia and Africa began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery. Political integration, especially in Europe, emerged as an effort to stabilise postwar relations.



Chronology

The start of the war is generally held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland; Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later. Other dates for the beginning of war include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937.
Others follow British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that there was a simultaneous Sino-Japanese War in East Asia, and a Second European War in Europe and her colonies. The two wars merged in 1941, becoming a single global conflict, at which point the war continued until 1945. This article uses the conventional dating.
The exact date of the war's end is not universally agreed upon. It has been suggested that the war ended at the armistice of 14 August 1945 (V-J Day), rather than the formal surrender of Japan (2 September 1945); in some European histories, it ended on V-E Day (8 May 1945). However, the Treaty of Peace with Japan was not signed until 1951.



Aftermath

The Allies established occupation administrations in Austria and Germany. The former became a neutral state, non-aligned with any political bloc. The latter was divided onto western and eastern occupation zones controlled by the Western Allies and the USSR, accordingly. A denazification program in Germany led to the prosecution of Nazi war criminals and the removal of ex-Nazis from power, although this policy moved towards amnesty and re-integration of ex-Nazis into West German society. Germany lost a quarter of its pre-war (1937) territory, the eastern territories: Silesia, Neumark and most of Pomerania were taken over by Poland; East Prussia was divided between Poland and the USSR, followed by the expulsion of the 9 million Germans from these provinces, as well as of 3 million Germans from the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, to Germany. By the 1950s, every fifth West German was a refugee from the east. The USSR also took over the Polish provinces east of the Curzon line (from which 2 million Poles were expelled),Eastern Romania, and part of eastern Finland and three Baltic states.


world war 2

In an effort to maintain peace, the Allies formed the United Nations, which officially came into existence on 24 October 1945,and adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, as a common standard for all member nations. The alliance between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union had begun to deteriorate even before the war was over,[246] Germany had been de facto divided, and two independent states, Federal Republic of Germany and German Democratic Republic were created within the borders of Allied and Soviet occupation zones, accordingly. The rest of Europe was also divided onto Western and Soviet spheres of influence. Most eastern and central European countries fell into the Soviet sphere, which led to establishment of Communist led regimes, with full or partial support of the Soviet occupation authorities. As a result, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Albania, and East Germany became Soviet Satellite states. Communist Yugoslavia conducted a fully independent policy causing tension with the USSR.
Post-war division of the world was formalised by two international military alliances, the United States-led NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact; the long period of political tensions and military competition between them, the Cold War, would be accompanied by unprecedented arms race and proxy wars.

In Asia, the United States occupied Japan and administrated Japan's former islands in the Western Pacific, while the Soviets annexed Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. Korea, formerly under Japanese rule, was divided and occupied by the US in the South and the Soviet Union in the North between 1945 and 1948. Separate republics emerged on both sides of the 38th parallel in 1948, each claiming to be the legitimate government for all of Korea, which led ultimately to the Korean War. In China, nationalist and communist forces resumed the civil war in June 1946. Communist forces were victorious and established the People's Republic of China on the mainland, while nationalist forces retreated to Taiwan in 1949. In the Middle East, the Arab rejection of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine and the creation of Israel marked the escalation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. While European colonial powers attempted to retain some or all of their colonial empires, their losses of prestige and resources during the war rendered this unsuccessful, leading to decolonisation.
The global economy suffered heavily from the war, although WWII participants were affected differently. The US emerged much richer than any other nation; it had a baby boom and by 1950 its gross domestic product per person was much higher than that of any of the other powers and it dominated the world economy. The UK and US pursued a policy of industrial disarmament in Western Germany in the years 1945–1948. Due to international trade interdependencies this led to European economic stagnation and delayed European recovery for several years. Recovery began with the mid 1948 currency reform in Western Germany, and was sped up by the liberalization of European economic policy that the Marshall plan (1948–1951) both directly and indirectly caused. The post 1948 West German recovery has been called the German economic miracle. Also the Italian and French economies rebounded. By contrast, the United Kingdom was in a state of economic ruin, and continued relative economic decline for decades. The Soviet Union, despite enormous human and material losses, also experienced rapid increase in production in the immediate post-war era. Japan experienced incredibly rapid economic growth, becoming one of the most powerful economies in the world by the 1980s. China returned to its pre-war industrial production by 1952.

 

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